Pentecost Renewed: The Return of God’s Glory

When asked about the biblical meaning of Pentecost, we often say it is the day that God poured out His Holy Spirit. This answer is very relevant to the New Covenant meaning of Pentecost while the origins of this feast actually go back to a time more than 1500 years before that. This New Covenant pouring out of the Holy Spirit happened as the Feast of Weeks was being celebrated in Jerusalem.

This exploration for answers begins with the “discovery” that the disciples were in Jerusalem on the calendar date that Pentecost is celebrated. [1] That seems logical but it means that the events of that day of Pentecost cannot be separated from the essence of the other feast in the context of its celebration throughout the preceding centuries. What is this feast actually about?


Harvest Feast

Pentecost is traditionally a harvest feast. The day that follows the period of 7×7 days after the feast of Firstfruits, is the Pentecost Feast. [2] After the first fruits were sanctified, the rest of the crops were harvested.[3] In those days, Pentecost or the feast of Weeks was one of three feasts where the men were expected to come to temple in Jerusalem. The key moment was at 9 a.m. [4] as this was the hour of the wave sheaf offering in the temple (by two loaves of leavened bread).[5] The report in Acts tells us that the Holy Spirit was poured out at exactly this time and by doing so God fulfilled the reality of the shadow. It was the gift for the Bride of Christ.


The Torah

Another interesting theme runs through the Feast of Pentecost. According to Jewish tradition, the Feast of Weeks takes place on the same calendar day that Moses received the Torah from God. This Law was in essence the text of the marriage covenant God made on Mount Sinai with the freed Hebrew slaves. This Jewish tradition has a strong evidence to support it. In Exodus [6] we read that the Hebrew people arrived in the Sinai Desert on the “same day, on the day of the third month.”[7] That was 45 days after their departure from Egypt. Then Moses went up the mountain where he stayed for three days. On the third day he called a meeting of the elders and shared the words God had given Him. This took two full days, which means that on the morning of the third day, the Law was given. [8] This brought them to the 50th day.


Why Did God Choose the Day of Pentecost to Pour Out His Spirit?

Have you ever wondered why after the Ascension of Christ, God decided to use Pentecost for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and not some other day? In the Old Testament, we read that when God appeared on Mt. Sinai, the people saw smoke and fire, and God came with power. In the New Testament – or better the New Covenant – we read that God came with fire and power to the believers in the upper room. In the Old Testament we see how 3000 people died because of unbelief; in the New Testament, we see, not coincidentally, 3000 people find eternal life through faith.

The fact that God’s Spirit is poured out on precisely this day shows us that the Holy Spirit is strongly connected to the Law God gave to the people of Israel on Mt. Sinai.

You could say that we would have been “lawless” if we hadn’t received God’s Law on the first Pentecost on Mt. Sinai. We can, however, also say that without the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit on Pentecost, we would have no hope of being able to follow God’s Instructions. Law and Spirit go together. We need the Pentecost fire and the Holy Spirit’s help to be able to obey God. Aren’t we becoming increasingly aware of how the Law of Christ [9] sets us apart from (the norms of) this world? Without the Law our conscience would simply adjust itself to the norms of the world. Believers have been called, as a collective, to live in a very different way. But how do we know which areas and ideas need to be “different?” We have God’s Instructions. John tells us that to Love God is to keep His commandments. [10] So if we are wondering how to love God above all things and love our neighbor as ourselves, we can refer to the manual God has given us.

When the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Day of Pentecost, the New Covenant was sealed with the Law of Christ, which actually also contains the higher standard of “loving God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself.” How do we apply this standard being imperfect humans? This is exactly why God came again with His fire and power on this Day of Pentecost. It wasn’t God’s Law that needed changing; it was the people. God’s glory returned along with the Holy Spirit Who would lead believers, helping them follow His Instructions and become holy, or, set apart. Instead of writing the commandments on stone, God writes His words on our hearts, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. His Spirit teaches us to understand God’s Word as it relates to us in the context of the New Covenant.

When Moses came down from the mountain, the people were trembling from all the thunder, lightning, fire, and smoke. Although God is a God Who speaks, the people didn’t want God to speak to them. It was some 1500 years later that God sent His Spirit to tell His people, “Look! This is what you are missing! I want to speak through My Word and My Spirit.”

The fact that the people of Israel received the Law of the Covenant on the 50th day after the exodus out of Egypt is a fascinating parallel to Pentecost, which took place more than 1500 years later, ten days after Jesus Christ ascended into Heaven.


The Marriage Covenant

The Torah, given to the Hebrew people on Mt. Sinai, was the marriage covenant between God and Israel. In Wake Up! we describe at great length how the Torah is in fact actually the ketubah, a contract that precedes the marriage covenant and that is part of it at the same time. When the House of Israel became unfaithful (because of idolatry), they received a bill of divorce [11] Eventually, this bill of divorce was reversed when Christ hung on the Cross at Golgotha, and the “wife,” Israel received a new ketubah covenant. The process of restoration began.

In the ancient Hebrew marriage ritual that is extensively described in Wake Up, we see that the groom leaves to prepare the bridal chamber in his father’s house after he signs the ketubah. After finishing, he returns to collect his bride and bring her to his father’s house. The gifts he leaves behind with the bride are evidence that they belong to each other and that he will return. This is exactly what happened at Pentecost. The New Covenant with the Bride was confirmed and then sealed by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. This is our assurance that He is going to return for us, His Bride, which now also includes Gentiles who accept Christ as Messiah. And remember, the Bible teaches us that all covenants were made with (faithful) Israel and that the first believers from the Gentiles were added soon after.

The Feast of Weeks, or Shavuot in Hebrew, is found thus in both the Old and the (re)New(ed) Covenant and is closely connected with God’s actions regarding the setting apart of a special people for Himself. This is what our Pentecost is about and this is also the reality of the shadow feast that has been celebrated since the covenant was established on Mt. Sinai.


Passover and Pentecost

We have previously “discovered” that Jesus, after His resurrection, was presented as the Wave Offering, in God’s Heavenly Temple, in the early morning on the first day of First Fruits (after Passover). This is parallel to what was happening as a shadow in the earthly ritual in the temple in Jerusalem. We can say that the earthly ritual was commissioned this way by God because it reflected the reality in Heaven.

Pentecost also begins, not coincidentally, with a ritual performed by the high priest. At the morning offering on Shavuot (done around 9 a.m.), the priest waves two loaves of bread before God in the temple. At that very moment, the disciples were in the upper room, praying and worshipping, bringing their hearts before God as sacrifices. Later that day they would go to the temple, as that was expected of all the men in Israel during the three pilgrim feasts.

We have come to understand that God no longer would accept the sacrifices made in the earthly temple from the moment that the high priest Caiaphas tore his clothing, an act explicitly forbidden by the Law, and thus ending the legislative authority of his role. It must have been a similar situation in the temple that Pentecost morning. Instead of accepting the traditional offering, God now acknowledged the sacrifice of praise and worship from the disciples and sent them the fire of His Holy Spirit as a reply. This was the way He empowered the renewed covenant relationship with His people.

Pentecost is closely connected to the preceding feast of Passover in a way that the true meaning of their deliverance from Egypt could only find its place in the people’s hearts and minds after God gave them their new collective identity, through Moses, on Mt. Sinai (the Torah).

Just before the Babylonian captivity, we read that God’s Presence, which looked like a burning flame, suddenly departed from the temple in Jerusalem. But 10 days after the Ascension of Jesus, when the Feast of Weeks was fulfilled, something extraordinary happened: God’s Presence returned, again in the form of wind and fire, but not in the Holy of Holies of the earthly temple building. The disciples themselves were the new temples, built from living stones. Because God inscribes His Name on the foreheads of His servants, flames of fire became visible on the disciples’ heads. The “right” way to celebrate Pentecost now is to recognize how God’s Spirit filled the believers; His Spirit has come to aid believers in manifesting the Word in every aspect of their lives. We no longer do this only in Jerusalem, but wherever we are, wherever we go.

The Feast of Weeks in part commemorates how a nation was born on Mt. Sinai. God came down in fire and smoke to create a holy covenant with His people. This was the prophetic image of the new Pentecost wherein the renewed Covenant was again sealed with fire from Heaven. What an amazing parallel.


[1] Pentecost is a Greek word. “Penta” means “50.” The Hebrew word is Shavuot. (Feast of Weeks)

[2] 23:15-16

[3] Although the feasts run parallel to the yearly harvest cycle, there was, of course, no harvest time during the 40 some years in the desert, as there was later in the Promised Land.

[4] 2:15

[5] 23:17

[6] 19:1. See also the entire report on this chapter.

[7] Some translations state (incorrectly) that they arrived in the third month, on the same day as their departure into the desert (i.e., the 15th). This would be 60 days after departure. This misconception is caused by an incorrect translation. It was on the day that began the third month, on the same day.

[8] 19:16

[9] See Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9:21

[10] 1 John 5:23

[11] The House of Israel was called faithless or backsliding Israel in the Book of Jeremiah (3:6)

[12] Colossians 2:14, the handwriting of ordinances (or certificate of debt, NASB95)