Personal Pentecost

Jackson Snyder 

 

 

Two Offerings

  Garrick Logue counts the Omer and prays for the harvestWe enjoyed celebrating the first of the biblical feasts in April.  Do you remember the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Passover?  Friday evening began the second feast, the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot), which is more commonly known to us as Pentecost.  Pentecost means “fiftieth day.”  The holiday’s called both “Feast of Weeks” and “Pentecost” because both weeks and days are mentioned in

Leviticus 23:15,16  From the day after the Sabbath [of the Feast of Unleavened Bread] ... you will count seven full weeks. You will count fifty days, to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then you will offer Yahweh a new meal offering.

   So the Feast of Weeks is counted seven weeks and one day after the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  (In 2003, the day to start counting was April 20th.)  In ancient Israel, this was one of three feasts in which all male members of Israel were given the day off and required to travel into Jerusalem to join in a “holy convocation,” according to

Numbers 28:26 On the day of the first fruits, when you offer a meal offering of new grain to Yahweh at your feast of weeks, you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no laborious work... 

   Each one brought the first fruits of their harvest into the temple for an offering to Yahweh.  There was a second offering required as well, according to:

Deuteronomy 16:10  Then you shall keep the feast of weeks to Yahweh your Mighty One with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as Yahweh blesses you.

   Year after year, the men from each family gathered in Jerusalem to feast, pray, and give two kinds of offerings, the first fruits and the freewill.  Yahweh used these offerings to feed and clothe his priests and their families, finance the upkeep of the temple buildings and aid the poor, sick, orphan and widow.

   You can also see how this feast might be connected with farming and animal husbandry, the success of which was assured by Yahweh’s two annual rains: the early rain and the latter rain, poured out upon the fields of Israel.

   There is an ancient prophecy connected with Pentecost and these two rains found in

Joel 2: 23. Sons of Zion, rejoice in Yahweh your Mighty One; for he has given you the former and latter rain as of old.   24. The threshing-floors will be full of grain; the vats overflow with wine and oil.  28. After this I shall pour out my spirit on all humanity. Your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old people shall dream dreams, and your young people see visions.  29. Even on the slaves, men and women, shall I pour out my spirit in those days.

According to this, just as there were two actual rainy seasons, there were to be two “pourings” of the Holy Spirit: the “former” and “latter.”  Let’s first speak of the former rain. 

 

The Former (Early) Rain

   We understand now that the former rain of the Spirit was poured out on the feast of Pentecost nearly eight weeks after the death and resurrection of Yahshua in 33 AD.  The events of that great spiritual outpouring are familiar to us all, as recorded in

Acts 2:1. When Pentecost day came round, they had all met together ...

 “They” (in the passage) were all the followers of Yahshua who were keeping the feast together there in Jerusalem, the “holy convocation” required by Yahweh.  There were at least one hundred-twenty people in attendance.  You know what happened next:

Acts 2:2. Suddenly there came a sound from the sky as of a violent wind which filled the entire house.  4. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak different languages as the Spirit gave them power to express .

   Men from all over the known world had come into Jerusalem to bring their first fruits and freewill offerings.  Acts 2:5ff speaks about them:

Acts 2:5. Now there were devout men from every nation under heaven,  6. and at this sound, each one was bewildered to hear these men speaking his own language.  7. "Surely," they said, "all these men speaking are Galileans?  8. How does it happen that each of us hears them in his own native language?

These foreigners were devout – they were religious people – and they were Jews.  They heard the history of Yahshua from those who were supernaturally gifted to speak foreign languages they had not hence learned.

   The disciples’ supernatural preaching brought thousands of strangers to faith in Yahshua through the course of the Feast.  These new believers were themselves baptized in the former rain of the Holy Spirit with signs following.  The result of this early rain outpouring on Pentecost 33 AD is found at the end of the chapter where a large and surprisingly harmonious community is described:

Acts 2:42. These remained faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.  43. The apostles worked many signs and miracles.  44. And all who shared the faith owned everything in common; 45. they sold their goods and possessions and distributed the proceeds among themselves according to what each one needed.

   And here we find the other aspect to this Pentecost: those who shared the faith also shared not only the first fruits and offerings, but everything else.  Many even sold their properties, bringing the proceeds in for the common welfare.  So the Acts 2 Pentecost is marked as not only a “feast,” a “holy convocation” or even an outpouring, but as a time of sacrificial sharing of one’s material blessings with the entire community.  And as these believers continued in dedication to their Savior and to his Apostles, “Day by day Yahweh added those destined to be saved” (Acts 2:47).  The moving of the spirit of benevolence was the catalyst for growth then as now!

 

Birthday of the Church?

   We Christians look to Pentecost 33 AD and the fulfillment of the early rain prophecy as “the birthday of the church.”  Pentecost is the only one of Yahweh’s holidays that Christians observe.  Calling Pentecost “the birthday of the church” may be the reason that many Jews don’t observe it.  But while we Christians look back in awe of what we call “the first Pentecost,” and we count our origin from that blessed day, we are apt to forget that there is also to be a latter rain.  The former rain only partially fulfilled what Yahweh meant when he said that he’d pour out his Spirit upon all.  While the “first” Pentecost (former rain) was directed toward men of many nations, the latter-day Pentecost, or latter rain, promised that the Spirit might be poured out on all humanity, including non-Jews, women and slaves.  Including you and me!

 

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The Latter Rain

   Yahshua never specifically referred to the latter rain outpouring, but he did refer to the prophecy of Joel that included it.  (Compare Joel 2:31 to Matthew 24:29.)  The inference of Yahshua’s vision for the future found in Matthew 24 is that immediately before he returns, two things will be happening: the great tribulation and the latter rain outpouring; humanity will be immersed in both. 

   We’re living in the earliest years of the 21st century now, the latter days of tribulation and outpouring.  But a hundred twenty years ago it was predicted that the 20th century would be the most peaceful of all.  The 20th century was deemed “The Christian Century” as early as 1874!  In fact, the 20th century was the Christian century: fervent believers of the 19th century were such expectation of the latter rain that their anticipation ushered it in.  It began to pour at the very advent of the 20th century, starting with poor people who were praying together at midnight on December 31, 1900 in an old house just outside Topeka, Kansas.  I told you that story last year: a few Bible students gathered in that old house to pray for the latter rain and how the Spirit of Yahweh was poured out on them in similar manner as the 33 AD Pentecost.  With this little handful of Bible students, the great Pentecostal Movement was born, which was later organized into a number of denominations that still use the title “Pentecostal.” (Isn’t that typical of human nature: to take experiential truth and organize it out of existence?)  By the end of the 20th century, hundreds of millions of people had experienced a personal Pentecost in like manner as those first disciples in Jerusalem nineteen hundred years before.  The sick were healed, demons were cast out, languages unlearned were spoken, the gospel was preached the world over, and the name of Yahshua was glorified.  Yes, the greatest spiritual power that the world had ever known was poured out during the entire 20th century, which we might now call “The Pentecostal Century” in retrospection.

 

Life in the Christian Century

   On the other hand, the 20th century featured great tribulation.  All here have lived through continuous world war -- the property out back (a cemetery) attests to the fact that many loved ones perished in war.  Over sixty million died in 20th century wars – many times more than even lived in Yahshua’s day.  We are still in great tribulation as we move into the 21st century; the current enemy has no national identity, but hides in every country until it decides to strike, using the exact same tactics as the devil.  We should also note that this enemy is led by a false prophet, just as the Bible predicted.

   The 20th century has also seen more poverty, ignorance and disease than all the others combined, with hundreds of millions succumbing to these correctable evils.  Still we have seen tremendous growth in the world’s population, now over six billion.  Nearly half is under the age of 15; nearly a third are on the edge of life and death.  Such are signs of the soon-coming Messianic age for sure, but they’re only signs.  It’s for us to claim the power of Pentecost, of the latter rain.  Many of us Christians do claim to have the Holy Spirit.  But how many that claim it use it to fulfill the commandments of Yahshua, to cast out the devil, to heal the sick, to proclaim the Gospel in new languages, to be willing to give all to those in need, to perform in such a way as to draw in the Kingdom?  Not many, my friends. Though many claim, few came.  For most, it’s just a religious game.

 

Personal Pentecost

   The Pentecost of 33 AD should be remembered as a great landmark in the lives of us New Covenant people.  It may have been the birthday of the church.  Yet after we’re born, we must grow into the likeness and stature of the one who bore us.  We should, in these latter days, in these days of our maturity, seek out our latter rain outpouring, whether we’re particularly Pentecostal or not; seek out our own infilling and empowering from on high; tarry for it as long as it takes at church or home altar, so that we may eventually complete our personal responsibility in Yahshua.  We will certainly be held accountable.  We surely want everybody who loves Yahshua in church.  But our mission out there has little to do with church attendance – that’s only the tiniest baby step in our discipline.  What personal Pentecost is supposed to bring is a new awareness of the needs of others, a willingness to give all, and the power to actually go through with it joyfully.   We visit the lonely, we meet dire needs, we heal the infirm, we deliver the possessed, we feed the hungry, we water the thirsty, we clothe the naked, as we sow seeds to needs and we go out “from east to west, bearing the imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation” (Mark 16:9 alternate).

  This is why Pentecost originated as the day of offerings.  The men and women in the upper rooms of Jerusalem in 33 AD and those in the upper room near Topeka, Kansas in 1900, offered everything they had in exchange for their day of empowerment.  And once they were empowered, they made sure to use that endowment in solving the troubles of a devil-filled world to the best of their ability, even if it meant an ultimate sacrifice.

   Please don’t let this day pass by without the soul-searching that comes with the title “Christian Believer.”  Consider.  Have we been in dereliction of duty; are our souls in a sorry state of decay, have we been as lazy as hell?  I pray for the advent of strong godly conviction; that every individual here might leap upon Heaven’s altar in sincere and total repentance.  It’s only then that we can bring an honest offering to our god and receive in return the eternal gift we need in order to be forerunners of his blessed Kingdom Come.

June 5, 2003