Universal Salvation: The Plan of God Part Two
One of the two most misunderstood festivals: misunderstood, in what it represents. And without knowing what it foreshadows, no one can possibly understand the plan of God.
Pentecost was one of the harvest festivals in Israel. What God has done is to take the literal harvest festivals of Israel and incorporate into them His own plan for harvesting mankind. It is very clever, really: just as all crops are not reaped at the same time, so all of mankind is not reaped at the same time. You get earlier harvests, and you get later harvests. Pentecost was connected with the earlier spring grain harvest.
The very first grain harvest to ripen in Israel was the barley harvest, which was ready about March-April. No one was allowed to eat it until the high priest had symbolically offered a sheaf of the new harvest, as firstfruits to God, by waving it. This was to be done on the day after the Sabbath, on Nisan 16: the second day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, and the third day from the Passover, Nisan 14. The first and last days of Unleavened Bread were always Sabbaths.
Leviticus 23: 4-14 says: "4 'These are the feasts of the LORD, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at their appointed times. 5 On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is the LORD's Passover. 6 And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; seven days you must eat unleavened bread. 7 On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it. 8 But you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD for seven days. The seventh day shall be a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it.' 9 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 10 '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. 11 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 (nisan 16). 12 And you shall offer on that day, when you wave the sheaf, a male lamb of the first year, without blemish, as a burnt offering to the LORD. 13 Its grain offering shall be two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, an offering made by fire to the LORD, for a sweet aroma; and its drink offering shall be of wine, one-fourth of a hin. 14 You shall eat neither bread nor parched grain nor fresh grain until the same day that you have brought an offering to your God; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings." ' "
Let us look at the picture again.
Nisan 14, the Passover: the sacrifice of the lamb, foreshadowing the sacrifice of Jesus.
Nisan 15, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, picturing coming out of sin.
Nisan 16, the second day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, and the offering by the high priest of the barley sheaf with no leaven, by waving it to God as the firstfruits of the harvest: this foreshadowed the resurrection of Jesus as the firstfruit of the firstfruits harvest; notice that the period from His death to His resurrection was to consist of parts of the three days, from Nisan 14 to Nisan 16: that is exactly what happened at the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Paul spoke of Jesus as being the firstfruits at 1 Corinthians 15:23 where it says: "But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits (singular in the Greek), afterwards those who are Christ's at His coming."
The Festival of Pentecost came at the end of the barley harvest, and was to be celebrated some fifty days from the wave offering of the barley sheaf. That is why Pentecost was also called the Festival of Weeks. Exodus 34:22 says: "And you shall observe the Feast of Weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering (Feast of Tabernacles, a later harvest) at the year's end."
Pentecost coincided with the wheat harvest, which was the last of the grain harvests. So the firstfruit harvest, which started on the second day of Unleavened Bread with the waving of the barley sheaf, was brought to a close some seven weeks later at Pentecost, with the waving of two wheat loaves, baked with leaven. It was at Pentecost that the two loaves with leaven were to be presented to God as a wave offering.
Leviticus 23:15-17 says: "15 '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. 16 Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the LORD. 17 You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the LORD.' "
So the whole of the fifty-day period was connected with the firstfruit harvest, culminating with Pentecost: the day on which the Holy Spirit was poured out, to call out a people for God's own special possession. Both Jew and Gentile were to be included: hence the two loaves baked with leaven.
If both Jew and Gentile were to be His own special people, something very special must have been happening at Pentecost.
Jesus gave us the understanding of what was happening, when He said, at John 14:16,17: "16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever - 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you."
With people coming under the blood of the Lamb, and being led out of sin by the Holy Spirit, it was now time for the Holy Spirit to come and be in those of the firstfruit calling. His disciples, and others being called, were not the very firstfruits, because Jesus was, when He was resurrected on Nisan 16: the day on which the barley sheaf was waved. These were the firstfruits of the wheat, which was a different crop to barley. They were, as James called them at James 1:18, "…a kind of firstfruits of His creatures."
Can you see, yet, what Pentecost entailed? It was a calling of the early harvest of firstfruits, to be offered to God. And only firstfruits. These very ones were to be God's new nation. As 1 Peter 2:9 says: "But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light".
But you must get it into your minds that the first three festivals - the Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and Pentecost or the Feast of Firstfruits, all fell at the beginning of the year. And all the events that they picture are a pictoric type of the start of God's plan of salvation: Pentecost being pictorial of the firstfruit harvest. The next group of Holy Days, the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles or the Feast of Ingathering, and the Great Last Day, all come towards the end of the year, and all occur in the seventh month.
So we have the small harvest near the beginning of the year, and we have the much, much larger harvest near the end of the year, symbolised by the Feast of Tabernacles, which was called the great Ingathering. Notice: not the small ingathering, but the great Ingathering. As we have already said, Exodus 34:22 says: "And you shall observe the Feast of Weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering (Feast of Tabernacles: a later harvest) at the year's end."
Can you see? Two different harvests, at different times. One only a small firstfruit harvest, and one a much greater harvest.
Do you know that the earlier harvest was also known as the feast of Firstfruits?
Numbers 28:26 says, of Pentecost: "Also on the day of the firstfruits, when you bring a new grain offering to the LORD at your Feast of Weeks…"
This harvest foreshadowed only the firstfruit harvest, and symbolised only a few which were to be harvested, before the great ingathering at the end of the year.
This was when the temple began to be built: anyone called in this firstfruit calling was to be part of the temple. As 1 Corinthians 3:16 says: "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?"
And 1 Peter 2:4,5 says this: "4 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."
Just look at Ephesians 2:18-22: "18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. 19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit."
The first harvest, consisting of those in the firstfruit calling, never was designed to harvest most of mankind. It was only to harvest those who are in the first resurrection, who will rule with Jesus as kings and priests for a thousand years.
Most of mankind - and that is just about all - are to be harvested in the second harvest, when the temple is up and running. Time is running out, and although there is still time to be called into the firstfruit harvest, just about everyone now will be in the second harvest. This fantastic call for the second harvest is soon to go out into all the world, and the whole world will be saved.
Are you one of the few called at this time to be in the firstfruit harvest? If so, be patient and wait on God. The temple is being built by Christ; He will place you in it. When the time is right for the temple to operate upon the earth, with full powers, there will be a place there for you.
Be sure to read next month's article, "Universal Salvation! The Plan of God Part Three," when we will deal with the four festivals which have still to take place. Jesus is coming.
Next article: The Plan of God Part Three