May 24, 2024

The Glory of Pentecost

Sinclair Ferguson
The Glory of Pentecost

In the old covenant, God revealed Himself through prophets, priests, and kings. But this changed with the coming of Christ and the outpouring of the Spirit. Today, Sinclair Ferguson explains why Pentecost is worth celebrating.


Well, we’re at the last day of our reflections on the day of Pentecost, and there’s certainly still a lot more to say to answer the question everybody was asking on that day—namely, What does all this mean? So, I want to point out just one more dimension to Peter’s answer to that question.

You remember, he quotes Joel 2:28–29: “God is going to pour out His Spirit on all flesh so that your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men dream dreams. Even on My male servants and My female servants in those days I will pour out My Spirit, and they shall all prophesy.” Now, is Peter saying that the real indication that the Spirit has come in somebody is that he or she prophesy? Is the answer yes or is the answer no? Well, in a way it’s a kind of yes and no. Let me explain.

What Joel is saying is that in the last days, something will be different from his present day, that in the last days of the new covenant, things will be different from the days of the old covenant. In the old covenant, prophesying, seeing visions, dreaming dreams were typical ways in which God revealed Himself and His will to His people.

But you’ll notice from your Old Testament that that immediate firsthand knowledge was not something everybody had. In fact, it came in different forms, mediated through three specific roles or offices in the old covenant. There were only a few men who had these roles: the priest, the king, and the prophet. It was through these three ministries that God made His Word, His forgiveness, and His rule known to His people. Amos 3:7 is helpful here: “For the Lord does nothing without revealing His secret to His servants the prophets.”

Not every old covenant believer had immediate access to the Lord’s secret. In fact, only the prophet and those to whom he in turn revealed it would have the secret. So prophesying, having dreams, seeing visions—that means having access to God’s secret. That, in the old covenant, was the experience firsthand of a very small number, who then mediated that secret to all the people. We might say that the knowledge of God and His will that people had under the old covenant was in a sense always secondhand, it was always mediated.

But now in Jesus Christ, all that has changed because He is the Prophet, the Priest, and the King. In fact, He is the secret. Doesn’t the Apostle Paul speak about the fact that in Him the mystery, or “secret” we might translate it, has been made known to us all? So now that Christ has come, now that Christ has worked, now that Christ has exalted, then we no longer need these other mediators to say to us, “Know the Lord,” because through the gift of the Holy Spirit, we’ve all come to know Him, from the least to the greatest.

That’s what Joel’s words were looking forward to. He was describing the knowledge of the Lord that, in old covenant terms, came through prophecy, dreams, and visions, and saying that now in the new covenant—in the one Prophet, Priest, and King, our Lord Jesus—by His Spirit, we all know the Lord immediately.

So, Peter understood that the coming of the Spirit of God to bring us immediately to Jesus and to faith union with Him meant that we would know Him in this wonderful, firsthand, personal way—that we would all have intimate access to Him, that we would all experience the forgiveness of sins, not by the pictures of sacrifices, but by the knowledge of Jesus Christ crucified.

That, chiefly, was the wonder and glory of Pentecost. It meant that all believers—no matter their gender, no matter their social status, no matter what country they came from—all believers brought to Christ by the Spirit immediately and equally are brought into the knowledge of the Lord. And as I say, that isn’t just restricted to the Jewish people; the Spirit was poured out on all flesh. Everyone was hearing the good news in their own language. And all because the Father had promised His Son, “Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance.”

On the day of Pentecost, that internationalizing of the knowledge of God in Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit was beginning. No wonder we celebrate the day of Pentecost.