Today marks the day many in the Church celebrate Pentecost. Ironically, most Pentecostals have never known their congregations to celebrate it. While there’s certainly no obligation to liturgical calendar (unless your tradition and custom expect it of you), it’s helpful for us to remember that day together with Christians around the world, not only in the present but in the ancient past. But it’s not just liturgical Christians that say that…or Pentecostals. One of the great reformed preachers, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote in Authentic Christianity on it as well:
And so the Day of Pentecost is of vital importance in Christian preaching. It is one of the great acts of God. The day of Pentecost is equally as important as the incarnation, the death, the resurrection and the ascension. These are the marvellous wonderful works of God, and this day is one of the most marvellous of them all.
Just shy of 2000 years ago, 120 followers of Jesus gathered together and were praying. Jesus had gone. They didn’t have the dark despair of the dark Sabbath between cross and resurrection now, but He had ascended, glorified and left only the promise of His return. But that wash’ the only promise He had left.
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (Jn. 14:26-27)
But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father,where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. (Jn. 16:7-11)
Ten days passed. Ten days of waiting, watching and praying. Matthias, the twelfth apostle, was chosen to replace Judas. But the waiting and praying continued. But on the day of Pentecost, the promises of God were fulfilled.
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. (Acts 2:1-4)
Tongues of fire. Speaking in tongues. The sound of violent winds from heaven. Pentecost. It’s dramatic. It’s vivid. It’s everything people want to see in a great move of God. It’s what Christians in overly-technologized cultures long for and pray for when the words “revival” are on their lips. I know. I’ve prayed the same. But more than a miraculous drama or a visible manifestation of God’s presence, Pentecost is a demonstration of God’s faithfulness. Fire, wind, and shaking were all present at Sinai too. But we know where that ended: idolatry and failure. Fire, wind and shaking were present when Elijah went into the wilderness. He still wanted to die. The fire, wind and shaking were signs that God was present, but the followers of Jesus had something better than the Israelites at Sinai, and better than Elijah: they had the promises of Jesus – the same Jesus who had been crucified, risen, and ascended before their very eyes. They knew they had not come to what may be touched (as the author of Hebrews reflects on in Hebrews 12), but to the Kingdom.
The amazing miracle of the Kingdom of God is not that it comes on the heels of earth-tearing disasters and worldly powers running towards destruction, but in the midst of God’s people celebrating God’s abundant faithfulness. Pentecost is a harvest festival – offering the firstfruits to the God who provides for His people. But on that Pentecost, and every single day since, God has given His people the gift of Himself, the gift of the Spirit. Because of the work of God in Jesus, today is Pentecost. Yesterday is Pentecost. Tomorrow is Pentecost. We Christians are not creatures of apocalypse, but Pentecost. We are signals to the world that the last days have come (just like Jesus promised and Peter preached). We are people born out of the Resurrection, brought to full maturity by Pentecost.
Wherever Jesus’ people are, wherever they are filled and marked by the Spirit, Pentecost is happening. God is in the midst of His people. The Kingdom of God is come. Sin is being undone because people are coming to believe in Jesus. The righteousness of God is present in creation because Jesus sits at the right hand of God, forever-reigning. Judgment is declared because in the cross, the prince of this world was found guilty. In the resurrection, he was sentenced. In Pentecost, he is punished. The reign of God’s peace has begun in us forever and never ends. “My peace I give you.” My Spirit I give you. Receive the Spirit. Proclaim the reign of Jesus. Give glory to God the Father.