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The Purpose of Pentecost

Many people have incorrect thoughts about the purpose of Pentecost. You will sometimes hear Christians praying that the Spirit will come in the same way as He came at Pentecost. It is certainly a good  and right thing to desire a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the church. But Pentecost held a very special place in redemptive history. It is as special and unique an event as the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ--a one-time event. Eric Alexander explains the significance of Pentecost in the following way:

This particular Pentecost in Acts 2 came fifty days after that day to which the Old Testament Passover had pointed, when the Lord Jesus was lifted up and offered himself as a full and sufficient sacrifice for sin. We cannot understand the significance of Pentecost apart from the offering up of Christ as our sin bearer. In this sense, the day of Pentecost is a vital part of the redeeming work of Christ, because the coming of the Holy Spirit was to accomplish in us what Christ had accomplished by his death for us. Thus, we could think of the giving of the Spirit in Acts 2 as part of Jesus' saving work which consists in his leaving heaven's glory, his lowly birth of a virgin, his perfect life of obedience, his atoning death on the cross, his resurrection, ascension and establishment at God's right hand, his gift of the Holy Spirit, his present intercession, and his coming again in power and great glory.

In this context, the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was a once-for-all event, no more repeatable than Jesus' birth, death or resurrection. It ushered in the last days (Acts 2:17). But the gift of the Holy Spirit is given to every believer who repents and receives the forgiveness of sins (2:38). In this sense, every true believer has a personal pentecost at the time of regeneration.

Then the Holy Spirit comes to indwell us, to apply the benefits of Christ's death to us and to raise us into newness of life so that Christ's life may be lived out in us. No more does God only dwell in the Temple at Jerusalem. From Pentecost on, the apostles say to every believer, "Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit".

Second, Pentecost was a celebration of the giving of the Law. Some scholars think that the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai was fifty days after the Passover. Certainly in later Judaism there was a close connection between Pentecost and the giving of the Law. The association is significant, because the giving of the Law was designed, by an external standard, to form the lives and characters of God's redeemed people. And God came down upon Sinai in mighty Power with thunder, lightning and fire.

But God's ultimate Purpose to write his Law in the hearts of men and women: "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts." (Jer 31:33) lt is this Promise which is being fullfilled at Pentecost, as Paul makes clear in 2 Corinthians 3:7-8.

It is well for us to remember in all our thinking about Pentecost and the coming of the Spirit is that the central ministry of the Holy Spirit is to write the law of God in the hearts of men and women.

Third, Pentecost was also called the Feast of First Fruits. It was the time when the first ears of ripe corn were offered to god. The first fruits were part of the harvest, as well as the promise of its fullness. Do you see how Perfectly God chooses times and seasons? This Pentecost was to see the first-fruits of the harvest of the gospel, and that harvest is still being gathered all over the world today. The end of the harvest will not be until the return of Christ in glory.

So Pentecost is not only a saving event - bringing the application of the death of Christ to our lives; it is not only a moral event - designed to change our character; it is also a missionary event. That is the significance of the reference in Acts 2:5 to people from every nation under heaven gathered in Jerusalem.

You can read the whole talk here.

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