Modern Christianity considers Christ’s crucifixion as THE turning point of all biblical doctrine and practice. Is this a correct teaching?
According to its proponents, all beliefs and practices from the Old Testament and continuing into the crucifixion supposedly come to a stop and are now considered obsolete when Christ supposedly said of them: “It is finished.”
(For more details, please see our article, What Was Really “Finished”?)
In this regard, let us consider the implications of this popular teaching on the particular case of Pentecost, one of the seven annual Holy Days of God originating from the Old Testament.
Because of such teaching, most modern-day Christians believe that Pentecost and all the other annual Holy Days of God — plus the Sabbath, among other practices — were already abolished at the cross. Thus, their continued observance in this New Testament era is totally unnecessary because these were already “finished and fulfilled” in Christ.
Is this popular teaching really logical and true? If the answer is yes, where is the clear biblical basis to support such teaching? What does the evidence of the biblical record really say on this matter? You might be surprised with the biblical answers when you read them.
In our unrelenting quest for pure biblical truths and in exposing rampant and blatant religious deceptions extant in our world today, let us objectively look into this particular issue. Let’s start by asking this crucial question:
Is the cross really the turning point for all doctrine?
Those who hold to this teaching believe that all practices and commands before the cross become null and void at Christ’s crucifixion. Only those specifically restated by Christ after His resurrection are considered part of New Covenant practice. (For example, please see here and here.)
Some glaring conflicts with this false interpretation
Please remember that:
- The New Testament Passover was commanded by Christ before His crucifixion with new foot-washing practice, and new symbols of bread and wine (John 13:14-17; Matthew 26:26-29). Why is it that most Christians still follow this pre-crucifixion command?
- Christ’s new teaching on love (going beyond merely loving one’s neighbor as one’s self, but magnified into loving them as Christ loved us) was commanded before His crucifixion (John 13:35). Why is it that most Christians believe this pre-crucifixion command to still be valid?
- Christ’s promise to go and prepare a place for us and return to take us unto Himself that where He is, there we will be also, was said before His crucifixion (John 14:1-3). Why is it that most Christians still ardently believe and wait for this pre-crucifixion promise?
- Christ’s promise of giving us the Holy Spirit as our Comforter to dwell in us was said before His crucifixion (John 14:16-18). Why is it that most Christians today believe this pre-crucifixion promise, and actually expect God’s Holy Spirit to dwell in them and work in their lives?
NOTE: We can add more, but these are just a few examples of events, commands, and promises before Christ’s crucifixion. Yet we find them all valid even after the crucifixion, without the need to restate them. Therefore, the claim that there is a clear demarcation, break or turning point before and after the crucifixion is just a man-made theory without any biblical basis.
Were God’s Holy Days including Pentecost abolished?
Continuing to analyze that popular teaching, how do we account for the biblical evidence that the Day of Pentecost was still observed by the original apostles more than seven weeks after the crucifixion of Christ (if the cross was indeed the turning point of all doctrine)? Before proceeding with this main topic about Pentecost, let us first understand what it is.
What is Pentecost?
In the Old Testament, this third among the seven annual Feasts of God (though considered as second among the group of three Festival seasons) was then called the Feast of Weeks because the Israelites were required to count seven weeks starting with the morrow after the Sabbath when the Wave Sheaf Offering ceremony occurred (Leviticus 23:11). Starting from that Wave Sheaf Offering ceremony, they were to count seven weeks [or seven Sabbaths], and designate the following day as the Feast of Weeks (Leviticus 23:15-16; Deuteronomy 16:9). It was also called the “Feast of Harvest of the Firstfruits” or Feast of First Fruit Harvest because it occurred at the time of the early Spring Harvest season (Exodus 23:16; Numbers 28:26). This early first harvest season should be understood in contrast with the larger Fall Harvest Season.
In the early New Testament period, due to the predominant use of the Greek language at that time, it became known as Pentecost (Greek: “pente” + “kostes”), which literally means “fifty + count.” Or for better grammatical construction, we say “count fifty.” It is because seven weeks (7 x 7) is equal to 49 days and the following day (+1 day) brings us to the 50th day. Please note that this [Pentecost] Festival or celebration is commanded to “be a statute for ever” (Leviticus 23:21).
8 clear proofs that Pentecost was not abolished:
- Before His death, Christ never indicated that His death would abolish such Festivals.
- After Christ’s death, Scriptures never state that the Festivals were done away at the cross. Rather Christ commanded His disciples to wait in Jerusalem for that day (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4).
- Fifty days after Christ resurrected, on Pentecost day, the disciples in their upper room lodging place were joined in by others to reach about 120 believers (Acts 1:13-15).
- As a result of their faith and obedience, all of those believers who gathered on that day of Pentecost “each” received the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4; note verse 3: “each of them…”).
- About 18 various nationalities and peoples gathered in Jerusalem on that Day of Pentecost, composed of Gentile converts and Jews, all observing that day (Acts 2:9-11).
- Out of this big crowd of believers, about 3,000 new people were baptized on that Day of Pentecost. Yet, in spite of persecutions, the number of disciples eventually grew to about 5,000 (Acts 2:41; Acts 4:4).
- Decades into the history of the original church (about A.D. 57), Paul who was then preaching in Gentile areas still hurried to attend Pentecost in Jerusalem (Acts 20:16).
- At another year (reckoned by some historians to be about A.D. 54-55), Paul (who was the apostle to the Gentiles) waited in Ephesus until the Day of Pentecost (1 Corinthians 16:8).
The Bible proclaims it to be a perpetual observance
The Bible commands His people to proclaim this [Pentecost] Festival to be an ordinance (DRA, GNV, NIV) or a statute (ESV, KJV, NAU, NKJ, RSV) or a permanent law (NLT) in all your dwellings [“wherever you live,” NIV, NLT], throughout your generations (Leviticus 23:21).
A command worth risking the disciples’ lives for
Knowing that after His resurrection, the very next Festival that was coming up then was Pentecost, Christ still commanded His disciples to wait or tarry [“stay,” DRA, ESV, NAU, NIV,NLT, RSV, or “abide,” YLT] in Jerusalem [even if this was the most dangerous place for them then, due to the recent events which led to the crucifixion of their Master] until they were endued [“clothed,” ESV,NAU, NIV, RSV, YLT] with power from on high — among His last instructions to them before He ascended into heaven (Luke 24:49). Yet, they all faithfully and humbly obeyed.
Pentecost is symbolic of Christ and the Firstfruits
Just as the Old Testament Scriptures describe this Festival as the Feast of First Fruits (Exodus 23:16), in the New Testament, Christ is also called the First Fruit. Therefore, this Festival points to Christ in His role as the “Firstfruit” from among those who have died (1 Corinthians 15:20-23). As the Firstfruit from the dead, this also gives us the hope that we can become part of that blessed first resurrection harvest of souls as well (Revelation 20:6).
In fact, James, the physical half-brother of Christ (echoing the previous statement of Paul) says to the effect that God has chosen to beget us with the word of truth, so that we can be a type of “firstfruits” of all that God created (James 1:18, NIV).
The NIV Study Bible has a footnote on James 1:18 which says in part: “Just as the first sheaf of the harvest was an indication that the whole harvest would eventually follow, so the early Christians were an indication that a great number of people would eventually be born again” [“into God’s coming Kingdom”] — my addendum.
Historical roots of Pentecost
In the Old Testament, the observance of what is called in the New Testament as “Pentecost” has a deeper historical meaning and significance. One of these is that it was associated with the giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai. This was when YHWH, amidst flashes of lightning — plus the mountain smoking and the earth beneath the feet of the Israelites shaking — thundered out the Ten Commandments, for which the people trembled, feared, and ran away (more details on this can be read in the Appendix found at the end of this article).
In the New Testament, Pentecost is historically associated with two major events:
- The visible granting of the Holy Spirit (“tongues of fire”) on the believers.
- The start of the apostolic Church of God in the New Testament era.
Far from being abolished, Pentecost is one of the most important among the seven annual Festivals of God. Its significance is magnificent, and its meaning in history and at present is deep. Its future typifies the Elect or Firstfruits of God’s called-out ones, who are destined to serve and rule in God’s coming Kingdom which will be set up on this earth.
If you believe, obey, overcome, and have the Holy Spirit, you may be one of the blessed ones!
Wikibooks: History of Pentecost