Pentecost - the Promise, Prophecy, and Power

by William L. Nowell
Updated June 10, 2016


Shavuot is a Hebrew word meaning "weeks." Thus, the Feast of Shavuot is also known as the Feast of Weeks. Shavuot is most commonly known to Christians as Pentecost. The name Pentecost comes from the Greek word for "fiftieth." Shavuot is not tied to a calendar date; instead, it comes 50 days (7 weeks + 1 day) after the first Sabbath following Passover.

Shavout/Pentecost image
I will be their God, and they will be My people. (Jeremiah 31:33 / Hebrews 8:10)

According to the Talmud, God gave the Ten Commandments 50 days after the Hebrew people were set free from slavery in Egypt. There is no concrete Scriptural evidence of this; however, Shavuot has historically been celebrated as the anniversary of the giving of God's Law at Mount Sinai.

Shavuot (Pentecost) is the second of the three pilgrimage festivals. The other pilgrimage festivals were Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles. At this time, all Israelite men over the age of 20 had to return to the Temple in Jerusalem. Initially Shavuot was a festival of celebration of the wheat harvest. It was a time of great rejoicing and thanksgiving for material blessings. All regular work ceased on this holy day.

In addition, the people gave freewill offerings to God as Moses had instructed them to do. (Deuteronomy 16:10) These voluntary special gifts could be anything of their choosing and given in proportion to how God had blessed them.

After the Temple's destruction and the exile of the Jewish people from the Holy Land, the harvest theme diminished. Instead, the theme of God's giving of the Ten Commandments grew in popularity. Even today, many Jews celebrate Shavuot as "The season of the giving of the Torah."

Holy Ghost Fire
I will pour out My Spirit on all people... And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. (Joel 2:28, 32 / Acts 2:17, 21)

Birth of the Church

Now let's move ahead to the time of Yeshua (Jesus). The promised Messiah, our Savior and Lord, was crucified on Passover, and resurrected on the Feast of Firstfruits. Then for the next 40 days, He presented Himself and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive.

At the end of the 40-day period, Yeshua gave His disciples the Great Commission. He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation (Mark 16:15) and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:19-20).

Yeshua also gave the command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift My Father promised... in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." (Acts 1:4-5) He went on to say, "you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8) After this, He ascended to heaven.

Just 10 days later, when the day of Pentecost (Shavuot) had come, Yeshua fulfilled His promise that He would always be with them. He did this by baptizing them with the Holy Spirit, thus giving them a part of Himself.

On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out on about 120 Believers who were all together in one place. In addition, there was a multitude of Jews from all nations staying there in Jerusalem. This is because Pentecost was a pilgrimage festival that required all male Jews to return to Jerusalem. All the Believers were filled with the Holy Spirit and they began to speak in the languages of the people who had gathered there. (Acts 2:5-11) Then, filled with the Spirit, Peter preached the gospel message to the crowd. On that day, about 3000 were added to the numbers of Believers in Yeshua. This was the beginning of what is commonly called the "age of grace." It also fulfilled Jeremiah's new covenant prophecy.

Jeremiah 31:31-33 says, "The days are coming," declares the Lord, "when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah"... "This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time," declares the Lord. "I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people." He tells us how He will accomplish this in Ezekiel 36:27: "I will put My Spirit in you and move you to follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws."

From this, we see that the Holy Spirit was given to empower Believers to (1) fulfill the Great Commission, and (2) keep the Lord's decrees and laws.

Traditions and Customs

The Feast of Shavuot (Pentecost) has several traditions associated with it. I'll just list a few of these customs here.

  • A traditional blessing for starting this appointed time is: Blessed are You, oh Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.
  • Another tradition is to stay up all night and immerse the mind in the Word of God by reading the Torah (the first five books of the Bible).
  • Other traditional readings include:
    • Exodus 19:1-20:23**
    • Deuteronomy 15:19-16:17
    • Ruth 1-4
    • Matthew 3:11-17
    • John 1:32-34
    • Acts 1-2
  • The last tradition I'll mention is the custom of eating dairy foods on this day. As for me, I'm going to use this tradition as an excuse to chow down on lots of cheesecake! Yum, yum. LOL

**I highly recommend reading Exodus 19:1-20:23 (which includes the Ten Commandments), Mark 12:28-31, and Acts 1-2 which details the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. If you need a break from reading, then watch The Ten Commandments movie online - the 2006 mini-series.

In addition, the Book of Ruth paints a picture of the harvest time in Israel. This links it to Shavuot, which was originally a celebration of the wheat harvest (representing material blessings).


Pentecost (Shavuot) is a time to give thanks for our material blessings. It is a time to rejoice in the fact that we have the written Word of God - a blueprint for living. Most of all, Pentecost is a time to celebrate the fact that God has placed his Holy Spirit in each of us who trusts in Yeshua. Romans 8:11 tells us that if the Spirit of the One who raised Yeshua from the dead lives in us, then we too will be raised to eternal life by the power of His Spirit.

All praises to the Most High God who sent His Son to pay the penalty for our sins and Who placed His Spirit in us - giving us the certainty of eternal life.

Three Crosses