Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Subject of Pentecost Is an Opportunity for Preaching the Gospel to the World

Pentecost is past, and we are now in that part of the holy day season between the last holy day that has been fulfilled in the history of God's plan for salvation and the next holy day, Trumpets, which is the next day to be fulfilled in the plan of God.

Pentecost represents the gift of the Holy Spirit and the start of the New Testament Church of God. That has happened. The Day of Trumpets is the next holy day in the calendar, and it represents the second coming of Jesus Christ in power and glory to rule the earth. It also represents the resurrection of the saints, the resurrection of the true Church of God. Pentecost represents the start of the first fruits of God's harvest, and the Day of Trumpets represents the completion of the first fruits when we are made immortal, resurrected sons of God. It is those who receive the Holy Spirit, represented by Pentecost, who are in the first resurrection, represented by Trumpets. We are awaiting the fulfillment of Trumpets. We are now in that part of the Holy Day season that represents the Church age we are in now until the return of Christ.

The Day of Trumpets also represents the Day of the Lord, which is part of God's punishment upon this world. Before that is the great tribulation, which falls primarily upon Israel (Jeremiah 30:7).

We have a job to preach the gospel to the world as a witness and to warn Israel of the coming tribulation if Israel does not repent of its sins (Ezekiel 3:16-21, Proverbs 24:11-12, Matthew 24:14).

The subject of Pentecost and what it represents is a good subject for the Church of God to write and speak about when preaching the gospel to the world.

One of the main differences between Church of God doctrine and the doctrine of mainstream churches is our understanding of and observance of God's annual holy days. That is even more important than the weekly Sabbath. Many mainstream, traditional churches understand and accept the idea of keeping a weekly sabbath, though most think it was changed to Sunday. It is in the ten commandments, so for many members of mainstream churches, it is a bit hard to totally ignore. Some, such as Catholics, think it was changed to Sunday. Some, such as the Seventh Day Adventists, actually observe the correct day, the seventh day Sabbath.

But very few observe God's annual holy days and festivals. Yet, they are key.

The annual holy days and festivals of God show God's plan for the salvation of mankind. Most, or all, of the entire true gospel of the kingdom of God and the Ezekiel warning can be taught through the festivals and holy days, yet it is necessary to keep these days and observe them in order to understand that plan because God only gives understanding to those who believe and strive to obey Him.

The annual holy days are also a good point to include in any warning we teach about the nations' need for repentance and the coming punishment if we don't repent. Why? We are to cry aloud and spare not and tell our peoples their sins (Isaiah 58:1). But what sins should we cry aloud about? There is a long list, and as time and resources allow, we can preach about all of them, such as abortion, pornography, idolatry, profaning the weekly Sabbath, lying, adultery, hatred and murder, violence, stealing, taking God's name in vain, injustice, etc. But if resources are limited, what is the most effective point to concentrate on?

The sin of profaning God's annual holy days, His annual sabbaths, may be the most important sin to warn the nation about. Why? Because it is nearly universal, and by warning people about that sin, you warn everyone.

If we had only the time to strongly warn about one sin, which sin would we choose? Abortion?

If you warn about abortion, millions of Catholics will think, "Right on. I'm glad I don't have that sin. I have nothing to repent of."

If you warn about using images in worship, millions of Protestants will say, "Yes, those Catholics need to repent, but I am ok". And if you warn about profaning the seventh day weekly Sabbath, Seventh Day Adventists and Church of God (Seventh Day) members will say, "Good, I am ok, I keep the weekly Sabbath so I don't have anything to repent of - I'm safe from the punishment".

But if you warn our nations that they will go through the tribulation if they don't repent of profaning God's annual sabbaths, His holy days, you have effectively warned nearly everyone as far as major religions and churches and their doctrines are concerned. There are very few outside God's true Church that properly keep Passover, the holy days, and the Feast of Tabernacles.

The holy days are even a better test of a person's willingness to believe and obey God than the weekly Sabbath for the very reason that the command to keep the holy days is not as clear in the Bible as the command to rest on the seventh day. You have to really search the scripture in a spirit of faith in God's word to know God's will in this matter. It is the test that separates the men from the boys, spiritually speaking, more than the weekly Sabbath.

And the holy days and festivals are the key that opens the whole rest of God's truth. They are pivotal.

If we warn Jacob (chiefly the English speaking nations - see Genesis 48:14-16 and Jeremiah 30:7) about the tribulation to come, the time of Jacob's trouble, about their sin of refusing to observe God's annual feasts and holy days, no one will have the excuse, "God didn't warn me."

Pentecost can be a key subject for teaching the holy days and the whole truth of God.

Sometimes to get a point across to people to teach them something new, it helps if you can first establish common ground with them. "For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you" (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). See also Acts 17:22-23, 28 and Acts 16:3. Once you have established some credibility by talking about something your audience is familiar with and speaking to them from their point of view, you can then lead them step by step into new knowledge.

Pentecost can be that common ground.

Pentecost is the one annual holy day that mainstream churches accept and observe. I suppose one reason they observe it is because it always falls on a Sunday. Another reason may be that its fulfillment is recorded in the New Testament book of Acts, and its fulfillment is clearly associated with the day itself.

But for whatever reason, traditional, mainstream Christian churches observe and accept Pentecost. They do not understand its full meaning, but they understand part of the meaning. They understand that Pentecost represents the coming of the Holy Spirit and the start of the New Testament Church. They do not fully understand the concept of "first fruits" in the context of God's plan, though they may know the term.

Mainstream churches know that Pentecost means something, and on Pentecost Sunday many of them hear sermons in their churches about Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit, and the founding of the New Testament Church. They do not understand these things perfectly of course - they have a mixture of truth and error - but they have enough truth to give us some common ground with them in speaking about Pentecost.

Pentecost is an example that proves the point that all of the holy days and festivals of God have meaning.

Using Pentecost as a starting point, we can explain the meaning of first fruits, that God is not calling everyone now. We can also show that, just as Pentecost, given to ancient Israel, has meaning for the Church, so the other commanded holy days and festivals have meaning also. We can explain that Passover represents the sacrifice of Christ. Most mainstream churches understand that representation, even though they do not observe Passover - they still know that the Passover lamb represented Christ.

Those two days help to show that the annual days God gave Israel have meaning for Christians. From there we can show that the other annual days, the Days of Unleavened Bread, Trumpets, Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles, and the Last Great Day - days which most members of mainstream churches never heard of before in a Christian context - also have meaning for Christians. From there we can explain from the Bible what the meaning of the holy days are. We can also explain how the weekly Sabbath helps illustrate the 7,000 year plan of God.

Once we have done that, we have preached the whole framework of the gospel and the Ezekiel warning. Anyone who reads or listens that far will have been warned about the tribulation to come.

After that, we can show that these holy days need to be observed. At some point, someone reading may ask themselves, "Why do most churches not understand and teach the meaning of these days?" That question leads to the answer, "Because they do not observe these days as God commands". "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments" (Psalm 111:10).

When someone has the opportunity to see the proof that these days need to be kept, he has the opportunity to see his need for repentance and that he needs to keep observe the holy days. Most will reject that - they won't make the sacrifice to obey God, to tell their families and their employers that they have to go to the Feast of Tabernacles, for example.

At that point, they have no excuses. When the tribulation comes upon them, they can remember that they were warned and that they rejected God's word and warning. That will make it easier for them to trust God because they will know that God was fair to give them a warning. It will also make it easier for them to repent because they can accept responsibility for their decision to ignore God's truth and profane His annual holy days. That is better than letting them have the attitude, "God isn't fair, it isn't my fault, no one told me I had to keep these days".

The few whom God is calling in this age can read our teaching about Pentecost and the holy days and respond as God opens their minds to fully understand not only the truth of the Bible but their need to obey. For those few, this decision can be life or death, spiritually speaking. Many of those will accept God's calling and come into the Church.

Pentecost, as a subject for articles, booklets, websites, and TV broadcasts, can be an effective way of preaching the true gospel and the Ezekiel warning to members of traditional, mainstream churches.

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