What is Pentecost?

May 16, 2024

What is Pentecost?

Pentecost is many things: it’s a Greek word meaning “fifty,” a Jewish harvest festival, and the New Testament event where God’s Holy Spirit descended on the twelve apostles.  

We learn about Pentecost from the book of Acts, which describes the evangelistic missions of the twelve apostles as they shared the gospel and led the Early Christian Church. Before Jesus ascended into heaven (which you can read about in Acts 1), He gave the disciples instructions for how and where they were to spread the good news. 

Then [the apostles] gathered around [Jesus] and asked Him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom of Israel?
He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:6-8 NIV)  

After Jesus’ ascension, the apostles returned to Jerusalem for the Jewish harvest festival and waited for the Holy Spirit to come upon them. On the day of Pentecost, fifty days after the Jewish Passover Feast and seven weeks after Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus’ promise was fulfilled. 

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:1-4 NIV)  

While this was happening, Jews had gathered in Jerusalem from many nations for the harvest festival. When they heard this great wind-like noise, they gathered around the house to see what it was. The apostles came out to speak to the people, and through the power of the Holy Spirit the whole crowd understood them in their own languages.  

Utterly amazed, [the people] asked: ‘Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?’” (Acts 2:7-8 NIV)  

What happened next was an incredible speech from the apostle Peter. He delivers the entire message of the saving grace of God given through the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus and, through the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit, everyone gathered understands him!  

“Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” (Acts 2:41 NIV)  

This was truly the beginning of the Early Christian Church. At Pentecost, God’s gift of the Holy Spirit to the apostles was the catalyst that began the spreading of the gospel throughout the earth. Now, Christianity is the most widespread religion in the world, and people are coming to know Jesus every day. This is why each year, on the seventh Sunday after Easter, we remember Pentecost and celebrate the gift of God’s Holy Spirit coming to dwell within us.

If you want to learn more about Pentecost and why it’s so important to God’s story with humanity, check out the resources below: