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Count Fifty

by George Carter
Photo by Crissy Jarvis on Unsplash
 

Mortal man faces an insurmountable obstacle in his multifarious attempts to understand who or what God is, especially as it relates to the matter of eternity. Man exists within fairly strict time limits, but God is self-existent and all embracing – beyond the bounds of space-time and the limits of the cosmos, all of which He created.

However, Jesus Christ is called the Alpha and the Omega - the beginning and the end – but is described as such only in relation to mankind, since we are created by Him and for Him (John 1:3, Colossians 1:16). We are not here by accident. Theories about evolution without intelligence, design, or purpose may safely be consigned to the wastebasket of pseudo science.

Jesus Christ was slain as the Lamb of God, precisely on time to the day and hour almost 2,000 years ago. He gave Himself in sacrifice to redeem us from the penalty of sin, which is eternal death, and gives us the opportunity of eternal life (Romans 6:23). Exactly three days and three nights after His lifeless body was placed in the tomb, our Lord was resurrected to everlasting glory as the firstfruit of those who have fallen asleep (1 Corinthians 15:20, 23).

He had been asked for a sign, but the only one He gave – disregarding all the marvelous miracles that He performed – was the sign of the prophet Jonah. “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40).

We know that there cannot be three days and three nights between Friday afternoon and Sunday morning. However, the crucifixion and resurrection did not happen on those days anyway, despite popular misconceptions.

God does not act haphazardly, but proceeds with great purpose and forethought. The Sabbaths and Holy Days were in place before He created Adam (Genesis 1:14) and provide an annual review of His plan, which Christ and His disciples followed, but is lost on most people today. The Hebrew word “seasons” in that verse means “appointed times” or Holy Day seasons, three times in the year, not the four seasons as such.

So time, as we know it, applies in particular to the creation of mankind. The time is soon coming when the first humans will be made immortal to emerge into the full light of eternal life as spirit beings and children of God. This was the plan from the beginning as we see in Genesis 1:26, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’” Jesus Christ became a man precisely in order to make this possible. He was the first man ever to go on into immortality (1 Timothy 6:16) and as such is the first of the firstfruits of mankind to be harvested.

In the Bible, God uses the analogy of harvests to picture stages in His great Plan of Salvation. During the Days of Unleavened Bread, a special offering called the Wavesheaf had to be made before harvesting could begin. It was made on the day following the weekly Sabbath, a Sunday as we name days today (Leviticus 23:10, 11) and then, from the day that the wave sheaf was offered, seven weeks were to follow, counting fifty days to the Sunday after that Sabbath (verse 15). That fiftieth day would be the Feast of Pentecost, the second of the appointed times, or “seasons” to be observed by God’s people. It is also called the Day of the Firstfruits (Numbers 28:26) which adds an essential element when understood in context.

This is a Sunday, and the fiftieth day counting from the weekly Sabbath that falls during the Passover season. It is not the day following the First Day of Unleavened Bread as most Jews typically observe it – so that Pentecost is always on Sivan 6 according to their calendar following a mistaken tradition taken from what happened under Joshua in the first year that the tribes of Israel entered the Promised Land (Joshua 5). That year the First Day of Unleavened Bread fell on a weekly Sabbath (Saturday, so making it a double Sabbath) and Joshua was then quite correct in counting from the following day. It seldom works out that way, and certainly the Bible does not instruct us to count from the High Day Sabbath. If we incorrectly follow the Jewish tradition, then it is possible that we might be early or late in calculating the proper date for Pentecost!

What is most important is that Pentecost connects the Church directly to Jesus Christ and His resurrection, something that the Israelites of old knew nothing about. He was the first of mankind to be made immortal, but others must soon now follow, and they are likened to the early harvest in Palestine, the firstfruit of the earth each year. Now, if Jesus Christ was born exactly on time, and died exactly on time according to God’s pre-ordained purpose, then we may be sure that He will return exactly on time, not a day sooner or later. We do not need to know when, only to be sure that that day is fixed on God’s Calendar. When that breathtakingly marvelous day comes, the faithful words of a lovely old hymn will be fulfilled; when “with the vision glorious her longing eyes are blest, and God’s true Church victorious shall be the Church at rest.”

© 1995- United Church of God-Canada

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