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 resurrectionthe better resurrection.
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 Godthe 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.
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:
"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
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.
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.
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.
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 nameyou, 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