Pentecost

What Is Pentecost?

Acts 2 Pentecost.png

Introduction

1456053183_thumb.pngA very happy Pentecost Sunday to you! Today is Pentecost Sunday and Christians around the globe will be celebrating this event. Why is the Day of Pentecost so important in the life of the church?

Pentecost is the message that God has a promise for you! Long ago, God made a promise that was so wonderful that the Israelites were to celebrate it on a certain Sunday every year until the promise was fulfilled. This promise was rooted in the yearly Feast of Pentecost, also called the Feast of Weeks, one of the great celebrations in the Old Testament. It was harvest time! It was a time of rejoicing at what God had provided for his people. It was a time to celebrate the blessing of the God who provides. It was also an anticipation looking forward to the fulfillment of God’s marvelous promise that is for you and for everyone who asks for this promise, this gift of God our heavenly Father.

The Feast of Pentecost was established in the Law of Moses. 1,445 before Christ, the Law stipulated that Pentecost was to be celebrated every year until it was fulfilled.

The word Pentecost comes from the Greek word pentêkostos (πεντηκοστός) which means “fiftieth.” So the Feast of Pentecost took place on the 50th day after the offering of the firstfruits during Passover week. That was seven full weeks after the offering of the firstfruits. In fact, the Feast of Pentecost is called the Feast of Weeks in the Old Testament. It took place the day after the completion of seven weeks following the offering of the firstfruits. Seven weeks of seven days is 49 days. The next day is the 50th day. So this feast has two names: the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Pentecost.

We see that the ideas of the fiftieth day (for Pentecost) and the period of seven weeks (for the Feast of Weeks), these two ideas come together when God instituted Pentecost or the Feast of Weeks in Leviticus 23. God had said,

Lev. 23:15-16 ESV You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering. 16 You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the LORD.

These two celebrations, the offering of the firstfruits and the Feast of Pentecost, took place the day after the Sabbath. In other words, these two celebrations took place on a Sunday. The offering of the firstfruits and the Feast of Pentecost both took place on a Sunday every year from the giving of the Law of Moses until the fulfillment of the Law in the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Right in the very Law of Moses, God had indicated that he was going to do something marvelous for his people. The offering of the firstfruits the first Sunday after Passover pointed to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Bible says that Christ is the firstfruits of the resurrection. Just as the firstfruits were the promise of the coming harvest, so the resurrection of Christ is the promise of our future resurrection.

But 50 days later came the harvest. Pentecost. The Feast of Weeks. Count seven full weeks from the offering of the firstfruits to the day after the seventh Sabbath. On that Sunday, 50 days after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the promise of the Father was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost.

On that very Sunday, the promise was fulfilled and the Apostle Peter preached,

Acts 2:39 ESV For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

That means that the Day of Pentecost, the day that we are celebrating today, is a reminder that God has made a promise that is for you.

So just what is this promise?

1.        Pentecost Is a Fulfillment of the Father’s Promise

Jesus refers to the giving of the Holy Spirit as the promise of the Father. You will remember that Jesus was crucified at the time of the Passover. He was raised from the dead on the third day and appeared to his disciples for 40 days, teaching them many things about the kingdom of God. Then, shortly before ascending to the right hand of God, he reminded the disciples about the promise of the Father.

At the end of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus told his disciples,

Luke 24:49 ESV And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Again, we find the promise in the very first chapter of the Book of Acts:

Acts 1:4-5 ESV And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

Now this is most interesting. Jesus reminded the disciples, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

Jesus makes a distinction between being baptized with water and being baptized with the Holy Spirit. Being baptized with water is not the same thing as being baptized with the Holy Spirit.

This is the same thing that John the Baptist had said:

Mark 1:8 ESV I have baptized you with water, but [Jesus] he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Now, 40 days after his resurrection, as Jesus is preparing to ascend to the Father’s right hand, he tells the disciples,

Luke 24:49 ESV And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

This promise of the Father, this gift that would be given the Day of Pentecost, has something to do with the Holy Spirit, and it has something to do with power for service. This is what Jesus told the disciples just before ascending into heaven:

Acts 1:8 ESV But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Why is this the promise of the Father? Why does Jesus refer to the giving of the Holy Spirit and the empowering for service, why does he call this the promise of the Father?

This is the promise of the Father because in the Old Testament, God the Father had promised that the time when come when he would give the Holy Spirit to his people.

Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they received the promise of the Father. On Ascension Day, which we celebrated just 10 days ago, before their very eyes, Jesus was taken up bodily into heaven. The disciples then returned to Jerusalem. They entered into the upper room where they were staying. About 120 disciples gathered in that upper room and devoted themselves to prayer. For 10 days they prayed, waiting for the promise of the Father.

Then we read in Acts 2,

Acts 2:1-4 ESV When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

It was the Day of Pentecost. Jews from all over the world had gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the event, but nothing like this had ever happened before! Jews from all over the world, who spoke many different languages, were now hearing Jews from Galilee, the disciples of Jesus, speaking in these different languages.

Acts 2:6-12 NLT When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running, and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers. 7 They were completely amazed. “How can this be?” they exclaimed. “These people are all from Galilee,… And we all hear these people speaking in our own languages about the wonderful things God has done!” 12 They stood there amazed and perplexed. “What can this mean?” they asked each other.

The Jews had been celebrating the Day of Pentecost for nearly 1,500 years, but this was a Day of Pentecost like no other. This was the fulfillment of the promise of the Father. “What can this mean?” the people asked. “What is this all about?”

It was then that the Apostle Peter preached the first Christian sermon. There, on that Sunday, on the Day of Pentecost, Peter explained that God had fulfilled his promise by pouring out his Holy Spirit on them.

Acts 2:16-18 NLT …what you see was predicted long ago by the prophet Joel: 17 ‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. 18 In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants—men and women alike—and they will prophesy.

This was the promise of the Father! He would pour out his Spirit on all people. He does not mean that everyone would receive the Spirit, but that the gift of the Holy Spirit would be for everyone who called upon the name of the Lord. God would pour his Spirit on them and they would prophesy.

In the Old Testament, the anointing of the Holy Spirit was generally limited to three classes of people. The Spirit’s anointing was for prophets, for priests, and for kings. But God had promised that the day would come when he would pour out his Spirit on all people. The gift would not be limited by gender, by age, or by social class:

  1. The gift of the Spirit would not be limited by gender; God would give his Spirit to men and women: “Your sons and your daughters will prophesy.”
  2. The gift of the Spirit would be not be limited by age; it would be for the young and the old: “Your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.”
  3. The gift of the Spirit would not be limited by class or level of society: “I will pour out my Spirit on my male servants and female servants.”

The gift of the Spirit would be available for all who called upon the name of the Lord to be saved. This was the new life of living by the Spirit instead of living by the Law.

Before Christ came, people tried to please God by following the Law. It was a list of rules that they tried to obey. It was all on the outside. The people tried to change their lives from the outside in. The outside-in approach started with the list of rules, some 613 laws, that people tried to observe, trying to change their hearts from the outside.

But God had promised that a new day was coming, a time when he would change people not from the outside in, but from the inside out. God would change people not by telling them to obey a written code of laws, but by empowering them by the Holy Spirit who would change them — and us — from the inside out.

Yes, there would be an outward change, but the change begins on the inside, not on the outside. This is the promise of the Father:

This is that promise in Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 31:31-33 NLT “The day is coming,” says the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. 32 This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant, though I loved them as a husband loves his wife,” says the LORD. 33 “But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the LORD. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

God had promised through the prophet Ezekiel,

Ezekiel 36:25-27 NLT “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.

So Pentecost reminds us that the Christian life is not following a list of rules and laws. The true Christian is one who is born of the Spirit of God.

2.        Pentecost Is the Power to Serve

Pentecost is also the power to serve. Jesus had promised the disciples,

Acts 1:8 ESV But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

The disciples needed the power of the Holy Spirit to be effective in ministry. You and I need the power of the Holy Spirit to be effective for Christ. “You will receive power,” Jesus said, “and you will be my witnesses…” We receive the power of the Holy Spirit to be Jesus’ witnesses. We are witnesses to Jesus Christ. We preach Christ.

This power of the Holy Spirit is seen in the boldness that the disciples had in witnessing for Christ. Over and over again, we read about the Holy Spirit coming upon the believers and how they spoke about Christ with great boldness.

On that great Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the believers, Peter preached with great boldness. He confronted the Jews with their sin:

Acts 2:23 ESV this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

But God had reversed the decrees of men and had raised Jesus from the dead:

Acts 2:32 ESV This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.

There in the very city where Jesus had been crucified and buried, Peter declared with boldness that God had raised him up. Furthermore, Peter said, “of that we all are witnesses.” Christianity is not some philosophy or some interpretation of life. Christianity is history. The gospel did not begin somewhere else. It began in Jerusalem where Jesus died and was raised from the dead and appeared to hundreds showing himself to be alive by many proofs (Acts 1:1-3).

Jesus died. He was buried. He was raised from the dead. And after 40 days, he ascended to the right hand of God. Then Peter declared,

Acts 2:32-33 ESV Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.

The gift of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost was a result of the finished work of Jesus Christ. Jesus was exalted to the right hand of God. He received the promise of the Father as a result of his finished work of salvation. And he poured out the Holy Spirit on the 120 disciples in the upper room.

But was the gift just for those early disciples?

3.        Pentecost Is a Message that the Gift of the Holy Spirit Is for All Peoples Everywhere

On that Day of Pentecost, Peter was preaching to thousands of people who were gathered in Jerusalem. They had seen the effect of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. They had heard as Peter preached to them the gospel.

Acts 2:36-37 ESV Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

They have been convicted of their sin against God. “What shall we do?” they asked. Yes, there is something to do. Salvation is not automatic. It is not the result of being born in a Christian nation or of being born of Christian parents or of going to church.

Acts 2:38 ESV And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Peter said that the first thing that we must do is to repent. These people were “cut to the heart.” They felt the guilt of their sin. Jesus had promised that the Holy Spirit would convict people of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment.

We need that work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Until we see and feel the depth of our sin against God, we can never be saved. If we think that we are pretty good compared to others, then we are like the Pharisees who were self-righteousness. If we justify ourselves, we will never by justified by God. But if we see and feel that all our righteousness is as filthy rags before God, if we feel our uncleanness, if we feel our guilt before a holy God, then the Holy Spirit is at work in our hearts producing conviction of sin and godly sorrow.

2 Corinthians 7:10 NIVO Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

Repentance involves confession of sin, admitting before God that we are guilty. It is a change of mind. We no longer want to do the things that we used to do. We are now ashamed of the things that we did (Romans 6:21)! So repentance means turning away from our sin. It is an about-face. It is walking the other way.

“Repent,” Peter said, “and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.”

Baptism means that we have a change of loyalty. We are now baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ means that we are baptized in the authority of Christ. We are baptized as Christ told us to be baptized. And he told us in Matthew 28:19 that we are to be baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Christ is our Lord and Master. By baptism, we identify with him in his death, his burial, and his resurrection. We are raised with him to walk in the newness of life (Romans 6:1-3).

Now Peter says, “Repent and be baptized and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” We have already seen that water baptism is not the same as the baptism in the Holy Spirit. And yet, it is normal for Christians to be baptized into the Holy Spirit for this promise was not just for the 120 disciples. This promise is for us:

Acts 2:39 ESV For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

The promise of the Spirit was not limited to the 120 disciples. It was not just for the age of the apostles. The gift did not die out at the end of the first century. Peter clearly says that the promise of the Spirit is for all of us, for all whom the Lord our God will call.

4.        Pentecost Is a Celebration of the Birthday of the Church

Acts 2:40-42 ESV And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Peter and the disciples had been baptized with the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus had said. They had received power to be his witnesses. With great power and boldness, Peter bore witness to Jesus and the gospel of Christ. The Holy Spirit moved upon the crowd with conviction of sin and three thousand souls were added to the church.

On that Sunday, that Day of Pentecost,

  • The Holy Spirit was poured out on the believers,
  • The first Christian sermon was preached,
  • Three thousand people were added to the Church

On that Sunday, the Church was born. And one this Sunday, we celebrate the birthday of the Church and the fact that Jesus Christ is building his Church.

5.        Pentecost Is a Reminder that Christ Will Continue to Build His Church

In his book Witness Essentials, Dan Meyer lists some encouraging statistics about the growth of the church around the world:[1]

  • In 1900 Korea had no Protestant church. Today, there are over 7,000 churches in just the city of Seoul, South Korea.
  • At the end of the 19th century, the southern portion of Africa was only 3 percent Christian. Today, 63 percent of the population is Christian, while membership in the churches in Africa is increasing by 34,000 people per day.
  • In India, 14 million of the 140 million members of the “untouchable” caste have become Christians.
  • More people in the Islamic world have come to Christ in the last 25 years than in the entire history of Christian missions.
  • In Islamic Indonesia, the percentage of Christians is now so high (around 15 percent) that the Muslim government will no longer print statistics.
  • In China, it is estimated that there are now more self-avowed disciples of Jesus than members of the Communist party. Even the most conservative estimates suggest that China will soon have more Christians than any country.
  • Across the planet, followers of Jesus are increasing by more than eighty thousand per day.
  • 510 new churches form every day.

Conclusion

On this Day of Pentecost, we remember

  1. The Father has fulfilled his promise by the Holy Spirit to those who ask.
  2. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to be effective witnesses of Jesus Christ.
  3. The message of Pentecost is for all believers everywhere.
  4. We celebrate today the birthday of the Church.
  5. Christ will continue to build his Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.

 

[1] Daniel Meyer, Witness Essentials (InterVarsity Press, 2012), pp. 32-33

See also “Gospel of Mark”:

 

 

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It Happened on a Sunday!

Sunday

 

 

You’ll never guess what happened on Sunday. I think you’ll be surprised to discover some of the great events of the Bible that took place on Sunday, and just what God says about “the day after the Sabbath”!

1.      The SDA Challenge

1.1.     Are we wrong to worship God on Sunday?

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Is there any warrant for worshiping God on Sunday? Recently the churches of Vanuatu have been challenged to find just one verse that supports the practice of worshipping on Sunday. Never mind the historical fact that for nearly 20 centuries the church of Jesus Christ has met on Sunday for teaching, preaching, prayer, worship, and fellowship… But is there any biblical support for the practice of worshipping on Sunday?

On the other hand, is this a major issue that could put one’s salvation in jeopardy? I mean, is it true that by meeting to worship God on Sunday, that instead of truly worshipping God in spirit and truth, we are somehow worshipping the sun, because it’s SUNday? Would that then mean that people who worship on SATURday are actually worshipping the planet Saturn? Is it true that worshipping God on Sunday is blasphemous? Is it true that this is the mark of the beast?

Wow! Those are some fantastic remarks made about the church of the Lord Jesus Christ! Is God really upset that people would worship him on a Sunday? Is it true that our salvation is so fragile that it depends on worshipping on a certain day? Is salvation something that we do for ourselves by worshipping on a certain day of the week? Is salvation something that we do, or something that was done for us by Christ’s death on the cross?

Christians who know the Word of God will not be intimidated or shaken by these scare tactics. We know that the message of the gospel was not the preaching of the Sabbath but the preaching that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died on the cross for our sins and was literally, physically raised from the dead that we might be right with God through faith in his Son.

We have spent the last several weeks showing what the Scriptures teach about the Sabbath, the Law, the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the kingdom of God.

We have seen that

  • the Law pointed to Christ who completely fulfilled the Law.
  • that the work of Christ on the cross is a complete and finished work.
  • that Christ is the end of the Law for everyone who believes.
  • that our salvation does not depend on keeping the Sabbath.
  • Rather, our salvation is secure in our Savior Jesus Christ.

1.2.     Just One Verse

One of the tactics used is to challenge listeners to find just one verse in the Bible that says that we are to worship on a Sunday. Money is often offered by such groups to anyone who can find a verse that speaks of worship on Sunday. When no one responds, everyone is convinced that it must be wrong to do right on Sunday. As we have seen, this sounds so very much like the Pharisees who found wrong in all the good works that Jesus did on the Sabbath. We are told that worship is a matter of observing the calendar, that what God real wants is for us to get the day right.

The Christian churches of Vanuatu could also ask our friends who have raised the question, “Please show us one verse in the New Testament that shows that believers have to keep the sabbath.” No gat. There is not one single verse in the New Testament that tells believers to keep the Sabbath.

Now, it is not my purpose to make enemies. I would like to help people to see the truth of God’s Word. I would even hope to help those leaders who have been deceived and who are now deceiving others. I hope that you can sense that my desire is not to divide but help those who through grace have believed the good news of what Jesus Christ has done for us (Acts 18:27-28).

We have seen that there are many commandments for New Testament believers. Jesus has clearly instructed us to make disciples of all peoples everywhere and to teach them to obey all that he has commanded us. But as we read through all the commandments of the New Testament, not once are we ever told to keep the Sabbath.

I should point out here that obeying God’s Word is not how we are saved. We are saved by what Christ has done for us, not by what we do for him. Obedience flows out of love and joy for what he has done for us.

So there are commands in the New Testament, but never a command to keep the Sabbath.

On the other hand, there are also many lists of various sins that the believer will avoid, but breaking the sabbath is never listed. In fact, we are told not to let anyone judge us about the Sabbath for it is only a shadow; the reality is Christ.

 

2.      Shadow and Reality

We have seen in previous broadcasts that the Old Covenant was a shadow of the New Covenant. I want to look more closely at some of the shadow because the shadow points to the reality.

In Leviticus 23, Moses gives a detail description of the appointed feasts of the LORD (Leviticus 23:2, 4).

  1. The Sabbath Lev 23:3
  2. The Feast of Passover Lev 23:5
  3. The Feat of Unleavened Bread Lev 23:6
  4. The Feast of Firstfruits Lev 23:10
  5. The Feast of Weeks Lev 23:15.
  6. The Feast of Trumpets Lev 23:24
  7. The Day of Atonement Lev 23:27
  8. The Feast of Booths Lev 23:34

I want to consider two of these feasts: the Feast of the Firstfruits, and the Feast of Weeks (also known as the Feast of Pentecost).

2.1.     The Feast of the Firstfruits

We read about the Feast of the Firstfruits in Leviticus 23:9-11.

Leviticus 23:9-11 ESV And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 10 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest, 11 and he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, so that you may be accepted. On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.

Let us well notice that the Feast of the Firstfruits was to take place on the day after the Sabbath. This feast took place right after the Feast of Passover, on the day after the Sabbath of the Passover.

Let me underline that it took place not on the Sabbath, but on the day after the Sabbath. Verse 11 says that the priest,

shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, so that you may be accepted. On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.

We all know that “the day after the Sabbath” was a Sunday. God prescribed that the Feast of the Firstfruits was to take place on a Sunday.

This offering of firstfruits took place at the beginning of the harvest and signified Israel’s gratitude to and dependence on God.[1]

We have a further description of this feast in Deuteronomy 26.

Deuteronomy 26:1-11 ESV “When you come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance and have taken possession of it and live in it, 2 you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from your land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket, and you shall go to the place that the LORD your God will choose, to make his name to dwell there. 3 And you shall go to the priest who is in office at that time and say to him, ‘I declare today to the LORD your God that I have come into the land that the LORD swore to our fathers to give us.’ 4 Then the priest shall take the basket from your hand and set it down before the altar of the LORD your God. 5 “And you shall make response before the LORD your God, ‘A wandering Aramean was my father. And he went down into Egypt and sojourned there, few in number, and there he became a nation, great, mighty, and populous. 6 And the Egyptians treated us harshly and humiliated us and laid on us hard labor. 7 Then we cried to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. 8 And the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great deeds of terror, with signs and wonders. 9 And he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. 10 And behold, now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground, which you, O LORD, have given me.’ And you shall set it down before the LORD your God and worship before the LORD your God. 11 And you shall rejoice in all the good that the LORD your God has given to you and to your house, you, and the Levite, and the sojourner who is among you.

Notice exactly what God says the Israelites were to do on that Sunday after the Passover. Verse 10 says that they were to present the firstfruits of the ground which the LORD had given them. “And you shall set it down before the LORD your God and worship before the LORD your God.” Here is a shadow of the reality that was to come. They were to worship the LORD on a Sunday.

The Feast of Passover had taken place just days before the Feast of the Firstfruits. The Passover commemorated the time when God had delivered the Israelites out of Egypt. For 400 years the Israelites had been slaves in Egypt under the rule of Pharaoh. A Passover lamb had been slain for each family. The blood of the lamb had been painted on the doorposts of every home. The angel of death had been sent to kill the firstborn of every family in Egypt, but when the angel saw the blood of the lamb on the doorpost, he would “pass over” that home, sparing the firstborn child. That night the Israelites were delivered from Egypt (Exodus 12:1-13). All of this pointed to the Lamb of God who would be slain on a hill called Calvary in order to deliver us from Satan’s rule and the slavery of sin.

In celebration of this great deliverance from Egypt, the Israelites were to present the firstfruits of their crops and to worship the LORD, the first day after the Sabbath of Passover. It happened on a Sunday.

  • Every year
    For 1,446 years
  • From the giving of the Law
    Until the coming of Christ
    And until the outpouring of the Holy Spirit
  • The Jews were commanded to celebrate the Feast of Firstfruits and to worship the LORD
  • The day after the Sabbath of the Passover.

It happened on a Sunday, “the day after the Sabbath.”

It happened on a Sunday and pointed to that great event that the New Testament tells many times took place on “the first day of the week”: the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

This was the Feast of the Firstfruits and it pointed to Christ, the firstfruits of the resurrection:

1 Corinthians 15:20 ESV But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

1 Corinthians 15:23 ESV But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.

Romans 8:23 ESV And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

So Christ is the firstfruits of the our future resurrection. The firstfruits came first; the full harvest came weeks later. Christ’s resurrection was first; our resurrection is still future, but both Christ’s resurrection and our resurrection are part of what the Bible calls “the first resurrection” (Revelation 20:5-6). The Feast of the Firstfruits took place “the day after the Sabbath.” It happened on a Sunday. The Feast of the Firstfruits pointed to the resurrection of Christ that would take place on Sunday, “the first day of the week.”

Just how important is the resurrection of Christ? The Scriptures tell us that if Christ had not been raised from the dead, then our preaching would be in vain, and your faith would be in vain. We would still be lost in and would perish (1 Corinthians 15:14-19).

Again and again, the New Testament emphasizes that this most important event took place on Sunday, after the Sabbath, on “the first day of the week”:

Matthew 28:1 ESV Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.

Mark 16:2 ESV And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.

Mark 16:9 ESV [Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons.

Luke 24:1 ESV But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared.

John 20:1 ESV Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.

All these events of the resurrection day took place on Sunday, the first day of the week.

John 20:19 ESV On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

  • It was on a Sunday that the Lord arose from the grave (Mark 16:9).
  • It was on a Sunday that He appeared to Mary Magdalene (John 20:1).
  • It was on a Sunday that He walked and talked with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-31).
  • It was on a Sunday “when he was at table with them, [that] he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them (Luke 24:30 ESV).
  • It was on a Sunday that the ten apostles and others had gathered in the upper room (John 20:19).
  • It was on a Sunday that the resurrected Christ appeared to them in the upper room (John 20:19).
  • It was on a Sunday that He gave the great commission “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21 ESV).
  • It was on a Sunday that He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22 ESV).

It happened on a Sunday.

It happened on a Sunday, but Thomas was not there. It was a eight days later — count them: 1 – Sunday, 2 – Monday, 3 – Tuesday, 4 – Wednesday, 5 – Thursday, 6 – Friday, 7 – Saturday, 8 – Sunday — It was on a Sunday that Jesus chose to appear again to his disciples, this time Thomas was with them:

John 20:26 ESV Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”

It happened on a Sunday. And it had been prefigured in the Feast of the Firstfruits. God had specified that Feast of the Firstfruits was to take place on “the day after the Sabbath” of Passover. God had commanded that the Feast of the Firstfruits would take place on a Sunday and that the Israelites were to worship God and thank Him for delivering them from slavery in Egypt. God had said that it was to take place the day after the Sabbath because he was going to raise his Son from the dead on the first day of the week, not the last day of the week. It would be a new beginning. A new creation. And it happened on a Sunday.

2.2.     The Feast of Pentecost

Back in Leviticus 23, immediately after the instructions about the Feast of the Firstfruits, God gave instructions about another shadow, the Feast of Weeks, that would point to another reality. The Feast of the Firstfruits took place on a Sunday at the very beginning of the harvest. That Sunday was the starting point for the count to the Feast of Weeks.

Leviticus 23:15-16 ESV “You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering. 16 You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the LORD.

Two times in these two verses, the phrase “the day after the Sabbath” is used. In verse 15, “the day after the Sabbath” refers to the Sunday when the Feast of the Firstfruits took place. The Israelites were to count seven full weeks from the Feast of the Firstfruits from that Sunday to the “day after the seventh Sabbath.” Seven full weeks were counted to the Feast of Weeks. Verse 16 says, “You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath.” The Feast of Weeks was fifty days after the Feast of the Firstfruits. The Greek translation of this Old Testament verse uses the word πεντήκοντα (pentêkonta, Leviticus 23:16 BGT). That is where we get the word “Pentecost.” The Feast of Weeks was the Feast of Pentecost. It was a time of great celebration as the harvest was brought in.

Deuteronomy 16:10-11 ESV Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to the LORD your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as the LORD your God blesses you. 11 And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God…

They were to rejoice before the Lord. It happened on a Sunday, “the day after the seventh Sabbath.”

  • Every year
    For 1,446 years
  • From the giving of the Law
    Until the coming of Christ
    And until the outpouring of the Holy Spirit
  • The Jews were commanded to rejoice before the LORD on Sunday, the Day of Pentecost,
  • The day after the 7th Sabbath after the Feast of Firstfruits.

It happened on a Sunday, “the day after the 7th Sabbath” for nearly 1,500 years.

The Feast of the Firstfruits and the Feast of Weeks. The Feast of the Firstfruits pointed to the resurrection of Christ on a Sunday, “the first day of the week.” Then, from Resurrection Day, seven full weeks were counted. Fifty days until “the day after the seventh Sabbath.” A Sunday. The Day of Pentecost.

Acts 2:1-4 ESV When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

It happened on a Sunday.

  • It was on a Sunday that “there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind.”
  • It was on a Sunday that “divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.”
  • It was on a Sunday that 120 disciples “were all filled with the Holy Spirit.”
  • It was on a Sunday that they “began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
  • It was on a Sunday that a great multitude of devout Jews from “every nation under heaven” heard the disciples telling in their own languages “the mighty works of God” (Acts 2:5, 11).
  • It was on a Sunday that the Apostle Peter preached to the Jews at Jerusalem that God had raised Jesus up from the dead and exalted him to the right hand of the Father and that he, Jesus, had pour out the Holy Spirit on the disciples, on a Sunday (Acts 2:33).
  • It was on a Sunday that Peter gave the invitation to those who heard him, telling them to repent and to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins (Acts 2:38).
  • It was on a Sunday that 3,000 people received Christ, were baptized in water and were added to the church (Acts 2:41).

It was the beginning of the Church. It was the Feast of Pentecost, a harvest celebration, and what a harvest of souls it was!

It happened on a Sunday.

 

3.      Sunday and the Early Church

It was for this reason that with time and the more the church spread beyond Jerusalem that Christians began meeting on Resurrection Day. Sunday.

3.1.     The Church in Troas

In Acts 20, on Paul’s third missionary journey, we read that the Christians in Troas met on the first day of the week.

Acts 20:6-7 ESV …we came to them at Troas, where we stayed for seven days. 7 On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight.

Though Paul was in a hurry to get to Jerusalem (Acts 20:16), Paul and Luke waited in Troas for six days until the first day of the week when the believers met. They met. They broke bread together, meaning that they celebrated the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion together. And Paul preached to them.

And it happened on a Sunday.

 

3.2.     The Church in Corinth

We read in 1 Corinthians 16, that the church at Corinth met the first day of the week.

1 Corinthians 16:2 ESV On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.

The churches took special offerings every Sunday for the church in Jerusalem.

OBJECTION: Some think that Paul was telling the believers to simply be systematic and put an offering aside every week in the privacy of their own homes.

ANSWER: IF THAT WERE THE CASE…

  1. It would not matter what day of the week they collected it. Paul specifically tells them to put aside their offerings and to store them up “the first day of every week.”
  2. If the families were simply putting aside an offering in their homes, there would still have been a need to collect it when Paul came. But he had specifically instructed them to collect the offerings “so that there will be no collecting when I come”

3.3.     The Churches of Galatia

Paul founded the churches of Galatia during his first missionary journey. These churches were in the cities of Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Derbe, and Lystra. These churches also met on the first day of the week. Note again what Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 16:1-2 ESV Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. 2 On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.

So Paul had instructed the churches of Galatia to set aside an offering on the first day of every week.

 

3.4.     The Lord’s Day

God had ordained that the Feast of the Firstfruits and the Feast of Pentecost take place on “the day after the Sabbath,” i.e. on a Sunday. Those feasts pointed to the resurrection of Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit which took place on a Sunday. Instead of meeting to worship on the Sabbath, the churches began meeting on the day of the Lord’s resurrection. The day of the Lord’s resurrection soon became known as the Lord’s Day. We read in Revelation 1:10,

Revelation 1:10 ESV I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet…

The Apostle John was worshipping the Lord. He was in the Spirit on a Sunday, the Lord’s Day. The Lord Jesus met him and revealed himself to John, and revealed to him The Book of Revelation.

It happened on a Sunday.

 

4.      The Testimony of the Early Church Fathers

The early Church Fathers, those first Christians who left us their testimony of life in the early church, confirm that the church met on the Lord’s Day and not the Sabbath.

4.1      Ignatius of Antioch lived during most of the first century and into the second century.

He was a student of the Apostle John. Ignatius describes Christian believers as those who…

have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s Day, on which also our life has sprung up again by Him and by His death–whom some deny, by which mystery we have obtained faith, and therefore endure, that we may be found the disciples of Jesus Christ, our only Master…[2]

He goes on to say,

let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s Day as a festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all the days [of the week].[3]

4.2      Justin Martyr lived from A.D. 110 to 165. This is what he says about Sunday:

But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead.[4]

The FIRST DAY of the week was the day set apart for special worship by the saints of God, LONG BEFORE CONSTANTINE WAS BORN, OR THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH WAS KNOWN.[5]

 

Conclusion

What shall we say then to these things? Is Sunday the Christian Sabbath? No, it is not. Nor is Saturday.

The Apostle Paul tells us in Colossians 2:16 not to let anyone trouble you or pass judgment on you concerning the Sabbath. It was only a shadow. Christ is the reality.

Will keeping the Sabbath save you? No. Neither will going to church on Sunday. Someone said that if a mouse lives in a cookie jar (biscuit jar), it won’t make him a cookie. Going to church on a Sunday will not make you a Christian. It will not save you. Nor will going to church on the Sabbath. That is not the gospel. It is not the teaching of the New Testament. It is a different gospel that is not the gospel at all.

Christ alone can save you. Do not put your trust in anything you can do. Put your trust in what Christ has done. He died on the cross to take the punishment for your sins and to set you free from the power of sin. Do not reject him who calls you to put your trust in him alone.

[1] Duane A. Garrett, “Feasts and Festivals of Israel” in Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, p. 250.

[2] Epistle Of Ignatius To The Magnesians, “Chapter IX.–Let us live with Christ.”

[3] Ibid.

[4] Justin Martyr, First Apologia – “Chapter LXVII.—Weekly worship of the Christians.”

[5] Maurice Nicholson, “Disproving Seventh-day Adventism.”

See also “Seventh Day Adventism”: