The day of Pentecost, celebrated throughout most Christian Congregations, is thought to have started with the giving of the Holy Spirit to the disciples gathered at the Upper Room. But what if Pentecost started almost 1500 years before? As Christians who were brought up being taught that Pentecost started in the upper Room, this may come as a shock. But the truth is that Pentecost had been celebrated for almost 1500 years before Christ, being instituted by YHVH at the Mount of Sinai.
As Christians, we need to become more like the “noble Bereans” (Acts 17:10,11) who searched the Scriptures to check what was told to them were true or not. So let us dig into the Scriptures for the evidence of a Pre-Christ Pentecost.
What does the word “Pentecost” mean?
The English word “Pentecost” is a direct transliteration of the Greek word “Pentekoste” and means “fiftieth” or more specifically “the fiftieth day” in Greek. Even though the meaning has been lost in our English translations of the Bible, a quick look at a dictionary/lexicon reveals the real meaning.
Thayer’s Greek Lexicon
G4005 – πεντηκοστή – pentēkoste – Pentecost = “the fiftieth day”
1) the second of the three great Jewish feasts, celebrated at Jerusalem yearly, the seventh week after the Passover, in grateful recognition of the completed harvest.
Pentecost in the New Testament writings
There are 3 instances where the above word “G4005 – Pentekoste” appears in the New Testament. In the below verses, the 1st instance speaks of the disciple being gathered to the upper room when the “fiftieth day” had fully come. The second instance is of Paul who determines to go to Jerusalem by the “fiftieth day”. And the 3rd instance is of Paul’s words to the Ephesians explaining how he will stay at Ephesus until the “fiftieth day”.
And when the day of Pentecost(Pentekoste – the fiftieth day) was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. (Act 2:1)
For Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus, because he would not spend the time in Asia: for he hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost(Pentekoste – the fiftieth day). (Act 20:16)
But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost(Pentekoste – the fiftieth day). (1Co 16:8)
Why was this day called “The Fiftieth Day”?
If it was called the Fiftieth Day, there would have had to be a reason for it. Was it a Fiftieth day from a specific event? To know the answer, we must examine the Old Testament Scriptures, as well as the clues left for us in the New Testament.
A. The Fiftieth Day is instituted at Sinai
To understand what “Pentecost/the fiftieth day” really means, we must look at its origins, in the Old Testament.
Lev 23:15,16 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:
Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD. Lev 23:21 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.
The above reference is part of the commandment given by God at Sinai regarding the “Feasts/Appointments of God” recorded in Leviticus, and speaks of the Appointment which comes 50 days from the day of “Firstfruits” which is the day after the Sabbath following “Passover“. (To know detailed information on this topic, please read this post). In it God commands to count “Seven Sabbaths” (Seven Weeks) from the day the firstfruit (sheaf of the wave offering) was brought to the temple – and the day after the Seventh Sabbath would be considered, a day of Assembly, where no monetary work would be done and would be proclaimed each year, forever.
Generally known as the Feast of Weeks in the Scriptures, it was a countdown of Seven Weeks/Sabbaths leading to 50 days. (7days x 7 +1 = 50days)
Exo 34:22 And thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year’s end.
Deu 16:10 And thou shalt keep the feast of weeks unto the LORD thy God with a tribute of a freewill offering of thine hand, which thou shalt give unto the LORD thy God, according as the LORD thy God hath blessed thee:
2Ch 8:13 Even after a certain rate every day, offering according to the commandment of Moses, on the sabbaths, and on the new moons, and on the solemn feasts, three times in the year, even in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles.
It was also necessary for all males to come to Jerusalem for this day/event.
Deu 16:16 Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the LORD empty:
B. Clues left in the Book of Acts by Luke, regarding the “Fiftieth day”
1. The completion of 50 days
In Acts 2:1, Luke specifically mentions the “completion of 50 days” saying “when the day of Pentecost was fully come“. This shows how the Disciple gathered in the upper room, as Pentecost/Fifty Days were completed.
2. A multitude of Jews living outside Judea and Jerusalem had gathered to Jerusalem
In Acts 2:5, Luke specifies that devout men from every nation under heaven had gathered to Jerusalem. Why were such a crowd gathered to Jerusalem at the time the disciples were in the upper room? It was no coincidence. God had specified that all males of His people must come to Jerusalem for the “Feast of Weeks”/”Fifty Days” or better known as “Pentecost” in the New Testament (Deut 16:16, Exo 23:14-17, 34:22,23).
3. Paul wanted to be in Jerusalem for Pentecost/The fiftieth day
As a devout Jew who was obedient to God’s Law, it is no surprise that Paul determined to be in Jerusalem for Pentecost(Act 20:16), as it was part of God’s Law to be present in Jerusalem at Pentecost. Contrary to popular belief, Paul was obedient to Mosaic Law as per James(Act 21:18-24) & Paul’s(Act 24:14) own testimony. He was earnest to keep the feast days in Jerusalem according to Acts 18:21
4. A specified time span and a command not to leave Jerusalem
The disciples themselves were ordered by Yeshua (Jesus’ true name) not to leave Jerusalem(Acts 1:4) and Luke even specifies the proximity to the Fiftieth day by recording that Messiah was seen by the disciples for Forty days after His Resurrection(Acts 1:3). As Yeshua arose on the day of FirstFruits – and the counting of 50 days starts on Firstfruits, this meant that there were 10 days remaining to the feast of Pentecost.
Pentecost was instituted at Sinai by God, 1500 years before the giving of the gifts of the Holy Spirit on the Upper Room. Pentecost, a Greek word turned into English hides the meaning of “Fifty days” behind it, which was the counting of fifty days according to the Law of God. Modern Christianity might not even know it, but they are keeping God’s Law of the “Fiftieth Day” when they meet together on Pentecost. How wonderful would it be if all Christians knew and understood that God’s Commandments, His Word endures forever without change – without a single jot or tittle being done away. And that His Feasts/Appointed Days do foreshadow the first and second coming of Messiah Yeshua. And that Pentecost, which was instituted in the Old Testament is part of these 7 appointed days set forth by God Himself.