How Does Celebrating Pentecost Help?

Why celebrate Pentecost?  How does celebrating Pentecost help us?  Why should anyone even bother? Well, to answer the last question first, I’d say it shouldn’t be a bother IF it’s a celebration … but, then again, celebrations mean different things to different people.

For me, celebrating Pentecost is no bother, at all.  Indeed, I count it a privilege and a blessing (not a bother) to celebrate Pentecost and I do so because of what Pentecost reminds me of.  I’m taking this opportunity, therefore, to share why celebrating Pentecost is not a bother for me … and why it shouldn’t be for you either.

Days before He ascended to Heaven, Jesus told His followers that “a few days” afterwards they would be immersed in the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:5)   Sure enough, a few days later, they were filled with the Holy Spirit.  The day it happened was Pentecost. 

Pentecost (the NT name for an OT festival) was a harvest festival (aka, in the OT, as the Feast of Weeks) that was celebrated near the end of the grain harvest.  It was called Feast of Weeks because the day it was celebrated on was derived at by counting 49 days (or 7 weeks). The counting, which started during the Days of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:15), would end on the day after the 7th week, on the fiftieth day.  Hence the name, in the NT, of Pentecost (from the Greek word Pentekoste which means “fifty count”, “count fifty” or just “fiftieth”), with Pentecost celebrated on the fiftieth day.  

Given that the counting, to arrive at the day for celebrating Pentecost, began during the Passover season, Pentecost provided a way of linking the events of the Passover season with the events of Pentecost.  In religious terms, therefore, Pentecost can be a reminder of spiritual redemption that was made possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Just as the lamb killed at Passover can be used to remind us of Jesus Christ (the Lamb of God), who was crucified for our spiritual deliverance from the penalty of sin, the events associated with Pentecost in the OT can be used to remind us of the presence of Jesus Christ in His Church, through the Holy Spirit. If the Passover observance can remind us that our Saviour died for us, then Pentecost celebrations can remind us that He lives, not only for us, but also IN us.

In Jewish tradition, Pentecost was also associated with events that took place at Sinai, after the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt.  It is not surprising, therefore, to realize that Pentecost can also be used to remind us of other important spiritual realities.

At Sinai, on that first Pentecost (or Feast of Weeks), God 1) revealed Himself, 2) created a nation, set apart for Himself and 3) revealed how the newly-minted kingdom of priests and holy nation (Exodus 19:6) should live as a redeemed community.  That event was marked by awesome supernatural events, such as the mountain shaking, lightning flashing and God speaking in thunder (Exodus 19:18,19).

In Jerusalem, on the first day of Pentecost in New Testament times, God again 1) revealed Himself, 2) created a people set apart for Himself and 3) revealed how the called-out ones should live as a redeemed community.  And, once again, that event was marked by awesome supernatural events, such as the howling of a violent wind, fire descending onto disciples and disciples speaking in tongues (Acts 2:1-4).

Just as God had revealed Himself as an awesome God at Sinai, He also revealed Himself, on that Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem, in a very real sense, as God, the Holy Spirit, who could give spiritual gifts (such as the gift of tongues) as it pleases Him (1 Corinthians 12:7-11).

Just as God had used that event, at Sinai, to create a people set apart for Himself, He also used the events of the Day of Pentecost, in Jerusalem, to raise up the New Testament Church, which was not only an ekklesia of called-out persons (Acts 2:14-18, 41-47), but a holy nation and a royal priesthood, as well (1 Peter 2:9) . 

Just as God had used the event at Sinai to reveal how the Israelites should live, He used the events of Pentecost, in Jerusalem, to show how members of His Church should live as a redeemed community.  Whereas Sinai had become known for the giving of the Law (including the Ten Commandments), the events of the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem has become known for the giving of the Holy Spirit.  The significance?  Just as God’s people, under the OT, were to live according to the Law, members of the Church, His people, under the New Covenant, are to live by the Spirit.

This was what was Jeremiah was referring to when he spoke of the New Covenant and what Ezekiel foretold when he spoken of God putting His Spirit within His people so that they would know how to live (Jeremiah 31:29-34 and Ezekiel 36:27).

There are many parallels and implications that can be drawn as a result of comparing the two events.  For example, just as God had raised up the nation of Israel to reveal the one true God to the world of the OT, He raised up the Church so that nations in NT times could come to know and worship Him in Spirit and in truth.  Also, whereas men in OT times had to go to Jerusalem to worship God, men could worship God wherever they were, because God, who once dwelt in a Temple made of brick and mortar, now dwells in humans, by His Spirit.

So, what should Christians remember at Pentecost? Perhaps the most important message, for this season, is that we no longer need to walk by commandments carved in stone (or written on paper), but by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who writes God’s law on our hearts, empowering us to witness for God, even as He gives us power to overcome the law of sin and death and the powers of darkness. 



Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top