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What is Pentecost and what does it have to do with missions?

May 15, 2024 |  By Eric Vess

And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high. Luke 24:49

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Acts 1:8

Pentecost, or the Feast of Weeks (Leviticus 23:15-21), is celebrated by Jews and Christians. What is the connection? And why is it essential to the fulfilling of Christ’s command to go and make disciples of all peoples?

Old Testament Shadow

The Feast of Weeks was one of seven feasts (or festivals) ordained by God for the nation of Israel. It marked the end of the wheat harvest and was traditionally associated with the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai, covenant renewal, and pilgrimage. The feast was to be celebrated exactly seven weeks after Passover on the 50th day (thus the Greek name Pentecost, or 50th).

When God gave the law to Moses at Mt. Sinai, God’s presence was dramatically demonstrated by smoke and fire.

Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the LORD had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. Exodus 19:17-18

New Testament Reality

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly, there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Acts 2:1-8

Peter declares to the bewildered diversity of Jews that what is happening is the prophetic fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32, a passage which concludes with a clear offer of salvation, “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21). Peter goes on to proclaim that Jesus is the crucified, resurrected, living Lord upon whose Name they must call.

The Ultimate Fulfillment

If we combine all the associations with the Feast of Weeks fulfilled in the New Testament, we see the law now written on the hearts of new covenant believers rather than on stone tablets. We also may view the pilgrimage not as coming to Jerusalem but rather as disciples going out from the city to the ends of the earth with the Gospel of Jesus. The universality of the people of God is represented by the diversity of those present in Jerusalem. The importance of every people group hearing the Word of God in their own language is powerfully demonstrated.

At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit created a New Covenant people of God, wrote the law of God on their hearts, and empowered them to take the Gospel of Jesus to the ends of the earth.

Pentecost points us to the ultimate fulfillment of God’s salvation promise:
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Revelation 7:9-10

Pentecost makes missions possible!


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