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The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus Christ reveals a deliberate, divine intentionality. God’s presence with his people was always his desire, always his plan and purpose.

We have previously seen that the Old Testament prophets spoke of a day when God would put his Spirit in the hearts of those who believed in him. God also embedded this truth in the rituals he gave to Israel immediately after he redeemed them from slavery in Egypt. God already knew then, that his Son would come to earth and die so that we could live, and that he would send his Spirit to those who were saved by that death. That reality is symbolised in these rituals.

Most of those rituals were heavily dependent on the Tabernacle (and the later Temple). The tabernacle itself was a visible reminder of the presence of God – constantly affirming that God dwelt among his people. The Tabernacle/Temple is rich with prophetic symbolism, pointing ahead to the incarnation of the Son of God, who became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14), and to the indwelling Spirit, who has made individual believers and the church corporately his dwelling place (1 Corinthians 3:16 & 6:19; Ephesians 2:21, 22).

Among the rituals, of particular interest is a sequence of festivals that occurred annually within a seven and a half week period:

The Passover - Exodus 12:1 – 11; Leviticus 23:4, 5: The death of Christ is the reality prophetically symbolised by the Passover rituals –. Christ had to die on the Passover - ‘Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed’ - 1Corinthians 5:7.

The Firstfruits - Leviticus 23:9 – 14: The first day of Firstfruits occurred on the third day. The resurrection of Christ on the third day is the reality prophetically symbolised by this first day of the Firstfruits festival. Christ had to rise on the third day in fulfilment of this ritual symbol. ‘Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep ... each in his turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him’ – 1Corinthians 15:20, 23.

The Feast of Weeks spanned fifty days between the offering of the firstfruits of the barley harvest and the offering of the firstfruits of the wheat harvest – ‘the feast of weeks’- Leviticus 23:15 – 22. It is a prophetic symbol of the fifty days between the resurrection of Christ and the outpouring of the Spirit.

The final day of this Feast of Weeks, the last day of the Firstfruits, came to be called ‘the day of Pentecost’ - ‘pentecost’ meaning ‘fiftieth’. Luke reports that it was ‘When the day of Pentecost came’, or, as the original Greek reads ‘when the day of Pentecost was fully come’, then the Holy Spirit was poured out on those who believed in Christ – Acts 2:1. Thus Paul refers to those who believe in Jesus Christ as ‘we ...who have the firstfruits of the Spirit’ – Romans 8:23. The outpouring of the Spirit had to occur on the Day of Pentecost.

But this purpose of God involving his dwelling in his people both individually and corporately by his Spirit, is itself not the ultimate end, not the ultimate future that God has for us. Beyond the salvation we now enjoy – beyond our present reconciliation with God, beyond our present restored relationship with God – is a greater fulfilment, a greater restoration, of which the presence of the Spirit within us now is just a deposit, a down-payment, a guarantee, a divine promise yet to be finally and fully implemented.

For this reason God tells us:

‘He ... set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come’ – 2Corinthians 1:22.

‘God...has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come’ – 2Corinthians 5:5.

‘...you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession’ – Ephesians 1:13, 14.

‘...we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit ... wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies’ – Romans 8:23.

What is this ultimate redemption? What is this guaranteed future of which the presence of the Spirit we now enjoy is just a deposit? It is the reality of the new heaven and new earth described in Revelation 21 and 22:

‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God’ – 21:3.
‘The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city ... his servants ...will see his face’ – 22:3,4.

The presence of the Spirit today is a micro foretaste of that guaranteed macro future: God and us, together forever. Without distance. Without limitation. Without threat. Without doubts. Without ignorance. Then we ‘shall know fully’ – 1Corinthians 13:12, for then ‘we shall see him as he is’ – 1John 3:2.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2024