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.
God’s unfolding plan of redemptive history culminates in the Lord Jesus Christ, both his person and his work. In the Bible, this redemptive history is captured in some key turning points in Jesus’ life. The Bible highlights the following: (1) incarnation, (2) perfect life, (3) death-burial, (4) resurrection, (5) ascension, (6) session (being seated at the Father’s right hand), and (7) return in power and glory. The writers of the Scriptures teach the truth that Jesus is Israel’s promised Messiah, the one who fulfills all the Scriptures (Matt. 5:17-20), and the one in and through whom all the promises of God are fulfilled (2 Cor. 1:20).
In God’s redemptive work, Jesus’ ascension (Acts 1:9) was to be seated at God’s right hand (Rom. 8:34; Eph. 1:20; Heb. 1:3; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; 1 Pet. 3:22) and to engage in intercession for believers (Rom. 3:34; Heb. 7:25). That is Jesus’ present ministry and our glorious experience.
However, although this is our present experience, because it has become so familiar we often overlook the critical historical significance of this redemptive truth. In conjunction with Jesus’ resurrection and session is the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, what the Bible refers to as Pentecost. All of these events are interconnected, and if one is to understand God’s redemptive plan, it is vital to grasp these truths.
These are some of the key redemptive historical turning points associated with the person and work of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Bible. They have also been recognized in the church. Generally the church has recognized five key “Evangelical Feasts” in the Christian year (Evangelicals and the Christian Year): Christmas (incarnation), Good Friday (death), Easter (resurrection), Ascension, and Pentecost. Although there is no biblical mandate for how these key redemptive events of Jesus are remembered or celebrated in the church, that we remember them as biblical truths is essential, and that these works of God and our experiences of these truths ought to lead us into thanks and praise to God – Father, Son, Holy Spirit.
Pentecost is associated with one of the three major festivals celebrated by the Jewish people, the Feast of Weeks (Lev. 23:15; Dt. 16:9). It refers to 50 days that had passed since the wave offering of Passover, and is celebrated at the end of the grain harvest. This celebration took on new significance and importance at the ascension of Christ and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, as recorded in Acts 2. This occurred 50 days after the resurrection. As an explanation of the importance of Pentecost, one writes, “The pouring out of the Spirit at Pentecost marks the inauguration of the new covenant and the promised end-time coming of the Holy Spirit (Joel 2:28-32; cf. Isa 32:15; 44:3-4; Jer. 31:33-34; Ezek 36:26-27; 39:29)…The miracle at Pentecost of speaking in other tongues (v. 4) also reverses the events at the tower of Babel (Gen 11:1-9). Just as that event divided people into diverse nations and languages, so now the arrival of God’s salvation brings the nations of the world (v. 5) together to form one new people of God.”
The theological importance of Pentecost can be summarized in three words:
Pentecost is a redemptive historical truth we remember and for which we thank the Lord. The reason we thank the Lord is because we have experienced this truth personally and corporately. Although this is a non-repeatable redemptive historical event, the implications of Pentecost are ongoing. Furthermore, the reality of the truth and experience of the Holy Spirit’s ministry are critical during the time between Christ’s present heavenly intercessory ministry and his ministry in the next stage of redemptive history, that of his glorious return. In between these times, we engage faithfully in our role as witnesses.
There are many implications and applications of the truth of Pentecost. We have experienced salvation, we are part of a new community, and we are called to mission. During our remembrance of Pentecost and our worship of God in all his fullness – Father, Son, Holy Spirit – one of the applications I ask you to consider is how this relates to immigration, the phenomenon, and, more importantly, immigrants, the people. How might our understanding of and ministry to immigrants be related to and an overflow of our understanding and experience of Pentecost?
We are using this redemptive historical event as a time to encourage you to reflect on the truth of Pentecost, and its implication and application in the life of the church today. We have provided Pentecost resources to help you. Might they be used of the Lord to lead you to give thanks and praise to him, and might they also lead you to ponder how you might engage in mission, with a specific focus on the immigrant.