Most Christians have some idea about Pentecost, but considering it is not as widely celebrated as other Christian holidays, it is safe to conclude that many believers are uncertain about the significance of Pentecost to the modern church.
What is Pentecost anyway, and how is it significant to the church today?
In the old covenant, Pentecost or the Festival of Weeks was one of the "weightiest" festivals for God's people, according to Ligonier Ministries, an international organization founded by Dr. R.C. Sproul.
Pentecost was one of three festivals during which God required all males in Israel to be in Jerusalem. The other two feasts were Passover and the Feast of Booths or Sukkot.
Pentecost in the old covenant was a time when the Jews would thank God for blessing them with grain, but over time, it became traditionally associated with the day God revealed His law to His people through Moses.
In the new covenant, Pentecost refers to the time when the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples of Jesus after He ascended to heaven. However, many Christians mistakenly believe this to be the time in a believer's life when he or she gets baptized in the Holy Spirit, according to an article written by Steven J. Cole for Bible.org.
Cole said the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 "should be interpreted in light of Acts 1:4-8," which gives an account of Jesus telling the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the promised Holy Spirit.
Before Jesus was taken to heaven, he told his disciples that they will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on them, and they will be His "witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." (Acts 1:8)
"Just as the ministry of Jesus depended on the Holy Spirit descending on Him at His baptism, so the ministry of the disciples depended on them receiving the Holy Spirit and relying on His power," Cole wrote.
The events of Acts 2 signal a "new period" for God's people in which the Holy Spirit empowers them to be a witness to the nations, and the ultimate goal is for God to be glorified in the nations.
In other words, during Pentecost, God's people—the church—received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, who empowers and enables them to become witnesses for Christ throughout the nations and give glory to God. This is the significance of Pentecost for the modern church.
As we celebrate Pentecost Sunday on June 4, let us remember God's purpose and plan in sending His Spirit not just for our personal lives but for the salvation of the peoples of the world: "For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." (Habakkuk 2:14)