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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, June 13 2024

Pentecost and the mystery of the ages

Jesus Christ chose the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot in Hebrew) or Pentecost as the day on which God first granted His Spirit to the New Testament Church. This annual Holy Day also commemorates another of the greatest events in history, God's delivery of the law at Mount Sinai.

After being delivered from slavery in Egypt and crossing the Red Sea, the people of Israel wandered through the desert for five weeks following the pillar that led them. Exodus 19 describes Israel arriving at the base of Mt. Sinai and God telling Moses to meet Him on the mountain, where He pronounced a summary of the covenant He would make with Israel. Moses relayed the message to the people of Israel, and they promised to do everything God said (Exodus 19:7-8).

Three days later, which Jewish tradition tells us was the Day of Pentecost, God told Moses He would “come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people” (Exodus 19:11). The Israelites heard the voice of God thunder the Ten Commandments and became so fearful they asked Moses to be their intercessor. Moses therefore went up the mountain and then relayed the additional words of the covenant to them.

God wanted to dwell among His people who obeyed Him and lived according to His laws, and in Exodus 25:8 God tells the Israelites: “let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.” After giving instructions for the tabernacle and priests, God added: “I will dwell among the children of Israel and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them up out of the land of Egypt…” (Exodus 29:45-46).

But when Moses went up Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments written by the finger of God, the people convinced Aaron to make a golden calf which they worshiped in a degrading orgy. When Moses came down from Mount Sinai he was so angry he broke the tablets with the ten commandments (Exodus 32:19). Three thousand men who were involved in the calf worship were executed, and many more died in a plague (Exodus 32:28, 35). As a consequence of this grave sin, God removed His presence from Israel, and the temporary tabernacle where Moses would meet with God, was moved outside the camp (Exodus 33:7).

After some days, Moses interceded with God for the third time on behalf of Israel, knowing the only way for Israel to be separate from the world was to have God dwelling among them (Exodus 33:16). God honored Moses’ request and Moses again spent 40 days on Mount Sinai with the Lord. The covenant was renewed with Israel, and Moses returned to the camp with new tablets containing the Ten Commandments (Exodus 34). According to The Jewish Encyclopedia, Moses delivered the second set of commandments, and the covenant was renewed on the Day of Atonement (The Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906 Edition, Volume 2, page 281).

Work then began on building the tabernacle for the presence of the Lord to dwell with Israel. The tabernacle was finished on the first day of the second year (Exodus 40:17), and the glory of the Lord, demonstrating His presence, filled the Tabernacle (Exodus 40:34).

More than 400 years later, King David wanted to build a temple for God in Jerusalem, but God would not allow him to do so (1 Chronicles 22:7-8). However Solomon, his son, did build the magnificent temple as a place for the Lord to dwell among the people of Israel with God promising: “...if you…keep all My commandments, and walk in them, then I will perform My word with you, which I spoke to your father David. And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake My people Israel” (1 Kings 6:12-13). After Solomon’s heartfelt prayer for God’s mercy at the dedication of the temple, the glory of God filled the temple and His presence dwelt there (2 Chronicles 7:1-3).

God’s glory stayed in the sanctuary of the temple until about the year 587 B.C when, after many years of idol worship by Israel and Judah the Lord decided to no longer dwell in the temple. Ezekiel chapters 10-11 describes the glory of God leaving the temple and going to the Mount of Olives, from where it ascended back to heaven. Later the armies of Babylon destroyed the temple, and even though a second temple was constructed by Ezra and expanded by Herod, the glory of God did not dwell in it.

Before Jesus was crucified He promised His disciples He and the Father would come and dwell in them (John 14:17, 20, 23). That promise was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost 31 A.D. Acts chapter 2 describes this magnificent event. “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them” (Acts 2:2). Peter and the other disciples understood the Spirit of God was now being given to individuals (Acts 2:17) who would obey Him (Acts 5:32).

The great mystery of all time is that God the Father and Jesus Christ now dwell in the hearts of sincere, obedient Christians whose minds are now the temple where the Spirit of God lives and produces the fruit of a changed life. Paul emphasized this several times: “The mystery which has been hidden from ages…but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known…this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1: 26-27). (Colossians 1:26-27).

Our responsibility is to grow in grace and knowledge, aware that we are part of the spiritual temple God is building, as the annual Holy Day of Pentecost commemorates: “For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be my people’” (2 Corinthians 6:16).

The Day of Pentecost in 2024 will be observed on Sunday June 16, beginning at sundown on Saturday, June 15. (See Holy Day Calendar).