Jesus Christ Our Victory
THE ASCENSION THROUGH PENTECOST:
THE TEN DAYS
The use of numbers in the Bible is always very significant. Man often uses numbers haphazardly, but God uses them always with a divine, instructive purpose. Forty denotes a period of probation, trial, and proving. Jesus Christ was on earth forty days in his resurrected body, proving himself to be alive by many infallible proofs. He had begun his ministry being proved for forty days of temptation in the wilderness. During the forty days before the ascension, mankind was in a period of probation during which it would decide whether or not to believe that Christ was risen.
[The rain during Noah's flood poured down for forty days. Moses, in receiving the tablets of the law and the revelation of the tabernacle, was on Mt. Sinai forty days. The children of Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years.]
Biblically, ten represents ordinal perfection and is a multiple of five, the number of grace. On the tenth day after the ascension came Pentecost, when the administration of the Church, the one Body of Christ, was established. With the coming of Pentecost and God's giving of the holy spirit, any person, Judean or Gentile, could be born again of God's Spirit. Anyone and everyone who desired to believe could receive eternal life, power from on high, holy spirit. This would mark the beginning of the Administration of Grace.
Before we study the great significance of Pentecost, let us go back and study the events of the intervening days between Christ's ascension and the day of Pentecost.
Luke 24: 52 -- And they worshipped [having worshipped] him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.
Acts 1: 12 -- Then returned they [the eleven apostles; Judas is now gone] unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day's journey.
Having beheld Christ's ascension from the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives at Bethany, the apostles returned to Jerusalem "with great joy." They were, no doubt, absolutely astounded by Christ's being taken up into heaven and in deep thought over the final information he had given them.
Acts 1: 13 -- And when they [the apostles] were come in [to Jerusalem], they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James.
The upper room was the place they abode, which means they ate and slept there. Notice that only eleven apostles are listed in Acts 1: 13; Judas Iscariot's name is missing. By listing these names God calls our attention to the truth that Judas was no longer among the apostles.
Acts 1: 14 -- These all [the eleven men listed in verse 13] continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.
This prayer and supplication with the women could not have taken place in the upper room. Eastern culture would not allow a woman in the living quarters of a man unless she was married to him. So where did these people continue "with one accord in prayer and supplication"? The Gospel of Luke gives the answer.
Luke 24: 53 -- And [the apostles] were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.
A few weeks before, these same apostles had been behind closed doors, literally hiding for fear of the Judeans. But by this time after the ascension, they were ridding themselves of such debilitating fear. Now with great joy and openness these same men were daily in the Temple, praising and blessing God. As Christ had commanded them, they were waiting until the promised baptism of the holy spirit would be given to them. Jesus Christ had not told them the exact day on which they would be given the promise of the Father, but that it would come "not many days hence."
Acts 1: 15 to 18 -- And in those days [the days between the ascension and Pentecost] Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,)
Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus.
For he [Judas] was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry.
Now this man [Judas] purchased a field [chorion, property] with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.
The focus of the apostles' concern at this time was Judas. This is very logical when we realize that Judas had left the others not long before this, when Jesus Christ had ascended. Upon leaving, Judas went to a property he had purchased. This property, chorion, was different from the land the priests bought with the thirty pieces of silver, recorded in Matthew 27: 7 to 10. The land bought by the priests was called an agros, a field. It was an entirely different type of land for it was used as a place to bury strangers. The property of Acts 1: 18 was purchased by Judas himself, not the priests. He bought it with "the reward of iniquity." This "reward of iniquity" was not the thirty pieces of silver, for he had thrown them down in the Temple. This "reward of iniquity" was money he had stolen out of the money bag as treasurer of the apostles.
John 12: 6 -- . . . he [Judas] was a thief, and had the bag, and bare [carried off] what was put therein.
As recorded in Acts 1: 18, Peter graphically described the suicide of Judas. The description fits a death in which the person impales himself on a sharp instrument. Upon seeing Christ ascend to heaven, the condemnation in Judas' heart opened his mind to possession, and he immediately went to his own property and killed himself.
Acts 1: 19 -- And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field [chorion] is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field [chorion] of blood.
That land became known as Aceldama, meaning "the property of blood," because Judas had killed himself there; that is where his blood was shed.
Acts 1: 20 -- For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take.
Peter was now preparing the about 120 disciples for the replacement of Judas, to let another take Judas' leadership position. If Judas Iscariot had left or killed himself long before, why would the apostles just now decide to replace him? Or if Judas had killed himself before Christ's ascension, why wouldn't Jesus have carried out the prophecy of Psalms and have named a replacement himself? However, when we realize that Judas was with them to the ascension, the replacing of Judas at this time fits perfectly. Judas was replaced after the ascension and before Pentecost, within a few days after he left their company on the day of the ascension and killed himself.
Acts 1: 21 and 22 -- Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,
Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.
The major requirement was not that the one replacing Judas need to have actually witnessed the crucifixion; nor was it that he be from a certain area, of a certain lineage, or have a certain amount of money or influence. Neither was the man's good works the credentials. The major requirement was that Judas' replacement be a disciple who had been with Jesus from the time of Jesus' baptism by John through his ascension, a witness of the resurrected Christ.
Acts 1: 23 to 26 -- And they appointed [made to stand] two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.
And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether [if either] of these two thou hast chosen,
That he may take [lambano] part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell [transgressed], that he [Judas] might go to his own place [his own property where he killed himself].
And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon [was for] Matthias; and he [Matthias] was numbered with the eleven apostles.
So Matthias was chosen to replace Judas Iscariot. Peter's speech and the account of choosing a twelfth apostle are recorded in Acts 1: 15 to 26. These events did not occur on Pentecost. They occurred in the days between the ascension and Pentecost.
Acts 1: 15 does not specify the location where this choosing of a twelfth apostle took place, but it could not have been in an upper room in which only eleven men lived, for it says that about 120 were present.
People have taught that 120 disciples chose the twelfth apostle on Pentecost in the upper room. When will people read God's Word? No one can handle God's Word that way and expect to stand approved before God. We are to rightly divide the Word of Truth if we are to have the true Word. If we cannot be trusted to rightly divide God's Word in simple matters like this, how can we be expected to be accurate when God's Word instructs us on spiritual matters of eternal importance? We must become craftsmen in handling God's Word.
Before we study this wonderful Pentecost following Christ's ascension, it is essential that we have a background of information about the Old Testament Pentecost. First of all, Pentecost was a feast of the children of Israel. "Pentecost" is taken from the Greek word pentekoste, meaning fiftieth. In the Old Testament three other names are given for this feast: it was called the "Feast of Harvest," the "Day of the Firstfruits," and the "Feast of Weeks." By New Testament times "Pentecost" had become the popular term used for this feast.
The derivation of all four of these names is actually simple to understand. We can understand the term "Pentecost" by observing its timing in relation to the Feast of Unleavened Bread. During the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread one weekly Sabbath would always be included. The day after that weekly Sabbath (the date would vary from year to year) would be the first day in the counting of fifty days toward Pentecost. "Pentecost" was so named because of this fifty days of counting. The Judeans would count seven weeks or forty-nine days; then the next day, the fiftieth (which would always be a Sunday in our time reckoning), was Pentecost. Because of this method of counting seven weeks plus one day, it was also called the "Feast of Weeks."
In the Old Testament there were three major feasts in the year, all these feasts including the celebration of a harvest. The first harvest was celebrated in Nisan during the Feast of Unleavened Bread when the Hebrews brought a sheaf of barley for the wave-offering of the first fruits of the barley harvest. The day of the wave-offering of the firstfruits of the barley harvest was the day when the Judeans began counting toward Pentecost.
The second harvest celebration was the wheat harvest at the Feast of Harvest, Pentecost. This feast occurred in the third month, in the summer of the year. This feast was also called the Day of the Firstfruits (not to be confused with the firstfruits wave-offering during the Feast of Unleavened Bread) because the first fruits of the wheat harvest were being celebrated.
The third harvest celebration was designated as the Feast of Tabernacles in the middle of the seventh month. This final harvest, including the harvest of grapes, was at the end of the agricultural year, before winter. It was also known as the Feast of Ingathering.
Not only did these three major feasts celebrate the three times of harvest, they also commemorated three great events in the history of Israel. The first, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, celebrated the exodus of Israel from the bondage of Egypt. The second, Pentecost, was traditionally believed by Judeans to mark the time when God first revealed the law to Israel at Mount Sinai. That Pentecost and the giving of the law were both in the third month is indicated by scripture.
Exodus 19: 1 states that the children of Israel arrived at Sinai "in the third month." Shortly thereafter, probably that same month, the law was given as recorded in Exodus 20. Since Pentecost was fifty days from the middle of Nisan, it also would fall in the third month.
The third feast, the Feast of Tabernacles, was a seven-day feast commemorating God's watchful care over Israel as they wandered in the wilderness forty years.
[The observance of all three major feasts is outlined in detail in Leviticus 23.]
Although the law outlined three major feasts, for our present purposes Pentecost is the one being focused on. The following are God's commandments to Israel concerning the celebration of this feast. All of the following scriptures are necessary to gain a full understanding of God's original instructions to the children of Israel concerning the observance of Pentecost.
Exodus 23: 16 -- And the feast of harvest, the firstfruits of thy labours, which thou hast sown in the field. . .
Deuteronomy 16: 9 to 12 -- 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 [archaic word for "grain"].
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:
And thou shalt rejoice before the Lord thy God, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite that is within thy gates, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are among you, in the place which the Lord thy God hath chosen to place his name there.
And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in Egypt: and thou shalt observe and do these statutes.
Numbers 28: 26 to 31 -- Also in the day of the firstfruits, when ye bring a new meat offering unto the Lord, after your weeks be out, ye shall have an holy convocation; ye shall do no servile work:
But ye shall offer the burnt offering for a sweet savour unto the Lord; two young bullocks, one ram, seven lambs of the first year;
And their meat offering of flour mingled with oil, three tenth deals unto one bullock, two tenth deals unto one ram,
A several tenth deal unto one lamb, throughout the seven lambs;
And one kid of the goats, to make an atonement for you.
Ye shall offer them beside the continual burnt offering, and his meat offering, (they shall be unto you without blemish) and their drink offerings.
Leviticus 23: 15 to 22 -- And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath [the weekly Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread], from the day that ye brought the sheaf 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.
And ye shall offer with the bread seven lambs without blemish of the first year, and one young bullock, and two rams: they shall be for a burnt offering unto the Lord, with their meat offering, and their drink offerings, even an offering made by fire, of sweet savour unto the Lord.
Then ye shall sacrifice one kid of the goats for a sin offering, and two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace offerings.
And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits for a wave offering before the Lord, with the two lambs: they shall be holy to the Lord for the priest.
And ye shall proclaim on the selfsame day, that it may be an holy convocation unto you: ye shall do no servile work therein: it shall be a statute for ever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.
And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the Lord your God.
The seven weeks of counting tied together Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread with Pentecost. Technically, because of the counting, Passover began the anticipation of Pentecost. Old rabbinical writings called Pentecost the "concluding feast" because it was understood as the conclusion of Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. At the time of the first Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread the children of Israel left the bondage of Egypt. The children of Israel thought of the conclusion of that exodus as the giving of the law at Sinai, an event with which Pentecost came to be associated.
The symbolic relationship of Passover to Pentecost does not end with Israel, however. The last Passover, Jesus Christ, represented our exodus from death and the bondage of the law. Christ's redeeming work made possible the great Pentecost when the gift of holy spirit was given to begin another administration, the Administration of Grace, when the law was fulfilled and made of no further effect. The parallels are significant and interesting. To many Israelites, Pentecost signified the giving of the law. To us, the Church of the Body, it signifies the giving of the holy spirit. Also, for us Pentecost is associated with our one true Passover, Jesus Christ, because Pentecost was the conclusion of what he came to make available by being the ultimate Passover lamb.
The three harvest times are also deeply significant. Jesus Christ was resurrected as the first harvest during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, being the firstfruits from the dead.
I Corinthians 15: 20 -- But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
I Corinthians 15: 23 -- But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.
Then at Pentecost that same year, Christianity began, in which believers are a harvest, having the firstfruits of the spirit.
Romans 8: 23 -- And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
We are a kind of firstfruits of God's creation.
James 1: 18 -- Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
We in this Age of Grace have the firstfruits of the spirit, and we will meet Christ in the air when he returns to finally gather us together. The final, complete harvest will be at the return of Christ when all are resurrected. God's Word describes this as the harvest at the end of the world.
Matthew 13: 38 and 39 -- The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.
The one-day feast called Pentecost began with the normal morning sacrifice of a lamb. The festive sacrifices of Pentecost included ten animals for a burnt offering, plus one kid of the goats, sacrificed for a sin offering, and two lambs for a peace offering. The sacrifices would be accompanied by offerings of leavened bread and drink offerings. In addition, the offerers would carry out the usual evening sacrifice of a lamb. Pentecost was to be a day of holy convocation, a special Sabbath in which no servile work was to be done. There was to be a tribute of a freewill offering given according to the measure with which God had blessed the giver. While harvesting, the Hebrews were instructed to leave the extra abundance in the field for others who had need of it, such as sojourners and the poor. The Israelites were to rejoice with their family, servants, and guests for all that with which God had blessed them. Pentecost was a festive time of thanksgiving, abundance, and rejoicing.
Over fifty days previously, Jesus Christ had not only been the Passover lamb, he also replaced every sacrifice for all time. He was the fulfillment of the law. He was the complete, final atonement. When all requirements were fulfilled, man was fully and completely redeemed. Thus the climax of Christ's accomplishments began over fifty days before, when Jesus Christ was selected and prepared as the Passover lamb. All the suffering which culminated in his death became vitally significant in the various aspects of redemption. The greatness of this redemption became available on Pentecost.
Acts 2: 1 to 4 -- 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 [as of a heavy breathing], 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.
Our redemption was not made possible by our working to please God, as had been the case under the law. Our redemption was made possible by God's working in Jesus Christ and offering him as the perfect sacrifice. Christ's redemptive work as our Passover was building toward Pentecost. With Pentecost, the magnificent Age of Grace was unveiled. The power of the holy spirit was given. Since that time the freewill offering of believers is to live and fellowship with God and use the mighty power He has given us.