Pentecost is usually thought of as the time when the power of God was poured out and those present spoke in tongues, but in this article, a most heartwarming, emotional and stimulating text will be highlighted that hopefully will be riveted in your minds forever.
John 20:17 reveals what happened when Mary discovered that Jesus was alive after His crucifixion, death and burial. “Jesus saith unto her, Touch Me not; for I am not yet ascended to My Father: but go to My brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God.”
The hope is that somehow this text will have a new and tremendous meaning, and that we may experience and exclaim with the Apostle Paul, “I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God” (Ephesians 3:14–19).
In the typical sanctuary service of ancient Israel it was customary for the high priest to lay aside pontifical robes and to officiate in the white linen dress of an ordinary priest. So likewise the Son of God came down to this earth from heaven and He laid aside His royal robes, clothing Himself with humanity to offer Himself as a ransom for humanity. Paul, speaking of this in 1 Corinthians 5:7, last part, says, “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.” He did this to fulfill the requirements of the Passover, for as the word of God reveals, Christ Himself became the priest and Christ Himself became the victim. Thus He made an atonement for our sins, but in God’s blueprint for complete salvation He foresaw the need for yet some additional steps in order to restore man to his rightful place.
The atonement provided only for the forgiveness of sins, but sin had separated humanity from God so something more needed to be done to reunite man with his Creator; therefore God devised additional plans so that this could be accomplished. If these details were followed precisely this would make it possible for finite man to comprehend how heaven and earth, which were now separated, could be reunited in oneness, making it possible for you and me to actually become part of the family of God.
Immediately after the Passover Sabbath on the first day of the week, we read in Leviticus 23 verses 5, 9–11, “In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the Lord’s Passover.” “The Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: And he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.”
It was on the first day of the week that the sheaf was to be waved before God by the priest. Jesus fulfilled this in person since He was the wave sheaf.
You remember that the Passover lamb was slain on Friday at the ninth hour, which was 3 o’clock in the afternoon as we reckon time today and that great curtain in the sanctuary separating the holy from the most holy which was some 60 to 70 feet in height was ripped from top to bottom by none other than God Himself. At that precise moment the priest was about to kill the sacrificial lamb, but because of this terrifying experience the lamb slipped away, and, in its place, Jesus was crucified at the exact moment that the lamb was to be slain.
During the Sabbath hours after His crucifixion, Jesus lay in a sleep of death in the tomb, but on the first day He is to awake and present the wave sheaf offering. Divine prediction must be fulfilled, for Christ was the wave sheaf. He became the firstfruits by His own resurrection. Thus He was able to comply with the stipulation which was laid down by God a thousand years before.
Let’s see how He did this. This first sheaf of grain was to be presented on the first day following the Passover Sabbath. Consider what actually took place. It is still dark. The gravestone covering the tomb’s entrance is still in place. The Roman seal is unbroken and around the tomb stand the Roman guards. If you look by Divine perception you will see a host of evil angels but looking more closely you will see a heavenly host immediately surrounding the sepulcher. Matthew tells us what took place. “And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it” (Matthew 28:2). This was the same angel that took the place of Lucifer. Instantly, when this angel arrived all of the evil angels fled and the soldiers fell as dead men. This mighty angel rolled that great stone, which was at least 6 feet in diameter, as if it were a pebble. And then he cried out, “Son of God, come forth; Thy Father calls Thee.” Immediately Christ comes forth from the tomb as the angelic host sings with great joy, “Thou hast vanquished Satan and the powers of darkness; Thou hast swallowed up death in victory!” The Desire of Ages, 780.
But something else has taken place as Jesus arose. It’s a startling event, for an earthquake has opened a multitude of other graves. Individuals arose from their graves who had given their lives as a testimony to God’s truth. These resurrected saints are the Savior’s trophies of victory over the power of death. No longer are they captives of Satan. They are now redeemed, brought forth from the grave, the firstfruits of the end time resurrection. Christ had raised many others from death when He was here on this earth. For example, there was the son of the widow of Nain. There was the ruler’s little daughter, and there was Lazarus who had died and had been buried for three days. Each of these had to die again. But these resurrected saints who arose when Christ arose would never die. They were raised to everlasting life.
Shortly after these saints had arisen out of their graves, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb. Imagine her amazement as she discovers that the tomb is empty. She fears that someone has stolen the body of Jesus. “And they [two angels] say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him. And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto Him, Sir, if Thou have borne Him hence, tell me where Thou hast laid Him, and I will take Him away.” You see, her eyes were so filled with tears that she could not see clearly. Continuing, “Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto Him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. Jesus saith unto her, Touch Me not; for I am not yet ascended to My Father: but go to My brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God” (John 20:13–17).
There is something about this that we have in common. We are now the family of God and God is our Father. Something is about to occur that makes this possible, something that will reunite heaven with earth. What is this wonder? Christ is about to ascend to heaven where He will present Himself to the Father as the wave sheaf, the symbol of the first resurrected life of the great harvest to come.
Immediately, Jesus leaves this earth, He leaves Mary and goes to heaven where He is to approach His Father for the express purpose of presenting Himself as the wave sheaf. Apparently travel in space is no problem for Deity. One moment He is talking to Mary and the next moment He is billions of miles away standing before His Father. There He presents Himself as the firstfruits of the resurrection. It is a private meeting and it is not open to the universe. Here the assurance is given that Christ’s sacrifice has been accepted.
“He [Christ] ascended to the heavenly courts, and from God Himself heard the assurance that His atonement for the sins of men had been ample, that through His blood all might gain eternal life. The Father ratified the covenant made with Christ, that He would receive repentant and obedient men,” and please mark these words: The Father said “that He would receive repentant and obedient men, and would love them even as He loves His Son.” The Desire of Ages, 790. [Emphasis supplied.]
Amazing! Can you comprehend that? Naturally the Father loves His Son, but we who have been sinners, we who have damned Him, we who have done all kinds of evil things, can it be that God still loves us? Oh yes, we have always believed that but, loved us as much as He loved His Son? That’s what a family is all about, isn’t it? To be in the family of God and to be loved individually as much as God loves His Son, it boggles the mind.
No sooner had this short visit been accomplished with the Father then He immediately returns to this earth. During His absence, other women have arrived at the tomb. The Desire of Ages, 793: “After He had ascended to the Father, Jesus appeared to the other women, saying, ‘All hail. And they came and held Him by the feet, and worshiped Him’ (Matthew 28:9).” He wouldn’t let Mary touch Him as He first had to go to heaven to present the wave sheaf. “Then said Jesus unto them, ‘Be not afraid: go tell My brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see Me’ (verse 10).” Ibid. The time has now arrived that He can assure the disciples that He has fulfilled His pledge. Isaiah 13:12: “I will make a man more precious than fine gold.” No question about it. We can become sons and daughters of the family of God, each loved as much as God loves His Son who died for us. Praise His holy name! Oh, what God has planned for us!
Now He says to these women, Tell the disciples, Go into Galilee where I am going to instruct them for the next 40 days. In Acts the first chapter, verse 3, we read, “To whom also He showed Himself alive after His passion by many infallible proofs.” There they handled Him, they slept with Him, they ate with Him, they talked with Him, they were with Him 40 days. No question about it, Jesus was alive. But there must be 50 days, not 40, that must take place before the next great event which is called Pentecost. It will be at this coming celebration when the covenant will be ratified with His church. It was ratified with God when Christ presented Himself as the wave sheaf, but at Pentecost it is to be ratified to the church.
Why is this? Had not Christ already died for the atonement? Christ had already arisen in victory over death and already presented the wave sheaf to His Father in heaven. Then why must there be a Pentecost? Because something else is needed to unite heaven with earth. The church of God must be given divine power to give the gospel to the entire world and this cannot take place until additional firstfruits are presented to God the Father in heaven before the universe.
Every divine stipulation that you find in the Scripture must be fulfilled; nothing fails. Leviticus 23:15–17: “And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete [that is, 49 days]: Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the Lord. Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals; they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the Lord.”
These verses draw our attention once again to this special group that were resurrected when Jesus arose. They arose with Him on the resurrection day. They represent the family of God on this earth. They are the pledge of assurance that the resurrection of all the righteous will take place when Christ comes the second time. “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him” (1 Thessalonians 4:14).
So it was in this divine plan that when Christ, after His resurrection had presented the wave sheaf to His Father, that He would go back to earth and return again to heaven, this time bringing a great multitude of His trophies to present them as the family of earth, to be united with the family of God.
But before this takes place a multitude of captives from the grave must first perform a special work. They are to go into the city of Jerusalem and to declare to the honest in heart that Christ had indeed risen from the dead. They were to be living proof that He had risen. This was necessary for several reasons. The priests had paid the soldiers to lie by commanding them to say that His disciples came by night and stole Jesus away while they slept. That in itself was quite a deception because any soldier knew that if he went to sleep at his post he would be killed.
Furthermore, the Sadducees who were supposed to be God’s ministers in His temple during the day of Christ had for centuries taught the people to disbelieve in the resurrection. For a hundred years they had preached the devil’s doctrine that there was no resurrection. So God is going to make sure there is no misunderstanding. Imagine, when these risen saints came to a person’s home and knocked at the door and said, “Look at me; I just arose from the grave with Jesus of Nazareth.” There could be no question about it. Here was living proof, for they declared that when Jesus arose, they arose with Him. Can you imagine the impact that this made?
Here is a lesson for us. In those days the ministers were teaching Satan’s lies to the people so that they would not accept Jesus when He came. We are told that the same evil power today will have his men preaching from the hellish torch of Satan. (See Last Day Events, 179.) They will again be teaching false doctrines and if you believe them you will not be ready to go home with Jesus when He comes. We must study continually. God’s word never leaves an honest soul in doubt.
For 40 days these risen saints went from house to house and from person to person telling the good news. The Spirit of God led them to honest souls, proving beyond a doubt that Jesus had indeed risen. “These went into the city, and appeared unto many, declaring, Christ has risen from the dead, and we be risen with Him.” The Desire of Ages, 786.
In Isaiah 26:19 prophecy had predicted this: “Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise … and the earth shall cast out the dead.”
Every prophecy in the Bible is always fulfilled to the exact letter. But more than this, these risen saints were to give assurance to us who are alive today that God always keeps His promise, for we soon shall witness a coming resurrection ourselves. “For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4:16). What a day that is going to be!
“The voice that cried from the cross, ‘It is finished,’ was heard among the dead. It pierced the wall of sepulchers, and summoned the sleepers to arise. Thus will it be when the voice of Christ shall be heard from heaven. That voice will penetrate the graves and unbar the tombs, and the dead in Christ shall arise. At the Saviour’s resurrection a few graves were opened, but at His second coming all the precious dead shall hear His voice, and shall come forth to glorious, immortal life.
“The same power that raised Christ from the dead will raise His church, and glorify it with Him, above all principalities, above all powers, above every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in the world to come.” The Desire of Ages, 787.
Oh beloved, there are some mighty wonderful things to happen soon.
Now back to the 40 days Christ spent with His disciples before returning to heaven with His trophies. He knows that there is needed time in heaven to prepare for a glorious homecoming. Besides this, His disciples will need time to prepare for heaven’s overflow of that great celebration at which time heaven will bestow the Holy Spirit in its fullness, ratifying the covenant with His church.
Now let us follow this step by step. Jesus the risen Saviour is about to return victoriously to heaven bringing with Him His trophies. For 40 days Jesus has authenticated to His disciples that He is the living Saviour. No longer must He be associated with the tomb. Now they must think of Him as being alive, a glorified being, indeed, our Great High Priest who is in heaven’s sanctuary now for us.
Next, Jesus chooses a spot for His ascension. It will be the Mount of Olives upon which His feet will again rest at the close of the millennium when Jesus brings the New Jerusalem to this earth. As Jesus bids His disciples goodbye, they watch as He slowly ascends from among His disciples and they hear clearly the very last words that He ever spoke on this earth: “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20).
As the disciples watched, a cloud of glory hides Jesus from their sight. As the chariots of angels receive the Savior, the air is filled with the sweetest music as the angelic host sings. It is now that two angels reveal themselves and speak. “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). These are the same two angels who were His personal body guards while He was here on earth throughout His mission. They longed to go with Jesus to heaven but in love for the disciples they linger behind to remind His faithful disciples that Jesus would come again.
In the meanwhile, the multitude of captives who arose with Christ had joined the Savior in the clouds. They are on their way to heaven with Jesus as He returns to the Father. These risen saints are of the first fruits. This is what Paul meant when he said, “When He [Christ] ascended up on high, He led captivity captive” (Ephesians 4:8).
As Jesus ascended with His trophies, all heaven is astir in preparation to welcome the Savior. Jesus leads the way and the multitude of His captives follow as the escorting angels begin to cry, “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in” (Psalm 24:7). Then those angels who were on the walls of Jerusalem cry back, “Who is this King of glory” (verse 8, first part)? Not that they didn’t know, but they loved to hear it. Back came the words, “The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle” (verse 8, last part). Again, “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in” (verse 9). “Who is this King of glory” (verse 10, first part)? Back comes the words, “The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory” (verse 10, last part).
Now look closely as this mighty reception takes place at the walls of the New Jerusalem. The gates are opened as Jesus and the redeemed that arose with Him sweep through the gate into the city itself. There they go to the center of that great city where that throne encircled by a rainbow is found. Here the countless sons of God, the representatives of unfallen worlds, and the billions of unfallen angels also assemble to celebrate Christ’s triumphant return. This is the same heavenly council before which Lucifer had accused God and His Son. Here are the representatives of the sinless worlds over which Satan has sought to establish his dominion. They are all eager to celebrate the triumph of their king. But wait … Christ raises His hand and “He waves them back. Not yet; He cannot now receive the coronet of glory and the royal robe. He enters into the presence of His Father. He points to His wounded head, the pierced side, the marred feet; He lifts His hands, bearing the print of the nails. He points to the tokens of His triumph; He presents to God the wave sheaf, those raised with Him as representatives of that great multitude who shall come forth from the grave at His second coming.” The Desire of Ages, 834.
Now watch as Christ approaches closer to the Father. Imagine the joy as God beholds the family of earth that are now before Him who are resurrected with Christ, the trophies of the Saviour. Recall the pledge that the Father and His Son made before sin entered. Recall the covenant promise to redeem sinners. Listen once again to that cry on the cross when Christ cried, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Watch as Christ now presents the trophies to the Father with these words, “Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am” (John 17:24). Listen as the Pentecostal celebration takes place, when you hear the words of God that justice is satisfied. Satan is forever vanquished. At last Christ’s struggling children are now accepted by God, for where Christ is, there His church shall be. “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other” (Psalm 85:10). Behold the Father’s arms as He encircles His Son.
“With joy unutterable, rulers and principalities and powers acknowledge the supremacy of the Prince of life. The angel host prostrate themselves before Him, while the glad shout fills all the courts of heaven, ‘Worthy, worthy, worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing’ (Revelation 5:12).” The Desire of Ages, 834.
Now the words of Christ have full assurance. My God is your God. My Father is your Father. Oh if we could only comprehend this when troubles come—that we have a Father we can go to. Never forget He has told us that He loves us as much as He loves our Savior, Jesus Christ. What kind of life would we live in this world if we really realize that we are now sons and daughters of the Almighty, for the family of earth is reunited with the family of God. This is why Revelation 5 states, “Every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, … heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever” (verse 13). Words cannot adequately express the joy that the family on earth is now united with the family of heaven. This Pentecost celebration should ring a bell every day in our lives. We belong to Jesus. We are His. We were bought. We were redeemed. We are sons and daughters of Divinity. God is our Father, for Pentecost had finally arrived.
“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1–4).
This earthly celebration is important for us because the Savior’s sacrifice is now accepted by the universe. The gospel story is beyond question. Now the Holy Spirit fills the heart of each disciple on this earth with a spirit that leads God’s church to victory. When we speak of Pentecost our memories should recall Calvary’s atonement that was accepted, that the enemy of death itself has been defeated, that Christ has ascended with His risen saints giving us full assurance of a final resurrection soon to take place. Pentecost assures us that we are now the family of God. This, the joy of Pentecost, should be our daily experience. Every day let us remember the words of Jesus, “I ascend unto My Father, and your Father, to My God, and your God.”
For more than fifty years, Lawrence Nelson served the Seventh-day Adventist Church as a church pastor, evangelist, and then in Conference, Union, and General Conference leadership. When God laid upon him the responsibility to “tell it like it is” to alert the people how the church was leading them into the worldwide ecumenical movement, he was forbidden to preach in any church within the Oregon Conference. Though nothing could be found in his preaching that was contrary to the doctrines of the church, he was considered divisive. As a result, Keep the Faith Audio Tape Ministry was born. Elder Nelson passed to his rest on April 18, 2012.