However, today, I'd like to look at Pentecost from a different angle and address another popular misconception as it relates to a more pernicious false teaching that truly perverts the Gospel of Jesus Christ and destroys our understanding of the Second Coming too.
Another year, another Pentecost, and absolutely no "Rapture" event to speak of! Are you surprised? Heartbroken? If so, then this post is especially for you, my dear friend.
There was a time (during my Non-Denominational "Look Up Fellowship" days) when I would look forward to Pentecost with feelings of intense expectation.
I was a "Pre-Tribulation" (or "Pre-Trib"/"Pre-Tribber"/"Dispensationalist"/"Dispy" believer) who was absolutely convinced that the concept of a "Rapture" (as commonly believed, taught, and confessed by Evangelicals and "Left Behind" types, which I was) was not only Biblical, but almost certain to occur during Pentecost one of these years (or Easter Sunday, or Rosh Hashanah, or Yom Kippur, or...you get the point).
After all, if Pentecost is all about the creation of Christ's Church here on earth (the Church's "Birthday" if you will), then it made perfect sense to all of us Christians who obsessively studied the "End Times" that Jesus would have to come "to save His saints" and "rapture" us all out of this life and into the next on the very same day that He created His body of believers in the first place.
Sadly, I couldn't quite see the irony in such words, because Christ already came to save us, but I was clinging to this twisted notion of a "second salvation" for non-believers and particularly the Jews of Israel!
I, like everyone else, also believed that Christ prefers to operate and interact with us "subjectively" and "symbolically" more so than directly and objectively (or in the same way with all of mankind). I didn't see it at all back then, but this was one of the key problems with this kind of reasoning.
See, I viewed His Word as being something that only the "true believers" could ever really "fully understand" and that's why only a select few who could subjectively understand the symbolism properly would be the ones raptured and not left behind.
Lord, have mercy!
Worse, I believed that His Sacraments of Baptism and Communion were just symbolic too as opposed to being the very "Means of Grace" or gifts that they really are for us.
Like I said, I don't know how I could've been so blind, but I was. As a result, I firmly believed that I was one of the "chosen few" who was able to unlock the mysteries of the Christian faith, and all because I had "a proper understanding" of anything and everything related to the so-called "End Times" or "Last Days" Bible Prophecy studies popularized by many things other than the Word of God.
I even criticized anyone and everyone that held to a different perspective than me. In fact, even though I now clearly see why "Amillennialism" is Biblical, I can remember quite clearly attacking those who tried to prove it to me in the past.
I was so entrenched in an "End Times" mindset that I didn't honestly consider that they might be right and I might be wrong. I was so convinced of my position about such things that my life as a Christian meant being a "Spiritual Island Unto Myself" where I didn't need to concern myself with any other parts of God's Word except those that I thought applied to the "last days" and a "fulfillment of Bible prophecy," where I didn't need to bother with going to church at all (except on maybe Christmas and Easter), and where I didn't need to worry about receiving the Lord's Supper since it was largely symbolic anyway.
Lord, have mercy!
Thankfully, He opened my eyes to the truth about my sinful, un-Biblical beliefs, and "uncomplicated" the whole mess for me by simply showing me, through the Biblical teachings of other faithful Pastors on this subject, why the popular ideas were way off the mark, because they were not truly Christ-centered and cross-focused like I had assumed they were all those years.
Below is a series of posts I wrote that might be helpful to you here...
Why I Left Behind The 'Left Behind' Mindset (Amillennialism: The Lutheran Perspective On Bible Prophecy)
No, Jesus Is Not Waiting For Jordan's King Abdullah To Attack ISIS, Fulfill The 'Psalm 83 War Prophecy,' And Start World War 3 So The Antichrist Can Rise To Power Before He Returns!
I can assure you that if you spend even just a few minutes of your day looking at any one of those entries, and you're like I was just a few years ago, then you will be blown away by the sheer simplicity of the truth of the matter.
While that's all well and good, I feel like this piece would be incomplete if I didn't also try to briefly explain what Pentecost actually is and why we celebrate it in the Church each year.
Ten days after "Ascension Day" comes Pentecost. On the Day of Pentecost, we read about the Holy Spirit resting on the disciples like tongues of fire (Acts 2:1-21). This image of the Spirit as fire is the reason we drape our altars with red. The Holy Spirit filled the disciples with strength and wisdom so they could share the Good News about Jesus with many different people. The Spirit empowered them to spread God's Word, and He still gives us faith and strengthens us to share God's love with others.
-- Lutheranism 101 For Kids
Dear friends in Christ, a joyous and happy Pentecost to you. Pentecost, 50 full days after the Passover, Pentecost, the 50th day after Easter, Pentecost – that joyous day where we remember the disciples stepping boldly into the temple and preaching Christ’s death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins to so many that needed to hear His Gospel. That is what we think of first when we think of Pentecost, isn’t it? The preaching of Christ? Is that what we think of when we speak of Pentecost? Or do our thoughts focus on the Holy Spirit off in a vacuum? Pentecost is sometimes thought of as the Holy Spirit’s day – the day where we finally focus on the Spirit – and the Spirit’s phenomenal acts of power and might. Behold the tongues of flame, behold the speaking in tongues, behold the boldness! To what point, my dear friends? Why does the Holy Spirit appear as tongues of fire, why does He grant for this day the ability to the Apostles to speak in tongues? Was it simply a demonstration of the Spirit’s power? Was it a matter of the Holy Spirit wishing to remind us that He is here and active? “I'm over here guys, don't forget Me”? Peter tells us the answer by quoting the prophet Joel – God will pour out His Spirit so that people will prophesy, and there will be visions, and wonders – and all for one reason. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the Name of the LORD shall be saved. This is what Peter tells us. And immediately after quoting Joel, telling the people in the temple what they are seeing – this is what Peter preaches. “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves know – this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised Him up, loosing the pangs of death because it was not possible for Him to be held by it.” 7 Weeks ago, Peter had been hiding in a locked room for fear of the Jews. Now, on Pentecost, He and the other Apostles stride boldly into the temple, filled with the Spirit, and they proclaim the death and resurrection of Christ. The miracle, the wonder of Pentecost isn’t the tongues of flame. The amazing thing isn’t that the Spirit grants the Apostles the ability to speak in tongues – but rather that by the working of the Spirit they speak at all. Gone is the fear of 7 weeks ago, gone is the confusion and bewilderment of the Apostles at the Ascension as they stood dumbfounded staring up into the sky – and rather the Spirit has come, and now they boldly preach Christ and Him Crucified for our Salvation. That is the miracle of Pentecost, dear friends. The tongues of flame are neat, but they simply bear witness to the fact that these men have been anointed by God for this task. The speaking in tongues, that is simply so more people can hear and understand. The key thing, the important thing, that which the Holy Spirit has continued to do through all the ages since that first Pentecost is that the Gospel of Christ Jesus is proclaimed. This is what the Spirit does – He points to Christ, for it is in Christ Jesus that we have life and forgiveness and salvation, and there is no other name under heaven or on earth by which we are to be saved. That is how the Spirit is the giver of Life – He gives out Christ Jesus and Christ’s life.
What do you know about the Feast of Pentecost? If you’re like most people in the church today, I’m guessing not too much. Oh, maybe you know it has something to do with the coming of the Holy Spirit. And you would be right. But there’s more to it than that. OK, let’s see. Maybe you’ve heard that Pentecost is called “the birthday of the church.” Well, alright, there’s something to that. Maybe somewhere along the line you heard that people can wear red to church on Pentecost Sunday. And that does match the color of the paraments. But if it’s just a silly custom of wearing red, then there’s not too much to that. So what do you know about the Feast of Pentecost? By the way, why do we even call it a “Feast”? Well, in church lingo, a “feast” is when it is appropriate to have the sacrament of our Lord’s body and blood, as we do on every Sunday and major church festival. Oh, there’s that word “festival,” which is another way to say “feast.” And Pentecost certainly is a major festival in the church. In fact, the Day of Pentecost is one of the three highest, most major festivals in the church year, along with Christmas Day and Easter Day. But compared to Christmas and Easter, Pentecost kind of gets short shrift. We’ll try to remedy that today.
The barrier of language was no difficulty for the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit appeared to the disciples that Day of Pentecost some two-thousand years ago resulting in a tongue resting on each of them. Being filled for a temporary action, the disciples then proclaimed the Gospel in other languages to the devout Jews who had gathered in Jerusalem from every nation. Take a moment and think about the implications of this. The Gospel was not restricted; the message of forgiveness was not muzzled. By the power of the Holy Spirit, the message of the Gospel broke through language barriers. It was translated into foreign tongues, showing that the forgiveness of sins belonged not only to the Hebrew speaking Jews, but the entire world—every tribe, every nation, every tongue, every dialect. This Gospel was not to remain as some local story spoken with a hometown accent. It was a message for the entire world. It could not and would not be confined, but the Lord saw it fit to translate it, so that all the countries of the world were given the Gospel. As a result, thousands were converted that Pentecost Day, long ago. Thousands added to the Christian faith that Pentecost morning, some two-thousand years ago. From those thousands of new converts, the Gospel would then be returned to the people’s own homeland, spoken in their own particular language to many more individuals, resulting in the spreading of the Christian faith. This was the Holy Spirit fulfilling His office. This pouring out of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was not the Holy Spirit’s grand debut into time and history, but was the Holy Spirit pouring out above and beyond the norm. It was the Holy Spirit fulfilling His office for a specific purpose to fulfill prophecy from long ago. All this stated, can we expect more of this phenomenal “Acts-chapter-two-work-of-the-Holy-Spirit-stuff” in the church today? Should Zion Lutheran Church be looking to tap into the rushing wind, tongue speaking, and the filling of the Holy Spirit from long ago? Frankly my friends and contrary to what you might hear from Christian television preachers, we cannot. The speaking in tongues, the mighty rushing wind, and the devout Jews from every tribe gathering in Jerusalem were real events within a particular time, place, and context. A time, place, and context that the Holy Spirit orchestrated by pouring Himself out above and beyond, thus fulfilling particular Old Testament prophecy. That stated, we have not been given any promises from scripture that this could be harnessed or recreated in our modern day. Tragically though, we Christians don’t realize this all the time and we try to conjure up awe and inspiration in the church so that we can try to refashion a modern day Pentecost. Sadly, there is a temptation among all of us that we need to somehow awaken the Holy Spirit to His office through us being on fire or engaged or energized or spiritized. We read Acts chapter two and hear about the mighty rushing wind, the speaking of foreign languages, and believe that we—like the disciples—can somehow obtain this filling of the Holy Spirit and remake a modern day Pentecost. Dear friends, we cannot call down the Holy Spirit by force through our own agendas and He is not sent as a reward due to our own spiritual endeavors. Furthermore, we do not possess the Holy Spirit as a personal possession where He is put into our debt. It is idolatry to attempt to tame God and to attempt to harness the Lord for our own personal plans.
So, to reiterate, another year, another Pentecost, and still no Rapture -- though hardly shocking.
I don't mean to be "contentious" with a statement like that, but I do know that there are many Christians out there who were hoping that "this is going to be the year!" and that "today is going to be the day!" Not too long ago, that was me. In fact, I would've been surprised and maybe even a little depressed right now over another non-eventful year, but that was because I believed in so many things about Pentecost and Bible Prophecy that were not Biblical at all.
Lord, have mercy!
Yes, there was a time in my life when I was so consumed by the "End Times" and "Last Days" Bible prophecy stuff that it's all I talked about as a Christian to anyone and everyone who would listen. No, I was never one to play "Pin-The-Tail-On-The-Antichrist" or a true blue "Rapture Ready" date-setter by any means (like that false teacher Harold Camping who made international news headlines a few years ago), but I did still explore such topics quite extensively over the course of several years on my own personal blog and podcast.
Unfortunately, I also didn't see how a majority of it wasn't derived from the Word of God, but from Christian Bestsellers and man's own opinions and presuppositions about God's Word instead. In short, anything and everything I believed was largely determined by what was popularized by the "Left Behind" books/films. Yeah, not so good.
Thankfully, my errors were finally brought to my attention by others, I eventually learned the truth and admitted and repented of my sins, and now humbly do what I can to undo any damage I may have done in the past.
Anyway, that's why I decided to share all of this today on Pentecost. The above links tell the complete story of how the process unfolded for me personally as well as the pure, simple, unadulterated truth about these things, according to Scripture, which is what's most important. I hope it is helpful to some of you, especially given all the links to various resources I tried to include.
To paraphrase what I've heard Rev. Bryan Wolfmueller once say, "Jesus can come back at any time! He's not waiting for a Nuclear Power Plant to melt down! The thing that's holding Him back is His patience and love. There are no events that need to occur before Jesus comes back. So, seeing all the events around us and saying, 'Hey! Hey! That means Jesus is coming back!' the answer is 'No! No! That's a wrong way of looking at it!' Jesus can come at any moment."
In a Lutheran layman's terms, Pentecost is not about the Rapture, it's about Christ, Christ's Church, and the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ by His Church.
NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Corporate Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. As another Christian Blogger once wrote, "Please do not see this blog as me attempting to 'publicly teach' the faith, but view it as an informal Public Journal of sorts about my own experiences and journey, and if any of my notes here help you in any way at all, then I say, 'Praise the Lord!' but please do double check them against the Word of God and with your own Pastor." To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm a relatively new convert to Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little more than 3 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier/older pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category (and they don't have a disclaimer like this) since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because I now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse footnotes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained under-shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!