Hey, everyone, today we’re going to get a crash course in two holidays — one of which always falls during Eastertide, and the other occurs the day after Eastertide ends.
Both are awesome. Both are fantastic. And I can’t wait to introduce them today.
But before I do that, I want to wish you a slightly early Happy Resurrection Sunday! And, no, I’m not late. My family and I love to observe the historical Easter which just so happens to land on April 25th.
It’s really great when April 25th happens to be a Sunday, like it is this year, but it’s even cooler when April 25th is the first Sunday of Eastertide like it will be in 2038!
We totally celebrate Resurrection Sunday on the same Sunday everyone else does, but we carry that celebration out through all Seven Sundays of Easter, and we also celebrate on April 25th regardless of what day it is . . . because the Resurrection is worth celebrating as much as possible.
Hey, maybe we should celebrate it every Sunday! Oh, wait, yeah, that’s exactly how that’s supposed to work.
So, Happy Easter, my friends!
Also, if you’re not following The Celebration of God on Facebook and Instagram, for what are you waiting? Every day we share worship prompts to reorient your mind as you scroll through the socials.
We want to redeem your feed and pray that we can point your mind to God.
And lastly don’t forget that we have so many holiday-themed resources for you at CelebrationOfGod.com including free transcripts as well as Bible Readings and tons of curated content.
So, check out CelebrationOfGod.com, TheCelebrationOfGod.com, or even CelebrateGod.org which all take you to the same place.
And now it’s time to introduce two holidays that many protestants don’t understand.
I can say that many protestants don’t understand the significance of Ascension and Pentecost because I was one of them, and most of the ones I know don’t celebrate either.
Thankfully, though, there’s a growing number of us who are learning and better understanding how we can celebrate God on Ascension Day and Pentecost. So, today my goal is to give you just enough information to make you consider celebrating them too.
1. The Ascension
Christ’s Ascension is mentioned in many places in the Scriptures — both the Old and New Testaments and in many different contexts.
However, it’s practically nonexistent in the Gospels. Neither Matthew nor John address it. Mark simply says, “So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.”
However, Luke mentions it twice, and we’ll get to them in a second.
But even though the Gospels don’t spend too much time with it, it’s a big theme in Acts and it’s important for some doctrinal clarification in some of the Epistles.
So, let’s get some context:
A. The Timeline of the Ascension
Jesus rose from the dead and then engaged in a multi-faceted 40 day ministry. I look forward to more discussions about this in the future, but for now it’s important to understand that Jesus didn’t just hang out for an arbitrary number of days. It was all part of His plan.
And that leads us to . . .
B. The Ascension was an important part of God’s redemptive story.
The first New Testament discussion of the matter is hinted at by Luke in chapter 9, verse 51 when he says, “When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem.”
He didn’t say, “When the days were approaching for His crucifixion,” or “for His resurrection.” Luke makes it seem as if the Ascension were the focal point.
What’s cool about this passage is that the Ascension is not presented as merely another event on the timeline. It’s actually presented as a motivation. It was a goal toward which Jesus was moving. It wasn’t something that just happened; it was something that needed to happen, and Jesus was planning accordingly.
He had to go to Jerusalem, He had to be crucified, He had raise from the dead, and He had to ascend.
C. The Ascension ushered in the Kingdom of God
Now, there is a lot of bad theology concerning the Kingdom of God, and I can’t get into all of that today, but I will want us to look at Acts 1.
In verse 4 we see Jesus, “Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, ‘Which,’ He said, ‘you heard of from Me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’”
This is an important prophecy we’re going to discuss momentarily. For now — though — we see how the disciples interpreted Jesus’ statement. In verse 6 we read, “6 So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, ‘Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?’”
The disciples were again very excited about Christ’s kingdom being established on this earth, but like so many times and so many people before, they didn’t understand God’s timetable and plan.
They thought Christ would physically rule from Jerusalem — and He will — but His kingdom is so much more than that. His Kingdom is first spiritual, and then it will also be physical. Either way, it’s also eternal.
This is why Jesus responds to their question in verse 7, “7 He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; 8 but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.’ 9 And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. 11 They also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.’”
Now, the disciples didn’t realize it, but two distinct realities were being communicated here. The first of which is that Jesus’ ascension ushered in the spiritual Kingdom of God on the earth, and the Angels used that moment to point to the future time when Jesus would physically return to establish His earthly Kingdom on this earth.
And why do I say all of this? Well, there are so many reasons, but allow me to point to two.
One of the last things Jesus said to His disciples before He was crucified was this — and stick with me because it’s a longer passage — John 16:5-15, “But now I am going to Him who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. 8 And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.
12 “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.”
Jesus had to go in order for the Spirit to come. The Spirit was coming to fulfill a unique ministry He didn’t have in the Old Testament. He was coming primarily to convict the unsaved to submit to God and to enable the born again to be conformed to the image of God.
He was coming to make the Spiritual Kingdom of God a reality.
Then in Ephesians 4:8-10 we read, “Therefore it says, ‘When HE ascended on high, HE led captive A host of captives, And HE gave gifts to men.’ 9 (Now this expression, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.)”
This passage is also a controversial one among some, but the key here for us is that it helps us see that the Ascension was a requirement for Christ to “fill all things.” Ephesians 1:23 tells us that the church is Christ’s body, “the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”
The Ascension marked Christ’s leading His people out of spiritual bondage, filling them with Himself, and making way for the Holy Spirit to start His unique work on the earth.
Now, what’s interesting is that many people have thought that the Ascension and Pentecost are basically the same thing. They’re not, but you can see why people have thought that. The Ascension was the beginning of the introduction of the Kingdom, and Pentecost was the end of the introduction to the Kingdom.
This means that Christians have much to celebrate on Ascension Day, and they’ve been doing so for centuries. There’s evidence to suggest that Christians have been observing Ascension Day since at least the 4th century, and Augustine spoke as if observing the Ascension every year started with the apostles themselves — which actually makes a lot of sense. I can totally see how they would have gloried in that day from year to year given what they had experienced, and I can expect that they involved other disciples of Christ in that observance.
So, what is Ascension for us? It’s a wonderful day to thank God for ushering in His Kingdom on this earth. True, the physical kingdom is not yet here, we’re still waiting for that future day and look forward to it’s coming during Advent and the Consummation, but the Kingdom of God is among us in a very real spiritual sense in His people.
R.C.Sproul writes, “In answer to their question about the kingdom, Jesus gave the fundamental mission of the church. Men would be blind to His kingship, so His disciples were given the task of making it visible. The fundamental task of the church is to bear witness to the kingdom of God. Our King reigns now, so for us to put the kingdom of God entirely in the future is to miss one of the most significant points of the New Testament. Our King has come and has inaugurated the kingdom of God. The future aspect of the kingdom is its final consummation.”
The spiritual fulfillment of the Kingdom of God in this earth is a joyous reality to celebrate.
And with that . . .
During our two part Confusion of the Crucifixion episode I mentioned that Jesus had to have died on a Thursday not only because it makes the most sense according the Christ’s own timetable of three days and three nights in the grave, but also because Jesus’ sacrifice had to align point for point with the feast days inaugurated by God at Sinai.
Jesus presented Himself the same day the Passover lambs were presented at the temple. Jesus was inspected for 4 days just as the lambs were — to verify that there was no blemish in them. Then on the Passover, Jesus was slaughtered for our redemption.
On the Feast of Firstfruits Jesus rose as the firstfruit from the dead and was a the perfect wave offering before the Father.
And then comes Pentecost.
According to the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, “Shavuot is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the single most important event in Israel’s history: the giving of the Torah . . . to Moses at Mount Sinai. Although it is not as well known among non-Jews as Passover or Sukkot, the Feast of Booths, it is one of the three major festivals often called “pilgrim” festivals because all Jewish males were required to observe them at the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.”
The IFCJ then continues, ”More than 3,000 years ago, after leaving Egypt on the night of Passover, the Jews traveled to the Sinai desert. There, they experienced divine revelation as God gave the Jewish people His Law. In Deuteronomy 4:10–13, Moses reminded the people of that experience: ‘Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb [Sinai] . . . You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain while it blazed with fire to the very heavens, with black clouds and deep darkness. Then the Lord spoke . . . He declared to you his covenant, the Ten Commandments, which he commanded you to follow and then wrote them on two stone tablets.’
“Shavuot is the culmination of the seven weeks between Passover and the giving of the Law. Indeed, the very term Shavuot means “weeks.” Since Shavuot occurs 50 days after the first day of Passover, it is sometimes known as Pentecost, which is a Greek word that means “fifty.” Jesus’ followers were in Jerusalem celebrating Pentecost when the Holy Spirit w”as given to them, and so, many churches today celebrate Pentecost as the birth of the church.
And that is exactly how The Celebration of God celebrates God on Pentecost.
Jesus’ Ascension was the beginning of the start of the the spiritual kingdom of God whereby He sat down at His Father’s right hand and lead captivity captive. And the end of the start of the spiritual kingdom of God was when He sent the Holy Spirit to fill His people.
And it’s that day God’s people celebrate the beginning of the Church.
Now, we could get into a big debate between covenant theologians and dispensationalists whether the church is a new group or a continuation of a previous group of God’s people, but we have to acknowledge that the something very unique happened on the day of Pentecost.
Acts 2 tells us “1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.”
And then Peter preached the first sermon of the New Testament Church, and he concluded his sermon by calling the people to “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
People have been called to repentance since the first sin, and baptism had been a sign of fealty for a very long time as well. And — of course — God has always extended forgiveness. But this was the first time anyone could promise — beyond all doubt — that if they repented and were truly born again, they would indeed receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
And then the rest of Acts is an amazing recounting of the inauguration of the New Testament Church.
Before we finish up today, let’s briefly acknowledge how cool it was that God instituted the church on the Jewish Feat of Pentecost.
One of the defining features of Israel’s freedom from Egyptian slavery was that they finally became their own nation under God. The day that God gave the people His Law, He instituted a theocracy — a governmental order whereby God Himself was the reigning sovereign.
The people of Israel were rescued from slavery and invited to join the kingdom of God.
So . . . in the full and better way, the coming of Christ, His perfect life, Passover death, divine Resurrection, and glorious Ascension back to glory allowed Him to lead captivity captive as Moses lead the Jews out of Egypt.
Then the coming of the Holy Spirit and the inauguration of the New Covenant were the grand fulfillment of God giving the Jews the Law and creating a nation. On Pentecost God invited all mankind — not just the Jews — to join the Kingdom of God.
Now, we’re going to talk about how to prepare, celebrate, and disciple during Ascension and Pentecost on two later episodes. For now, though, we’re simply gaining a better understanding of what these observances represent.
So, allow me to end with this recap:
On Ascension Day Christians celebrate Christ returning to glory as the conquering King.
And on Pentecost Christians celebrate the formation of the church — the spiritual Kingdom of God on this earth.
And all of this points forward to the grand Anticipation of the Consummation when God’s spiritual Kingdom becomes an earthly Kingdom.
And that is definitely worth celebrating.
Please share this episode on your favorite social media outlets and join us next time as we discuss celebrating God on Mother’s Day.
The Year Long Celebration of God is a dynamic, holistic resource that utilizes the Bible, our holiday calendars, and even the most average moments of the most normal days to equip Christians to worship God all year long
and disciple others to do the same.
AMBrewster is the creator and host of the Celebration of God. He originally designed the COG to be a discipleship tool for Christian parents to train their children to know and love God, but he quickly realized how valuable it is for all Christians. Whether it's a small group, church, classroom, one-on-one, or community relationship, this resource is guaranteed to draw people closer together as they draw closer to God.
Aaron is the President of Truth.Love.Parent. and host of its podcast.