In 2011 Passover was celebrated beginning
at sunset on April 18. On the Hebrew calendar sunset marked the
beginning of the 14th day of Nisan.
No matter what day of the week it happens to be, Passover
always comes on the 14th of Nisan. It's like
Christmas in that regard, which always comes on the 25th
of December no matter what day of the week.
“What's that got to do with Pentecost?” you ask.
Well, Leviticus 23:11 says the day
after the next Sabbath was the Feast of First Fruits, always a
Sunday. In 2011 that
was the 24th of April on our calendar, which happened
to be Easter Sunday.
And according to Leviticus 23:15
Pentecost (Shavuot in Hebrew) is to be celebrated seven full
weeks later. Verse 16 confirms this by saying that Pentecost
would be 50 days after the Sabbath that follows Passover.
Which Day Is Correct?
A disagreement between the Pharisees and
the Sadducees arose late in the 2nd Temple period as
to whether the phrase “day after the Sabbath” in Leviticus
23:16 really referred to the weekly Sabbath that followed
Passover, as claimed by the Sadducees.
Their method of counting would always place Pentecost on
a Sunday, exactly seven weeks after the Feast of First Fruits.
The Pharisees argued that the count was
supposed to begin with the first day of the Feast of Unleavened
Bread, which was called a “special Sabbath” (John 19:31).
Since the first day of unleavened Bread always came on
the 15th of Nisan it meant Pentecost would always be
celebrated on the 6th of Sivan (May-June) no matter
what day of the week it was.
Leviticus 23:16 says “Count off
fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath.”
Taking this literally lends support to the Sadducean
method. The Sabbath
is a specific day of the week, and the day after the Sabbath is
Because of this some Jews will celebrate Pentecost on Sunday
June 12 in 2011.
Most modern Jews have adopted the Pharisees' interpretation and
celebrated Pentecost on June 8, but I'm going to vote with the
Saducees on this one and say it should be the 12th.
All the Feasts of Israel have both an
historical and a prophetic fulfillment.
The historical fulfillment of Pentecost was the giving of
the Law on Mt. Sinai.
Some believe that the hidden agenda behind this argument
over interpretation was an attempt to discredit the claim that
its prophetic fulfillment was the giving of the Holy Spirit
resulting in the birth of the Church. While this charge can't be
proven conclusively it is interesting that the Pharisaical
interpretation of Leviticus 23:16 only emerged “late in
the Second Temple period”, which could refer to
the time after the Resurrection but before the Temple's
Can You Blame Them?
If this is true, I can't say I blame them.
There's sufficient circumstantial evidence that the
Church was the prophetic fulfillment of Pentecost to be
For example, Pentecost is the only Levitical feast that
required bread baked with yeast (Lev. 23:17).
Yeast is a model of sin, in that it causes the dough to
spoil, like sin spoiled mankind.
If you agree with my view that the parables of
Matthew 13 describe the church on Earth and that the parable of the
yeast predicts there will be sin in the church, you're beginning
to get the idea.
But there's more.
In synagogues, the Book of Ruth is read on Pentecost. The
story of Ruth has been called "The Romance of Redemption".
It's about Naomi, a Jewish woman from Bethlehem whose family
lost their land and position and were forced into exile in Moab
because of a famine in Israel. Shortly thereafter her
husband passed away leaving her penniless and alone. When the
famine ended, she returned to Bethlehem accompanied by Ruth, a
Moabite woman who had married one of Naomi's sons (who had also
died) making her Naomi's daughter-in-law and a destitute widow
Once back in Bethlehem Ruth went to work in
the fields and wound up in one belonging to Naomi's close
relative, a prominent Jewish man named Boaz.
Boaz was immediately attracted to Ruth and after a time
agreed to marry her as part of the process of redeeming Naomi's
land. Both these events were accomplished according to the Law.
For Naomi it was the law of redemption (Lev 25:25), and for Ruth it was the law of leverite marriage (Deut.
The modeling here is dramatic, with Naomi
in the role of Israel, destitute and alone; Ruth as the Church,
the gentile bride; Boaz as the Kinsman Redeemer (the Messiah)
and the story a prediction of the relationship between them. In
the process of redeeming Israel, the Messiah takes a gentile
bride. In doing so, He saves both from destitution and restores
Israel's land. The identification of the Church with Pentecost
began in the prophecies of Ruth.
By tradition Enoch, one of the patriarchs
from Genesis 5, was
born on the day later to be known as Pentecost. Enoch's name
means "teaching", a primary function of the Church (Matt.
28:19-20). For this reason many scholars see him as a
"type" of the church as well.
indicates that Enoch was very close to God and was actually
taken live (raptured) into Heaven before the Great Flood.
Pre-Trib scholars see this event as one of several Old Testament
hints that the Church will disappear from Earth before the Great
These same traditions also hold that Enoch
was taken on his birthday. So here's a model in
Genesis 5 of a man
identified with the church being born and raptured on the day
that would become Pentecost, the day the church was also born.
Does this mean the Church will be raptured on our birthday too?
Personally I don't believe the Rapture of
the Church will be the prophetic fulfillment of any of Israel's
Holy Days, and Pentecost has already had both historical and
prophetic fulfillments. As you probably know, I believe
the reason no one on Earth can accurately predict the day of the
Rapture in advance is because it's a number specific event, not
a date specific one.
Romans 11:25 Paul implied the church has a "full number",
when its ranks will be considered complete. When that
number is reached the Church will "come in" which means it will
arrive at its scheduled destination, like when a ship "comes
in." Jesus said the destination of the Church is His
Father's house (John 14:2).
Put it together and I believe it means we'll be raptured as soon
as the pre-determined number of Christians has been born again,
no matter what day of the week it is.
June 12, 2011 (the real Pentecost) would be a great day
for the Church to be raptured, but it's no more likely to happen
then, than on any other day.
But Wait, There's More!
While we're on the subject, there are other
interesting similarities between the giving of the Law and the
rapture of the Church that should capture our interest as well.
You can compare
with 1 Thes 4:16-17
to see this, but here's a summary.
The trumpet of God and an audible voice are
present at both events and both events create a kingdom. At Mt.
Sinai the Israelites were redeemed from slavery, at the Rapture
the Church will be redeemed from sin. They were consecrated,
we'll be perfected. They washed their clothes, we'll be given
clean clothes. God came to the mountain top, Jesus will come to
the air. At Mt.
Sinai Moses and Aaron went up, at the rapture we'll go up. At
Mt. Sinai Israel was wed to God. At the Rapture the Church will
be wed to Jesus. At Mt. Sinai God dwelt with Israel and at the
rapture the Church will dwell with Jesus.
Since many Biblical models are necessarily
incomplete, there are also some obvious differences. Only Moses
and Aaron could ascend the mountain. Anyone else going up passed
from life to death. At the rapture we all go up and the dead in
Christ will pass from death to life. God promised to dwell with
Israel if they obeyed. We will dwell with Jesus because He
obeyed. They changed themselves temporarily, He'll change us
permanently. Theirs was an event accompanied by great fear, ours
will be an event anticipated with great joy. After all Mt. Sinai
was the presentation of God's Law, and the Rapture will begin
the ultimate manifestation of His grace. You can almost hear the
footsteps of the Messiah. 06-11-11