Before the coming of Jesus Christ, Pentecost was a Jewish celebration held fifty days after Passover. However, in the New Testament book of Acts, Pentecost came to be associated with something entirely different.
Following the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, his disciples were downtrodden and dejected. They had expected the Messiah to conquer their enemies and elevate them to places of honor. Instead, the Roman government, motivated by a large part of the Jewish population, had put Jesus to death. All their hopes seemed to have been dashed. They slipped into hiding, possibly fearing that they too might face death if caught.
Nevertheless, the resurrected Jesus appeared to the disciples to reassure them that not all was lost, that what He had promised would come to pass, and that, although he must leave them, he would send the Holy Spirit to them:
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever…the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:15-16, 26 ESV)
The Holy Spirit would not only be “with them”, but would actually be “in them”. Although Jesus must leave them, they would never be alone. The Spirit of God would be their ever-present companion and source of strength.
The fulfillment of Jesus’ promise is recorded in the New Testament book of Acts (Acts 2:2-4 ESV). The disciples were gathered together when a tangible manifestation of the Holy Spirit appeared and rested on each one of them. In one instant, these men went from being scared, powerless recluses to confident, motivated preachers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
In Acts 2 verse five, we read of the boldness with which these men confronted their culture. The abrupt change in the disciple’s demeanor, and the miraculous signs that accompanied the coming of the Holy Spirit, led some observers to accuse Jesus’ disciples of being drunk. However, Peter assured the crowd that they were not drunk, but that something wonderful and powerful was happening in their midst. He then went on to preach one of the most powerful messages recorded in the Bible. This preaching resulted in the fact that around three thousand people believed the message of the Gospel and gave their lives to God.
This same power is active in the believer today. The Holy Spirit lives in the Christian and, among other things, provides comfort, strength, and wisdom for living a holy life. The Christian must never believe that he or she can live the Christian life without the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Without the living God’s power energizing us, we will inevitably stumble and fall. There can be no victorious living without a complete trust in the one who gave us life in the first place.
Whenever believers feel like giving up, whenever sin or temptation seems to be stronger than our resolve, we can recall the events of the church’s first Pentecost. We can know that the same powerful, loving Holy Spirit lives our hearts, filling each and every one of us with His love, comfort, and power.