Sunday, May 23, 2010

Happy Shavuot

Today is Shavuot, or the Feast of Pentecost according to the words we find in the Old Testament concerning when the feasts of Israel were to occur.

'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. 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. Leviticus 23:15-17 NKJV

We also know from the New Testament that this is the day God gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit, as recorded in the book of Acts.

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. And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, "Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how [is it that] we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Acts 2:1-8 NKJV

Since today is the anniversary of the giving of the Holy Spirit to the Church, I thought I would share the following which is my blog from a year ago regarding why many associate this day with the rapture of the Church.

....I don't think it would be a stretch to assume that most, if not all of us are familiar with what a "timeout" call is. In most sporting events, the ability to stop or freeze the clock for a period of time is called a "timeout". Of course, it follows that when the timeout is over and the clock starts again, it starts exactly where it stopped when the timeout was called. So what does this have to do with a study in eschatology? Well, most Bible scholars agree that Israel could be called God's clock, since God did in fact tell Israel through the prophet Daniel that they had only a specific period of time for their history to unfold. This is what is known as the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks of Daniel. It is also acknowledged that God's clock stopped at the end of sixty-nine weeks to allow the beginning of what is known as the Church Age, or the period in history where believers in Jesus as the Messiah would build His church, and end with an event known as the rapture. So the question is, exactly when did that happen, and does it have any significance in our study of the end times according to the scriptures?

This weekend is when the Feast of Pentecost takes place, and there are many reasons why this particular feast is considered to be very important to believers today. First of all, if you read about the birth of the church in the book of Acts, chapter two, you find that it occurred on the Feast of Pentecost, exactly fifty days after the Feast of Firstfruits when Jesus rose from the dead. So it is, in fact, the birthday of the Church as we know it. This was the day that God sent the Holy Spirit to indwell those who chose to believe in Jesus, providing believers with "power" as described by Jesus himself in Acts 1:8. This is also the day, according to most all biblical scholars, that God's clock with Israel stopped, or for the sake of this blog, He called a timeout. Is this important? Maybe we can answer that with an examination of some of the events, and traditions, associated with the Feast of Pentecost.

One of the greatest love stories to be found in the Bible is the Book of Ruth. It is a story of how a gentile, (non-Jew), was "redeemed", or bought with a price, by a "kinsman" or relative (who was a Jew) according to Jewish law, and then becomes the bride of her redeemer. This story takes place in Bethlehem, (curious), the events transpire during the fifty days between the barley and wheat harvest, (interesting), and the redeemer takes his bride at the end of that time, or at the Feast of Pentecost. (coincidence?) It is the tradition of the Jews to read the book of Ruth on Pentecost every year, much as we read about Jesus birth at Christmas, and His resurrection at Easter.

Another rabbinical tradition is that Enoch was born on Pentecost, or the 6th of Sivan as it occurs on the Jewish calendar. Enoch is an interesting individual considering that he was the first prophet in the Bible, and his first prophecy was of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (Jude 14-15). Even more interesting is that the Bible tells us he did not die, but was "taken" by God (raptured) (Genesis 5:24). Also intriguing is the fact that it is a Jewish tradition that he was taken on his birthday, or Pentecost.

In the book of 1 Thessalonians, chapter 4 verse 16, the apostle Paul tells us that the "trump of God" will sound at the rapture of the Church. This term "trump of God" only appears twice in the Bible; at the rapture and in the book of Exodus, chapter 19, verse 13, where God gives the Law to Moses at Mt. Sinai. By now it should come as no surprise that if you read from the beginning of the chapter you find the events at Mt. Sinai also occurred during Pentecost.

Now strange as it may sound, I'm going to venture away from the Bible for my last point, and share something with you written by Josephus, who many of you may recognize as a person who lived at the time of Christ, and was commissioned by the Romans to write a history of the Jews. His works have long been acknowledged to be not only very complete, but proven time and again to be historically accurate.
The following quotation is from one of his works and refers to something that was reported to have occurred during the Feast of Pentecost.

Josephus, "Wars of the Jews" VI. V. 3 (emphasis mine)

Thus there was a star (20) resembling a sword, which stood over the city, and a comet, that continued a whole year. Thus also before the Jews' rebellion, and before those commotions which preceded the war, when the people were come in great crowds to the feast of unleavened bread, on the eighth day of the month Xanthicus, (21) [Nisan,] and at the ninth hour of the night, so great a light shone round the altar and the holy house, that it appeared to be bright day time; which lasted for half an hour.

"This light seemed to be a good sign to the unskillful, but was so interpreted by the sacred scribes, as to portend those events that followed immediately upon it. At the same festival also, a heifer, as she was led by the high priest to be sacrificed, brought forth a lamb in the midst of the temple. Moreover, the eastern gate of the inner (22) [court of the] temple, which was of brass, and vastly heavy, and had been with difficulty shut by twenty men, and rested upon a basis armed with iron, and had bolts fastened very deep into the firm floor, which was there made of one entire stone, was seen to be opened of its own accord about the sixth hour of the night (i.e., MIDNIGHT). Now those that kept watch in the temple came hereupon running to the captain of the temple, and told him of it; who then came up thither, and not without great difficulty was able to shut the gate again. This also appeared to the vulgar to be a very happy prodigy, as if God did thereby open them the gate of happiness. But the men of learning understood it, that the security of their holy house was dissolved of its own accord, and that the gate was opened for the advantage of their enemies. So these publicly declared that the signal foreshowed the desolation that was coming upon them.

"Besides these, a few days after that feast, on the one and twentieth day of the month Artemisius, [Jyar,] a certain prodigious and incredible phenomenon appeared: I suppose the account of it would seem to be a fable, were it not related by those that saw it, and were not the events that followed it of so considerable a nature as to deserve such signals; for, before sun-setting, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armor were seen running about among the clouds, and surrounding of cities. Moreover, at that feast which we call PENTECOST, as the priests were going by night into the inner [court of the temple,] as their custom was, to perform their sacred ministrations, they said that, in the first place, THEY FELT A QUAKING, AND HEARD A GREAT NOISE, AND AFTER THAT THEY HEARD A SOUND AS OF A GREAT MULTITUDE, SAYING, "LET US REMOVE HENCE." (end quote)

Many believe that God's clock with Israel is going to start exactly where it left off, on the Feast of Pentecost. As we have seen, there are more than a few references to a "rapture" type event associated with the Feast of Pentecost. Will the Church be raptured on it's birthday? Of course, I can't say. But I hope I'm not the only one who finds it more than curious that there seem to be so many events common to this particular day of the year. Jesus commanded us to watch for His return, and I for one think it very important to take Him at His word. I'm watching every day, and I hope the words I share with you in these pages encourage you to watch as well.

Is today the day?