What happened on Pentecost in A.D. 31 changed the apostles in a way they never could have expected. It also reveals an incredible change that can—and must—take place in our lives.
The Day of Pentecost tells of remarkable transformations in the lives of Jesus Christ’s disciples. This change was in sharp contrast to their lives 50 days earlier. The Gospel accounts are not flattering about their humanity. At Christ’s arrest and trial, all forsook Him and fled (Matthew:26:56). Peter, who avowed he would always stand by Jesus, cursed and swore—even denying he knew Him (Matthew:26:69-75).
The crowd asks what they should do. Peter replies they should repent and be baptized.
Yet within the span of seven weeks, by Pentecost, we see a transformation in the disciples’ courage. They now speak openly to large crowds, declaring Jesus was resurrected from the dead. They boldly confront the civil and religious authorities. They defy orders and threats that they will be imprisoned if they continue to speak about Jesus (Acts:4:18-23). They courageously face beatings and death threats for preaching Christ (Acts:5:17-33).
Seven weeks earlier they denied they even knew Him. Now nothing can stop them from openly publicizing what they know to be true. These men will devote the rest of their lives to the daily transformation made possible by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Peter’s remarkable change
Peter’s boldness on the Feast of Pentecost stands out. At the temple he addresses a large crowd, of which 3,000 later become disciples of Jesus. They are in Jerusalem to observe the Feast of Pentecost as commanded by God (Leviticus:23:15-16). Peter tells them they know about Jesus and what had happened seven weeks earlier at the Passover (Acts:2:22-24). Peter fearlessly tells them they are the ones who had crucified Jesus.
The reaction of the crowd is significant. There is no denial, outcry or attempt to stone Peter for this outrageous charge. They sense a personal involvement. They know of the events surrounding the arrest, trial and crucifixion of Christ. They know that many—perhaps even some standing there listening to Peter—had shouted for Christ’s blood. They’d heard of the strange events that had taken place at the time—darkness over the land as Jesus was being crucified, people resurrected from their graves and walking the streets of Jerusalem, an earthquake and the veil in the temple being torn from top to bottom. Peter now challenges them to change their lives and make decisions that will affect their futures.
The crowd asks what they should do. Peter replies they should repent and be baptized. That is how they will receive the only power that can truly transform a human life—God’s Holy Spirit.
Before He left His disciples, Jesus promised He would send another “Comforter” in His place—the Holy Spirit (John:14:26, King James Version). This invisible power from God is what makes possible the transformation of a human life. It’s the power that can change ordinary men from ordinary walks of life.
To be holy is to be different, and firstfruits don’t apologize for being different in a world under the sway of the devil.
This power starts inner changes to this frightened band of disciples who had been ready to throw away everything and flee. These adult men—who had failed miserably just 50 days before—are now, by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, changing into dynamic leaders for the Church. By the power of the Holy Spirit they perform supernatural healings for the crippled. Even Peter’s shadow passing over the sick brings instant healing (Acts:5:12-16).
The power symbolized by Pentecost
The truth of Pentecost is that the same power that transformed the early disciples is also available to transform and change those today who are the firstfruits of God. Might you be one? Read on to understand the meaning behind this momentous feast day.
In revealing His plan for mankind, God chose Holy Days focused on the harvest seasons of the Holy Land (Exodus:23:14-17). Reaping crops at three festival seasons provided spiritual symbolism for God’s people. For us, Pentecost shows how God is harvesting people for eternal life in His Kingdom.
One picture from Pentecost is the tradition that the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai occurred on this day. For New Testament Christians the meaning is how to keep the spiritual intent of God’s law. Pentecost shows we need God’s Spirit in order to keep the law in our hearts and make real change in our attitudes. Mere form in keeping God’s law does not enable us to think like God. Becoming godly in thought, attitude and action is beyond the ability of men and women without the additional ingredient of God’s Spirit.
God reveals through Pentecost that He is now dealing with only very few people—the firstfruits (James:1:18) of the huge spiritual harvest to come. The majority of all who have ever lived will in their own time have an opportunity to know God. But for now God extends truth only to a few. That, too, is a miracle because only God can unlock the human mind so it can comprehend spiritual understanding (1 Corinthians:2:14). The awesome responsibility of firstfruits is in being the possessors of truth. Such knowledge must be used well.
Firstfruits are challenged to be the first to change their lives and do as Jesus would do. The first-century Church was the first (as a group) to work at this task. On Pentecost the Holy Spirit dramatically changed their lives. Their transformation started when they received the Holy Spirit. Some 20 years later they were viewed as turning “the world upside down” (Acts:17:6). Such was the dynamic, miraculous power of the Holy Spirit.
It was the same divine power at work in Jesus’ ministry (Luke:4:14). It led the first-century Church to understand their battle with human nature (Romans:7:22-25); to see that tests were also with unseen evil forces (Ephesians:6:12); and to value the sanctity, symbolism and purpose of marriage and family (Ephesians:5:23-28). Wives were encouraged to submit to husbands “as to the Lord.” Slaves were obliged to obey masters. Christians were to obey authorities, whether emperor, king or magistrate.
Firstfruits in the Kingdom of God will be able to explain, from painful experience, how they subjected themselves to the authority of men while under the authority of Christ; how they withstood the philosophies of false teachers and apostles to sort out the true from the false. In effect, they will be able to use the modern phrase: “Been there, done that and bought the T-shirt.”
Firstfruits are called to be holy—different
They learn that when there is a conflict with a job and the Sabbath, it isn’t a Sabbath problem but a job problem. They know the Sabbath was here before the job. They are prepared to be different to serve God. When the biblical Feast of Unleavened Bread comes, they set themselves apart by a different diet without leavened breads, cakes, cookies, etc. (Leviticus:23:6-8; 1 Corinthians:5:6-8).
Firstfruits have demonstrated a willingness to follow, obey, take orders, learn and repent because God’s Spirit gives an attitude of respect. To be holy is to be different, and firstfruits don’t apologize for being different in a world under the sway of the devil.
God reveals that Spirit-born firstfruits will be those who are as good as their word—people of high integrity.
Jesus’ counsel of the first century holds true today. A few common threads are woven into His instruction to the firstfruits of God’s Church in Revelation chapters 2 and 3: “I know your works.” “He who has an ear, let him hear.” The reward is offered “to him who overcomes.” Those admonitions apply to firstfruits in every age, including our own.
Since every age on earth has been a violent, dangerous one in which to live, firstfruits are called to be the first to demonstrate that commandment keeping can be done, even in an evil time. Firstfruits are first in learning the limitations of man’s government—whether it is Caesar, an emperor or Western democracy.
Firstfruits are first in being accountable for their actions. They are confronted with making righteous judgments on what is right and wrong. They strive to do what Jesus would do and to have a Christian attitude.
God reveals that Spirit-born firstfruits will be those who are as good as their word—people of high integrity. “They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless” (Revelation:14:4-5, New International Version). They are pictured as true, free of deceit, falseness or window dressing.
As we see in Acts 2, it was on the day of Pentecost that Jesus’ promise to send another Comforter was fulfilled. It is by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives that we become the firstfruits of God’s Kingdom—and it is only by that power and presence that we can live up to the responsibilities and opportunities of the firstfruits.