Thursday, June 4th, 2020
Over the next few days, I will focus directly on the Day of Pentecost. It will seem like I’m straying very, very far from the Book of Revelation. Really, though, I’m not. I have Revelation in mind here and somewhat in view; and in the end, I assure you, I will circle back.
If you were a contestant on Bible Jeopardy, you might face the following answer: “These three phenomena accompanied the arrival of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.” Being the quick-witted game show whiz that you are, you might ponder momentarily and then offer a question like, “What are a loud rushing wind, head-top flaming tongues of fire, and about one hundred twenty disciples spontaneously speaking in unlearned foreign languages?” After which, you would be congratulated on your correct answer… question, I mean. Way to go, you!
Although you are first-time contestant on Bible Jeopardy, at this point you’re feeling more confident. You decide to stick with the same category, that being, The Day of Pentecost. The answer presented to you next is this: “The Fiery Revelation of the Ten Commandments to Moses at Mount Sinai.” Now you feel confused. You are absolutely certain that the category is still The Day of Pentecost. But this answer does not make any sense to you. What does the Day of Pentecost have to do with the Fiery Revelation of the Ten Commandments to Moses at Mount Sinai? You stand there, silent and befuddled, until you hear a triple beep. Beep, beep, beep. Sorry, you failed to respond in time. You lost on Bible Jeopardy. And then he reads the question…
“What is the original meaning of Pentecost?” Good question. What exactly was the original meaning of Pentecost? Here’s the answer: The original meaning and occasion of Pentecost was the divine revelation of the Law, otherwise known as the Torah, to Moses the Man of God at Mt. Sinai.
In all likelihood, the reason you were confused about the matter is because you were raised a Christian, and not a Jew. Christians correctly associate the Day of Pentecost with the coming of the Holy Spirit. Jews associate Pentecost with the Fiery Revelation of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. Both Christians and Jews are correct on their respective points. It is about the divine gift of the Torah. And it is about the divine gift of the Holy Spirit. As a Christian, you’re not wrong about the coming of the Holy Spirit; but you probably have never heard anything about the original meaning, occasion, and focus of Pentecost. Now, though, you have.
You might also want to remember the coincidental timing of the seminal Old Testament and New Testament events. They both happened on the same calendar day, the Day of Pentecost. That coincidental timing means that for the first Christians the Holy Spirit and the Torah were always theologically associated. We should make the same association. The Torah and the Spirit should alway be associated with each other. The two have something in common. But given their differences, the two are also to be distinguished from each other. They are similar but different. This association-yet-distinction point is worth repeating and remembering. Torah, Spirit: Similar, Different. Torah, Spirit: Similar, Different. Torah, Spirit: Similar, Different. Got it.
But how? How exactly are the two similar and how are they different?
A key similarity is that they are both a means of divine communication. Back at Sinai, God appeared in fire and communicated to the leaders of Israel directly. At Sinai, God gave his people a record of what he said in the instructive written words of the Torah. Similarly, on the New Testament Day of Pentecost, God also appeared in fire and communicated to his people directly. On Pentecost, the resurrected Christ fulfilled his Father’s promise and gave the instructive Holy Spirit to his people.
A trio of key differences that separate the Spirit from the Torah is location, duration, and identification. The Torah is an external written record of long-past divine communication, whereas the Spirit resides internally. The Spirit indwells individual Christians, even now, communicating daily. The Holy Spirit lives and speaks continually within each one of God’s people and among all of them.
Therefore, as Christians we should aspire to cultivate our attentiveness to the Holy Spirit who indwells us and wishes to communicate with us. Indeed, as we do cultivate our attentiveness to the Holy Spirit, we will be increasingly effective in ministry. We will thereby make ourselves useful to God. And we should want that and aspire to that.
In summary, then, on Pentecost in the Old Testament, God gave his people a good gift, whereas on Pentecost in the New Testament, God gave his people an even better gift.