To Christians, Pentecost or Whit Sunday, which this year is on Sunday, 23rd May, celebrates the time when the Holy Spirit came as a mighty, rushing wind and appeared as tongues of fire which rested on each of the disciples after Jesus had ascended – and they were each filled with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2 vs.1–11).
To all those gathered outside who had heard the noise, Peter explained that the Lord had promised to send His Spirit, and that if they repented and were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, they too would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Consequently, many came forward to join the Church. Thus, the apostles and many others that day were endowed with the gifts of the Spirit, such as those with tongues, some prophesying, some healing, some evangelising and some caring.
But, what happened to these wonderful gifts and indeed to the Spirit after the death of the apostles, for we hear little of the Spirit's work later in Church history? Was it because the Spirit had been taken away from the Church after a period of time?
Nowhere in the Bible does it say the Spirit, the Comforter, would be taken away from the Church once given. But it is evident that before the last of the apostles had died, the Church was already being burdened with heresies and errors. The Church had been warned that already it had 'forsaken its first love' and to 'remember the height from which it has fallen' (Rev 2. vs 4 – 5) – that is, it had started to become earth-bound and had fallen from its heavenly and spiritual standing, its nearness to God.
What then? Regrettably once the Emperor Constantine of Rome adopted the Church as a State religion, the rulers of both Church and State in their own importance and thirst for power and money, dragged the Church down further into its earthly condition, so that the Holy Spirit was quenched in many places – He was unable to work in a condition where the Church would not call upon Him, a church which indeed tried to suppress any supernatural gifts.
At times in the last two hundred years or more, disastrous historical events have caused people to recognise the chastening hand of the Lord so that fervent prayer for spiritual help came to be offered by many congregations. The Holy Spirit answered by causing a great evangelical revival to take place and it became a time of the founding of Missionary and Bible societies, of the renovation or the building of new churches, and improvements in social welfare. But just as important, other gifts of the Spirit started to be manifested in certain places – of healing, of tongues and of prophesy particularly, some of which are evident in a few congregations even now.
The problem is that many of those who are endowed by the Spirit have been opposed by the 'establishment' and to this day, they are often ridiculed by congregations who have become too 'comfortable' in their material earthly state, not realising how spiritually 'wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked' they are (Rev 3 v.17). These are they who cannot agree that the Comforter who was sent by our Lord on the first Pentecost is still with us and who, with fervent prayer, is still able to comfort each one of us, to guide us and to give such gifts as are good and necessary for us - and to be with us until the promised return of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Meantime, although as a good father our Lord rebukes and chastens those whom He loves, He tells us to be earnest and to repent, for He 'stands at the door [of our hearts] and knocks. And if anyone hears His voice and opens the door, He will come in and eat [commune] with him and he with the Lord' (Rev. 3. vs. 19 - 20) – our Lord will not force His way in; He has to be asked by each person – we each have to open the door.
So, open the door, and let His Spirit into your heart; be still and open your soul to Him and hear His voice, that still small voice within you, so that you may be strengthened in spirit. And when you feel afraid or sad, let Him rest His warm and caring hand upon you - and be comforted and be prepared for the promised coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.