The Fiftieth Day of Easter

Although the Feast of Pentecost Day is adorned with the color Red, signifying the fire of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:3–4), it is the culmination and crescendo of the Easter Season. Indeed, it is the Fiftieth Day and the “Eighth Sunday” of Easter, the eighth Eighth Day, as it were. Among all the festivals of the Church Year, it is second only to the Feast of the Resurrection, to which it is so closely related (in much the same way that the Feast of the Epiphany relates to the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord). The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Church, the Body of Christ, is the fulfillment of the promise of our Lord’s own Baptism (St. Luke 3:21–22; St. John 1:32–33; St. Matthew 3:16; St. Mark 1:10) and of His Resurrection from the dead (Romans 8:11). It is as St. Peter preaches on the first Christian Pentecost, concerning the crucified, risen, and ascended Lord Jesus: “Having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured out This that you yourselves are seeing and hearing” (Acts 2:33).

The Resurrection of Christ Jesus from the dead and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon His Body, the Church, is also the fulfillment of the Old Testament Church Year (Leviticus 23:4–21). Whereas the Passover was closely connected to the harvest of new grain, the Feast of Pentecost celebrated and sanctified the offering of First Fruits with the Word of God and prayer. Christ is the Passover Lamb who has been sacrificed for us, and He is the First Fruits who has been lifted up to the Father by His Cross and in His Resurrection and Ascension. So are the people gathered into the fellowship of His Body, sanctified by His Word and Holy Spirit through the Gospel, and presented to His God and Father in and with Himself (1 Corinthians 5:7–8; 10:16–18; 15:20–24).

Not only Israel according to the flesh, but the nations are also called, gathered, enlightened, and sanctified by the Holy Spirit through the Gospel, and are offered to God the Father as a pleasing and acceptable sacrifice in Christ Jesus (Romans 15:15–16; 2 Corinthians 2:14–16).

In this way, too, the Feast of Pentecost parallels the Feast of the Epiphany as a transition from the accomplished work of Christ to the ongoing life of His Church in the Gospel. As Epiphany moves from the Incarnation of the Word of God to the manifestation of His divine Glory in the mission and ministry of His Church on earth, so does Pentecost transition from a celebration of the Resurrection of Christ to the life of His Body in the Spirit through the Ministry of His Word.

The twofold emphasis of Pentecost Day, therefore, is on the gift of the Holy Spirit and the unity of the Church in the preaching and confession of the Gospel of Christ Jesus. Such preaching and confession of Christ is the Voice of the Spirit. It is the common language of the whole Church in all times and places, for His Gospel is the New Song and the singular Voice of His people. Thus, the dispersal of the nations by the multiplying of tongues at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1–9) is reversed in the gathering of a great multitude “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (Revelation 7:9) by the Ministry of the Word of Christ (Matthew 28:18–20). To that end, the Lord who ascended on high has given good gifts to His Church on earth: “He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,” that by the preaching and teaching of His Word His people should be preserved in the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace, having “one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:3–11).