Understanding Pentecost: The Fulfillment of God’s Promise
“I will ask the Father, and he will send another Companion, who will be with you forever. This Companion is the Spirit of Truth”
In the early days of the Christian church certain days of the year were considered significant due to the events that had occurred on or near those days. Those days came to be days of celebration, of feasting and festivities. Today many of those days are still part of the church calendar, but are not celebrated by all denominations. One such day is Pentecost.
Understanding Pentecost and the importance attached to it can be difficult for Christians who did not grow up in a church that observes Pentecost celebrations. Yet, Pentecost commemorates an important event in the church: the day when God fulfilled a promise that Jesus made to his disciples. Understanding Pentecost increases our understanding of the God we serve, the God who exists in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
On the night of the last supper, Jesus spent the evening eating and talking to His disciples. Over the course of the meal He told them that He would die, and then ascend to heaven. They did not fully understand what Jesus was telling them, but it is clear from their responses that they were worried. Perhaps the one point they recognized was that Jesus was leaving them. After all the time they had spent together and everything they had learned from Him, Jesus was leaving. But then He said He would not leave them alone. Instead, He would ask His Father to send a Companion to them–the Holy Spirit.
After Jesus died and rose again, it was time for Him to join His Father. On the day of the Ascension of Jesus (another church holiday), Jesus’ disciples stood around Him, and He gave them the Great Commission. He said, “I've received all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I've commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.” Very clearly He reminds them again that he will be with them in the form of the Holy Spirit – always.
After the Ascension of Jesus, the disciples did not immediately go out to follow His command. Instead, they gathered together, staying mostly indoors, not being very vocal. Between all the miracles they had seen and the unfriendly disposition of the local government, is seems likely that they were scared. They were waiting. Here is what happened next:
“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Act 2:1-4).
On that day, Jesus’ promise to His disciples was fulfilled. He sent them a Companion, a Helper, to guide them and live in each of them. From that day on, His disciples went out to live out the Great Commission and make disciples of all nations. Where they did not have the strength to do so on their own, through God they were unstoppable, as we can read in the rest of the New Testament. Understanding Pentecost means understanding that Jesus kept His promise to be with us every day until the end of this present age.
Life Through the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit came on the disciples like a mighty wind, like flames, and they spoke in tongues. For many people, this is the only connotation that they have of Pentecost, and it can sound frightening. While it is true that God remains the same throughout all centuries, he does not always come with fire and wind. Sometimes the Holy Spirit is the quiet voice in our hearts that points us in a certain direction. This is no more or less valid than any other way God uses to speak to His people.
Nowadays most Pentecost celebrations take place within the Catholic church, though it is also celebrated by other denominations. In Germany, Pentecost is a holiday and is celebrated with church parades, banners, and bouquets of “Pentecost Roses” (peonies). If your church does not celebrate Pentecost, consider making a Pentecost celebration part of your family, as you thank God for His faithfulness and presence in your life. Help your children in understanding Pentecost.
As Christians we know that we must live each day in Christ. Without God we are nothing. When we accept Jesus into our lives, we know that the Holy Spirit lives in us and guides us. Through this gift that God has given us, we will never be alone again.
“You know Him, because He lives with you and will be with you”