The Impact Of Pentecost In History And The Church Today

The Impact Of Pentecost In History And The Church Today

Shane Sullivan:



Today marks Pentecost which is the culmination of this journey we have been on, both as a church and as Christians since our celebration of Easter and the Lord’s resurrection. There are some interesting similarities between Judaism and Christianity, centered around Pentecost, which is the Greek word for 50. The holiday takes place 50 days after Passover (or the Lord’s crucifixion). In Hebrew, its Shavuot, which means "Weeks", because it occurs 7 weeks after the Passover festival.


So, the thousand-foot view of Pentecost is that it’s mostly an agricultural holiday that celebrates the beginning of the grain harvesting. The first cutting would be taken to the temple and baked into three loaves of bread which were then sacrificed to the LORD. Pentecost is the first of three such holidays; one for the wheat harvest, one for the wine/grape harvest and one for the olives/olive oil harvest. I find it interesting that again we have a celebration of three in the Old Testiment, with no clear reason for such a phenomenon. The second layer to Shavuot is not officially listed in scripture, but appears in virtually all commentaries and 2nd temple period literature, including several references in the Qumran scrolls. The Jews, in conjunction with the wheat harvest, celebrate this festival as the gifting of the Torah. Jewish tradition places the Exodus occurring on the Passover, and the Torah being given to the Israelites fifty days later in the desert on Mount Sinai. Passover celebrates the physical release from slavery and the beginning of a new life. Shavuot celebrates the Spiritual release from slavery and the rebirth as children of Yahweh.


I find it interesting that on Passover, God freed the Israelites from their physical slavery, and on the same day, Jesus died for our sins, releasing us from our eminent physical death. On Pentecost, the literal word of God is presented to the Israelites and so many years later, it would be that anniversary celebration that the LORD chose to pour out His Holy Spirit on us, releasing each of us from the slavery to the law. At Passover, God freed the Jews from their slavery in Egypt, but Jesus freed the word to go and serve the world. At Pentecost, God gave spiritual direction to the future Israelites in the form of the Torah. And on Pentecost, Jesus poured out his Spirit upon us, thereby giving us the greatest power the world has ever known.


I want to talk for a minute about that power. As I’ve mentioned several times before, Charise and I have had the pleasure of traveling to the Holy Land. We have actually been to the Upper Room where the Holy Spirit first poured itself out onto the disciples. I wish I could accurately describe the feeling to you. My father, and grandfather, and uncle have all worked in some form of commercial construction. I have been to several power generation facilities before.  I’ve been in nuclear power facilities and hydro electric facilities. I’ve even been in natural gas facilities. You get a feeling around these machines that are generating this power. I don’t fully know how to describe it, but to say they’re powerful. The hair stands up on your arms and on the back of your neck. There’s electricity in the air.  You know, just being there, that you’re in a place of great power. You know that something’s happening and that you are dwarfed by what’s going on there.

The Upper Room is like that. In that room, you can feel the power of God. The amazing thing is there’s nothing there that could possibly generate that feeling. There’s no electricity, no facility close by, that has that type of power. It’s just an empty, dirty, two-thousand-year-old room. The other main difference I feel between these places is the love. In the Upper Room I feel a distinct human-type presence of love. In human power facilities it’s just an antiseptic power. There’s no emotion or intelligence, just power. But in that room, you can feel the love of Jesus. Today marks the day that we as the church have been equipped with the greatest power source mankind has ever been handed or developed. But what really is that power? What is it that Jesus was trying to give us.


I want to switch tracks and jump into scripture a little bit. I think often when we look at Pentecost, we often look at the event in scripture plainly. I want to take a minute, and look at Pentecost and the events contained in the context of the larger biblical narrative. Let’s start with the reading in Acts 2:1-12


When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem, God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: "Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!" Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, "What does this mean?"


I think we’re all familiar with this text. But I wonder if we’ve ever looked at the individual pieces of what happened here. I think what Jesus did for us at Pentecost is really quite amazing. Luke is using the biblical narrative to overlay ancient events on modern situations. What’s the first image conjured into your head when we think of Holy fire, outside of Pentecost and this story? For me it’s the burning bush. Let’s jump through the beginning of the Exodus story for a minute.

Ex 3:1-6


Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.” When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.


This is God’s holy introduction to Moses and the beginning of his reintroduction to the Jewish people. This is where God begins to craft the formal process of the Hebrew worship of Yahweh. This story goes on for several verses, and explains the signs and wonders Moses is to perform for Pharoah but it ends with this command.


Vs 12 - And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”


In both the Book of Daniel and Eziekiel God is described in the form of fire, but this is all centered around a greater temple narrative. We know that upon the Exodus, God led the Hebrews through the desert by cloud in the day and cloud of fire at night.


Ex 13:21-22

By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.

Then in Kings and Chronicles that fire, once the temple was completed, came, and inhabited the Holy of Holies and led the Israelite population from the temple.


1 Kings 8:10-11

When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the LORD. And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled his temple.


Fire, in scripture, is the marking out of temple space. Let’s jump back to Acts. I don’t know if you’ve picked up on this before, but Luke is not an overly descriptive author. Much of both Luke and Acts is the broad strokes. Like Charise said last week, it’s the greatest hits list. But here in vs 3, he explains that fire came down from heaven. Then it separated and turned into tongues and rested over each of the Apostles.  The detail here is important. It’s telling us the full story. I want you to picture Pentecost against the backdrop of the Solomonic Temple, Against Mount Sinai. What we see in the room full of scared Jesus followers is God reshaping the idea of the Temple of God. It’s moved. Jesus promised he’d destroy the temple and restore it. This is that restoration. Not just the temple of his body, but into the body of all humanity. God, through the Holy Spirit, has divided himself and his fire, to rest on each of us as followers of Jesus.

I want to read one more section of scripture for you from 2 Samuel 7:11-16


“ ‘The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, (or is accused-my interpretation) I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’ ”


We’ve usually read this as a message about Solomon, but I think this was always a message about Jesus. The words for Ancestor and Son are not the same word. I think if God wanted David to think Solomon, or any of his immediate children were going to establish the Forever Kingdom, he would have stated that. Luke is crafting a very meticulous picture here that we are now the temple of God. The Holy Spirit has come to Tabernacle, live, inside each of us. That’s the power and the love that I spoke about earlier. In the fuller vision of the High Holy place, in the vision of the Temple and the Tabernacle, scripture shares that this is where heaven and earth meet. This is where God descends from his High Holy Throne and meets humanity where we can worship Him. Now, the temple is inside each of us. We, the church, the body of believers are where Heaven and Earth meet. We are the new temple. The Apostle Paul has several verses through out his writings that emphasize this understanding. I want to read 1 Cor 6:19-20 – and I’m going to add some Greek emphasis here to explain the context a little fuller.


"Do you not know that your (you all’s) bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you (you all), whom you (individual) have received from God? You (indi) are not your own; you (indi) were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your (you all’s) bodies.


Paul, and by process Jesus, are speaking to us, both as individuals, and to us corporately as the church. Each piece of the temple is sacred, marked for a specific purpose, and set apart for Holy use. But it is the entire temple as a whole that has the true power of God. It’s the whole of the church that maintains the full power of God. Scripture has also given us several lists of powers bestowed to us by the Holy Spirit. Charise read them last week, so I won’t cover that again. Individually, we have freedom and power to practice those gifts of the Holy Spirit, of course. But it is the power of the Spirit, in the context of their practice in the larger church, that makes the Temple the light of the world. Together, as a movement of God, we can accomplish far more than any one of us alone. We have each seen manifestations of the Spirit in our individual lives. We have seen great healings, demons cast out, speaking in tongues and prophecies. But it is only through the power of the Holy Spirit moving through the church as a whole that we can do things like respond to a whole community in the wake of a great flood, gather resources together and have a friends home rewired, minister to those sick and dying on more than one occasion, walk through the loss of a pastor, minister to friends in the midst of divorce or separation.


The gifts of the Spirit can be miraculous and flashy, but Paul tells us the greatest gift of the Spirit is LOVE. It is through that gift, that supernatural gift, we are able to love those who are in great despair. It’s our individual and corporate gift to love the unlovable. It was the manifestation of our great leader and God (Jesus Christ) who died for each of us, when we were still unlovable. And we have no greater duty than to do so for others. When the Holy Spirit “invaded” that little band of disciples in the upper room on that first Pentecost, the result changed the entire world and we are a part of that fruit. Note: THE WHOLE WORLD WAS CHANGED through the lives of 120 who waited and were slammed by the Holy Spirit as Jesus promised. That is the power of Pentecost! And it is still moving – still continuing- still alive in us. So on Pentecost Sunday 2023 – what has changed? The world has changed, but the truth and power of Pentecost remains. The blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, neighborhoods and cities are transformed. We are transformed. Pentecost was then... it’s now in each of us AND in our community. It is the Pentecost power of the Spirit of God following through us each individually, and corporately as we worship HIM together. This is why we gather. This is why we pray. This is why we say, Come Holy Spirit. This is the power of Pentecost THEN breaking into our NOW.


Cheryl Warren:


So in light of what Shane shared, the clarity of us as the temple – US – I want to invite us OUT of our “curated” Christian mindset for a few minutes. Words like temple, upper room, Pentecost, even Holy Spirit are “spiritual” words and can come across as familiar in Biblical language that “disconnects” us from our everyday “reality”. Watch now as our national director, Jay Pathak shares a bit about what REAL reality is... it’s a story and then a bit of teaching... take a look. Can you feel the power of Alex’s experience? Can you even see the impact on Jay, as a seasoned minister, witnessing Alex’s encounter and – firsthand – getting even deeper clarity on the MOST REAL REALITY there is? The most REAL REALITY... the Holy Spirit gives us eyes to see and ears to hear and brings power we can feel that OPENS us up to the REALEST things – beyond the shadows of this world – like using those color-blind glasses and seeing color for the first time... that is what Alex experienced when Jay said be filled with the Holy Spirit. That’s what the disciples and witnesses in Jerusalem experienced on Pentecost two thousand years ago. And that’s what we are longing for today.


In his talk, Shane gave us the lesson of the temple and that the death of Jesus and His resurrection “pierced the veil” and brought the fire of God’s presence out to us all – then the Holy Spirit demonstrated that reality as He came like fire and wind on Pentecost. The veil wasn’t keeping us from heaven... it was keeping heaven’s kingdom from us – and Jesus pierced that veil once and for all and now the Kingdom of Heaven is “backing up” in our world and making it MORE REAL – not just type and shadow (1 Cor 13) – we no longer see in a mirror dimly... etc. And as that reality comes – bodies are restored and made whole (healing) – we see and hear things by the Spirit that change our realities – prophecies and words and wisdom – we become compelled to help others, be kind and bring justice – fruit of the Spirit and the reality of the Kingdom of Heaven leaking through the pierced veil and setting things to right. THIS is why we’ve done this series on the Holy Spirit – because it’s through Him we gain more and more of the REALEST reality of the Kingdom of God that is to be experienced and that we are empowered to carry with us to help change the world... for THIS reason we say Come Holy Spirit... because this is real like gravity for us each individually and for the whole church as God’s temple...

As Jay finished the message you just saw a part of, he prayed for the Holy Spirit to come – to fill us and keep on filling us. To fill our churches and in fact ALL CHURCHES...