By RJ McCauley
In the book of Acts, the event of Pentecost is something that believers can easily forget about or misunderstand. Pentecost was a singular event that took place in the storyline of the Bible to accomplish the mission of God. According to Acts 2, it was a biblical-theological, redemptive-historical event. It was
biblical because the Scriptures promised God would pour out his Spirit on his people for their salvation (Acts 2:14-21). It was theological because the Scriptures teach us that God planned for his Spirit to come at the perfect time in salvation history (Acts 2:23-24, 32-33). It was redemptive because the Scriptures show us the power of God immediately redeeming sinners and turning them into Christians (Acts 2:42-46). And it is historical because the Scriptures record God sending the Holy Spirit to come upon the church and dwell within believers in order to accomplish the Great Commission, which radically change the world (Acts 2:41, 47; cf. 1:8). From that point on, God commanded everyone to share the gospel just like Peter did in Acts 2:38, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Hence, telling people what happened at Pentecost and sharing the message of Jesus was the new mission of the church.
Likewise, Pentecost was a singular event just like the sacrifice of Jesus Christ to accomplish the mission of God. The word “Pentecost” literally means “fifty,” which identifies how many days the event took place after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is important to notice because on the day of Pentecost, Israelites were traveling to Jerusalem to celebrate an Old Testament harvest festival called the Feast of Weeks (or also known as the Feast of the Harvest, or the Feast of Firstfruits). This festival was created to remember God’s provision and promise, and was traditionally celebrated fifty days after the Passover every year. All of this is significant because Jesus Christ claimed to be the Passover lamb and was sacrificed for our sins on the cross exactly fifty days before Pentecost. Shortly after the harvest festival begins, God sends the Holy Spirit to come upon the disciples to show the world that they are now the firstfruits of his new people. The coming of the Holy Spirit speaks to God’s provision and promise because he fulfilled his promised-plan of salvation through two singular-redemptive events. Essentially, the event of Pentecost shows us that there are no more reasons for the Old Testament sacrifices or festivals because salvation has come through the death of Jesus Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit. For those reasons, the church was created and empowered by the Holy Spirit to spread a singular message about Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12).
If Pentecost was a singular event, then why does it matter today? According to Matthew Emerson, Former Assistant Professor of Christian Studies at California Baptist University, there are five significant things that make Pentecost matter. “Pentecost is the day in which the Lord Jesus pours out his Spirit on the church. According to John 13-17, Jesus promises to his disciples that after his death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven, God will send the Holy Spirit to teach, help, and comfort them. This led to five significant things that happened at Pentecost.
“First, the coming of the Holy Spirit enabled sinners to obey. Without the Holy Spirit, we cannot obey God. We see this pattern throughout the Old Testament with Adam and Israel as examples because they failed to obey because they did not have the Holy Spirit. Secondly, the coming of the Holy Spirit is the inauguration of the last days. While Peter is preaching in Acts 2, he quotes Joel 2 to prove the last days have commenced, because it is only during that time God will pour out his Spirit on his people to save them. Thirdly, the coming of the Holy Spirit shows us the reversal of the curse of sin, namely the tower of Babel. In Genesis 11, God judged the nations and separated them geographically and linguistically. Yet, during Pentecost, God brings the nations together both geographically and linguistically through the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the harvest festival, and causes the disciples to speak in tongues so all of the nations can hear the gospel in their own language. Fourthly, the coming of the Holy Spirit birthed the church. This is the most monumental thing that happens on Pentecost because it identifies the new people of God. And lastly, the coming of the Holy Spirit brings about judgment for Israel and non-believers.”
Pentecost was the ignition for mission. It was a moment in time where God broke into history and gave to us the gift of the Holy Spirit for our salvation. Jesus said we cannot be saved unless we are born of the Spirit (John 3:5-7). After Pentecost, the early church recognized this and immediately began to spread the good news so people could be saved (Acts 4:2, 31, 33). Jesus taught his disciples that they would have the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit to achieve everything God commanded them to do (John 15-16). Once the Holy Spirit came upon them, they lived with an unrivaled passion for Jesus Christ. We should have the same passion based on what happened at Pentecost. People need to know the story of God’s unfolding plan to give us the Holy Spirit because it changes lives and eternal destinies.
The church is called to go forward with the message of Pentecost and proclaim it to all nations. The results of Pentecost have been happening in our world since the event took place. God has moved in powerful ways in history. When we see people commit their lives to Jesus Christ, this is the result of God’s sovereign work that took place at Pentecost. Today, the church’s mission is to preach the gospel to everyone until the last days come to an end, and Jesus Christ returns for his church (Matthew 24:14).
As Emerson explained, the coming of the Holy Spirit not only accomplishes salvation, he solidifies it. Once we notice that God is doing things in our world based off what he did at Pentecost, the mission of the church becomes significantly stronger and clearer.
Pentecost matters because it demonstrates to believers how to live on mission. Pentecost matters because it reminds the church to preach the gospel with boldness. Pentecost matters because it teaches us that God can change rebels into righteous servants. Pentecost matters because it showcases how the Holy Spirit dwells with believers to fulfill God. Don’t forget about Pentecost, or fail to remember that the Holy Spirit dwells within you to do great things for God’s kingdom.
Coming of the Holy Spirit (NKJV)
When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?”