In Exodus 32, just after the Mt. Sinai Pentecost demonstration when the idolatry-forbidding Mosaic Law had been given to the Israelites, God’s chosen people had the audacity to create and worship a golden calf. Moses delegated the tribe of Levi, who had not turned their backs upon the Lord like the others, to carry out the unfortunate task of making an example out of the idolaters: “And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men” (Exodus 32:28). Could this particular travesty have been in Paul’s mind when he called the Law the “ministry of condemnation” (2 Corinthians 3:7–9)?
Flip forward a heavy heap in the Word. Just after the Holy Spirit’s Pentecost demonstration, the disciples ran to the streets to preach that “God hath made the same Jesus, [who was] crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). Here’s what happened next:
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
Then Peter said unto them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, “Save yourselves from this untoward generation.”
Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:37–41)
What a glorious, gracious turnaround! At Sinai, three thousand people died under the Old Covenant. In the book of Acts, three thousand were saved because of the message of the New Covenant!
Folks, this is the Church Age that fulfills the old Feast of Pentecost. Jesus fulfilled it by sending the Spirit He promised, and now, with the Spirit’s gentle, personal, and patient help, we believers are empowered to take God’s story to the ends of the earth in every language, just like the followers of Christ did in the book of Acts. What a privilege!
But what about those leavened loaves the Jews waved before the Lord at the feast? How do those fit in?
Two Leavened Loaves: The Church; The Body
Recall that at the opening of this section about Pentecost, we stated that the Pentecost offering was the only two-loaf offering in the Bible. This number seems to come from out of nowhere if one’s personal theology stops at the Old Testament. It’s hard to find an answer for why the Jews would celebrate the harvest with two loaves of bread. Why not three? Why not twelve? Why not offer a half of a loaf and eat the other half?
Once in a while, we stumble upon an explanation in a commentary or in a scholarly analysis, but at best, the “answers” are mere conjecture, and they often raise even more questions. This command of God that the Jews followed for centuries appears to be a curiosity for certain…until the symbolism of the New Testament Day of Pentecost comes into play.
First, let’s take a moment to mull over these following verses from both the Old Testament and the New Testament and see what they have in common:
- “One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established” (Deuteronomy 19:15).
- “Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die” (Numbers 35:30).
- “But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established” (Matthew 18:16).
- “This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established” (2 Corinthians 13:1).
- “It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two [witnesses] is true” (John 8:17).
- “And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth” (Revelation 11:3).
We’ll stop this list here, but note that many other verses in the Word of God also make it clear that “two” is the number of witnesses needed to establish the credibility of a claim or reported circumstance. The contexts certainly change—ranging from those who have seen a crime and testify in the court of law to the holy men who oppose the Antichrist in the Apocalypse, among others—and though the Word allows for more, it’s clear that “two witnesses” are a symbol of integrity, reliability, and officiation.
Before the time of Christ, Israel was God’s “witness” (both literally at the foot of Mt. Sinai, as well as of God’s nature, character, morality, etc.; see Isaiah 42:6–7; 43:10, 12; 44:8; 49:5–7). On the Day of Pentecost described in the book of Acts, the message of Christ was delivered to the Jews as well as to the “proselytes” (2:10). Today, “proselyte” or “proselytizing” has a pejorative feel due to its historical association with pushy, preachy Christians who don’t really care about the lost as much as they do about leading a “prospect” through “the sinner’s prayer” so they can “check them off the list” and tell God later that they did their Christian duty. (It’s this sort of superficial witnessing that Jesus was referring to when He railed against the pretenders: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves” [Matthew 23:15].) That unfortunate correlation aside, however, the original Greek word prosēlytos means “newcomer,” “stranger,” “alien,” or, in the context of religious affiliation, “one who has come over from a Gentile religion to Judaism [or Christianity]” (see this endnote[i] for a fuller explanation).
Therefore, the tongues-of-fire phenomenon in Acts 2 was seen and experienced by two early Christian witnesses: the believing (Messianic) Jew and the believing (proselyte) Gentile. (The Gentiles also received the Holy Spirit; see Acts 10:44–46.) As we all know, when Christ died for us, He also destroyed the spiritual segregation between Jew and Gentile. As many do not know, the two loaves of bread presented as a wave offering to Jehovah during every annual Feast of Pentecost was a prophetic symbol of that seismic shift, representing both parties, now identical inside and out, both “waved” before God to be found equally acceptable as the Body of Christ and His New Church.
Remember also that the two loaves to be offered to the Lord had to be baked with only the finest flour (Leviticus 23:17), which the Jews sifted tediously. Because this act removed all of the grain’s imperfections and lumps, this is said to be a symbol of righteousness and sinlessness, which characterizes Jesus in His perfection.[ii] However, the dough was to involve leaven…which is a peculiar ingredient, considering that grain offerings with leaven were typically forbidden (Leviticus 2:11). Also, as we discussed almost exhaustively in the “Unleavened Bread” section earlier, leaven is a symbol of sin.
Why, for centuries before Christ, would the “prophetic” bread imagery involve both “sinless” fine flour and “sinful” leaven?…
Because we involve both.
We all have sin in us and the propensity to sadden the Lord with our less-than-ideal choices (Romans 3:23). Until we get to heaven, that’s the reality of our current status. We will always be “leavened” in this life. Nevertheless, by accepting Jesus, He comes to live within us like fine flour, overpowering the death effects of sin-leaven and bringing the soul to life anew in righteousness (Romans 8:10).
Combine these ingredients—the Jew, the Gentile, the leaven of human nature, and the fine flour of a Savior—and put them in a refining oven. What does this make? The perfect, two-loaf wave offering to represent the Body of Christ being acceptable to the Father.
We are in the Church Age, and the harvest is always plentiful.
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Understanding The Deeper Mystery And Importance Of Pentecost As The Year 2025… And The Messenger… Nears
In Hebrew, the word for “Pentecost” is Shavuot, which means “weeks.” In the Jewish calendar, the Feast of Weeks is the festival of the wheat harvest in the land of Israel, which is always a metaphor of souls saved being brought into the household of God.
Seven weeks shalt thou number unto thee: begin to number the seven weeks from such time as thou beginnest to put the sickle to the corn. And thou shalt keep the feast of weeks unto the Lord thy God with a tribute of a freewill offering of thine hand, which thou shalt give unto the Lord thy God, according as the Lord thy God hath blessed thee. (Deuteronomy 16:9–10)
As first given in Leviticus, it is seen as the culmination of seven weeks, plus one day—the day after the Sabbath. These fifty days are mentioned in the New Testament as Pentecost, the Greek word for “fifty.”
Of all the observances of the Jewish festival calendar, the Feast of Weeks is the most mysterious. In modern Judaism, Pentecost is always observed on two days, a mystery in itself. Because it floats on their calendar, it is called, “the festival without a date.”
When most Christians think of Pentecost, they don’t think of Jewish holidays at all. Quite naturally, their first thought is the book of Acts. This book—the history of apostolic activity in the formative days of the Church—is founded upon the dispensation of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church on Pentecost morning. By itself, it is one of the most amazing events in the history of the world.
The book of Acts opens near the end of the fifty-day period that began to be counted after the Feast of Firstfruits—the day that marks the resurrection of our Lord. Luke opens his narrative in Acts by referring back to his Gospel, calling it “the former treatise.” At the end of that “former treatise”—the Gospel of Luke—Jesus ascends into the heavens after meeting with many people. He ended his appearances by saying, “And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).
Then, in Acts, after a forty-day gap, Luke writes:
The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,
Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen.
To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:
And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me.
For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence
When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?
And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.
And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;
Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. (Acts1:1–11)
Jesus rose before their wondering eyes, received into a “cloud.” Many believe that this event foreshadows the moment when Christians will be caught up to be with Him. During the following ten days, they gathered and prayed until Pentecost:
And when the day of Pentecost was 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 all the house where they were sitting.
And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:1–4)
Festival of the Harvest
From its earliest days, Pentecost was known as a festival of the harvest. Long ago, the omer was offered by the high priest, who stood before the tabernacle, or later, the temple. It was the token of the Festival of Firstfruits. In Leviticus 23:11, it is called “the sheaf.” In its most common sense, an omer was a dry measure that amounted to a little over two quarts. The offering of the omer marked the first day of a fifty-day countdown to Pentecost:
And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf [omer] of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete:
Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the Lord.
Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the Lord. (Leviticus 23:15–17)
The counting of fifty days from Firstfruits to Pentecost is typical of redemption in general. For the Jew, in the observance of the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot), it has always represented the maturing relationship between God and Israel.
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Think for a moment about the traditions that originated in the first years of the Church. Its central doctrines were handed down through men brought up in the traditions of Jewish history and prophecy. Their lives had literally revolved around keeping the festival calendar. They had heard the teachings of Christ. Some, no doubt, had heard them in person. They had listened to His parable of the harvest, when the good wheat and the tares, which had grown up together would be separated. They knew about the Festival of Harvest (Pentecost).
When Peter preached that historic sermon on the Day of Pentecost, he quoted the prophet Joel, whose entire book is centered around the harvest cycle.
When Joel wrote the prophecy, “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,” he set the theme of the harvest. “The field is wasted, the land mourneth” (Joel 1:10); “That which the palmerworm hath left hath the locust eaten” (Joel 1:4). That was a prediction of Israel’s exile. The Jews must be scattered from their land, to suffer among the nations.
But that’s not all. Joel also spoke of Israel’s restoration and linked it to the time of the spring harvest.
Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God: for he hath given you the former rain and the latter rain in the first month.
And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the fats shall overflow with wine and oil.
And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten. (Joel 2:23–25)
This is a prophecy that began to be fulfilled in 1948. Furthermore, Israel was restored on May 14 of that year, during the season of the harvest cycle. This date, 5 Iyar in the Jewish calendar, was the twentieth day in the counting of the omer.
In Matthew 13:39, Jesus said, “The harvest is the end of the world.” He indicated that end-time events would culminate in a great harvest of souls. Pentecost, the day following the seventh Sabbath, marked the end of the grain harvest, at which time two loaves baked with leavening were brought to the temple and held aloft by the high priest. These two loaves symbolize the completed bodies of the redeemed. It seems quite reasonable that one is emblematic of spiritual Israel, while the other represents the Church.
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[i] “προσήλυτος,” Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, accessed online through Blue Letter Bible Online on July 23, 2020, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G4339&t=KJV. Note that the original προσήλυτος did not refer to a Christian because, earlier than the first Messianic Jews, there was no such thing as Christianity. However, because the earliest “Christians” involved a vast number of believing Jews—and therefore the traditions, customs, and doctrines were rooted in orthodox Judaism, eventually becoming the hybrid “Christianity”—the word προσήλυτος evolved from only representing a Gentile who converted to Judaism, to representing a Gentile who converted straight into the hybrid Judaism, also known as “Christianity.”
[ii] Booker, Celebrating Jesus in the Biblical Feasts, 96.