This is a Greek term meaning fiftieth. The Hebrew equivalent is Shavuot (literally Weeks).
The Feast is also called the Feast of Weeks (as it comes a week of weeks, that is seven weeks, after the feast of Firstfruits).
The fourth feast of Israel, the final spring feast, is called Pentecost, because it falls on the fiftieth day after the Passover sabbath. It is called Shavuot in Hebrew, which means weeks, because this is a week of weeks, or seven weeks, plus one day, from Passover. It usually occurs on either the 6th or 7th day of the Sivan, the third month.
We read of Pentecost in Lev. 23:15-17, “You shall also count for yourselves from the day after the sabbath, from the day when you brought in the sheaf of the wave offering; there shall be seven complete sabbaths. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh sabbath; then you shall present a new grain offering to the Lord. You shall bring in from your dwelling places two loaves of bread for a wave offering, made of two-tenths of an ephah; they shall be of a fine flour, baked with leaven as first fruits to the Lord.” This and other passages go on to describe the animal sacrifices involved.
Historically, Pentecost was primarily observed as a harvest festival. More notable than the animal sacrifices were the two loaves offered to the Lord at this time; unlike the grain offerings at the other feasts, these loaves were to contain leaven.
Although not specifically stated in Scripture, by Y’shua’s time this day was considered to be the anniversary of the day when Moses received the Law from God on Mount Sinai. According to Jewish tradition, this had occurred seven weeks after the Passover sacrifice and exodus from Egypt. It was also one of the three pilgrimage festivals, when all adult males had to travel to Jerusalem to present their offerings at the Temple. Since Jews came from far away, not only from towns and villages in the land of Israel but from all the countries to which they had spread, it was a time of much bustle and festivity in Jerusalem.
After Y’shua’s resurrection, He told His disciples to remain in Jerusalem, where they had been gathered for the pilgrimage feast of Passover. “To these He also presented Himself alive, after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. And gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, ‘Which,’ He said, ‘you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now'” (Acts 1:3-5).
The disciples remained in Jerusalem ten more days, which brought them to day fifty, Pentecost. We read in the Second Chapter of Acts, “And when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent, rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance” (Acts 2:1-4). There were Jews from many distant nations present, all gathered for the Feast of Shavuot, and they were amazed to hear the uneducated disciples speaking in all their various languages.
Today Shavuot is observed as a harvest festival, and the Book of Ruth, with its harvest motif, is read in synagogues. It is also a celebration of the giving of the Law. Jews no longer travel to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage festivals, for there is no longer a Temple where they can sacrifice and present offerings. But in Jewish homes special foods are eaten to commemorate the harvest nature of the Feast, and the Law is held in high esteem at this time.
Shavuot was prophetically fulfilled when the Holy Spirit was given to the disciples at Pentecost. As we read in Acts 2, the disciples were empowered to spread the Gospel when they received the Holy Spirit, and thousands of new believers were added daily. “And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. And everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles . . . and the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42-43, 47). A great harvest of souls was brought into God’s Kingdom on this harvest festival!
Pentecost is considered to be the birth of the Church, Messiah’s Body, composed of all those who believe in Y’shua and have received the Holy Spirit. The Church is made up of the two loaves of Jews and Gentiles, sinful in our humanity and thus leavened, but brought together in the Church, Messiah’s body. Unlike the unleavened, sinless Passover sacrifice of Messiah, the Shavuot offerings contained leaven. The leaven represents our sin, but the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives unites us into one Body, Messiah’s Body, the Church. We are the first harvest of the redeemed, and God’s Law, given at Sinai on this very day, has been written on our hearts at Pentecost: “‘But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,’ declares the Lord. ‘I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people'” (Jer. 31:33).
There is a gap in the Jewish festival calendar at this point. The first three holy days occur in one week, the first week of the ceremonial year. The fourth, Pentecost, occurs 50 days later. It is several months before any more feasts occur, not until September or October. This lengthy time period corresponds prophetically to the Church Age (see timeline handout). Many people believe the Church Age is drawing to a close with the return of the Jewish people to the land of Israel in the fairly recent past. So, just as the next Jewish feast occurs in early fall, many expect the resumption of prophetic events in the near future. We will look at this in more detail on another page.