Alright, boys and girls. Let’s pop on our Jewish glasses again for a look at the well-known event in church history – Pentecost!
If you grew up in a mainline Christian denomination as I did (or are still in one), then you know Pentecost largely as the day the Church started. If you’re of the Charismatic or namesake Pentecostal theological persuasions, you know it mostly as the day the Holy Spirit arrived on earth and within His people to endow them with spiritual power (gifts) to begin Jesus’ evangelism mission to the world.
On Pentecost Day there was nothing subtle about the Spirit’s arrival! It was a mind-blowing sound and light show that broke out on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, recorded in Acts 2.
When the day of Pentecost had arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were staying. They saw tongues like flames of fire that separated and rested on each one of them. Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them (Acts 2:1-4).
Spoiler alert! This happened on the Temple Mount, not in the upper room. After Jesus’ ascension, Acts 1:13 says the disciples retired to the room upstairs where they were staying. Then in Acts 2:1 says they were altogether in one place when the Spirit blew into town. That place was the Temple Mount, where a multitude of Jews from around the Roman empire gathered to celebrate Shavuot (Shah-voo-oht’) because coming to Jerusalem for Shavuot was commanded (Exodus 23:14-16). How do we know it was the Temple Mount and not the disciples’ upper room prayer room? Because thousands of Jews heard and saw the raucous arrival of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples.
Now there were Jews staying in Jerusalem, devout people from every nation under heaven. 6 When this sound occurred, a crowd came together and was confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. (Acts 2:5-6)
Try to fit that size group into an upper room! Besides, it was the Feast of Shavuot. During this Feast, a multitude of local and international Jews gathered on the Temple Mount for worship and celebration. So ix-nay on the upper oom-ray (Yes, I’m writing in other tongues.)
See? Those Jewish glasses are already clarifying what you’re reading in Acts!
So what is Shavuot? Shavuot means “weeks.” It’s observed 7 weeks and 1 day (Pentecost means 50 days) after the Feast of First Fruits. First Fruits is to be observed on the Sunday during Unleavened Bread Week, of which Passover was the first day.
Confused? Try this.
Unleavened Bread Week starts with Passover (Day 1). First Fruits occurs on the day after the Sabbath (Leviticus 23:11) during Unleavened Bread week. A 50-day count starts with First Fruits and ends with the day of Shavuot/Pentecost (Leviticus 23:15). On the Gentile calendar, this runs from late March/early April to late May/early June.
Clear? If not, I’m preparing a 16-part teaching on the Feasts of the Lord that will geek out on this topic. Plus, you’ll learn how the Feasts are a blueprint of Jesus’ 1st and 2nd coming. Stay Tuned!
So what’s the big deal about Pentecost? Because it wasn’t the first Pentecost. Well, it was if you go by that name. The Hebrew name is Shavuot. The first Shavuot was not in Acts 2, but in Exodus 19. Track with me here…
When Moses met with God at the famous Burning Bush, God tasked Moses to go to Pharaoh, be His hand in freeing the Israelites, and then bring them to Mount Sinai (Exodus 3:10-12).
Why is this important, you ask? Because the Israelites had entered Egypt as a family during a famine (Genesis 45:9-11; 46:8). But God intended to grow them into a nation within Egypt as a baby gestates within his/her mother. As a baby is born at the proper time through the water and blood of labor, so it was with Israel, God’s firstborn son (Exodus 4:22).
They were freed from Egypt through the labor pains of the plagues and emerged as a newborn nation via the Red Sea. Forty-seven days after emerging from the Red Sea, the nation arrived at Mount Sinai as God had commanded Moses. On the 50th day (7 weeks, 1 day/Shavuot), they met with God in a conflagration that astounded everyone gathered at the mountain. This is what it looked like:
On the third day, when morning came, there was thunder and lightning, a thick cloud on the mountain, and a very loud blast from a ram’s horn, so that all the people in the camp shuddered. Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was completely enveloped in smoke because the Lord came down on it in fire. Its smoke went up like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain shook violently (Acts 19:16-18).
The rabbis have a lot to teach about this day of Israel’s official birth as God’s people, a new nation created among the multitude of earthly nations. Here are some of their thoughts:
· Shavuot was the day all of God’s people were gathered in one place – at a mountain (Sinai, Exodus 19:2).
· Shavuot was the time a King (God) began a covenant relationship with His people. This included terms (the Torah, the “Law”) they were required to obey to demonstrate their allegiance (“covenant love”) to their King (Exodus 20-23).
· Shavuot was a marriage between the Groom (God) and His Bride (Israel). Why? Because it followed the marriage pattern of two parties covenanting together with a “friend of the groom” assisting (Moses).
· God appeared physically on Shavuot with audible and visual manifestations – the sound of a roaring furnace, smoke, and fire (Exodus 19:16).
· Shavuot was the day God’s presence appeared on the mountain. Later, God sent the Holy Spirit to rest on people chosen for tasks (the Tabernacle builders, Exodus 31:3; Numbers 11:25).
· On Shavuot, God revealed Himself by the imparting of His Word, written on stone, which were intended to govern human nature (Exodus 31:18).
· On Shavuot at Mt. Sinai, God sent His Word as tongues of fire around the world asking each nation if they would accept His rule as their God and King. Only Israel accepted. Yes, this is a rabbinic deduction, but it was part of Jewish teaching at the time of the Pentecost event.
· On Shavuot, Israel became the first nation to accept God as their King. Israel became a kingdom of priests unto God (Exodus 19:6).
· On Shavuot, Israel became a nation so they would bring the Light of God’s revelation to the world. God’s revelation came with a world-embracing and humanity redeeming message. In other words, God was working to embrace the whole world and restore them all to His family if they will have Him as their God, King, and Heavenly Father. A major reason for God placing Israel as a nation in the land of Canaan was that it sits at the intersection of three major highways (trade routes) in the ancient world – Asia to Europe, Europe to Africa, Africa to Asia. Imagine the people traveling past Israel, seeing God’s people living God’s way, and marveling about what a mighty God Israel served as seen in their lifestyle. Don’t believe me? Listen to Moses:
Carefully follow them, for this will show your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the peoples. When they hear about all these statutes, they will say, ‘This great nation is indeed a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god near to it as the Lord our God is to us whenever we call to him? And what great nation has righteous statutes and ordinances like this entire law I set before you today? (Deuteronomy 4:6-8).
As I just wrote, Acts 2 Pentecost was not the first Pentecost. If you go by the biblical feast name, Shavuot, you will see (through Jewish glasses) that the Acts 2 Temple Mount Shavuot event was a repeat of the Exodus 19 Mount Sinai Shavuot event.
In my previous two posts, The Bible Through Jewish Glasses, Part 1 and The Bible Through Jewish Glasses, Part 2 we looked at the New Covenant scripture first (John 6) and went back to see the foreshadowing (Moses’ writings). Here we start with the foreshadowing (Exodus) and move forward to the fulfillment (Acts). The parallels are amazing!
Ready? Here we go.
· God’s covenant people are all in one place.
o Exodus – Mount Sinai.
o Acts – Temple Mount
· It starts a covenant between a King and His servants.
o Exodus – God and Israel (Sinai covenant).
o Acts – The Father and the Believer (New Covenant).
· A Marriage between a husband and a wife.
o Exodus – God and Israel.
o Acts – Jesus and the Believers.
· An Audible and Visible manifestation.
o Exodus – the sound of a roaring furnace, fire, and smoke (God’s physical presence).
o Acts – the sound of a mighty rushing wind, tongues of fire (God’s physical presence again).
· God is present.
o Exodus – external, resting on the mountain.
o Acts – internal, resting on and within the believer.
· God revealed Himself.
o Exodus – Through the imparting (giving) of the Torah.
o Acts – through the implanting of the Torah on the human heart per the New Covenant.
· The Torah is given.
o Exodus – Written on stone, fights with a corrupt human nature, requires human strength alone to obey, external rabbis teach us.
o Acts – Written on the heart, works alongside the new nature, Holy Spirit-empowered obedience with Jesus’ Spirit as our internal rabbi.
· The First Fruits of the redemption of the world.
o Exodus – Israel as the model of a kingdom of priests and a holy nation before the Lord (God’s intention).
o Acts – The “Body” of believers IS the kingdom of priests and a holy nation before the Lord (actual).
· A World-embracing, people-redeeming message.
o Exodus – Israel is the witness of the redeemer of mankind, everyone held accountable for the message of the Torah.
o Acts – The Believers (Jew and Gentile) are the witnesses of the Redeemer (Jesus) of mankind, everyone still held accountable for the message of God’s word, the Torah.
Boy, those Jewish glasses give us a whole new perspective, huh?
Pastor Jay Christianson
The Truth Barista, Frothy Thoughts