Pentecost: A Promise Across Time

The Pentecost of Acts 2 is a packed event that looks back on its past, clearly begins a new spiritual community, and focuses forward to the future, indeed to the end of time.

The story of Pentecost, called the Festival of Weeks in Hebrew, begins in Exodus 32 as part of a second chance. Coming down from Sinai to the debauchery of the golden calf, Moses threw the divinely inscribed Ten Commandment tablets shattering to the ground. Metaphorically, Israel, at the bottom of Sinai, had chosen to shatter its own divine-human covenant by idolatry. The young nation was already in crisis. In a miracle of grace, two chapters later, “The Lord came down in the cloud and proclaimed Himself…compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and, sin.” (34:5–7). In this conversation of love and forgiveness, tablets of the law are restored to the community and the celebration of “the feast of weeks and the first fruits of the wheat harvest” is introduced. (vs. 22).

There are parallels between the origin of the Festival of Weeks and its transitional celebration described in Acts. Luke opens the tale in a time of uncertainty and crisis. Six weeks before, the One who declared Himself Ruler of the universe and Savior of a lost and suffering planet had been crucified as a malefactor and danger to society. As far as many could tell, His followers had been scattered or were hiding in fear of Roman and pharisaical reprisals. The tales of a healer who was not stopped by leprosy or death had changed to the anguished cries of those who had nowhere to reach for help. Observant Jews, thousands, from “every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5) followed their ancient mandate to appear in Jerusalem for this festival. The gossip must have been running rampant. The community was in disarray. In a reflection of the events in the Sinai desert, God was, again, about to shower grace and give the Jews, and untold others, another chance to accept the truth for their time.

Moses had made his preparations to meet with God in Sinai, after the apostasy. Those preparations included a request for a greater revelation of God’s presence and wisdom for the journey to Canaan. After Christ’s ascension, His followers began to prepare for what we now know as the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. A group of women and men gathered together in one place to pray. Remembering what I’ve read in the gospels about the conflict and relational difficulties between some of Christ’s followers, I can imagine what kind of Divine and human work had to have happened to make it possible for them to be together in close quarters. Using a nominating committee, prayer and, the casting of lots, they closed the leadership gap made by the betrayal of Judas. That done, they continued to gather together in one place and to pray.

Fire that doesn’t burn, violent wind that does no harm; that’s quite an anointing. Clearly the people gathered in the upper room knew that God called Moses to his ministry with a fire that did not destroy. They knew Jesus had stood calmly in the face of Galilean storms. They knew the word for wind (pneuma) was also the description of God’s Holy Spirit. These people in the upper room felt the wind, they saw the flames and they, who so desperately wanted to share the story of a risen Savior, began to hear each other speak in the languages of Jews who had gathered for the feast. They left the room with excitement, with evangelistic tools, and with the courage to share their truth.

The cosmopolitan, international gathering was “amazed and perplexed” (vs.12) to find poor Jews from a backwater province speaking to them with erudite linguistics. I have learned over the years that confusion is a great learning opportunity. It was at this educational moment of confusion that Peter stood up to address the crowd.

In a Pentecost sermon that takes four minutes to speak, Peter laid out several points. In answer to the comment “they have had too much wine”, he began by pointing out Joel’s prophetic announcement: “On my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.” (vs. 18) This was both an explanation and an entitlement to go further. Peter’s mission statement was Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, “by God’s deliberate plan.” (vs. 23). Peter added that Jesus proved God’s character by “miracles, wonders and signs.” (vs. 22). As did Moses in the desert, Peter points out Israel’s sin: “You, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing him on a cross.” (vs. 23) Then he describes divine power greater than their sin: “But God raised him from the dead…because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” (vs. 24). Peter concludes his talk with reiterating data from a beloved king and prophet.

Convicted of personal and corporate sin, indeed “cut to the heart, the people said, Brothers, what do we do?” (vs. 37). Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (vs. 38).

The result of this Pentecost message was astonishing. 120 people left the upper room. “About 3,000 were added to their number that day”. In a time that was known for selfishness and fear, the new followers “devoted themselves to the apostles teaching… to sharing meals, to community prayer, and sharing ‘everything in common.’”

Pentecost in year 33 CE was an extraordinary event. But Peter’s sermon indicates it was only a beginning. “the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are afar off–for all whom the Lord will call.” (vs. 39). Pentecost has no limits of distance or of time. The prophecy of Joel that Peter quoted included “the last days” (vs. 17) when the “sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the great and glorious day of the Lord.” In those days “your sons and your daughters will prophecy.” Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, said, “those who prophecy speak to people for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.” (14:3). Peter instructed listeners to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. In biblical history, names often represent the character of the person who carries them. Jesus or Joshua means “Yahweh saves,” Christ means “the anointed one,” “the Messiah.” Baptizo means “to immerse,” like the biblical mikvah baths.

In our time of religious and political crisis, if we are immersed in the character of Jesus and covered by Him in our motives and actions, if we “prophecy,” speaking to strengthen, encourage, and comfort, then we are truly people of the Pentecost. Who knows what miracles may follow!

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8875

Sadly these days where “your sons and your daughters will prophecy” have ended in our SDA church on the note that no one will ever come after EGW. The church has determined there will be no further prophets after EGW.

No other prophets, that sounds like a Muslim saying does’t it? “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His prophet”. If the SDA church has this ideology regarding EGW it is in for a very rude awaking.

Such notions are not supported in scripture.

The acceptance of Ellen White closeed many minds in high places to search the Scriptures with the same intensity as they quote Ellen White. She got the Sabbath from Joseph Bates, the Investigative Judgement from two young men in a corn field and her health message from many contemporary sources and her church history from popular writers. instead of ai read she wrote I was shown. False witness.

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I think we could spend our time talking about all that is wrong with whatever person or system we choose, or we could spend our time talking about the Pentecost promises, how we want to apply them to our lives, how we want to live them. That seems to be more what would change us…and if we change, we change the context around us…and, truely, only God knows where that will lead

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Object Constancy is the last stage of separation and individuation during the first three years of life and is defined as the internalization of the mother object that is used unconsciously to keep the child psychologically grounded knowing that his mother is with him everywhere he goes as he explores the world on his way to adulthood.

The Pentecost is the final instructions of Jesus to his disciples at the end of his mission on earth. How his disciples have internalized His message (object constancy) will be shown in how His message is preached. Similarly in our SDA church, how our leaders have internalized the gospel will be manifested in our doctrines, beliefs and rituals. According to follow up studies on object constancy those who failed to negotiate this important developmental milestone follow two tracks, dysfunctional dependence and dysfunctional independence. A sample of dysfunctional dependence is the need to be uniform and clones in doctrines, beliefs and rituals accompanied with total obedience to our leaders. However, the majority are able to internalize the “Promise of Pentecost” and “apply them to our lives, how we want to live them” without anyone telling us what and how to do it.

Interesting construct. I was consciously using it my thinking when I wrote the commentary but lenses of the spiritual stages of development might also fit…where were they in 34 CE and where are we as we respond today.

I meant to type that I wasn’t consciously using …

The behaviors have always been present as the biological factors involved in behavior has always been part of our human genome as created by God. We have organized and make sense of it’s development and now know what protective factors may enhance more positive and meaningful relationships.

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I enjoyed this article! I would add that if we are people who speak a gospel that brings people into a diverse unity around Christ through his Spirit, then we are people of Pentecost. All who were there at Pentecost heard the disciples in their own languages. This began the reversal of the division and confusion of languages that was portrayed in Genesis 11. A divided mankind was beginning to be brought back together; the promise to Abraham of blessing all nations was commencing, through the proclamation of a crucified and risen king as Lord of all creation.

The elevation of a sectarian message that proclaims its own uniqueness and exclusivity over against all other Christian groups works against this unifying power of the gospel. It perpetuates division based on non essentials… see Romans and Galatians for further thoughts.

Thanks…

Frank

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That is a great thought/observation, Frank. Love it!

Another gem…

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I can’t claim originality for the first, Carol. Heard my pastor preach this awhile ago. The second is my own observations.

Have to cite sources! :wink:

Thanks…

Frank

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Oh, you didn’t have to clarify that. Nobody here cares about some mild plagiarism… :roll_eyes:

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I really like the picture of Babel’s reversal. An additional gift of grace

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I would even go further and say that this is central to the message of Pentecost, and Acts as a whole. The gospel was to go from Jerusalem to Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the known world. Pentecost, at the beginning of Acts, was a precursor of the gospel going to the Gentiles. It ends with Paul preaching the kingdom of God and Jesus as Lord, while under house arrest in Rome, the capitol of the Gentile world, under the nose of Caesar.

This was the purpose of God, to restore his kingdom on earth through King Jesus, the world’s rightful king. A kingdom that would heal divided humanity, and ultimately his entire creation, as seen by the bringing together of Jew and Gentile as equals in Christ. This was the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham, “Through you and your seed, all the nations of the earth will be blessed.”

The power of Pentecost, and the announcement of the good news of the Messiah, centered on far more than the salvation of individuals. It contemplates the healing of a broken creation and a divided world, through the coming of the king and his kingdom of love, mercy, and justice.

I think that this is so pertinent to the times we live in today.

Thanks…

Frank

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Hey there,
Not sure what the last couple of sentences read or were meant to say of your posting. Not very respectful was the impression I got. Or did I misunderstand?
Regards

Hi Frank,

Do you think that we can place too much emphasis on Pentecost? Especially as to some it seems to rival Christ in importance. Interested to hear how others view Pentecost and the modern Christian? Do we over do it or undo it as Adventists?

@elmer_cupino … no more prophets after EGW? I am not aware of a decision of the SDA church on that. And I do experience the prophetic gift in our churches quite frequently. But just as EGW never claimed the title “prophet” (or prophetess), some even don’t realize how prophetic their insights are.

And yes, I agree with the notion of the unifying power of pentecost (thank you @frank_merendino for hihglighting this one). But the most convincing term that can be found throughout the book of acts is παρρησία - well worth a study in itself and translated in all sorts of ways. The boldness, the courage, the freedom to preach the gospel - despite (… even our church? …) is the promise across time. Veni creator spiritus.

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Catherine,
You wrote,
‘The Pentecost of Acts 2 is a packed event that looks back on its past, clearly begins a new spiritual community, and focuses forward to the future, indeed to the end of time’ and ‘Pentecost has no limits of distance or of time’.
Yet, the ancient Israelites celebrated three main feasts each year. They were required to return to Jerusalem three times - for the feasts of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. All Christians are familiar with the spiritual fulfillments of the springtime Feast of Passover and the summertime Feast of Pentecost (as they have already been manifested) yet virtually none even consider what truth God might have for us as we move into the spiritual fulfillment of Tabernacles (as some believe).
Do you see any spiritual significance for the Christian in the fall Feast of Tabernacles?

Those are interesting questions, Jo. I’d be interested to see what others here think about this.

I think the answers could be yes and no. Pentecost, within the Adventist setting, can be overplayed when it’s used as a model for the expectation of what is termed, “the latter rain,” the end time outpouring of the Spirit, that will empower the closing of the work before Jesus’s return. Entire sermons and week of prayer presentations have been devoted to such, instructing people to pray together like the disciples did, and put away all known sin, as preparation for this final outpouring of the Spirit.

The problem is that it never happens… no matter how sincerely people have followed this instruction. It seems to be based on a misreading of Pentecost, that causes false expectations. The apostles believed that the end time had already dawned with the resurrection of Jesus. Peter quotes Joel saying just that, that the manifestation of the spirit at Pentecost was a sign of the last days. Yet, we’ve lifted that prophecy out of its context, and applied it to Adventism and our time.

Pentecost was a singular event in the life of the church. It marked the beginning, not only of the end, but also the dawning of the new age, of Christ and his Spirit. The gospel of the kingdom was to be preached to all nations, and they were to be gathered in, in unity around the crucified and risen king. Acts traces the development of this as the apostles move through the known world, all the way to Rome, in the power of the Spirit.

We have the same gospel, and the same Spirit as believers in Christ. We can continue to pray for the empowerment and guidance of the Spirit to continue to share this good news as long as time lasts. I just don’t see any biblical evidence where we’ve received specific instruction like the apostles did from Jesus himself, to wait for the coming of the Spirit in one place, for a new, special manifestation.

He’s already come, he’s already here, and if we believe and follow Jesus as Lord, then the same good news we share as the first disciples shared is already attended by the Spirit’s power… whatever the results. Our continued task is to stay in step with the already present Spirit, as individuals and as communities of faith. In this sense, we can be encouraged that as believers, we are children of Pentecost.

Just some thoughts. What do you think?

Thanks…

Frank

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