Pentecost and the “End Times”
By Dr. Brian Dennert
People often ask the question, “Are we living in the end times?” (In fact, it was our Hot Topic discussion in March with Dr. Ben Ribbens from Trinity Christian College). How would I answer this question? I would say, “Yes” because we live after the day of Pentecost (which was celebrated in churches this past Sunday), which in many ways was the beginning of the “end times.”
Now, you might ask “What does the day of Pentecost have to do with the end times or last days?” Pentecost was the Jewish celebration of the Festival of Weeks, when people would bring the firstfruits of their crops (see Exodus 23:16 and Deuteronomy 16:9-12), one of the festivals when Jewish males would have to travel to Jerusalem to present their offerings. This happened 50 days after the Passover (Pentecost in Greek was 50th). 50 days after the Passover when Jesus died, and 10 days after his ascension, something significant happened, as the Holy Spirit that Jesus had promised to send (and that John the Baptist said Jesus would send!) came upon his followers as they were in Jerusalem, which we read about in Acts 2. When the Apostle Peter started to explain what was happening, he said it was the fulfillment not just of Jesus’s words but also of the words of the Old Testament prophet Joel who said (see Joel 2:28-32) that “in the last days, it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh…” (see Acts 2:16-21). Notice the phrase “the last days.” Peter says that with the event of Pentecost, the last days have come! So, yes, we are living in the end times. Elsewhere in the New Testament, it talks about how we live in the end times, as Jesus has been revealed in the last days (Hebrews 1:1-2; 1 Peter 1:21). The presence of the Spirit shows us that we are in these days, as God had promised the Spirit to work at the end (see Isaiah 32:14-18; Ezekiel 26:26-27) – and that time is now!
As Dr. Ribbens highlighted at the Hot Topic night, we might still ask if we are living in the “end of the end times,” but rather than addressing that question, I want to address a fear of mine, which is that the focus on the “end of the end” sometimes causes us to forget what is happening as ones who stand in the “end times.” As Christians, we stand as the ones who experience the fulfillment of many of God’s promises that he made in the Old Testament, most notably that we experience the Holy Spirit in a new and different way. We see the Holy Spirit at work in the prophets in the Old Testament (whom the Spirit came upon to prophesy) and enabling people for special service (see Exodus 31:2-6), but as Jesus told his disciples, the Holy Spirit will now be in them (John 14:17), with each Christian experiencing the Holy Spirit. Over the next few weeks, as we are in the season of “Pentecost” in the church calendar, I will seek to look at some aspects of the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christians so that we don’t forget the blessing we have as ones who live in the “end times.”
Just as the Day of Pentecost was for the Jews a time to remember the “firstfruits” – which were the first crops that promised that the harvest was to come – so for us as Christians, the Day of Pentecost is a reminder that we are the firstfruits of the new creation (see Romans 8:23), that God is going to make all things new because through the Spirit, we are being made new (see Revelation 21-22). To use another analogy from Scripture, the Holy Spirit is a “down payment” that we have been redeemed (Ephesians 1:14), but not just us but our world as well. In fact, the Spirit is to be a guarantee to us of his work (2 Corinthians 1:21-22). I know many people are concerned about the direction of our world and our culture, but may we not be afraid or anxious because the gift of the Holy Spirit and His work in our lives.
Questions about the Bible or theology? Contact Pastor Brian at Theology@wearefaith.org