May 23, 2010

Pentecost and the Rapture of the Church

Jack KelleyBy Jack Kelley

Pentecost comes in the early summer (May-June). It’s the only Levitical Feast Day between the 3 Spring Feasts (Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits) and the 3 in the fall (Rosh Hashanna, Yom Kippur, and Tabernacles). The Hebrew name for this Day is Shavuot, which means weeks, so in Israel it’s called the Feast of Weeks.

This is because it’s supposed to occur 7 weeks after the Feast of First Fruits (Lev. 23:15-16). Deut. 16:9 confirms this.

“Count off seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the standing grain.”
The first cutting of the grain harvest took place on the Feast of First Fruits. Since First Fruits is the first Sunday after Passover, Shavuot should always be on a Sunday, too. But somewhere along the way the Jews began counting from Passover itself, so now Shavuot can come any day of the week, depending on what day Passover is. This year (2010) it began at sundown May 18 on our calendar.

Christians call this day by its Greek name, Pentecost, from a Greek word that means “50 days”. There were 50 days from the Sabbath that followed Passover to the Feast of Weeks, and that’s where the Greek name comes from. But whether you count seven weeks (49 days) from First Fruits to the day the Jews call the Feast of Weeks or count 50 days from the first Sabbath after Passover to the day Christians call Pentecost, you will arrive at the same day and it will be a Sunday.

But like the Jews we’ve also changed things although we’ve retained the Sunday part. Christians now start counting on the day we call Easter Sunday, which is officially the first Sunday after the first full moon that follows the Spring Equinox. We include Easter Sunday as day one, so Pentecost is always seven weeks from Easter. Because of differences between the Western Solar calendar and the Jewish Lunar one, Easter does not always come on the first Sunday after Passover, so we don’t always celebrate Pentecost on the correct date either. But this year Easter came on April 4, which was the first Sunday after Passover, the Feast of First Fruits. That means May 23, called Pentecost Sunday in 2010, is the correct date for the Feast of Weeks, according to Lev. 23:15-16 and Deut. 16:9. It’s the 7th Sunday after April 4.

What’s a Pentecost?

Jews celebrate Pentecost (I’ll just use its Greek name to avoid any more confusion than necessary) as the day Moses received the Law on Mt. Sinai and the nation Israel was born. (Exodus 19-20) Christians celebrate it as the day the Holy Spirit fell on the Disciples in Jerusalem and the Church was born (Acts 2). 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’ll be interested in the fact that unlike all the other Jewish Feasts that call for unleavened bread (no yeast), Pentecost requires bread baked with yeast (Lev. 23:17). In the Bible leaven, or yeast, is a model of sin because it causes the dough to begin spoiling.

The Jewish Pentecost ceremonies reveal a subtle link to the coming church. 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 who lost her land and position and was forced into exile in a foreign country (Moab). Shortly thereafter her husband passed away leaving her penniless and alone. She returns to Bethlehem accompanied by Ruth, a gentile woman who has sworn never to leave her. Ruth was a Moabite who had married one of Naomi’s sons (who also died) making her Naomi’s daughter-in-law and a destitute widow as well. Once back in Bethlehem Naomi’s close relative, a prominent Jewish man named Boaz falls in love with Ruth and marries her while in 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. 25:5-6).

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 (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 redeems Israel’s land. The identification of the Church with Pentecost began in the prophecies of Ruth. To learn more about these incredible prophecies, and enjoy one of the world’s classic love stories, read Ruth’s Story.

By the way, Boaz was the son of Rahab, the harlot from the Book of Joshua (read “The Gospel in Joshua … The Story of Rahab” ), and 3 generations later his great-grandson David became King of Israel. Rahab and Ruth both show up in the Genealogy of the Lord Jesus (Matt. 1:5), and King Solomon named one of the pillars at the entrance to the Temple after Boaz.

When’s Your Birthday?

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. Genesis 5:21-23 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 Tribulation.

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. Will the Church 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. But if I’m wrong and the Rapture does fulfill a Jewish Feast, Pentecost is by far the most obvious candidate.

As you probably know, I believe the reason no one on Earth can accurately predict the day of the Rapture is because it’s a number specific event, not a date specific one. In 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.

Soon and Very Soon

One day soon now, all who are in Christ, having heard and believed the Word of Truth, the Gospel of our salvation (thereby receiving the mark of the promised Holy Spirit) will suddenly disappear from the face of the Earth along with all children and those mentally incapable of making informed choices. In one instant we will have been going about our daily routines on Earth and in the next we’ll be standing in the presence of our Redeemer, our sins forgiven and forgotten, and all our imperfections gone. Among us will be all the faithful dead of the Church Age, reunited with perfected bodies and restored to eternal physical life. Together we will begin the most incredible journey of exploration and realization ever dreamed of.

Neither we, nor the unbelieving world, will have received any advance warning of the timing for this event; it will have come totally by surprise. Maybe it will happen on Pentecost, maybe not. But one thing is certain, when it does happen, none of us will care one whit whether we had predicted it’s timing accurately. We will only express in unimaginable joy our gratitude for being there.
For it is by grace you have been saved through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. (Eph. 2:8-9)

As it is written: No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him – but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit. (1 Cor. 2:9-10).
You can almost hear the footsteps of the Messiah.

Related Links
The Wife of Jehovah and the Bride of Messiah - Bible Prophecy Today (Arnold Fruchtenbaum)
Timing of the Rapture - Bible Prophecy Today (Tony Garland)
John MacArthur: The Rapture Of The Church
What is Pentecost Sunday? -
Children's Stories of the Bible The Adult Version - Jack Kelley (Book)