"When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues [see Speaking In Tongues], as the Spirit gave them utterance." (Acts 2:1-4 RSV)
The event in the above verses describes what has commonly become known as the "birthday of the church" - the coming of the Holy Spirit, after the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, on a much more widely available basis than it had been in the Old Testament era.
Pentecost originated after the Exodus when it was variously called the Feast of First Fruits, the Feast of Weeks, or the Feast of Harvest (Leviticus 23:15-21, Deuteronomy 16:9-12). It was observed 50 days after the ceremonial cutting of the first grain offering after the Passover - hence the origin of the Greek word Pentecost, which means "fiftieth." By no coincidence, the New Testament Pentecost, as we read in the opening verses, occurred 50 days after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the "first of the first fruits."
All of the Biblical Holy Days served a dual purpose, the earlier as symbols for what was to come later. Their observance, and fulfillment, occupy much of Bible History and Prophecy:
The Dual Meaning Of The God-Commanded Biblical Holy Days
The spring Holy Days symbolize the events related to the First Coming of Jesus Christ:
- Passover - The Sacrifice of Jesus Christ to pay for the sins of all humanity (Exodus 12:13, John 1:29). (see Passover In Egypt and The Lamb Of God)
- The Days of Unleavened Bread - the removal of sin from the lives of
converted, repentant people (Exodus 12:15, 1 Corinthians 5:7-8). (see What Is Sin?)
- Pentecost - the "first fruits" harvest, the coming of God's Holy Spirit upon
conversion (Leviticus 23:16-17, Acts 2:1-4).
The autumn Holy Days symbolize the events related to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ:
- The Feast of Trumpets - The Return of Jesus Christ (Leviticus 23:23-25,
Matthew 24:30-31). (see The Feast Of Trumpets)
- The Day of Atonement - the final judgment and sentencing of Satan after his removal as "the god of this world." (Leviticus 23:26-32,
Revelation 20:10) (see The Day Of Atonement and The Lame Duck).
- The Feast of Tabernacles - the first 1,000 years after The Return of Christ
in which the harvest of salvation will truly begin. (Leviticus 23:33-36,
Revelation 20:2-4) (see King Of The Mountain).
- The Last Day - the 8th day of the Feast of Tabernacles picturing the
resurrection of all those who did not have an opportunity to hear (physically and/or spiritually) the Gospel
in all the ages prior to the millennium (Leviticus 23:39, Revelation
20:5,11-15). (see What Happens When You Die? and The Last Day)
The "First Harvest" Of Salvation
The Old Testament festival of First Fruits celebrated the first harvest of the grain crop, while it actually symbolized the New Testament "first harvest" of humanity, the "first fruits of salvation":
"but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies." (Romans 8:23 RSV)
"But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at His coming those who belong to Christ." (1 Corinthians 15:20-23 RSV) (see The Return Of Jesus Christ)
The first fruits were chosen for a purpose, not as any sort of favoritism. They will serve and teach, not just the unconverted physical people who will be alive at the Return of Christ, but those of the great resurrection (which will be vastly larger than the first) that will occur after the 1,000 years:
"Blessed and holy is he who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and they shall reign with him a thousand years." (Revelation 20:6 RSV)
"The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended." (Revelation 20:5 RSV)
"your teacher will not hide himself any more, but your eyes shall see your teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, "This is the way, walk in it," when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left." (Isaiah 30:20-21 RSV)
The Holy Bible, from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation, speaks of God's Plan of Salvation - a plan with a definite element of timing. The simple reality, as expressed so often through your Bible, is that not everyone is called to repentance, is able to repent even when they hear the words of the Gospel, at the same time. There is a definite order of calling, which is the reason that Jesus Christ often used the term "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." (Matthew 11:15 RSV).
Fact Finder: Did James refer to the "first wave" of Christians as the "first fruits of creation"?