Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
June 3, 2012, in the Christian year we celebrated Pentecost Sunday. This celebration is important for both Jews and Christians: the shadow is in the old, the fulfillment is in the new.
For Jews – The Old Covenant
For the Jews, it was part of offering of the firstfruits, that celebration at the beginning of the harvest which signified Israel’s gratitude to God, their absolute dependence upon God, and an acknowledgement that all of this was based on God’s grace (Lev. 23:9-14; cf. Dt. 26:1-11). There was a special firstfruits celebration held annually that coincided with Passover, seven weeks prior to Pentecost (Lev. 23:15).
The firstfruits offering during Passover found its fulfillment in the Feast of Weeks that happened seven weeks later, the 50th day (Ex. 34:22; Lev. 23:15-20; Dt. 16:9-10). At this time, the focus was on gratitude to God for the harvest that had occurred.
All of this is stated in the law given by God. In later Judaism, it was also connected with the celebration of the giving of the law at Sinai (Jubilees 1:1; 16:7; but consider Ex. 19:1 to make this a reasonable chronological deduction).
For Christians – The New Covenant
For Christians, Pentecost is one of the highpoints of the existence of the church. It marks the next stage in redemptive history after Jesus’ ascension and session, i.e. being seated at the Father’s right hand, that is the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus ascended he instructed the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they were clothed with power from on high. As these disciples were waiting 50 days after Jesus’ death, the Holy Spirit descended upon them (Acts 2). When this happened, Peter preached a sermon that spells out its significance and connection with previous redemptive history. He does so by claiming present fulfillment of Joel’s past promise (2:28-32; Acts 2:16-21).
Duane Garrett (EDBT, “Feasts and Festivals of Israel)) writes,
The catalyst for the Book of Joel was a terrible locust plague that left Israel destitute. . . . Joel links the concept of agricultural and economic abundance to spiritual restoration. . . . For these prophets, therefore, a theological link existed between the material blessing of God seen in a rich harvest and the spiritual benefits obtained when God gives his Word and Spirit. . . . It is appropriate, therefore, that the giving of the Spirit in fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32 should have come about on the harvest celebration day of Pentecost.
And then Garrett applies this transition from Passover to Pentecost to the New Testament and Christians:
The slaughter of the Passover lamb recalled the great deliverance of the exodus and marked the beginning of the harvest with the gift of the firstfruits, and the Feast of Weeks was the great celebration in thanksgiving for the grain harvest. Jesus’ crucifixion at Passover, similarly, was the sacrifice for the deliverance of his people, and the subsequent pouring out of the Spirit on Pentecost was the fulfillment of what his sacrifice had promised (John 14:16-20; 16:7).
As the Passover is to Jews, so Easter is for the Christians. Pentecost is the third great Christian celebration after Christmas and Easter.
Important Truths About Pentecost, The Holy Spirit and Christ
Here are some important broad/general truths lessons of Pentecost:
Here are some specific truths related to Pentecost and the Holy Spirit:
Here, finally, are a few additional truths related to Pentecost and the Holy Spirit’s ministry in relation to the Lord Jesus Christ. Though God the Holy Spirit and God the Son are both fully God, they do serve different role/functions within the Trinity. The Holy Spirit’s role is to apply the work of and bring glory to Christ (Jn. 16:14). Here are some ways he does that post-Pentecost, continuing on in lives of believers today.