The matter of counting inclusively in order to arrive at the correct day for Pentecost was first brought up at Church Headquarters in 1961. It was vigorously opposed at the time and lay dormant until 1973 when an undercover movement to change Pentecost to Sunday came to light, along with the desire to change the Church teaching on divorce and remarriage. The real reason for first emphasizing Pentecost was to change the doctrine on divorce and remarriage. Pentecost was the avenue chosen to accomplish this. Right up to the week before it was changed, Mr. Armstrong vigorously opposed it. He stated at the time that if Pentecost was changed, the Church would no longer be the Church of God. Pentecost was chosen because the correct day to observe Pentecost has been a controversy off and on for hundreds of years and appeared to be the most vulnerable. To the consternation of many members, Pentecost was changed within a week’s time. However, there was a desire on the part of many lay-members to have it changed because they were forced to take Monday off from work and they would have less of a hassle with employers if they did not have to do so.
Behind the Change
What is not realized is that the men who were behind the changes had a motive. Some longed to divorce their wives. There was something lacking in their marriages, and these same men later ended up divorced. Still later, they remarried, some repeatedly. Most of these men are now deceased. One of the main leaders accepted liberal Protestantism and rejected everything ever taught by the Worldwide Church of God. He was later accused of sexual misconduct and ejected from the church he had started. The end result of the changes was that the Worldwide Church of God went into chaos so that now around five hundred dissident groups have been spawned around the world.
Those who now attempt keep a Sunday Pentecost were never given the opportunity to hear alternative explanations. In brief, those who faithfully held to a Monday Pentecost were not given a forum. They were told to either accept the changes or to get out; that they would receive no severance pay or any other perks that usually go along with the termination of employment. The overall problem was not with the people, but with the ministry. The lay-members were not given the other side of the story, neither on the Pentecost nor the divorce and remarriage issues, and so assumed what was being done was legitimate. Many in the ministry compromised their convictions, mostly for the sake of a salary. Others had no real conviction about the correct day for observing Pentecost or what the Bible really states about divorce and remarriage, or they did not understand the technical reasoning behind the changes and simply went along with them. Also some remained with the Church for the sake of family or for fear of losing their wives.
Consequences of the Changes
Those who were not there at the time or were too young to comprehend the consequences of these changes cannot appreciate the harm that was done. The Church went to pieces in every way and is truly in Babylon today-in a state of confusion. Hatred became so intense that opposing sides loathed each other. Thousands of members left the Church in disgust and either joined other churches or gave up religion entirely. Today, numerous doctrinal changes have occurred in the Worldwide Church of God, and it has completely apostatized. The changes made in 1974 were the opening of Pandora’s Box, so that now one may choose whatever group meets his fancy. Divorce and remarriage is now rampant in these churches, and even ministers are now divorced and remarried. Some of the groups who were once a part of the Worldwide Church of God are now engaged in “preaching the gospel.” Most, if not all of their converts, have never heard of a Monday Pentecost, and have been led to believe that the Bible sanctions divorce and remarriage. All but a few of these groups accepted the doctrinal changes that were made in 1974 and are fundamentally no different from the others. The main dividing factor among them seems to be who is in charge.
Much confidence has been placed on the historical record regarding how the Pharisees and Sadducees counted Pentecost. But is this history reliable? The Sadducees are said to have kept a Sunday Pentecost, and it is believed they controlled the temple up to just before the Romans destroyed it in AD 70. When the Sadducees kept Pentecost is one of the “proofs” given for a Sunday Pentecost.
Consider the following information. This should give any serious person cause to stop and think. The indented material below comes from our website article on the subject of Pentecost.
The problem today is that much of what is believed does not extend beyond 400 years after the time the Sadducees were formed, or to about AD 200. Parts of the Talmud (the Mishnah) were not written in the form we have today until AD 200. The writing of the Talmud involved a process that took many years and many teachings and interpretations were added during this time. So, the questions that need to be asked are: Are there any particular teachings in the Talmud that go back to the time of Christ? Do its teachings represent that which is quite late? Can we really rely on the teachings of Hillel and Shammai when what they taught was for the most part handed down orally until AD 200? There are no rabbinic writings that even tell us what was transpiring before the destruction of the Temple. A commentary on the Mishnah, called the Gemara, was not even written until between AD 200-500. So, how much reliance can we place on fourth century rabbis who tell us about events that took place during the time of Christ?
Josephus’ description of the Pharisees does not even closely resemble those of the rabbis. According to the rabbis, the differences between the Pharisees and Sadducees hardly amounted to more than rules for fellowship at the table. Professor Jacob Neusner in a work entitled, From Politics to Piety, page 34, quoted in the “Pentecost Study Material,” 1974, states that it is not possible to construct a single public event before AD 70 if we rely on rabbinical traditions which only regard the Pharisees. He says the historical Pharisees of the period before AD 70 escape us. The only knowledge available concerns itself with problems in the history of Judaism after the destruction of the Temple. What has really happened is that traditions have been reinterpreted and reshaped by rabbis many years later. The only real source of history during the period prior to the destruction of the Temple is the New Testament. It is a fallacy to rely on Jewish writings regarding the Sadducees and Judaism during the period of the Second Temple. These writings give us a biased view. Rabbinical literature depicts the Sadducees as worldly-minded aristocrats who esteemed Greco-Roman culture and determined to maintain their privileges. Even the writings of Josephus cannot be considered reliable, and there is no indication in his Wars that he was a Pharisee as he later declared (Neusner, 55, quoted in the “Pentecost Study Material”).
The Pentecost Study Material states in a foreword that while a Sunday Pentecost is “obviously correct,” the study is not intended to be the divinely-inspired, one-hundred-percent-correct Law of the Medes and Persians which altereth not on all the technical details. The foreword adds that we are always open to further knowledge. Yet, as we know, those in charge refused to give any consideration to those who held a Monday view.
According to Josephus, in Antiquities of the Jews, the Pharisees held sway over the people in the towns, and the prayers and rites were according to their wishes. As a result the Sadducees had to follow the Pharisees or else the multitudes would be alienated. Professor Morton Smith is highly suspicious of Josephus’ evaluation. He says it is dubious because Josephus’ work, Wars of the Jews, written twenty years earlier, takes little notice of the Pharisees and Sadducees and mentions nothing about the Pharisaic influence over the masses. In fact, Josephus says that when the Pharisees tried to gain control they failed. Twenty years later, however, Josephus changed his story. He extols the Pharisees and mentions over and over again their popularity. The motive, Professor Smith says, had to be political. In this twenty-year period between writing the two works mentioned above, the Pharisees were coming to terms with the Romans for their support in Palestine. Josephus was now jumping on the bandwagon as the Pharisees were vying to become the leaders of the people. Josephus now became a Pharisee, lauding them as there were no other rivals around. Professor Smith says it is impossible not to see history rewritten as a bid to the Roman government (Israel: Its Role in Civilization, quoted in the “Pentecost Study Material,” 1974). Josephus’ calculation of the date for Pentecost eventually became the standard. He fixed it as the fiftieth day after the first day of Passover (Logos Library System, s.v. “Pentecost”).
Those who observe a Sunday Pentecost tell us that the Christians were observing Pentecost on the same day that thousands of Jews gathered in Jerusalem were observing it. And since the Sadducees were controlling the Temple, Pentecost must have fallen on a Sunday. Yet some authorities, Lightfoot for example, regard the old rendering of “fully come” in Acts 2:1 to mean that the Christian Pentecost did not coincide with the Jewish. Keep in mind the tradition of the ancient church placed the first Pentecost on Sunday as is seen in the custom of the Karaites who took the Sabbath of Leviticus 23:11, 15 to be the weekly Sabbath. But it is very uncertain whether the custom existed in Christ’s day, and moreover it would be impossible to prove the disciples followed this custom, if it could be proven to have existed (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, s.v. “Pentecost”).
A look at Exodus, chapter nineteen, creates another problem for Sunday advocates. The events of the chapter indicate that “the same day” in verse one is a Thursday. Verse seven indicates a Friday. Verse ten refers to Saturday and Sunday. If this is the case, Sunday is a wash day-a work day. Verse eleven refers to Monday. The wash day took place just before Monday, the day the Lord appeared in the sight of the people upon Mount Sinai. If Pentecost fell on Sunday, then Saturday was the wash day-a work day. The weekly Sabbath cannot be a work day. Keep in mind, however, that Exodus 19 is often interpreted to suit the arguments of which ever view one is expounding. Sunday advocates reject what the church taught for many years about the time sequence of the events in this chapter. So, they would not be convinced regardless of the proof.
The fact is: The Jews are not to be relied upon as the progenitors of truth. Jesus warned that Christians should beware of the doctrines of both the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matt. 16:6, 16). It appears that the encyclopedias rely on this questionable information, cited by Neusner and others, in explaining the Pharisee and Sadducee observance of Pentecost.
One the questions regarding divine revelation are: What does the Bible say about understanding Truth? The Bible does not imply that Truth comes by means of scholarship. While scholarship can assist and back up biblical facts, it is not the basis for understanding the Bible. If scholarship were the answer, all of academia would understand the Bible. Yet, scholars disagree on almost everything. Consider this: Those who now hold to a Sunday Pentecost and the divorce and remarriage change have accepted every other doctrine taught by the Worldwide Church of God. So, did God inspire the Church in everything except Pentecost and divorce and remarriage? How strange this would be. Christ said the Holy Spirit would teach His disciples all things (John 14:26). Yet we are to believe it took Christ forty years to lead His disciples into the correct teaching of Pentecost and divorce and remarriage? The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of Truth (John 14:17), so does God inspire both truth and error? Either the Church was led by the Holy Spirit or it wasn’t. Is God’s Spirit is the Spirit of half-truth?
Question: Why would God leave the Church in error forty years before deciding to reveal the correct day for Pentecost and then allow the Church to fall apart? If Monday is not the correct day to observe Pentecost, then Christ did not keep His word, and the Worldwide Church of God was not led by the Holy Spirit. So why do the entire various splinter groups hold to the majority of its teachings? By rejecting what was observed for forty years and the tremendous blessings that came along with it, splinter groups have no basis now for their beliefs. Only after the changes were made did the Church fall apart. The Bible makes this plain: The Scriptures themselves cannot be understood except by means of divine revelation (Luke 24:45). When the technical matter of how to count Pentecost came up, there had to be a technical explanation for the proper count. The Worldwide Church of God’s original teaching on how to count Pentecost has no relevancy now, except to show that in spite of the lack of knowledge regarding the Hebrew language, it came up with the correct day. The English count is exclusive at the beginning and ends up on the fiftieth day, that is, Monday. The original Jubilee argument is likewise irrelevant.
Deuteronomy and Leviticus
The book of Deuteronomy was written forty years after the book of Leviticus and emphasizes two different things. Deuteronomy 16 emphasizes where and how to keep the Feast, not the way to count it. How to count is made plain in Leviticus 23. Deuteronomy 16 simply emphasizes a seven- week period and is not the sole authority for the count. It tells us to keep it as a pilgrimage feast, and the need for family attendance, etc. But the question in Deuteronomy 16:9-10 is: When is the seven-week period complete? Consider this: When is a child eight days old? The answer: Not until the eighth day is past, which is actually the ninth day of the child’s life. See Luke 2:21. The Concordant Version makes this text plain: “And when are filled days eight of the to be about cutting Him . . . “(Gk text) “And when the eight days to His circumcision are fulfilled . . . . ” (Eng. Trans.) The Hebrew in Leviticus 23 shows that the Wave-sheaf (representing Christ) is included in the count, as the count is inclusive. In Deuteronomy 16:9 it states “to put the sickle to the corn.” Does this mean the Wave-sheaf day is a part of this count? Some believe so. Yet, Deuteronomy 23:25 indicates otherwise, as it shows that putting the cycle to the corn refers to harvesting. The indication is that the entire Wave-sheaf day was taken up with the offering, and was not a harvest day.
Considering types, having the day following the Wave-sheaf day as the first day of the count could just as easily mean that the acceptance of Christ had to be completed before the Church could be harvested. It implies that since the Pentecost offering in Leviticus 23:17 was leavened (indicating an imperfect church), the Wave-sheaf offering (v. 10) was unleavened, referring to Christ. Types can be applied to just about any event, so their interpretation rests in the eyes of the interpreter. It is also possible that the seven-week period represents seven epochs of the harvest. A United Church of God article written by Jerald Aust, May 1996, states this: “Starting with the day of the wave-sheaf offering, God’s people are to count 50 days and observe Pentecost as a day holy to God.” Why then do almost all the churches of God count 49 days and then observe Pentecost? The Jews at least admit this is what they do. The Jubilee count in Deuteronomy 25 makes it plain that 49 years are counted, then on the following year Jubilee is observed.
Regarding the Pentecost count in Leviticus 23, all the various arguments brought up to justify a Sunday Pentecost end up saying the same thing-that the count is inclusive at the beginning and exclusive at the end. Some say the minmahorat used in Leviticus 23:15-16 can be either inclusive or exclusive. If this is true, why was it even necessary to make a doctrinal change in the first place? The answer: The quest was not for truth. It was made to allow for a new teaching on divorce and remarriage. There would absolutely be no need for the second mimahorat in Leviticus 23:16 if Sunday is the day of Pentecost. This is because beginning with Sunday as day one, the count would automatically end on a Sunday. Therefore, there has to be a reason for the second mimahorat, as the counting rule shows the count should be inclusive at the beginning. Logically, then, the second mimahorat should also be inclusive at the end. Leviticus 23:15-16 is the only place in the Bible where the word mimahorat is found twice in a count. A number of Bible examples show that a count is complete before the day is observed, yet Leviticus 23:15-16 is supposedly the exception. Leviticus 23 refers to seven perfect weeks (Sunday to Saturday), while Deuteronomy 16 simply uses the Hebrew word “weeks,” which is “shubua.” Deuteronomy 16 does not use the word “Sabbath” (shabbat), found in Lev. 23, so the count in Deuteronomy 16 can certainly begin on Monday, the day after the wave-sheaf day.
Min and Ad
Now consider the usage of min (often translated “from”) and ad (often translated “even” or “until”) found in the following verses. These passages show that the ending time period is included in the total period of time. This observation is relevant because min and ad are used in Leviticus 23:15-16.
“And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee” (1 Sam. 8:7-8). Were not the Israelites still rejecting God on this day? “Unto this day” is definitely inclusive.
“And now, behold, the king walketh before you: and I am old and gray headed; and, behold, my sons are with you: and I have walked before you from my childhood unto this day” (1 Sam. 12:2). Was Samuel not walking with Israel on this day?
“We lie down in our shame, and our confusion covereth us: for we have sinned against the LORD our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even unto this day, and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God” (Jer. 3:25). Were they not still sinning on this day?
“Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now” (Num. 14:19). Were they still being forgiven now?
“And they shall fill thy houses, and the houses of all thy servants, and the houses of all the Egyptians; which neither thy fathers, nor thy fathers’ fathers have seen, since the day that they were upon the earth unto this day. And he turned himself, and went out from Pharaoh” (Ex. 10:6). See also verse 16. Is not “this day” a part of the time period?
“And David smote them from the twilight even unto the evening of the next day: and there escaped not a man of them, save four hundred young men, which rode upon camels, and fled” (1 Sam. 30:17). Was the evening of the next day excluded?
“And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made” (1 Kings 18:26). Was not noon included in the time period?
“And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses sat to judge the people: and the people stood by Moses from the morning unto the evening” (Ex. 18:13). Was not the entire time period included?
In the instances where mimohorat is translated “on the morrow,” the only mimohorat text that clearly illustrates the beginning of a day (that is ,the previous evening) is Numbers 33:3. All the other texts point to the morning time. With respect to the Pentecost count both the beginning and end have to be taken into account, as ad and min are used in the count.
The Authorized Version does not accurately translate Acts 2:1. The word Pentecost should not be used as a proper noun, though in later usage it became one. Pentecost is a counting term and means “fiftieth.” It does not mean “fiftieth day.” Greek grammars illustrate that sumplerousthai (“fully come” in Acts 2:1) refers to an event that is coming to an end. The Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament states of Acts 2:1, “when the day of Pentecost was coming to an end . . . . ” The usage of the root sumpleroo (to fill up) in Luke 8:23 illustrates that the ship was almost full of water. Acts 2:1 refers to the fiftieth day (not days), the indication being that the fiftieth day was coming to a completion. Consider when the disciples were gathered. How could they be gathered at the third hour (9:00 AM) when the day was filling up? See Acts 2:15. Both Archbishop Cranmer and Bullinger are correct in their conclusion, as do other authorities. The articular infinitive used in Acts 2:1 illustrates a contemporaneous activity that was then occurring, making the “filling up” occur near the end of the day. What does this mean? It means that the full fifty-days have now been counted, and the third hour of the day takes place the following morning after the 50 day count was complete. Since sumpleroo means something that is almost complete, the only way a Sunday Pentecost can be justified is by making the “fiftieth day” refer to the entire time period of the count (50 days). But the word “day” in Acts 2:1 is in the singular. Since the tense of sumplerousthai is in the present tense, the time setting cannot be ignored.
The Preparation Day
Since preparation days are emphasized in the Bible, this consideration should not be ignored. Question: Is it likely that every single year God would ordain an annual holy day without a day of preparation? While the Hebrew calendar occasionally allows this, it does not occur on a regular basis. Holy days do have a preparation day as the New Testament illustrates. All four gospels corroborate this. See Matthew 27:62, Mark 15:42, Luke 23:54 and John 19:42. It may be reasoned that a preparation day is not required (Ex. 12:16) because some food preparation is allowed. But on the other hand the calendar does not exclude preparation days either. Generally, much more than food preparation is involved in properly preparing for high Sabbath, especially in an agrarian society. If God is consistent, then it is logical to assume that the calendar regulates preparation days within the yearly cycles of the calendar. It is unlikely that God would go against His own instruction and Bible examples by assigning a holy day every year without a preparation day.
While the Bible commands all the males to appear before the Lord at the annual feasts (Deut. 16:16), women and family members were also to attend. The male members of the family are emphasized in Deuteronomy 16 as they were the providers and expected to give an offering. Instructions regarding women and children are found in Deuteronomy 12:7; 14:26; 16:11, 1 Samuel 1:2-9, Nehemiah 8:2-3. They did attend and participate in the service.
The Catholic and Protestant Pentecost is called Whitsunday and is the only annual “holy day” observed by professing Christians. It is regarded as very important. Historically, Sunday was substituted for the Sabbath because Christ supposedly was resurrected on Sunday, and the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles on Sunday. There is a link, then, between Sunday as a day of worship and Pentecost Sunday. There is also a connection between the Trinity and Sunday. One of the early church writers (Eusebius of Alexandria) wrote that Sunday was when the Creator established the foundation of the creation of the world, and on the same day He gave the first-fruits of the resurrection. He further reasoned that since Sunday is the beginning of the week, these three prefigure the Trinity. Irenaeus placed Whitsunday on equal rank with Easter Sunday. From the time of the Church Fathers, the “Sunday Sabbath,” Easter Sunday, and Pentecost Sunday were regarded as one basic festival commemorating the same event of the Resurrection.
In the early fourth century, the Emperor Constantine prohibited Christians from participating in anything “Jewish.” (Sabbath keeping, holy days, Passover on the fourteenth of the month, etc.). It would be completely antithetical to this view for them to have accepted the Sadduccean Pentecost. So the indication is that a Sunday Pentecost was never a major part of Jewish belief. If it had been, the Catholic Church would never have accepted a Sunday Pentecost. Both Easter Sunday and Whitsunday are of Roman Catholic origin and convey the mark of Rome.
Why Is Pentecost So Controversial?
We should ask the question: Why is Pentecost so controversial? There are some interesting possibilities. Informed members of the Church of God recognize that a prophesied apostasy was to occur in the last days (2 Thess. 2). One cannot apostatize from truth if one is already in error. For forty years the Church understood the importance of a Monday Pentecost and the correct teaching on divorce and remarriage. The doctrinal changes that took place involved the correct day for Pentecost and what Christ and Paul taught about marriage and divorce. The correct day for Pentecost has been argued over for hundreds of years. Why did God leave the Pentecost issue so questionable, as though it is incomplete and imperfect? The likely answer: A Sunday Pentecost was to become a full blown apostasy which occurred only after a forty-year period of Monday observance. Indeed the “obscurity” of the Pentecost count has become a stumbling block for many (Isa. 28:13).
You Must Decide
Most of the arguments bandied about today regarding the observance of a Monday/Sunday Pentecost did not exist when the change was made in 1974. Was the information about it “swept under the rug?” Hardly. It has become an issue now because people feel the need to defend what they have accepted. If any defense is made, we choose to make it for the original doctrine, not for a change intended to discredit divine revelation in order to achieve an insidious goal-the license to marry someone else’s wife.
In the end most people generally do what they want to do irrespective of the facts. It was made clear in 1974 that those who went along with the Pentecost change would also have to accept the divorce and remarriage change. Sincere believers would find it intolerable to be associated with a church that openly permits divorce and remarriage among its members and allows it within the clergy. There is a big difference between rejecting what Jesus taught about divorce and remarriage or teaching the truth but requiring those involved in divorce and remarriage to make their own decisions. Each of us will have to make our choice regarding the observance of a Sunday/Monday Pentecost. This is a serious matter require prayer and fasting. Above all, it should be based on a sincere and earnest desire to do the will of God.