Pentecost

Pentecost: The Church is Born! (Part 2)

The rich symbolism prescribed for the ancient Hebrew celebration of Pentecost culminated in the inauguration of a brand-new entity in the program of God. It all occurred, according to His perfect plan, on the Pentecost Sunday which was the 50th day following the resurrection of Christ.

As Bruce Scott stated, even in the Hebrew Bible, “Both the so-called Feast of First Fruits and the Feast of Weeks are inextricably linked” (The Feasts of Israel: Seasons of the Messiah [Bellmawr, NJ: The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, 1997], 58).

When we come to the New Testament, we find that Jesus rose from the dead on the day of firstfruits, “and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20). Then—linked to His resurrection and ascension—He promised that something monumental would transpire on the day of Pentecost, which the Christian world marked last Sunday.

And that day is remembered with good reason! It is the day in which the Holy Spirit would work within Jesus’ apostles and, by implication, their own disciples, in a very different way.

Jesus summarized it by saying: “He dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:17).

By contrast, in the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit worked within those people who were given a unique place of responsibility in the theocracy of Israel, and He did so only for particular purposes and periods of time (see, for instance, 1 Sam. 10:6; 16:13-14; Ps. 51:11).

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Pentecost: The Church is Born! (Part 1)

Christians throughout the world will celebrate Pentecost Sunday and the coming of the Holy Spirit—in a new and fresh way, to begin the church age—this coming Sunday.

Interestingly, these celebrations may not involve many of our readers, as oftentimes the churches in our circles do not make much of this day on the calendar.

If you were like me, however—raised in a liturgical church that celebrated Pentecost Sunday every year—its chronological relation to the resurrection was likely fixed clearly in your mind. But, regardless of how we remember Pentecost, we certainly need to be familiar with it and understand its vast significance.

In this two-part blog series, we are going to consider the day of Pentecost as the birthday of the church and the launch of the church age—focusing on the fact that the church did not begin before that signal day, nor did it begin after it.

One very strong evidence that the church did not begin before the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 is Jesus’ teaching given prophetically to the disciples in His Upper Room Discourse in John 13 to 16. He is clearly speaking of a major change that the apostles were about to experience, following His death, burial, resurrection and ascension.

Jesus, in fact, spoke precisely about “that day” when His disciples would “know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you” (John 14:20). In other words, this was the specific day on which the body of Christ would be formed by the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 1:5; 2:2-3; 1 Cor. 12:13).

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What is Pentecost About?

Pentecost is one of those events in the Christian calendar that hasn’t fared so well―so many people don’t know what to do with it! We know what happened, but the problem is what it means. Like so many discussions involving the Holy Spirit, Pentecost sometimes becomes a list of things that it doesn’t mean:

  1. Whatever else it is, it can’t be a fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy.
  2. The gift of prophecy, the experiences of dreams and visions―it’s all good, but it has nothing to do with us, you see …
  3. The gift of tongues can’t be real foreign languages; they have to be ecstatic, other-worldly sayings that require an interpreter

Presuppositions drive interpretation, shutting out the actual words on the page. Pentecost gets submerged under 50 feet of controversy. Like espresso diluted with sugar, it becomes so much less than it’s meant to be. Its meaning is lost in all the noise of theological disagreement.

What does Pentecost actually mean?

Peter tells us. He stands up, facing a crowd of perhaps thousands in the temple courtyard, and simply says “this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel,” (Acts 2:16). What happened that morning―the Spirit descending visibly, audibly, in deliberately dramatic fashion―was what the prophet Joel said would happen. Whatever the phenomenon of Pentecost means, Joel explains it―what does Joel say?

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