Pentecost

J. Foster Crane, New Zealand

Category: Exposition

In OLD testament times God commanded all Hebrew males (acting on behalf of their wives and families) to meet Him at the appointed place, i.e. at the tabernacle or finally the temple at Jerusalem-three times a year- in the months of (our) April, June and September, to observe the Feasts of Passover, Weeks (Pentecost), and Tabernacles, Exod. 23. 14-17; 34. 23.

These three Feasts anticipated three great events two of which occurred in New Testament times, i.e. the death and resurrection of Christ, the coining of the Holy Spirit; and the (third, yet future) reign of Christ in the kingdom age. Together, they are three foundational truths in the present day Christian assembly.

On the third day of the Feast of the Passover the Hebrews observed the Feast of Firstfruits when they offered the first fruits of their harvest to Jehovah-typical of the resurrection of Christ, Lev. 23. 10; 1 Cor. 15. 20.

Fifty days after this they observed the Feast of Weeks, Deut. 16. 10, which is also called the Feast of Harvest, Exod. 23. 16 and the Day of the Firstfruits, Num. 28. 26; Lev. 23. 17. On this occasion they brought (to the priest) two loaves of bread made of fine flour: he in turn presented them to Jehovah with a sin offering and a sweet savour offering, Lev. 23. 17-19.

The New Testament meaning of' all this leaves no room for confusion or doubt, for just as the Passover and Firstfruits found their fulfilment in the two never-to-be-repeated events of the death and resurrection of Christ, so the Feast of Weeks finds its fulfilment in the never-to-be-repeated day of Pentecost which took place in the city of Jerusalem fifty days after the resurrection of Christ, Acts 2.

There are two significant events which must always be associated with the Day of Pentecost. The first is:

The Return of Christ to Heaven

Forty days after His resurrection Jesus slowly ascended in the clouds before the gaze of His disciples, and presented Himself before the Father as the Firstfruits and Firstborn from the dead, Luke 24. 51; Acts 1. 9; 1 Cor. 15. 20; Col. 1. 19.

In His ascension Jesus Himself was glorified, John 12. 23, but He also returned as High Priest and Intercessor for His people on earth-those Jews and Gentiles who would believe on His name. This is seen in the two loaves of bread the High Priest waved before God, though, in Christ, both Jewish and Gentile believers are one in the fellowship of the one body, the New Testament ecclesia, Eph. 2. 14-16.

Although perfect in Christ, those whom God has saved by grace are always conscious of the presence of sin in their lives (typified in the fact that there was leaven in the two loaves); but Christ in heaven in marvellous grace holds them in His hands and is at all times their propitiation; and, If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father', 1 John 2. 1, 2; Heb. 10. 11-14; John 10. 28. It is this continuing High Priestly intercession of Christ, and advocacy which assures the believer of continual communion with God the Father, and assurance for the future, Rom. 8. 34; Heb. 7. 25.

The next event that took place at Pentecost came as a direct result of the Lord's ascension to heaven.

The Descent of the Holy Spirit

With the work of redemption finished, and Christ in the Father's presence, the way was now open for God to continue the working out of His plans in this present age in relation to a remnant of Israel and the church-both of which involved the specific activity and presence of the Holy Spirit on earth.

a) In Relation to Israel

The coming of the Spirit had been clearly foretold by the prophets Joel, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, Joel 2. 28-32; Ezek. 36. 27; Jer. 31. 33, but from the context of these prophecies it is quite clear that the outpouring of the Spirit was to be a specific blessing to be enjoyed by Israel in the millennial kingdom when God will enter into a new covenant with them, Heb. 8. 8, and Christ will reign as their king.

Joel identifies the Spirit's outpouring with the Day of the Lord, Joel 2. 31; Acts 2. 30, when the physical signs in the heavens would be seen, Acts 2. 19, 20. Ezekiel identifies the Spirit's coming with the time when God gathers Israel from all countries and brings them to their own land, Ezek. 36. 24; 37. 14; 39. 28, 29.

An anticipation of this promise took place at Pentecost when it was offered first to Israel-'Ye are the children of the ... covenant which God made with our fathers . .. unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you', Acts 3. 25, 26; cf. 13. 24, 46; Rom. 1. 16. But the events that happened then are not to be confused with their ultimate fulfilment in the kingdom when the Spirit would be poured forth on all flesh, Acts 2.17. Gentile nations with their numerous tongues will be blessed as God had promised to Abraham, Acts 3. 25; sickness will be healed, Acts 3. 6; 5. 16; and the aged and young, men and women, will see visions and speak of the goodness of God, Acts 2. 17, 18; Heb. 8. 11.

The physical, miraculous events at Pentecost were basically signs to prove to Israel that Jesus was indeed their Messiah alive from the dead, and were warnings that God was speaking to them-His people, 1 Cor. 14. 21; Heb. 2. 4. The tongues of fire and the sound of the great wind were both symbols of God's dealing with Israel-the fire indicating the purging of their sin, Mai. 3. 2, 3; Matt. 3. 11, 12-the wind, the divine breath that would bring life to the dead bones of the nation, Ezek. 37. 9-14.

The enjoyment of their national blessings, however, required Israel's repentance and acknowledgement of Christ as the Son of God, their king. When this happened, and not before, Christ would return and the real times of refreshing and times of restoration as promised by the Old Testament prophets would be fulfilled, Acts 3. 19-21.

The nation, however, rejected the witness of the apostles and the full blessings of the kingdom were denied them, Acts 13. 46; 28. 26-28. Jesus had proved His Messiahship during His life by the many signs He had performed, but they had rejected Him. Now they did the same thing to Christ in His present resurrection power and glory. As Stephen had plainly warned they resisted the Holy Spirit as their fathers had done, Acts 7. 51, Hence to this day Israel is scattered among the nations till Christ returns. In the Old Testament they rejected God; in the gospels they rejected His Son; in the Acts they rejected the Holy Spirit.

b) In Relation to the Church

Quite apart from the Hebrew nation, however, Jesus left behind Him on earth a small remnant of disciples who loved Him and believed in Him, and to these He gave a clear promise: T will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever', John 14. 16; see also 16. 7; 7. 39; Luke 24. 49; Acts 1. 4; 2. 33.

The coming of the Spirit was, in fact, a continuation of the Lord's own ministry in and through His disciples, Acts 1.1; Mark 16. 20; Heb. 2. 3. As He Himself had been sent by the Father, 1 John 4. 14; Gal. 4. 4; John 5. 23, so was the Spirit, John 14. 26; Gal. 4. 6. As He had spoken as directed by the Father, John 7. 16; 8. 26, so would the Spirit be, John 16. 13. The only difference was that, whereas the Son returned to the Father, the Spirit would remain on earth till the Lord's return.

The main reason for the coming of the Holy Spirit was to form the church, to baptize believers, Jews and Gentiles, into the fellowship of the one body - the ecrfesia - the called out company of believers comprising the new people of God, 1 Cor. 12. 13; Matt. 3. 11; John 1. 33; Acts 1. 5; 11. 16.

In New Testament times while the church was being formed, the Spirit came on four specific occasions on four different groups of people: on Jews at Jerusalem, Acts 2. 1-4; on Samaritans at Samaria, Acts 8. 14-17; on Gentiles at Caesarea, Acts 10. 44, 11. 17; and on a company of John's disciples at Ephesus, Acts 19. 1-4. The reason for this was to bind these rival groups into one fellowship. But the normal activity of the Holy Spirit in this age of grace is to bring individuals, one by one, when they respond to the gospel in sincerity and trust Christ, into union with the Father and the Son, Eph. 2. 22; Matt. 28. 19; Gal. 3. 27.

In this matter of personal salvation the Holy Spirit convicts, John 16. 8; regenerates, John 3. 3; Titus 3. 5; seals, Eph. 1. 13; 4. 30; indwells, John 14. 17; Acts 5. 32; Eph. 2. 22; 1 Thess. 4. 8; 1 Cor. 6. 19; Rom. 8. 16, Gal. 4. 6; sanctifies, 2 Thess. 2. 13; 1 Cor. 6. 11; anoints, 1 John 2. 27; instructs, John 14. 26; 1 Cor. 2. 12; intercedes for, Rom. 8. 26; every one who trusts and confesses Christ as Lord and Saviour.

The Holy Spirit is also the pledge and earnest of the future inheritance, Eph. 1. 14; 2 Cor. 5. 5, and the Firstfruits of the harvest that will be reaped at Christ's return. Rom. 8. 23.

In regard to the growth and welfare of the church itself the Spirit gives power in witness, Acts 1. 8; 5. 32; raises up evangelists, Acts 13. 2; 8. 29; elders, Acts 20. 28; leaders, teachers and shepherds, Eph. 4. 11; I Cor. 12. 7.

However, while the actual presence of the Holy Spirit in the world, the church, and the believer's body is wholly a gift of God, Acts 2. 38; 8. 20; 10. 45; 11. 17, the enjoyment and experience of His presence requires from all believers an act of faith, Gal. 3. 2, 14, and submission lo His control in daily life, Gal. 5. 16, 25. Sin, unbelief and disobedience to the word of God will grieve and quench the Spirit, Eph. 4. 30; 1 Thess. 5, 19; but His fulness and power will be seen most clearly in those believers who manifest the fruit of the Spirit, Eph. 3. 16; Gal. 5. 16, 22; Rom. 8. 2, and reproduce in their lives the likeness of Christ, Gal. 4. 19. More evidence of the Spirit's activity is seen in the quiet, consistent, patient, godly lives of mature Christians, tested in the ups and downs of life, than in the lives of those who go in for a supposed second blessing and an unscriptural interpretation of the baptism in the Spirit.