What’s Pentecost About?

As our church continues to read the book of Acts, the second chapter highlights the day of Pentecost. The author of Acts, Luke, assumes his readers are familiar with the holy-day/holiday. He, therefore, doesn’t explicitly tease out what Jesus sending the Holy Spirit on his people that day (of all days) means. If you skip over Pentecost you miss a lot of color within the text’s story that the wording itself doesn’t always supply. Here are four blogs surveying some of the meaning behind that day and what’s going on in Acts 2. Continue reading What’s Pentecost About?

Pentecost (Part 4 of 4): Deploying the Church

pentecostThis is the fourth post on Pentecost. Part 1 was designed to give a little OT background and a general overview. Part 2 demonstrated how Pentecost tells us that Jesus is the vindicated and exalted Messiah. Part 3 reminds us that Pentecost marks the day Jesus gifted his bride the Spirit and what a gift he is. This installation, part 4, finishes up the short series by showing how Pentecost equips and sends the Church out on her mission. I’ll admit, I’ve essentially repurposed a past blog on Pentecost and the Kingdom, but I think it fits very well here and helps round out the picture I’m trying to draw.

Pentecost not only convinces us of Jesus’ identity and conveys to us the gift of the Holy Spirit, but it also creates a Church on mission to spread the gospel and see God reclaim image-bearers throughout the world.

Continue reading Pentecost (Part 4 of 4): Deploying the Church

Pentecost (Part 3 of 4): The Spirit of Pentecost

pentecostThe title of Frederick Dale Bruner’s book on the Holy Spirit carries the subtitle, The Shy Member of the Trinity. Maybe a better title is Francis Chan’s The Forgotten God. Both titles suggest how little attention we give to the Holy Spirit. To a degree, the Holy Spirit comes not to make a big deal about himself but to point us back to the Son and the Father. Rather than being the shy member of the Trinity, we might think of the Spirit rightly as the one who is more “behind the scenes” and yet ever-present and always working. From the moment God awakens our hearts by the Spirit our entire Christian life is lived by the influence and help of the Spirit. We are nothing without him and we have nothing without him.

Continue reading Pentecost (Part 3 of 4): The Spirit of Pentecost

Pentecost (Part 2 of 4): It’s A Big Day for Jesus Too

pentecostFor the few who still remember it, Pentecost is the Christian holiday 50 days after the resurrection. It began in the OT as the Feast of Weeks and is brought into the NT when Jesus pours out the Spirit upon the Church. So, as many then think, Christmas and Easter are about Jesus but Pentecost is all about the Spirit. Right? It is about the Spirit and we should take advantage of this day to remember why Jesus thought the coming of the Spirit was such a good thing for us (Jn. 16:7). But, often neglected is just how pivotal a day this was in the story of Redemptive History as well as what it tells us about Jesus. What might surprise is just how much Pentecost teaches us not only about the Spirit but about the Messiah, Jesus. The Christ’s incarnation, his holy life, his sacrificial death, his triumphant resurrection, his exaltation at the ascension, and his giving of the Spirit at Pentecost all prove to be of great significance for who Jesus is as Lord.

Continue reading Pentecost (Part 2 of 4): It’s A Big Day for Jesus Too

Pentecost (Part 1 of 4): Out with the Old and In with the New

pentecostJune 8, fifty days after Passover, marks the day of Pentecost. In the Old Testament story God delivered in might and miraculous ways His people from Egypt on the day of Passover. The people took the life of a lamb and marked the doors of their homes with blood, and where God saw the blood of a life taken He spared the lives of those under its covering (Ex. 12:1-13). Every year their deliverance is celebrated at Passover by eating unleavened bread, marking the speed in which they got of Dodge…or Egypt.

Seven weeks later was the Feast of Weeks (Lev. 23:15-22), otherwise known as the Feast of Harvest (Ex. 23:16) or Pentecost. This celebration provided God’s people an opportunity to take the first two loaves from the harvest God provided and give them back to Him. The harvest reminded them that they now lived in God’s good land as freed people. The firstfruits represented the whole, so that all of the harvest was clearly recognized as God’s. He gives and we steward, enjoy, and say thanks. In this covenant relationship what’s ours is His and what’s His is ours and we recognize that in the Feast of the Harvest. It was also on this day that God descended upon His people at Mt. Sinai, giving them His Law. They were not redeemed from slavery to be left on their own but God’s Law was meant to organize them, consecrate them, humble them, and teach them how to live. This day of Pentecost in the Old Testament screams of significance: the descent and dwelling of God with His people, the giving of Law to guide the people, a reminder of the goodness of life in God’s new land, and a representation that God does bless and all that we have is truly His.

Continue reading Pentecost (Part 1 of 4): Out with the Old and In with the New

Pentecost and Kingdom

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[This post is part 8 of 9 on a series of the Kingdom of God in the NT.]

Pentecost and Christ’s Kingdom
One of the most famous passages in the NT is Matthew 28:18-20. A lot of attention—and rightly so—has been given to the mission to go, make disciples, and to do so by baptisms and teaching. However, what is talked about less often is why Jesus now gives us this mission, or at least why it’s possible. In verse 18 Jesus tells the disciples that as the resurrected (and soon to be ascended) Messiah and King “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given” to him. The authority here isn’t simply his inherent authority as the Son of God but the authority earned through his life, death, and resurrection. It is consistent with what we’ve seen in Acts 2 and the fact that Jesus is raised and exalted to the throne of David, meaning that he is the King over the world. The Davidic King comes to rule Israel but he does so with the mission of opening the gates of Israel so that all nations will come into his kingdom. The commission to go into all nations is tied to both Jesus’ authority as King over all the earth and Jesus’ authoritative mission to expand the kingdom of God to all nations.

This is important because when Jesus tells his followers to go into the world—a place where they have no power and will be persecuted by spiritual enemies and enemies from other religions or from the government itself—how in the world can they accomplish this impossible mission? The reason is because Jesus as King has claimed his sovereignty and rule over all creation, and he sends us into lands that he has authority over. This verse is also important, especially as seen in a parallel verse of Acts 1:8, because they will go into the world and make disciples only because the Spirit is with them. At Pentecost we see that the Spirit is sent by the King as both the proof that the King is reigning and as the power within the kingdom. “In particular, the coming of the promised Spirit at Pentecost is intended to be understood as evidence testifying to how Jesus was raised from the dead (vv.22-28)…Christ has begun to sit on the throne of the end-time kingdom, which he did not do in his ministry, though he was at that time inaugurating the kingdom.”[1]

It is the Spirit who works through the kingdom citizens to announce the gospel news that Jesus is King. It is the Spirit who leads, guides, and protects the citizens. It is the Spirit who uses the Word to convict, reveal, and change people so that the kingdom increases. It is the Spirit who brings glory to the King. The work of the Spirit through believers (citizens of the kingdom) is how Jesus’ exercises and expands his rule on earth.[2] In the gospels the kingdom is among them because the King (Jesus) is standing in their midst. In Acts, the kingdom of God is among us because the Spirit brings the presence of Jesus to us.[3] The Spirit doesn’t replace or take over for Jesus, instead, he is the presence and the power of Jesus is with us. “Jesus ascribes all the power involved in the establishment of the kingdom to the Holy Spirit as its source….If, then, in its very essence the power of the kingdom is the power of the Holy Spirit, it must extend as far as the latter’s operation extends and include the entire liberating, renewing, sanctifying work of grace in the hearts of men.” [4]

Thus, both the ascension and Pentecost are essential to Jesus’ purpose and to the very life and mission of the church because through them the King sends his powerful spirit to the people he is sending to the world. Pentecost is when the church is enlisted into the King’s army and is equipped by the Spirit for what lies ahead.[5] Pentecost is the launching and deploying of the citizens from the Kingdom of God into the kingdom of the world. Our mission isn’t self-imposed, self-governed, or self-generated. We take our orders from the King who rightfully reigns from his throne.

Hopefully you can already see why the ascension is good news in this point. Among the possible implications, we can see from Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8 that the ascension assures us that Jesus is the King with authority over all the world, that he is still with us through the Spirit he’s sent, that we’re participating with the King in the mission of the kingdom, and that we’re now to go to all peoples and all nations announcing the good news of an open invitation to the kingdom. The ascension propels us on the mission of bringing glory to Jesus and making disciples. It tells us that we are the empowered messengers, given the powerfully Spirit, sharing a powerful gospel, and serving a powerful King.[6]

Footnotes:
[1] Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology, 239.
[2] “…the gift of the Spirit becomes ‘the key to the ongoing presence and intensification of the salvation/kingdom of God which the disciples, began to experience through Jesus’ ministry.’” Peterson, Acts, 62.
[3] To understand the relationship between the resurrected Jesus and the Spirit, see: Gaffin, Perspectives, 18-20.
[4] Geerhardus Vos, “The Kingdom of God,” in Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, ed. by Richard B. Gaffin Jr. (Phillips: P&R Publishing, 1980), 313.
[5] I think there is a connection between Pentecost and God’s commission in the Genesis account. At creation God breathed into Adam, his image-bearer and son who was supposed to rule over the earth and fruitfully multiply throughout it. At Jesus’ baptism, there might be a correspondence when the Spirit comes upon Jesus and the Father says this is my Son in whom I’m well pleased (both Adam and Jesus immediately face temptation; however Jesus obeys where Adam sins). At Pentecost, Jesus breathes the Spirit onto his church who is then to go represent the king (image-bearer) and bear fruit throughout the earth. God’s commission to his image-bearer Adam in the garden has thus led to the recommissioning of Christ’s image-bearers (the Church) to go multiply and fill up the earth.
[6] See my blog posts: “The Day of Ascension and the Great Commission” and “Ascension: What’s Jesus up To?”