God created and established Holy Days in the Old Testament to reveal His plan of salvation for mankind. The Holy Days were created around the harvest seasons (Leviticus 23:9-16; Exodus 23:14-16), and just as the Israelite's harvested their crops on these Holy Days, they also reveal to us how God is now harvesting people for eternal life in His Kingdom.
These Holy Days were a type and shadow of what was to come through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ:
For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer. For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law: Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount. But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.
For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.
- Hebrews 8:3-10
The Meaning Behind the Jewish Holy Days
The meaning of these Holy Days build upon one another to create a complete picture of our Salvation and Redemption.
The Feast of Passover (SACRIFICE) symbolized Christ as the spotless sacrifice, His blood shed for the forgiveness of sin, and the redemption from death.
The Feast of Unleavened Bread (REPENTANCE) is a picture of repentance, and shows us that we need to remove and avoid sin.
Pentecost (HOLY SPIRIT) or the “Feast of Firstfruits” builds on the foundation of Passover and Unleavened Bread. It is called several names that derive from its meaning and timing.
Pentecost is also known as the "Feast of Harvest" (Exodus 23:16), and represents the firstfruits (Numbers 28:26) gathered at the spring grain harvest in Israel.
Pentecost is also called the "Feast of Weeks" (Exodus 34:22), which comes from the seven weeks plus one day (or 50 days) it is celebrated after Passover (Leviticus 23:16).
In the New Testament Greek, the Feast of Harvest, or Feast of Firstfruits, is known as Pentecost (Pentekostos), which means “fiftieth”. 1
Among Jews the this festival is mostly called the Feast of Weeks, or Shavuot, in Hebrew. When celebrating this festival, the Jewish people remember God’s revealing of the law at Mount Sinai.
As we will see, just as the Jews remember God’s giving of the law by Moses in the Old Covenant, it now also marks God’s giving of the Holy spirit in the New Covenant through Jesus Christ.
On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit indwelt the Apostles and 120 believers in the upper room. This was the beginning of a spiritual harvest that would come through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Therefore Christ is the firstfruits of the New Covenant, and the Holy Spirit indwelling believers make us the firstfruits of a spiritual kingdom:
But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For by man came death, and by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.
- 1 Corinthians 15:20-23
And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
- Romans 8:23
On the Day of Pentecost, the “firstfruits” of the church were gathered by Christ as some 3,000 people heard Peter present the gospel after the Holy Spirit had empowered and indwelt the disciples as promised. With the promised, prophesied indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the firstfruits of God’s spiritual harvest under the New Covenant began. It signified our new, spiritual birth into the Kingdom of God as children of God through Jesus Christ as the firstborn:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
- Ephesians 1:3-14
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
- Romans 8:28-29
The Firstfruits of a Better Promise
Firstfruits are the first grains to ripen. in the Bible, we see many analogies of a harvest -- and, particularly on Pentecost, firstfruits -- to demonstrate His plan of salvation.
Israel observed the feast of firstfruits in the late spring after the barley and wheat harvests. A special offering was made of the first ripened grain during the Days of Unleavened Bread, called the “wave-sheaf offering”, marked the beginning of these harvests, which continued during the next 50 days and led up to Pentecost (Leviticus 23:11).
If we study these passages together, we will see that the waving of the sheaf occurred on the day after the weekly Sabbath that fell during the Days of Unleavened Bread. The Bible does not say, specifically, when the wave-sheaf offering was cut, but it obviously must have happened sometime before it was waved.
"We have long understood that Jesus fulfilled the waving of the sheaf at His ascension. However, it has not been emphasized that He also fulfilled the type of the cutting of the wave-sheaf upon being resurrected.
Now the reaping of the sheaf symbolizes Israel giving the firstfruits, the very best of their produce, to God, and this is exactly the symbolism that Jesus fulfilled (I Corinthians 15:20-23). Christians are also called the firstfruits of God.
So as the weekly Sabbath was ending, exactly seventy-two hours from His burial, God resurrected His Son from the dead. He became the perfect wave-sheaf offering that would be waved the next day. He was the first and perfect Firstfruit. In a very real sense, God reaped the best and the first of His spiritual harvest.
One might wonder why this happened on the Sabbath. What is the significance of this being done on the Sabbath? It is the Sabbath that commemorates God as Creator. This same God rested on the seventh day of creation. This is Jesus Christ—the Word of God!"
- Richard T. Ritenbaugh, from Forerunner Commentary, Leviticus 23:10-11, Christ’s Death, Resurrection, and Ascension
One of the first harvest lessons of the New Testament is that Jesus Christ “is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20).
The wave-sheaf offering represented Jesus Christ, who was the “firstborn over all creation” and the “firstborn from the dead”:
Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
- Colossians 1:15-18
He presented Himself to God the Father on the Sunday after His resurrection, the same day during the Days of Unleavened Bread on which the first sheaf of grain of the spring harvest was to be waved before God.
The Promised Holy Spirit Prophesied in the Holy Days
Fifty days after Jesus Christ’s resurrection, God poured out His Holy Spirit on 120 believers (Acts 1:15):
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
- Acts 2:1-4
At first the people of Jerusalem who witnessed this miraculous phenomenon were astonished, with some attributing the proclamations of the Christians to drunkenness (Acts 2:12-13). The apostle Peter, now filled with the Holy Spirit, boldly explained the event to the crowd as a fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy:
And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh
- Acts 2:17; Joel 2:28
Peter clearly stated that the men who had received the Holy Spirit were not drunk, but what they were witnessing was the fulfillment of the Prophet Joel – the promise of the Spirit.
Receiving the Holy spirit on Pentecost was the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. Therefore the indwelling of the Holy Spirit could not have been prior to Pentecost because Peter proclaimed that that day, the day of Pentecost, WAS the day of the prophecy of Joel being fulfilled. Either Peter is a liar, or the prophecy had not been fulfilled prior to that day.
Peter preached to the crowd about how they could also receive the Holy Spirit: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:38-39).
God used these miracles and Peter’s preaching to add 3,000 people to His Church in one day. These converts were all baptized and received the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:40-41).
The Day or Feast of Pentecost was the day that God poured out His Spirit to establish His Church, the group of believers who are led by His Spirit. Therefore, the church is also a type of firstfruits.
The Church as the Firstfruits
Again, Romans 8:29 speaks of Jesus Christ as “the firstborn of many brethren.” Yet the New Testament Church is also considered to be firstfruits.
Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures
- James 1:18
God’s Spirit within us identifies us as his possession and sanctifies us, setting us apart as Christians (making us holy).
“If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ,” wrote Paul, “he is not His,” and “as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God”(Romans 8:9, Romans 8:14).
Again, Paul referred to the members of the Church as those “who have the “firstfruits of the Spirit” (Romans 8:23).
1. W.E. Vine, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, “Pentecost”