A certain church (or movement) in Jakarta has been proliferating the idea that the third Pentecost will occur some time soon in the city. Apparently, they consider Ahok’s election unto his office as vice-governor of Jakarta as a signifier of the truth of this claim. The second Pentecost, apparently, happened over 100 years ago in the controversial Azusa Street Revival (!).
I will not comment on the Azusa street revival (though I can admit that it was probably some kind of revival indeed – not a second Pentecost, to be sure), but I believe such an absurd claim demands a simple response. Now, this is an internet post, after all, so I will not attempt at a detailed, exegetically rigorous answer. That has been done in plenty of other places by people much more qualified than me (as I will point to in the ‘for further reading’ section below) – I will merely highlight the obvious high notes relevant to this issue from Scripture in broad brushes.
I hope to make my conclusion clear from the outset: the claim that there will be a third pentecost is biblically absurd, theologically embarrassing, and pastorally disastrous. I will substantiate this conclusion by making three basic, broad observations. I will try my best to make this as short as possible.
1. What, according to Scripture, is Pentecost?
Scripture is God’s Holy Word that accounts to us His plan as it unfolds throughout redemptive-history to save a holy people for himself in a holy realm through an obedient federal head. It is also the means by which God speaks and applies His message of redemption to His Church throughout the ages.
God’s redemptive plan unfolds, ever since the fall, through various redemptive-historical epochs – ground-breaking events, so to speak, that disclose further the means by which God would save a people for Himself. Some of the major epochs are as follows: The evangelical promise of Genesis 3:15 for an obedient Seed of the woman who would crush the serpent, the Exodus, the giving of the Law of Moses, the birth of Jesus Christ and his humiliation and his exaltation, and, the topic of our present focus, Pentecost. These events, in Scripture, are not deeds of God that God merely does to specific people or people groups for their own personal benefit – they are historical-shifting, epoch-making, universally significant, events that disclose once-and-for-all a movement in God’s redemptive Plan. The occurrence of these events anticipate the authorship of Scripture that would record decisively their significance for God’s people: God’s Word and God’s Redemptive Deeds Go Together.
Let’s take the coming of Jesus as a non-controversial example. He came as the one who would suffer on behalf of His people – his coming fulfills both the promise of Gen. 3:15, the Abrahamic Covenant, and the prophecy of the Suffering Servant of Is. 53 – his coming, basically, fulfills the whole of the OT Scriptures (Lk. 24; Rom. 1:3-4, Gal. 3:4-7 etc). His coming, therefore, discloses to us the climactic, pivot-point of God’s redemptive purposes. In Christ we see the locus of God’s redemptive plan. He will save His people through this Son – the Obedient Head who is God himself – fully God and fully man.
Now the coming of Christ, as fulfillment is a once-for-all event in redemptive history. He suffered once for all for our sins, and he was raised once for all for our justification (cf. Heb. 9-10; Rom. 4:25). This event is a non-repeatable, once-for-all, fulfillment of all of God’s promises and the culmination of God’s Plan.
Pentecost, therefore, is an event of that sort of order. Christ’s coming and exaltation in ascension anticipates the writing of Holy Scripture by means of the sending of the Holy Spirit. Also, he promises to send the Spirit so that he would draw all kinds of men to himself, whether Jew or Gentile. The coming of the Spirit is promised in passages like John 14-16, Joel 2, Jer. 31 and Ezekiel 36.
Let me try to say this as concisely as possible: the coming of the Spirit in Pentecost signifies that Christ’s work is complete and the New Order of Re-Creation has finally come. God has inaugurated the New Order in a spiritual manner, and the Spirit’s coming is a down-payment of a future consummation in which a New Heavens and a New Earth would be eternally established. In other words: the coming of the Spirit marks the historical-shift from an old, sin-order, to the last days – the last days as marked by people from every nations knowing God. Acts 2 is the beginning point of that New Order.
So: to say that there is a second Pentecost or a third Pentecost is equivalent to saying that God starts and restarts a second ‘last’ stage in history and a third ‘last’ stage in history: an absurd claim!
That the last days have come is signified by numerous passages in the New Testament – but one that I will highlight here is Hebrews 1:1-2:
“1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.”
A few grammatical and observational points are in order:
1. Notice that the text divides world history in two ages: the time long ago versus these last days: the author of Hebrews marks a two-age structure in history.
2. In the past, God spoke many times and in many ways – in the past God repeatedly speaks to OT saints through many prophets and means.
3. But in these last days – in the present – God has spoken (perfect tense denoting a completed event in the past that has implications for today) in the Son.
In sum: the last days have occurred. The last days are marked by the coming of the Son, and as we have seen above, by the sending of the Holy Spirit as prophesied in the Old Testament.
To belabor my point: Pentecost marks the beginning of the last days of God’s plan – to say that there was a second or third pentecost is to say that God started his last days a second and third time! Such a conclusion is surely an absurdity, rendering the ‘previous last days’ as not really ‘last’ after all, in any meaningful sense, evacuating the decisive and climactic work of the Spirit in Acts of its significance.
Far from exalting the work of the Spirit, claiming that there will be a third pentecost actually undermines the work of the Spirit.
Professor Sinclair Ferguson sums up my point nicely: Pentecost is not ‘repeated’ any more than the death or resurrection of Christ is a repeatable event… we should no more anticipate a ‘personal Pentecost’ than that we will experience a personal Jordan, wilderness, Gethsemane or Golgotha. While such language has been popularly employed, it is theologically misleading.” (The Holy Spirit, 86-87)
The Hebrews passage invokes two shorter reflections:
2. The Spirit and the Bible
Notice that in these last days God has spoken climactically in and through the Son, Jesus Christ. There is no more of a repeating of God’s revelatory word through various means and through various times because in these last days God has, once-for-all, climactically, decisively, spoken in Jesus Christ. He is the culmination of God’s revelation.
The Spirit was sent, in part, to climactically testify to the work of the Son (Jn. 14-16). Jesus promises that the Spirit will teach all things to the disciples – and the Spirit does this through the authorship of the Bible and by anointing the work of the Apostles (2 Pet. 1:20-21; 1 Thess. 2:13). This is why the Apostles are the foundation for the church (Eph. 2:20). The Apostle’s work is culminated and finalized by the closing of the Canon of Scripture. The Apostles bore a special revelatory function, with special authoritative status as the mark of the beginning of the New Order – the last days. There are no Apostles today in that sense because the the foundation has already been laid.
The Spirit therefore in these last days point us back to the final climactic word that is disclosed to us in Holy Scripture. The Spirit never points us away from the Word, and never reveals anything new in addition to His Word. If there were a second or third pentecost we should be expecting New Scripture! But since God’s Word is finally and climactically already given in these last days, God’s canon is closed.
We must also note a Trinitarian point: the Spirit coindwells the Word and the Word coindwells the Spirit. The Two Persons cannot be separated. The Spirit points to knowledge of Christ, and his work is tethered to His authored Word – Holy Scripture.
3. The Sufficiency of Scripture
What I fear, pastorally speaking, is this: the desire for a ‘third pentecost’ and other manifestations of the ‘extraordinary’ will always undermine the sufficiency and finality of God’s Word. External signs and extraordinary events cannot quicken a dead soul nor save any sinner. My mind always goes back to the sobering parable of Luke 16:19-31: if people do not heed to the Word of God then a miracle of someone rising from the dead witnessed by them will do nothing to induce repentance in them.
The Word of God is the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6). It is the means by which God brings people to repentance and nurtures them unto further holiness. God has said everything that He needs to say there in His Word. Go there, seek Him there – for there is where He will be found. Go to Christ – He is who we need. Our problem is not boredom, nor normalcy. Our problem is sin. And the solution is Christ as He is revealed in His Word.
Either we stand on Scripture to know God, for there is where He has fully and climactically revealed himself, or we speculate and impose upon him our false projections of what we think he must or must not be. Knowledge of the Bible may not be sufficient to show an authentic Christian life, but it is necessary, vital, and essential to it – and anyone who claims the contrary is worthy of the heaviest opposition.
For further reading:
Richard B. Gaffin, Perspectives on Pentecost
Sinclair Ferguson, The Holy Spirit
K. Scott Oliphint “Because it is the Word of God” in Did God Really Say?
Vern Poythress, “Modern Spiritual Gifts as Analogous to Apostolic Gifts”