Lesson 5: Feast of Pentecost: "Firstfruits" Called Now
The third step in God's plan highlights the giving of the Holy Spirit and the beginning of the Church of God. What is the role of the Church in the plan of salvation? Who is God calling now, and why?
The following excerpt from the chapter "The Feast of Pentecost: The
Firstfruits of God's Harvest" in our booklet God's Holy Day Plan:
The Promise of Hope for All Mankind provides some insight.
"God chose the first Pentecost after Jesus Christ's resurrection to
pour out His Holy Spirit on 120 believers (Acts 1:15). 'Now when the
Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one
place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing
mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.
Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat
upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and
began to speak with other tongues [languages], as the Spirit gave them
utterance' (Acts 2:1-4).
"The speaking in various languages occurred as a crowd of people gathered
in Jerusalem, with each visitor hearing the speech of the disciples
in his own native tongue (verses 6-11). These astounding events demonstrated
the presence of the Holy Spirit.
"At first the people of Jerusalem who witnessed this miraculous phenomenon
were astonished, with some attributing the actions 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
"Peter explained how his listeners could also receive this 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 (verses 40-41). From this pivotal point, God's Spirit
has been available to all who truly repent and are properly baptized.
The Day or Feast of Pentecost is an annual reminder that God poured
out His Spirit to establish His Church, the group of believers who are
led by His Spirit."
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The Firstfruits: Christ and the Church
What are some of the names the third festival of the Lord has
been known by?
"And the Feast of Harvest, the firstfruits of your labors which you have
sown in the field..."
"And you shall observe the Feast of Weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat
"Also on the day of the firstfruits, when you bring a new grain offering
to the Lord at your Feast of Weeks, you shall have a holy convocation.
You shall do no customary work."
1 Corinthians 16:8
But I will tarry in Ephesus until Pentecost.
"Feast of Harvest" was a name that reflected the fact that this day marked
the end of the spring grain harvests in the Holy Land. Though this was
the end of the barley and wheat harvests, farmers still looked ahead to
the large fall harvests. It is in that sense that several of these passages
highlight the connection of "firstfruits" to this festival.
The other two names mentioned here are related to how this festival was
counted. Instead of being on a fixed day on the Hebrew calendar each year
as the other festivals are, it is counted starting with the Sunday during
the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Seven weeks were counted to the 50th day,
another Sunday. This explains the names "Feast of Weeks" and "Pentecost"
(from a Greek word for 50th).
Who was the first of the firstfruits?
1 Corinthians 15:20
But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits
of those who have fallen asleep.
During the Feast of Unleavened Bread the first ripe grain was offered
to God before the harvest could begin (Leviticus 23:10-16). This wave-sheaf
offering was the beginning point for counting the seven weeks and 50 days
from which the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost got its name.
That wave-sheaf offering represented Jesus Christ, which is why He is
called the firstfruits. He was the pioneer, the first to be resurrected
to eternal life.
Who else are called 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.
"Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give
you the kingdom."
The followers of Jesus Christ are called firstfruits, just the beginning
of the spiritual harvest. Christ also called His Church a little flock.
But why isn't the Church bigger now?
Is God calling everyone into His Church now?
And He said, "Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me
unless it has been granted to him by My Father."
From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no
Jesus Christ clearly states that people can't of themselves decide to
become part of the Church of God. It takes a special calling from God
(John 6:44; Acts 2:39). And the Bible shows few received and responded
to that calling during Jesus' lifetime, and comparatively few afterward
In a world where less than a third of all people claim any association
with Christianity, it is clear God is not calling everyone now either.
The majority are now spiritually
blinded, cut off by Adam
and Eve's choice from access to the tree of life, symbolic of the
Holy Spirit. But we know God desires all to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4).
How will His desire be fulfilled?
The Church of God began on the Feast of Pentecost at the end of the spring
harvest season. But, as we will see, the symbolism of the harvests is
not complete at Pentecost, since the fall harvest festivals are still
to be fulfilled. We will explore the mystery of how God will fulfill His
plan in lessons 8 and 9 in this series.
Pentecost and the Holy Spirit
How did God mark the beginning of the Church of God?
When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord
in one place.
And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind,
and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.
Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon
each of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with
other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Acts 2:36-38, 41
"Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made
this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."
Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter
and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?"
Then Peter said to them, "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..."
Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about
three thousand souls were added to them.
The disciples were celebrating the Day of Pentecost when God sent the
Holy Spirit, with several miraculous signs, to mark this special occasion
of the founding of His Church. After Peter's powerful, Spirit-inspired
sermon, about 3,000 people repented and were baptized! The Church grew
25 times larger in one day!
Why do we need the Holy Spirit?
"But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and
you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria,
and to the end of the earth."
Because finding fault with them, He says: "Behold, the days are coming,
says 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 did not continue in My covenant,
and I disregarded them, says the Lord.
"For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after
those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write
them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people."
God's Holy Spirit gives us the power we need to do the work of preaching
His good news to the world. It also makes it possible for us to live the
Christian life under the New Covenant, providing guidance, help and conviction
(John 14:16-17, 26). After all, the "fault" of the Old Covenant was not
with the law, but with "them," human beings. Human beings are not able
to obey God without His Spirit, so the New Covenant provides the solution.
God's laws can be written on our minds and hearts, and the Holy Spirit
gives us the spiritual help to repent and obey. Additionally, allowing
ourselves to be led by God's Spirit identifies us as God's children (Romans
What is the essence of God's laws that will be written on a Christian's
heart by the Holy Spirit?
Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul, and with all your mind.'
"This is the first and great commandment.
"And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'
"On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."
Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another
has fulfilled the law.
For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not
murder," "You shall not steal," "You shall not bear false witness," "You
shall not covet," and if there is any other commandment, are all summed
up in this saying, namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of
1 John 5:2-3
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and
keep His commandments.
For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments
are not burdensome.
Love is the essence of all God's laws and commandments. Said another
way, the commandments were given to show us how to love.
Jewish tradition connects the giving of the Ten Commandments at Mount
Sinai with Shavuot, or Pentecost. The giving of the Holy Spirit
on Pentecost in Acts 2 then shows how that law can be written on our hearts.
Under the New Covenant, we can keep the commandments in their full spiritual
What did Jesus Christ say would be the hallmark of His Church?
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have
loved you, that you also love one another.
"By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for
The "new" part of the new commandment was Jesus Christ's incredible example,
which takes the meaning of love to a new level of selflessness and service.
The fact that this overarching summary commandment is to now be written
on our hearts is also new. With the help of the Holy Spirit, the Church
of God is expected to rise to a new level of love that fulfills both the
letter and the spirit of God's perfect law.
What is the job of the Church of God?
"And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a
witness to all the nations, and then the end will come."
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in
the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching
them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with
you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.
God has called people into the Church of God now to fulfill a dual mission.
The Church's job is to preach the good news of the Kingdom of God around
the world. Then, the Church is to teach and care for all those people
God calls into the Church now, preparing them to teach others and help
Jesus Christ after His return to establish the Kingdom of God.
lesson will explore the momentous events leading up to Jesus
Christ's second coming.
God gives the greatest gifts! Two of His wonderful gifts are associated
with the Feast of Pentecost—the Holy Spirit and the Church of God.
The night before His crucifixion, Jesus Christ explained to His followers
some of the great benefits they would receive through God's Spirit. Read
John 14:15-27 and write down several of these benefits.
The Bible also lists many blessings that come through God's Church. Here
are just a few: truth, being part of the household of God, a strong foundation,
Christ's love and cleansing, belonging and caring for each other, encouragement,
accountability and spiritual nourishment (1 Timothy 3:15; Ephesians 2:19-20;
5:25-27; 1 Corinthians 12:26; Hebrews 10:24-25).
Take time today to thank God for these blessings or to seek them.
To learn more about how to receive the Holy Spirit, see "How
Can You Receive the Transforming Power of God's Spirit?" And to
learn more about the Church, see "How
can I find the true Church of God?"
Next Lesson: Feast of Trumpets: War and Rescue
Questions about this lesson? Feedback about
The Feast of Pentecost:
The Firstfruits of God's Harvest from the booklet God's
Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for All Mankind
should Christians celebrate the Feast of Pentecost?
Lesson of the Feast of Firstfruits
Annual Festivals of God
should a Christian today celebrate the annual festivals observed by Jesus
Christ and the apostles?
The Holy Spirit:
God's Transforming Power from the booklet Transforming
Your Life: The Process of Conversion
New Covenant Abolish the Commandments? from the booklet The
Law of Love: Making Life Work
Message: It's Your Church Too!
Wave Sheaf Offering: A Ceremony Foreshadowing Salvation