When Does the Pentecost Count Begin?

In 1974, when the Worldwide Church of God changed the Church's observance of Pentecost from Monday to Sunday, Passover of that year fell on a weekly Sabbath. This is a rare occurrence which happens on the average only about once in ten years. There had not been a Passover Sabbath since 1954. A Passover Sabbath occurred again in 1977, 1981, and 1994, and will not happen again until the year 2001.

As most Bible students know, the fifty-day count to Pentecost begins on the Wavesheaf Day. The Pharisees, who dominate modern Judaism, consider the fixed date, Nisan 16, to be Wavesheaf Day, and always celebrate their Pentecost on Sivan 6 (and 7). Sadducees considered the Sunday after the weekly Sabbath that falls during the Feast of Unleavened Bread as Wavesheaf Sunday, and celebrated their Pentecost on a Sunday 49 days later.

In 1974, the Worldwide Church of God (WWC) not only changed their Pentecost to Sunday, they kept it a full week early. Instead of considering the "morrow after the Sabbath," i.e., Wavesheaf Sunday, to be the Sunday after the Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, as the Sunday-Pentecost-keeping Sadducees did, the WWC changed Wavesheaf Sunday to the Sunday during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which in 1974 was the first Holy Day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The "Pentecost Study Material" distributed to WWC ministers in 1974, gives no scriptural support for the Church's assertion that Wavesheaf Sunday must always fall during the days of Unleavened Bread.

We now have at least three different possible wavesheaf days to consider:

(1) Nisan 16, a fixed date, which is supported by most modern Jews (the Pharisees), and William Dankenbring.

(2) The Sunday after the Sabbath which falls during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This is the pre-1974 Worldwide Church of God teaching. It is supported today by many Messianic groups who keep a Sunday or Monday Pentecost, such as Church of God, The Eternal; Church of God, Sonoma; Church of the Great God.

(3) The Sunday during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, supported by the Worldwide Church of God since 1974, and several of its breakaway groups (Church of God, International; Christian Biblical Church of God; Global Church of God, Philadelphia Church of God).

Our paper, Pentecost is Not Sivan 6, refutes a fixed date Wavesheaf Day, and hence a fixed date Pentecost. Let us consider the latter two possibilities for Wavesheaf Sunday. Can it be proven, from the Bible, which day is Wavesheaf Sunday? When the Passover falls on a Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, there is no argument. In this case, all Sunday and Monday Pentecost believers agree that Wavesheaf Sunday is the following Sunday. Only on those rare occasions when Passover falls on a weekly Sabbath is there disagreement.

Eight Days of Unleavened Bread?

Fred R. Coulter, pastor of the Christian Biblical Church of God, in 1994 wrote a paper, "Count to Pentecost--From Which Sabbath? and Beginning on Which Sunday?" In his article, Coulter gives the following scriptures (shown below) as proof for his assertion that "the wavesheaf cannot be waved outside the days of Unleavened Bread":

No, this is not a typographical error! Mr. Coulter's 15-page article does not give a single scripture reference to support his point. He wants us to believe that in 1994, Wavesheaf Sunday is on Nisan 15, which is an annual Holy Day. Can Wavesheaf Sunday be on an annual Holy Day? We shall see. Instead of giving us solid Bible proof, Coulter concludes that Passover, Abib (Nisan) 14, is a required day of unleavened bread, so we have a total of eight days of unleavened bread, instead of seven days of unleavened bread. He maintains that all leaven must be removed from our dwellings before the beginning of the 14th day of the first Bible month, and that we must abstain from all leavened products for a total of eight days. He concludes by quoting various Jewish rabbis, who are rethinking the 14th as an unleavened day.

It is true that the 14th day of the first month is a "first of the unleaveneds," Matthew 26:17, literal translation. This means that the Passover observance is the first use of unleavened bread in the Passover/Unleavened Bread season. It does not follow, as Mr. Coulter concludes, that Passover is always a day which we are to consume no leavened products at all. He gives no support for his claim that Nisan 14 is the same as the seven days of unleavened bread.

Let us look at the Bible. Leviticus 23:5-6 gives us the definitive answer to the question of how many days of unleavened bread there are:

In the fourteenth day of the first month at even (ben ha-erivim, between the two evenings) is the LORD's Passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the LORD: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread.

There are seven days, not eight days, that we are required to eat unleavened bread and have no leavened bread in our quarters. Passover is a separate feast from, and precedes, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, although through popular usage, Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread are often used interchangeably in the Bible. This is just like we do today, in referring to the Feast of Tabernacles as eight days, when in reality the Last Great Day is a separate Holy Day which follows the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles. We are required to dwell in booths seven days, not eight days, Leviticus 23:42. Likewise, we are required to eat unleavened bread only seven days, not eight days. Let us not add to God's inspired Word, in order to support our pre-conceived notions.

In Exodus 12:15, it says, "Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel." Mr. Coulter correctly states (page 5) that verse 15 should be translated "shall have put out leaven," because it is already put out by Nisan 15, the first holy day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It does not follow, nor does he give any scriptures to show, that Nisan 13, two days before, is the day to remove all leaven from one's dwelling. Exodus 12:15 demonstrates that the day before the first holy day is the day for final removal of all leaven from our houses.

Will we believe what God says, or instead add to His Word? Exodus 12:8 says that Passover is to be eaten with unleavened bread. It does not say that on Passover there is to be no leaven found in our dwellings. Again and again the Almighty repeats His instructions regarding unleavened bread. Seven days, never eight days, we are to have no leavening in our houses, Exodus 12:18-20, 13:6-7, 23:15, 34:18; Numbers 28:16-17; Deuteronomy 16:3-4. Even our children know that there are seven days of unleavened bread, not eight.

Some have tripped over Exodus 12:18-19, which at first glance seems to say that Passover is a day of unleavened bread. But read it carefully:

In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at even [ba-eriv, at the end of the day, not at the beginning], ye shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the month at even [ba-eriv]. Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses . . . .

If this says to begin eating only unleavened bread at the beginning of the fourteenth day, and cease eating only unleavened bread at the beginning of the twenty-first day, then Passover is a Holy Day, and Nisan 20 is a Holy Day, the last day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Indeed this is exactly what one Seventh Day Church of God group, headquartered in Caldwell, Idaho, has concluded! But, this would contradict other plain scriptures which prove that Nisan 15 and 21 are holy days, not Nisan 14 and 20. To his credit, even Mr. Coulter does not misuse this scripture to support his false contention that Passover is a required only unleavened bread day.

Popular Usage Does Not Alter God's Law

Although we commonly refer to Tishri 15-22 as the Feast of Tabernacles, actually we know that the 22nd day of the seventh month, Tishri 22, is not part of the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles, but a separate Holy Day, the Last Great Day. As we have seen, the Last Great Day is not a required day to dwell in booths (temporary dwellings). Our figures of speech do not contradict, change, or supersede, the Almighty's commands.

Because Passover precedes the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread, the children of Israel commonly interchanged the terms "Passover" and "Feast (or Days) of Unleavened Bread." Luke 22:1, 7, illustrates how common parlance interchanged these two back-to-back festivals: "Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover. . . . Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the passover must be killed."

Popular usage does not alter the Eternal's law. Because people generally referred to the entire eight-day period of Nisan 14 to 21 as the Passover, or the Feast of Unleavened Bread, does not mean that the Passover is eight days, nor does it mean that the Feast of Unleavened Bread is eight days. The book of Leviticus tells us specifically that the Passover is on the fourteenth, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread follows for seven days.

When did the custom of interchanging the words "Passover" and "Feast of Unleavened Bread" begin? At least by the time of Ezekiel, for, "In the first month, in the fourteenth day of the month, ye shall have the passover, a feast of seven days; unleavened bread shall be eaten," Ezekiel 45:21.

Notice how Ezekiel 45:25 compares this seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread with the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles in the seventh month. Ezekiel does not contradict the Eternal's command in Leviticus. It is a figure of speech to refer to the seven-day festival of the first month as "Passover."

Likewise, in Mark 14:1, 12, we have similar usages of this figure of speech:

After two days was the feast of the Passover, and of unleavened bread: . . . . And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the Passover, His disciples said unto Him, Where wilt Thou that we go and prepare that Thou mayest eat the Passover?

Matthew 26:17; Mark 14:12; and Luke 22:7 do not alter the commandment of God in Leviticus 23. They do not tell us that we must have all leavening out of our dwellings when Nisan 14 arrives, nor do they command us to abstain from all leavened products for a total of eight days. If the Eternal would have wanted His people to observe a total of eight days of only unleavened bread, He would have said so.

What about Deuteronomy 16:1-8? Do these verses show that Passover is a day of Unleavened Bread, like the rest of the Feast of Unleavened Bread? No, not even Mr. Coulter believes that. He correctly shows in his book, The Christian Passover, pages 156-172, that this passage of scripture does not refer to the Passover lamb on Nisan 14, but the animal sacrifices given on Nisan 15. Coulter shows that Ezra edited this portion of scripture to combat the Samaritan religion, and that the "Passover" of these verses refers to the Feast of Unleavened Bread, not the Nisan 14 festival of Passover.

So, where are the scriptures which prove that Passover, Nisan 14, is a day of unleavened bread only, like the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread? There are no such scriptures to be found.

Old Corn, or New Corn?

Although Mr. Coulter is adamant in favor of Nisan 15 being Wavesheaf Sunday when Passover falls on the weekly Sabbath, his paper does not discuss the only [weak] scriptures which I have seen supporting such a notion. The 1974 Worldwide Church of God Pentecost Study Material attempts to demonstrate that Nisan 15 is Wavesheaf Sunday when Passover is on the Sabbath because of Joshua 5:10-12. They also infer from the typical prophetic meaning of the Wavesheaf that their position is correct. It is most odd that Coulter does not use the arguments from the 1974 study paper, although as a former WWC minister, he had a copy and read the original.

The 1974 Worldwide Church argument goes like this:

The Passover kept by the children of Israel in Gilgal at the plains of Jericho was on the weekly Sabbath. They ate new grain of the land on the morrow after the Passover, unleavened cakes and parched grain. Therefore, Nisan 15 had to have been Wavesheaf Sunday. Thus, when the Passover falls on the weekly Sabbath, Nisan 15 is Wavesheaf Sunday.

The WWC argument is fallacious. The word translated "old corn" in the King James Version, and "produce" in the New KJV is Strong's #5669, abuwr, which according to Strong means "passed, i.e. kept over; used only of stored grain:--old corn." Joshua 5:11-12 is the only place in the Bible where this word is used. Abuwr comes from #5674, abar, which among other things means "carried over." Clarke's Commentary suggests that this was produce purchased from the inhabitants of the land. It could also mean grain that Israel had carried with them over the Jordan; hence it was "passed over grain," which is what abuwr means. Now what is the command in Leviticus 23:10-14 regarding the wavesheaf? It says that once they came into the land, Israel was to offer a sheaf of the firstfruits of their harvest. Only then could they eat grain from the new harvest. They were not to offer the wavesheaf from grain purchased from the local inhabitants, or from grain carried over the Jordan. It had to be from "your harvest," verse 10. Israel did not have a harvest when they had not yet conquered Jericho.

It is a BIG assumption that the Passover of Joshua 5:10 was on a weekly Sabbath. Actually, there is strong evidence that this Passover was the Passover of the second month, not the first. Remember, all the Israelite males had been circumcised just shortly before. They came up out of the Jordan on the 10th day of the first month, Joshua 4:19. In Joshua 5:2-9, all Israelite males were circumcised. If this happened on the 11th day of the first month, they would be too sore to slay the Passover, let alone walk around. They would likely still be in bed after this operation.

An eight-day-old baby boy doesn't have the severe problem that an adult male has when he is circumcised. Three days after the Shechemites were circumcised, when they were still very sore, Simeon and Levi were able to single-handedly slay all the defenseless male Shechemites, Genesis 34:24-25. My Hungarian friend who was circumcised as an adult can testify that it is mandatory to stay in bed for some time after the operation of circumcision. Therefore, it is very likely that the Passover in Joshua 5:10 was the second-month Passover, as specified in Numbers 9. This is more evidence that the Worldwide Church theory that Wavesheaf Sunday can be on Nisan 15 is faulty. The shakiness of their theory is probably the reason why Mr. Coulter does not mention this "proof," and had to come up with other reasons for his position.

Meaning of the Wavesheaf

After keeping the Holy Days for some years, one would expect that the faithful observer would grow in understanding of the meaning of these important days and the Plan of God. The Holy Days picture God's Plan for mankind in bringing many sons into glory, into His divine family. The plan begins with the sacrifice of the Messiah for our sins. The plan continues with the resurrection of Christ, His Ascension to the Father to be accepted by Him. Then there is our part in the plan, by putting out sin, followed by the receipt of the Holy Spirit to enable us to keep His law and produce fruit for Him. Finally, the plan comes to fruition in the fall of God's harvest season with the return of Jesus Christ to set up the millennial kingdom on this earth, the putting out of Satan, and the wonderful world tomorrow of peace on earth, followed by the second resurrection and final judgment.

The wavesheaf offering of Leviticus 23:10-14 was fulfilled in type by the ascension of Christ to Heaven to be accepted by the Father. When did this happen? It took place on the Sunday after the weekly Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, John 20:16-19. See also Hebrews 9:12. Messiah entered the Holy of Holies, not in 1844, but in 31 A.D., to make atonement for us. This was a most significant event in the plan of salvation for mankind.

Jews believe that if a person has been dead for three days, there was no doubt he was really dead and would not revive. Daniel 9:26-27 seems to indicate that Messiah would be cut off in the midst of the week, i.e., be slain on a Wednesday. He knew that He would be in the grave for three days and three nights, Matthew 12:40.

We know that by Saturday night, Jesus was gone from the tomb. All of this evidence points to the fact that Jesus was crucified on a Passover Wednesday. He could not have been impaled on a Passover that fell on the weekly Sabbath. All the prophecies pointed to a Wednesday Passover crucifixion. Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemas rushed to bury Jesus just before the High Day Sabbath, John 19:31, 38-42.

Now let us suppose that the crucifixion had actually taken place on the weekly Sabbath, and it was a Passover that year. Could Wavesheaf Sunday, be Nisan 15, the following day after the crucifixion? No! The meaning of the Holy Days could not be fulfilled under such a circumstance. This scenario leaves no time for Messiah to be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights, no time for His resurrection. Could the following Sunday, Nisan 22, be Wavesheaf Sunday? Yes indeed, it could have been, had Passover been on the weekly Sabbath. Jesus would have been in the grave three days and three nights, and been resurrected. He would be ready by Wavesheaf Sunday to ascend to the Father to be accepted by Him. Even if Passover had been on Friday the year of the crucifixion, which it was not, there would be some time for Jesus to be dead in the grave (but not for three days and nights), and be resurrected to be accepted. A Nisan 15 Wavesheaf Sunday does not square with God's Plan of Salvation.

The 1974 Pentecost Study Material, pages 56-58, has us believe that the fulfillment of God's Plan must occur in the following order: (1) Passover sacrifice of Messiah, (2) acceptance by the Father of that perfect sacrifice, (3) the believer putting out sin by accepting that sacrifice. They say that a Nisan 22 Wavesheaf Sunday (when Passover is on the weekly Sabbath) wrongly pictures the believer putting out sin before the sacrifice of Christ is accepted by the Heavenly Father.

As we know, we eat unleavened bread to signify putting out sin. However, the Feast of Unleavened Bread starts at the beginning of Nisan 15. The Worldwide Church of God's Nisan 15 Wavesheaf Day would not have the acceptance of the wave offering of Christ until the morning of Nisan 15. Even their wrong teaching shows that one begins putting sin out of his life even before the sacrifice of the Messiah is accepted by the Heavenly Father! Remember, the Savior was figuratively slain for our sins before the foundation of the world. Our part in the Plan of Salvation, and Christ's part, overlap.

Is Nisan 22 Outside the Passover Season?

The Jews understand that the WHOLE PERIOD from Passover through Pentecost is the "Passover Season." They refer to Pentecost as the atzeret, or closing day, of the Passover season. So the rare occurrence of Passover (Nisan 14) falling on the Sabbath, which makes the correct Wavesheaf Sunday on Nisan 22 (NOT Nisan 15), does not put Wavesheaf Sunday outside the Passover season. Nisan 22 is always inside the Passover season, but not inside the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Alfred Edersheim, a noted historian of Jewish practices, says,

The 'Feast of Unleavened Bread' [season] may be said not to have quite passed till fifty days after its commencement, when it merged in that of Pentecost, or 'of Weeks' (The Temple: Its Ministry and Services as they were at the time of Christ, page 260).

The reason for the linkage of Passover/Feast of Unleavened Bread and Pentecost is simple. Passover represented the liberation of Israel from Egyptian bondage. The Feast of Unleavened Bread represented Israel's departure from Egypt and crossing the Red Sea. And Pentecost completed their liberation

from Egypt as the Almighty gave them His law and entered into a covenant with Israel at Sinai. Notice that our part of God's Plan of Salvation is putting out sin (Feast of Unleavened Bread), followed by the receipt of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost) to enable us to keep His law and produce fruit for Him. One cannot put out sin without the superior power of God. The Feast of Unleavened Bread and Pentecost are inextricably linked together.

Wavesheaf Sunday -- A Harvest Day

Can Nisan 15, the Holy Day, be a harvest day? No! Leviticus 23:7 says the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Nisan 15, is "an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein." Referring to the Wavesheaf Day, verses 10-14 show that it is a harvest day, upon which there is no restriction of labor at all. The Pentecost Study Material (page 58) states that on the supposed Nisan 15 Wavesheaf Sunday, the Israelites harvested grain from the land.

Now let us suppose the WWC is correct. Let us suppose that the Passover of Joshua 5:10 was on the weekly Sabbath, and the manna was not available on the next day, Sunday, the first holy day. Let us suppose that each of the 3,000,000 Israelites needed one ounce of grain. That would mean that on the Holy Day, they would have harvested 187,500 pounds of grain, and prepared and baked or parched it. All this supposedly done on a holy convocation day, on which no servile work is to be done! Josephus says in his Antiquities of the Jews (10.1.5), that Wavesheaf Day was a busy workday. All this doesn't support the notion that Nisan 15 can be the Wavesheaf Day.

The events surrounding the death and resurrection of Jesus show that Wavesheaf Sunday is a workday. The day Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemas laid Jesus in the tomb was at the end of Nisan 14:

And that day was the preparation, and the Sabbath drew on. And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid. And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the Sabbath day according to the commandment, Luke 23:54-56.

The women rested on the Holy Day, Thursday, Nisan 15. They bought and prepared spices for anointing Jesus' body on Friday, Nisan 16. They rested on the weekly Sabbath, Nisan 17. Then on Nisan 18, Wavesheaf Sunday, they brought the prepared spices to the tomb to finish anointing His body. This scripture disproves the Good Friday and Easter Sunday theory, disproves the fixed Nisan 16 Wavesheaf Day theory, and also disproves the concept that the Wavesheaf Day could be a Holy Day.

New Testament Key to Old Testament

Our original question was: Can it be proven, from the Bible, which day is Wavesheaf Sunday? We have shown that Wavesheaf Sunday cannot be Nisan 15. If you only had the Old Testament, and had no preconceived ideas, you might not know which day is Wavesheaf Sunday. Although it can be demonstrated from the Hebrew that "the Sabbath" in Leviticus 23:11 is a weekly Sabbath, the Wavesheaf verses do not specifically tell you after which Sabbath the Wavesheaf Offering day is offered. One could only deduce that "the Sabbath" refers to the Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

However, righteous people during Old Testament times faithfully observed Pentecost, counting fifty days from Wavesheaf Sunday. How did they know which day was Wavesheaf Sunday, to begin the count towards Pentecost? Calendar rules are not spelled out in the Bible either. They were handed down through oral tradition. So likewise, instructions on which day was Wavesheaf Sunday must have been part of oral tradition.

But now we have the New Testament. And it is quite clear that the Messiah is our wavesheaf, and He was accepted on the morrow after the Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, John 20:16-19. Now we do not have to rely on oral tradition to understand the proper Wavesheaf Day. The New Testament is the key to the Old Testament. God's Word is one, and His Spirit allows us to fit it all together.

One Wavesheaf or Many?

Mr. Coulter, along with advocates of a Sivan 6 Pentecost, would have us believe that there was only one wavesheaf offering for the whole nation of Israel. A reading of Leviticus 23:9-14 precludes such an interpretation. The truth is that each faithful Israelite was to bring a sheaf of his harvest on Wavesheaf Sunday. The Eternal spoke to Moses, and told him to speak to the children of Israel. Moses was to tell them that when they came into the promised land and reaped the harvest, they were to bring a sheaf (Hebrew omer) to the priest. The priest would wave the sheaf before the Eternal to be accepted for the Israelite who brought of his harvest. There was a required burnt, meal, and drink, offering with the wavesheaf. The Israelite could eat none of his new harvest until he brought the wavesheaf offering.

Who were the farmers in Israel who reaped a harvest? Not the Levites and priests, but the other tribes of Israel. Just as the individual Israelites were to eat unleavened bread seven days, verse 6, so the individual Israelites were to bring a wavesheaf, to the priest who waved it. The priest was not to bring the wavesheaf to himself to wave!

When the Eternal wanted Israel to have one representative sacrifice for the whole nation, He made it very clear. An example is the two goats offered on the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16:5-8, 29, where the Eternal specified that Aaron the priest was to take two goats from the congregation of the children of Israel. There is no such indication in Leviticus 23:9-14. Therefore, we must conclude that the wavesheaf offering was an individual responsibility.

Exodus 23:19 refers to the first of the firstfruits brought to the house of the Lord. Since it came from the very beginning of the harvest, the wavesheaf can be called the first of the firstfruits. Compare Exodus 23:14-19; 34:22-26; Leviticus 23:10-11; Deuteronomy 18:4, 26:1-11; II Chronicles 31:5; Nehemiah 10:37, 12:44; Proverbs 3:9; Ezekiel 20:40, 44:30.

The sheaf of the wavesheaf offering is from the Hebrew omer, Strong's #6016. During the years in the wilderness, every Israelite was to gather an omer of manna each day for himself, Exodus 16:16, except on Friday, when he was to gather twice as much, verse 22. On the weekly Sabbath, nobody was to gather manna. An omer has been estimated to be five to seven pints, or others say, a little over two quarts. It was not merely a handful, it was a basketful. Just as every man was to gather an omer of manna in the wilderness, so likewise, when Israel entered the promised land, every man was to bring an omer of his harvest to the priest. The omer is symbolic of a man's daily bread, Job 24:10.

An Unscriptural Wavesheaf Offering

Instead of following the Almighty's instructions, Israel perverted God's ways continually. The Pharisees especially corrupted the scriptures by substituting one wavesheaf for all Israel in place of the individual wavesheaves. Furthermore, they cut their one wavesheaf just as Nisan 15 was ending. Alfred Edersheim, in his book The Temple, page 258, records their practice:

When the time for cutting the sheaf had arrived, that is, on the evening of the 15th of Nisan (even though it were a Sabbath), just as the sun went down, three men, each with a sickle and a basket, formally set to work. . . . they first asked of the bystanders three times each of these questions: 'Has the sun gone down?' 'With this sickle?' 'Into this basket?' 'On this Sabbath . . . ?' 'Shall I reap?'

These questions and Edersheim's comments clearly indicate that this "harvest" began when the Holy Day, Nisan 15, was not quite over. This practice is wrong for several reasons. A harvest never begins at sundown. The Almighty never instructs His people to begin a harvest at sundown, much less gather their sickles on a Holy Day and march out to the field to start work at sundown. As we have seen, the individual Israelite was to bring an omer from his own harvest and bring it to the priest to be offered for himself. Finally, Leviticus 23:9-14 does not specify a time for the cutting of the wavesheaf. It only says to offer the wavesheaf on the morrow after the Sabbath. More on this later.

Now why did the Pharisees institute such an unscriptural practice? The main reason was to justify their Sivan 6 Pentecost. They quickly reaped and offered a counterfeit wavesheaf in order to support Nisan 16 being a fixed Wavesheaf Day. They taught against the individual offering his own wavesheaf, to make themselves exalted. "Day One" of the count to Pentecost is counted when the day is completed. The beginning of Nisan 16 cutting of the wavesheaf, which is contrary to scripture, led to the Pharisees counting the first day as Nisan 16 began, rather than when it ended. The Almighty counts days when they end: "And the evening and the morning were the first day," Genesis 1:5.

Cutting of the Wavesheaf

Scripture is silent on when an individual would cut his own wavesheaf. During the time of Christ, the average Israelite lived outside the environs of Jerusalem, and traveled on an annual pilgrimage to attend the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread in Jerusalem. For those in Galilee, it took three days or more to travel to the Feast. It is obvious that such Israelites would cut their wavesheaf before they left their homes, and take the omer with them to the Feast. They didn't eat any of their new harvest for themselves until the wavesheaf offering was completed.

The Messiah, as we know, ate His last Passover meal with the disciples on a Tuesday night, was crucified on a Wednesday, and put into the tomb just before the end of Nisan 14, as the Holy Day was approaching. He was in the grave for exactly three days and three nights, and was resurrected at the end of the Sabbath, just before the beginning of the first day of the week.

On Nisan 16, which was on a Friday that year, the Saviour was still in the grave, the whole day. In opposition to the claims of Sivan 6 advocates, no prophetic events were fulfilled on Nisan 16! But on Nisan 18, Wavesheaf Sunday that year, the resurrected Savior ascended to His Heavenly Father as the spiritual type of the wavesheaf, to be accepted as our wavesheaf before God. This is concrete proof that Sivan 6 Pentecost advocates are wrong.

There are some who believe, falsely, that the Messiah was crucified on a year when Passover was on a Friday, and resurrected on Easter Sunday, in spite of the fact that you cannot get three days and three nights from Good Friday to Easter Sunday, Matthew 12:40. Believe it or not, even some Sabbath-keepers adhere to this erroneous teaching.

In an effort to support a Sunday Pentecost, some have followed the Sadducees (also known as Boethusians, or temple priests). Like the Pharisees, the Sadducees believed in one representative wavesheaf. The Sadducees cut their wavesheaf at the close of the Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened bread and the beginning of the first day of the week (see Menahoth, Soncino ed., page 389). Dr. J. van Goudoever's Biblical Calendars, page 18, states, "The Boethusians reaped [the firstfruits sheaf] at the going out of the Sabbath." Moses Maimonides' Temple Service, page 280, gives additional information. Cuttings began on the Sabbath, and continued over into the first day of the week, when the bulk of the work was done. In the case of both the Pharisees and the Sadducees, this one representative wavesheaf offering cut at the wrong time demonstrates their departure from the Eternal, and helps explain why they did not accept Him as the Messiah.

Since 1978, the Worldwide Church of God has taught that Jesus' resurrection was on a Sunday. More on this later. When Passover is on a Friday, Wavesheaf Sunday falls on Nisan 16. So with a slight of hand, one can teach a Friday crucifixion, a Sunday resurrection, and a Sivan 6 Pentecost all at the same time!

Cutting of Wavesheaf Begins Harvest

Some would have us believe that the cutting of the wavesheaf represents the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is a forced interpretation not supported by scriptural evidence. If you cut a sheaf of grain, what happens? Cut off from its roots to the earth, the barley plant dies. Cutting the wavesheaf signifies the death of the Messiah for our sins. He was slain from the foundation of the world. When the individual cut the wavesheaf, he signified his acceptance of the sacrifice of the Messiah for his sins. It is a personal matter between the individual and his Heavenly Father. No one else can figuratively cut your wavesheaf for you. That is why the scriptures are clear that the individual is to bring the first of the firstfruits, the wavesheaf, to the house of the Eternal, Exodus 23:19, 34:26; Nehemiah 10:35; Ezekiel 44:30.

Prior to the 1970s doctrinal changes, the Worldwide Church of God taught that the wavesheaf represented the resurrected Christ being accepted by His Father in Heaven. Then the teaching was changed. From at least 1978, it was taught that the wavesheaf represented the resurrection. I believe that this doctrinal change opens the door for a total repudiation of the Sabbath. Remember, Sunday-keeping entered the Christian Church because of the false teaching that the Messiah was resurrected on the first day of the week, and that Pentecost was on Sunday.

Some believe that a harvest is a type of a resurrection to eternal life, birth into the Kingdom of God. While the resurrection is the end result of the Almighty's spiritual harvest, it is not correct to say that the harvest, of itself, is a type of the resurrection. Let's look at the scriptures.

In John 4:35-36, Jesus said, "Say not ye, There are yet four months [four months from Pentecost is the Feast of Tabernacles], and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white ready to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together." Jesus went on to say that He was sending His disciples to reap the results of other men sowing the truth [such as John the Baptist]. Here, the harvest clearly signifies the baptism and conversion of many of God's people at that time. They were not resurrected to eternal life at that time; yet they were "reaped" for God. The harvest of God concludes with the resurrection to eternal life, it does not begin with the resurrection.

In Matthew 9:37-38, Jesus demonstrated His compassion for the shepherd-less, scattered Israelites by telling His disciples, "The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest." This harvest of souls was going on then, in the First Century A.D. God's harvest continues to our time. It includes much more than the final resurrection, and mainly concerns the removal of chaff from the minds and hearts of mankind. That is why scriptures concerning the spiritual meaning of the harvest emphasize the judgment Christ will administer.

The judgment aspect of the harvest is shown in the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, found in Matthew 13:24-30, "The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat . . . . Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn." The disciples were curious as to the meaning of this important parable. So Jesus explained the meaning in verses 36-43, "He that sowed the good seed is the Son of man; The Field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels."

What actually goes on at this harvest at the end of the world? There are two "reapings" of this harvest, one of wicked and the other of the just. First, the tares, children of Satan, are bound up to be burned. Then, the children of the kingdom are reaped and safely deposited in the protection of God's barn. Jesus did not define what the barn represents. Perhaps it is the place of safety. The righteous do not shine forth as the sun until the establishment of God's kingdom. In speaking of the baptism of fire, John the Baptist said that the Messiah will thoroughly purge his threshing floor. The wheat will be gathered into the garner, but the chaff will be burned up, Matthew 3:11-12. Thus the important parable of the wheat and tares concerns the sifting out judgment of the Messiah. We all have "tares" and "chaff" amongst us. Nothing but the wheat shall remain at end of the harvest.

Revelation 14:12-20 gives us more information on the end time harvest. Here, the order is reversed from Matthew 13. The first reaping is of the righteous, those who will die in the Lord during the end time, Revelation 14:12-16. These faithful martyrs will be gathered into God's barn. Then, verses 17-20 describe another reaping with another sickle, of which we should not receive. The wicked rebellious people who have the mark of the beast are likened to grapes ripe for the harvest of God's wrath. They are put to death in a bloodbath. Far from representing a resurrection, the Parable of the Wheat and Tares and the end time harvest prophecy of Revelation represent the judgment of God. Could Pentecost relate to the end time harvest? May we all get the tares and chaff out of our lives!

Sunday Resurrection and Sunday Pentecost

To illustrate the bizarre nature of the effect of tares in the Church of God, I relate the history of a doctrinal perversion that few know about. If I did not have the facts, I would not believe this had occurred.

In 1974, when the Worldwide Church of God changed Pentecost from Monday to Sunday, they published a paper called Pentecost Study Material. Although I did not "catch it" at the time, the paper stated that the Church now believed that the resurrection was on Sunday. In fact, a Sunday resurrection was used as a major proof that Pentecost was on Sunday. Pages 42-43 of Pentecost Study Material state:

If He [Christ] was 'seen of them 40 days' and if He was seen of them on SUNDAY, first (day) of the week, then Luke's '50th day' (Greek Pentecostes) seems to mean 50 days after His resurrection, or 50 days after His first ascension to be accepted of the Father. Then that 50th day has to be SUNDAY! . . . Luke's Pentecost was literally the fiftieth day since Christ's resurrection!

Did you see it? The resurrection of Christ and his ascension to Heaven are held to be on the same day of the week, Sunday! On page 75, the paper cites a number of religious encyclopedias to demonstrate a Sunday Pentecost tradition:

Whitsunday, OR PENTECOST, a feast of the universal Church which commemorates the Descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles, fifty days after the Resurrection of Christ, on the ancient Jewish festival called the 'feast of weeks' or Pentecost . . . . Catholic Encyclopedia, 1911 ed., Vol. XV, 'Whitsunday.'

Most people in the Worldwide Church of God, like myself, did not see in 1974 that the Church had changed its teaching relative to the day of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yet in 1974, the Church had changed its teaching from a Sabbath resurrection to a Sunday resurrection.

Dr. Herman L. Hoeh, the Church's renowned scholar, in a June 9, 1978, Bible Study in Pasadena, clearly said, "We might as well face it, -- that the resurrection occurred minutes following the close of the Sabbath -- Saturday night, when the wavesheaf was [supposedly] cut." Richard Ames, on the World Tomorrow television program of April 15, 1990, said, "That Saturday evening, just after sunset, then, Jesus rose from the tomb . . . ." The program has been broadcast more than once.

Most members of the Worldwide Church of God do not know that their Church teaches that Jesus rose on the first day of the week!

Not one of the several catalogs of the many doctrinal changes of the Worldwide Church of God shows that the WWC, since 1974, has taught that the resurrection of Christ was on the first day of the week.

Of course, the WWC thinks they have an out. They have reinterpreted the beginning of a day from the Biblical sunset to dark. In other words the Worldwide Church of God believes that the Sabbath begins and ends at dark, not sunset. (See our article in Biblical Holy Days, "When Does Your Sabbath Begin?" which refutes this error.)

Now, why did the Church conclude that the resurrection of our Savior was actually after sunset of Saturday evening? Because they believe, contrary to Scripture, that the Sadducees were correct in cutting one wavesheaf for all Israel at the end of the Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And, to support their Sunday Pentecost belief, they assert that the cutting of the wavesheaf represents the resurrection of our Savior. Scripture actually indicates that the individual Israelite was to cut his own wavesheaf to bring to the priest, Leviticus 23:10-11. However, Herman Hoeh reported in 1978:

What we have is not the old saying that I used to have to use, that the wave sheaf represents the resurrected Christ, but it represents the resurrection! This is the prophesied resurrection that we have never seen in the ceremonies of the law. And was properly done in Jewish tradition (pages 506-7 of the Mishnah) -- it was a rule that it should be reaped by night, at the very beginning minutes [of Sunday], so there would be no delay in preparing it, and then the next morning, it was waved . . . . The resurrection occurred when that wave sheaf was cut, ascension occurred when it was waved before the alter -- and the Holy Spirit came on the same day of the year -- Pentecost -- that the law of God was first given to define what human character, in this broad expanse should be (June 9, 1978, sermon in Pasadena, California).

What is wrong with this picture? Jesus Christ was exactly three days and three nights in the grave, Matthew 12:40. Seventy-two hours from late Wednesday when Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemas put Him in the tomb, brings us to late Sabbath. Jesus was resurrected late on the Sabbath, not after sundown on the beginning of the first day of the week.

Now before 1974, why did Herman Hoeh "have to use" the "old saying" that the wavesheaf represents the resurrected Christ? Because Herbert Armstrong, founder of the Worldwide Church of God, taught this. By 1978, when Armstrong was old, Hoeh could then proclaim his own deviant beliefs. In the summer of 1927, shortly after his baptism, Herbert Armstrong learned the "shocking truth" that the resurrection of Christ did not occur on Sunday. Instead, he discovered from the Bible that "The resurrection was late Sabbath afternoon, just prior to sunset" (Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong, page 326, 1967 edition). His early article, "Does Easter Really Commemorate the Resurrection?" shows that the foundation for Sunday sacredness crumbles. But Armstrong's teachings have now been turned upside down.

The 1974 heresy of a first day resurrection is being reiterated today, but almost no one realizes it. The February, 1993, Plain Truth magazine, page 23, says, "Applied to Jesus, the sign of Jonah was the resurrection, proof that Jesus was the Christ." Not the time period involved, but the resurrection itself! The May/June 1993, issue says,

Traditionally, . . . Christians throughout the world celebrate Easter in remembrance of Jesus' resurrection. The Christian Easter season continues to Pentecost, which commemorates the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles and Jesus' other followers. . . . [Christ's resurrection was] about three days after Jesus' burial . . . (pages 7-8).

It was only one left turn, and see the results. Satan came and sowed his tares, and they are growing along side God's people. The most shocking part of the whole episode is that so few in the Church noticed. One of our correspondents in Ohio, however, did notice. And, in 1983, when she quoted Dr. Hoeh's 1978 sermon to her local Worldwide Church minister in Cincinnati, he flew into a rage and said Dr. Hoeh never said such a thing, and disfellowshipped her on the spot. Denial will never cover up heresy (tares).

And so, tares continue to grow among the Church of God, until the judgment at the return of Christ, when they will be burned. I Corinthians 3:11-15 shows that false works will be "revealed by fire," destroyed in the Day of Judgment.

Two Kinds of Unleavened Bread

There are at least two different meanings for unleavened bread. The first meaning relates to Passover, and the second relates to the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

The unleavened bread we eat at the Passover meal represents the body of the Messiah, which was broken for us. With His stripes, we are healed, I Peter 2:21-25. This type of unleavened bread is eaten only on the fourteenth day of the first month at the annual Passover ceremony.

The unleavened bread we eat for seven days during the Feast of Unleavened Bread represents sincerity and truth, a righteous life which comes by the Spirit of Christ living in us, I Corinthians 5:7-8. The emphasis is not on the sacrifice of the Savior, but living a pure life by His power within us. The number seven represents perfection, and for seven full days we are to eat this kind of unleavened bread, symbolizing perfection, complete Truth.

Merging the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread into one eight-day festival, confuses the meaning of both. Although the composition of the unleavened Passover bread and the unleavened festival bread is the same, the spiritual meaning of the two is dramatically different.

Does Change Depend on Scholarship?

I believe that God allowed the 1974 Worldwide Church of God Pentecost change to occur during a year when Passover fell on a weekly Sabbath for a very important reason. The unjustified moving of Pentecost a week early should have been a "red warning flag" to those spiritually awake, that the change of Pentecost from Monday to Sunday was wrong. It is much easier to disprove a Nisan 15 Wavesheaf Sunday, than it is to decide whether Pentecost is on Monday, Sunday, or Sivan 6 or 7 or 13 or 14.

And now, many years later, it is not too late to wake up. We have been asleep at the switch. Now is high time to be awake for the Almighty and not be duped by deceivers. The October 25, 1975, Ministerial Bulletin of the Worldwide Church of God states: "Our basic understanding [on Pentecost and Divorce and Remarriage] depends on scholarship."

However, the Bible states that the Almighty's Truth is revealed and unchanging, and that scholars are often fools, Malachi 3:6; I Corinthians 1:20, 2:9-16. What an indictment against the "scholarship" of 1974, that Fred Coulter in 1994 makes no mention of the half-baked ideas contained in the WWC's Pentecost Study Material. He had to come up with new half-baked ideas of his own. God has not abandoned the little old widow who is not a Bible scholar. Keep seven, not eight, days of unleavened bread. Count fifty, not forty-nine, days to Pentecost. You do not have to be a "scholar" to understand these simple Biblical instructions. All that is required is a ready mind and God's revelation.

The evidence is overwhelming. The count for Pentecost begins on the Sunday following the Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The Feast of Unleavened Bread is a seven-day festival from Abib (Nisan) 15-21. When the Passover falls on the weekly Sabbath, Nisan 22 is Wavesheaf Sunday. In 1994, Wavesheaf Sunday was April 3, not March 27. There is no Bible authorization for keeping Pentecost a week earlier than it should be.

 

Additional Articles:

Pentecost: Its Message for Christians Today
Pentecost, the Day of Difference
24 Reasons Why I Believe in a Monday Pentecost
Why I Believe in a Monday Pentecost
Pentecost and the Second Century Calendar Adjustment
Let us "Tarry" for Pentecost
Pentecost is NOT on Sivan 6
Joshua Chapter Five and the Wavesheaf Day
Pentecost Quiz

Main Holy Day Menu

 

Written by: Richard C. Nickels
Giving & Sharing
PO Box 100
Neck City, MO 64849
United States of America

This material distributed on the Web by the Giving & Sharing site at: http://www.giveshare.org


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