Today, May 31, 2009 is Pentecost Sunday, a day remembered by Christians because of the events recorded in Acts 2. Also called the Feast of Weeks, the feast fell 50 days (“Pentecost” is Greek for “50th”) after the dedication of the first barley sheaf to God (Lev. 23:16-17). The Jews also observed Pentecost in commemoration of the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai. On this Pentecost 2009, the following reflections come to mind.
In keeping with its agricultural origins, the Pentecost of Acts 2 marked the “first fruits” of the gospel harvest, in the conversion of thousands of people from nations on three continents (Acts 2:9-11; see John 4:35-36 and Amos 9:13-14). But if 3,000 unfaithful Jews died at Sinai for rejecting God, as indicated by worshipping the golden calf, 3,000 repentant Jews had their sins forgiven on Pentecost by accepting God’s Messiah, as indicated by being baptized in his name (Ex. 32:1-29; Acts 2:37-41).
Although the Christian church arguably began on Pentecost, that was a result of the main event and not the main event itself. The main event was the beginning of the outpouring of God’s Spirit to all believers — young and old, men and women, slave and free — in fulfillment of God’s ancient promise, recently repeated by John the Baptist and by Jesus himself (Joel 2:28-32; Luke 3:15-18; Acts 1:4-5). Throughout Acts, Luke refers to this generous drenching in God’s personal, powerful Presence as a “pouring,” “baptism,” “gift” and “filling” — an indiscriminate act of repeatable and continuing generosity by the Father and the ascended Jesus Christ to all who believe in Jesus (John 7:37-39).
This pouring out of God’s Spirit marked the beginning of the “last days,” biblical code for the period that started with the Messiah’s ascension and coronation at God’s right hand and that will end when his final enemy, death, is conquered in the final resurrection (Psalm 110:1; 1 Cor. 15:24-28). This is also the time of messianic salvation. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved, all those whom the Lord will call (Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21, 39). For more on baptism in the Holy Spirit, click here