The birth and the resurrection of Jesus Christ were two landmark, world shaking events that Christians celebrate with gusto and fan-fare. There was another event that is nearly in the same category that some Christian churches don’t pay any attention to or even mention. I am referring to the birthday of the church on the day of Pentecost. Is it because it happened of one of the Jewish Holy Days or is it just out of ignorance? That question I cannot answer but let’s take a look at the birthday of the church and when it occurred.
In Acts 1:1-5 we read that the disciples, about 120 of them, were gathered together in the upper room of a house; probably praying and seeking God’s guidance. Jesus commanded His disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they received the empowerment of the Holy Spirit from above, the comforter that Jesus promised before his crucifixion (John 14:26). Jesus told the disciples that John baptized with water but in a few days they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit. The level of anticipation must have been hard to imagine.
Acts chapter two verses one through four tells of the actual event:
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.
Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability. (NLT)
Wow, this is huge, the Holy Spirit being poured out to mankind for the first time. Verse forty-one tells us that those who accepted the message and were baptized was about 3,000 on that day. And what day was that on? The day of Pentecost. The same Holy Day that God gave to ancient Israel. The same day that’s called Shavuot in Hebrew. This is what many call the birthday of the Church of God, and rightfully so. Can we realize it, all this happened on a “Jewish” holiday. Does Jesus have a fondness for Holy Days that were given to Israel? I believe that He absolutely does.
Six hundred years earlier Jeremiah proclaimed to the nation of Judah that
“The time is coming declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant. Though I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (NIV)
Here in Acts chapter two we see this prophesy starting to be fulfilled. And it could only happen after Jesus crucifixion with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Significance of the Day of Pentecost
The word Pentecost means “to count fifty.” That is because the day of Pentecost occurs fifty days after the (early) Feast of Firstfruits. The feast of Pentecost is also called the “Latter Feast of First Fruits” because it occurs at the time of the wheat harvest in Israel. The feast of Firstfruits (Pentecost) was, not so coincidentally, a great time for the first fruits of the Holy Spirit to be shared with mankind. The apostle Paul speaks of the firstfruits of the Spirit in Romans 8:23: “Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (NIV).
When the day of Pentecost comes we should shout for joy proclaiming God’s greatness. For it was on this day that God’s church was inaugurated. Just as the birth of Jesus most likely took place during the fall feast season, His crucifixion occurred on Passover, His resurrection was on the Feast of Firstfruits (early firstfruits), the next step in God’s great plan – the giving of the Holy Spirit happened on the day of Pentecost. Here we have another example of the wonder and majesty of God’s festivals and holy days.
This coming of the Holy Spirit is an important event in our salvation story. In Ephesians 1:13-14 the apostle Paul points out that the Holy Spirit is a seal of God’s ownership of us and also a guarantee of our future inheritance of everything that God has promised to give us, including eternal life. In Romans 8:14 Paul writes that all who are led by the Holy Spirit are children of God. And in Romans 8:9 Paul tells us that “anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him.”
Do we want to belong to God? Do we want to be called a child of God? Do we want to be a part of the promises that He made to believers? The Holy Spirit needs to be a part of our lives if we do. Our God is an awesome God. He set the stars in their place and governs the time and seasons. The Holy Spirit was first given on the day of Pentecost, right according to God’s plan, right on time. On the day of Pentecost we need to pause and thank God for his majesty, for Jesus Christ and for the Holy Spirit. In 2011 the day of Pentecost falls on June 12. Let’s celebrate together.