PENTECOST, THE DAY JESUS RETURNS

One  of the most misunderstood topics of the Bible is the  return of  Christ. Most people do not begin to comprehend the  magnitude of the events which will surround this climactic event, and they do not understand its  importance in the overall plan of God for the future of humanity.  The first resurrection will undoubtedly be one of the  most  awesome and glorious events to ever take place on the Day of Pentecost.

Several climactic, earth-shaking events will happen  the  day that  Jesus  returns to the earth. The following are four of these  major  events, which directly concern the elect of God:

1. The resurrection to immortality of the elect who have died.

2. The change to immortality of the elect who are alive.

3. Rewarding the righteous for diligent effort and sacrifice.

4. The seven last plagues will be set in motion.

Jesus Appears in the Sky

As  a great trumpet blast resounds through the  earth,  Jesus will enter the earth's atmosphere and light the sky with his  glory, and the angels will begin to collect the righteous of all ages:

"Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened,  and the moon shall not give her light, and  the  stars shall  fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall  be shaken:  And  then  shall appear the sign of the Son  of  man  in heaven:  and  then shall all the tribes of the earth  mourn,  and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a  great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the  four  winds,  from one end of heaven to  the  other"  (Matt.24:29-31 KJV). See also Isa.43:5-7; Mk.13:24-27; 14:62; Rev.1:7; 8:12.

The Dead Rise First

In  this  great day, all those who have obtained  salvation will rise to meet Jesus as he enters the atmosphere. All  of  the righteous who have died over the centuries  will  be resurrected  and  join him before those who are  alive  at  his coming:

"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: Then we which are alive  and remain  shall  be caught up together with them in the  clouds  to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the  Lord" (1.Thes.4:16-17  KJV). See also 1.Cor.15:51-54;  1.Thes.4:13-15; 2.Thes.2:1-8.

THE BETTER RESURRECTION

"Who  through  faith  subdued  kingdoms,  wrought  righteousness, obtained  promises, stopped the mouths of  lions,  quenched  the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of  weakness were  made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to  flight  the armies of aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and  others were tortured, not accepting deliverance;  that  they might obtain a better resurrection" (Heb.11:33-35 KJV).

Is one resurrection better than another?  When we review  the rewards and opportunities that  are offered  to those who will participate in the  first  resurrection, it can be seen that, the first resurrection is far better than the others.

The entire eleventh chapter of Hebrews chronicles the lives of many  righteous individuals  who lived and died in obedience to God. Verse  35 states that these people obeyed God  in order to  obtain  a better resurrection.

Although many of these righteous individuals suffered much adversity  in  order to obtain a better resurrection,  they remained dead at the time of Peter's sermon on the Day of  Pentecost 30 A.D. (Acts 2:24-39). Therefore, they had not yet received their better resurrection.

"And having obtained witness through faith, these did not  obtain the promise, God having foreseen something better concerning  us, that  they should not be perfected apart from  us" (Heb.11:39-40 Para.). See also Heb.11:13; 1.Cor.15:51-54; 1.Thes.4:13-15.

The scriptures tell us that the  transformation to perfection will occur during the time of the first resurrection. In verses 39-40 of Hebrews chapter 11,  the writer  refers to the sacrifice of Christ through whom  all  (including  those who lived before Christ) are justified and  made worthy of immortality. The reason why these righteous individuals have not been perfected  (i.e., made immortal) is that all of the elect will be perfected (made immortal) at the same time.

PENTECOST AND THE FIRST RESURRECTION

"And  I  saw thrones, and they sat upon them,  and  judgment  was given  unto  them: . . . and they lived and reigned with  Christ  a thousand  years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. this is the first resurrection. Blessed  and holy is he that has part in the first  resurrection: on such the second death has no power, but they shall be  priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand  years" (Rev.20:4-6 KJV).

These verses describe  individuals who witnessed of Jesus and were obedient to God's word, and some of them  will be alive just before the end of this age and the return of Jesus Christ. Because of their  performance under extremely difficult circumstances, this group of individuals will receive  a great reward in the first  resurrection—the  better resurrection.

Editors Note:

Obviously, if there is a first resurrection, there must also be  a second.  For  details of the four major resurrections  after  the return of Christ, see our study paper on the resurrections.

PENTECOST AND THE LIFT OFFERINGS

"If  in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all  men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man  in his  own order: Christ the first-fruits; afterward they that  are Christ's at his coming" (1.Cor.15:19-23 KJV). See also  Col.1:13-18.

The  parallels  between the lift offering of the  barley  harvest during  the feast of Unleavened Bread and the lift  offering of Pentecost are undeniable.

Just as the lift offering of barley was prophetic of Jesus Christ who would be accepted by the Father as the first-fruits of humanity  to become his spirit-son and ascend into heaven on the  day of the barley lift offering in 30 A.D., the lift offering of  the two  loaves of wheat bread offered on the day of  Pentecost is prophetic of the first resurrection. On the first resurrection, which will occur on the Day of Pentecost, the elect of God of all ages  will be accepted of the Father as his spirit-sons  and will ascend into heaven.

In verses 19-23, Paul speaks of the hope we have in Christ through the resurrection of the dead. Christ is the first to be resurrected, which is symbolized  by the Lift Offering of the barley harvest. And  those who are saved through his sacrifice will be the next to be resurrected, which is symbolized by the two loaves of wheat bread offered on the Feast of Weeks.

What  Paul  reveals in these scriptures is truly  astounding.  To become a son of God and a brother of Jesus is a tremendous reward with truly awesome implications.

The scriptures clearly show that Jesus was the first of  humanity to  be resurrected as an immortal being and a son of God. Those  who will be resurrected at his coming are also considered to be  the first  of humanity to receive sonship in the Family of God. See Heb.2:10-11.

THE CHURCH OF THE FIRST-BORN

The church of the first-born is composed of all those whom the Father has called to salvation from the  time  of Adam  to  the return of Christ. These are the people who will participate in the first resurrection at the coming of Christ. They are the righteous of all ages who  have qualified  during this lifetime to become the first-born sons of God the Father's new creation. The following are several texts that speak of the individuals who will be perfected on the Day of Pentecost during the first resurrection:

"But  you  have drawn near to Mount Zion, even the  city  of  the living  God, to a heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads  of  angels, and  to an assembly, a church of the first-born ones having been enrolled in heaven; and to God the judge of all; and to the spirits  of  just ones who have been perfected"   (Heb.12:22-23 Para.). See also Jms.1:16-18.

"Do  not  err,  my beloved brethren. Every good  gift  and  every perfect  gift  is from above, and comes down from the  Father  of lights, with  whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of  his  own  will begat he us with the word of  truth,  that  we should  be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures"  (Jms.1:16-18 KJV).

"And  I  saw, and behold, the  Lamb standing on Mount  Zion!  And with him a hundred an forty four thousands having the name of his Father written on their foreheads. . . These are the ones who  were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the  ones following the Lamb wherever he may go. These were redeemed  from among  men  as first-fruit to God and to the Lamb"  (Rev.14:1, 4 Para).

These verses reveal a very select group of the elect who are  noted  as being  among  the first who are called of the  Father  to  obtain salvation.

Predestined To Sonship

The people who participate in the first resurrection  have been predestined from the  foundation  of the earth to become the first sons of God—the  first-fruits of the harvest. The books of Titus and Romans reveal that at least some of the first-fruits (the elect) were chosen to participate in the first resurrection before the earth was formed:

"Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ,  according  to  the faith of God's elect, and the acknowledging  of  the truth  which is after godliness; In hope of eternal  life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began" (Tit.1:1-2 KJV). Also see ch.3:7; 1.Thes.5:8.

"For  whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to  be  conformed  to the image of his Son, that he might be  the  firstborn among  many  brethren" (Rom.8:29 KJV).  See  also 2.Cor.6:17-18; Jn.1:12; 3:1-3; Rom.8:8, and our study paper concerning the  subject of predestination.

PENTECOST A DAY OF REWARDS

"Behold  I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will  give to everyone according to what he has done" (Rev.22:12 NIV).

"Watch  out  that you do not lose what you have worked  for,  but that you may be rewarded fully" (2.Jn.8 NIV).

"And the nations were angry, and your wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that you should give reward  unto your servants the prophets, and to the  saints,  and them that fear your name, small and great;. . ." (Rev.11:18 KJV).

The  apostles knew that, besides being given  immortality,  which was beyond any human's ability to earn, in that great day when Jesus returns to gather the elect of God, the righteous would  also receive rewards for their performance above and beyond their call to  salvation.

THE REWARDS

Believe it or not, the reward for being righteous is not to  float aimlessly around heaven playing harp music for eternity. There is something  far more spectacular than this in store for those  who will be in the first resurrection:

"Blessed  be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus  Christ,  which according  to  his abundant mercy has begotten us  again  unto  a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fades  not away,  reserved  in heaven for you" (1.Pet.1:3-4 KJV).  See  also Acts 23:6; 24:15; Tit.1:2.

It  is difficult to list all the rewards that  will be  given  to the elect of God, and it is  even more difficult to list them in an order of  importance because they are all so magnificent and reach far into the future beyond the return of  Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords.

BECOME A SON OF GOD

"Wherefore  come out from among them, and be you  separate,  says the  Lord,  and touch not the unclean thing; and I  will  receive you,  And will be a Father to you, and you shall be my  sons  and daughters, says the Lord Almighty" (2.Cor.6:17-18 KJV). See also Jn.1:12; 3:1-3; Rom.8:18, 29; Phil.3:21; Heb.2:10-11.

It  is important to understand what is being said  here:  Rewards are only given to those who separate themselves from this world's evil and live a righteous life. However, many people believe that even if they do gain eternal life, they will be doomed  to some meaningless existence. This assumption could  not be farther from the truth:

"But  as it is written, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,  neither have  entered  into the heart of man, the things  which  God  has prepared for them that love him" (1.Cor.2:9 KJV).

"You  will make me to know the way of life. In your presence  are fullness  of joy;  at your right hand  are  pleasures  forever" (Psa.16:11 Para.).

The following is a list of some of the rewards those in the first  resurrection  will  be given for successfully living  a  righteousness life:

IMMORTALITY

"Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first  resurrection: on such the second death has no power" (Rev.20:6 Para.).

Those who participate in the first resurrection have escaped  the punishment  reserved  for the wicked and are promised  that  they will live forever as immortal beings:

"He  that  has an ear, let him hear what the spirit says  to  the churches;  He  that  overcomes will not be hurt  of  the  second death" (Rev.2:11 Para).

The  gift that God offers to those he calls to salvation  is  not just eternal life, it is much more. The angels have eternal life and  are  sustained by God's life giving power yet they  can  be destroyed if they disobey God. The life God offers to the  Elect is  immortal  life, which can never be destroyed. Those  in  the first  resurrection will be immortal like God the Father and  Jesus Christ are.

The quality of life that the righteous are promised is  comparable  to the kind of life that  God himself has. God is a  spirit-being  who inherently possesses the highest form of life, which is immortality on the divine plane of existence. This kind of life  springs forth  from itself; it is not dependent upon any other source  to sustain it because it is self sustaining:

"Behold  I  show you a mystery; We shall not all  sleep,  but  we shall all be changed, In a moment in the twinkling of an eye,  at the  last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead  shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this  corruptible  must put on incorruption, and this mortal must  put  on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption,  and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then  shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up  in  victory" (1.Cor.15:51-54 KJV). See also  Rom.2:7;  6:1-5; 1.Tim.1:17; 6:12-16; 2.Tim.1:9-10; 2.Pet.1:4; Rev.20:6.

It is this quality of life called immortality that God grants  to those who participate in the first resurrection. The acquisition of immortality  and  eternal life allows the elect to  pass  beyond this physical existence into the Family of God.

It is abundantly clear that God intends to share immortality with those he has called to the first resurrection. Immortality is the highest reward for faithfulness to God.  See  Lk.18:29-30; 20:34-35; Rom.6:23; 2:6-7; 1.Tim.6:12; 1.Jn.2:25; Tit.3:7.

With  immortality,  the righteous will also receive  a  glorified body, that will radiate with the brightness of the stars:

 "And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars  for  ever and ever" (Dan.12:3 KJV).

"Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that  by  these you might be partakers of the  divine  nature [immortality and godly character]. . ." (2.Pet.1:4 KJV). See also Rom.6:1-5; Phil.3:21; 1.Jn.3:2.

Although immortality is an awesome gift, it is not the only reward for pursuing and living a righteous life. As you continue to study this subject, take note of the awesome rewards and potential  for a meaningful and pleasure-filled life beyond this physical existence for those who diligently pursue a righteous life.

JOINT-HEIR WITH CHRIST

"The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children  of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God,  and joint-heirs  with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him,  that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the  sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with  the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Rom.8:16-18 KJV).

"But when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth his  Son, made  of  a women, made under the law, To redeem them  that  were under  the law, that we might receive the adoption of  sons.  And because  you are sons, God has sent forth the spirit of  his  Son into your hearts, crying Abba, Father. Wherefore you are no  more a  servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God  through Christ" (Gal.4:4-7 KJV).

INHERIT ALL THINGS

"He  that overcomes shall inherit all things; and I will  be  his God, and he shall be my son" (Rev.21:7 KJV). See also  Heb.1:1-2, 5-8.

What  an  amazing reward! Not only are the righteous  heirs  but also joint-heirs with Jesus. And they will share in the inheritance of all that exists now and forever.

INHERIT THE EARTH

Part of the promise that God gave to Abraham was that he and  his decedents would inherit the earth and be a blessing to  all nations  forever. See Gen.12:2-3; 13:15-16; 15:7; 18:18;  26:1-5; Rom.4:13.

"For  evildoers  shall be cut off: but those that wait  upon  the Lord,  they  shall inherit the earth" (Psa.37:9  KJV).  See  also verses 11,22,29,34; Psa.72:8; Matt.5:5; Gal.3:29.

The scriptures clearly show that, when the righteous become spirit-beings, they will inherit the earth. However,  what possible use  could they  have  for a physical earth? It seems that, after Christ's return, the  earth will be of no use to them unless God is not finished  with  his plan for humanity. Herein lies one of  the purposes  of the earth as an inheritance, and one of the  reasons that the first resurrection is the better resurrection.

INHERIT THE KINGDOM OF GOD

"When  the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all  the  holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his  glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep  from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but  the goats  on the left. Then shall the King [Jesus] say unto them  on his right hand, Come, you blessed of my Father [God the  Father], inherit  the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of  the world" (Matt.25:31-34 KJV). See also Jms.2:5.

Those  in  the first resurrection will inherit the  Kingdom of Heaven as a part of their reward:

"Blessed  are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the  kingdom  of heaven" (Matt.5:3 KJV). See also Matt.5:5; 25:31-34.

The  Kingdom of Heaven is the Kingdom of God, and  inheriting   this government is just one of the many rewards that the elect of God will receive after Christ's return.

CO-RULERSHIP WITH CHRIST

King David

Ezekiel  was  inspired to tell of a time when  all of Israel  would again  be  a nation under God's leadership with  David  as  their king:

"And  David  my servant shall be king over them; and  they  shall have  one  shepherd: they shall also walk in  my  judgments,  and observe  my  statutes, and do them. And they shall dwell  in  the land that I have given to Jacob my servant, wherein your  fathers have  dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they,  and  their children, and their children's children, for ever: and my servant David shall  be their prince for ever" (Ezk.37:24-25  KJV).  See also Zech.12:8-10.

The Apostles

On two different occasions, Jesus promised that the twelve  disciples would rule the earth with him.

"Then  answering,  Peter said to him, Behold, we  have  left  all things and followed you: what then shall happen to us? And  Jesus said  to them, Truly I say to you, You who have followed me;  in the regeneration, when the Son of man sits on his throne of  his glory,  you also will sit on twelve thrones, judging  the  twelve tribes of Israel" (Matt.19:27-28 Para.).

"You  are  those  having continued with me in my  trials.  And  I appoint a kingdom to you, as my Father appointed to me, that  you may eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom. And you will sit on thrones  judging  the twelve tribes of Israel"  (Lk.22:28-30 Para.).

The Overcomers to Rule With Christ

"To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with me in my  throne, even  as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father  in  his throne" (Rev.3:21 KJV).

"And he that overcomes, and keeps my works unto the end , to  him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod  of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to pieces:  even as I received of my Father" (Rev.2:26-27 KJV).  See also 1.Cor.6:2-3.

BECOME A KING AND A PRIEST

"John  to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace  to  you, and  peace,  from him which is, and which was, and  which  is  to come; and from the seven spirits which are before his throne; And from  Jesus  Christ, who is the faithful witness, and  the  first begotten  of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the  earth. Unto  him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in  his  own blood, And has made us kings and priests to God and his  Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen"  (Rev.1:4-6 KJV).

"And  has  made us unto our God kings and priests: and  we  shall reign on the earth" (Rev.5:10 KJV).

Here,  John speaks in the future tense, saying that the elect  are kings and priests (i.e., king-priests), which indicates that, as far as the  Father is concerned, this reward and responsibility  has  already been given to those who will participate in the first  resurrection.

"You also, as living stones, are being built a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to  God through Jesus Christ. Because indeed it is also contained in  the scripture,  'Behold  I lay in Zion an elect,  precious  Stone,  a Corner-foundation;  and the one believing in Him shall  never  in any way be ashamed" (1.Pet.2:5-6 Para.).

"Henceforth  there  is laid up for me a crown  of  righteousness, which  the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that  day: and not to me only, but to all them also that love his appearing" (2.Tim.4:8 KJV). See Matt.16:21; Rev.11:18; 14:12-13; 22:12.

"But you are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a  holy  nation,  a people for possession, so that you may openly  speak  of the  virtues of the One who has called you out of  darkness into His marvelous  light"  (1.Pet.2:9 Para.).   See   also Rev.1:4-6.

PENTECOST, A NEW BEGINNING

Many people wrongly  assume that the elect will be in  heaven  forever; however, the first resurrection is only the ending of one  aspect of God's plan for the salvation of humanity and the beginning of another.

After  Christ  returns on the Feast of Pentecost  and  the  first resurrection  has  been accomplished, there will not be  a  single person left alive on earth with the spirit of God. The earth will then receive the last trumpet plagues, which will almost completely destroy the earth and its inhabitants because of their refusal to repent of  their sins against God. The people of earth will be  in  a state  of confusion, terror, and shock. They will  wonder what  has  happened and how they are going to survive. Into such a world,  Christ  and the elect will return to bring joy, peace, happiness,  and harmony.

Major Responsibilities

One  of the first major responsibilities for those in  the  first resurrection  is to assist in the conversion of humanity  to  the ways of God. See 1.Tim.2:4; 2.Pet.3:9.

For this task, true Christians are being trained and prepared through trials, tests, hardships, persecution, tribulation, continued study of God's word, and prayer. All of this will help them to grow in grace and  knowledge  so they will be able to fulfill an office as  king-priests in order to  rule and teach God's truth to those who have never  heard  or understood the way to salvation.

Those  in the first resurrection will be the  examples,  leaders, and  teachers  for  the rest of humanity who have  never  had  an opportunity  for salvation. The elect are the ones who will teach  the rest of humanity  the way of God.

SUMMARY

On the Feast of Weeks,  the Israelites rejoiced before God and remembered the slavery of Egypt and how  and for what purpose  God had delivered them from it:

"And rejoice before the Lord your God at the place he will  choose as a dwelling for his name—you, your sons and daughters,  your maidservants,  the  Levites in your towns, and the aliens,  the fatherless  and  the widows living among you. Remember  that  you were  slaves in Egypt,  and follow  carefully  these  decrees" (Deut.16 KJV).

The  celebration of the Day of Pentecost for the elect of God today has a far different meaning from the literal meaning for which it was observed by the Israelites of antiquity.

Today,  this festival should be celebrated with the  understanding of  its  past symbolic and prophetic fulfillment along  with  its contemporary and future meanings for those of the household of God.

The  celebration  of this festival today should  also  include  a joyful anticipation of the first resurrection and the transformation from the flesh to an immortal spirit-being in the Family  of God. In addition, we should celebrate the beginning of a life of joy, peace,  happiness,  and accomplishment, which is almost beyond our imagination and   comprehension.

By B. L. Cocherell, file b5w55