The Unknown Truth About Pentecost
(c) Samuel Koranteng-Pipim
Director, Public Campus Ministries, Michigan Conference
What would you say is the most important thing that happened on the day of Pentecost?” Wherever I have asked this question, the most frequently-given answers have been:
The 120 disciples were finally with one accord in a Jerusalem upper room.
There was an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the disciples.
The disciples spoke in tongues--real foreign languages they had not previously learned.
Peter preached a powerful sermon that resulted in 3,000 baptisms.
The apostles were transformed into men of conviction, fearless courage, and boldness.
Without doubt, the Day of Pentecost witnessed the greatest revival in Christian history. It is generally recognized as the birthday of the Christian church, launching the church as a Spirit-filled missionary movement.
But do you know what significant event led to this revival? Can you explain why the Holy Spirit was poured out on that particular day? This article is a brief examination of the unknown truth about Pentecost.
Pentecost: Then and Now
The word “Pentecost” derives from the Greek term pentekoste (fiftieth) which stood for the festival celebrated on the 50th day after Passover. In the Old Testament this festival (called Shavuoth) is referred to as the Feast of Weeks (Exodus 34:22; Deuteronomy 16:10) because it occurred seven weeks after Passover. It is also known “the Feast of harvest” (Exodus 23:16) because of its relationship with the harvest season. Pentecost was one of the three Old Testament pilgrimage festivals when individuals were summoned to appear before the Lord with gifts and offerings (the other two are Passover and Tabernacles (see Exodus 23:14-17).
A little over 2,000 years ago, a very significant event took place in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. The event occurred exactly fifty days after Christ’s death and ten days after His ascension. The record of this event is preserved in the second chapter of the New Testament book of Acts and, over the years, Christians of every generation have looked back on this day in apostolic times as the greatest revival ever. They also view it as a foretaste of what could happen in their own day.
The surprising irony, however, is that although Christians of every denomination crave for a similar manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s revival, very few Christians, including Seventh-day Adventists, fully understand the nature of the revival that took place on that day, and what actually led to the outpouring of the Spirit.
The Nature of the Pentecostal Revival
A careful study of Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 reveals three important facts about the nature of the revival that took place on the Day of Pentecost:. It focused (1) on Scripture; (2) on “present truth”; and (3) on Jesus. Let’s briefly look at each of these three facts.
Focus on Scripture. It is significant to notice that Peter’s Pentecostal sermon is captured in 26 verses (Acts 2:14-36, 38-40). Of these 26 verses, 11 consisted of direct quotations of Old Testament passages. Peter quoted from Joel 2:28-32 (Acts 2:17-21), Psalm 16:8-11 (Acts 2:25-28), and Psalm 110:1 (Acts 2:34, 35). Of the remaining 15 verses, 12 are devoted to an exposition/explanation of those Old Testament passages (vv. 14-16, 22-24, 29-33, 36), and the remaining three were direct appeals (vv. 38-40).
In other words, the sermon that brought about a revival and 3,000 baptisms on the Day of Pentecost was essentially a Bible study. The revival on the Day of Pentecost was not the result of a Christian rock concert disguised as “praise worship,” praise dancing, or some other form of Gospel gimmick with its associated Gospel entertainment, Gospel of power, Gospel drama, Gospel clowning, Gospel magic, etc. Peter did not waste the time of his audience, telling them jokes and stories, or recycling the popular opinions of the day. Instead, he gave the people a Bible study! His was a Bible-based message.
There can be no genuine revival in God’s end-time church unless God’s people seriously embark upon prayerful study of God’s Word. All true revivalsfrom the days of Ezra and Nehemiah through the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation and the nineteenth-century Advent Awakeninghave always focused on God’s Word. For anytime we receive the Word of the Lord, we actually receive the Lord of the Word.
Focus on “Present Truth.” Initially, when the apostles began to proclaim the Gospel in different tongues or languages on the Day of Pentecost, many of the people who were gathered did not understand what was going on. The Bible says, “And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others mocking said, ‘They are filled with new wine’” (Acts 2:12, 13).
Peter, however, correctly understood that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on that day was a fulfillment of Bible prophecy. He offered a prophetic interpretation to the current events of that day. Although earlier prophets had predicted the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (see, e.g., Isaiah [32:15; 44:3]; Ezekiel [39:28, 29]; Hosea [6:3]; John the Baptist [Luke 3:16; Mark 1:8]; and Jesus Himself [Luke 24:44-49]), on the Day of Pentecost, Peter (in Acts 2:14-18) specifically quoted from Joel 2:28-2 to show that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit then taking place was a fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy.
There can be no true revival in our day unless we understand present truth, i.e., the prophetic meaning of the events taking place in our day. All around us today, prophecy is being fulfilled. For example, one can point to the increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters, political conflicts, and strange new diseases as fulfillments of Matthew 24. Seventh-day Adventists can also call attention to the dominance of America as the world’s only superpower; the rise and dominance of papal influence in world affairs, the pope’s call for Sunday sacredness, the realignment and unholy alliances of political and religious forces in the USAany or all of these as fulfillments of the events prophesied in Revelation 13. A knowledge and proclamation of these “present truths”the meaning of now in the light of Bible prophecywill bring about a revival, thereby awakening people to ask: “What shall we do to be saved?” (Acts 2:37-39).
3. Focus on Jesus. On the Day of Pentecost, as Peter preached his Bible-based sermon, those who listened to his message caught a glimpse of Jesus Christ in a completely new lightthey saw Jesus as Saviour and Lord. In Acts 2:22-33, Peter quoted Psalm 16:8-11 to show that Jesus of Nazareth, the Carpenter from Galilee Who was crucified on Passover Friday, was actually Israel’s promised Messiah.
Unlike King David, whose body was buried and which saw decay, the body of Jesus Christ, the true “Son of David,” did not to see decay, for He rose triumphantly from the grave. Later in Acts 2:34, 35, Peter also quoted Psalm 110:1 to show that Jesus was not just the “Son of David,” but was greater than David. He was the “Lord of David,” Who had been exalted in Heaven, sitting on the throne at the Father’s right hand (see Acts 2: 25, 30, 33, 34).
To speak of Jesus as being on the right hand of the Father is to speak of His position of special honor and privilege (cf. Psalm 45:9, 10; 1 Kings 2:19), and His unsurpassed strength, power, and authorityespecially His power to save and sustain (cf. Exodus 15:6; Psalm 74:10, 11; 118:15, 16; Lamentations 2:3). Peter summarized: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus Whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36).
By means of the Old Testament passages, Peter explained that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost was evidence that Jesus was alive and was seated on the throne. This point, to which we shall later return, is the real event that took place on the Day of Pentecost. Jesus of Nazareth was not another “kid on the block.” He was not an ordinary human being. He was the promised Messiah, Who had on that day taken His rightful seat in the courts of Heaven as “both Lord and Saviour.”
There can be no true revival unless, in our prayerful study of Scripture, we catch a glimpse of Who Jesus really is. Our Lord Himself said, “Search the Scriptures; . . . for they are they which testify of Me” (John 5:39). Our hearts will also “burn within us” when we discover from the pages of Scripture a true revelation of Jesus Christ (cf. Luke 22:27, 32).
In a genuine revival, the participants come to a realization that Jesus in not another “buddy” or “boyfriend” who wants to listen to their irreverent pop-music. True revival correctly understands that Jesus does not simply want us to have a “relationship” with Him, but also a “commitment” to Him. He not merely wants to “accept us just as we are,” but He also wants to clean us up, shaping us into what we ought to be. Jesus does not only want to justify us, but He also wants to sanctify us.
What Led to the Events of Pentecost?
Pentecost is not so much about the Holy Spirit as it is about Jesus Christ. Both the Old and the New Testament bring this fact to light.
Of the many Old Testament prophecies about Christ, Leviticus 23 is perhaps the most comprehensive of all, detailing among other things His death, resurrection, exaltation, and Second Coming. Written some 1,500 years before Christ, this prophecy about Christ is captured in symbolisms of Israel’s festivals. Because God wanted Israel to remember the most important redemptive events, He chose not only to record the events in His Word, but also to institute festivals that would appeal to the senses of every person in every generation. Leviticus 23 is therefore a special kind of dramatized prophecy.
There are six feasts or festivals listed in Leviticus 23Passover or Unleavened Bread (vv. 4-8; cf. Exodus 12:3-20; Deuteronomy 16:1-8); Firstfruits or Wave Sheaf (vv. 9-11; cf. Exodus 34:22; Deuteronomy 16:9, 10); Pentecost or “Feast of Weeks” (vv. 15, 16; cf. Exodus 34:22; Numbers 28:26; Deuteronomy 16:9-14); Trumpets or Rosh Hashanah (v. 24; cf. Numbers 29:1); Atonement (vv. 26-32; cf. Exodus 30:10; Leviticus 16); and Tabernacles or “Feast of Booths” or “Feast of Ingathering” (vv. 33-36; cf. Numbers 29:12-38; Deuteronomy 16:13). The first three of these were celebrated in spring, and the last three festivals took place in autumn.
It should be observed that these festivals were to be celebrated “in their seasons” (Leviticus 23:4, KJV), that is to say, “at the time appointed for them” (RSV) or “at their appointed times” (NIV). In other words, the dates for these festivals were not arbitrarily chosen. Their sequences were divinely appointed. The timing of these festivals had prophetic significance on God’s prophetic timetable. Because of space limitations, we shall only look at the spring festivals: Passover, Firstfruits, and Pentecost.
1. Feast of Passover (Leviticus 23:5). Passover (and the week of Unleavened Bread associated with it) was the first of the three spring festivals of ancient Israel. It commemorated God’s redemptive act on the eve of Israel’s Exodus from Egypt, when the angel of death “passed over” the Hebrew houses that had a lamb’s blood on the doorposts (Exodus 12:13). But the feast of Passover also pointed to the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, the “Lamb of God Who taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
As predicted, Christ fulfilled the symbolic prophecy of Passover when He was crucified on “Easter” (Passover) Friday (John 19:14-36). He couldn’t have died on any other day. It had to be on the Passover day. The apostle Paul, therefore, writes that “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7).
2. Feast of Wave Sheaf or Firstfruits (Leviticus 23 9-11). In ancient Palestine, the grain harvest lasted seven weeks, beginning with the barley harvest right after Passover and ending with the wheat harvest on Pentecost. Since barley ripens a few weeks before wheat, the ceremony of the barley Wave-Sheaf offering marked the starting point of the fifty-day countdown to Pentecost.
The purpose of the wave-sheaf offering was to consecrate and inaugurate the spring grain harvest which lasted about seven weeks. On this day, the priest would take the first sheaves of barley, lift them in the air and wave them in the presence of God. It was an acknowledgement that (1) the firstfruits of man, beast, and harvest belong to God (Exodus 13:2; 22:29); and that (2) the God Who had blessed the land with firstfruits of grain will bring about an abundant harvest (cf. Deuteronomy 26:10).
This festival pointed to the firstfruits of the spiritual harvest of Christ’s redemption. In other words, it pointed to the resurrection of Christ. Since the feast of Firstfruits or Wave-Sheaf fell on “the morrow after the Passover sabbath [not a Sabbath of holy rest]” (cf. Leviticus 23:15, 16), and since Christ died on Friday, the Feast of Firstfruits fell on “Easter” Sunday. Thus, according to the prophetic calendar enshrined in the feasts of ancient Israel, Christ would rise from the dead on the third day. It was on the basis of His knowledge of this prophecy that our Lord Himself repeatedly told His disciples about His impending death and how He would “rise from the death the third day” (Luke 24:46; cf. Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:33, 34; Matthew 12:40; John 2:19-22).
Thus, as predicted by the Old Testament Feast of Firstfruits, Jesus rose from the dead the third day after His crucifixion as the Firstfruits of those who rise from the dead. Writes the apostle Paul: “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the Firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a Man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the Firstfruits, then at His coming those who belong to Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).
“The wave sheaf of the firstfruits of the harvest was a type of Christ, the ‘Firstfruits,’ or pledge, of the great harvest that will follow when all the righteous dead are raised at the Second Coming of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:23; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-16). Christ rose from the dead on the very day that the wave sheaf was presented in the Temple (Leviticus 23:13; Luke 23:56; 24:1). As the first sheaf was a pledge and assurance of the ingathering of the entire harvest, so the resurrection of Christ is a pledge that all who put their trust in Him will be raised from the dead” (Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 804).
It is significant to note that during the Wave Sheaf ceremony, the priest did not present to the Lord just one head of grain, but a whole sheaf of barley. Similarly, on that “Easter” Sunday, Jesus did not come forth from the grave alone. Matthew 27:52, 53 tells us that on the day Jesus was resurrected, “the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after His resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.” The apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:8 that when Christ “ascended on high He led a host of captives.” And John the Revelator describes some 24 elders who are currently in Heaven (Revelation 5:8, 11).
As the offering of the first sheaf of barley was a pledge of the coming harvest, these resurrected saints ascended with Christ to Heaven as trophies of His power to resurrect all who sleep in the grave. Their presence in Heaven assures us that when Christ appears at His Second Coming, countless multitudes who sleep in the dust will awaken. There will be a great harvest when Jesus comes.
3. Feast of Pentecost (Leviticus 23:15, 16). As noted earlier, Pentecost means fiftieth. It was the wheat harvest festival which came 50 days after the feast of Firstfruits. If the feast of Firstfruits was the starting point of the 50-day harvest festival, Pentecost was the conclusion or climax. Jesus fulfilled this prophecy too on that very same day prophesied in the Old Testament.
The book of Acts informs us that after His resurrection on “Easter” Sunday, Christ spent forty days on Earth before ascending to Heaven (Acts 1:1-3). During that time He reminded His disciples of many things He had previously taught them. Then, shortly before He was taken into Heaven, He “commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4; cf. vv. 5, 8).
The “promise of the Father,” for which the disciples were commanded to wait is a reference to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit about which prophets like Isaiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, and John the Baptist had prophesied. Earlier, Jesus Himself had told the disciples: “Behold, I send the promise of My Father upon: you but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).
How long were the disciples to “tarry” or “wait” in Jerusalem? Christ alluded to the Day of Pentecost when He told them, “Ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence” (Acts 1:5). Jesus knew that the Feast of Pentecost would take place 50 days from the Feast of Firstfruits. He had already fulfilled the Feast of Firstfruits when He rose from the dead on “Easter” Sunday. After His resurrection, He had spent 40 days with His disciples before ascending to Heaven (Acts 1:3, 8-11). This meant that in 10 days, the Feast of Pentecost would take place. Thus, Christ could tell them that “not many days hence” something was to happen: the outpouring of the Spirit.
But why did the disciples have to wait for 10 days for the Holy Spirit?
The Ten-days’ Tarrying Time
Many Christians correctly note that during the 10 days of “tarrying time” the disciples put aside their differences and “were all with one accord in one place.” But this heart preparation on the part of the disciples was not the primary reason for the outpouring of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. Pentecost, like all the ancient feasts, was about Jesus Christ, not about the disciples. Thus, Pentecost was not about an event on Earth, but principally about a very significant event in Heaven that had to do with Jesus Christ.
In his sermon on the Day of Pentecost, Peter explained that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost was the culmination of Christ’s enthronement ceremony in Heaven: “Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear” (Acts 2:33).
Of all Christian authors I know, it is Ellen White who alone has beautifully explained what happened in Heaven during the ten days of tarrying time. She explains that upon Christ’s ascension into Heaven, there was a 10-day celebration welcoming His arrival and inaugurating His new ministry. The book The Desire of Ages captures the scene:
“All Heaven was waiting to welcome the Saviour to the celestial courts. As He ascended, He led the way, and the multitude of captives set free at His resurrection followed. The heavenly host, with shouts and acclamations of praise and celestial song, attended the joyous train.
“As they drew near to the City of God, the challenge is given by the escorting angels,
‘Lift up your heads, O ye gates
And be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors;
And the King of Glory shall come in.’
Joyfully the waiting sentinels respond,
‘Who is this King of Glory?’
“This they say, not because they know not who He is, but because they would hear the answer of exalted praise,
‘The Lord strong and mighty,
The Lord mighty in battle!
Lift up your heads, O ye gates;
Even lift them up, ye everlasting doors;
And the King of Glory shall come in.’
“Again is heard the challenge, ‘Who is this King of Glory?’ for the angels never weary of hearing His name exalted. The escorting angels make reply,
‘The Lord of Hosts; He is the King of Glory’ (Psalm 24:7-10).
“Then the portals of the City of God are opened wide, and the angelic throng sweep through the gates amid a burst of rapturous music.
“There is the throne, and around it the rainbow of promise. There are cherubim and seraphim. The commanders of the angel hosts, the sons of God, the representatives of the unfallen worlds, are assembled. The heavenly council before which Lucifer had accused God and His Son, the representatives of those sinless realms over which Satan had thought to establish his dominion,all are there to welcome the Redeemer. They are eager to celebrate His triumph and to glorify their King.
“But He waves them back. Not yet; He cannot now receive the coronet of glory and the royal robe. He enters into the presence of His Father. He points to His wounded head, the pierced side, the marred feet; He lifts His hands, bearing the print of nails. He points to the tokens of His triumph; He presents to God the wave sheaf, those raised with Him as representatives of that great multitude who shall come forth from the grave at His Second Coming. He approaches the Father, with Whom there is joy over one sinner that repents; Who rejoices over one with singing. Before the foundations of the earth were laid, the Father and the Son had united in a covenant to redeem man if he should be overcome by Satan. They had clasped Their hands in a solemn pledge that Christ should become the surety for the human race. This pledge Christ has fulfilled. When upon the cross He cried out, ‘It is finished,’ He addressed the Father. The compact had been fully carried out. Now He declares: Father, it is finished. I have done Thy will, O My God. I have completed the work of redemption. If Thy justice is satisfied, ‘I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am’ (John 19:30; 17:24).
“The voice of God is heard proclaiming that justice is satisfied. Satan is vanquished. Christ’s toiling, struggling ones on Earth are ‘accepted in the Beloved’ (Ephesians 1:6). Before the heavenly angels and the representatives of unfallen worlds, they are declared justified. Where He is, there His church shall be. ‘Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other’ (Psalm 85:10). The Father’s arms encircle His Son, and the word is given, ‘Let all the angels of God worship Him’ (Hebrews 1:6).
“With joy unutterable, rulers and principalities and powers acknowledge the supremacy of the Prince of Life. The angel host prostrate themselves before Him, while the glad shout fills all the courts of Heaven, ‘Worthy is the Lamb That was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing’ (Revelation 5:12).
“Songs of triumph mingle with the music from angel harps, till Heaven seems to overflow with joy and praise. Love has conquered. The lost is found. Heaven rings with voices in lofty strains proclaiming, ‘Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him That sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever’ Revelation 5:13” (The Desire of Ages, pp. 833-835).
Notice that the celebration that began at the ascension of Christ ended ten days later on the Day of Pentecost, when the enthronement ceremony was completed. At that time Jesus officially took His rightful seat on the “right hand of the Father.” This is why in Acts 2, Peter repeatedly pointed to Christ as being on the throne: The Son of David is “on the right hand of the Father” (v. 25); the resurrected Christ “sits on the throne” (v. 30); Jesus is exalted at “the right hand of God” (v. 33); and the Lord of David is “on the right hand” (v. 34).
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost was simply the evidence that Christ was now on the throne. It was the first “presidential” act of Christ, signaling to the whole world that He had now taken His seat on the throne, and that He would do everything possible to save humanity. This is what Peter was explaining when he said: “Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. . . . Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, Whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:33, 36).
“Christ’s ascension to Heaven was the signal that His followers were to receive the promised blessing. For this they were to wait before they entered upon their work. When Christ passed within the heavenly gates, He was enthroned amidst the adoration of the angels. As soon as this ceremony was completed, the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples in rich currents, and Christ was indeed glorified, even with the glory which He had with the Father from all eternity. The Pentecostal outpouring was Heaven’s communication that the Redeemer’s inauguration was accomplished. According to His promise He had sent the Holy Spirit from Heaven to His followers as a token that He had, as Priest and King, received all authority in Heaven and on Earth, and was the Anointed One over His people” (The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 38-39, emphasis mine).
The Unknown Truth About Pentecost
To recapitulate, the unknown truth regarding what actually took place on the Day of Pentecost is that, on that day, in the courts of Heaven above, the enthronement of Jesus Christ was completed. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit was simply the evidence that Christ was now on the throne. It was the first “presidential” act of Christ signaling to the whole world that He was now on the throne, and that He would do everything possible to save humanity.
“When Christ entered within the heavenly gates, He was enthroned, amid the songs of millions of angels. As soon as this ceremony was completed, the Holy Spirit descended upon His followers in rich currents according to Christ’s promise, and they were no more orphans. How quickly Christ fulfilled His promise, and sent from the heavenly courts the guarantee of His love! After His inauguration, the Spirit came and Christ was indeed glorified, even with the glory which He had from all eternity with the Father. During His humiliation upon this earth, the Spirit had not descended with all [His] efficacy; and Christ declared that if He went not away, [the Spirit] would not come, but that if He went away, He would send it. It was a representation of Himself, and after He was glorified it was manifest” (Signs of the Times, May 17, 1899, emphasis mine).
“After Christ’s ascension His enthronement in His mediatorial kingdom was signalized by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. On the Day of Pentecost the Spirit was given. Christ’s witnesses proclaimed the power of the risen Saviour. . . . They saw Him encircled with the glory of Heaven, with infinite treasures in His hands to bestow upon all who would turn from their rebellion. As the apostles set forth the glory of the Only-Begotten of the Father, three thousand souls were convicted. They were made to see themselves as they were, sinful and polluted, and Christ as their Friend and Redeemer” (Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 120).
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost and the bestowal upon the disciples of the gift of tongues can best be understood in the light of Christ’s glorification or enthronement in Heaven. Peter explained to his listeners that Jesus Christ, Who 53 days before was crucified shamefully as a criminal, had been glorified in Heaven. The apostle said: “Having been exalted to the right hand of God and having received from the Father the Holy Spirit, He has poured out forth this which you both see and hear” (Acts 2:33).
In other words, the outpouring of the Spirit was predicated upon the glorification of Christ. You may recall in John 7:39 that Jesus Himself explained the reasons why the Holy Spirit was not yet given while the He Himself was on Earth.: “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water: but this spake He of the Spirit, Which they that believe on Him should receive. For the Holy Ghost was not yet given because that Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:37-39).
The Holy Spirit could not be poured out without Christ being first glorified. Though He was God, while He was on Earth, Christ was fully a human being, restraining Himself from exercising all His prerogatives as God (Philippians 2:5-8). The glorification that was to precede the outpouring of the Spirit is the glory Christ had before coming to our world (John 17:5, 24). This glorification could only take place after His death, resurrection, and ascension.
During the 10 days after Christ’s ascension, while the disciples were waiting for the Spirit, they prayed, restudied Scripture, and prepared their hearts. As they did these things, they were led to understand that Jesus of Nazareth was the fulfillment of the feasts in Leviticus 23—more specifically, Passover, Firstfruits, and Pentecost. And they understood that the outpouring of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost was the culmination of the enthronement ceremony of Christ. The Man Whom men put to a shameful death 53 days earlier was now glorified in Heaven, having all power and authority!
This was the Good News that all people in Jerusalem had to know. This was the message that needed to be proclaimed to the many people of different nationalities who had gathered in Jerusalem.
But how could these unlearned Galilean disciples communicate this wonderful news to them? The risen and glorified Christ had the answer. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the bestowal of the gift of tongues to enable the disciples to communicate the message clearly in foreign languages.
What, then, is the most important thing that happened on the Day of Pentecost?
The unknown truth about Pentecost is that that day is not so much about what happened in Jerusalem, as it is about a very significant event that took place in Heaven. Pentecost is not just about the Holy Spirit Who came down; it is more about Jesus Christ Who sent the Spirit. Pentecost is more than the speaking in tongues, the speaking of some 18 different foreign languages, the preaching of a powerful sermon, and the baptism of some 3,000 people. Rather, Pentecost is all about Jesus Christ, Who, sitting on His throne, bestowed upon His disciples the ability to perform these miraculous feats. The message of Pentecost is that our Lord Jesus Christ is on the throne, mediating in Heaven as our High Priest and Intercessor.
“The Holy Spirit was to descend on those who love Christ. By this they would be qualified, in and through the glorification of their Head, to receive every endowment necessary for the fulfilling of their mission. The Life-giver held in His hand not only the keys of death, but a whole Heaven of rich blessings. All power in Heaven and Earth was given to Him, and having taken His place in the heavenly courts, He could dispense these blessings to all who receive Him. The church was baptized with the Spirit’s power. The disciples were fitted to go forth and proclaim Christ, first in Jerusalem, where the shameful work of dishonoring the rightful King had been done, and then to the uttermost parts of the earth. The evidence of the enthronement of Christ in His mediatorial kingdom was given. God testified to the great work of atonement in reconciling the world to Himself, by giving Christ’s followers a true understanding of the kingdom which He was establishing upon the earth, the foundation of which His Own hand had laid” (Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, May 22, 1899; emphasis mine).
Some Relevant Implications. The knowledge that Jesus is alive and on the throne has some radical implications for Christians. Because He is on the throne, all will be well. No one needs to fear. All power in Heaven and on Earth has been given to Him. We are in safe hands.
When we look up New Testament expressions showing that Christ is now “on the throne” or at the “right hand” of power, we shall discover at least ten implications of the message of Pentecost. Because He is on the throne, at the right hand of majesty . . .
1. Jesus is now our Prince and Saviour, offering us repentance and forgiveness (Acts 5:30, 31).
2. Jesus is now our Heavenly High Priest; we can go boldly to the throne of grace (Hebrews 8:1, 2; 7:25).
3. Jesus is now interceding for us; He will not condemn but will save all who call upon Him (Romans 8:34 (cf. 9:24).
4. Jesus is in control over all thingshuman and governmental affairs, angels, principalities, demons, etc. (Hebrews 1:3, 13; Ephesians 1: 20-33; 1 Peter 3:22).
5. Jesus can help us live victorious lives, as we set our eyes on things above (Colossians 3:1-2).
6. Jesus will help us endure to the end, keeping us from being weary and discouraged in the Christian race (Hebrews 12:1-3).
7. Jesus will give us courage, even in the face of death; we can cherish a forgiving spirit towards those who are hurting us (Acts 7:55-60).
8. Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit to guide us, comfort us, and equip us in all things (Acts 2:33).
9. Because Jesus is on the throne, seated at the right hand of the Father, and because Jesus has given us His Holy Spirit, we should not be moved (Acts 2:25).
10. We shall be overcomers, even as Jesus also overcame and is seated on the throne (Revelation 3:21).
Martin Luther captured these implications of the Biblical teaching of Jesus’ sitting on the throne: “Though my enemies and all the world oppress me, persecute me, and drive me out, I still have a Lord Who is, and wants to be, my Lord because God has promised this to me. He sits higher and is more powerful than they all, and He occupies this high place in order to defend and protect me. Likewise, though I am often assailed by sin and God’s wrath, which make my heart heavy and troubled, I shall not on that account be forced into despair. He sits up there also for the purpose of preventing sin, or anything whatever, from damning me or pushing me into Hell. Thus, even though death attacks me and devours me, it cannot hold me. I must become alive again because this Lord sits on high and lives eternally” (Luther’s Works, vol. 13, p. 242).
Ellen White also understood this important truth: “The Elder Brother of our race is by the eternal throne. He looks upon every soul who is turning his face toward Him as the Saviour. He knows by experience what are the weaknesses of humanity, what are our wants, and where lies the strength of our temptations; for He was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. He is watching over you, trembling child of God. Are you tempted? He will deliver. Are you weak? He will strengthen. Are you ignorant? He will enlighten. Are you wounded? He will heal. The Lord ‘telleth the number of the stars;’ and yet ‘He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds’ (Psalm 147:4, 3). ‘Come unto Me,’ is His invitation. Whatever your anxieties and trials, spread out your case before the Lord. Your spirit will be braced for endurance. The way will be opened for you to disentangle yourself from embarrassment and difficulty. The weaker and more helpless you know yourself to be, the stronger will you become in His strength. The heavier you burdens, the more blessed the rest in casting them upon the Burden Bearer” (The Desire of Ages, p. 329; emphasis mine).
The revival that took place on the Day of Pentecost and the bold proclamation that resulted in the baptism of some 3,000 souls were possible because of the event that took place in Heaven. On that day Christ took His seat on the throne, inaugurating His heavenly mediatorial ministry.
Many Christians do not fully understand what Jesus is currently doing in Heaven because they do not understand the sanctuary doctrine. While hundreds of sermons and books are devoted to Christ’s atoning sacrifice and resurrection, few, if any, discuss His intercessory ministry in the heavenly sanctuary. This silence on what Christ is presently doing in Heaven gives the impression that He is on a sabbatical leave of absence or on a vacation in Heaven, recovering from His exhausting earthly mission.
Regrettably, some Seventh-day Adventists, in their attempt to emphasize the “cross,” or “justification,” or even “the Gospel,” are failing to present the Good News of Christ’s heavenly ministry. In this regard, they are simply mimicking other Christian churches in their inadequate and often mistaken notion that Jesus is on vacation on a heavenly island. Nonetheless, the message of Pentecost is that, upon His ascension to Heaven, Jesus was officially enthroned at the right hand of God and began a most important ministry on behalf of human beings. The other festivals in Leviticus 23 reveal that this work that was inaugurated on Pentecost will soon come to an end, and we must be ready. A proclamation of this distinctive truth will also bring true revival in God’s remnant church.