This article is a combination of two articles (Aust JW. Pentecost in God’s Master Plan. Good News, May 1985 and Lesson 27 – Pentecost – Only “Firstfruits” Now Called! 32 Lesson Bible Correspondance Course, WCG, 1984), plus many scriptures, some edits, and original writings done by Dr. Bob Thiel, AKA COGwriter.
Pentecost, the Feast of Firstfruits, is one of God’s seven annual Holy Days. It helps picture an important step in God’s master plan of salvation. This Holy Day helps explain the different times when salvation will be offered to different segments of humankind. Here is a link to two related sermons: God’s Pentecost Plan and Your Part in It and Pentecost Plan.
Start of the New Testament Church
Most realize that the New Testament church began on Pentecost. If it was in 31 A.D., then it looks to would have been on the 17th day of June that year according to a COG scholar I consulted with.
In 2018, Pentecost is on May 20, and the actual observation begins the evening before at sunset on May 19th and runs through sunset on May 20th. The next Day of Pentecost would on June 9, 2019 and would begin at sunset at June 8th and running through sunset June 9th.
Notice what the Bible teaches:
1 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place (Acts 2:1).
Notice that the emphasis is on the fact that the Day of Pentecost had fully come. The Bible is making it clear that the events that follow were directly related to the fact that the Day of Pentecost had fully come. And, it happened to the disciples because they were all observing it together.
Here is what happened next:
2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Getting God’s Holy Spirit changed them. And not just because of their speaking.
5 And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. 6 And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. 7 Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs — we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” 12 So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?”
13 Others mocking said, “They are full of new wine.”
14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. 15 For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. 18 And on My menservants and on My maidservantsI will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy. 19 I will show wonders in heaven above And signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. 20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. 21 And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the Lord Shall be saved.’
Related to dreams, etc., check out the article: Does the CCOG have the confirmed signs of Acts 2:17-18?
Getting back to Peter’s sermon:
22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know — 23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; 24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it. 25 For David says concerning Him: ‘I foresaw the Lord always before my face,For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken. 26 Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad;Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope. 27 For You will not leave my soul in Hades, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. 28 You have made known to me the ways of life;You will make me full of joy in Your presence.’ 29 “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, 31 he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. 33 Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. 34 “For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: ‘The Lord said to my Lord,’Sit at My right hand, 35 Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”‘
36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”
40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.
46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:2-47).
Acts 2 is considered to be the start of the Christian church by the Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, most Protestant, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Church of God groups.
Some Protestants have improperly indicated that all that happen in Acts was that new Christians were told to believe, and did not need to keep the Sabbath or Holy Days, but that neglects the fact that those the Bible describes as being in the audience were Jews who already kept those. They were also told to repent of their sins, which also meant that Christians were to proactively do more than simply believe–this is also consistent with what the Apostle James wrote (James 2:14-26).
God’s two harvests
God’s annual Holy Days are laid out according to the seasons in Palestine. And God uses two harvests of Palestine to symbolize His two separate harvests of all human lives. The earlier, much smaller harvest begins with Pentecost, and the latter, much larger harvest begins with the Feast of Tabernacles and ends with the Last Great Day.
You need to be concerned with this earlier harvest. It is being planted right now. We’ll use one of Jesus’ parables to help explain:
“Another parable He put forth to them , saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way’ ” (Matthew 13:24-25).
In this parable Jesus likens God’s plan of salvation to a physical harvest of grain or wheat.
“His disciples came to Him, saying, ‘Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.’ He answered and said to them: ‘He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age’ “(verses 36-40).
God is in the process of planting good seed now. He is reaching millions through this work that is presently being led by the Continuing Church of God. Millions of articles have been accessed over the internet from our related sites. Thousands of printed magazines are being distributed. And people are responding to that calling around the world. He may be planting in you (see also the free online book Is God Calling You?).
But Satan is not idle. He, too, is planting his tares among the wheat in God’s field — this world. It’s critical to determine whether we are wheat or tares.
Tares look like wheat. A tare is shaped like a wheat stock and head, but its content is dwarfed at best or nonexistent. When tares sprout with wheat, they look similar. Even after they are both grown, from a short distance it is difficult to distinguish between them. But to the discerning eye, the difference is obvious.
God always knows the difference between His “wheat” and the “tares” of Satan’s world. God’s people are known by their good fruits (Matthew 7:16, 20).
Two Outpourings of God’s Spirit?
Should any Church of God actually have the confirmed signs of Acts 2:17-18?
Was a second outpouring of God’s Spirit expected?
The late Pastor General of the old Worldwide Church of God, Herbert W. Armstrong, basically said so in a 1981 sermon:
Joel 2:28-29 And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: (29) And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.
So there is a time coming when God will start pouring out His spirit on human beings. … Day of Pentecost, 3000 were baptized. Peter preached a sermon. They were pricked in their hearts. God began to draw them. God was now… Remember He said, “I will pour out of my spirit on all flesh.” All right, there’s a duality of that. (Armstrong HW. Building The Temple. Sermon, February 14, 1981)
Herbert W. Armstrong was correct about the time coming when God would pour out His Spirit as well the duality. There was a duality to what Peter preached in Acts 2–and that duality is for our current time!
Do dreams and prophets have any place in the Christian Church today?
Yes. Recall that the Apostle Peter taught God would will pour out of His Spirit on all flesh, some would have dreams, and some would prophesy. (Acts 2:14-18).
We are in the last days (see also Does God Have a 6,000 Year Plan? What Year Does the 6,000 Years End?).
Dreams and prophesy were expected for our day! In addition various fulfilled predictions and prayers (see Church of God Leaders on Prophets), at least seven associated with the Continuing Church of God have had prophetic dreams which were later confirmed (see Dreams, the Bible, the Radio Church of God, and the Continuing Church of God).
For more on Acts 2:17-18, check out the article: Does the CCOG have the confirmed signs of Acts 2:17-18?
Many called, but few chosen
Notice something that Jesus said:
14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:14)
God’s earlier, smaller harvest will be made up of the relatively few people who are truly submitting to God today.
The vast majority of people who have ever lived will have their chance for salvation during the Millennium and the Great White Throne Judgment, symbolized by the Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day. This will be the great fall harvest.
To most of the world, other than the start of the New Testament Church and the giving of the Holy Spirit, the day of Pentecost remains a mystery. But you are being given the chance to understand now. This day of Pentecost represents your turn in God’s master plan of harvesting all human lives. You, too, can help declare to a blinded world the truth of God.
Notice the fantastic meaning the day of Pentecost has for those called now:
“Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they [of the early harvest, symbolized by Pentecost today] shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years” (Revelation 20:6).
God is not trying to convert the world now—believe it or not! Now is the time God is calling to salvation only a tiny minority—the firsttruits of salvation.
Around 7,600,000,000 human beings are alive today. Yet, there only tens of thousands of real Christians alive today (cf. Jude 14).
There is an astounding reason!
This vast majority of people, your Bible reveals, will be called later—most not until after Christ’s return. These thousands of millions cannot come to Christ and become part of God’s Church now—even if they try! Jesus said so, plainly,
“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him” (John 6:44).
Comparatively speaking, God has been drawing only a few in this age, but for a great purpose.
Why has God called the few He has? For what purpose has God drawn and put into His Church His firstfruits? Has God drawn these few and put them into His Church, as some think, just so they can get salvation and enjoy the fellowship and social life of the local congregations?
And why not the others?
One reason is that the deceived who are remaining part of this world have limits as to how sincere they are willing to be. God apparently does not call them now because He realizes that they have certain character issues/environmental-social factors that will prevent them from ‘enduring to the end’ in this age.
The Bible also indicates that those not called do not truly have enough of ‘the love of the truth’ (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12), so there are apparently limits to their sincerity. The Bible teaches that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28), and for many people being called now would not seem to be working for their good. God does not want people committing the ‘unpardonable sin’ and is apparently highly selective to reduce that occurrence.
God has plans for us AND others:
1 For I considered all this in my heart, so that I could declare it all: that the righteous and the wise and their works are in the hand of God. (Ecclesiastes 9:1a)
13 The Lord looks from heaven;
He sees all the sons of men.
14 From the place of His dwelling He looks
On all the inhabitants of the earth;
15 He fashions their hearts individually;
He considers all their works. (Psalm 33:13-15)
9 A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)
And it should be noted, those who are called now are NOT called because of their own greatness:
26 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence. 30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God — and righteousness and sanctification and redemption — 31 that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)
God has a plan that will result in the most possible being saved and some are best ready now, with others later. And some of the first will be last and last first (Mark 10:31). For more information on if your are being called, check out the free online booklet Is God Calling You?
Where We Are Now in God’s Plan
God has a Master Plan pictured by seven annual festivals.
The first festival is Passover. It pictures the Messiah—Christ—who volunteered before the foundation of the world to be slain as the Passover Lamb, the Savior of the world (I Peter 1:19-20; Revelation 13:8). Passover, which pictures the sacrifice of Jesus (1 Corinthians 5:7), comes first (Levitcus 23:4-5), and is in the Spring (Exodus 12:2). Then comes the Days of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:6), which pictures overcoming sin.
Then later in the Spring, comes the third step, Pentecost.
The first humans, Adam and Eve, disobeyed God and sin entered the world. God then sentenced the human family to 6,000 years of spiritual exile, during which the human family is, as a whole, cut off from the possibility of salvation (except for those few He would choose for a special purpose; see also Does God Have a 6,000 Year Plan? What Year Does the 6,000 Years End?).
We are now near the end of the first 6,000 years, during which humans have experimented with every imaginable form of government, religion, social and economic idea. Soon the fourth step in God’s plan will occur— the return of Jesus Christ to restore the government of God on earth. This event is pictured by the fourth Holy Day, the Feast of Trumpets. It is after that event that the vast majority will be called to salvation in a world ruled and guided by God’s Family (see also What is Your Destiny? Deification?).
But before the vast majority can live in such a world and be taught the true way to salvation, rulers and teachers must be trained. That is where we who are the firstfruits of salvation in God’s plan enter the picture!
Church in God’s Master Plan
We are now in the time of the Church, simply called the “church age” by many. God is now working through a small group of Spirit-begotten, Philadelphia Christians, organized and unified by His laws, His government, His truth.
God’s Church is a means by which God is now preparing this world for Christ’s return! It is through God’s Church that He is preparing the future rulers and teachers of His Kingdom. God has laid the foundation; He is now beginning to build the world tomorrow through His Church today!
Those now called into God’s Church are part of God’s spiritual firstfruits—the first group to be offered salvation. Those now in God’s Church have been called first—for the special PURPOSE of being prepared for God’s Kingdom!
Once the Church is prepared and ready, God’s firstfruits will become Christ’s ruling and teaching assistants, helping teach the true way to salvation to everyone in the world tomorrow. They have been called for the special service of preparing to eventually help bring the knowledge of salvation to the vast majority!
The firstfruits of salvation are pictured by God’s third annual festival—the Feast of Firstfruits, which is called Pentecost in the New Testament. Let’s look, now, at what traditional Christianity has no knowledge of—what the Bible reveals about the Feast of Firstfruits, God’s Church and the third major step in God’s Master Plan for the salvation of all mankind.
Updated MiniStudy LESSON 27
New Testament Church Began on Day of Pentecost
Jesus told His disciples shortly before His trial and crucifixion:
18 “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” (John 14:18).
Christ would continue to teach and support the apostles, but not in person, for He ascended to heaven. So how would He come to them?—by means of the Holy Spirit.
1. Did Jesus promise His disciples they would receive power from heaven?
49 Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)
Where did He tell them to wait for this power? Same verse and:
4 And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; 5 for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 6 Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:4-8)
So, they waited and obeyed as they were told.
2. In what miraculous way did God’s Spirit come to Christ’s disciples? Acts 2:1-6. What was the name of the day on which this great display occurred? Verse 1 tells us Pentecost.
COMMENT: The day of Pentecost is the third annual festival given to ancient Israel. Its Old Testament name was Feast of Firstfruits, since it came at the end of the first or spring harvest in the Northern Hemisphere (Ex. 23:16; 34:22; Num. 28:26). It was also called the Feast of Weeks, since it came seven weeks after the first Sunday after Passover (Deut. 16:9-10, 16). Since it was also the fiftieth day of the spring harvest season, Greekspeaking Jews and Christians called it pentekoste, which means “fiftieth.”
Pentecost c. A.D. 31 marked the beginning of God’s Spirit-begotten New Testament Church. Ekklesia, the Greek word for “church,” means an assembly of “called-out ones.” The whole world is not “called out”—only a tiny minority are predestined to be called for a special purpose. This is pictured by and commemorated by the annual festival of Pentecost.
World Cut Off from Holy Spirit
Why does God call people to salvation? Why is God calling only a few before He calls the vast majority? Once a person is called and put into God’s Church, what does he or she DO?
1. As the first step in reproducing Himself, God created Adam and Eve and gave them basic instructions in the right way to live. Did God offer Adam and Eve any opportunity to receive His Spirit?
8 The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. 9 And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:8-9)
15 Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:15-17)
COMMENT: Adam had mortal life. The tree of life represented eternal life, which can come only from God’s Spirit. If Adam had eaten of that tree, which he likely had not yet truly found before he took from the forbibben one, he could have received God’s Spirit and been begotten as a son of God. Adam, conditionally, would have received the earnest or down payment of eternal life. God’s Spirit would have enabled Adam and Eve to overcome temptation, grow in righteous character and become perfect, eventually, ready to be given spirit-composed eternal life, unconditionally. Even Jesus had to grow, learn, overcome and become perfect (Luke 2:40; Heb. 5:8; Rev. 3:21; Heb. 2:10).
2. Adam and Eve, however, did not eat of the tree of life. God likely realized that this would be the case as Jesus Christ was “slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). From which tree did they choose to eat?
1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”
2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.'”
4 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:1-6)
COMMENT: Though God had warned them of the penalty of eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Eve was persuaded by the devil’s clever arguments to eat of the fruit that led to self-centeredness and death! Adam also willingly ate the forbidden fruit.
Whether Adam fully realized it or not, he thus lost his opportunity to conquer Satan and replace him as ruler of this world. Instead, Adam obeyed Satan, placing himself under Satan’s government.
3. What was Adam and Eve’s punishment for disobeying God?
16 To the woman He said:
“I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception;
In pain you shall bring forth children;
Your desire shall be for your husband,
And he shall rule over you.”
17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’:
“Cursed is the ground for your sake;
In toil you shall eat of it
All the days of your life.
18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
And you shall eat the herb of the field.
19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:16-19)
Were they denied further access to the tree of life and therefore cut off from God’s Spirit?
22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever” — 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. 24 So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:22-24)
COMMENT: After Adam disobeyed, God cut off all humanity from access to His Spirit and thus cut them off from salvation! Until a son of Adam—the Son of Man—could qualify where Adam failed, could conquer Satan, pay the penalty of human sin and ransom the world from its kidnapper, no one could restore God’s government on earth, and no one could be given salvation.
The Messiah, and He alone, could do all this. Of necessity, then, God’s plan required that mankind in general be not yet judged. God has therefore not permitted them to have access to His Spirit, nor access to salvation. They will have their opportunity for salvation in a special resurrection to judgment, which will be after God’s government has been restored over the entire earth.
God Now Calling Only a Few
The one great purpose now uppermost in God’s mind is the restoration of His government on earth. God set apart a period of 7,000 years in which to accomplish His purpose. The first 6,000 years He sentenced mankind to be cut off from salvation.
For His supreme purpose, God has called a few. Hebrews 11 mentions Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and others. Apparently each was called for a special mission preparatory to the salvation of humanity. In order for them to perform their mission, it was necessary that an exception be made and they be empowered by God’s Spirit.
The work done by the patriarchs and prophets became the foundation on which the Church was built (Eph. 2:20). And the Church, in turn, is the instrument God is using to eventually bring about His Kingdom and the restoration of His government over the entire earth.
Even ancient Israel, as a whole, was never offered God’s Spirit. They were given God’s laws, but, as a nation, they were purposely denied access to God’s Spirit. God gave proof, through Israel, that without His Spirit, humanity is helpless. The ancient nation of Israel knew about God and could appeal to Him, but without His Spirit in them, the Israelites could not have the love of God in them and they consequently could not be spiritually righteous.
Nevertheless, after the nation of Israel became two people, the separate nations of Israel and Judah were used by God to further His plan. God caused the nation of Judah to preserve the knowledge of His law and His Word even though they did not have a spiritual understanding of it. Into this nation Jesus Christ was born.
When Jesus Christ came to earth nearly 2,000 years ago, it was not to set up His Kingdom (John 18:36). Christ did not, at that time, come to restrain Satan from deceiving the world. Let’s understand why.
1. Did Jesus speak in parables to make His meaning clear, or to hide His meaning from the general public?
10 But when He was alone, those around Him with the twelve asked Him about the parable. 11 And He said to them, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, 12 so that
‘Seeing they may see and not perceive,
And hearing they may hear and not understand;
Lest they should turn,
And their sins be forgiven them.'” (Mark 4:10-12)
Was this because the time had not yet come for most to be forgiven their sins and be converted? Yes, that is what verse 12 is teaching.
COMMENT: Christ preached the Father’s Gospel to the public as a witness. They heard it but did not comprehend it. The only ones Jesus really wanted to understand the truth were a few specially called and chosen students.
2. Can everyone who wants to come to Christ receive God’s Spirit and thereby become a member of His Church?
65 And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.” (John 6:65)
COMMENT: In this age before Christ begins to rule over the whole earth, each person is specially chosen. Like the prophets and some in the Old Testament before them, these firstfruits are called for a special mission—a purpose preparatory to the establishment of God’s Kingdom on earth and the salvation of the majority! Otherwise, no exceptions can be made—the world as a whole must remain cut off from access to salvation until Christ returns.
That is why God’s Church does not go around trying to convert everyone. Only God can call and convert anyone. God’s ministers do not beg or plead with anyone outside of the COG to be baptized or support God’s Church (within the COG, Jesus told Christians, like the Laodiceans of Revelation 3:14-18–who are the bulk of actual Christians today–to repent and we do teach all of His words). But they do make God’s way easy to understand for those whom God is calling.
If God wanted everyone to understand, everyone would. Instead, hardly anyone does. God’s “hands off” policy that began in the Garden of Eden will continue until just before Christ’s return.
3. After Christ’s resurrection, how many disciples were there?
15 And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples (altogether the number of names was about a hundred and twenty) (Acts 1:15)
COMMENT: Did Jesus fail? (Watch also the video Did Jesus fail?)
Out of the thousands who had heard Christ and knew of His miracles, about 120 believed Him. Those 120 had been taught by Jesus. The 3,000 who were begotten of God later that day (Acts 2:41) were from various parts of the world (verses 5, 8-11); they had not, as a whole, been taught by Christ. They were now being taught by the apostles, who had been trained and commissioned to teach (Matt. 28:19-20).
The number of Christians continued to grow and the old WCG taught that they may have increased to about 100,000. But then persecution began, just as Jesus had prophesied (John 15:20). Persecution first came from the Jews, then later the Romans and false brethren (Acts 20:29-30; III John 9-10). It was some decades later that these false brethren outnumbered the true.
Most congregations were eventually taken over by men who attempted to combine Christ’s teachings with traditional customs, compromising the truth by attaching Christian-sounding names to pagan ideas. Satan, the god of this world, was deceiving many with a counterfeit, falsely labeled Christianity.
True Christians remained a small minority—probably never more than about 100,000—and maybe only a fraction of that–fleeing to new areas when persecution became too intense.
Why does God have this small flock? What is its purpose?
Church: Preparing for Kingdom of God
God created humans incomplete—needing finishing touches. Humankind was given a human spirit, needing God’s Spirit. They were made mortal, needing to be given immortality. They were created as free moral agents, needing to develop character.
Just as God does not create all at once, but in successive stages, so He is bringing salvation to humankind in successive stages. Every stage is a progressive step toward the goal of establishing His Kingdom and restoring His government on earth.
1. Did Malachi prophesy that God would send a messenger to prepare the way before the Lord?
1 “Behold, I send My messenger,
And he will prepare the way before Me.
And the Lord, whom you seek,
Will suddenly come to His temple,
Even the Messenger of the covenant,
In whom you delight.
Behold, He is coming,”
Says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 3:1)
Well this prophecy, in part, was fulfilled by John the Baptist, who came before the Lord’s First Coming:
24 When the messengers of John had departed, He began to speak to the multitudes concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 25 But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed those who are gorgeously appareled and live in luxury are in kings’ courts. 26 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. 27 This is he of whom it is written:
‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face,
Who will prepare Your way before You.’ (Luke 7:24-27)
People did not think that John the Baptist fit their definitions of a prophet or how one looked, but Jesus said those who did so were wrong (see also How To Determine If Someone is a True Prophet of God).
Did John prepare the way by making a people ready for Christ?
13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. 15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:13-17)
COMMENT: John preached repentance—obedience to God’s law—to turn the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous. Thus when Jesus began preaching, some people were ready to listen. Many of John’s disciples later became Jesus’ disciples.
2. Did Christ tell His disciples that John’s work in the spirit and power of Elijah was a prototype of another “Elijah” yet to come?
11 Jesus answered and said to them, “Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things. (Matthew 17:11)
Notice Jesus said he “will”—yet future—come.
Did Malachi prophesy that this “Elijah”—God’s messenger—would come before the day of the Lord—when Christ comes in power to punish the disobedient and rule in righteousness?
4 “Remember the Law of Moses, My servant,
Which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel,
With the statutes and judgments.
5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet
Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
6 And he will turn
The hearts of the fathers to the children,
And the hearts of the children to their fathers,
Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” (Malachi 4:4-6)
5 And I will come near you for judgment;
I will be a swift witness
Against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans,
And against those who turn away an alien —
Because they do not fear Me,”
Says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 3:5)
COMMENT: John was a prototype of a messenger God would send in the spirit and power of Elijah before Christ’s Second Coming. A people would be prepared for Christ through a message about the return of Christ, the establishment of God’s Kingdom and the need for people to repent.
More on the future Elijah can be found in the following:
The Elijah Heresies Does the Bible teach that there will be a future Elijah? Must it be Herbert W. Armstrong? Two related sermons are available Elijah: Prophecies and Heresies and Elijah, Herbert W. Armstrong, and CCOG.
3. In what way is God’s Church now preparing for the end of Satan’s world and the ushering in of God’s Kingdom? We are striving to fulfill the following from Jesus:
10 And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations. (Mark 13:10)
14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14)
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matthew 28:19-20)
COMMENT: From these verses, it is clear that the true Gospel was not preached sufficienty to the world for for nearly 2,000, for the end is not yet here. The true Gospel was suppressed, and, considering this prophecy of Jesus Christ, the “gospel” most often preached to the world was a ‘different gospel’ as Paul called it (Galatians 1:6), which is not another (Galatians 1:7), but a counterfeit!
As far as Matthew 28:19-20 goes, we in CCOG have done that. We have taught everything that Jesus commanded:
MATTHEW Here are links to twelve sermons covering the 28 chapters of Matthew: Matthew 1-2: Greek or Aramaic, Jesus, and the Star?, Matthew 3-5: John the Baptist, Temptations, and the Beatitudes, Matthew 6-7: Charitable Deeds, the Rosary, Prayer, the Golden Rule, and Faith, Matthew 8-10: Married Clergy, Faith, Coming Persecution, and the Ecumenical Agenda, Matthew 11-12: John the Elijah, Sodom, Unpardonable Sin, & 3 Days and 3 Nights, -14: Parables, Mustard Seeds, Birthdays, and Faith, Matthew 15-16: Tradition, Signs of the Times, and The Rock & Peter, Matthew 17-18: Transfiguration, Elijah to Come, Taxes, and Forgiveness, Matthew 19-20: Transgender? Divorce? Purgatory? The first shall be last?, Matthew 21-23: ‘Palm Sunday,’ Come as You Are?, and the Greatest Commandments, Matthew 24: Temple Destruction, Sorrows, Tribulation, and the Return of Jesus, and Matthew 25-28: Midnight Cry, False Christians, Resurrection, & Teaching what Jesus Taught.
MARK Here is a link to a sermon covering all of Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Mark: What did Jesus teach in the Book of Mark? Here is a link to six sermons covering all the verses in the Gospel of Mark: Mark 1-2: Author, Prophecy, & Miracles, Mark 3-5: Healing, Demons, and Parables, Mark 6-9: Tradition, John’s beheading, Elijah, and Restoration, Mark 10-12: Marriage, Divorce, Needle Eye, Greatest Command, & Taxes, Mark 13: Temple, Four Horsemen, Troubles, Great Tribulation, and Gospel Proclamation, and Mark 14-16: Jesus’ Priorities & Betrayal, the Resurrection, Signs, and Reaching the World.
LUKE Here are links to eight sermons covering the entire ‘Gospel of Luke’: Luke 1-2: John the Baptist, Mary, and the Census, Luke 3-6: John the Baptist, Jesus’ genealogy, Satan’s Influence, and the Sermon on the Mount, Luke 7-9: Miracles, Purpose of Parables, Kingdom of God, and Women Supporting the Ministry, Luke 10-11: The 70, Doing the Work, the Good Samaritan, Prayer, and Signs, Luke 12-13: Priorities, Delayed Fruit Bearing, Little Flock, Prophecy, and the Narrow Way, Luke 14-16: The Lost Sheep, the Prodigal Son, the Rich Man and Lazarus, Luke 17-20: Faith, the Kingdom, Gathering, Prayer, & Rewards, and Luke 21-22: Giving, Sorrows, Persecution, Tribulation, Fig Tree, and Violence. The last sermon also covers Jesus’ words in the Book of Acts.
JOHN Here are links to a seven-part sermon series covering the entire ‘Gospel of John’: John 1-3: Anti-unitarian, Wine, Being Born Again, & Heaven, John 4-6: Jesus and the Samaritan Woman, Miracles and the Bread of Life, John 10-12: Sheep, Hirelings, Lazarus/Soul Sleep and ‘Palm Day’, John 13-15: Footwashing and the Words of Jesus, John 16-18: Truth, Trinity, and Pontius Pilate, and John 19-21: Do not only try, do what God wants.REVELATION This is a link to a sermon covering words Jesus spoke as recorded in the Book of Revelation and in first and second Corinthians: Revelation: Jesus’ Final Words.
Plus we instructed those in Africa and Europe to do the same.
God’s Church, by preaching Christ’s Gospel of the Kingdom of God to the world as a witness, is preparing millions for Christ’s return. Although most people pay little attention to the message now, they will remember it when Christ and the saints begin to rule and Satan the deceiver has been restrained. Many who do not believe the message now will nevertheless have been prepared to believe when taught by Christ and His assistants.
God’s Church is also preparing for God’s Kingdom in another way. Those who believe Christ’s Gospel now are being prepared for a special role as part of God’s soon-coming Kingdom. Malachi 3:1 says the Lord will come to His Temple. Let’s notice what this means.
4. What is the spiritual Temple Christ will return to at His Second Coming?
16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)
19. WHAT! Don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, which you have within you from God, and you are not your own? (1 Corinthians 6:19)
14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said:
“I will dwell in them
And walk among them.
I will be their God,
And they shall be My people.”
“Come out from among them
And be separate, says the Lord.
Do not touch what is unclean,
And I will receive you.”
18 ‘I will be a Father to you,
And you shall be My sons and daughters,
Says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)
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. (Ephesians 2:19-22)
COMMENT: God’s Church, composed of those who have God’s Spirit within them, is the spiritual Temple to which Christ will come. Paul told the Ephesians that the Church must be “fitly framed together,” growing, “builded together.” This united growth can be best achieved through the proper application of God’s government (see also The Bible, Peter, Paul, John, Polycarp, Herbert W. Armstrong, Roderick C. Meredith, and Bob Thiel on Church Government).
More on the Temple of God can be found in the article Why is a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem Not Required?
5. Has God also chosen ministers within His Church and assigned them the responsibility of teaching the members, giving them spiritual nourishment? Should we be in basic agreement?
10 Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. (1 Corinthians 1:10)
1 The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: 2 Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; 3 nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; 4 and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away. (1 Peter 5:1-4)
11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ — 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16)
COMMENT: The Philadelphian members of God’s Church believe, and when needed verify, the truth, which they love. They also do not establish their own doctrines. If they did, confusion would result, for each member is at a different level of growth in knowledge and character. That is basically what has happened in the Laodicean churches–Laodicea is composed to two words which basically mean ‘the people decide.’ Most Christians in the end time are comfortable, for now, remaining Laodiceans–especially many ‘independents’ (see Independent Members of the COG: Herbert W. Armstrong Comments, Plus Questions and Answers)–but that is a mistake (see also Zephaniah’s ‘Gather Together’ Prophecy).
God’s Church is organized, speaking the same thing, unified through the authority God has placed in His ministers and other leaders. The doctrines of God’s Church come from God through Jesus Christ through His Word and His inspiration in the men He has chosen to direct His Church. The presiding overseer, the local pastors, and others in unity, teach the members of God’s Church around the world.
Let it be emphasized that the Church’s purpose is not merely to give salvation to Church members—the purpose is to teach and train them to become the instruments God will use to save the vast majority.
Church Members Preparing for God’s Kingdom
1. Did Paul understand that the people of Israel were spiritually blinded?
16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” 17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
18 But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed:
“Their sound has gone out to all the earth,
And their words to the ends of the world.”
19 But I say, did Israel not know? First Moses says:
“I will provoke you to jealousy by those who are not a nation,
I will move you to anger by a foolish nation.”
20 But Isaiah is very bold and says:
“I was found by those who did not seek Me;
I was made manifest to those who did not ask for Me.”
21 But to Israel he says:
“All day long I have stretched out My hands
To a disobedient and contrary people.” (Romans 10:16-21)
Although many in Israel heard the true Gospel, most did not obey it.
Did God purposely allow their blindness?
7 What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded. 8 Just as it is written:
“God has given them a spirit of stupor,
Eyes that they should not see
And ears that they should not hear,
To this very day.”
9 And David says:
” Let their table become a snare and a trap,
A stumbling block and a recompense to them.
10 Let their eyes be darkened, so that they do not see,
And bow down their back always.” (Romans 11:7-10)
25 For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:
“The Deliverer will come out of Zion,
And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;
27 For this is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins.”
28 Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. 29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 For as you were once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their disobedience, 31 even so these also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you they also may obtain mercy. 32 For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.
33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!
34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has become His counselor?”
35 ‘Or who has first given to Him
And it shall be repaid to him?”
36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:25-36)
Despite what the Apostle Paul wrote, most who profess Christ are ignorant of the mystery he was referring to here. They do not keep all of God’s Holy Days and do NOT understand His plan of salvation. While many think that they keep Pentecost, they do not understand all that it represents (see also Pentecost: Is it more than Acts 2?).
2. Nevertheless, did Paul know that the Israelites would have a future opportunity to receive salvation? Rom. 11:26. Did God purposely blind the majority of Israelites so they could obtain mercy later—through the mercy of those who were called first? Verse 31.
COMMENT: Verse 26, which quotes Isaiah 59:20, explains when most Israelites will have their opportunity for salvation—after a Deliverer (Isaiah says “Redeemer”) comes out of Zion to call them to repent of ungodliness. The Redeemer from Zion is Jesus Christ, but Paul was not referring to His First Coming, for Israel was still blinded at the time Paul wrote this.
All Israel shall be saved when the Deliverer returns with power and glory to rule. And then, wrote Paul, the Israelites shall receive their opportunity for salvation through the mercy of the first-century Christians and those who would be called into God’s Church through the centuries. When Christ returns, all true Christians will be resurrected and/or changed to immortality to help Him rule and teach the way of salvation to both Israelites and Gentiles.
3. Will many nations go to Jerusalem—the headquarters of Christ’s government—and ask to be taught His way?
2 Many nations shall come and say,
“Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
He will teach us His ways,
And we shall walk in His paths.”
For out of Zion the law shall go forth,
And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. (Micah 4:2)
Will the earth become full of the knowledge of the Lord?
9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
As the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:9)
4. In addition to being rulers, will the Spiritborn children of God also be priests?
4 John, to the seven churches which are in Asia:
Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth.
To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, 6 and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (Revelation 1:4-6)
9 And they sang a new song, saying:
“You are worthy to take the scroll,
And to open its seals;
For You were slain,
And have redeemed us to God by Your blood
Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,
10 And have made us kings and priests to our God;
And we shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10)
6 Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. (Revelation 20:6)
What is the function of a priest?
7 “For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge,
And people should seek the law from his mouth;
For he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 2:7)
20 “They shall neither shave their heads, nor let their hair grow long, but they shall keep their hair well trimmed. 21 No priest shall drink wine when he enters the inner court. 22 They shall not take as wife a widow or a divorced woman, but take virgins of the descendants of the house of Israel, or widows of priests.
23 “And they shall teach My people the difference between the holy and the unholy, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean. 24 In controversy they shall stand as judges, and judge it according to My judgments. They shall keep My laws and My statutes in all My appointed meetings, and they shall hallow My Sabbaths. (Ezekiel 44:20-24)
COMMENT: Just as ancient Israel’s priests were trained and assigned to teach God’s laws, Spirit-born members of God’s Family will be teachers of God’s way of life, helping bring the knowledge of the way to salvation to everyone.
Salvation for all humankind in the world tomorrow will come through the life and work of Christ and the Spirit-born saints. In a sense, then, they, as priests, will be co-saviors with Christ.
Is God unfair to give these positions of leadership to only the few He has specially chosen? Not at all. God has not called anyone for special favors—He has called them for a special purpose—a tremendous job to do. God rewards us according to our works:
27 For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. (Matthew 16:27)
Those called now have to overcome Satan and his society. That requires effort, self-denial and willpower, as well as being subject to ridicule and perecution–this is a price most humans are not now willing to pay.
Before Jesus could qualify to rule, He had to overcome Satan while Satan was ruling. Since the Church will rule with and under Christ, Church members must also qualify by resisting and overcoming Satan while he is still ruling:
7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)
11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (Ephesians 6:11-13)
21 To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. (Revelation 3:21)
That will not be required the same way for the overwhelming majority. God will call them to salvation when the world is ruled by Christ and the saints—when it will undoubtedly be easier to live God’s way. It will be easier because of the advance work now being done by God’s firstfruits.
In order to qualify for their future jobs, those whom God has called into His Church have been freely given God’s Spirit and the opportunity for salvation. The rulers and teachers of God’s Kingdom are, by necessity, given opportunity for salvation before their future students can be. The Church is a necessary instrumentality preparatory to bringing salvation to all humanity!
The only reason any person is called to salvation in this age is to qualify to help in ruling and teaching in the world tomorrow—to help call and save those alive then.
God’s Spirit Empowers Church
God has given His people a job to do, and He gives them the power to be able to do it. God’s Church could not preach the Gospel to the world as it is being done today without God’s Spirit! Nor can God’s people prepare for their future leadership roles without this divine power.
1. Could Jesus do any spiritual works, including obedience to God, with just His human strength?
9 Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. (John 5:19)
30 I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me. (John 5:30)
28 Then Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. (John 8:28-29)
This proves that Jesus WAS NOT FULLY GOD when on the Earth as most trinitarians teach (see also Did the True Church Ever Teach a Trinity?).
Where did He get the necessary powe for the great works He did?
10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. (John 14:10)
COMMENT: The Father “dwelt” in Jesus through the Holy Spirit!
2. Did Christ promise the same spiritual help to His disciples?
16. And I will ask the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that it may be with you throughout the age: 17. Even the Spirit of the truth which the world cannot receive because it perceives it not, nor knows it; but you know it because it dwells with you, and shall be within you. (John 14:16-17, AFV)
The Spirit of truth–truth is important. What is the Comforter (“Helper” in the NKJV)?
26. But when the Comforter comes, even the Holy Spirit, which the Father will send in My name, that one shall teach you all things, and shall bring to your remembrance everything that I have told you. (John 14:26, AFV)
Does Christ, through the Holy Spirit, live in His followers today?
9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. 10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. (Romans 8:9-11)
27 To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. 29 To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily. (Colossians 1:27-29)
24. And the one who keeps His commandments is dwelling in Him, and He in him; and by this we know that He is dwelling in us: by the Spirit which He has given to us. (1 John 3:24)
COMMENT: Jesus Christ went to the Father’s throne in heaven to send God’s Spirit to His disciples (John 16:7). Through God’s Spirit, Christ lived in them—not in person, but in spirit. True Christians’ hope of glory—our hope of becoming part of God’s glorious Family—is in Christ, our Savior, living in us through the Holy Spirit.
3. Is it necessary to obey God to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit?
32. And we are His witnesses of these things, as is also the Holy Spirit, which God has given to those who obey Him.” (Acts 5:32, AFV)
Did Jesus obey God, and does He expect Christians to obey Him today?
10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. (John 15:10)
Are Christ’s commandments the same as His Father’s?
24 He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me. (John 14:24)
12 Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. (Revelation 14:12)
For more information on the commandments, check out our free online book: The Ten Commandments: The Decalogue, Christianity, and the Beast.
4. Must Christians not only have God’s Spirit, but also be yielded to it, letting it transform them so they become more like Christ and the Father?
14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. (Romans 8:14)
5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:5-7)
4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, 6 and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled. (2 Corinthians 10:4-6)
COMMENT: God’s Holy Spirit gives His Spiritbegotten children supernatural power to help them live the way today that Jesus Christ lived about 2,000 years ago. Through that Spirit, Christ is enabling them to obey God, overcome sin and endure to the end of this age. God’s Spirit is the power by which God’s firstfruits are now being prepared for their jobs in God’s Kingdom.
God’s Spirit is also the power by which God’s Church accomplishes its commission to preach Christ’s Gospel to the world.
5. By what power was the work of God done during the days of God’s servant Zerubbabel, who built the physical Temple (later refurbished) to which Jesus came?
6 So he answered and said to me:
“This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel:
‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’
Says the Lord of hosts. (Zechariah 4:6)
What power was given to Jesus’ disciples to enable them to perform their commission?
8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
Was this also the power by which Paul was able to preach Christ’s Gospel?
18 For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ has not accomplished through me, in word and deed, to make the Gentiles obedient — 19 in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and round about to Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. (Romans 15:18-19)
COMMENT: The work of God’s Church is ultimately done by the power of the Spirit of God! The Kingdom of God is being preached and published in all the world today by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The “fruits” God is producing through His human instruments today are the same fruits His Spirit produced through the human Jesus and the collective “Body of Christ” in apostolic days!
6. Did Christ say His servants would do even greater works than He had done while on earth?
12 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. 13 And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. (John 14:12-14)
What work would the Church do in preparation for the end of this age and the return of Christ? Matt. 24:14; Mark 13:10.
COMMENT: Right now, the divine commission to publicize the Gospel of the Kingdom of God as a witness to all nations is being fulfilled in a dramatic way. The Continuing Church of God today is reaching far more people than Jesus was ever able to reach on foot when He was physically alive on the Earth. And we have our booklet, Gospel of the Kingdom of God, translated in about 100 different languages, which can be found at www.ccog.org
With today’s modern technology, God’s Church can reach millions of people via the internet and radio and also utlizes YouTube television, the printing press, and other means of mass communication.
These facilities enable the Church to do a tremendously greater work than the first-century apostles could. Some of these facilities, however, cost money. The support of the tithes and offerings of the members helps the Church’s commission to be fulfilled.
God could send angels to preach His Gospel. Instead, He is using humans because by supporting the work, they are being trained! And they cannot be trained without their participation and support!
It would be easy for God to supply money miraculously. Instead, He uses humans to provide that support. Tithes and offerings don’t enrich God any. He has commanded His people to support His Church for their own good. They learn the give way of life, they grow in spiritual character, they become better prepared to rule, partly through their support—whether financial contributions, labor, encouragement or prayer—of the work being done!
9 In this manner, therefore, pray:
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:9-10)
Do you really pray and believe this?
Isn’t it God’s will that Matthew 24:14 will be fulfilled and the gospel of the kingdom will be preached to the world as a witness? Do you have faith to really support God’s work?
18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe — and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? (James 2:18-20)
Every Christian who is growing spiritually has his heart completely in the work God has given His Church to accomplish. Our “works” include our part in supporting the work God is inspiring His Church to do—preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom of God to the whole world as a witness. God’s Spirit-begotten children are His instruments in fulfilling His great commission to His Church in the end time!
The members’ spiritual character growth and the work of the Church are inseparable. If any member stops supporting the work being done, that member will stop growing. But as the members support the Church, they will also grow spiritually! And as they please God, He will bless and magnify the effectiveness of the work being done!
Why Called Feast of Firstiruits?
Thus far in this lesson we have referred to the Feast of Firstfruits only briefly—yet what we have studied relates directly to the meaning of this festival! Understanding God’s plan of salvation and especially the Church’s role in God’s Master Plan is essential to understanding the meaning of God’s third annual Holy Day. Why? Because the day of Pentecost pictures the firstfruits of salvation, and the job they are now doing, empowered by God’s Spirit!
God established His annual festivals and Holy Days in conjunction with the two annual agricultural harvests in the land of Palestine. The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread come at the beginning of the spring grain harvest; the Feast of Firstfruits or Pentecost comes at its end. The fall festivals are associated with the large fruit harvest of summer and early autumn.
But it is the spiritual harvest God is most concerned with! The spiritual harvests are patterned like the physical harvests—first a small harvest, then a large one.
The spring festivals illustrate to God’s Church yearly that those He calls into His Church in this age are the “firstfruits”—the first group to be given God’s Spirit and offered salvation—the relatively small beginning of His spiritual harvest.
1. What were God’s instructions regarding the Feast of Firstfruits?
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. (Leviticus 23:15-16)
Was this festival an annual Sabbath on which the people were to assemble?
21 And you shall proclaim on the same day that it is a holy convocation to you. You shall do no customary work on it. It shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations. (Leviticus 23:21)
2. Did Christ’s disciples know they should keep the day of Pentecost?
1 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. (Acts 2:1)
16 For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he would not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hurrying to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the Day of Pentecost. (Acts 20:16)
8 But I will tarry in Ephesus until Pentecost. (1 Corinthians 16:8)
COMMENT: Jesus did not abolish Pentecost or any other annual Holy Day. Quite to the contrary, Christ told His disciples to be in Jerusalem so on that Holy Day they would receive God’s Spirit. If the disciples had not been observing God’s Holy Days, they would not have been there to receive God’s Spirit! And long after Christ’s death, Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, kept the festival of Pentecost with Gentile converts.
The Encyclopaedia Britannica has this to say about the New Testament Church’s observance of Pentecost:
“The Jewish feast was primarily a thanksgiving for the Firstfruits of the wheat harvest, but the rabbis associated it with remembrance of the Law given by God for the Hebrews to Moses on Mt. Sinai. The church’s transformation of the Jewish feast to a Christian festival was thus related to the belief that the gift of the Holy Spirit to the followers of Jesus was the Firstfruits of a new dispensation that fulfilled and succeeded the old dispensation…” (article “Pentecost,” 15th edition).
3. What special offering did the Old Testament priests make on the day of Pentecost?
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. (Leviticus 23:17)
Might the leaven in these loaves typify sin?
6 Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. (1 Corinthians 5:6-7)
COMMENT: Since the Feast of Firstfruits was a harvest festival, representing an end result, baked loaves, rather than unbaked flour, were waved to be accepted by God. The leaven in the loaves represented the fact that God’s spiritual firstfruits had sin in their lives. (Of course, they had to repent of sin and be cleansed by Christ to be acceptable to God per Acts 2:38-39.) There were two loaves—the old WCG taught that one to represent the patriarchs, judges, prophets and kings of the Old Testament period whom God called and the other to represent the true Christians of the New Testament Church.
Pentecost, or Firstfruits, pictures God’s first spiritual harvest— mortal human beings translated into spirit-composed God Beings! God’s Church shall be that firstborn harvest (Heb. 12:23)—born into God’s Family at Christ’s return.
4. Are Spirit-begotten Christians the Firstfruits of God’s Master Plan of salvation?
18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures. (James 1:18)
Do Christians today have the Firstfruits of God’s Spirit?
23… we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body (Romans 8:23).
Are specific Christians also called Firstfruits in the Bible?
5 Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia to Christ (Romans 16:5).
15 I urge you, brethren — you know the household of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the ministry of the saints — 16 that you also submit to such, and to everyone who works and labors with us. (1 Corinthians 16:15-16)
5. What defines whether one is a member of God’s Church and part of the spiritual firstfruits?
9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. 10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. (Romans 8:9-11)
16. The Spirit itself bears witness conjointly with our own spirit, testifying that we are the children of God. 17. Now if we are children, we are also heirs—truly, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if indeed we suffer together with Him, so that we may also be glorified together with Him. (Romans 8:16-17, AFV)
I would add that few really want to suffer with Him. Oh yes, there are people who are influenced by Satan who will beat themselves or put on public displays of chastisement, but Jesus never taught to do that. Few in this age are willing to try to live as He lived for their whole life. Many give up according to Jesus’ parable of the sower (Matthew 13:3-23), and of course Jesus said, “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14).
What about the Old Testament? Did the Old Testament patriarchs and prophets have God’s Spirit?
10 Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, 11 searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. (1 Peter 1:10-12)
But when was the first time God gave His Spirit to a large group? Acts 2:1-4.
Did the day of Pentecost thus mark the beginning of the New Testament Church?
1 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. (Acts 2:1)
41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.
46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:41-47)
COMMENT: On the day of Pentecost, c. A.D. 31, God sent His Spirit to begin His Church—to beget and strengthen the Firstfruits He was beginning to call into His Church, symbolically represented by one of the “wave loaves.” The New Testament festival of Pentecost is now a memorial commemorating the founding of the New Testament Church of God through the receiving of the Holy Spirit.
God’s Church observes the Feast of Firstfruits as an annual reminder of this step in God’s Master Plan: God’s people today are merely the firstfruits—the small first group to be offered salvation through Christ.
The world, except for the few called, is cut off from God—not yet called to salvation—neither saved nor lost—not yet judged. But the members of God’s Church ARE being judged–judged in how well they are preparing for God’s Kingdom!
17 For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:17)
The day of Pentecost pictures the Church being called and trained for the special mission of preparing for the time when God will open salvation to the world, when they will be kings and teachers, co-rulers and co-saviors with and under Christ their Husband!
Christ—First of the Firstfruits
The Feast of Firstfruits pictures God’s firstfruits—all who will be born into God’s Family at the first resurrection—the first group of humans to be harvested by God and given glorious, powerful immortal life.
But one human has already been born of God—nearly 2000 years before the first resurrection. He is the first of the firstfruits, and was pictured in Old Testament rituals by a symbolic ceremony during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, 50 days before the Feast of Firstfruits. The meaning of this ceremony is important, even though it is no longer performed since the Old Testament priesthood is no longer needed.
1. Was the first part of the spring grain harvest to be waved before God to be accepted by Him?
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. (Leviticus 23:10-11)
COMMENT: Since most modern translations use the word “sheaf,” the traditional name for this wave offering has been “wavesheaf.” However, the priests did not wave a sheaf.
The word “sheaf” is translated from the Hebrew word omer, which means a measurement of about two quarts or two liters. The Jews traditionally cut a sheaf, beat out the grain, then ground the first of the firstfruits into flour and offered an omer of that flour. (See the Jewish Encyclopedia, article “Omer.”)
Some modern translations of the Bible have given the passage describing this wave offering the erroneous subhead “the Feast of Firstfruits.” Subheads are not part of the original text; they are not inspired. The wave offering was not a “feast”; it was merely a ceremony that involved primarily the priests. The difference is clear when we look at the original Hebrew words.
As we learned earlier in this lesson, the Feast of Firstfruits is another name for the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost. In the verses that refer to the Feast of Firstfruits (Ex. 23:16; 34:22; Lev. 23:17, 20; Num. 28:26), “firstfruits” is translated from the word bikkuwr. It refers to the results of the entire spring harvest.
However, the firstfruits referred to in Leviticus 23:10-11 are reshiyth, perhaps better translated “first of the firstfruits.” This was the very first of the spring harvest, during the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
2. On what day was the first of the firstfruits wave offering made? Lev. 23:11.
COMMENT: The Pharisees interpreted “the morrow after the Sabbath” as the day after the first annual Sabbath of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The Sadducees, who were mostly priests, said the wave offering should be made on the day after a weekly Sabbath—always on a Sunday. The correct day becomes clear when we examine the context.
3. Must the date for the Feast of Weeks be counted beginning on the day the first of the firstfruits was offered? Lev. 23:14-16; Deut. 16:9-10.
COMMENT: According to the reasoning of Rabbinic Judaism, Pentecost is on the 6th day of the third month. Yet, they know it is to be the fiftieth day:
Pentecost Name given by the Greek-speaking Jews to the festival which occurred fifty days (ἡ πεντηκόστη, sc. ἡΜέρα = “Ḥag Ḥamishshim Yom”; comp. Lev. xxiii. 16) after the offering of the barley sheaf during the Passover feast (Tobit ii. 1; II Macc. xii. 32; Josephus, “Ant.” iii. 10, § 6; I Cor. xvi. 8; Philo, “De Septenario,” §21). The Feast of the Fiftieth Day has been a many-sided one (comp. Book of Jubilees, vi. 21: “This feast is twofold and of a double nature”), and as a consequence has been called by many names. In the Old Testament it is called the “Feast of Harvest” (“Ḥag ha-Ḳaẓir”; Ex. xxiii. 16) and the “Feast of Weeks” (“Ḥag Shabu’ot”; ib. xxxiv. 22; Deut. xvi. 10; II Chron. viii. 13; Aramaic, “Ḥagga di-Shebu’aya,” Men. 65a; Greek, έορτὴ έΒδοΜάδων), also the “Day of the First-Fruits” (“Yom ha-Bikkurim”; Num. xxviii. 26; ήΜέρα τῶν νεῶν, LXX.). In the later literature it was called also the “closing festival” (“‘aẓeret”; Ḥag. ii. 4; Aramaic, “‘aẓarta”; Pes. 42b; Greek, ἄσαρθα Josephus, l.c.). It is called, too, the “closing season of the Passover” (“‘aẓeret shel Pesaḥ”; Pesiḳ. xxx. 193) to distinguish it from the seventh day of Passover and from the closing day of the Feast of Tabernacles, i.e., the end of the fruit harvest (Lev. xxiii. 36; Num. xxix. 35; Deut. xvi. 8).
—In Rabbinical Literature:
The festival is known in Mishnah and Talmud as “‘Aẓeret” ( or ), excepting in Megillah Ta’anit i., where (= “the Feast of Weeks”) occurs, which is explained as meaning “‘Aẓeret.” “‘Aẓeret” is usually translated a “solemn assembly,” meaning the congregation at the pilgrimage festivals. The name is applied also to Passover (Deut. xvi. 8) and to Sukkot (Lev. xxiii. 36). Ibn Ezra thinks “‘Aẓeret” denotes a holy day, a day of rest and cessation from work (comp. = “detained,” I Sam. xxi. 7). In post-Talmudic and geonic literature the Biblicalname “Shabu’ot” was resumed. Pentecost falls on the 6th of Siwan and never occurs on Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday. Outside of Palestine the Orthodox Jews have since the exilic period celebrated the following day also, as “the second day of Shabu’ot.” Pentecost is the fiftieth day of ‘Omer, beginning from the second day of Passover. During the existence of the Temple the first-fruits were offered as well as a sacrifice of two loaves of bread from the new harvest, etc. (Lev. xxiii. 15-21).
“The Morrow After Sabbath.”
Regarding the Biblical commandment to offer the ‘omer “on the morrow after the Sabbath” = (ib. verse 11), the Rabbis maintained that “Sabbath” here means simply a day of rest and refers to Passover. The Sadducees (Boethusians) disputed this interpretation, contending that “Sabbath” meant “Saturday.” Accordingly they would transfer the count of “seven weeks” from the morrow of the first Saturday in Passover, so that Pentecost would always fall on Sunday. …
The meaning of the word “Sabbath” in the phrase “after the Sabbath” (“mimoḥorat ha-Shabbat”) and, consequently, the question as to the day upon which the Pentecost was to fall have constituted a chief point of difference between Jewish sects (comp. Charles, “The Book of Jubilees,” vi. 22, 32; xvi. 3). Sabbath may mean either a “festival” (Lev. xxv. 2, 46) or the weekly Sabbath. In the general sense of “festival” the day of bringing the sheaf of the wave-offering (“yom ḥanef”), i.e., “the day after the Sabbath,” would mean the day after either the first or the last day of Passover. (a) That the “Sabbath” in this case means the first day of Passover is the view of the Septuagint, Targ. pseudo-Jonathan, Targ. Onḳelos, Josephus (“Ant.” iii. 10, § 5), Philo (“De Septenario,” § 20; comp. Ḥag. ii. 4, Men. vi. 1-3), and of the later rabbinic literature. Since, according to this view, the sheaf-offering was waved on the 16th of Nisan, Pentecost, fifty days later, was celebrated on the 6th of Siwan without regard to the day of the week on which that fell. (b) That the “Sabbath,” according to the general meaning “festival,” signifies the seventh day of Passover, i.e., 21st of Nisan, without regard to the day of the week, is the view of the Falashas of Abyssinia, the Syriac version of Lev. xxiii. 11, 15, and the Book of Jubilees (c. 135 B.C.). The “day after the Sabbath” is, accordingly, the 22d of Nisan. The Falashas reckon fifty days according to a system of months alternating thirty and twenty-nine days, the Feast of Weeks thus falling on Siwan 12. (Pentecost. Jewish Encyclopedia of 1906. http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/12012-pentecost accessed 05/05/15)
4. The offering of the first of the firstfruits marked the beginning of the first harvest of each year. Now let’s notice the way in which Jesus Christ, the first of God’s spiritual harvest, became the spiritual fulfillment of that offering. Who was the first to be resurrected from the dead into God’s Family?
22 Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come — 23 that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles. (Acts 26:22-23)
Was Jesus therefore the first of the firstfruits of God’s spiritual harvest?
20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)
13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. (Colossians 1:13-18)
COMMENT: All who will be born into God’s Family at the first resurrection will be firstfruits, the results of God’s first spiritual harvest. They are pictured by the Feast of Firstfruits. Christ, who became a born Son of God at His resurrection nearly 2000 years ago (Rom. 1:4), was the first of the firstfruits, pictured by the first of the firstfruits ceremony—50 days before Pentecost.
5. After Christ was resurrected from the dead, did He have to ascend to His Father in heaven?
17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.'” (John 20:17)
On that same day, after returning to earth, could His disciples then touch Him? Read Matthew 28:1-10, especially verse 9, and John 20:19, 27. What day of the week was it? John 20:19, first part.
COMMENT: Early on the Sunday morning during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Christ would not let anyone touch Him because He had not yet ascended to His Father. But later that same day, Christ did allow His disciples to touch Him. This clearly shows that Christ ascended to heaven and was accepted by His Father as the spiritual “first of the firstfruits” on the same day the Levitical priests were commanded to offer the first of the firstfruits to be accepted by God!
Christ therefore fulfilled the symbolism of the first of the firstfruits on the morrow after the weekly Sabbath—not an annual Sabbath. If it had been the first annual Sabbath that was intended by the words “the Sabbath” in Leviticus 23:11, then the sheaf or omer would have been waved on Friday in A.D. 31. But on Friday the Messiah was dead, buried in a sealed tomb. So the explanation in Rabbinic Judaism of Leviticus 23:11 is incorrect.
Christ’s resurrection or harvest was necessary before any of the remaining spiritual harvests could be reaped (see Lev. 23:14 for this truth in symbol).
Now notice also how Pentecost is counted.
6. How are the authorities in the Church to count the days toward Pentecost?
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. (Leviticus 23:15-16)
COMMENT: The Hebrew wording in Leviticus 23: 15-16 means “beginning with” the starting point. The English word “from” is therefore misleading.
The New American Bible (1970) makes the correct method of counting very clear: “Beginning with the day after the Sabbath, the day on which you bring the wave-offering sheaf, you shall count seven full weeks, and then on the day after the seventh week, the fiftieth day…,” you shall keep the Feast of Firstfruits (Lev. 23:15-16).
The day of the wave offering, the Sunday during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, was day one. Day seven would be the next weekly Sabbath. Day 49 would be the seventh Sabbath, and the 50th day would be a Sunday, “the day after the seventh week” or “Sabbath” as the original Hebrew and the Authorized Version have it.
The correct dates for Pentecost for the next several years are shown in the article Holy Day Calendar.
New Covenant—Completion of First Harvest
The Sinaitic covenant, commonly called the “Old Covenant” by Christians, was a marriage agreement between Israel and the Logos, the Spokesman of the God Family.
The basis of that covenant was the Ten Commandments, which Israel agreed to obey, as a wife obeys her husband. According to Jewish tradition, the Ten Commandments were given on the day of Pentecost. But the Holy Spirit was not then given to the nation. The coming of the Holy Spirit did not occur until another Pentecost (Acts 2) for the New Testament Church. The Sinaitic covenant ceased to be in effect when the Logos, Christ, was killed. We now look forward to a new covenant.
1. Has the Lord promised to make a new marriage covenant with His people?
31 “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah — 32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34)
COMMENT: The weakness of the Sinaitic covenant was not its laws, but in the people (Heb. 8:8). They were not able to keep the law because they did not have the Holy Spirit.
2. Under the terms of the proposed New Covenant, what will the Lord do?
19 Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God. (Ezekiel 11:19-20)
26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. 28 Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God (Ezekiel 36:26-28).
2 You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; 3 clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart. (2 Corinthians 3:2-3)
COMMENT: Although the New Covenant has been proposed, and Christians today overcome sin and live by the laws of that covenant through the power of the Holy Spirit, it will not be finalized until the first resurrection. Only then will God’s children be given the fullness of God’s Spirit to enable them to perfectly resist all sin.
3. Are Spirit-begotten Christians now engaged or betrothed to Christ?
4 Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another — to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. (Romans 7:4)
2 For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:2)
When will the marriage supper–this ratification of the New Covenant–take place?
6 And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! 7 Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” 8 And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.
9 Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!'” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.” (Revelation 19:6-10)
COMMENT: God’s Church is the Bride of Christ. Christ, the Messenger of the Covenant (Mal. 3:1), will come to His spiritual Temple, and make the New Covenant—a marriage agreement. God’s law will be written in their hearts so completely that they can be perfect, righteous and able to assist Christ in ruling, teaching and administering God’s law perfectly.
The Spirit-born Church will become Christ’s New Covenant wife, and that divine marriage will produce children. Christ and His Spirit-born Bride will be a ruling and teaching team. Through them God will open salvation to all, ultimately producing thousands of millions of additional Spirit-born children of God. More on that in future lessons.
Notice in Revelation 19:7 that the Church will have “made herself ready.” Each member of God’s Church must grow in righteous character and be prepared—ready—to help Christ rule and teach. Jesus’ parable of the wise and foolish virgins (Matt. 25:1-13) shows that some who think they are prepared for the New Covenant marriage will be shut out.
When the Church is ready both in numbers and in character, and the world has been sufficiently warned, Christ will return.
Pentecost is part of God’s plan. It is a part that shows that God is only calling and chosing a few now in this age, but that a greater harvest will come.
Do you wish to be part of it? By accepting God’s calling now, you can be.
You may find three free online booklets of further assistance: Is God Calling You?, Should You Keep God’s Holy Days or Demonic Holidays?, and Christians: Ambassadors for the Kingdom of God, Biblical instructions on living as a Christian.
Pentecost is Part of God’s Plan. COGwriter 2015. http://www.cogwriter.com/pentecost-plan.htm 2015/2018/2019 0903
Here is a link to two related sermons: God’s Pentecost Plan and Your Part in It and Pentecost Plan.
Items of possibly related interest may include:
Is There “An Annual Worship Calendar” In the Bible? This paper provides a biblical and historical critique of several articles, including one by the Tkach WCG which states that this should be a local decision. What do the Holy Days mean? Also you can click here for the calendar of Holy Days. (Here is a related link in Spanish/español: Calendario Anual de Adoración –Una crítica basada en la Biblia y en la Historia: ¿Hay un Calendario Anual de Adoración en la Biblia?
What are Postponements? This is by the late evangelist Raymond McNair and explains a lot about postponements and calculations.
Hebrew Calendar and “Postponements” This late evangelist John Ogywn writing explains why the most faithful in the Church of God use the calendar that we do and answers such questions as “Did Jesus Observe the Postponements?”
How often should we partake of THE LORD’S SUPPER? Herbert Armstrong answers that question.
Keeping Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread How should Christians keep Passover, especially if they are by themselves. Why does the Church of God not require lambs for Passover? How does one keep the Days of Unleavened Bread? For a step-by-step video for Christians to keep it, check out CCOG Passover Service. Here is a link to a related article in the Spanish language: Guardando la Pascua y los Días de los Panes sin Levadura.
Preparing for Passover The Apostle Paul taught that Christians should examine themselves prior to taking Passover. This YouTube video sermon gives suggestions on how to prepare.
Passover and the Early Church Did the early Christians observe Passover? What did Jesus and Paul teach? Why did Jesus die for our sins? There is also a detailed YouTube video available titled History of the Christian Passover.
The Night to Be Observed What is the night to be much observed? When is it? Why do Jews keep Passover twice and emphasize the wrong date? Here is a link to a YouTube video titled The Night to Be Observed.
Should Christians Keep the Days of Unleavened Bread? Do they have any use or meaning now? What is leaven? This article supplies some biblical answers. Here is a YouTube video intended to be viewed for the first day of unleavened bread: Christians and the Days of Unleavened Bread.
Pentecost: Is it more than Acts 2? Many “Christians” somewhat observe Pentecost. Do they know what it means? It is also called the Feast of Harvest, the Feast of Weeks, and the day of firstfruits. What about “speaking in tongues” and led by the Holy Spirit? (Here is a related link in Spanish/español: Pentecostés: ¿Es más que Hechos 2? plus one by Herbert Armstrong HWA sobre Pentecostés). Here is a YouTube sermon titled Pentecost: Feast of Firstfruits.
Should You Observe God’s Holy Days or Demonic Holidays? This is a draft that is planned to be expanded and made into a booklet.
Should you keep God’s Holy Days or pagan holidays? A brief summary article about God’s Holy Days and holidays that others keep.
Did Early Christians Observe the Fall Holy Days? The ‘Fall’ Holy Days come every year in September and/or October on the Roman calendar. Some call them Jewish holidays, but they were kept by Jesus, the apostles, and their early faithful followers. Should you keep them? What does the Bible teach? What do records of church history teach? What does the Bible teach about the Feasts of Trumpets, Atonement, Tabernacles, and the Last Great Day? Here is a link to a related sermon: Should you keep the Fall Holy Days?
The Book of Life and the Feast of Trumpets? Are they related? Is so how? If not, where not? What does the Feast of Trumpets, which the Jews call Rosh Hashanah, help teach? A related sermon video would be Feast of Trumpets and the Book of Life as well as The Trumpet Release. The article has links to hear shofar blasts.
The Day of Atonement–Its Christian Significance The Jews call it Yom Kippur, Christians “The Day of Atonement.” Does it have any relevance for Christians today? What is the Jubilee? Is fasting healthy? Here is a link to a sermon: Day of Atonement: How Jesus fulfilled His part for the Atonement. Here is a link to a related article in the Spanish language: El Día de Expiación –Su significado cristiano.
The Feast of Tabernacles: A Time for Christians? Is this pilgrimage holy day still valid? Does it teach anything relevant for today’s Christians? What is the Last Great Day? What do these days teach? A related sermon video is Feast of Tabernacles from Israel.
The Last Great Day: Shemini ‘Azeret What is the ‘eighth day’ of the Feast? What does it help picture? A sermon on this topic is also available: Shemini Azaret: The Last Great Day.
Holy Day Calendar This is a listing of the biblical holy days through at least 2024, with their Roman calendar dates. They are really hard to observe if you do not know when they occur 🙂 In the Spanish/Español/Castellano language: Calendario de los Días Santos. In Mandarin Chinese: 何日是神的圣日？ 这里是一份神的圣日日历从2013年至2024年。.