What Is Pentecost? A Bible Study

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

What is Pentecost?  What significance does it hold for today?  What does Pentecost have to do with the church today?  Is it a holy day and if so, should it be observed by the church today?

The Meaning of the Word Pentecost

The word Pentecost is from the Greek word “pentekostos” and it’s literally a translation of the word “fifty” or “fiftieth” day.  It was significant to ancient Israel for it was the “Feast of First Fruits” called Shavuot.  It was a day of celebration for the early harvest that enabled Israel to have sustenance until the greater fall harvest.  Originally a harvest festival, it became a  traditional Jewish celebration of the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai.  Some churches today still celebrate this day as holy in the Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Roman Catholic, and even some Lutheran churches.  Pentecost comes fifty days after the Passover.  In the New Testament, Pentecost has significant meaning as we shall see.

The Birth of the Church

Before Jesus’ Ascension, He told the disciples to wait (or tarry) in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit would come.   Jesus commanded the disciples to “not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5).  The church could not even exist without the Holy Spirit and so on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was given to the church and the church was begun.

In Acts 2:1-4  it states that

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 [or literally, languages] as the Spirit enabled them.

On Pentecost the Spirit came as fire. When Jesus was baptized He came like a dove.

On Pentecost the Spirit came as fire. When Jesus was baptized He came like a dove.

So Pentecost was the day when the Holy Spirit was given and thus, Jesus’ church was founded. 

What Pentecost Meant to the Church

Pentecost had significant meaning to the church then as it still does today.  It symbolized the birth or beginning of the church.  It identified those who were saved as a type of “first fruits” of God’s harvest of those who became or would later become members of the Body of Christ, the church.  It was the day that the Holy Spirit was made available to humanity in general so that they could be drawn by the Father and see their need for a Savior (John 6:44).  The Holy Spirit empowered believers to overcome and to have power to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to the whole world.  This day also revealed that the Body of Christ was not about nationality or religion but about a relationship with Jesus Christ.  Jews, Gentiles…all people are to be part of God’s church without respect to their human identity or gender.  God is no respecter of persons and so God revealed Himself not just to the Jews but to the whole world and as Paul said,There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).  There is nothing wrong with celebrating this day just as there is nothing wrong with not celebrating it.


Pentecost can be seen as the birthday of the church of Jesus Christ.  The church was born out of the will of the Father, made possible by the purchase of the members by Jesus’ shed blood, and then, on Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came to enable those who would trust in Christ to see their need for repentance and faith in Christ.  Peter on that great day said, 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.  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.  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 2:22-24), and continued by saying, God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear (Acts 2:32-33) and so you must repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call (Acts 2:38-39).

This message by the Apostle Peter is still relevant today.  You must repent of our sins and past life, confess our sins to God, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you too will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and be saved.  This promise is for you if you have not yet put your trust in Christ.  One way or the other, the penalty of your sins will be paid.  It can either be you paying for them for all eternity or by the Lamb of God becauseGod made him who had no sin to be sin [or literally, “a sin offering”] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).  On that Pentecost day, those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day (Acts 2:41) and the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:47).  Will you be among those who are being saved?  My prayer is that you will, if you have not done so already.

Do you know what it means to be saved? Take a look at how easy it is to know Jesus on the following page:

Come to Jesus

Reference – New International Version Bible (NIV) THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. YouTube video “Spirit of the Living God”

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