Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Pentecost: Before and After

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come ....

The Day of Pentecost is the Jewish Feast of Shavu'ot. It is also called the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of Harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering. Pentecost follows Passover by fifty days. It commemorates the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai. This was one of three feasts in which every male was to attend. Ritual sacrifices, offerings, and holy worship were observed.

This then is the setting for the Day of Pentecost. Jesus attached special significance to this day. God was up to something, something out of the usual, something different from the normal, something new and extraordinary. He spoke of the fulfilling of a promise. As the fulness of the season arrived in the Temple city of Jerusalem, on schedule, the Ruach HaKodesh blew in and consumed those seated in the Upper Room with divine unction.

Days of Waiting

Before His ascension Jesus gathered with His family of disciples, commanding them not to leave Jerusalem, but to "wait ... until". They did not fully understand what they were waiting for, nor could they have predicted the events of Pentecost. Similarly, we also pray as we wait and wonder what God is up to; we cannot predict when or how the Holy Spirit will act out His plan and desires. Often nothing seems to be happening; our work of faith has gone unrewarded, our prayers unanswered. This is the business of waiting on God. The church waits to hear from its Lord; we know not what the Holy Spirit will do in the church and in our lives anymore than the early disciples did. In this waiting time of birth and rebirth things cannot be rushed, contrary to the "fast food mentality" of our world. We wait prayerfully, attentively, expectantly. The Holy Spirit will come, with new orders. Ascension days are preparatory to pentecostal days.

Ascension Day

Forty days after His Passion and Resurrection Christ Jesus "was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God". His re-entrance presents four priorities of Ascension Day.

1) The Son of God has resumed His role in the Godhead. While upon earth the Son of God lived and acted solely as Son of Man, limited as a human being. Now exalted to the right hand of God, the Son of Man lives and acts solely as the Son of God, unlimitedly. "And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began."

2) The Son of God is enacting His role as Saviour of the World, administering His sacrificial salvation on a worldwide basis to all who believe. "But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God."

3) The Son of God is mediating His role as Advocate and Intercessor. "Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us."

4) Being ascended the Son of God shall descend at His Second Advent to rout His enemies. "For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death."

The tenor of New Testament thought is that the Resurrection and Ascension are contemporary events; being raised from death Christ is raised in position. Jesus is not living and moving about short-changed from earth; He is actively engaged and involved from a heavenly position.

Fully Come

Pentecost is more than an event, it became an experience. Christians worldwide live out Christmas and Easter; less experienced are Ascension and Pentecost. Pentecost came yearly, as usual, but this time it came with a difference. It arrived with wind, fire, and speaking in tongues, causing the gathering crowds to question, "Whatever could this mean?" Whenever God did the unusual it evoked, "What does this mean?" So, Pentecost means ....

a) The Holy Spirit has come. It was in the Heavenly Father's eternal plan to send His Son to earth as the Redeeming Sacrifice. Everything in history pointed in that direction. Jesus came and lived the perfect life, died to remove sin, rose in conquest of death ... end of story. But it's not; Jesus ascended in exaltation and sent forth the Spirit in His place. This is equally as true and important as the sending forth of the Son to initiate the plan of God. The Son writes the covenant agreement with His life, death, and resurrection. The Spirit now enacts the conditions of the covenant, to the end of time. One initiates, the other consummates. One without the other leaves the plan of God unfulfilled and incomplete.

b) The Church was born. It was conceived in eternity past, it birthed at Pentecost. In and through the church God's plan is carried out across the face of the earth. Without the church the Cross dies; it has no vehicle to propel itself. Without the Cross the church dies; it has no message and no reason for existence. The church is the single most important entity in the world today. The church is comprised of many individual ministries, but ministries alone does not the church make. At Pentecost the flames came individually, but then collectively they were "all filled with the Holy Spirit". The Spirit created the church as a body, "a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit". Let us honour that, because together is better.

c) The Church is gifted. The Spirit endows and empowers the church with His manifold gifts, graces, and abilities, for the common good of its members and the benefit of mankind through the proclamations of the Gospel. "But we have gifts that differ and which are meant to be used according to the grace that has been given to us." God wants us to discover and develop our gifts and to use them to His glory. No gift or ability is too insignificant for God. And God expects churches to allow the members to use the gifts He entrusted them with. He wants no one left behind. In this way the life and ministry of Christ is replayed in our day for all to see.

That makes God smile!

Source: Acts 2:1, Ex. 34:22; 23:16, Lev. 23:15,16, Ex. 12:6,12; 19:1,11, Deut. 16:16, Lev. 23:18,19, Duet. 16:11,12, Lk 24:49, Acts 1:4, Mark 16:19, John 17:5, Rom. 3:22, Heb. 10:12, Rom. 8:34, 1 Cor. 15:25-26, Acts 2:12, 33, Eph. 2:22, Rom. 12:6


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