Richard Ritenbaugh reminds us that counting Pentecost should not be a thoughtless, mechanical act, but should involve deep reflection as to how God has steered our lives and as to how we are managing the spiritual resources He has graciously given each of us. The fifty days towards Pentecost likely symbolize the fifty years (on average) from the day of our baptism to the day we fall asleep. The Megilloth which we examine each Pentecost contains a fascinating narrative of a strong, enduring woman who outlived a relatively fearful husband and two sons. Naomi's attractive personality, selflessness, Godly conviction and common sense characterize her relationship with her Gentile daughters-in-law. She won the heart of her daughter-in law, Ruth. Despite her godly qualities, Naomi had a negative attribute: Her inability to believe that, through all her trials, God was working for the good of her and her family. Her request to be called Mara (or bitterness), rooted in her conviction that God had abandoned her, anticipates attitudes that many of God's called-out ones feel when overwhelmed by an experience we cannot understand. God, who knows the end from the beginning, realizes that we need a measure of affliction to stay on the trajectory that He has prepared for us. We need to emulate Naomi's godly behaviors, while shunning her inability to faithfully see God's hand at work in our lives.
David C. Grabbe: The day of Pentecost, also known as the Feast of the Firstfruits and the Feast of Weeks, is unique among the annual holy days because God requires us to count to determine when it falls each year: ...
Richard Ritenbaugh, observing that pagan fertility rites and sun worship have nothing to do with the resurrection or ascension of Christ, asserts that Christmas, Easter, as well as the concepts of "amazing grace," and "unmerited pardon" are far cries from the Bible's definition of Christianity. Because he sought to avoid the appearance of endorsing the syrupy cheap grace advanced by Protestant thinkers, Herbert W. Armstrong de-emphasized the birth, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. As a result, the Church came to lose some valuable insights about those events. Neither Christmas or Easter appear in the Feasts of the Lord (Leviticus 23), but we find plenty of emphasis on the resurrection and ascension of Christ in the Holy Days. The wave-sheaf offering, for example, appearing between Unleavened Bread and Pentecost and symbolizing the Father's acceptance of Christ as First of the First Fruits, provides the means for our ultimate acceptance as First Fruits as well. Christ's ascension enables Christ to serve before the Father as our High Priest, mediating between man and God. It also facilitates 1.) His gifting the Church for equipping the saints, 2.) His pouring out the Holy Spirit on us, 3.) His aiding us when we are tempted, 4.) His healing us when we are sick, 5.) His guarding us from the evil one and 5) His preparing a place for us in God's Kingdom. Realizing that the apostles wrote frequently about Christ's resurrection and ascension, we must be willing to share their perspective.
Richard Ritenbaugh, reflecting that archeology continues to substantiate the accuracy and historicity of the Bible, examines the discovery of a 2,700 year-old bulla, a clay impression about the size of a dime. On the bulla are the figures of two men facing each other; the inscription reads, "Governor of the City." The discovery substantiates the account of II Chronicles 34:8, which avers that King Josiah appointed Ma-aseiah to serve as Governor of Jerusalem, debunking the claim of Biblical Minimalists' (that is, scholars who aver that Biblical accounts cannot be trusted for accuracy) that Jerusalem was too small to warrant a "governor." Another archeological discovery, the Dead Sea Scrolls, lends support to the understanding of the Church of the Great God that the count to Pentecost should begin from the day of the wave sheaf offering adjacent to the Sabbath following the Passover.
Martin Collins, reflecting on the correlation between the wave sheaf offering, beginning the count to Pentecost, and the wave-loaf offering on Pentecost, reminds us that Jesus Christ is the First Born from the dead and the Firstfruits. Like Christ, we too are firstfruits, represented by the leavened loaves picturing our acceptance by the Father. Both offerings depict a harvest as well as the same resurrection—the First,. Pentecost also envisions a time when God will repair the chaos caused by sin. For example, He will eliminate today's confusion about gender identification. Further, because God's Spirit will eventually unite everyone, people will be able to communicate with one another. We are a tiny smidgeon of all those who have been called over the ages, exercising faith that God will work with us if we yield to the power of His Holy Spirit—an invisible force which enables overcoming. God guides us through this period of sanctification to Eternal life. After 6,000 years, God's family will be building on the foundation God has established by sealing the Church with His Holy Spirit on Pentecost.
Ted Bowling, reminding us that we are to personally count for ourselves the 50 days to Pentecost, cautions that we need to be thinking continually of the lessons these days teach us about our spiritual journey, culminating in the permanent installation of God's Law into our spiritual bodies as offspring of God. Breaking an old negative habit and replacing it with a positive habit can take us at least 50 days, unlearning the costly mistakes of our forebears on the Sinai from the pages of Scripture, learning to see beyond the temporary miracles to the permanence of the Miracle Worker, seeing God relentlessly at work in our lives. We need to realize the interconnectedness of the Passover, the Days of Unleavened Bread, and Pentecost, absorbing the lessons which will ensure our spiritual growth.
Mark Schindler, focusing on the events occurring between Christ's resurrection and ascension, offers some speculation as to specific details occurring within this period of time, shedding light on the second part of the Atonement sacrifice. During these hours, Jesus Christ qualified to be our High Priest because He experienced the horrendous effects of sin and separation from God the Father for our sins, undergoing purification, typified by the cleansing of the priestly garments by the man who released the goat laden with sin, enabling him to return to the camp (Leviticus 16:23-28). The absence of the 100 pounds of aloes, the folded "turban," and the rolled away stone indicates much activity had taken place and that a thorough cleansing and purification had occurred, perhaps in the Garden of Gethsemane amidst a company of angels, a mere 45-minute walk from the tomb. As we count toward Pentecost, we need to reflect as to how Christ qualified to fulfill His role as our empathetic High Priest.
Mark Schindler, focusing on the seventh day, the last great day of Jesus' final Feast of Tabernacles, admonishes us to look beyond the significance of our own calling, realizing that the sacrifice of Christ was intended for all men with the hope that they also would be added ultimately to the family of God. We need to allow our Heavenly Father to infuse us with big-picture thinking, realizing that God's work is much greater than our calling, but is in fact a work enabling all of mankind to have access to God the Father. God has purposely given us, as God's called ones, the position of "trainees" as a part of the First Fruits to expedite this marvelous project. The seventh day Sabbath has always served as God's signature, a key to understanding redemption and healing. The seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles contained a traditional water ceremony, which Jesus greatly magnified, prophesying that whoever drinks of the living water (symbolic of God's Holy Spirit) will manifest rivers of living water flowing from them. . Understanding the pattern of seven, the signature of God, gives us a deeper appreciation for the God we serve, enabling us to realize that the Great God has been working to complete His plan down to the tiniest detail. From the creation of the Sabbath and the annual Holy days, including the seven Sabbaths we count to Pentecost, we see how God is working to bring all mankind into His family in systematic stages, beginning with the First Fruits and ending with a great harvest of the rest of mankind in the White Throne Period, after which God will be all-in-all. The number seven is a kind of divine motif, God's signature, a signpost for His called-out ones to build faith, whether we consider the land Sabbath, counting seven Sabbaths to Pentecost,or the 49 years followed by the Jubilee, which typifies the eighth day, contemplating a grand expansion of the family of God.
A common scriptural refrain—and especially in the book of Deuteronomy—is God's admonishment to be careful to observe His commands. Pat Higgins applies the principle of being careful to observe to two verses that have great significance to us as we near the end of the age, as our carefulness in living by God's every word may have life-or-death consequences.
A recent phenomenon among some Sabbatarians is something called the "Lunar Sabbath," counting the weekly Sabbath from each month's new moon. Charles Whitaker argues that the Lunar Sabbath idea is unbiblical and unworkable, asserting that the traditional weekly Sabbath, observed every seventh day, is correct and in line with God's Word.
Richard Ritenbaugh, acknowledging that the Psalms have been divided into five books, suggests that there is methodology in the organization, reminding us of the number of Divine grace, as well as a number of handy organization emphasizing groups of five, including the summary Psalms (Psalms 146-150), the Pentateuch, the Megilloth, and the Israelite's division of the year into five seasons. The Pentecost season generally corresponds to Book II of the Psalms, the Book of Exodus, and the story of Ruth, typifying counting to Pentecost (the 50th day commemorating the harvest), in which wave loaves baked with leaven (a symbol of corruption) would be offered. Themes of the Pentecost season include leaving the corners of the field un-harvested, the trek of the Israelites to Sinai to receive the Law and the Covenant (a marriage covenant occurring on the same day as Pentecost, depicting another marriage covenant), and the giving of the Holy Spirit on the anniversary of the giving of the Law. Exile, leaving, departing, separation, and redemption are also major themes of this season and Book II of the Psalms. The Book of Exodus also provides instructions for construction of the Tabernacle (prefiguring the church and a future nation of priests). The summary Psalm 147 indicates that God gives His Law and Spirit, building up the Heavenly Jerusalem through the redemption of a remnant (the redeemed outcasts transformed through trail and distress into the Israel of God), the Bride of Christ.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh: Leviticus 23:9-21 covers God’s instructions concerning making the wavesheaf offering, the counting of the seven weeks, and the observance of the Feast of Weeks, called Pentecost in the New Testament. ...
Pat Higgins: Deuteronomy overflows with admonitions to be careful to observe God’s words. As an example, notice Deuteronomy 12:32: "Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it." ...
Pat Higgins: The Feast of Pentecost, the only holy day God instructs us to count, is just a few days away. For many years, the counting of Pentecost has been source of controversy ...
John Ritenbaugh observes that although each of God's festivals depicts increasingly larger numbers of people being drawn to God, the counter pulls emanating from sinful carnal human nature war against the prompts of God's Holy Spirit, producing continual conflict. Choosing between these two opposite poles is something we have to contend with daily. If we choose the spiritual pole, moving toward unity with God, we will become unified with others who similarly strive for these same spiritual goals. Without this spiritual contact, we subject ourselves to the second law of thermodynamics: entropy, chaos, and disorganization, but with God's Holy Spirit, we do not have to succumb. According to Lamentations 2, God scattered Judah for their sins. Likewise, God scattered the Worldwide Church of God (possibly using Satan as His agent) mercifully administering painful chastening for our own safety and protection, putting us in venues where we actively have to love and forbear one another. Pride condemned Satan to a fate of using or manipulating rather than serving. This presumptuous self-centered trait belonging to Hillel (later Satan or adversary) creates disunity and ultimate destruction. Unfortunately, several leaders of church groups have adopted these presumptuous competitive traits, arrogantly and disdainfully looking down on other groups within the greater Church of God, completely antithetical to the behavior of John the Baptist, the Apostle Paul, and Jesus Christ. We must follow the example of Abel, humbly doing things on God's terms, rather than the example of Cain, presumptuously doing things on his own terms. Likewise, when we have nothing acceptable to offer to God (Exodus 23:16, Leviticus 22:25, Joshua 5), we cannot presumptuously make an offering.
Correctly counting to Pentecost in years in which Passover falls on a weekly Sabbath is more than a matter of consistency. John Ritenbaugh explains that a far greater, more spiritual—and unfortunately, often overlooked—factor in the wavesheaf offering concerns a subject God considers highly important: holiness.
This year, 2008, is another one in which Passover falls on a weekly Sabbath, making the count to Pentecost more complex. John Ritenbaugh, however, argues that the count need not be done differently in these particular years. All we need to do is to apply God's command consistently.
In recent years, the count to Pentecost has become contentious, particularly in a year like 2005, in which the Sabbath within the Days of Unleavened Bread falls on the last holy day. John Ritenbaugh explains that, if we are consistent in our counting and honest with the instructions of Scripture, the solution is clear.
John Ritenbaugh, clearing up the needless confusion about the proper day to begin counting to Pentecost, examines the basic passages on it. Because Pentecost does not have a specific date, God commands us to count from the day after the weekly Sabbath falling within the Days of Unleavened Bread. When Passover occurs on a weekly Sabbath, the only weekly Sabbath occurring within Unleavened Bread is the last holy day. The wavesheaf offering occurs the next day - from which we begin the count. As the First of the Firstfruits, Jesus was waved Sunday morning after being resurrected Sabbath evening. The red-herring argument, focusing on Joshua 5:10-11, carelessly assuming that the wavesheaf was offered (with polluted, Canaanite grain), ignores the strict requirements of Exodus 23:14-16. No offerings of any kind could be made until specific conditions, outlined in Deuteronomy 12:1-13, were met, which did not happen until Joshua 18:1 (seven years after Joshua 5).
John Ritenbaugh, examining the set of doctrines which constitute "The Faith" identified in II Corinthians 13:5, warns that the greater church of God is not immune to the deterioration of doctrine cautioned by Paul. The doctrine of eternal security and the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, embraced by Evangelical Protestantism as well as our former affiliation, ominously threaten the spiritual welfare of all the splinter groups formerly affiliated with the Worldwide Church of God. When we depart from doctrine, convoluted reasoning and hair splitting must substitute for the simplicity in Christ. Minor deviations from doctrine bring about irreparable disastrous consequences. If we live by sight rather than by faith, we will automatically succumb to our fears (of denying our fleshly gratification or losing the esteem of our family and peers). The antidote to these twin-debilitating fears is the fear of God- a fear that must be learned and cultivated.
John Ritenbaugh insists that if we use clear, unambiguous scriptures to clarify ambiguous scriptures, and if we don't try to establish a doctrine on the interpretation of one word, we can avoid the doctrinal blindness caused by presumptive, vain, carnal reasoning. Difficulties some have had about the time of Passover, the Wave sheaf offering, and the time of Pentecost resulted from reversing the process, making assumptions unwarranted by clear scriptural evidence. If we follow the clear instructions about offerings (given to Joshua) in Deuteronomy 12, it becomes abundantly clear that Joshua absolutely would not have made a wave-sheaf offering in Joshua 5. There is also no scriptural basis for assuming that the Wave sheaf offering must occur within the Days of Unleavened Bread.We dare not add to or subtract from God's clear instructions.
In this sermonette on the 1974 doctrinal change on counting Pentecost, John Ritenbaugh explains the confusion of our previous understanding, resulting from the idiomatic use of counting "from" in English speaking and Hebrew speaking cultures. The qualifier "fully come" (Acts 2:1) which allegedly gave some reactionaries reason to cling to the old ways can be explained by a Greek grammar device (present tense articular infinitive) rendering the phrase — "when the Day of Pentecost was "running its course," "taking place" or "being fulfilled"—showing a contemporaneous aspect, not something that had been completed.
John Ritenbaugh emphasizes that Old Testament activities picture New Testament realities, far from done away, but raised or elevated to their spiritual intent. As a parallel to the Aaronic priesthood, the church has been chosen as a royal and holy priesthood (in training) offering up spiritual sacrifices and proclaiming praises of God (I Peter 2:5,9). Paul insists that our sacrifices (reasonable service) should extend to everything we do in life (Romans 12:2), including prayer, study, meditation, as well as sharing goods and experiences (Hebrews 13:15-16).
John Ritenbaugh emphasizes that we are manufactured goods designed specifically to glorify God. We have been summoned or separated from the rest of the world for the specific purpose of having God reproduced in ourselves — becoming clean and pure, transformed into God's image. As God's royal priesthood, we have a responsibility to draw near to God, keeping His commandments, witnessing to the world that God is God. Chipping away at the living stones, fitting them into their proper places, God works continually shaping and fashioning His new creation (II Corinthians 5:17).
Richard Ritenbaugh explores the significance of the number fifty, counting fifty, and the myriad applications of the number fifty throughout the Bible, such as in the measurements of the Tabernacle and Millennial Temple, as well as the 50 year Jubilee, a time of liberation and forgiveness of debts. Metaphorically, it represents counting the cost, evaluating our spiritual progress and priorities. In Psalm 90, Moses reckons the average lifespan to be 70 years. Subtracting the 20 years of youth, we have a remaining 50 years—a time to thoughtfully measure our days, redeeming and prioritizing our time properly in order to gain a godly heart of wisdom.
John Ritenbaugh warns that seemingly insignificant things to man are quite big things to God. Some well-meaning individuals, blinded by their pride, vanity, and clever sophistry, consider certain areas of the Bible to have little or no importance. They (1) fail to grasp the spiritual intent of the scriptures and (2) fail to separate the holy from the profane. Like Nadab and Abihu (offering strange or common fire) and Cain (offering an unworthy sacrifice) people who ignore the clear biblical instructions for the wavesheaf offering with its unambiguous prohibitions (Leviticus 22:24-25 and Deuteronomy 12:10) risk the displeasure and judgment of Almighty God.
John Ritenbaugh links inextricably the time frame for the covenant with Abraham (the Selfsame Day), the events of the Passover, the Exodus, the Night to be Much Observed, and the events of Christ's Passover meal with his disciples leading to his crucifixion. Clear connections relating to the bread and wine symbols, the ratification of the covenant, and the sacrifices are convincingly drawn. The mistaken inference made by some about a wavesheaf offering in Joshua 5 ignores the prohibition against a foreigner's grain (Leviticus 22:25), a blemished offering (Leviticus 23:12) and against animal sacrifices until peace could be established (Deuteronomy 12:11). The wavesheaf offering (Leviticus 23:15) is reckoned from the weekly sabbath within the Days of Unleavened Bread and not immediately before when an annual sabbath follows immediately.
We in God's church generally know very little about the wavesheaf offering, even though it represents one of the most significant acts of God's Plan: the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ! John Ritenbaugh explains its relevance to us today.
Pentecost in 2001 is a little different than in other years. The Sabbath during the Days of Unleavened Bread falls on the last day. How should we count to Pentecost on odd years like this? John Ritenbaugh explains the reasons for counting the same way as in all other years.
Observing that more controversy exists about the counting of Pentecost than for any of the holy days, John Ritenbaugh suggests the confusion may be a function of the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19). Confusion, separation, and division have been our legacy since the Garden of Eden. The major reason for Christ's ministry was to put an end to the quarreling and division, enabling us to be one with the Father and with each other. Three of God's festivals (Passover, Atonement, and Pentecost) have a direct bearing on the principle of unity. As we individually strive to become unified with God, believing in His authority and His doctrines, we will ultimately become unified, in one accord, with our brethren. It is our individual responsibility, enabled by God's Holy Spirit, to follow those things that were revealed by God through His apostles, keeping God's Commandments, rather than following our own inclinations or private agenda.
The late spring Feast of Pentecost shows the harvest of firstfruits, God's church. It is a continual reminder of our part in God's plan!
John Ritenbaugh refutes the erroneous belief that glossolalia (or speaking in tongues) constitutes a sign or condition of having received God's Holy Spirit. The dramatic manifestations in Acts 2 (cloven tongues of fire, rushing wind, and the miracle of speaking and hearing extant languages and dialects) were event specific, and not to be a perennial spectacle in so-called "Tarry meetings." Adherents to the Pentecostal movement try to mimic some of the superficial surface manifestations (noise, commotion, and unintelligible gibberish) rather than follow the teaching given on that day- including repentance, unconditional surrender of our will to God, and keeping His Commandments through the power of His Holy Spirit. Receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit (the power to subdue our carnality and live righteously) is dependent upon repentance and baptism. The ability to speak in tongues, although a legitimate spiritual gift for a very specific purpose, is not the identifying hallmark of God's Holy Spirit.
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