Muslim-Christian Dialogue: Pentecost

We were due to have our monthly Muslim-Christian Dialogue last night. Sadly, due to a communications break down it didn’t happen. Our Muslim friends’ are midway through Eid celebrations. Given that we don’t celebrate Eid, we though Pentecost was coming up and it gave us good in roads to talk about the gospel. So here is what I was going to present.

What is Pentecost?

  • The word comes from the Greek, Πεντηκοστή, which means ‘fiftieth’. In Judaism, the Festival of Weeks happened 50 days after the Passover – this was referred to as Pentecost.
  • In Christian thought, the day we call Pentecost took place against the background of the Jewish Festival of Weeks.
  • Acts 2:1 opens, ‘when the day of Pentecost came…’ Christians now use the word Pentecost to refer to what happened in Acts 2.

Background to Pentecost

When the Bible refers to ‘God’s presence’ it uses this phrase in two ways:

  1. God’s general presence i.e. omnipresence
    • ‘Do I not fill the Heavens and the Earth?’ – Jeremiah 23:24
    • ‘But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You, how much less this house which I have built!’ – 1 Kings 8:27
    • ‘Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.’ – Psalm 139:7-8 2.
  2. God’s covenant presence
    • ‘let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.’ – Exodus 25:8
    • ‘Place them in the tent of meeting in front of the ark of the covenant law, where I meet with you’ – Numbers 17:4

God’s presence in the Old Covenant

  • Though God’s general presence was everywhere, he demonstrated his covenant presence with his people (Israel) by dwelling in the tabernacle/temple.
  • For this reason, worship of God took place at the temple. This is where he specially dwelt and could be met.
  • Because of people’s sin, they could not be in God’s presence. The people were separated from the ‘holy of holies’ (the part of the temple where God’s presence dwelt) and it was only entered by a high priest once per year who made atonement for the sin of the people.
  • But God’s covenant presence was shown to Israel by his dwelling among them in the tabernacle/temple.

The promise of a New Covenant

Jeremiah 31:31-34:

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah.32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord.

33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

Ezekiel 36:24-28:

“24 For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. 25 Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.28 Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God.”

Jesus is the new temple

  • 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” 20 They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body.’ – John 2:19-21
  • ‘believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem’ – John 4:21
  • ‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, glory as the only begotten from the father’ – John 1:14
  • ‘I am in the Father and the Father is in me’ – John 14:11

Jesus shows that he is the new focus of worship. God’s special presence no longer dwelt in the temple but in the body of Jesus.

The OT promise of the Spirit

“And it shall come to pass afterward,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
Even on the male and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit.” – Joel 2:28-29

Jesus’ promise of the Spirit

  • “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” – John 14:16-17
  • “the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” – John 14:26

The coming of the Spirit

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”

14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. 19 I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 20 The sun will be turned to darkness
    and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. 21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.

Acts 2:1-24

Significance of the Spirit

  • God now dwells in his people by his Spirit through their union with Jesus
  • God marks his covenant faithfulness with his people by dwelling in them
  • God empowers his people to holiness by his Spirit within them
  • God assures his people of their faith by the seal of the Holy Spirit in them
  • God’s people no longer worship in one place at a temple building, but they worship at the true temple (Jesus) by the Spirit placed within them
  • All God’s people have direct access to the Father by the Spirit through Jesus

Pentecost inaugurates a continual Christian night of power/decree

Acts 1:8 – “…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you”

Surah 97:3 – “Night of decree is better than a thousand months”

What Muslims expect and hope for Christians believe we already have

  • The Bible is clear that the Holy Spirit dwells within every true believer
  • The Christian has direct and special access to God at all times through Jesus by the Holy Spirit
  • The Christian, therefore, lives in the Night of Power every day