The Reason People Hate Christians (Regular Revelation #2)

Don’t you hate it when you see a sensationalist headline? I know I do. Some “news” sources are worse about this than others. Take the Weather Channel’s site, Weather.com. If you go there now, there’s a bunch of stories about the tornadoes that just swept through the South, but on a not-so-busy weather day, you’re more likely to see stories like “The World’s Scariest Airport Runways” or “Beached Whale Explodes!” These are not exactly weather-related, and even worse, if you read these stories, the runway turns out to be fairly normal (never even a crash!), and the whale didn’t explode, per se, but just kind of broke apart – like dead, rotting animals tend to do. The headline was meant to draw you in, to get you to read a story that, in actuality, wasn’t interesting enough by itself to make you want to read it.

So with that said, I must apologize for my headline to this post – The Reason People Hate Christians. Because I’ll admit that there were some sensationalist motives behind the choosing of that title. Technically, this is the second post in a series that I titled Regular Revelation, because it revolves around a study of the book of Revelation I’m doing (in my defense, I did sub-title it with parentheses). But the name Regular Revelation didn’t seem strong enough to portray what I wanted to get across in this post. It definitely didn’t catch anyone’s attention! And unlike the Weather.com stories, I believe I can actually touch on some of the reasons people in America are growing to hate Christians more and more.

In the most recent session of Beth Moore’s Here and Now, There and Then: A Lecture Series on Revelation (session 3, to be exact), she touches on Revelation 1:10-11, and then Revelation chapters 2 & 3. To give you a brief overview, Revelation starts with the apostle John introducing himself and admitting that he has been exiled on the island of Patmos “on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.” (1:9). He then describes a vision he had of Christ. In that vision, Jesus tells John,

Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea. (1:11)

These 7 churches were located in the province of Asia, and they were all connected by the infamous Roman road system. As you can see in the image below, they were found pretty much in the center between Rome (which is in Italy, or the boot-shaped country in the far top-left) and Israel (on the far right, where Jerusalem is found). And you can also see that the island of Patmos is just to the southwest of Ephesus. So when these letters were carried to the churches, they would follow the path just as Jesus mentioned them in v. 11 – first to Ephesus, then to Smyrna, Peramum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea – in that order.

Chapters 2 and 3 then contain the content of these 7 letters. Beth Moore spent the majority of the session talking about just one of those letters – the first one, to the church at Ephesus. And it is in this letter, and specifically one statement that Beth Moore made during the session, that I believe God revealed a truth about Himself to me last night.

The letter to Ephesus says this:

To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand,who walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’ (Revelation 2:1-7)

In this letter, Christ commends the Ephesian church for their recognition and intolerance of falseness (v. 2). He then warns them that they have “abandoned the love you had at first” (v. 4). Finally, He commends them again, saying “Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” (v. 6). Beth Moore summed up these commendations and warnings with one sentence:

The Ephesians hated the things Christ hated, but they did not love the things Christ loved.

This, again, was like a slap to the face, because I believe it describes so many of us in the church today! I think if you asked a random non-Christian off the street what they think of when they think of Christians, most of them are going to think first of the things we’re against. Homosexuality. Abortion. A whole slew of other things. But what about the things we’re for? I’m not sure the world around us knows exactly what we stand for…only what we stand against.

There’s no doubt the animosity toward Christians, even in America, is growing. And there’s no doubt this is to be expected (see John 15:18-19). But at the same time, Christ says we are to be identified not by the things we hate, but by the things we love (see John 13:35).

From this letter to the church in Ephesus, I’d say that it’s awful easy to get this one wrong. It’s awful easy to fall into a pattern of hating things that we know God hates, and forgetting that love is what defines us! And while we do this, the world sees so-called believers displaying hate in some of the worst ways (can you say Westboro?), and they hate us for it. Because it’s easy to hate a hater.

Thoughts?

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Regular Revelation #1

Darling. Sweetheart. Beloved. These aren’t names I get called very often by anyone other than perhaps my wife. But if I ever am in the mood to be called such things, I know where to go. I can just do a women’s Bible study.

Have you ever done a women’s Bible study? If you’re a woman, then I’m not really asking you. But if you’re a man like me, have you ever done one of these? They pass around more terms of endearment than you’d think would be possible. One of the worst offenders (offenders is a strong word…I couldn’t think of a better one) is Beth Moore. She’s a women’s ministry leader, and she speaks to women. And she speaks to women like a woman. She calls them “honey” and “beloved,” and I’m sure she wouldn’t apologize for it for even one second. But she is an amazing teacher…perhaps the absolute best out there right now…and I know I can learn a lot from her. So I agree to do one of her studies with my wife every now and then. I just have to tolerate being called “honey”….and overall, it doesn’t cause too much lasting damage.

The study I agreed to do with my wife this time around is called Here and Now…There and Then: A Lecture Series on Revelation. Any study on Revelation is guaranteed to be crazy, but I knew that if anyone could teach it with clarity and accuracy, it would be Beth Moore.

We watched the first session last night, and one of the things Beth asks the women (and this man) to do throughout the 10 weeks of the study is to journal things that God reveals to them (about Himself, about His Word, etc.). I’ve tried journaling in the past, and honestly I’m just not much of a journal-er. But one thing I’ve done a bit of is blogging. So I decided, heck, why not turn my journaling into blogging. I shall call it “journalogging.” (Other people have thought of this word before me, according to Google, but that’s okay. We’ll pretend it’s a new word that I made up). I’m going to call this series of posts ‘Regular Revelation’ – I hope it will be regular, though I doubt it will be daily, and I hope that God will reveal new truths about Himself to me that I can journalog here.

After watching the video last night, I was laying bed and I prayed that God would reveal things to me as I go through the study. I want to understand the book of Revelation better (everyone does, I think…even experts), and I want to lose some of my fear of the end times. But I also want Him to just reveal Himself to me. I want to grow closer to Him through this study. I asked Him to make sure that if He’s showing me anything (revealing anything to me) that I would definitely know it. Then I went to sleep…cuz it was late.

When I woke up this morning to my wife saying “it’s time to get up” (and then sending my kids to make sure I was awake 10 minutes later, which I was, thank you very much), I got on my phone and perused Facebook. Randy Alcorn, another great Bible teacher I follow on Facebook, had shared the status of Justin Taylor (I don’t know who this is…), who had shared a link to a blog post by the mother of Alex Malarkey. If you don’t know who that is, don’t worry, I didn’t either. But after reading the blog post, you come to realize that Alex is the boy who is the main character of a book written a while back called The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven. Now, don’t get this confused with another book called Heaven Is For Real – it’s a different book about a different little boy. But all the same, it’s about a boy who goes to heaven and, as the title so eloquently tells us, came back.

In the blog post, the boy’s mother, Beth, outright says that the story behind the book is not true. She says that even Alex, the “co-author”, has denied it’s authenticity. He even told a pastor that the book was wrong, and the pastor just told him to let it be, because the book was blessing people. Huh…let a lie continue to spread because people are enjoying hearing it. Interesting.

One of the commenters on Beth Malarkey’s blog post, a woman named Michelle, said “it’s completely incomprehensible to me how people could prefer a lie over the truth.” I totally agree! These heaven experiences that are making millions in book sales and movie proceeds spout some unbiblical ideas about what heaven is like, or more importantly, what heave is all about.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what I believe was the first thing that God used to reveal himself to me today. The first ‘revelation’ that He made while I undergo the study of His book which we’ve titled Revelation (with a capital-R). That whole idea, that people prefer lies over truth, and that I have preferred lies over truth, was a slap to my face today. The fact that I knowingly, not ignorantly, have chosen to live based on lies even though I know the truth – to borrow from the commenter Michelle, it’s incomprehensible!

Needless to say, I spent some time in prayer today, repenting of this sin. I refuse to let anything – especially my own stupidity – get in the way of knowing God more fully and experiencing His love more deeply. This is what God revealed to me today. May He continue to reveal more…every day, while I’m doing this study, and forever after.

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Heaven IS for real. But many books about it are not…

I see a lot of stuff nowadays floating around the stagnant pool of the interwebs talking about Heaven. I assume it’s the soon-to-come movie titled Heaven is for Real based off of the book of the same name that’s causing the fevered conversation to raise it’s ugly little head.  As you can probably tell from my written tone, I’m not a big fan of the book or those like it.

To be fair, I haven’t read the book. I haven’t read many other books like it either. Some would say that means I don’t have the right to comment on it, but I would disagree. Because I have read a book (a compilation of books, actually) that gives a 100% accurate description of heaven. (That’d be the Bible, in case you’re not following) So when I read the description of these other “heaven” books, a lot of red flags get raised. There’s one red flag in particular that rises high above the others and is definitive proof (for me, anyway) that these books are fakes.  And I can describe it with 3 little words:

Robbed at Gunpoint.

I know…you’re thinking “What? That makes no sense!” Follow me for a second.

When people are robbed at gunpoint, the police often ask them to give a detailed description of their attacker. A great majority of the time they cannot. Why? Because they never saw him – they couldn’t take their eyes off of the gun. Our brains are wired to focus on the things that induce the most fear, and if we are robbed at gunpoint, the most fear-inducing element is the gun.

The same would be true if someone were to go to heaven and live to tell about it. Being in the presence of almighty God would induce fear – it did in Isaiah when he was given a prophetic vision of heaven, and it did in the apostle John when he was given a similar vision. If a person were to come back from that, the only thing they would write about is glory of God. Yet most of these books peddle unbiblical truths that glorify only the author or the experience. They are self-focused, or focused on details that I believe most people would miss (halos? really??), simply because they wouldn’t be able to take their eyes off of Jesus.

That said, I could be wrong. I haven’t read the books, so maybe I’m just talking about things I know nothing about. What about you?  What’s your take on books like this?

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Death Penalty Vs. Abortion

Whoa!  It’s been over a year since I’ve posted on my blog (if you don’t count the reply to a comment I made about 10 minutes ago), so forgive me if I’m a little rusty.

I was reading an article this morning about the State of Texas executing it’s 500th inmate since 1982, when it re-introduced the death penalty as a legal punishment. The execution was of Kimberly McCarthy, who was convicted of the murder of 71-year-old Dorothy Booth in Lancaster, TX in 1997. McCarthy robbed, beat, and stabbed Booth to death, and even cut off her finger to pull off a ring. She stole her car, took the ring and pawned it for $200 to buy crack, and used her credit cards at a liquor store. Overall, it was a particularly brutal crime, one that no doubt would bring the death penalty to any person in Texas if they didn’t plea bargain for a lesser punishment.

What struck me as I was reading the article was a quote from McCarthy’s attorney and the next line that described the protesters outside the prison:

In a statement, Maurie Levin, McCarthy’s attorney, said “500 is 500 too many. I look forward to the day when we recognize that this pointless and barbaric practice, imposed almost exclusively on those who are poor and disproportionately on people of color, has no place in a civilized society.” Outside the prison, about 40 protesters gathered, carrying signs saying “Death Penalty: Racist and Anti-Poor,” ”Stop All Executions Now” and “Stop Killing to Stop Killings.”

I was kind of taken aback at reading that people feel the death penalty is racist and anti-poor, because that’s something that is also true of another controversial practice in our country: abortion.

Just a couple days before this execution, Texas failed to pass some very restrictive abortion measures that would have cut the number of abortions in the state greatly. The reason behind the failure to pass the bill was not because there weren’t enough votes to pass it – it was because the protests became so disruptive that, though the bill passed in a vote, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst couldn’t sign it in time. (The legislative session ended at midnight)

So what we have here is 2 sets of protesters – one who thinks that the State is wrong for executing convicted killers because those killers are predominantly minorities and poor, and one who thinks that we should NOT cut abortions, even though abortions occur at significantly higher rates in minority and poor populations. My guess is that many of the people who argue against the death penalty are arguing for abortion. They say that convicted killers should live, but that innocent children should not.

And all I can say is, come Lord Jesus…hurry…this world is getting more and more out of control.

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The Bible is Dangerous

I’m one of those weird people who actually enjoy listening to lectures. Not just any lectures, mind you, but things that interest me. I probably wouldn’t enjoy lectures over 19th century British poetry, or lectures over the social influences found in different world cultures. Those things sound pretty boring to me. But one thing that interests me greatly is theology, and anything related to the Bible. Lately I’ve been listening to lectures from Reformed Theological Seminary on iTunesU, specifically from a course called The History of Philosophy and Christian Thought. Doesn’t sound very interesting, does it?  Well, it’s actually not that bad.

One of the things that really baffles me as I listen to Dr. Frame talk about the philosophies projected by the early Church fathers is how so many of them totally misinterpret the Bible. Granted, not much time had passed since the New Testament had actually been adopted as God-inspired Scripture. But it’s not hard to see that some of these men clearly injected their own ideas, or perhaps worse, the ideas of Greek philosophy, into their theological arguments. For instance, the early Church father Origen speculated that salvation may be universal, and that even the devil may have a shot at redemption at some point in the future. Many of the early Church fathers proposed ideas that weakened Scripture or made Christ less significant. Most of these ideas are easily refuted under the light of ALL of Scripture.

Scriptural misinterpretation isn’t something that only affected the early Church. In fact, just this morning I read an article about a pastor in West Virginia who died after being bitten by a rattlesnake. And yes, he was handling the snake in a faith-proving church ritual.  The Scripture people use to justify this odd ritual is Mark 16:17-18:

And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well. (Emphasis added)

If you read the whole article (I highly recommend that you do…it’s short), you also find out that this pastor’s father was also killed from a snake bite in a similar ceremony. So what we have here is a gross misinterpretation of Scripture, and an incredible failure to learn from past mistakes.

The misinterpretation of Scripture is the part that bothers me the most. Most Bible scholars question whether Mark 16:9-20 is even supposed to be a part of the Bible to begin with. The earliest copies of the Gospel of Mark don’t have these verses, and many of the later ones that do have them set them apart from the rest of the book. So it isn’t wise to set up a doctrine solely on this one passage (nor is it wise to set up any doctrine based on only one passage of Scripture). On top of that, even if you do consider these verses to be a part of Scripture, there is no imperative from Jesus to go and pick up snakes to prove your faith. As one article I read put it, “It is describing something that will occur, not commanding that something should occur.” For instance, in Acts 28 it describes Paul as getting bitten by a snake, and just shaking it off. Paul didn’t seek out a snake and say, “Look everyone! Look how much faith I have! I picked up this snake and got bit! And I’m not dead!” No, God protected Paul from any bad effects from the snake bite. That is the meaning of Mark 16:17-18 – that God can provide for and protect those who are serving Him.

So, what’s the big deal, you ask? Why can’t we just leave these people alone and let them continue to misinterpret Scripture and get bit. Isn’t this just God’s way of weeding out the idiots? Well, first of all, that’s a very unloving thing to say. I’m ashamed of you for asking such a question. But secondly, I think we have to consider how this mishandling of the words of the Bible affects the world around us. For instance, can you imagine what the world thinks when they see people like this pastor saying things like, “I am looking for a great time this Sunday…It is going to be a homecoming like the old days. Good ‘ole raised in the holler or mountain ridge running, Holy Ghost-filled speaking-in-tongues sign believers.” This statement, within itself, would drive an English teacher crazy. But when it’s then followed by the death of the man who said it, it makes you question the God who supposedly fills these “sign believers.” And when that same pastor says, “I know it’s real; it is the power of God…If I didn’t do it, if I’d never gotten back involved, it’d be the same as denying the power and saying it was not real,” and then gets killed, it makes people question the power of God.

This mishandling of the Bible is a dangerous thing. Just ask the pastor who died from the snake bite. But it can be much, much worse. Consider those who follow the speculations of Origen and teach that, in the end, we’ll all be saved. How dangerous is that!?!? It promotes apathy by making people think they can do whatever they want. Heck…in the end, they’ll go to heaven anyway, right? We can’t allow things like this to happen. We may not be able to stop those who would pick up snakes to prove their faith, but we can outright deny that what they are doing is Biblical. And we can promote a healthy interpretation of Scripture that leads to sound doctrine. We can do this by:

  • Making true disciples – 1 Corinthians 2:14 says “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” Unfortunately, we have non-Christian scholars influencing theological thought, and these people can’t understand the Bible to begin with, because they don’t have the Spirit of God within them. Instead, we should make true disciples who then lead us in our pursuit of truth.
  • Making well-trained disciples – In 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul tells Timothy “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (emphasis added). The only way to know the Bible is to study the Bible. Proper Biblical interpretation doesn’t come overnight – it requires diligent study and training.
  • Teaching the WHOLE Word of God – Too many modern doctrines are based on small passages (to the exclusion of others). In other words, they fail to interpret Scripture with Scripture. If we consider all of Scripture when we read certain passages, our interpretations are less likely to have errors.
  • Relying somewhat on tradition, but not too much – There are those who have come before us who have diligently searched the Scriptures and have sought to know them well. We should consider their interpretations when we come across a passage that brings us trouble. This is where a good commentary comes in. On that same note, we should not over-rely on traditional interpretation, as this too leads to trouble. Consider the traditions of the Catholic church that sparked the Protestant Reformation.

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The Feast of Tabernacles

This is a post in a series of posts titled Types and Shadows. You may want to start at the FIRST post of the series, or see the PREVIOUS post, before reading this one.

This post in this series-within-a-series is over the last major festival in the Jewish religious year – The Feast of Tabernacles. As we discuss in the first post, the Feast of Tabernacles was actually made up of 3 sub-feasts spread out over many days. These include:

The Feast of Trumpets (see Leviticus 23:23-25; Numbers 29:1-6)

The Feast of Trumpets was actually just one day, the first day of the seventh month of the Jewish religious calendar. It was a special Sabbath, where the Israelites were not allowed to do any work. They would come together in a “sacred assembly”, where a special burnt offering would be made, and trumpets would be sounded as a call to prepare for the upcoming Day of Atonement.  For those who might have heard of it before, this is the day known as Rosh Hashanah.

In Scripture, the sounding of trumpets represented the voice of prophets, calling out the Word of the Lord. In the case of the Feast of Trumpets, the trumpet blasts were used to call Israel to awaken, to repent, and to prepare for the Day of Atonement. In fact, the 10 days between this day and the Day of Atonement were often called “the ten days of awe,” and were intended for the Israelites to spend time in self-inspection and repentance.

The Day of Atonement (see Leviticus 23:26-32; Leviticus 16)

On the tenth day of the month the Israelites held their most holy day of the year – the Day of Atonement (also known as Yom Kippur). It was also a special Sabbath, and the Israelites were not allowed to work, but beyond that, they were also required to fast (“deny themselves”). On this day, special burnt offerings were made for the people, and even more intense rituals were carried out. For instance, part of the ceremony involved 2 goats. The priest would cast lots for the goats, and one goat would be sacrificed, while the other would be released into the wilderness. Prior to it’s release, the High Priest would lay his hands on the second goat – called the scapegoat, or Azezel (meaning “an entire removal”) – effectively transferring the sin of the nation of Israel to it. When the goat was released, it symbolized the total removal of sin from the nation. After this part of the ceremony, the High Priest would continue by cleansing the sanctuary by the sprinkling of blood, and would enter the Most Holy Place in the tabernacle (or later, the Temple). This was the only day of the year that anyone was allowed to enter this inner part, as God promised that any other time of the year, the person would die.

The Feast of Tabernacles (see Leviticus 23:33-44; Deuteronomy 16:13-17; Numbers 29:12-35)

During this time of year, the nation of Israel would begin it’s fruit harvest, reaping grapes and olives (except on the regular and special sabbath days). On the 15th day of the month, the actual Feast of Tabernacles would begin, as a celebration of the “gathering of the produce of [their] threshing floor and winepress.” The festival lasted 7 days, with the first day being a special Sabbath. No work was performed that day, and a “sacred assembly” came together make burnt offerings and to present the “choice fruit” before the Lord. For 7 days, the whole nation would live in booths (small tabernacles or tents), which is why the feast is also sometimes called the Feast of Booths.  On the last day, the day after the 7 day festival, another special Sabbath was held and no work was to be done.

New Testament Application

The Feast of Trumpets served as a heralding of the judgment of God. One source I read said,

The massive blowing of the shofar (trumpet) on the first day of the seventh month was understood by the Jews as the beginning of their trial before the heavenly court where books would be opened and the destiny of each individual would be decided. The trial lasted ten days until the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) when God would dispose of their sins in a permanent way.

In this perspective, it’s not hard to see the parallel between the trumpets sounding here and the trumpets mentioned in the book of Revelation 8. Here, in the last days, trumpets also sound as a heralding of the judgments of God. The final judgment is described in Revelation 11:18:

The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great—and for destroying those who destroy the earth.”

Interestingly, just like during this Feast, where the Day of Atonement followed the judgment of God, similar events are described in the end times. Right after describing the final trumpet judgment in Revelation 11, it says “Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm.”  Just as the Israelites had their sin removed on the Day of Atonement (the day the High Priest entered the Most Holy Place in the presence of the ark of the conventant), we too have had our sins removed by the sacrifice of Christ.

Finally, the Feast of Tabernacles commemorated for the nation of Israel how they lived in booths (tents) in the wilderness, and how God dwelt with them in the Tabernacle of Moses. It also reminds us of how God dwells with us through Jesus (“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. – John 1:14), and through the Holy Spirit within us.  Also, just as the Feast of Tabernacles was to be a time of joy, so shall we be joyful in the New Heaven, after the judgments and atonement has been realized at the end of the age.

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The Feast of Weeks

This is a post in a series of posts titled Types and Shadows. You may want to start at the FIRST post of the series, or see the PREVIOUS post, before reading this one.

In the past couple of posts, we’ve been looking at the Feasts of Israel and the Biblical typology that they represent. Yesterday we took a closer look at the Passover feast – today we are going to look at the Feast of Weeks.

Just as the Passover festival served as a commemoration of the Jewish exodus from Egypt, the Feast of Weeks served as a reminder of another important event that occurred not too long after that.  Exodus 19 describes the arrival of the Israelites at Mount Sinai:

In the third month after the Israelites left Egypt—on the very day—they came to the Desert of Sinai. After they set out from Rephidim, they entered the Desert of Sinai, and Israel camped there in the desert in front of the mountain.Then Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”

God then commanded the Israelites to celebrate this event with the Feast of Weeks (see Exodus 34:22; Deuteronomy 16:10, 16).

As we talked about in the first post in this mini-series over the feasts, the Feast of Weeks got its name from the fact that it was celebrated 7 weeks after the waving of the Sheaf of Firstfruits, during the third month on the Jewish calendar. The day after these 7 weeks (the 50th day) was also known as Pentecost (which is the Greek word for fifty). Many Christians are familiar with Pentecost and the events that occurred on that day after Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension to Heaven.  That story is found in Acts 2, where we find the 120 Christ-followers were all together in one place, when “suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit…” (v. 2-4).  It was here that God released His Spirit and placed it inside the believers at that time, just like He does today when we confess Christ as our savior and are converted.

So how does the arrival of the Israelites at Sinai, which is celebrated by the Feast of Weeks, relate to the giving of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2? My lesson pointed out 3 ways that God revealed Himself at Mount Sinai, and explained how the day of Pentecost in the New Testament paralleled that:

The Power of God

Exodus 19:16-19 describes God’s power being displayed at Sinai:

On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently, and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder.

In much the same way, as He released His Holy Spirit on the believers at Pentecost, there was wind, fire, shaking, and miraculous signs (like new languages being spoken).

The Law of Moses

It was here at Sinai that God gave the Law to Moses, writing His holy standard in His own finger on tablets of stone. At Pentecost, the Spirit of God entered the hearts of the believers, and God wrote His only standard on the tablets of their hearts.

An interesting parallel that my lesson pointed out was the number of those affected by the giving of this Law in each situation. In the giving of the Law at Sinai the people were held to a high standard, so that in Exodus 32, when Moses came down the mountain and found them running wild and worshiping the golden calf, he ordered the Levites to “go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.” (v. 27)  The number that died that day was about 3000.  At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit went back and forth through those who were near, and as Peter preached, “those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” (Acts 2:41)

The apostle Paul discusses this Biblical type in 2 Corinthians 3, where he says

Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! (v. 7-9)

The Pattern of the Tabernacle

As we discussed in a previous post, the Lord gave the Israelites the instructions for building the Tabernacle of Moses along with the Law at Sinai. We concluded that the purpose of the Tabernacle was to provide a dwelling for God to be with His people.  At Pentecost, we see the birth of the Church, and as we discussed previously, this is now where God dwells, inside the hearts of His people by His Spirit.

In the end, the Feast of Weeks was a harvest festival just like the feast of Passover. Whereas Passover was celebrated at the harvest of barley, Pentecost was celebrated at the harvest of wheat. “And in this harvest,” my lesson pointed out, “we see a wonderful picture of the tremendous ingathering of redeemed lives that took place with the birth of the Church. Just as in the Sheaf of Firstfruits, [where] the firstfruits of the barley harvest was waved before the Lord, so on the…Day of Pentecost, the firstfruits of the wheat harvest was waved before the Lord. So the Church of Pentecost became a wave offering of firstfruits, representing the massive harvest of souls that was to come.”

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