This is the June edition of the Gazette, and during the month those who follow a strict Church Calendar will be celebrating the Festival of Whitsun or giving it its Old Testament name Pentecost. For many this will be totally ignored as will Ascension Day, because these days are no longer Public Holidays in our country. For that reason it is very sad, if not serious that these key events in history are increasingly forgotten even amongst believers. The festivals are not important, but their origins are vital in the work of redemption. After His resurrection Jesus did ascend to heaven, where having being glorified He, with the Father fulfilled their promise by pouring the Holy Spirit on the whole church.
If these are key events why are they important? To answer that question I want to focus in particular on Pentecost, especially in light of Old Testament events and promises. As children we often asked each other “What is similar about these three items?” At other times we would list 3 items or 3 people and ask “Which is the odd one out?” In this letter I want to ask those two questions of the following Bible passages – Ex. 40:34-35; 1 Kings 8:10-11; Acts 2:1-4.
Which would be the odd one out for you? You might say, “That’s obvious, it’s Acts 2 because the others are in the Old Testament. Perhaps reading the passages might give a different perspective:
Exodus 40:34-35 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. 35 And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.
1 Kings 8:10-11 And when the priests came out of the Holy Place, a cloud filled the house of the LORD, 11 so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD.
Acts 2:1-4 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
You might now see the similarity. Each event recorded a special awareness of the presence of God, as He led His people into different experiences of Himself. If you read each event in context you will find that the people present were overwhelmed with the presence of God. Again I want to ask “Which is the odd one out?” One answer might be again, Acts 2, because the other two events took place when God was dedicating a specific place of worship, whereas in Acts 2 the people were simply hiding away in the room of a family home, because they were threatened by popular opinion. That is a valid answer, but there is another answer which might surprise you.
I Kings 8 could be the odd one out, because it was the dedication of a building for a settled people, whereas in Exodus God’s people were on a journey to a Promised Land, and in Acts the Holy Spirit was poured out on a people (not a building) who had been commissioned to go to “all nations” (Mt. 28:20; Lk 24:47); “all the world” (Mk 16:15); “the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The essence of the New Testament message is that the Gospel has to go to the ends of the earth. The church has no right to remain static and stationary. The Lord will not return until the Gospel has been preached to all nations.
When God created the world He commanded perfect humanity to fill the earth with a perfect offspring, … “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth … (Gen 1:28). The Great Commission renews that command, but the earth now is not to be filled with a perfect people, but a redeemed people, who are daily being made increasingly more like God. We have the Holy Spirit and we are to draw on His resources that we might increasingly be a people for our God, maybe a ‘Pentecostal People’ who display His glory in all the earth.
Your brother and pastor,
Bernard Lewis June 2014