Ancient Israel was an agricultural society revolving around two harvest periods, one in the spring and one in the fall. The harvest timing was governed by God’s holy days, and vice versa. We understand from the scriptures that the holy days provide a picture of His plan for mankind, but the fact that there are two distinct harvest periods often gets overlooked in favor of a purely linear interpretation.
Most of what I’ve heard talked about where the Feast of Firstfruits (also called Pentecost) is concerned is that it pictures the giving of God’s holy spirit, a historical event. But I believe that the bible very clearly outlines a much greater future fulfillment that brings the spring harvest season to an end—when the saints are resurrected, changed to spirit, and brought before God’s throne for the marriage supper of the Lamb and His Bride.
Historically, both the giving of the law at Mount Sinai and the giving of the holy spirit shortly after Christ’s resurrection occurred on Pentecost. Neither of these is accidental, but instead are two sides of the same coin. Law and grace, old covenant and new covenant. The future and final fulfillment of this day will be when God’s elect—obedient to His laws, redeemed from sin through grace, and having His holy spirit—are brought before His throne as newly-resurrected eternal children of God.
There are so many other aspects of this holy day, it’s impossible to cover them all in one study (and this one is long enough as it is)—the seven weeks, the Year of Jubilee and receiving our inheritance, the kinsman redeemer, the book of Ruth. But in this study we’ll cover some of the reasons why I believe that the feast of Pentecost pictures the resurrection of the saints and the marriage supper of the Lamb.
The Firstfruit Harvest
In order to get a deeper understanding of Pentecost’s ultimate meaning for God’s elect, we have to first start a little bit earlier with an often-overlooked ceremony that happened during the Days of Unleavened Bread. After commanding that they keep the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread, God continued His instructions:
“Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest. He shall wave [elevate] the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath [that fell on or following Passover] the priest shall wave it. And you shall offer on that day, when you wave the sheaf, a male lamb of the first year, without blemish, as a burnt offering to the Lord. Its grain offering shall be two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, an offering made by fire to the Lord, for a sweet aroma, and its drink offering shall be of wine, one-fourth of a hin. You shall eat neither bread nor parched grain nor fresh grain until the same day that you have brought an offering to your God; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.” (Lev. 23:10-14)
Until the wave sheaf was cut and brought to the priest for offering, harvesting could not begin. Once the first of the firstfruits harvest was offered, only then did it become ceremonially legal for the Israelites to begin bringing in the rest of the grain. To my knowledge, this is the only time this ceremony is explicitly spoken of in the bible, but it’s the only way that we can get to Pentecost, because God’s instruction continues:
“And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the Lord. You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the Lord…The priest shall wave [elevate] them [the meat and drink offerings] with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering, before the Lord, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the Lord for the priest.” (Lev. 23:15-20)
Pentecost is unique among God’s holy days because it does not fall on a fixed date—it’s the only floating holy day and must be counted based on another of God’s commands. We have no way of getting to Pentecost without the wave sheaf. Similarly, understanding the wave sheaf offering is key to understanding the future events signified by the Feast of Firstfruits.
The Wave Sheaf
What does Leviticus 23 tell us about the wave sheaf offering?
- The offering was given on the day after the Sabbath (the first sabbath that fell on or after Passover); the wave sheaf must fall during the Days of Unleavened Bread
- It was the very first of the firstfruits harvested; no other harvest could happen until this was completed
- It was offered by the High Priest to God to be accepted on behalf of God’s people