What is the Feast of Weeks (a.k.a. Shavuot or Pentecost)?
The Feast of Weeks (Hebrew: Shavuot; Greek: Pentecost) is the fourth of seven annual appointed times which God in His word has commanded His assembly/congregation to keep. Shavuot, like most of the other six feasts, is an annual Sabbath day (a.k.a. High Sabbath). Shavuot is the only one of the seven appointed times which occurs in or near the summer.
The Spring Feasts:
- The Feast of Passover (Pesach – Leviticus 23:5, Numbers 28:16, Exodus 12:18) foreshadowed the shedding of Christ’s blood, the Passover Lamb of God (1 Corinthians 5:7) and the power of that blood to avert God’s wrath at Calvary as it did in Egypt on the 14th of Nissan. The Passover Lamb was a wrath-spearer, not a wrath-bearer.
- The Feast of Unleavened Bread (Chag HaMatzot – Leviticus 23:6-8, Numbers 28:17-25, Exodus 23:15) foreshadowed Christ’s condemnation of the sin in our flesh which puffs us up like leaven (Romans 8:3; 1 Corinthians 5:6-8) and the final removal of sin at Calvary (1 Corinthians 5:8). [2 High Sabbaths]
- The Feast of Firstfruits (Yom HaBikkurim or Reishit Katzir – Leviticus 23:9-14, Numbers 28:26-31) foreshadowed Christ’s resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20-23) as Jesus was resurrected on this very day.
- The Feast of Weeks (Shavu’ot or Pentecost – Leviticus 23:15-22) foreshadows the giving of the Spirit to the church (Acts 2:1-4). [High Sabbath]
The Fall Feasts:
- The Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah – Leviticus 23:23-25, Numbers 29:1-6) foreshadows the trumpet-announced gathering of Christ’s congregation at the Rapture (Numbers 10:1-8, 1 Thessalonians 4:16; 1 Corinthians 15:52) and the 2nd Coming (Matthew 24:31; Revelation 11:15). [High Sabbath]
- The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur – Leviticus 23:26-32, Numbers 29:7-11) foreshadows elements of Christ’s crucifixion (i.e. the day of the world’s atonement) but also the fountain that will be opened to Israel for her future cleansing from sin and uncleanness at Christ’s Second Coming (Zechariah 13:1; 12:10). [High Sabbath]
- The Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot – Leviticus 23:33-43, Numbers 29:12-39) foreshadows Christ’s Millennial reign when He comes back to earth to tabernacle among men (Zechariah 14:16-19, Revelation 21:3). [2 High Sabbaths]
In addition to the weekly Sabbath observance required by Exodus 20:11, God (in Leviticus 23) revealed seven of His annual appointed times or feast days which He has commanded His congregation to observe. Though two of these seven feast days are not Sabbaths (i.e. Passover & the Feast of Firstfruits), the other five feast days express themselves as seven annual Sabbaths because two of those annual feasts (i.e. Unleavened Bread & Tabernacles) are each comprised of two annual Sabbath days. This means that Shavuot is a High Sabbath.
Shavuot is one of the three pilgrimage festivals (Unleavened Bread and Sukkot being the other two) where the presence of all able-bodied Jewish males 20 years and over was required in Jerusalem to attend the feast and offer sacrifices (Exodus 23:14–17; 34:22–23; Deuteronomy 16:16). Shavuot, like other appointed times (e.g. Firstfruits, Tabernacles) is an agricultural holiday. It is the time of the wheat harvest.
The Feast of Weeks and Firstfruits are the only two of God’s annual appointed times which are not fixed on the calendar and whose day can vary. Leviticus 23:15-22 is the main passage in Scripture which details the Lord’s declarations as it pertains to Shavuot:
And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: (16) Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD. (17) Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the LORD. (18) And ye shall offer with the bread seven lambs without blemish of the first year, and one young bullock, and two rams: they shall be for a burnt offering unto the LORD, with their meat offering, and their drink offerings, even an offering made by fire, of sweet savour unto the LORD. (19) Then ye shall sacrifice one kid of the goats for a sin offering, and two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace offerings. (20) And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits for a wave offering before the LORD, with the two lambs: they shall be holy to the LORD for the priest. (21) And ye shall proclaim on the selfsame day, that it may be an holy convocation unto you: ye shall do no servile work therein: it shall be a statute for ever in all your dwellings throughout your generations. (22) And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the LORD your God.
―Leviticus 23:15-22 (cf. Deuteronomy 16:9-11)
Counting the Omer – What does the phrase “morrow after the Sabbath” mean!
Counting the Omer refers to the calculation that is done in order to determine the Feast of Weeks (i.e. Shavuot).
And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete
According to Leviticus 23:15 the count starts with the day that the omer is brought into the temple on the Feast of Firstfruits (Yom HaBikkurim). The Feast of Firstfruits refers to the day (i.e. Sunday) right after the weekly Sabbath of the Passover week (i.e. the Feast of Unleavened Bread). It cannot refer to the day after Unleavened Bread’s high sabbath because the text requires us to count 7 weekly sabbaths within the succeeding 50 days and there are not 7 annual Sabbaths within that timespan. In other words, since the 50 days after FirstFruits could never be comprised of 7 High Sabbaths, then it is impossible for the text (in Leviticus 23:15) to deem Firstfruits as “the morrow after the [high] sabbath] of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Three Definitive Reasons Why Yom Habikkurim (Firstfruits) Must Always Refer To The First Day Of The Week After The Weekly Sabbath That Occurs During The 7-day Feast Of Unleavened Bread.
Because there are always three Sabbaths (two-yearly [i.e. high] Sabbaths & one weekly Sabbath) during the 7-day period which is known as the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Chag HaMatzot), there has historically been some confusion about what the words of Leviticus 23:11,15 mean to convey. Below are some reasons why “the morrow after the Sabbath” must always refer to the first day of the week.
- Because the text in Leviticus 23:11,15 does not say “the morrow after the high sabbath”
- Because the text requires us to count 7 sabbaths within the succeeding 50 days. How do you count seven sabbaths without starting from a Sabbath? Otherwise, the text would be guilty of equivocating on the word Sabbath. This is a logical fallacy. You cannot have the term Sabbath in “morrow after the Sabbath” refer to a high Sabbath while the term Sabbath in “seven sabbaths shall be complete” refer to a weekly sabbath without equivocating on the word Sabbath.
- Because there would be no reason for God not to proclaim the 16th of Nissan as Yom Habikkurim since it would always occur on that date according to the contrarian view. Shavuot would also be fixed and the whole premise of needing to count becomes utterly unnecessary.
What Is The Prophetic Significance Of Shavuot?
Unlike the three preceding feasts, Shavuot does not appear to be predictive of a future event. In other words, there is nothing within the rituals of Shavuot which decisively point to or foreshadow some future entity. However, Shavuot still has substantial significance in the grand scheme of God’s timetable. For instance:
- On Pesach, Christ was crucified as the wrath-spearing Passover lamb but on the third day (i.e. the Feast of Firstfruits) He rose from the grave. Following His resurrection, Christ spent the next forty days teaching His disciples before ascending into heaven to sit at the right hand of God (Acts 1). However, exactly fifty days after His resurrection (or ten days after His ascension) Christ, on Shavuot, sent the Holy Spirit as promised (John 14:16–17) to indwell His disciples and empower them for the ministry of the great commission. The promised Comforter arrived on Shavuot.
- Shavuot is said to be indicative of the year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:8-13) because the same formula for calculating Shavuot is employed for calculating the year of Jubilee (with the exception that instead of counting 7 weeks, you are counting 7 weeks of years). There is ample evidence that around 2000 years ago on the year of Jubilee, during the month of Tishri and on the day of atonement, is the exact time when Christ entered the synagogue (Luke 4:17-20) and read from Isaiah 61:1-2a while proclaiming that the acceptable year of the Lord (i.e. the year of Jubilee) had come for the setting free of the prisoners (Leviticus 25:10).
- Shavuot is also the only annual appointed time where leavened bread is incorporated. Leaven in Scripture is often used to symbolize sin. This is why the Feast of Unleavened Bread which points to Christ’s anticipatory removal of indwelling-Sin disallows the presence of leaven. Hence, the two loaves of leavened bread used in Shavuot (Leviticus 23:17) are thought to illustrate the fact that there is still sin within Christ’s assembly/congregation/church.
- The antitypical Shavuot is the witnessing of past prophecies being fulfilled. In Ezekiel 36:27, through the mouth of the prophet God proclaims:
“I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.”
The prophet Joel also prophesied of a future indwelling of the Spirit when he proclaimed:
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit…And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered. [Joel 2:28-32]
In Acts 2:15 Peter attributes the supernatural events of the antitypical Shavuot occurring 10 days after Christ’s ascension to Joel’s prophecy when he says:
(2:15) For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. (2:16) But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; (2:17) And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: (2:18) And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: (2:19) And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: (2:20) The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: (2:21) And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Do Christians Worship On Sunday Because The Holy Spirit Came During Shavuot?
Some Christian organizations (e.g. Good Morning Lord or GML or Compass International) teach that one of the reasons why the church has venerated Sunday as her official day of worship is because the Holy Spirit made an appearance during Pentecost which is always a Sunday. However, nowhere in the Bible will you find support for the notion that early Christians met on the first day of the week because the Holy Spirit came on Sunday. That the first Christians (who were mostly all Jewish) would meet on Shavuot (i.e. the day of Pentecost or the Feast of Weeks) is nothing remarkable since the Law already required that day’s commemoration (Exodus 34:22, Deuteronomy 16:10) and that it always occur on a Sunday. The feast of First Fruits which foretells the day of Pentecost by seven weeks always occurred on the day after the Sabbath of Passover week (Leviticus 23:10–11) which is also a Sunday. Hence the word Pentecost, which by definition means fifty, is a term derived from the fact that counting the feast of First Fruits plus seven Sabbaths afterward always equals fifty days (Leviticus 23:15–17). Moreover, the glaring irony in supposing that the Holy Spirit’s appearance at this routine meeting had anything to do with the unauthorized redefinition of the Sabbath is that one must first hold to the position that the Sabbath has not been redefined in order to even arrive at the day of Pentecost in the first place. After all, one can’t count seven Sabbaths unless there actually is a seventh-day Sabbath. Of course, if we must adopt GML’s hermeneutic that the Sabbath be redefined whenever God makes an earthly appearance, then we should be prepared to once again change that eternally decreed day of rest (Exodus 31:16-17) should Christ’s 2nd Coming occur on any day other than Sunday.
Why Should Gentile Believers Keep The Feast of Weeks?
- Because on one solemn antitypical Shavuot more than 2000 years ago, dozens of devout followers of Christ were permanently indwelt by the Holy Ghost during an observation of this very same feast. Because this event (in Act 2) is seen as the inauguration of the New Testament assembly/church/congregation, all for whom Christ died should commemorate this sending down of God’s Comforter to His assembly/congregation /church.
- Because Shavuot is a divine and perpetual ordinance (Leviticus 23:21).
- Because the “stranger” (i.e. Gentiles within Israel) is explicitly mentioned in the Deuteronomy 16:9-11 explanation of Shavuot’s observance.
- All Gentile believers who were formerly “strangers from the covenants of promise“ (Ephesians 2:12-14) are now fellow citizens of the commonwealth of Israel (Ephesians 2:12-14,19) having been grafted into a Jewish olive tree (Romans 11:16-24) and made partakers of a Jewish covenant (Jeremiah 31:31, 32:40, Romans 11:17) through faith in the Gospel. If the Gentile’s membership in the New Covenant makes him a partaker of the “commonwealth of Israel” (Ephesians 2:12-14,19, Romans 11:16-24), it only makes sense that — for the sake of edification — he or she should also adhere to the applicable laws of that commonwealth.
- Because Shavuot, as with the weekly Sabbath and the other six annual feasts, is not an appointment which belong to Israel but to the Lord (Exodus 12:11). The feasts are times appointed by God for rest, worship, and the rehearsal of other specific memorials. God’s appointed times are perpetual appointments for His congregation (i.e. Hebrew: miqra; Greek: ecclesia) to observe.
- Israel was “set .. in the midst of the nations and countries that are round about her” to provoke conformance (e.g. Deuteronomy 4:6, Ezekiel 5:5-7, Romans 2:17-20). So that Israel, through the keeping of God’s statutes and judgments, would be an example to the world of holiness in dedication to God. The fact that God wanted the other nations to also join themselves to Him (Isaiah 45:22) and even gave Israel instructions regarding which Gentiles were allowed to join His congregation (Deuteronomy 23) demonstrates that He wanted the other nations to also keep his statutes and judgments. In other words, the Jews were supposed to be a light to the other nations. This implies that their beliefs were supposed to be indicative of the ideal beliefs for all of the world’s inhabitants.
Will Believers Observe Shavuot During Christ’s Millennial Reign?
In Ezekiel 45:20-25’s commentary on the period of Christ millennial reign, mentioned or implied are four annual appointed times: Passover, Chag HaMatzot (The Feast of Unleavened Bread), HaBikkurim (Firstfruits) & Sukkot (Tabernacles) which will all continue. In other words, out of the seven annual sabbaths, there is no explicit mention of the following three:
- Yom Teruah
- Yom Kippur
This observation has caused some Bible commentators to speculate that observation of these omitted feast days may cease at the onset of Christ’s millennial reign. This speculation could be an unwarranted argument from silence, or it could very well be an indication that these feasts have served their purpose and are no longer required. However, until believers receive a “cease and desist” edict from God, we are compelled to persist in our obedience to His standing commands to observe all Sabbaths (whether annual or weekly).
How Should Gentile Believers Keep The Feast of Weeks?
- Observe the High Sabbath
- Spend time studying the book of Ruth
- Spend time studying Acts