This chapter speaks of the arrival of “what the Father promised” that Yeshua (Jesus) had told His followers to wait for in Jerusalem. Because it was probably 1 week to the day from His ascension that the day of Pentecost arrived, their wait was short.
We’re going to go deep and get technical for awhile because here at Pentecost is the starting point of establishing the framework from which we can understand all that happens from here forward in the Book of Acts; and it also establishes some important context that will aid us in understanding Peter and Paul.
Pentecost is the English word for the Greek pentekostes, which means fifty. And pentekostes is the Greek translation used for the Hebrew word Shavuot, which means weeks.
If you’ve been around Hebrew Roots or Messianic Jewish teaching for very long, you know that Shavuot is one of the 7 Biblical Feasts as ordained by God in the Book of Leviticus.
Let’s not go any further until we understand what Shavuot is both Biblically and traditionally in Judaism because if ever there was a key to unlock the understanding and context of this chapter, it is contained in the meaning of Shavuot to Jews of that era.
And before we start that discussion please note: Pentecost is NOT a Christian holiday created by the Church to commemorate the coming of the Holy Spirit to indwell men. Far from it: Pentecost (Shavuot) had been celebrated for 1300 years by Israelites by the time of the event we read about here in Acts.
Thus the amazing events of that day happened on the ancient Jewish holiday of Shavuot. Let’s see if we can understand why the Lord chose that particular appointed time for the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to come and indwell humans.
First let’s understand that Shavuot is part of a system of holy days ordained by the Lord.
- The first holy day of that system is Pesach, Passover.
- The next holy day is really a holy week called Matza, Unleavened Bread. Matza begins the day after Passover.
- Next follows Bikkurim, Firstfruits. Firstfruits takes place the next day after the Sabbath following Passover. Since the Biblical Sabbath is always the 7th day of the week, then Firstfruits always falls on 1st day of the week. In modern times we call the 1st day of the week Sunday.
So the first 3 feasts occur in rapid succession and they happen in the month of Nissan. Pesach, Passover, the 1st feast happens on a defined calendar date: Nissan 14th. This is equivalent to our March-April timeframe, so these are springtime festivals.
To be clear the assigned dates, times and progression of these 7 Biblical feasts are Scripturally defined; this is not Hebrew tradition. After the first 3 there is a lull of 7 weeks before the next feast arrives: Shavuot (hence the alternate name, the Feast of Weeks).
Unlike Passover that always occurs on the 14th of Nissan, the day that Shavuot arrives is not a fixed calendar date. Rather we are to count 50 days beginning on the day after Passover. That 50th day is Shavuot.
Let’s back up a little. When we talked about the 3 spring feasts, the 3rd one was called Firstfruits (Bikkurim). But the reality is that Shavuot is also a firstfruits festival.
Thus both the 3rd and 4th Biblical feast days revolve around agriculture and harvesting; the first 2 feasts (Passover and Unleavened Bread) do not. Rather those two are a remembrance of Israel’s exodus from Egypt.
The 3rd festival, Bikkurim, represents the first of the harvest of the Barley crop. The 4th festival, Shavuot (Pentecost), represents the first of the harvest of the Wheat crop. After Shavuot there is a few month lull until the month of Tishri arrives, and then the 5th, 6th, and 7th feasts arrive in quick succession.
On the first day of the month of Tishri is the Biblical feast called Yom Teruah: the Feast of Trumpets. Modern Jews have somewhat changed the nature of this feast day, formed it into a tradition, and call it Rosh Hashanah: Jewish New Year.
Then on the 10th day of Tishri comes the feast of Yom Kippur: the Day of Atonement. Then 5 days later on the 15th of the month begins the final feast of the yearly cycle of 7 feasts, Sukkot; the Feast of Tabernacles. Tishri comes in the fall season. We won’t discuss any of these fall feasts; I only wanted to lay out the entire cycle, or system, of the 7 Biblical feasts for you.