A Day of Smoke, Thunder and Lightning
Why has God called out only a small number of people now as part of His one true Church?

Why has God called out only a small number of people now as part of His one true Church? Why have only they been given His Holy Spirit, which remains inaccessible to the rest of mankind? Is God playing favorites? Is this the only day of salvation? The day of Pentecost gives us the answers to all of these questions.

God’s firstfruits should have a special view of the day of Pentecost because this holy day pictures them. More than any other day, this holy day—a day of smoke, thunder and lightning—shows their place in God’s family plan. On this day God gave His law and His Holy Spirit. On this day God made it possible for you to be part of the bride of Christ—a firstfruit in His Family.

Let’s review the fantastic history of the day of Pentecost.

The Law and the Holy Spirit

The Bible tells us that God gave the Ten Commandments to ancient Israel with a dazzling display of thunder, smoke and lightning: “[T]here were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled” (Exodus 19:16).

Then God Himself descended and “mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly” (verse 18). What an awesome display of power! Imagine the profound effect this must have had on the children of Israel. Having just been freed from their captors in Egypt, they must have been deeply moved.

What sort of effect would this display have on your life?

In reality, those people never even made it out of the wilderness. That entire generation, except for two people, died in the wilderness, having broken God’s law again and again.

Only a few hundred years later, the entire nation of Israel was enslaved again, having totally rejected the commandments God gave it. The identity of 10 tribes was lost. The Israelites failed as a nation, having broken the law God gave them in such a fantastic display of power. In fact, that law that they failed so miserably to keep was given to the Israelites at their first Pentecost. If not for the fulfillment of the wave sheaf offering, we would fail just like they did!

In Acts 2, we read about the first Pentecost the disciples kept after Christ’s ascension to His Father. Like the delivery of the Ten Commandments, there was an awesome display of power: There was a rushing mighty wind, there were tongues of fire, and all that were gathered near heard the disciples speaking in their own language (Acts 2:2-12). The Holy Spirit was sent to the disciples.

There is one verse that actually defines what the Holy Spirit is: “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy [Spirit] shall come upon thee, and the power of the highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35; see also Acts 1:8). Here Luke calls the Holy Spirit “the power of the Highest:” There is no biblical reference to the Holy Spirit as a third member of the Godhead. Rather, with the Holy Spirit you have access to the very power of God!

This giving of the Spirit was not meant to replace God’s commands—far from it! The Holy Spirit enables us to keep the Ten Commandments, and not merely in the physical way that ancient Israel tried to do. Jesus Christ magnified these commands for us and then gave us the power—His power—to obey!

He said, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire” (Matthew 5:21-22).

Christ goes on to show that simply looking on a woman lustfully constitutes adultery. Certainly the law was not being done away; it is to be kept in its spiritual intent, as Christ Himself did throughout His life.

When the law was given, mankind received specific instruction on how to obey God; when the Holy Spirit was given, true Christians received the awesome power necessary to carry it out as Jesus Christ did. Never underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit; remember, without it, the children of Israel failed to obey God.

Completing the Spring Harvest

The instructions for the holy days preceding Pentecost simply tell us that the days are holy convocations, when to keep them, and provide special instruction where necessary; for instance, we eat no leavened bread for seven days.

Of the 44 verses in Leviticus 23, 14 of them are connected to Pentecost. God does not give a specific date to observe this holy day; rather, He directly connects the observance of Pentecost to the spring harvest.

God gives an instruction in Leviticus 23:10-11 regarding this harvest that we must understand if we are going to comprehend the meaning behind Pentecost: the wave sheaf offering. The high priest would wave a sheaf of barley on the “morrow after the Sabbath” (verse 11). Once God had accepted this offering, the spring harvest could begin—not before.

That wave sheaf is a spiritual type of Jesus Christ, also the first to be accepted by His Father. Without Him as the first human ever to be born into the God Family, no one else could follow. The wave sheaf was offered by the high priest to God every year until Jesus Christ came, fulfilling the event it pictured.

Every year, the Middle East knows two harvests: The first is a smaller harvest following the winter rains; the second is the much larger fall harvest. Once the wave sheaf was accepted by God, the smaller spring harvest would begin, along with the 50-day count toward Pentecost (verses 15-16).

Because of Christ’s success, the spring harvest has begun, and only those with God’s Holy Spirit, originally given on this day, are a part of it (Romans 8:9). On Pentecost, two wave loaves were brought out: “two loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the Lord” (Leviticus 23:17). In verse 18, these two loaves are offered to God. One loaf represents those few called out prior to Jesus Christ’s first coming; the other represents the New Testament Church. Notice though: Both are baked with leaven — a symbol of sin! We are not perfect as Jesus Christ is perfect. There is no doubt that we have a tough job in making our garments clean and white as Jesus Christ’s bride must be, but the bride does make herself ready (Revelation 19:7-8).

A much larger harvest, pictured by the Last Great Day, is coming later, but the fantastic day of Pentecost pictures the time we live in and the role we play. In the May 1985 Good News, Herbert W. Armstrong wrote: “[Pentecost] teaches us that we of the true Church are the ‘firstfruits’ only—the first to receive salvation through Christ. It teaches us that all others are not yet called.”

If there is a race going on between God and Satan for souls, God is surely losing by a landslide. Thankfully, there is no such race. In fact, Scripture does show us that, today, the Gentiles, as “strangers from the covenants of promise,” have no hope (Ephesians 2:12). If there were no future hope of salvation, however, every Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim would be eternally lost—condemned simply because they never heard the Word of God! This alone should tell us that God is not simply in a losing race to save mankind. That plan would be futile and fruitless!

Also, what of those who were born before Jesus Christ? With no Savior, what hope would they have? Those billions would be as hopeless as the Gentiles are today!

Today, only the Church is being called to receive salvation and being prepared to bring everyone else into God’s Family. Pentecost identifies us as the firstfruits—the first of many brethren to come later (Romans 8:29).

What It Means to Be a Firstfruit

On that first Pentecost in a.d. 31, only 120 converts were present. After that, “the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47). That continues to this day. But what is the advantage in being called today?

God gives fantastic blessings to the firstfruits that will never, ever, be available to anyone else again. True, our risk is greater; but the rewards are incalculable and will last forever! Only the firstfruits will marry Jesus Christ as described in Revelation 19. Only the very elect firstfruits are given the headquarters positions talked about in Revelation 3, and will share Jesus Christ’s throne with Him (Revelation 3:21).

We do face Satan the devil, an evil society, and our own carnal human nature; with these things comes an increased risk of failure that those in the later harvest will not face. But we also have the opportunity to bring the entire world into God’s Family!

Do you realize that the entire world is waiting for this spring harvest? “Because the [creation] itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the [sonship], to wit, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:21-23). The world is waiting for God’s elect to learn the lessons they need to help every man, woman and child become a member of the God Family!

The firstfruits are the hope of the entire world. This day of Pentecost puts the focus on the bride’s role in God’s Family; on this day God gave the law, His Holy Spirit, and made it possible to bring you into His Family as one of the firstfruits of many brethren. What an amazing blessing is the day of Pentecost!