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So What Happened at Pentecost?

The key to discovering the significant event and doctrine behind Pentecost requires that we strip away the incidental from the essential, distinguish between cause and effect, and apply the principles of taxonomic classification, as embodied in the Duck Test, consistently and steadily.  Here's Luke's account of what happened at the beginning of Pentecost:

1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

I am aware that Acts 2 is 47 verses long, not 4 verses.  I am aware that I am leaving out the surprise of the crowd, the sermon of Peter, the 3000 saved, the joy of their fellowship, and the testimony of God adding to their membership daily that closes the chapter.  I submit that verses 1 through 4 are the cause, of which verses 5 through 47 are the effect.  Effects are for those who watch things happen.  Causes are for the people who understand why things happen and who make things happen.

Now, like everything in the Scriptures, the record of the event is usually separated from the texts used as part of the teachings that interpret what happened.  Luke records the bare facts of Pentecost with as much economy as he does the Crucifixion and Resurrection, being content, as did the other gospel writers, to leave interpretation of what happened  to later writers and preachers.  We should not expect a detailed discussion and dissection of the meaning behind Acts 2:1-4 to be embedded within Acts 2 or 3 because we not find massive sections of Romans inserted within the Gospel accounts of the Crucifixion and Resurrection as well. 

Thus, to understand Pentecost, we have to look elsewhere in the scriptures.  The account states that the Holy Spirit came and entered into them, to the point of affecting their speech patterns, taking control of the one thing that puts us head and shoulders above all the other species on this planet.  Using that as a "search key", I suggest we look at what John's record of what Jesus said about the coming of the Holy Spirit into human hearts:

16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.

There are five observations in this passage that are relevant.  Firstly, this Comforter will be in us.  Secondly, it will dwell with us.  Thirdly, it will be with us forever.  And fourthly, we will know Him.  This fits with the knowledge that the believers' speech was affected, the ability of which is mental and internal.

The fifth point is that of the meaning of the name "comforter".  The greek word in the original language is "parakletos", which means "advocate" or "one who comes alongside", and had a legal connotation of someone who argues a legal case on your behalf before a judge.  The concept is that of someone who is for you, sold out for you, and is on your side as an active defender and protagonist.  It is unfortunate indeed that the current day embodiment of what the term "parakletos" should be are Lawyers, who give the impression of being mostly or wholly on the side of themselves, and only incidentally to their clients.  Perhaps the better image is, ironically, that of the Chivalric concept of the Champion.  While the biblical basis for Trial by Combat is nonexistent, being nowhere mentioned, suggested, or hinted in the scriptures that refer to civil trials of individuals, the abilty to name a Champion who would fight on one's behalf was justified by this passage.  The Champion performed this service without pay because it was deemed an honor, or movitated out of love or devotion to the accused or someone closely associated with the accused.

In verse 26 of the same chapter, we read:

26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

The Comforter is here identified as the Holy Ghost, and the usage of the masculine pronoun ("he") is suggestive of personality and individuality.  The Comforter will teach us all things and help us remember, implying that some of the benefits are mental and intellectual.  Support for this is in 1 John 2:27, which is the verse upon which I dare to propose the existence of an unknown doctrine:

But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.

Jesus said the following in John 16:7-15:

7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. 8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 Of sin, because they believe not on me; 10 Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; 11 Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. 12 I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. 13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. 14 He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. 15 All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.

The above passage expands on what the Comforter does: he guides us unto all truth to the point of empowering us to see the future ("shew you things to come").  This identifies the Comforter as the Spirit of God that was bestowed upon the prophets of old.  It is this aspect of the coming of the Holy Spirit that Peter emphasized when he quoted the passage from Joel in his Pentecost sermon.  To Peter, it was essential that the first verse from the Old Testament quoted in the first Gospel sermon of the Church Age identified the phenomenon they were seeing with Jewish prophetic tradition.  This is exemplified in verses 8 through 11 of the above passage, where the Comforter repoves the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment.

Verses 8 through 11 is not a statement of how the Comforter interacts with the believer, but indicates that the Comforter interacts with the world outside of the believer.  I cannot tell from the statement whether this is mediated through the believer in some way, or by a direct interaction of Comforter and the world, but some interaction is indicated to take place.  The Comforter takes on the duties of The Champion, taking on all comers from the outside world.

In this day where "insider trading" of financial information is a hot topic, verses 14 through 15 should ring some bells.  Essentially, everything that Jesus knows the Holy Spirit knows, and what the Holy Spirit knows, he intends to inform us.  This explains why Jesus has to be kept ignorant of the time of the Second Coming: If Jesus knew, then the Holy Spirit would also know, and the extent of his advocacy for us is such that he would then immediately tell us.  Any secret of which Jesus is a keeper does not remain a secret.  Those involved in politics and espionage know the value of having "someone on the inside who's on our side".

Let's address the aspect of "for ever" Jesus mentioned in John 16:16, and ask how "forever" that "forever" is.  In 2 Corinthians 1:22, Paul says:

 Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.

And in 2 Corinthians 5:5 he says:

Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.

In Ephesians 1:13-14, Paul states

In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,  Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

The word earnest that I bolded is arrhabon,  a Hebrew word that has been "greekified", and directly maps to the word "earnest" that is used in the real estate financial mechanism of "earnest money".  It is money given to the seller as a down payment on property that the buyer is purchasing, and which is given to assure the seller that the buyer intends to complete the purchase.  If the buyer does not follow through, the "earnest money" is kept by the seller, and the purchase is nullified: no portion of that being sold is transferred to the buyer, because the purchase is an all or nothing proposition. This is not the same as a down payment, which is also a partial payment applied toward the purchase of something, but the phrase is used to assure the buyer that the money will be returned if the buyer decides not to complete the purchase.  If the seller does not want to return the money that is prepaid, they must use the term "earnest money" instead of "down payment" to describe it.

Although the passage uses the concept behind earnest money, its turned around in a way that makes the message more difficult to understand.  It is God who gives the Spirit, and we who receive it.  It is the Spirit that is the earnest.  In the bible passage, the seller (God) is making a promise about a future transaction that he needs the Buyer (us) to believe.  Picture a man trying to get financial backers to develop a diamond mine he has discovered.  To assure them that it is not a scam, he gives them raw, uncut diamonds that he claims are from the mine.  If the investors are not fools, they'll get those stones to a lab for testing.  If the man is not a fool, he'll tell the men to keep the diamonds, since "there are plenty where those came from".  If the stones are for real, an investor would take the man at his word and give him the money he needs to develop the mine and make them both wealthy.  If the investor took the man at his word with regard to the earnest diamonds, he'd get them cut, put them in jewelry, and give them to his wife to celebrate their good fortune and bright future.

However, the transaction God is proposing is somewhat difficult for members of western civilization to process, since we usually do not take permanent receipt of the first or second born son of the seller of the property being purchased to ensure that they follow through on its sale to us.  The better metaphor would liken this to an arranged marriage to seal an alliance between families or kingdoms.  Since The Church is viewed as the bride of Jesus Christ the Bridegroom, this is not a stretch, but we'll have to tweak the metaphor to factor in the individual aspect of the coming of the Holy Spirit into an individual believer.  In our modified metaphor, the individual Christian is the Bride, while Christ remains the Bridegroom.  The Bridegroom has to go away to prepare for the wedding, but is understandably concerned with the fact that the Bride is in a hostile environment that contains spiritual, emotional, and physical threats.  Thus, while he is away, the Bridgroom leaves someone who acts as the Bride's advocate, counselor, champion, guardian, and confidante.  Clearly, this Champion's loyalties lie totally with the Bridegroom, but by command of the Bridegroom, the Bride becomes the recipient of the Champion's attention and loyalty to an extent second only to that rendered to the Bridegroom.  As I write this, I get the mental image of the Champion as the Bridegroom's tomboy Princess kid sister, chewing a large wad of gum very loudly, making pointed remarks about how the Bride could improve herself for her Brother.  I picture a more modern version of Mark Twain's Joan of Arc, having a heart of gold, but not someone you'd want coming after you on the battlefield, sword drawn and at the head of the Hosts of Her Father's Kingdom.

One final characteristic requires noting because it comes in the form of a warning from Jesus himself:

22 Then was brought unto him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb: and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw. 23 And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David? 24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils. 25 And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: 26 And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? 27 And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges. 28 But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. 29 Or else how can one enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house. 30 He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad. 31 Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. 32 And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come. 

And Paul warns in Ephesians 4:30, in the middle of a chapter filled with moral injuctions regarding Christian living:

30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

Serious business indeed!  King David, while wrestling with his sin against Uriah with regard to Bathsheba, worried about the loss of the Holy Spirit within him.  The Holy Spirit departed from his predecessor, King Saul, with an evil spirit coming in to take its place.  And consider the individual whom Paul delivered over to Satan, and who Paul urged the Corinthian church to forgive after he came crawling back.  Whatever happened to him, it appeared to be something so dreadful that they isolated themselves from him, and needed assurance from Paul that what caused the punishment was lifted.  Paul's birth name was Saul, and so doubtless the hard lessons learned by his biblical namesake were a constant theme while he was growing up, accounting for his zeal for the Temple and the faith of his Fathers that King Saul had abandoned.  It is probable that the "handing over" of this individual was affected by a temporary lifting of the Holy Spirit from him, thus removing any protections they had from demonic invasion.

From these passages, we can conclude that the Holy Spirit can be grieved and driven away, with serious consequences ranging up to death.  The punishments are not inflicted by the Spirit, for they are affected by hostiles who enter in when the Champion has departed.  I am aware of the teaching of  "Once saved, always saved", and am hesitant to suggest that a doctrine that has been a great comfort to many, of whom I number myself the most grateful of all,  is false.  However, it does look as if it requires some modification, for if salvation is effected by the presence of the Holy Spirit, then salvation is dependent on maintaining the presence of the Spirit within, and which can be driven away according to these passages.  There is no avoiding the text or the implications.  Without doubt the loving bridegroom is very forgiving for the faults of the bride, but he's not here, having gone ahead to prepare the wedding feast.  Guess who he has left behind to guard the bride? Tomboy Princess kid sister, who is the last person on earth that the bride wants to tick off, and about which the Bridegroom himself gave her prior warning.

I think we have enough pertinent and salient facts taken from scriptures that were read and interpreted respectfully within their contexts to permit us to classify what happened at Pentecost in modern terms.

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