What is Pentecost & Why Does it Matter?

 

I want God to use me. I want to make an impact in some way on the world and in those who know me. I know I’m not alone. You probably want the same thing.

As we pursue our callings in this world, it’s wise to remember that God is actively at work in the life of the normal Christian in ways that far surpasses what we read about in the Old Testament.

That’s a bold statement, and while it’s a very broad and general one, I think it’s accurate because the Holy Spirit did not live in anyone before Pentecost. In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit “came upon” people and empowered them to do certain things, but Pentecost brings a significant change in the work of the Holy Spirit.

mountain-with-sunrise

What is Pentecost?
Pentecost is a Jewish festival holiday, also known as the “Feast of Harvest” in Exodus 23:16 or “The Day of Firstfruits” in Exodus 34:22. It was a day of thanksgiving to God for the harvest, and it occurs 50 days after the second day of Passover. In Jewish tradition Pentecost also became the day to celebrate Moses receiving the Law/Torah from God on Mt. Sinai.

“On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the LORD had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder.”
(Exodus 19:16–19 ESV)

Pentecost was also one of the three pilgrimage festivals, where faithful Jews would take the journey to Jerusalem in order to present their offering to the LORD in the Temple. This is why Acts 2:5 says, “Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven.”

Why The Holy Spirit Came on Pentecost
God doesn’t do things by accident. There is a reason why the Holy Spirit came and unfolded the next chapter in salvation history on the day of Pentecost. Remember, this was a high holiday which celebrated Moses receiving the Law on Sinai. Now read the account of what happened with the apostles.

“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
(Acts 2:1–4 ESV)

Consider the parallels between Pentecost and Sinai:

  • Fire: On Pentecost, tongues of fire descended and came to rest on top of each believer’s head. On Sinai, the LORD “descended on it in fire.”
  • Wind: Ex. 19 describes a great storm surrounding Sinai, so much it sounds like a trumpet blast is heard. In the upper room with the apostles, a violent blowing wind fills the entire house where the believers are gathered.
  • The Word of God – God wrote the Law on the tablets for Moses to deliver to Israel. On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit empowered the disciples to speak the Gospel to people in their own native language (even though the disciples didn’t actually “know” the language).

The coming of the Holy Spirit made each Christian a living, walking, talking, breathing Mount Sinai! And he did this on a day when faithful Jewish pilgrims were in Jerusalem from all around the world. They heard the gospel preached and 3000 of them believed in Jesus the Messiah. When they went home, they went as the first Christian missionaries history has known… and the world has never been the same.

The Christian’s Advantage
While we read the account of Moses receiving the Law on Sinai, it’s crucial for us to remember that it was a foreshadowing of what would happen on Pentecost. Consider this: the normal Christian has an advantage that no one in the Old Testament ever had. We have the promised Holy Spirit, who lives within the believer and is actively uniting us to Christ while drawing the lost to himself.

Why is it, then, that we live as if we’re powerless? Why do we get so intimidated by being outnumbered by nonbelievers?

Take comfort in the reality that God knows what he is doing. Don’t forget about the Holy Spirit. Remember that Jesus said it was better for him to go away, so that the Holy Spirit would come:

“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”
(John 16:7–11 ESV)

You don’t need to be a super-Christian for God to use you. Instead, rest and take comfort in the promise that God does his through us because the Holy Spirit is alive and active in the normal Christian. You have become a living and breathing Sinai, where God’s Spirit descends and proclaims the good news of who God is and what He’s done to redeem his people from captivity while delivering them into the Promised Land.

question mark on sticky noteAs always please share this article with others you think would find it helpful. You can submit a question for consideration as a future blog post if there’s something you’ve been wondering about. 

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