5 Remarkable Things to Know about Pentecost
- Dr. Michael A. Milton Author
- 2019 6 May
Acts 2 is one of the most climactic passages in all of Scripture and a pinnacle of redemptive history:
"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)
Indeed, it does. The Christian remembrance of Pentecost holds important biblical teaching that builds the life of a believer and continues to support the fulfillment of the Great Commission in our time.
Let’s consider five remarkable things all believers should know about Pentecost.
1. Pentecost celebrates the provision of God.
Pentecost is the Greek name (meaning “50th day” after Easter) given for the ancient Jewish festival called, Shavuoth.
Shavuoth is the God-ordained celebration of “First Fruits” during the Festival of Weeks, commanded to Moses in Exodus 34:22-43. The time of the year and event is roughly equivalent to an early wheat harvest that still occurs today in Israel (and in Kansas!).
So, what is so important about an early wheat harvest? If you have ever stood and looked across a cold, winter landscape in Kansas and wondered, “What good can come out of that frozen earth? How could this be the breadbasket of the world? It’s barren, frozen ground as far as the eye can see!” Then you know there is a reason to celebrate when the spring crop of red winter wheat appears. The seeds that have been lying as proleptic—unseen but real, “dead” but alive, hidden but destined to burst forth—beneath the woolen blankets of snow have become a golden sea of ripe grain blowing gently in the warming breezes of the great Sunflower State.
So, too, God commanded Moses to have the people of Israel remember that everything that they have comes from his hand.
Pentecost, the seventh Sunday after Easter, 50 days after that glorious resurrection, the Spirit of the living God fell upon the disciples as promised, and they were empowered for worldwide mission. And that breath of the Holy Spirit which transformed them, which demonstrated Pentecost’s intent by signs and wonders on that day, continues to blow, advancing the Great Commission of Jesus Christ through successive generations until he comes again.
Pentecost reminds us that what God starts, God completes. We are the means, but God is both the first mover and the glorious end himself.
And this is the first great feature of Pentecost which we must not miss: Pentecost is about the provision of God in our lives. By his grace he saves us, by his promises he keeps us, and by his glorious power he shall raise us from the dead.
2. Pentecost fulfills the ancient prophecies of scripture.
Fifty days after the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Spirit of the living God came upon the disciples of Christ in a decisive demonstration of heaven’s worldwide redemptive mission. Peter stood and preached on that glorious day when the church was empowered to fulfill the mission of Christ. And when Peter preached, he quoted Joel Chapter 2:
“But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’” (Acts 2:16-21)
Pentecost fulfills the ancient prophecies of Holy Scripture. Peter was saying that “the festival of harvest” had then yielded untold bushels of cataclysmic change in the universe as a result of the empowering of the disciples by the Holy Spirit.
We must remember as we gather in our churches, as we live our lives, as we lead our families in devotion, that Almighty God is fulfilling the redemptive mission of the ages by the empowering of his people to fulfill the Great Commission. And all of this was prophesied in the Old Testament and revealed in the New for God’s glory and our good, and for the salvation of millions of souls.
3. Pentecost fulfills the promises of Jesus.
Dr. Luke compiled his history of the Acts of the Apostles with medical-like literary precision.
Chapter 1 announces the central proposition from which successive narrative milestones flow. Luke is saying that the acts of the apostles and disciples are the supernatural fulfillment of the promise and plan of the risen Christ:
“And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, ‘which,’ He said, ‘you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’
Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, ‘Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’
And He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’” (Acts 1:4-8)
Therefore, Jesus Christ has set the terms of the church’s presence in the world: we are truly on a mission from God to go to the ends of the earth proclaiming the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ to all people.
4. Pentecost is the supernatural inauguration of the worldwide mission of God in the world.
Some use a memorable but muddled expression to describe Pentecost: “The Birthday of the church.“ While we admit the significance of the public unveiling of the body of Christ to the world, Pentecost is not really a birthday. The church—the assembly (ekklesia) of all of God’s people—includes believers in the Old Testament. Did not St. Stephen speak of the “church in the wilderness” when describing Moses and the people of God?
“This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness [my emphasis] with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sinai, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us.” (Acts 7:38)
We have seen how the Spirit of God catapulted the church through Asia minor and into Europe, into the British Isles, across the ocean to the New World, and from there to the ends of the earth. We see the glorious revivals that are going on even today in Africa, India, and China. We anticipate the continued movement of the Holy Spirit around the earth with perhaps the Middle East being the next great centering point of revival.
Each of us is born again into the kingdom of God through the supernatural agency of the Holy Spirit. The work of the church is to fulfill the mission of God in the world. And this is accomplished through the empowering of the Holy Spirit for worldwide mission. Pentecost was the inaugural day for this glorious undertaking.
5. Pentecost marked the reversal of the curse of Babel.
We know that one of the judgments of the fall was the scattering of mankind into different languages, divided by distance, culture, and many other sources of disunity.
We read, “Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language” (Acts 2:5–6).
The late Dr. R.C. Sproul wrote: “With the division of human languages into different tongues and dialects at the tower of Babel (Gen. 11:1–9), the opportunities for disagreement and strife among the peoples of the world were greatly exacerbated. However, the Lord’s judgment of the human race so long ago was not His last word for man.”
The assemblage of so many different people from throughout the Roman Empire on the day of Pentecost and the subsequent supernatural manifestation of the Holy Spirit in which each person heard the preaching of the gospel in their own language marked the reversal of the curse of Babel.
Truly, in Christ, the reversal of the curses of the fall has now begun. We are moving inexorably toward that day that the great English poet called, “paradise regained.”
The day of Pentecost was a milestone in the redemptive history of the church in the world.
It was Inauguration Day as the Holy Spirit demonstrated the provision of God, the prophecy of the Old Testament, the promises of Christ, faith in the prophecy of the Old Testament, and the of words of Jesus. This Pentecost, and every day, is a day to reorient our lives to the mission of God. When we appropriate the power of God available to us in Christ, we are more nearly fulfilling the Great Commission, and in doing so we sing that beautiful spiritual song of the late Presbyterian minister, Daniel Iverson:
“Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me. Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me. Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me. Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.”
Michael A. Milton, PhD (University of Wales; MPA, UNC Chapel Hill; MDiv, Knox Seminary), Dr. Milton is a retired seminary chancellor and currently serves as the James Ragsdale Chair of Missions at Erskine Theological Seminary. He is the President of Faith for Living and the D. James Kennedy Institute a long-time Presbyterian minister, and Chaplain (Colonel) USA-R. Dr. Milton is the author of more than thirty books and a musician with five albums released. Mike and his wife, Mae, reside in North Carolina.
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