According to the Jewish calendar, Shavuot 2018 begins at sunset on May 19th. Sunset is the earliest possible definition of night/evening. It is the time when the sun sets below the horizon. Shavuot is a one-day feast in Israel and a two-day feast elsewhere. Therefore, Shavuot ends at nightfall on May 20th in Israel and at nightfall on May 21st outside of Israel. Nightfall is marked by the appearance of three stars in the sky.
Shavuot is the second of three mandatory pilgrim feasts, given by the Lord and recorded in the book of Leviticus. This feast is celebrated on the 50th day after the Feast of Firstfruits of the barley harvest of the Feast of Passover. Shavuot takes place during the wheat harvest and is the firstfruits offering of that harvest (Leviticus 23:10-11).
The date of Shavuot is set by counting seven Sabbaths (seven weeks=49 days) plus on day. That would be a total of 50 days. (Leviticus 23:15-16). This would place Shavuot in the very late spring or early summer (mid-May to mid-June on our calendars) — the time of the wheat harvest in Israel.
Because of the counting of weeks, Shavuot is also referred to as the Feast of Weeks. The counting “links” the significance of the Passover, which celebrated God’s deliverance of His people from Egyptian bondage, and God’s giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai 50 days later. Both feasts have a firstfruits offering of grain (barley at Passover; wheat at Shavuot), while the third feast, the Feast of Tabernacles, is a feast celebrating the fruit harvest. A firstfruits offering signifies giving back to God from that which He has given and thanking Him for the bountiful harvest.
While the Jews call this feast Shavuot, the Greek word is pentekostos (meaning fifty). From the Greek, we get the English transliteration of Pentecost. The Church was “born” at the time of Pentecost (Shavuot).
Typology in the Wheat Harvest at Shavuot
Israel was an agrarian culture, so Jesus often used a horticultural theme in His teachings. Examples include the parable of the sower (Matt 13, Mark 4), the parable of the wheat and tares (Matthew 13), laborers in the fields (Matt 9:37-38, Luke 10:2), the lifecycle of a seed (John 12:24), and more. In Matt 4:35, Jesus told that the harvest will come when the fields are “white for harvest”
The 50 days, from the barley harvest to the wheat harvest, typologically represent the time of the church age, from the cross to the Rapture (read: What is the Rapture?) And the wheat, growing in the fields, represents the growing Church throughout the last two centuries.
Prophetic “Whispers” in Shavuot
I suggest, for your consideration, that in the firstfruits offering of the Feast of Shavuot there is a prophetic “whisper” of a future event.
During this feast, the Israelites were told to offer two loaves of leavened bread to the Lord (Leviticus 23:17). In contrast, during the spring feast of Passover, they were told to remove all leaven from their homes.
Leaven represents sin in the Bible, so removing leaven from their homes is symbolic of removing sin from their lives. This raises the question: Then why, 50 days later at Shavuot, would God command that the Israelites offer two loaves of bread, baked with leaven?
Understand that the Bible does not answer this question. However, there is biblical reasoning about why leaven might be acceptable to the Lord in the firstfruits offering of the wheat harvest. Before explaining, let’s compare the Feast of Passover and the Feast of Shavuot.
Feast of Passover/Feast of Firstfruits
- Seven-day feast.
- Set according to God’s prescribed date.
- Bread made without leaven, which represents sin (symbolic of repentance of sin)
- Commanded to remove all leaven from the home.
- The killing of the pure and spotless paschal Lamb (symbolic of the crucifixion of Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God)
- The Blood applied to the doorposts of the homes and the Angel of death passing over the blood covered homes (symbolic of the blood of our Lamb that covers the tabernacles of our bodies and removes our death curse)
- Passover commemorates God’s deliverance of Israel from bondage in Egypt (symbolic of our deliverance from sin and death)
- Firstfruits offering of a sheaf of grain from the barley harvest (symbolic of thanksgiving unto the Lord for His mighty works).
Shavuot/Feast of Weeks
- One-day feast in Israel (a two-day feast outside of Israel).
- Set according to the counting of weeks, (7 weeks of the counting of the omer) + one day of rest. The 50th day is the feast of Firstfruits of Passover.
- Shavuot commemorates God’s giving His people the Law at Sinai, 50 days after delivering them out of Egypt.
- Firstfruits offering of two loaves of leavened bread made from fine flour from the wheat harvest (the only leaven ever brought to the Temple and offered to God).
Why Would Leaven Be Acceptable to the Lord?
The answer is found in considering the typology. Yes, leaven does represent sin (e.g. the false doctrine of the Pharisees — Matt 16:12). Yet, at the time of Shavuot, leaven is put into the “fine flour” from the wheat harvest. The lump rises, it is baked, and it becomes a warm, aromatic, fresh loaf of bread that is to be offered to God. Let’s examine the typology.
The fine flour of wheat represents the Church, as mentioned above. The leaven still represents sin, however, when the lump of dough (fine flour mixed with leaven) is baked, it rises and the leaven inside is unseen. As Christians, we are covered by the Bread of Heaven (John 6:51). Jesus took upon Himself our sins (leaven) and He gave His life to pay for them. Jesus died and rose to glory. and He is the Bread of Life (John 6:35) who covers our sins.
God also commanded that they bake and offer two loaves. Typologically, it’s considered that this represents the Church, which is made up of both Jews and Gentiles who appear the same in the eyes of God. During the church age, we who belong to Jesus still sin, but we are acceptable to God because, when He looks upon a redeemed sinner, He does not see the leaven in us. He sees the perfect Bread of Heaven…HIS SON, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The firstfruits offering of this feast (the two loaves) were waved to the Lord. Typologically, this could represent the Rapture of believers at the harvest of the wheat (the Church).
Another Prophetic Whisper?
Jewish tradition offers another “whisper” of Shavuot being the time when the Rapture could occur.
- Jewish tradition says that Enoch was born at the time of Shavuot.
- The Bible tells that Enoch was raptured by God (Gen 5:24)
- Jewish tradition claims that Enoch was raptured at the same time of year as his birth.
So what could that mean?
- Typologically, Enoch is considered a “picture” or “whisper” of the primarily Gentile Church. (Enoch was a Gentile, predating Abraham. Enoch walked with God and was taken, i.e. raptured.- Gen 5:24)
- We know that the Church was “born” at the time of Shavuot/Pentecost. (at the same time Jewish tradition claims Enoch was born)
- Could it be that the Church will be raptured at the same time of year that it was “born?” At the same time that Enoch was raptured?
When we consider that Jesus’ first coming completely fulfilled the spring Feast of Passover, and His second coming will completely fulfill the fall Feast of Tabernacles, is it possible that the Feast of Shavuot has been only partially fulfilled with the birth of the Church? (typologically, the bread has been made) And, is it possible that it will be completely fulfilled when Jesus returns for His bride, the Church, and raptures His own to Heaven? (typologically, the “bread” will be waved to God and received by Him)
- Never forget that the Bible does not reveal when the Rapture will take place.
- While the reasoning for the Rapture being at the time of Shavuot/Pentecost is interesting and plausible, remember it is only reasoned thinking. It might be right. It might be wrong. But even if it is right, we only know the season (not the day or hour).
- The accuracy of all patterns and types can only be determined after prophecies have been fulfilled.
- What we do KNOW is that the Rapture will take place in God’s perfect timing. And so, we are to wait being confident that Jesus is with us (Heb 13:5) and He is working in and through us (Phil 1:6).
- Also, remember that not all Christians believe the same things when it comes to eschatology (end times). Do not allow differing views to become divisive. God calls us to study His Word, and we are promised that the Holy Spirit will open our understanding and teach us, but remember, our first and foremost calling is to glorify God by loving. We are to love God first and then love our neighbors. Jesus said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35 )
All Christians agree that Jesus is coming back and that He will make ALL things new. Let it be our united prayer, “come quickly Lord Jesus.” And, until He returns, let us be laborers in the wheat fields so His harvest will be plentiful. Keep looking up….
Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing
of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; (Titus 2:13)
Just for Fun
When doing research for my book, Who Said That? Common everyday sayings…where do they come from? I came across a lot of common idioms about wheat and bread. Idioms are a combination of words that provide a figurative meaning — usually to emphasize a point or to add “color” to a conversation.
To “separate the wheat from the chaff” is about the wheat harvest, and it means to distinguish what is useful or valuable (the wheat) from that which is not (the chaff). This saying originated in the Bible and is listed in the book Who Said That?
Just for fun, here are a few more (although these are without biblical origin).
- “Bread and butter” refers to the basics of life.
- “Bread and water” refers to the bare minimum of food and drink, based on the traditional punitive prison diet.
- “The greatest thing since sliced bread” is something considered revolutionary and indispensable.
- “Half a loaf is better than none” means that one shouldn’t complain about not having everything. One should be thankful for what one has because it is better to have something than nothing.
- “Half-baked” means “incomplete” or “not thoroughly planned or conceived.”
- To know “which side one’s bread is buttered on” is to recognize what is advantageous.
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