Pentecost – Why did it occur when it did?

Today (May 27) is Pentecost Sunday. Unlike Christmas and Easter this day passes with such little fanfare that there is a good chance you will not think about it or be reminded of it. But it is another sign, a remarkable allusion in the unfolding of the Gospel that it does deserve our full attention. However, to see the significance we need to understand its place in the Biblical story.

Pentecost in Acts 2 of New Testament

If you are aware of Pentecost, you will probably know of it as the day when the Holy Spirit of God came down to indwell the followers of Jesus. This is the day that the church, the “called-out ones” of God, was born. This event is recorded in Acts chapter 2. On that day, the Spirit of God descended on the 120 followers of Jesus and they started speaking out loud in languages from around the world. This created such a commotion that thousands who were in Jerusalem at the time came out to see what was happening and in front of the gathering crowd, Peter spoke the first gospel message and ‘three thousand were added to their number that day’ (Acts 2:41). And the number of gospel followers has been growing continually ever since that Pentecost Sunday.

That event happened 50 days after Jesus’ resurrection. It was during this ‘quiet’ interval of 50 days that the convictions of Jesus’ disciples regarding his resurrection were formed and hardened. On Pentecost Sunday it all went public and history has been changed because of it. Whether you believe in the resurrection or not, your life has been affected by the events of that Pentecost Sunday.

But this understanding of Pentecost, though correct, is incomplete. And it will keep you from seeing the allusion, the Sign. Many people yearn for a return to that Pentecost Sunday to have a similar experience of speaking in languages and dramatic signs of the Holy Spirit. And since the first disciples of Jesus had this Pentecostal experience by ‘waiting for the gift of the Spirit’, today people figure that similarly if we ‘wait’ He will come again in a similar way. And so many people wait and implore God for a similar experience. To think this way is to assume that it was the waiting and yearning that moved the Spirit of God back then. To think this way is to miss the point and overlook the allusion – because the Pentecost recorded in Acts Chapter 2 was not the first Pentecost.

Pentecost from the Law of Moses

No, in fact Pentecost was a regular Old Testament festival. In the time of Moses, several annual festivals were prescribed and celebrated throughout the year. The festival of Passover was the first to be celebrated in the Jewish year. In Session Five I showed how Jesus was crucified on that very Jewish festival. And so Jesus, the Lamb of God, was sacrificed on the same day that all Jewish people were sacrificing their lambs in memory of their first Passover. Given that there are 365 days in a year it is striking that Jesus dies on that very day. It is like Moses, 1500 years before the event, establishes the festival of Passover as an allusion to the eventual crucifixion of Jesus.

But it does not end there. Exactly 50 days after Passover the Jews celebrated the Feast of Pentecost. And they had been doing so yearly for 1500 years by the time the events of Acts 2 happened. In fact, the reason that there were people from all languages who were in Jerusalem that day to hear Peter’s message was precisely because they were there to celebrate the Old Testament Pentecost.

We read in the Law how Pentecost was to be celebrated

Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath [i.e. of Passover], and then present an offering of new grain to the LORD. From wherever you live, bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of the finest flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to the LORD. (Leviticus 23:16-17)

On the day of firstfruits, when you present to the LORD an offering of new grain during the Festival of Weeks (i.e. Pentecost), hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. (Numbers 28:26)

In the Jewish feast of Pentecost the Jews were to offer up a grain offering along with the regular burnt offerings. The grain was to be ‘firstfruits’ of new grain harvested from the land. This was an allusion – the depth of which was unseen by the first Jews from the time of Moses – of the coming of the Holy Spirit on that more famous Pentecost Sunday in Acts 2.

Pentecost: A Sign of Firstfruits

This is significant on several counts. First of all, one of the reasons that the Gospel is ‘good news’ is that not only is it about a conquering of death, but it is also about living life differently. Life is now a union between God and people. And this union takes place through the indwelling of the Spirit of God – which began on the Pentecost Sunday of Acts 2. The Good News is that life can now be lived on a different level, in a relationship with God through His Spirit. Paul puts it like this:

Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:23)

The indwelling Spirit of God is a ‘firstfruits’ of the gospel, intimately tied in with the resurrection because the Spirit is a firstfruits – a deposit so to speak – of our coming personal resurrection.

Pentecost Timing: Evidence of a Mind

And it is this remarkable coinciding of the timing of the events of Acts 2 and the Feat of Pentecost with the themes of firstfruits and abundant living that point, once again, to a Mind planning this through history. Given that there are 365 days in a year why should the events of Acts 2 happen exactly on the Feast of Pentecost, the day when the Jews celebrated ‘firstfruits’ of the grain and oil of the land – the things that give not just life, but an abundant life?  The timing is remarkable. Timing like this happens only by intent, and intent shows a mind behind it.

Did Luke ‘make up’ Pentecost?

One could argue that Luke (author of Acts) made up the events of Acts 2 to ‘fall’ on Feast of Pentecost. Then he would be the ‘mind’ behind the timing. But when you read Acts he makes no reference back to the Law to tell the reader that this is ‘fulfilling’ the Feast of Pentecost. Instead he points the reader to (another) fulfillment of a prophecy from the book of Joel. Why would he go through the trouble of inventing something ‘big’ on that day and then not help the reader see how it fulfills the Feast of Pentecost. In fact, Luke does such a steady of job of reporting events rather than interpreting their significance that most people today do not know that the events of Acts 2 fall on the same day as the Old Testament Feast of Pentecost.  Most people think that Pentecost has its start in Acts 2. If Luke made it up to ‘fit’ the Old Testament he was a genius in dreaming up the connection but a failure in ‘selling’ it since most people today are not aware of it.

Hence this post. Now that you are aware of it you can consider the good news of the offer and reality of a life made abundant not by possessions, pleasure, status, wealth and all the other passing trifles pursued by this world, which Solomon had found to be such an empty bubble, but by the indwelling of the Spirit of God. Think about it!  If this is true – that God offers to indwell and empower us – that would have to be good news. And the fact that the timing of the Old and New Pentecosts are perfect is evidence that indeed it is this very God that is the mind behind these events and this offer of an abundant life.

Christopher Hitchens & North Korea’s Kim Jong-il: Is it really religion that poisons everything?

A few days after the passing of Christopher Hitchens, North Korea’s ‘Dear Leader’ Kim Jong-il also died.  Given that one of the obsessions of the North Korean regime is the suppression and eradication of anything religious, and that Hitchens championed the view world-wide that it was religion that poisons everything, one might expect that Hitchens would be in broad support and agreement with the late North Korean leader.  However, he had the following to say about Kim Jong-il and North Korea”

“North Korea is a country that still might give us a lot of trouble and it is, believe me, it is exactly like a 1984 state, it is as if it was modelled on 1984, rather than 1984 on it. It is extraordinary, the leader worship, the terror, the uniformity, the misery, the squalor.”

I sympathize totally with his assessment of North Korea.  Its condition is a modern-day tragedy and (with its nuclear ambitions) a threat to world peace.

I have a friend who is currently working to bring to trial for crimes against humanity the leaders of the former Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.  The BBC is reporting on this landmark trial.  The Khmer Rouge in Cambodia were estimated to have killed over 2 million people – all in the name of a non-religious (atheistic actually) ideology.

Hitchens, in his book, used his withering sarcasm to attack religion as the source of all evil, and he argued that emancipation from it would liberate us all.  But it is not difficult to find societies, built in opposition to religion, that have gone terribly wrong – as even he readily admits.  North Korea and the Khmer Rouge being just two in a list that would have to also include Stalin’s Soviet Union and Mao’s Cultural Revolution – which together exterminated more people than World War II did.

Hitchens and I are in ready agreement that something is wrong.  Across our globe today we regularly inflict tragedy and abuse on each other.  A cursory reading of history will show we have been doing it all through our recorded past.  Looking around at own lives, workplace relationships, family relationships and issues in our own society (eg bullying in schools) reveals steaks of the same trend.  Vastly different societies, like that in India, live with rituals openly acknowledging that something is wrong.

We are also in agreement that religion is not a solution.  We have plenty of religious societies that display a failure equal to the atheistic ones of North Korea and the Khmer Rouge.   Is education the solution?  I am all for education and have invested heavily in it myself.  But we live in an age of unprecedented opportunities for education yet global tragedy and abuse is arguably at similar unprecedented levels.  Science and technology?  Likewise!

Jesus lay our root problem, not on any of the systems we develop, be they religious, educational, economic, or political, but deeper than that – in our hearts.  He said,

“What comes out of a person is what defiles them. 21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” (Mark 7:20-23)

The verifiable fact that poison has flowed within any and all human institutions, societies, religions, educations – all the way down to even our families – shows that it is not religion that poisons everything.  Kim Jong-il and the track record of the North Korean regime point to something deeper.  Perhaps, unpleasant though the thought may be, Jesus had a point.  Perhaps it is our hearts.

The paradox of mankind is that we can reason morally, and grasp the ‘good’, but cannot live it – whether our society has religion or not.  Perhaps that hearkens to what the Bible says about us:  that we are made in God’s image but have since fallen.  If there is even a remote chance that the biblical diagnosis is correct then would it not be worthwhile to assess, even in a cursory way, the biblical credentials, as well as the remedy that is offered in the gospel.  After all, what is there to lose in becoming informed?

Posts in the same category

  • October 8, 2013 - University survey affirms we are ‘Bound to Believe’

  • January 16, 2013 - The Hindu Kumbh Mela Festival: Showing Bad News of Sin & Good News of the Gospel

  • December 23, 2012 - The Subsequent Life Lived: Signature of the Virgin Birth

  • September 15, 2012 - Corrupted (Part 2) … missing our target

  • September 4, 2012 - …But Corrupted (Part 1 – like orcs of Middle-earth)

  • August 27, 2012 - In the Image of God

  • March 11, 2012 - Richard Dawkins and our Moral Tao – Part 2

  • March 3, 2012 - Richard Dawkins and the Moral Tao – Part 1

  • February 26, 2012 - Glimpsing the Moral Tao … But not able to Grasp it

  • February 20, 2012 - An Oscar Nominee hints at Objective Truth

  • February 6, 2012 - Origins: Evolution or Design – why touch it?

  • December 22, 2011 - Christopher Hitchens & North Korea’s Kim Jong-il: Is it really religion that poisons everything?

  • My first Post: Why this site?

    Well, this is my first post.  So I thought it would be appropriate to describe why I put this site together.  In About Me I explained why and how the Gospel had become relevant to me.  And so I began in a serious way to investigate it.   Continue reading


    This is a site about The Good News – a message that has impacted your life.  At the height of the Roman Empire the world was turned on its head by this Good News.  This News so changed the world of that day that our lives today, whether we know it or not, have been radically affected by this News.  It led to the creation of books (rather than scrolls), words separated by spaces, punctuation, upper and lower case lettering, universities, hospitals and even orphanages were first founded by people as they understood how the Good News should affect society.

    But even more fundamental, the advent of this News profoundly changed the way people viewed themselves, others, life, death and God.  The Good News was known as The Gospel, and it has obtained the allegiance of the hearts and minds of many since that era.

    Today though, the word Gospel does not usually convey good news to our minds.  Many of us associate it with outdated superstitions or obsolete institutions, yet more of us associate it with very little.  It is not that we are antagonistic to it, but it is rather that we do not make much sense in it.  We wonder, in our educated day, whether The Gospel is credible.  Other times we wonder if it has shackled human progress.  And with our busy lives we have not had the time or place to properly consider what this News is all about.

    That is why I put this site and blog together – to give us the opportunity to understand and assess the Gospel and the rationale for it.  If this is your first time here, you may want to go to About menus where I explain abit of my story with the Gospel and give an explanation of how this site is structured.  I hope you will browse around, take time to assess, and participate in considering the Gospel.