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THE DAY OF PENTECOST 2021

Today is Pentecost. It is the 50th day since the anniversary of our Lord’s resurrection. On this date almost two thousand years ago the Holy Spirit outpouring began.

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In the beginning God initiated the initial Great Awakening. He brought forth a great spiritual event heavily prophesied in Old Testament literature and in His own ministry. He told everyone with ears to hear what would happen and it is apparent that only very few had such ears. As recounted here often, the Lord Jesus had preached to tens of thousands at the populous height of His ministry. They came from near and far. Word had spread rapidly. For a while He was the most sought after and popular Israelite in history. But alas, like all things spiritually solid and truthful in a fickle, unbelieving, sinful, and shallow religious world, His popularity and support began to fade.

WAS IT SOMETHING I SAID?

Though it was the greatest of Messianic ages in that a probable majority were aware of the prophetic times, there was much difference of opinion and confusion over what the Messiah must be. Most Israelites were obviously put off with their station in life and with the status of their nation as a whole, though it was no longer much of a nation. From the heights of the later portion of King David’s time a thousand years before when the Lord had brought together a roughly unified people after the defeat of Saul and emerging Israelite interlopers intent on the throne, a time not unlike the heights of Joshua’s conquest when the warrior David regained and established much territory, Israel began its long and steady decline. David’s son Solomon, like King Saul before him, had started out well but fell into sin and eventually descended into abject idol worship and tyranny. All that David had gained was lost not soon after Solomon’s death when the nation was split in two. From there it was a precipitous fall. The great nation began hemorrhaging and never recovered. Over the next millennium God did all He could to keep His believing remnant intact for His eventual arrival.  

The Lord’s ministry experienced a similar pattern. The tens of thousands of followers were reduced over time due to various reasons, though He was as powerful and consistent as ever. It appeared as though His school might end. The Lord even alluded to the possibility of being reduced completely in the following passage:

As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” [John 6:66-67]

By the time the great prophesied and hoped-for event of Pentecost arrived, only a relative fraction remained as His faithful followers.

The people of the Lord’s time thus looked back with great remorse over what had become of a once profound nation and also seethed with anger over its centuries-long perceived mistreatment at the hands of various world powers. Little did they know or appreciate that such powers—Babylon, Medo-Persia, the Macedonian Greeks, and now the hated Romans—were actually being used to keep the nation intact. Without the strong unifying governmental structure applied from without, the Israelites would have easily destroyed themselves years before from within. Which brings to mind a statement of God made early in their history which encapsulates and defines Israel’s true identity that it would never be able to slough off or prove otherwise:

And the LORD said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people… [Exodus 32:9 KJV]

This descriptive term arrived in the English language in 1526, undoubtedly associated with William Tyndale’s first printed English translation of the New Testament of the same year, the first to be translated directly from the Greek. Most of the much later King James Version (1611) was taken directly from Tyndale’s version, though not credited to him. The echo of the preceding statement of God referencing the early Israelites in Exodus 32:9 is found in its only New Testament occurrence, translated by Tyndale and spoken by Stephen, telling the world that nothing had changed in the intervening centuries:

“Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.” [Acts 7:51KJV]   

And they still resist the Holy Ghost. And most Christians do likewise. In fact, Christianity has taken such stiffneckedness to entirely new levels beyond that of its early Israelite forebears. In somewhat reasonable defense of the Pharisees et al who pretty much had no impulse control whatsoever when it came to any perceived slights against their prideful exalted religious standing and highly slanted, opinionated, and goofy interpretations of OT Scripture, they never had any hands-on frame of reference to Pentecostal happenings as later Christians did. In fact, the history of Christianity in the world contains a world class stiffnecked opposition toward all things New Covenant spiritual that actually puts the rebellious Pharisees to shame, if that were possible, and thus evokes the notion, judging by having so much in common, that those same Pharisees had somehow morphed into fake Christians.  

RESISTANCE AGAINST THE HOLY SPIRIT

There are several strange non-New Testament beliefs held by some Christians who are not so clear on the concept regarding the Holy Spirit’s identity. Many Christians actually believe that God is literally three different persons. They believe this because they were taught it. They did not acquire this belief from the Lord’s pure teachings or the New Covenant writings because it simply isn’t there. Call it an interpolation. The classic trinity doctrine was invented two to three centuries after the Lord’s time. There is obviously no such thing ever alluded to in OT literature which consistently and repeatedly states, in direct contrast to the rest of the world, that God is one. He is one Person. This was a quite radical departure among the ancient Hebrew patriarchs from the polytheism of the time. The prophets especially reveal this truth. Isaiah shouts it. But whatever. That was a long time ago and those guys just didn’t get it, right? I wrote about this in my post, IF ISAIAH SAID THAT HE’S A LIAR!

To illustrate this further, I remember seeing a Christian production a few decades back likely put on by some mega church and broadcast on Christian TV that featured the Lord Jesus in the usual stage depiction but also added the Holy Spirit as an additional personage. One might have thought prior to production, “But how do we display the Holy Spirit?” They solved that problem by essentially using the Casper the Ghost model. I kid you not. They made a Holy Spirit effigy out of a very white sheet flowing loosely below but gathered together at the top in a clearly delineated rounded head motif by installing the required wadding and utilizing an unseen band at the neck. They were somehow controlling this from above with piano wire or something to make it flit about. So there was the Lord and His disciples and some other hangers on all in the usual Biblical dress with robes and head wrappings and whatnot and among them flitted this “Holy Spirit” ghost thing, in appearance pretty much exactly like a ghost and invoking memories of Halloween. As far as I remember this person of the Holy Ghost had a non-speaking part, which, when one thinks about it, probably did much to further the notion of etherealness and spiritual distance from lower level humans. But I think it might have been just this side of awesome if this depiction of the Holy Ghost did speak just to see how far they might have taken it.

I would think if this is the real Holy Spirit no one should have anything against Him. It has been opined in the past that if Jesus was the super cool hippie dude as often presented by the know-nothings, why would anyone hate Him? Who in their right mind would crucify Mister Rogers? But again, Scripture is quite clear that the Israelites in general and the Israelite religious leaders in particular really hated the Holy Spirit pretty much the same way they hated the Lord Jesus (clue alert). And I guess since we’re on the trinity theme they must have also hated God the Father.

HEART CIRCUMCISION (OR NOT)

Stephen told them what their problem was. He said their hearts were each encircled with a fat encrusted infected mass that also had metastasized to their ears. Now, the concept of fat encrusted infected masses on human hearts was not a new thing. It too, as the previously mentioned stiffneckedness, was spoken of in the vast distant past in Old Testament lore which came to the fore through Moses (15th century BC):

“So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer.” [Deuteronomy 10:16]  

Jeremiah (late 7th to early 6th century BC), brought a prophetic explanation to the issue 800 years later in the following:

“For thus says the LORD to the men of Judah and to Jerusalem, ‘Break up your fallow ground, And do not sow among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the LORD and remove the foreskins of your heart, men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, or else My wrath will go forth like fire and burn with none to quench it, because of the evil of your deeds.” [Jeremiah 4:3-4]

Imagine then, a thick foreskin-like wrapping encircling the heart encrusted and hardened like sun-baked fallow ground impervious to plows. Then imagine the stiffest of necks reinforced with #18 rebar. Then imagine ears plugged with epoxy and spiritual eyes sealed with super glue. How is a loving God supposed to get through to such evil people? How are such spiritually diseased people to apply a remedy? What concoction from great grandma’s dusty cupboard might do the trick and heal the sick?

In the few more explanatory Bible translations we get a fuller academic meaning of the word stiffnecked. A more expository definition of the Hebrew and Greek originals results in the well known English word obstinate. And if you’re wondering how that plays out consider the thesaurus entries of this word from Misters Merriam and Webster:

obstinate  adjective:

    1. unwilling to submit (as to reason or control) <he had an obstinate determination to live as he pleased>

Synonyms: bullheaded, closed-minded, deaf, hardheaded, headstrong, incompliant, intractable, intransigent, muleheaded, muley, mulish, pertinacious, perverse, pervicacious, pigheaded, refractory, self-willed, ||sot, stiff, stiff-necked, stubborn, tough, unpliable, unpliant, unyielding, willful, wrongheaded; Compare UNRULY 1

Related: resistant, unsubmissive, withstanding; contrary, crabbed, recalcitrant, renitent; inexorable, inflexible, obdurate; opinionated; resolute, staunch, steadfast, unbudging [1]

Yikes. Now that we have a greater understanding of the heart, neck, eyes, and ears condition of those on the other side of rightness with God, we must get to the (ahem) heart of the matter regarding Christian religious prejudice against the Lord’s teachings and spiritual ways of operating. Again, the Pharisees and those guys in powerful opposition to the Lord were certainly bad enough but the later Christians who subverted the New Covenant were in my opinion far worse. Once the Light has come there is no longer any excuse for darkness. Once the first guy way back when decided to reject particular aspects of the New Covenant and opened the door for later anti-Christian hordes successfully masquerading as pro-Christian to further undermine and sabotage real Christianity to the nth degree and coerce millions to follow accordingly (or else), the die had been cast as it were and evil gained a great upper hand. It would do all Christians good to admit there is a devil and that he is extremely good at what he does. And it should not be so difficult to believe he has power to convince anyone to follow him and believe his tripe. And furthermore it must follow that there is only one cure for his great ability to deceive and if that one cure is not applied then one has no chance.

THE DEVIL GOES TO CHURCH

Many years ago there was a popular minister who pastored a very large denominational church, one of those “First” churches located in a large metropolis. He used to shout from the pulpit something to the effect that if one didn’t like something in the Bible then just tear it out! I am not sure if he only pretended to tear pages out of his Bible or just acted like it but he made his point very clear. Of course, this man also had his extreme prejudices against holy writ and had effectively already torn much from the New Testament, but this mattered little. No one among his own ever called him on it because they all believed the same. His church had a membership role in the tens of thousands. His denomination consisted of thousands of churches. Except for the ever-present minor squabbles among those otherwise perfect Christians they all believed basically the same thing. Isn’t that why they call them denominations?

Anyway, this particular minister apparently made a definitive anti-Pentecost statement at the forefront of the Holy Spirit outpouring of the early 1960s which I’ll get to shortly. A little background: The Lord had begun blessing Protestants with the infilling of the Holy Spirit at that time. Before then, due to religious prejudice, this experience was only possible for the most part among Pentecostal Christians. The new outpouring of the 20th century dated back to the Topeka, Kansas event in 1901 and the Azusa Street Revival which began in 1906 in Los Angeles. In the 1950s a few Protestants from various denominations began receiving the experience and their influence spread the word among their own. By about 1960 the movement had started to spread throughout Protestant churches and by early 1967 the movement even found favor among Catholics. Catholic priests and nuns were suddenly speaking in tongues, which brings me to the statement apparently made by the minister in question:

He supposedly said “Tongues are of the devil.” This was very well known at the time in Pentecostal circles. After all these years we must attempt to understand that “speaking in tongues” was a huge cutting-edge issue at the time and extremely divisive. Nevertheless, and despite the shenanigans of more than a few within the movement, the overall historical Pentecostal outpouring of the 20th century was decidedly very real. It has since spread all across the planet. Multiple millions have received the infilling of the Holy Spirit.

Returning to our origins then, what happened on the first Pentecost in Jerusalem in about 32AD was clearly unprecedented. Also, in true Gideon paradigm form, many thousands of the Lord’s one time followers were eliminated from participating in the Upper Room Experience by their own unwillingness to walk with the Lord to the finish line and were reduced to a relatively microscopic 120 ever-faithful ones. In line with Gideon’s retort to God, how could the Lord’s future ministry, after so much work and spiritual achievement, possibly be successful with so few remaining disciples? The point here is that many were called but few were chosen. To put it another way, real disciples were not only called, they were also chosen and remained faithful, no matter what. That last part is really tricky because a Christian’s faith in the Lord Jesus will be tested greatly, far beyond the point one ever would have previously thought. The remaining 120 had been through the ringer. They were threatened always and sometimes with death. The disciples knew the religious leaders were out to stomp them into the ground. Sound familiar? The others could not handle it. It was simply too much. There were various reasons for departing, all involving some form of fear. For the most part it was simply because they either refused full obedience or could not bring themselves to the 100% commitment level. They were concerned about their status and livelihoods unlike the 120 who pretty much lost everything and had their reputations destroyed. It was the cost all real disciples must pay and are willing to pay.

But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” [Luke 9:62]

THE FINAL MEMBER TO YIELD

The Lord’s brother James, in the third chapter of his noted epistle, taught that the unregenerate human tongue is evil. It is a condition, of course, that every human has in common prior to spiritual regeneration and commitment to the Lord. Whereas the tongue is a miraculous creation with great abilities and is capable of many astounding achievements, it is also responsible for the worst atrocities. The following are the descriptions James used to define the tongue:

    1. A boaster of great things
    2. A fire
    3. Able to create allegorical forest fires
    4. A world of iniquity
    5. A body part that defiles the entire body
    6. It sets the course of one’s life on fire
    7. Is set on fire by hell
    8. A restless evil
    9. Full of deadly poison

Wow. James certainly didn’t stutter. Everything he wrote, however, is absolutely true though not often acknowledged. It is clear then, that this body organ we call the tongue is the most powerful organ we possess. Of course, James is referring to human speech. He gives the cure in chapter four and it essentially comes down to giving one’s all to the Lord Jesus in total surrender. This is actually what a real believer is. One either gives 100% to the Lord or one does not. If one never submits completely then one’s tongue is never tamed. Why? Because only the Lord can tame the tongue. Only He can bring it out of subjection to sin. And this means He must be in total charge. Any remnant of remaining human control will subvert the process.

It is thus completely within the realm of spiritual rationality that there must be a universal sign that the most unruly, rebellious, and sinful member of the human body has been tamed and brought under control. The New Covenant writings, especially the Book of Acts, reveal this sign. Paul mentions it directly in First Corinthians 14. In the recorded historical events regarding the infilling of the Holy Spirit it was not only the event that proved something profound and miraculous took place, but also that each one additionally proved in some way the taming of the tongue and a brand new use of human speech never utilized before. Just as the human heart must be spiritually circumcised to remove the fat encrusted infected mass encircling it so must the human tongue be cleansed of evil. Both are a vital part of the sin removal process. Both require the hands on participation of the Lord Himself. Only He can do it. Our part is to fully surrender to Him so He can. The tongue is the last member of the body to submit.

THE EVIDENCE

Though most Christians probably look for long term evidence proving one’s genuine relationship with God, from a New Testament perspective there was also immediate evidence. Just as there were immediate healings, immediate miracles, immediate answers to prayer, and immediate occurrences of deliverance, so were there immediate transformations of heart and tongue. These things did not have to take long. They did not need to be drawn out. It was simply a matter of the Lord Jesus taking authority. He has ALL authority on earth and in heaven but will never force anyone to do anything. Thus, a person must simply submit to His authority. When the Lord Jesus is given authority to act on one’s behalf by that person then all things become possible according to His will, and it is certainly always in His will to excise the evil from one’s heart and tongue. Once a person has been spiritually cleansed and becomes a clean vessel the Holy Spirit can then take up residence.

For perhaps most Christians, this is an entirely new definition of faith in Jesus. It demands total trust. And this demands the complete abdication of our own personal opposing authority which makes His work on our behalf impossible. When we allow Him to work, miracles happen. Always.

Happy Day of Pentecost everyone.

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. [Acts 2:1-4] [2]

© 2021 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] ©1997, 1996 Merriam-Websters Collegiate Dictionary/Thesaurus. Zane Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved.             

[2] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Sivan 7: The Day Of Pentecost

The View of Jerusalem from Mount Zion 1849

        

The following is an excerpt from Real Christianity, The Nature of the Church:

THE UPPER ROOM

         Why did Jesus create His community of called-out ones in the humble upper room? For starters, He had to have a place off the beaten path, so to speak. It would have to be owned by a disciple or a disciple’s family who was sympathetic to the cause. It could not be a public place, such as the temple complex, but private, to allow for complete unity of spirit and purpose. It had to be a place big enough for 120 people to pray and seek God for about ten days without interruption. In short, it had to be a house. In reality, it was a house.

         Though we cannot yet be positively certain, particular statements in Scripture lead one to the strong conclusion that it was located on Mount Zion, Jerusalem’s highest southwestern hill, and that it was probably the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark.[1] If placed on Mount Zion, this house would be located roughly a half mile due southwest of the Temple Mount, approximately five hundred feet south of the present Zion gate. At the time of the Qahal’s creation, however, this house was within Jerusalem proper since the southern wall of the city was located further to the south. Therefore, though Jesus was betrayed, died, was entombed, and rose again outside the city walls, He created the Church inside the city. Not only that, He created the Church in a house.

         Why did He create the Church in the city that condemned Him to death? If it had to be within Jerusalem, why didn’t He create the Qahal in a place of high honor, such as the temple? Was it because He was rejected by the ruling hierarchy? Was it because there was no place of high honor for the Lord of all Creation? Or was it because Jesus simply created His community in the most appropriate of all dwelling places, a place which had been foretold in Scripture?

         You will bring them and plant them

                 in the mountain of Your inheritance,

         The place, O LORD,

                 which You have made for Your dwelling,

         The sanctuary, O LORD,

                 which Your hands have established.

         The LORD shall reign

                 forever and ever. [2]

THE HOUSE OF GOD

         From the untold millions which had descended from Abraham by the first century A.D., only the upper-roomers were present when this scripture was fulfilled. Each and every one of these original 120 were Jews. On the birthday of the Lord’s Qahal, Jesus established a sanctuary, a dwelling place on His own mountain—Mount Zion. On this mountain, the 120 were planted, both in the Lord and by the Lord, and functioned as the ovum fertilized by the Holy Spirit which would eventually develop into a body—the body of Christ. Before the sun went down that first day, the original 120 grew by twenty-five times to three thousand—all Jews, all descendants of Abraham, all devout and God-fearing, from every country under heaven to which they had been dispersed. Even though Luke, the author of the book of Acts, doesn’t say so specifically, can there be any doubt that each tribe of Israel was represented in the initial outpouring?

         This was the mysterious destiny of the house of Israel—to one day become the actual dwelling place of YHWH!

         When Abraham was first called forth and told he would be the progenitor of many people, God had His own future residence in mind. Later, He revealed this truth to Moses, who led God’s people to the land of promise. The house of God would only be a home for the obedient, however, since they would be sharing quarters with God Himself. The structure of the tabernacle of Moses reveals to us The Nature of the Church. The tabernacle was a tent, mobile, following after the Lord as He moved onward into the future. It was filled with His presence. It was where the ark of the covenant was kept. The priests would minister in its midst. Sacrifice was called for. Repentance, baptism, and the infilling of His Spirit were all typed into its construction. It was pliable and moveable, built for eternal purposes.

         The tabernacle and all the rites associated with it continued to the time of David. It was then that God revealed to yet another generation the purpose of the tent, and the great revelation of its underlying meaning. After building his own house, David desired to build a house for God. But the Lord would not. God’s plans had not changed, nor would they ever. His eternal purpose was wrapped up in the illustration of the mobile tent. In the future, His dwelling place would be similar—it would be within humanity. [3]


[1] Acts 12:12

[2] Exodus 15:17–18

[3] Pages 281-284 Real Christianity, The Nature of the Church © 2001 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.