Friday, June 7, 2024

Pentecost - A Day of Many Lessons

God's festivals and holy days can teach many lessons - each one of them - and give us many reminders of principles we should be aware of.  Each day or feast can have multiple purposes in terms of lessons to learn and things to be reminded of.

Take the Feast of Tabernacles.  What lessons does it teach us and what does it represent?  It represents the millennium of course, the thousand-year reign of Christ and the saints on the earth.  In a larger sense, it represents the kingdom of God and the happiness that will exist in it for all eternity.  But also, there is a separate lesson in the Feast of Tabernacles.  We are to dwell in temporary dwellings - "booths" or "tabernacles" - during this time, and this teaches us the lesson that this life is temporary, that we are sojourners or pilgrims in the earth.  The lesson is the temporariness of this physical life we pass through compared with the eternity of our reward in the kingdom of God.

The weekly Sabbath, a feast of God (Leviticus 23:1-3), also has multiple purposes.  It is a necessary day of physical rest.  It gives us the opportunity once a week to draw closer to God and to each other.  We receive instruction from God and enjoy the fellowship of the brethren when we assemble on the Sabbath.  It represents the millennium, a one thousand year period to follow the six thousand years of the history of man ruling man as the Sabbath day follows the six days of the work week.  It represents release from bondage of Egypt and sin (Deuteronomy 5:15).  It points to God as Creator (Genesis 2:1-3, Exodus 20:8-11).  It is also a sign between us and God that identifies us to God, pointing us to God as Creator and showing God that we are His people who obey Him by keeping the Sabbath, and as such it is a separate covenant that sanctifies us (sets us apart) - as indeed keeping the Sabbath sets us apart from the world around us (Exodus 31:12-17).  The fourth commandment, to observe the Sabbath, is also a test commandment (Exodus 16:4-5).

Pentecost also teaches us or reminds us of many lessons.

Pentecost teaches us about the Holy Spirit, for it was on Pentecost that the Holy Spirit was given to the Church (Acts 2:1-4).  I have heard that Jewish tradition indicates that the ten commandments were given to Israel on the day of Pentecost, so Pentecost can remind us of or represent the law of God.  It marks the beginning of the New Testament Church of God, for the Church is defined as those who have God's Spirit (Romans 8:9).

Pentecost teaches us that we are firstfruits to God, that God is not trying to save everyone in this age, that we are the early harvest (Leviticus 23:16-17).

Very significantly, Pentecost shows the importance of the preaching of the gospel, for the first thing Peter and the apostles did after receiving the Holy Spirit was to preach the gospel to the crowds, and three thousand people were added to the Church in that one day (Acts 2:1-41).
Pentecost, through the number 50, can remind us of the blessings of the Jubilee year and can be associated with the many blessings of having God's Spirit.

Pentecost teaches the lesson of waiting - waiting for the promises of God.  The Holy Spirit was a promise of God through Christ to the disciples, and they were specifically told to wait - tarry - for the promise of the Father (Acts 1:4-5).  Often we have to wait for the promises of God.  This lesson of waiting on God is emphasized by counting days - counting to fifty (Leviticus 23:15-16).
"Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!"
(Psalm 27:14).  

"Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint"
(Isaiah 40:30-31).  

On the subject of waiting on God, see also Psalm 25:3, Psalm 37:7, Psalm 40:1, Psalm 62:1, Psalm 130:5-6, Proverbs 20:22, Isaiah 8:17, Isaiah 25:9, Isaiah 26:7, Isaiah 33:2, Isaiah 49:23, Isaiah 64:4, Jeremiah 14:22, Hosea 12:6, Luke 12:35-36, 1 Corinthians 1:7, Galatians 5:5, Philippians 3:20, 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10, Hebrews 9:27-28, and Hebrews 11:8-10.  Association through the number 50 with the year of Jubilee also emphasizes waiting, for Israelites had to wait for the year of Jubilee to enjoy the blessings of returning to their land.

I recently thought of one more lesson that can be added to the lessons Pentecost can remind us of, but this lesson comes not from the Bible but from Church history and from Mr. Armstrong.  I have written about this before, but not from the perspective of something Pentecost can remind us of.

The lesson is that the Church of God can make errors in its doctrines and traditions, and when those errors are discovered they should be corrected and doctrine should be changed.

Mr. Armstrong and the Church of God used to keep Pentecost on Monday.  That was a tradition and doctrine of the Church.  But it was incorrect.  Pentecost should be kept on Sunday.  The error occurred because Mr. Armstrong misunderstood the counting of fifty and the Hebrew language concerning how that counting should take place.

But when the error was discovered, Mr. Armstrong made a doctrinal change.  He corrected the error, and from then on the Church observed it on the correct day, Sunday.

God is no doubt teaching us something here.  God could have prevented the error in the first place by inspiring Mr. Armstrong to understand the matter correctly from the beginning so we would always have observed it on the correct day, Sunday.  Or God could have allowed the error to continue to this day, and the Church might still be observing it on Monday.  But God allowed Mr. Armstrong to make the error, and then inspired Him to correct it.  This teaches us lessons that the Church and Mr. Armstrong were never infallible, that the Church and its leadership can make mistakes, that God sometimes allows mistakes in doctrine for a time, but also that we should correct our mistakes when we discover them according to God's word, the Bible.  The Bible must always take precedence over our traditions.  We must not be like the Pharisees who put their traditions over the word of God (Matthew 15:1-9, Mark 7:5-13).

When I think about the history of Pentecost being kept on a Monday in the Church of God, I often ask myself what I would have done if I were in the Church at that time and knew it should be kept on Sunday.

I was not in the Church of God when it was kept on Monday.  I don't even know what year that was changed.  I was probably a Plain Truth reader researching the Bible and proving the truth.  I had not yet come into the Church and been baptized.

But suppose I was in the Church of God, keeping the holy days with the Church, when Pentecost was kept on Monday. I probably would not have known it was wrong because I am not an expert in the Hebrew language and would not have discovered the error on my own.

But from what I have heard or read, some members of the Church did know the error and communicated with Mr. Armstrong about it.  He did not make the change right away, but eventually he did.

So I ask myself, if I were in the Church when it was keeping Pentecost on Monday, yet I knew it should be Sunday, what would I have done?  Would I keep it on Monday with the Church or by myself on Sunday?

It's always risky to try to answer the question, what would I have done, or, what would I do in given circumstances, because each decision has to be made when the question comes up.  I cannot make tomorrow's decisions today or yesterday's decisions that I never had to make when it was an issue.  It is easy to tell ourselves, if this situation came up, I would do the right thing.  Actually facing a trial and making the right decision is different than daydreaming about what we would actually do.

But I can still ask the question, knowing what I know now, what should I have done if I were in that situation?

As I understand it, what I should do in that situation is obey God and obey the Church, and do both without causing division, if possible.

We should respect and obey the leadership of the Church (Hebrews 13:17), except when that would conflict with obeying God.  In that case, we must obey God rather than man (Acts 4:18-20, Acts 5:29).

I think the best thing I could have done was to rest and assemble with the Church to keep Pentecost on Monday, yet also quietly without telling the brethren also rest and study the Bible on Pentecost Sunday.  I would rest on Pentecost Sunday as God commands, yet respect and obey the ministry by resting and assembling for Pentecost services on Monday with the rest of the Church of God.  And I would keep quiet about resting on Sunday - I would not create division.

I don't say that is the only right way to handle it - circumstances may differ from person to person - but I think, given what I know, that would have been the best way for me to handle it.

My main point is that God has given us the example of the Pentecost error in our time probably to teach us and remind us that we should follow the example of Mr. Armstrong and correct our errors in doctrine and tradition when we discover them.

This can be another lesson of Pentecost.

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