What is Pentecost?

The Bible tells us that Pentecost is a Jewish festival celebrating the grain harvest:

On the day for rest, the people must give a gift of grain and a sheep to the Lord. After this, they must count 7 weeks. They must keep counting for 50 days until the day after the seventh Saturday. Then they must give another gift of grain to the Lord.

Each family must bring two loaves of bread as a special gift to the Lord. The bread must be made with good flour and yeast. With the bread, all the people must bring seven perfect male sheep that are one year old. They must bring a bull (male cow). They must also bring two male sheep. The priest will burn the grain and the animals as a gift to the Lord. The smell of them while they are burning will make the Lord happy. The people must kill one male goat and two sheep. They must be one year old. They are a gift to the Lord. The priest will bring the animals and the bread to the Lord. They are a special gift.

On this day, the people must not do any work. It is a special day to the Lord now and for all time to come. (Leviticus 23:15-22)

One Pentecost, after Jesus died, the disciples were given the Holy Spirit:

On the day called Pentecost, the disciples were all together, in one place. Immediately, there was a sound from heaven. It seemed as if a very strong wind was blowing. It filled all the house where they were sitting.

They saw tongues that seemed like fire. These tongues separated and they came to each disciple. And the tongues stayed on them. The Holy Spirit filled all the disciples. Then, as the Spirit gave them power, they began to speak in different languages.

There were some Jews who were staying in Jerusalem. They were holy men from every nation in the world. When they heard this noise, a large crowd gathered. They did not know what was happening. When each person heard the believers, the believers were speaking in his own language. They were very surprised. They tried to understand what was happening.

They said, ‘These men who are speaking like this are from Galilee! So, when we all hear them, how can they be speaking in our own languages? We are from Parthia, Media and Elam. Other people are from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia and Egypt. Some people are from areas in Libya. These areas are near Cyrene. Some people among us are from Rome. These include Jews. And they also include Gentiles that have become Jews. Some people among us are from Crete and Arabia. But we all hear the disciples and they are speaking in our own languages. They are talking about the great things that God has done!’ 

The visitors did not know what to think about it. They did not understand it. They were saying to each other, ‘What does this mean?’ But some other people laughed at the believers. They said, ‘These people (the believers) have drunk too much sweet wine.’ (Acts 2:1-13)

To find out more about the Christian celebration of Pentecost and the first Christians’ lives, see the Book of Acts.

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