The Hebrew Spring Feasts
The Hebrew spring feasts prefigured every major event in the life and ministry of Jesus the Messiah during His first coming.
Today’s program is Part 3 of Messiah’ Calendar. If you haven’t listened to Parts 1 and 2, after listening to today’s study I encourage you to go back and listen to those.
Messiah’s Calendar is a study of how the entire ministry of Jesus spanning 7000 years is reflected in the ancient Hebrew sanctuary and the Hebrew feasts. The sanctuary also helps us to see how Jesus’ life and ministry were a reenactment of the spiritual journey of the Jewish people from their deliverance from Pharaoh to their installment in the Promised Land.
The ancient Hebrew sanctuary is a microcosm of the entire Plan of Salvation for mankind. Every major milestone of the Plan of Redemption is encoded in the Israeli camp, the outer court, and the two apartments of the sanctuary, called the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. Each of the 7 Jewish feasts that God ordained in the Book of Leviticus Chapter 23 are types and shadows of the significant events in the life of Jesus. Every major event of His life happened according to a pre-defined calendar in heaven.
The sanctuary is an amazing system of truth that brings those who receive it to where Jesus is right now, in the Most Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary. This system of truth also sheds its beautiful light on other issues such as law vs. grace, Saturday vs. Sunday, clean and unclean foods, proper diet, and the fulfillment of end-time prophecy, to name only a few.
We covered a lot of ground in Parts 1 and 2 of Messiah’s Calendar so I’ll start by doing a very quick recap of some of the key points we learned. I was overly optimistic to think that we could all cover all the feasts in detail in one program. So today we’re going to consider how the ministry of Jesus is reflected and prefigured in the first four feasts, which are the spring feasts. I’m going to add a Part 4 to cover the three autumn feasts. Let’s get started!
The first thing to deeply embed in our minds is the structure of the Hebrew sanctuary – let’s review that for memory:
- The Court: contained the altar of sacrifice where the animal victims were sacrificed and the laver, where the priest washed himself after offering the sacrifices on the altar.
- The Holy Place: contained the table of showbread which had two stacks of manna, the 7-branch candlestick and the altar of incense. This is where the priest made intercession for the sinners who brought their sin offerings to the Lord. A thick veil separated this apartment from the last apartment.
- The Most Holy Place: contained the Ark of the Covenant on top of which is the Mercy Seat. The Ark contains the 10 commandments and a pot of manna as well as Aaron’s rod that budded. The high priest penetrated the veil and entered this apartment only once a year on the Day of Atonement to perform a work of cleansing of the sanctuary.
The court is the earth, there’s no court and no sacrificial death in heaven. Since the Ascension of Jesus, the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place are in heaven.
We started off with an understanding of the Jewish agricultural year and the Jewish calendar because both of these provide the backdrop for the religious feasts. We said that the Jewish climate is Mediterranean, with light rains in the autumn, heavy rains in the spring, and a long dry summer. The Jewish agricultural year in biblical times was marked by 3 major crops: the barley in the early spring, the wheat in the late spring, and the olives and grapes in the fall. Nothing happened in the long dry summer.
The Jewish religious feasts that are related to the sanctuary system are the 7 ones given by God in Leviticus 23. They don’t include feasts such as Rosh Hashanah (which is a civil holiday), or Hanukkah, or Purim. These were added on later and are part of the Jewish tradition. The sanctuary feasts had 3 main goals:
- Commemorate real events in the history of Israel having to do with their deliverance from slavery in Egypt; therefore some of the feasts are commemorative.
- Instruct them in the rites of the first covenant: everything that they needed to do to be in right standing before God and to make atonement for their sins.
- Prefigure future events that were yet to be fulfilled in God’s Plan of Redemption; therefore some of the feasts are prophetic.
The 7 feasts are grouped into 4 spring feasts, and 3 autumn feasts. There are no feasts during the summer. The 4 spring feasts are commemorative of events in Israel’s history, and are related to Jesus’ first coming. The 3 fall feasts are prophetic and are related to Jesus’ second coming. The reason there are no feasts in the summer is because the summer represented the wandering of the children of Israel in the desert. The summer drought also prefigured the period of 1260 years when the Christian Church went through the Dark Ages of papal power.
The feasts follow the same order as the structure and service of the Hebrew sanctuary: they start in the court at the altar of sacrifice with the spring feasts, progress through the Holy Place (still the spring feast) and end in the Most Holy Place with the 3 fall feasts.
It’s also significant that the Jewish religious calendar contained 7 Sabbath feasts. I explained at great length that these Sabbath feasts are NOT the same as the recurring 7-day Sabbath of the weekly cycle. Of the 7 feast Sabbaths, 3 occur as part of the spring feasts and 4 occur as part of the fall feasts. This is an important detail. The Sabbath truth is embedded in the feast calendar and in the Most Holy Place.
Overview of the Feasts
Now we’re going to focus predominantly on how the feasts map to Jesus’ ministry. We’ll do a quick recap of the 7 feasts to remember what they’re all about, layering-on how each one pre-figures the Messiah’s work. Then we’ll come back and consider them one-by-one in more detail to see how beautifully each one corresponds to the life and ministry of Jesus.
Spring Feasts (commemorative)
Autumn Feasts (prophetic)
|Passover (Pesach) – first month Nissan, not a day of rest. Commemorates the killing of the Passover lamb, and also the symbolic death of the children of Israel as they entered into the Red Sea. Represents the death of Jesus on the cross. Takes place in the court of the Hebrew sanctuary.||Trumpets (Yom Teruah) – last month Tishrei, was a feast Sabbath. Prophetic feast that doesn’t relate to the history of Israel, but pointed forward to an event that would announce the coming Day of Judgment. This event was the great second advent awakening of the 1830’s and 1840’s. Large numbers of Protestants from many denominations, from both Europe and America, interpreted a prophetic date taken from Daniel 8:14 to mean that Jesus was coming again. They got the date right but the event wrong. Jesus wasn’t supposed to come on that day in 1844. Instead He moved into the Most Holy Place to start the work of judgment. There’s a great movie called “Tell the World” that takes you through this period of the church. You’ll find a link to it in our City Bible Group blog. In Part 4 of this series we’ll demonstrate that the Lord allowed this to happen because it was necessary that His people blow the trumpet to announce the coming Day of Atonement.|
|Unleavened Bread (Matzah) – first month Nissan, had two feast Sabbaths. Commemorates the fact that the children of Israel had not enough time to let their bread rise before they had to flee from Egypt. It symbolizes their burial in the Red Sea. Symbolizes the burial of Jesus. The bread without leaven represents His body which had no sin, therefore knew no corruption while in the grave. Also takes place in the outer court.||Atonement (Yom Kippur) – last month Tishrei, was also a feast Sabbath. This feast also pointed forward to the coming time of Judgment. The Day of Atonement was the most solemn feast day of the entire calendar, a day of fasting and affliction and soul-searching. This is the event that was misunderstood by the Millerite Movement to mean that Jesus was coming back to gather His people when He was actually moving from the Holy Place into the Most Holy Place. This event took place on October 22, 1844, which was the actual Day of Atonement of the year 1844.|
|First Fruits (Omer) – month of Nissan, no feast Sabbath. The priest waved a sheaf of barley before the Lord on behalf of the congregation. Commemorates the symbolic resurrection of the children of Israel after their symbolic burial in the Red Sea. First Fruits refers to Resurrection, when Jesus rose from the grave and took with Him a number of saints who also resurrected. Takes place at the laver in the outer court of the sanctuary.||Tabernacles (Sukkot) – last month Tishrei, had two feast Sabbaths. This is the only feast that hasn’t been fulfilled yet. We’re still looking forward to this great celebration: the in-gathering of the mighty end-time harvest and our journey back home to Jesus. This bountiful harvest will be preceded by the latter rain. God’s messengers will tell the world “Come out of her My people”, warning God’s people against the mark of the beast and asking them to come out of Babylon so that they won’t receive her plagues.|
|Pentecost (Shavuot) – month of Sivan, was a feast Sabbath. Pentecost comes on the 6th. day of Sivan, exactly 50 days after the waving of the barley sheaf. It commemorates the ratifying of the covenant between God and His people with the reading and the giving of the Tables of the Law on Mount Sinai. This feast foretold two important events: Jesus’ anointing as High Priest in heaven, and on earth the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. Pentecost is the fulfillment of the promise Jesus had made to the disciples that He would send His Spirit to give them power from above so that they could be His witnesses in all the earth (Acts 1:8).|
To recap one more time, this is the sequence of events in Messiah’s calendar and ministry which maps exactly to the sequence of the Hebrew feasts:
Four Spring feasts:
- Passover: Death of Jesus
- Unleavened Bread: Burial of Jesus
- First Fruits: Resurrection of Jesus
- Pentecost: Anointing of Jesus as High Priest after His Ascension to heaven and the early rain falls on the disciples in the Upper Room
Three Fall feasts:
- Trumpets: Announcement of the start of the Judgment of God’s people
- Atonement: Start of the Judgment process (Jesus moves to the Most Holy Place to perform the work of judgment)
- Tabernacles: Journey of God’s chosen people to heaven (Jesus takes His people back home with him)
The 4 spring feasts:
At this point we’re going to consider each spring feast individually. Remember that the four spring feasts were fulfilled during Jesus’ first coming. We’ll consider their original meaning in the history of Israel and layer on the biblical evidence of how it relates to the ministry of Christ.
Passover or Pesach:
Originated in the Book of Exodus Chapter 12. Commemorates the last plague that God brought upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians when the destroyer went forth to kill the firstborn of every Egyptian family and their livestock. The Lord instructed Moses to tell the children of Israel how they would be spared from this plague: on the 10th. day of the month they were to set aside a lamb of the first year, without blemish, and on the 14th. day of the month they were to sacrifice the lamb. So for a period of 4 days the lamb was set aside for a holy purpose. Let’s read now from Exodus 12:6-13:
“Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight (Note: The word “twilight” here is actually not accurate. Most Bible versions use this translation except for Young’s Literal Translation. In the original Hebrew the expression was “between the two evenings”, and this means at 3:00 pm. The Jews considered the first evening to start at 12:00 noon and the second evening to start at 6:00 pm. This is why if you go to Strong’s Concordance to look for the word “twilight” it doesn’t show this verse in Exodus. Let’s continue).
And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it. Then they shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. … You shall let none of it remain until morning, and what remains of it until morning you shall burn with fire (Note: Because this flesh could not be allowed to corrupt as we’ll see shortly). …
For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:6-13).
Later in that passage Moses said to the children of Israel: “And you shall take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin” (Exodus 22:12).
Let’s make some quick connections from what we’ve just read. First, a lamb in its prime and without blemish was chosen and set aside for sacrifice. Jesus was set aside for a holy purpose, without any blemish of sin, and slain in His prime. Jesus died on the day of Passover of the year 31 AD at exactly 3:00 pm. Note this very important point: it wasn’t enough to sacrifice the lamb, the blood had to be applied with hyssop to the doorposts and lintel.
Where else do we read the word hyssop in scripture? Well, we find it mentioned several times in Leviticus and twice in Numbers, always associated with rites of cleansing: whether of sin, of death or of leprosy. In Hebrews 9 Paul explains that Moses sprinkled the tabernacle and the vessels with blood and hyssop to confirm the first covenant with Israel. And more famously we have King David in Psalm 51 asking the Lord to purge him with hyssop so that he may be clean.
But there’s another key verse where the word hyssop is used. It’s another key that connects the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb with Jesus, whose blood cleansed us from all sin. In John 19:28-30 we read the account of Jesus’ final moment: “After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit”.
So the word hyssop – always associated with cleansing – also connects the first covenant and the new covenant with Jesus being the fulfillment of both. We learned already that the blood of calves and goats could not make atonement for sin and that all of these first covenant rites and sacrifices were pointing to the future substitutionary sacrifice of the Messiah. His blood would be shed once to pay the price for all sins.
However, there’s another point to notice here: the blood had to be applied. On Passover the Jews had to apply the blood to the lintel and doorposts. Those who believe in Jesus have to repent and confess their sins before God so that the blood of Jesus may be applied to their sins and cleanse them. The fact that Jesus shed His blood doesn’t mean that automatically all of your sins are forgiven. He paid the price for our sins, but we have to come to God in sincere repentance and confess our sins thereby applying Jesus’ blood to our sins to obtain forgiveness: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Finally, we are to eat the flesh of Jesus just like the children of Israel ate the Passover Lamb: “Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him” (John 6:53-56).
We’ve spent a lot of time on Passover and we’ll pick up speed in just a moment, but I want to point out one more fascinating detail, I love this: Let’s read Exodus 12:1-2: “Now the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, “This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you”. God decreed the beginning of the religious calendar to start with this month, the month of Nissan. In other words, when we’re delivered from the bondage of slavery, when we die to sin and accept the perfect one-time sacrifice of the Lamb of God, God resets the calendar. We get a totally fresh start. Hallelujah!
That same evening of the 14th. day of Nissan (which is actually the beginning of the 15th. day since the day starts at sunset) the children of Israel were to eat unleavened bread. Let’s read Exodus 12:19-20: “In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty-first day of the month at evening. For seven days no leaven shall be found in your houses, since whoever eats what is leavened, that same person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a stranger or a native of the land. You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your dwellings you shall eat unleavened bread.’” The children of Israel were to search their homes and remove all leaven.
In verses 16 and 17 of Exodus 12 we read: “On the first day there shall be a holy convocation, and on the seventh day there shall be a holy convocation for you. No manner of work shall be done on them; but that which everyone must eat—that only may be prepared by you. So you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this same day I will have brought your armies out of the land of Egypt”. So the feast of Unleavened Bread had two feast Sabbaths or ceremonial Sabbaths where no work could be done. Again, let me stress that the ceremonial or feast Sabbaths could fall on any day and they’re different from the weekly 7th. day Sabbath.
What was the big deal about the leaven? Why did they have to remove it from their homes? Because one of the symbolisms of leaven is that it represents sin and corruption. 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 explains it like this: “Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth”.
What is the symbolic significance of the Feast of Unleavened Bread? What was being commemorated here? This feast symbolizes the time that Jesus spent in the grave. The leaven represents sin and corruption, and the flesh of Jesus knew no corruption. While Jesus rested in the grave His body had not decomposed at all, unlike the flesh of any other human body, which starts to decompose almost immediately.
Let’s make one more connection here. In Exodus 16, the Lord rained manna from heaven for the children of Israel. Every man was to gather his fair portion. If anyone tried to gather more than they needed to save it for the next day, it would start to rot and stink and grow worms. However, when they collected their prescribed double portion on Friday in preparation for the Sabbath, that manna would not corrupt and remained just as fresh on Sabbath as when they’d just collected it. Jesus is this manna from heaven, and His flesh remained intact from Friday evening when they buried Him through Sunday morning when He resurrected. “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world” (John 6:51).
I’ll make just one more connection here regarding Exodus 16. The Lord used the Sabbath to test the children of Israel whether they would walk in His way or not. He gave them a double portion as we described earlier, but some of them stubbornly insisted on going out on the Sabbath to look for manna. My point is this: the Lord didn’t wait until the Book of Revelation to tell us that the Sabbath would be a test! It’s already prefigured in that passage in Exodus 16.
The purpose of this feast was to wave a sheaf of the first crop before the Lord in thanksgiving at the beginning of the barley harvest. The children of Israel were not to eat any bread or grain until the ceremony had taken place. Let’s read in Leviticus 23:10-11: “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest. He shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it”.
The waving of the sheaf was performed on the day after the Sabbath at 9 am. The high priest would select which stalks of barley he wanted to cut and the field would be marked and carefully guarded to keep both people and animals away. The day after the Sabbath the congregation would gather in front of the tent of tabernacle. All the Jews would wave their own sheaf individually but the priest would wave the sheaf collectively for the whole congregation.
Let’s pause here for a moment and reconsider the precise timing of events in Jesus’ death and resurrection:
- Jesus died on Friday at 3 pm: like the Passover Lamb
- Jesus was buried on Friday at 6 pm: at the start of the Sabbath of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. In the year Jesus died the ceremonial Sabbath coincided with the 7th. day weekly Sabbath. It was therefore called a “high Sabbath” because it cumulated the solemnity of both days.
- Jesus rested in the grave through the Sabbath: from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. This was the first Sabbath of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. We said that His flesh remained intact and knew no corruption, like the manna.
- Jesus resurrected on Sunday morning before sunrise. We know this because when the women returned to the grave at sunrise He was already gone. Jesus resurrected before dawn on the same morning that the waving of the sheaf of first fruits was to take place, one day after the Sabbath at 9 am. Where was Jesus on resurrection morning at 9 am?
This is where the plot thickens, I love it! Jesus had ascended to present Himself to His Father in the throne room. Jesus went to wave the sheaf of first fruits before the Father. He Himself was the first fruit. “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming” (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).
The dead who resurrected with Jesus were the sheaf of first fruits that He waved before God the Father so that they would be accepted. Let’s read the account of those resurrections in Matthew 27:50-53: “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His Resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many”.
Jesus wasn’t the first person to be resurrected from the dead, but His Resurrection, pre-ordained from the beginning, made all other resurrections possible. Jesus said to Martha, Lazarus’ sister: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25-26).
Up to now, the first three Hebrew feasts take place in the outer court, at the altar of sacrifice and the laver. The Feast of Pentecost will take us into the Holy Place of the sanctuary. This is a very rich feast in all of its biblical resonances, so we’re going to take a few minutes to review how this feast originated and what additional layers of meaning were added onto it. Its original name was the Feast of Weeks, you’ll see why in a moment.
The Feast of Weeks was given together with all the other feasts in Leviticus 23. Let’s read verses 15 and 16: “And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the Lord”. 7 x 7 Sabbaths or weeks, then one day after, in other words on the 50th. day, the children of Israel were to bring a new wave offering to the Lord. This would’ve been the wheat sheaf for the wheat harvest, the most important of the grain harvests. They were also to make a large number of burnt animal sacrifices of sheep, bulls and goats. In addition the Lord instructed them to leave some remains of the harvest for the poor and foreigners in their midst.
There’s an extremely important event that took place in the history of Israel that’s being commemorated here. It’s described in Exodus Chapters 19 and 20. “In the third month after the children of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on the same day, they came to the Wilderness of Sinai” (Exodus 19:1). Then the Lord asked Moses to prepare the people to come to the bottom of Mount Sinai to meet with Him. God Himself would come down to confirm His covenant with the children of Israel. “And Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel:
‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel” (Exodus 19:3-6). The passage continues: “So Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before them all these words which the Lord commanded him. Then all the people answered together and said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do” (Exodus 19:7-8).
Moses instructed the people to wash their clothes and to be ready for the third day when the Lord would come down. God warned Moses that no one should come near the mountain or they would die, man or beast. Let’s read from Exodus 19 again, verses 16 – 20:
“Then it came to pass on the third day, in the morning, that there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. And when the blast of the trumpet sounded long and became louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by voice. Then the Lord came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mountain. And the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up”.
In the next chapter, Exodus 20, the Lord spoke the Ten Commandments in the presence of the children of Israel, and then wrote them with His own finger on the two tablets of stone. So this was the Lord’s visitation to the children of Israel on Mount Sinai to confirm His covenant to be their God and for them to be His people.
Now, what event in the ministry of Jesus is the equivalent of the Lord’s descent upon Mount Sinai? Well, let’s go back to the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus resurrected and during 40 days He showed Himself in Jerusalem to the disciples and quite a few other people so that there’d be no doubt that He was back from the dead. He instructed two disciples on the road to Emmaus on the scriptures until their hearts burned inside of them (this is described in Luke 24).
During the 40 days between His Resurrection and His Ascension, Jesus taught the disciples the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God (Acts 1:3). He was preparing them to receive the Holy Spirit that He had promised to send them so that they could be witnesses “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Then Jesus ascended, 40 days after His Resurrection, and the disciples went up into the Upper Room where they were staying. Then we read in Acts 1:14: “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus and with His brothers”.
Exactly on the 50th. day after the resurrection (which as we said earlier corresponded to the waving of the sheaf of First Fruits), the Holy Spirit fell upon the disciples in the Upper Room. “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1-4).
A few days later the Bible says in Acts Chapter 4 that the disciples were gathered together praying and there was a great earthquake and the Holy Spirit fell upon them. What’s interesting to note is that this was one of the feasts where the Lord required all Jewish males 12 and older to come to Jerusalem to present themselves before the Lord. Therefore Jerusalem was filled with devout Jews from all over who had traveled to the city for the feast. So there were multitudes of witnesses to what happened in the Upper Room and who heard the disciples speak to them fluently in their own tongues.
Now, let’s go back to Jesus. What happened in heaven right after Jesus ascended was extremely critical for the Plan of Salvation. There was a period of 10 days between the Ascension and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. What was Jesus doing during that time?
We find out by going to the Book of Revelation Chapters 4 and 5. In Revelation 4 John was taken by an angel in the Spirit into the throne room in heaven. He saw God the Father surrounded by the 24 Elders. Let’s read Revelation 4:5: “And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God”. This verse is telling us that the scene is taking place in the Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary, because the seven-branch lamp was burning there, which represents the seven Spirits of God. The seven-branch candlestick is one of the articles found in the Holy Place of the sanctuary.
We also notice the same natural phenomena of lightnings, thunderings, and voices (the word “voice” is sometimes used interchangeably with “trumpet) as we saw on Mount Sinai when God came down to talk to the children of Israel. The text itself tells us clearly that the lamps of fire were the seven Spirits of God, seven meaning the fullness of His Spirit.
If we continue on to Revelation Chapter 5, we read that John weeps because no one is found worthy to open the scroll with the seven seals. But then something powerful happens: “But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.” And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne” (Revelation 5:5-7).
So at this point the Holy Spirit has already been sent to the earth.
What other clues indicate that the scene unfolds in the Holy Place? We read in Revelation 5:8: “And when He (Jesus) had taken it (it being the scroll), the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people”. If the angels were bringing prayers before Jesus, it means that the scene unfolds in a chamber where intercession is performed.
Now Jesus appears in the Holy Place and is found worthy to open the scroll with the seven seals. On Resurrection morning Jesus had shown Himself to His Father together with the resurrected saints as we read earlier. His sacrifice was accepted by the Father. Jesus came down to earth to spend 40 days showing Himself to the people of Jerusalem and instructing the disciples in the ways of the Kingdom. 40 days later He ascended.
At His Ascension Jesus went back up to His Father who was seated in the Holy Place as we read earlier. Because His sacrifice was deemed acceptable, during the 10 days between the Ascension and Pentecost the Father dedicated and anointed Jesus as High Priest over the people of the earth. Therefore Jesus was found worthy of the adoration of the 24 Elders and the heavenly host. He redeemed mankind and with His blood purchased humanity back from the slavery of sin.
The four living creatures and the 24 Elders say: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9-10, NIV). (Note: The NIV is the only common Bible translation where these two verses are translated correctly. Everyone else has it wrong!)
What exactly did this dedication consist of and how long did it take? Well, we read in Zechariah 3 how Joshua the High Priest receives a white turban and a change of robe (by the way, this also happens in the Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary). But more relevant still are the accounts of Aaron’s dedication and anointing to officiate as High Priest of the tabernacle.
In Leviticus Chapters 8 and 9 we read how Moses dressed up Aaron and his sons and how they were anointed and dedicated to serve as priests in the temple. In Exodus 28 and 29 the Lord describes the garments that needed to be sown for Aaron and his sons and how they needed to be anointed abundantly on their heads and their garments. The anointing oil as we know represents the Holy Spirit. The entire dedication process lasted 7 days.
As soon as Aaron and his sons had performed their first priestly intercession in Leviticus 9:23-24, the Lord sent fire from heaven to consume the sacrificial offering. This is exactly what happened on Pentecost. The Spirit of God was sent out into all the earth, to use the language of Revelation 5. The tongues of fire that fell upon the heads of the disciples were expressing that Jesus’ sacrifice was acceptable to the Father. We have many examples in the Old Testament of how the Lord sent fire from heaven to consume the sacrificial offering when it was pleasing to Him: Moses building the tabernacle, David on Mount Moriah, King Salomon dedicating the temple, Elijah and the prophets of Baal…
So we have enough evidence to assume that during 7 days of the 10 days between the Ascension and the outpouring of God’s Spirit on Shavuot or Pentecost, Jesus was being dedicated to a holy function. He was clothed in priestly garments and anointed High Priest over the people of God. He would minister to the Father through intercession on behalf of God’s people.
Let’s make one final connection between what happened on earth at Pentecost and all the preparations that took place in the sanctuary in heaven to consecrate and dedicate Jesus as High Priest. Let’s read Psalm 133, a prophetic psalm describing what was to take place at Pentecost when the disciples were gathered together in unity upon Mount Zion:
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head,
Running down on the beard,
The beard of Aaron,
Running down on the edge of his garments.
It is like the dew of Hermon,
Descending upon the mountains of Zion;
For there the Lord commanded the blessing—
Life forevermore” (Psalm 133).