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The Power to Live

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One week from tomorrow is Pentecost, otherwise known as the Feast of Firstfruits. Traditionally, we have said that Pentecost pictures the receiving of the Holy Spirit. It’s not hard to figure out why, because on that first Pentecost of the church (a day often called the birthday of the New Testament church) the Holy Spirit was poured out in incredible power.

The description of those events in Acts 2 is enough, even 2,000 years later, to make the hair stand up on the back of your neck and marvel at what that might have been like. There was a great noise like a tornado that filled the room, and fire descended—shimmering sheets of fire through the ceiling and across the top of the room, then a tongue that descended upon each of those present. That must have been incredible, and one can only imagine. I don’t think they expected it; I can’t imagine they did. There’s not a hint that they had a clue as to what was going to take place on that day. We’ve talked a lot about that over the years, and of course, the natural presumption then is that Pentecost pictures the receiving of the Holy Spirit.

However, there’s a scripture back in John 20 that I’m frequently asked about relative to this entire question. It poses a puzzler. In John 20:19, after Jesus had risen from the dead and presented himself to his disciples, we’re told The same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst and said to them, Peace be unto you. When he had said it, he showed them his hands and his side, and his disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Then Jesus said to them again, Peace be unto you. As my Father has sent me, even so send I you. When he had said this, he breathed on them and said, Receive ye the Holy Spirit. Whosoever sins you remit, they are remitted unto them, and whosoever sins you retain, they are retained.

Now, there are myriad questions that arise from this—the questions about the remission of sin, the questions of the retention of sin, just how much authority did he grant to them, and what it meant is all of interest. But of special interest today is the question: If they received the Holy Spirit at this time (which was nearly 50 days prior to Pentecost) why do we look at the Feast of Pentecost and say that it pictures the receiving of the Holy Spirit? Was this event merely symbolic? Some people believe that it was—that nothing actually happened at this time, that it was a symbolic act, and that the actual receiving of the Holy Spirit would not take place until the day of Pentecost. Yet there’s really nothing here to tell you that that’s what happened. So, was it symbolic, or did something actually happen? Is there significance in the difference between Jesus in a room with his disciples, touching them and breathing on them, and saying, Receive ye the Holy Spirit, on the one hand, and this incredible outpouring of power that took place on the other?

This message has also been released with the title: “The Power of Pentecost”


Ronald L. Dart

Ronald L. Dart (1934–2016) — People around the world have come to appreciate his easy style, non-combative approach to explaining the Bible, and the personal, almost one-on-one method of explaining what’s going on in the world in the light of the Bible. After retiring from teaching and church administration in 1995 he started Christian Educational Ministries and the Born to Win radio program.

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