PRESSING PAST PENTECOST: TEN
PRESSING PAST PENTECOST: TENCopyright Š 2013 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
("Pressing Past Pentecost: Ten" is taken from The Feasts of the Lord, copyright Š 2011 Trumpet Ministries, found in the Kindle Library)
Firstfruits, Pentecost, and Tabernacles were associated with distinct phases of the harvest season. They were enjoined on the Israelites when they had no farms.
That they were harvest ceremonies is interesting in itself because it reveals that God regards the Christian Era, commencing with Christ's death and resurrection during Passover Week, as a harvest of what previously had been sown in the earth by the Lord (John 4:35).
For example, the Day of Pentecost, as recorded in the Book of Acts, symbolizes the end of the wheat harvest. We ought to give more thought to the concept that the Christian Church is the fulfillment of that which began with Abraham (Galatians 3:6-29). The "Dispensational" model of Scripture interpretation is flawed seriously, in our opinion, in that it severs the Christian Church, the Body of Christ, from Israel.
The type of the former and latter rains is applied also to the concept that the Book of Acts portrays the former rain, while the latter rain will fall at the end of the present age, just prior to the revealing of Antichrist. This concept would place the fulfillment of Pentecost at the close rather than at the beginning of the Christian Era, in that the observance of Pentecost, the end of the wheat harvest, came several weeks after the latter rain had fallen.
First will come the latter rain revival. Then, the burning sun of persecution. After that, the Lord's wheat will be harvested. The perfected Bride of the Lamb, having in herself the leaven of Christ, will be received by Him.
Then the greatest of all Pentecosts will take place as the Spirit of God glorifies the saints and all the saved nations come to them to receive healing and blessing.
Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. (Isaiah 60:1)
The extraordinary fact to which we referred previously is that precise regulations for harvest rituals were given to former slaves who did not own a square foot of land (except by faith in God's promise).
At the time the seven feasts of the Lord were enjoined on the Israelites they were wandering in the Sinai Desert. They were following a cloud by day and a pillar of fire at night through as barren and desolate a furnace of a countryside as can be imagined. Yet the Lord insisted on furnishing them with a list of detailed instruction for the observance of ceremonies celebrating the ingathering of barley, wheat, olives, nuts, and so forth.
This way of doing things is characteristic of God who "calleth those things which be not as though they were" (Romans 4:17). Does the Holy Spirit do that to usspeak to us about spiritual realities (and sometimes physical realities) before they become a fact in our physical and spiritual environment?
Indeed He does. We live by hope and faith in the promise of God. It is the grasping of the promises of God by resolute, unswerving faith that brings victory in the Christian discipleship.
Notice the following:
Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: (Leviticus 23:10)
"When ye be come into the land which I give unto you."
Many of the ordinances given to the Israelites in the wilderness were for the day when they entered their inheritance:
And it shall be, when thou art come in unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, and possessest it, and dwellest therein; (Deuteronomy 26:1)
The concept is, "I am preparing you in advance so you will know what to do when I fulfill My Word to you."
We Christians need to understand we are in a "present distress." The world is not our home. The earth is our home, but the spirit of the present age is the enemy of God and His Christ.
The Lord has promised many things to us and has commanded us how to live. When we keep His commandments we reap the rewards to the overcomer. Those who overcome will be priests, kings, teachers, and judges in the age to come.
Those who believe in Jesus but who do not keep His commandments will be judged. Some will be saved but they will be rewarded according to their behavior. Others are in danger of the Lake of Fire.
One day, all that God has spoken concerning us will be our possession in solid reality. If we do not obey the Lord in the present hour we will be judged concerning our lack of obedience and faith.
The current definition of living by faith is in error. "The just shall live by faith" does not mean we will go to Heaven if we maintain a correct theological position concerning Christ. Living by faith means obeying the revealed will of God in the hope of coming into glory at His appearing. The eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews is a definition of what it means to live by faith.
Our death with Christ on the cross and our ascent with Him into the heavenlies are two examples of God speaking in advance concerning perfection we do not as yet possess in a mature state. As we maintain by faith a positive assurance that what God has spoken He will perform in us, we move toward the fulfillment of the promise.
The promises of God's Word provide an anchor and direction for our faith and create the substance of the reality when we mix faith with the Word. We lay hold on our land of promise and live as though we already were there, to the extent we are able; although the physical evidence testifies that we have not as yet received the fullness.
When the Holy Spirit makes a promise of God real to us, or even if we just read the promise in the Scriptures (taking note of the attendant conditions), we then can lay hold on that promise by faith.
We gain possession of various aspects of our land of promise by seeking them out by faith: a holy, obedient personality, physical healing, the indwelling of the Father and the Son, the gifts and ministries, peace, wisdom, joy, and every other desired blessing. Faith in God's promises creates value where none exists or where evil exists.
And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Hebrews 6:11,12)
"Who through faith and patience inherit the promises."
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. (Hebrews 11:13)
A warning may be necessary at this point. There is a trap into which we can fall concerning the use of "faith" to get what we want.
There is a light head-belief that is not victorious faith. We may know of someone who prayed a brief prayer or who strove in prolonged prayer, and who then claimed he had the answer because of his mental grip on the letter of the Bible promise. Yet, nothing appeared to happen.
There is a bottomless gulf between making plays mentally or metaphysically on the promises of Christ, compared with gaining ground with God through victorious patience, hope, and faith.
We cannot force God to do anything no matter how much we "believe." We cannot walk on a broken leg until God provides evidence to us that He is cooperating with us in the act of faith. It requires experience in the ways of the Spirit of God before we are able to walk successfully on the line drawn between presumption and aggressive faith. Aggressive faith sometimes is necessary. Presumption is always wrong.
The challenge and the ability to act in faith come from the Lord. The challenge to act in presumption comes from Satan (Luke 4:9-12).
The Israelites would have been regarded as demented by the surrounding tribes if they had gone through the motions of reaping nonexistent crops in the desert, thinking they were honoring the God who had given them agricultural holidays to celebrate.
True faith gains a vision of God's promise, lays hold on God through prayer in the Spirit and through obedience, and is sensitive to God's schedule. Faith eventually obtains the knowledge of the mind of the Spirit of God. Faith is a real walk in the Spirit and produces concrete results in both the spiritual and the physical worlds.
We secure our inheritance by maintaining unswerving faith in the promises of God, and some of these promises nearly are incredible. The performing of "greater works," the resurrection of the physical body into immortality, rulership over the nationsthese are glorious hopes.
These wonders and others like them will one day be solid reality for the Christian who maintains to the end an unchanging faith in and obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ.
In God's time the Hebrews had to fight bloody wars to obtain their land of milk and honey. In God's time we Christians shall be required to fight fierce spiritual battles if we intend to transform our spiritual hopes into permanent possessions.
Let us lay hold on the promises of Scripture. Let us maintain in rock-like faith that we "have" the promises. Then let us follow the Spirit of Christ as He leads us in spiritual warfare to accomplish the dislodging of Satan from our inheritance.
God understands well that it is necessary to teach us many lessons in the arena of earth's problems before we can be entrusted with the glory and responsibilities of the sons of God during the ages to come. Seen from this light, the faithfulness and perseverance we exercise in learning the lessons presented to us by the Holy Spirit have eternal rewards. The eons of the future attach eternal significance to every one of today's decisions, actions, words, thoughts, imaginations, and motives.
And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no. (Deuteronomy 8:2)
Our present life on the earth is a humbling process. It also is a school in which we learn to look to God rather than to our own abilities and self-will. Think about the meaning of the following passage:
And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live. (Deuteronomy 8:3)
Is God utilizing the resources of Heaven and earth so we may lead a happy and successful life on the earth during the present wicked age? Not so. God is preparing kings and priests who will rule and serve with Christ in the fullness of the glory and power of an endless and indestructible life. Therefore their happiness and success is measured in the terms of Heaven, not of men on the earth.
Every challenge, every trial, every lesson, every humiliation, every pain we are enduring has as its purpose our preparation for eternal service in the Presence of Almighty God.
When we pass from the earth into Heaven, and then into the Kingdom Age on the earth, we shall bring with us all we have learned from the Spirit of the Lord. What we have become through the Word of God, through the body and blood of Christ, and through the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit will determine the nature of our reception upon our physical death, the quality of our fellowship with God and the saints, and our opportunities for service (II Timothy 4:8).
The New Testament teaches that we will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ and be rewarded or punished according to our actions on the earth (II Corinthians 5:10).
The saints who have had visions of Heaven report consistently that the surprise on entering the spirit realm is that we are unchanged and that we are gathered to the spiritual area for which we have allowed the Holy Spirit to prepare us.
The Gospel of the Kingdom teaches us how to please God in the present life. However, the Gospel places greater emphasis on our preparation for the Kingdom that is coming to earth with the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Believers who become occupied with the affairs of the present world are running the risk of selling their vast, eternal inheritance for a "bowl of lentils."
The concept of the firstfruits is prominent in God's plan of salvation. For example, Romans 8:23 informs us that we Christians possess "the firstfruits of the Spirit." We have a firstfruits, or first installment, of the Holy Spirit at the present time. (Can you imagine what the receiving of the balance of the Holy Spirit will be like?)
If we "hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end" (Hebrews 3:14) we will come to the day when we reap the remainder of the harvestthe fullness of the Holy Spirit permeating every part of our personality, just as is true of Jesus, our elder Brother.
This principle explains how it can be true that we are without condemnation in Christ even though we still may observe sinful tendencies in our body. Our will already has been reaped (Romans 7:18) and our spiritual inner man delights in the law of God (Romans 7:22).
Our "members which are upon the earth" (Colossians 3:5) are sanctified through the fact that our inner born-again spiritual life is holy to the Lord. Our spiritual life is holy because Christ has been born in us.
Our personality is under the covering of the Passover blood because we have received the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Also, the justice of God has been appeased because by faith we have received the benefits of the atonement made by Christ as our sin-offering.
Our eternal life (the inner spiritual life) is "hid with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3). A firstfruits of our life already has been "waved" before the Lord (Leviticus 23:11).
The day will come when our mortal body also will be harvested (Romans 8:23), completing the reaping of our personality by the Spirit of God unto everlasting life (I Corinthians 15:54).
We see the principle of the firstfruits operating in the resurrection of Christ from the dead. "Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept" (I Corinthians 15:20).
Because He (Jesus) was "waved" as a holy offering before God, we alsothe harvest of the earthare holy in the sight of God.
We too shall be raised from the dead. "But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming" (I Corinthians 15:23).
James 1:18 presents an interesting thought: "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures."
The concept of a group, a firstfruits, selected from the totality of God's creatures, which is the meaning of the term church, can be observed in Romans 8:19: "The earnest expectation of the creature [creation] waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God."
The sin and rebellion of the old creation were illustrated by the inability of Adam and Eve to obey one simple restraint on their behavior. The old creation was judged and finished on Calvary. The new creation began with the resurrection of Christ. He is the Firstfruits of the new creationa new working of the Lord God of Heaven.
The saints of God, since they are one with Christ in His death and in His resurrection, also may be considered a firstfruits of the new creation. The world of nature, including the nations of the earth, is waiting expectantly for the revealing of the sons of God who already possess in themselves the firstfruits of the Spirit of Godthe substance of eternal life (Romans 8:19).
Revelation 14:4 refers to those who are the "firstfruits to God and to the Lamb." Let us, like Paul, "follow after" so we may grasp that for which we have been "apprehended" (grasped) by the Lord Jesus. Let us press toward participation in the first resurrection so we too may become a firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.
Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. (Revelation 20:6)
Notice how the feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits portray the crucifixion, descent into Hell, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The seven feasts of Israel are symbolic of events in the life of Christ, and therefore have direct application to our own spiritual experience because of our oneness with Him in His crucifixion and resurrection.
Our book to this point has been reviewing doctrine fairly well known to Christian people. The remainder of the text brings us into waters that may be unfamiliar to some of us; although the next feast, Pentecost, is becoming much more widely received through the current Charismatic movement.
With the enablement of the Holy Spirit we will follow the Divine pattern of the feasts of the Lord through to the climax of the Christian salvationthe fullness of the redemption that is in Christ the Lord.
Seven weeks shalt thou number unto thee: begin to number the seven weeks from such time as thou beginnest to put the sickle to the corn. And thou shalt keep the feast of weeks unto the Lord thy God with a tribute of a freewill offering of thine hand, which thou shalt give unto the Lord thy God, according as the Lord thy God hath blessed thee: (Deuteronomy 16:9,10)
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:1-4)
There are amazing differences between the feasts of the Jews and their new covenant counterparts. The old covenant celebration of Pentecost (feast of Weeks) was an important annual agricultural ceremony. The new covenant fulfillment of the feast of Weeks is an extraordinary spiritual occurrence that has affected the course of mankind on the earth.
The record of the Book of Acts speaks for itself concerning the meaning of the feast of Pentecost.
Jesus had said, "Wait for the promise of the Father"; and again, "Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me."
"Ye shall receive power." The Book of Acts is a record of Divine power working in the lives of Christians. Speaking in tongues and the miraculous healing of the sick are two of the outstanding results of the outpouring on all flesh of the Holy Spirit of God.
It is true also under the new covenant that the law is given at Pentecost, for the law of the Christian is the "law of the Spirit of life" (Romans 8:2).
We Christians are not under the Law of Moses unless we choose to live in the flesh. We are free from the Law on the basis that we have been crucified with Christ and now are living in newness of life. The Law of Moses governs us when we are living "in the flesh." By "living in the flesh" we mean behaving in the understanding and appetites of the body, soul, and mind of the natural man rather than behaving under the guidance, discipline, power, and life of the Holy Spirit of God.
When we choose to "die" to the lusts of the flesh, and to live instead in the power and life of the Holy Spirit, we come under a law different from the Law of Moses. Our new law is the law of the Spirit of life. It is the law that rules Christians who are "not in the flesh, but in the Spirit" (Romans 8:9).
We are not "adulterers" although we have left the Law of Moses to be married to Christ, because we have been released from the Law of Moses by our death with Christ on the cross (Romans 7:2-4). Death releases us from the Law of Moses.
We Christians are not without law. We are living under a different type of governing principles. We are to be ruled by the Spirit of God whose voice we are to obey at all times.
In our day there are numerous Christians who are spiritual "singles." They are married neither to the Law of Moses nor to Christ. They are lawless. Their end will be according to their works.
Living in the appetites of the flesh, obeying the lusts of the body and soul, brings some gaiety and satisfying of fleshly desires accompanied by an enormous amount of mental and bodily grief, remorse, confusion, sickness, spiritual death, punishment, and eventually, eternal separation from God.
Obedience to the law of the Spirit of life brings self-denial and delayed gratification, accompanied by peace, health, certainty, and eventually release and glory and the fullness of the Presence of God in Christ throughout eternity.
One application of the type of the former and latter rain would be to consider the work of the Holy Spirit in Israel of the Old Testament as the former rain, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Christian Church as the heavier, latter rain. This point of view is reinforced by the fact that the series of the seven feasts began at the time of the harvesting of the grain, not at the time of planting seed.
Another prophetic application of the type of the former and latter rain would be that the former (seed; planting) rain fell on the original Day of Pentecost, and the latter (harvest) rain is reserved for the days just prior to the return of the Lord from Heaven. This alternate point of view is supported by the Lord's parable of the wheat and tares that grow to maturity side by side until the end of the age.
As is true of Scripture symbolism generally, the Holy Spirit can apply the type of the former and latter rain in more than one way depending on the particular spiritual truth being emphasized.
In any case, the Pentecostal "rain" of the Holy Spirit has been available to all Christian people since the days of the first Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is regrettable that as soon as the original Apostles passed from the earth the early believers rejected the leadership and manifestation of the Holy Spirit in favor of a human-directed church. There is evidence in Paul's writings that while he yet was ministering, his own converts were rejecting the teaching that the Spirit was presenting through him. The text of the Book of Galatians suggests doctrinal confusion erupted as soon as Paul left Galatia and went to another area.
People find it difficult to be willing to live under the rulership of the Holy Spirit of God. This was true under the old covenant and it is just as true today.
Some of the outpourings of the Spirit are on record. there were many of which we are ignorant. The names of Wesley, Fox, Finney, Howells, for example, are associated with manifestations of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit in fulfillment of the feast of Pentecost.
If it is true, as we have suggested, that the Pentecostal "rain" has been available throughout the Christian Era, we would expect similar manifestations during the period. A study of past revivals indicates that this indeed has been the case.
The confessing of sins on the part of the believers often has been practiced in times of spiritual awakening. Also, speaking in tongues and miraculous healing, two prominent characteristics of the outpouring of the Spirit of God recorded in the Book of Acts, consistently have followed the anointed preaching of the Gospel from the first century to the twentieth (see, for example, Chapter XXIII, "Pentecostal Outpourings in History," Stanley Howard Frodsham, With Signs Following. Springfield, Mo.: Gospel Publishing House, 1946, pp. 253-62).
Speaking in tongues and miraculous healing are important elements of Divine grace that every believer in Christ should expect to accompany his discipleship. Both of these blessings are readily available to each true Christian.
It does not require a profoundly mystical experience in order for the believer to speak in tongues, to be healed by the Spirit of God, or to pray with success for the healing of others. These are the normal privileges of everyone who follows Jesus. Tongues and healing both are at hand. They are close to the saint who is pursuing the life of victory in Christ. The power and glory of the Kingdom of God abide on us when we accept the Lordship of Christ over our life and obey His will in all matters, great and small.
If we, as a Christian, ask the Lord for the ability to speak in tongues, and thank Him in advance for the answer, it is likely that we soon will find ourselves speaking in tongues. We do the speaking, under the gentle guidance and prompting of the Spirit, and the Spirit gives the words.
The same is true of Divine healing. If we ask the Lord to heal us or to heal another person, and thank Him in advance for the answer, He will come and heal us. How could it be otherwise? The Scriptures are the Word of God and God does not and cannot lie.
If the healing is delayed for some reason, the believer is not to give up. It is God's will to heal His saints and the healing will come in God's time and God's way. Our part is to abide in faith and obedience in God's Word, trusting in His many promises concerning healing.
Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; (Psalms 103:3)
Sometimes it is the Lord's will to take the individual home. In that instance, no tragedy has occurred. The person is far better off being with the Lord, and it is not reasonable or proper for us to attempt to force God to do differently.
Praying in tongues and supernatural healing are as natural to the spiritual man as breathing and eating are to the physical personality. When we are following the Lord Jesus in a devout and obedient manner, praying in tongues and Divine healing follow us because they are part of the goodness and mercy of God extended to us in Christ.
At this point, someone may object that he has not been healed or that someone he prayed for was not healed. Let us remember we are in a spiritual battle. The Gospels declare firmly that Jesus healed all who came to Him. He never once stated that it was not God's will to heal some member of the multitude that surrounded Him.
Let us be scriptural. Let us be full of faith in God.
The reason we do not possess all the blessings of the Kingdom of God, including tongues, healing, miracles, holiness of behavior, peace, and so forth is that our entrance into our inheritance is being contested. In some instances, God is working out certain factors in our life. In other instances Satan is making a determined effort to discourage us.
All of this opposition is beside the point. God has given us a marvelous inheritance in Christ. Many aspects of the inheritance are for now while other aspects are reserved until His appearing. We are to press forward in faith, following the vision God has given us as an individual.
Our physical death has little to do with our pursuit of the promises of God. We are to press forward in the full assurance that what God has spoken concerning us He shall perform. There is no doubt about it.
All things are ours in Christ. It is God's will to give us the Kingdom of God, including the redemption of our spirit, soul, and body. Our spirit, soul, and body are to be preserved blameless in Christ (I Thessalonians 5:23).
The promises of Scripture are not denied to some of the believers and then given to others. Every believer will be challenged at some point during his entrance into his inheritance in Christ. When he is challenged and resisted by the enemy let him reaffirm his faith. Let him obey God to the point of denying himself. Let him continue to look to God for victory in Christ throughout his days on the earth and then during the Kingdom Age.
The saint dies in faith, meaning that his pursuit of God continues beyond the grave, as we understand it. We never, never, never cease pressing forward in Christ. Physical death is of little significance when we are speaking of reaching forward in faith to the full achievement of our inheritance in Christ.
One of the indications we are growing spiritually is that our vision no longer is limited by what is accomplished in the present life. Just as our Lord Jesus has had to wait in faith at the right hand of the Father until His enemies become His footstool, so shall we continue to live by faith. The righteous always have lived by faith in God and always will live by faith in God.
The fullness of our entrance into the land of promise will take place after Christ returns. As in the case of Israel we will need faith, hope, trust, patience, courage, knowledge, wisdom, obedience, and all the other characteristics that the Holy Spirit so patiently has wrought in us if we are to ride with the Lord Jesus in the Battle of Armageddon and then rule with Him over the nations of the earth.
This does not mean we are to assign our victories to our life beyond the grave. If we are not learning to press forward in faith now we will not press forward in faith then. If we are faithful in the present we will be faithful in the future. God knows this and deals with us accordingly.
We never are to compromise with the enemy in our land of promise. We are to meditate in the Scriptures daily, laying hold on the promises with unrelenting, unswerving faith. Every blessing of Heaven and earth already has been given us in Christ.
One of the features of the moving of the Spirit of God has been a restoration of understanding of the Scriptures.
The Book of Joel has some important things to say about the feast of Pentecost. On the day of the beginning of the spiritual fulfillment of the feast of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit announced through Peter: "This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel" (Acts 2:16).
The message of Joel is that there is to be a time of desolation and famine followed by restoration and fruitfulness. This, we believe, is to be the pattern of the Pentecostal "rain"a period of desolation followed by an abundant restoration of the blessings of God.
It appears the Dark Ages of Western civilization were paralleled by a dark age of the Christian churches in which, with some notable exceptions, the Presence of the Spirit of God and the understanding of the Scriptures were diminished greatly from what had been true of the ministry of the first Apostles. These were the days of the "palmerworm," the "locust," and the "caterpillar."
There appears to have been since the time of the Reformers an incoming tide of restoration of the Word of God and the Spirit of God. Of particular interest here is Joel 2:21-27, which suggests the end of the Christian Era will experience a visitation of God's Spirit on the earth, the like of which has never been witnessed from the time of Adam to the present hour.
During the last three hundred years there have been powerful manifestations of the Holy Spirit in Europe, Asia, America, and in other places throughout the world. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit in America during the opening years of the twentieth century has been of particular interest to the writer because of his having been acquainted with people who either were active during the early days or were associated with Pentecostal pioneers of that period. Their testimony carried a savor of Divine grace and power that could not be denied.
One of the American Pentecostal pioneers of the early twentieth century was Frank Bartleman. A book written by Bartleman describes the Azusa Street (Los Angeles) outpouring (Frank Bartleman, What Really Happened at Azusa Street. Northridge, Calif.: Voice Christian Publications, Inc., edited by John Walker, 1962).
Bartleman's account is an excellent resource for anyone who is interested in examining the nature of the new covenant counterpart of the feast of Weeks (Pentecost), and in seeking to understand the significance of the Azusa Street outpouring in its relationship to the whole of church history (see also Carl Brumback, Suddenly . . . From Heaven. Springfield, Mo.: Gospel Publishing House, 1961).
Frank Bartleman's narrative abounds in inspirational moments. However, some disquieting facts emerge. As one reads the book the impression is gained that the church leaders and people were so anxious to return to a conventional form of worship that they fairly drove the Holy Spirit of God from their midst.
Bartleman's account of people driving away the Holy Spirit by resisting the patterns of worship, prayer, and ministry taught to them by the Spirit saddens those who understand the Holy Spirit is God and is to be obeyed implicitly and in detail. One need look no further than Holy Writ to discover Israel always resists the Holy Spirit. The actions of the Christians at the time of Bartleman is a dreadful commentary on the actual state of multitudes of church-attenders.
The writer believes that the Pentecostal "rain" has been available throughout the Church Age, and that the Holy Spirit of God is present in small amounts in our assemblies because that is the way we want it.
Perhaps it is not that we do not want the Spirit Himself. The problem is that walking in the Spirit requires moment by moment cross-carrying obedience to Christ. Men insist on retaining control of the activities of the Church of Christ. The Lord's people never have been content to trust Him and lean not to their own understanding. Throughout the history of the nation of Israel, and of the Christian Church also, the leaders have refused to allow the Spirit of God to direct the building of God's Temple.
The eleventh chapter of the Book of Revelation, by its symbol of the two olive trees and the two lampstands, reveals that in the days just prior to the appearing of Christ the work of God will be accomplished, not by man and his devices but by the Spirit of the Lord (see Zechariah, Chapter Four).
It is possible that our concept of the Christian discipleship and church services do not coincide with the desires and actions of the Spirit of God.
It is the writer's conviction that an abundant, continual outpouring of glory is available to every group of Christians who will allow the Holy Spirit to rule their activities. It is useless, we believe, to pray for and expect an outpouring of God's Spirit until we are willing, under the guidance of the Spirit of Christ, to change the patterns of our individual and group behaviors so they correspond to the wishes of the living and present Christ.
Speaking in tongues is more than an interesting phenomenon to append to our business-as-usual church life. Speaking in tongues signals a new way of obeying Godthe way of the law of the Spirit of life.
"Tongues" is the key that opens the door to a new life for the Christian. It appears the churches involved in the Azusa Street outpouring, not understanding the significance of what was taking place in their midst, moved off the course the Holy Spirit was setting for them.
The following passage aids our understanding of the significance of the speaking-in-tongues experience:
Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear. But the word of the Lord was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken. (Isaiah 28:9-13)
The meaning of speaking in tongues, its role in determining our Christian experience, is contained in this passage from Isaiah. Tongues, the Holy Spirit is stating here, is a means God has selected to guide us into the life in the Spirit.
Speaking in tongues builds us up and helps us toward the "rest" of God, toward the refreshing for those who are weary from attempting to please God in their own strength. Notice in Isaiah 28:11 that the stammering lips and other tongues are presented in context with growth in the understanding of doctrine and the receiving of knowledge.
The emphasis is on "command upon command, rule upon rule." The purpose of it all is that "they may go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken."
The passage portrays the taking captive of the person by the Spirit of God. A Christian is the flesh being made the Word of God just as Jesus is the Word of God made flesh. The process of transforming the Christian into the Word of God proceeds command upon command, rule upon rule, a little here, a little there. It is a daily transformation as we keep our eyes steadfastly on Christ.
Little by little the strength of the believer's self-life is destroyed and Divine resurrection life takes its place. Here is a picture of the rulership of the Holy Spirit gradually increasing in the life of a Christian.
But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. (II Corinthians 3:18)
This, then, is the purpose behind speaking in tongues. It is a means through which God brings people from the power of the rule of the flesh and mind to the power of the rule of the Spirit of life. Speaking in tongues teaches the Christian how to yield to the dominion of the Holy Spirit instead of acting according to the lusts of the flesh and soul and the imaginations, motives, and schemes of the mind.
The end result of the Pentecostal experience, and of all other Divine programs, is the perfecting of Christ in the believer. Perfecting Christ in the believer results in the perfecting of the Divine testimony that shines to the nations of the earth. It is Christ in us who is the Testimony, the Light of the world.
At Azusa Street the Holy Spirit was ready to instruct the churches in the doctrine of the Lord: the life in the Spirit, the oneness of the Body of Christ, the need for righteous conduct and heart holiness.
The Christians, after having experienced some of the manifestations of the Spirit of God, returned to their denominational practices and forms. They reconvened in the Methodist, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Baptist manners. Those who did so named themselves "Pentecostal," since speaking in tongues had been added to the basically unchanged church activities.
It appears the "Pentecostal" people are not as yet ready to be ruled by the Spirit of God, to be led wholly by the Spirit in the work of the churches and in their individual lives.
"To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest, and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear." Speaking in tongues teaches us how to rest in the Lordhow to cease from our own works (Hebrews 4:10).
The life in the Spirit is a rest and refreshing for those who have become worn out trying to please God by their own fleshly methods and strength (Matthew 11:28-30). The greater part of the anointed people of God, from the time of Joshua to the present day, have not been able because of unbelief to enter the "rest" of God, into the victory and inheritance promised them by the Lord.
Therefore, there remains a rest to the people of God (Hebrews 4:9).
An allegorical portrayal of a believer entering the life in the Spirit of God can be found in the Prophet Ezekiel:
And when the man that had the line in his hand went forth eastward, he measured a thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the waters were to the ancles. Again he measured a thousand, and brought me through the waters; the waters were to the knees. Again he measured a thousand, and brought me through; the waters were to the loins. Afterward he measured a thousand; and it was a river that I could not pass over: for the waters were risen, waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over. (Ezekiel 47:3-5)
When we first come to Christ it is as though the waters of the Holy Spirit are "to the ankles." This is to say, we can still walk according to our own will although we have been saved from wrath and are in contact with the Life of God.
If we go a bit deeper into the things of Christ the waters of the Holy Spirit's rulership come up "to the knees." The "water" is not as easy to run or walk through. It slows us down. More of our personality is in contact with and affected by the Spirit of God. The powers of our natural self-life are diminished and the resurrection power of God is commencing to influence our thoughts, words, and deeds.
We can, at this point, turn around and walk back to dry land, back to the life lived in the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Or we can choose to go yet deeper with God in the process of death to self and laying hold on resurrection life.
"Again he measured a thousand, and brought me through, the waters were to the loins [hips]." By now our walk has been influenced greatly. We are controlled in our motions by the water to a much greater extent than was true when we were splashing about in ankle-deep water.
Notice how the illustration of Ezekiel's "river" parallels the prophecy of "command upon command, rule upon rule." The Spirit of God, always with our consent and eventual cooperation, gradually extends His holy rulership over our deeds, words, and thoughts.
Speaking in tongues, which once was merely a phenomenon which we attached to our regular church life, now has become an important part of our Christian discipleship. Speaking in tongues is a help in learning to pray and live in the Spirit. Giving our life to the Spirit of God gradually has become a joyful attraction to us.
"Afterward he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass over: for the waters were risen, waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over." The death and life, death and life, death and life, processes now have resulted in our turning back to God all that He has created in us so our spirit, soul, and body are one with God and in God through Christ.
It is an unsettling day for the fleshly nature of the believer when he finally comes to an experience that is too large for him to understand or control. The fullness of the life in the Spirit is as a river that can be neither defined nor controlled.
The personality of the Christianhis imaginations, motives, words, and deedsis to come under the dominion of the Spirit of Christ. The believer's life is to be given to God without reservation. In the words of Isaiah, the Christian must be "broken, and snared, and taken [captured]." He is to press forward until he experiences the knowledge of Christ, the power of the resurrection of Christ, the fellowship of the sufferings of Christ.
At the coming of the Lord the sufferings will cease and the faithful disciple will be immersed in the fullness of the Holy Spirit, the River of God, forever. Indestructible resurrection life will extend into the spirit, soul, and body of the saint.
We humans are unable to measure the quality or the quantity of the Spirit of God. Mankind has witnessed one Person who walks eternally in the fullness of the Holy Spirit. The Son of Man possesses the Spirit without measure. Will we, as Esau, trade the inheritance of the life lived in the fullness of the Spirit of God for the fleshly pleasures of the present wicked age?
Here then is the significance of speaking in tongues. As we continue to pray in the Spirit we are being brought under the governing power of the Spirit of God. We are entering the "rest" of God. All the manifestations of the Holy Spirit are means given by God to bring us to the goal of redemption, which is conformity to the image of the Lord Jesus and unblemished union with Him.