What is Pentecost?

On the 50th day after Easter, the church celebrates Pentecost.

Suddenly there came a sound like a rushing wind and divided tongues of fire appeared and rested on each of the disciples and they began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them (Acts 2:1-4).

You might be familiar with the above scripture, but even if you’ve attended church for years, you might not know everything about this once-a-year celebration. So, below are some things about which you just might say; “I didn’t know that.”

For the ancient Jewish church, Pentecost:

  • is celebrated as the Festival of Weeks, which was an agricultural festival where believers presented to the Lord loaves of bread baked from the first-fruits of the wheat harvest (Leviticus 23:15-22)
  • changed over time, as the ancients came to celebrate Pentecost as an anniversary feast of God giving the Law to Moses and establishing the covenant with the Hebrews at Sinai (Exodus 19)

For the modern (after Jesus) church, Pentecost is:

  • the coming of the Holy Spirit, which happened on the ancient feast day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4)
  • a “new” day of Pentecost and often considered the birthday of the church

Other things to know:

  • Pentecost comes from the Greek word pentekostos, which means “fiftieth day” (50th day after Passover, for the ancient church and 50th day after Easter, for the modern church).
  • Pentecost is symbolized by fire because divided tongues of fire rested on the disciples (Acts 2:3).
  • In the early modern church, Pentecost was considered the second most important part of the year, after Easter.
  • The early modern church considered this the day Jesus ascended into heaven and the Holy Spirit descended to earth, but by the end of the 4th Century, these became separate and distinct celebrations.
  • Even though Jesus had ascended into heaven (Luke 24:51 and Acts 1:9), the disciples were still gathered in Jerusalem because Jesus told them to stay there until the Father sends the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4).
  • Many Christian congregations use the Day of Pentecost (its official name) as a time for Baptism, Confirmation and receiving new members.
  • Pentecost ends the season of Easter.

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