Surah Al-Balad (Surah 90 – The City) refers to a city-wide witness and Surah An-Nasr (Surah 110 – The Divine Support) envisions crowds of people coming to a true worship of God.
I do call to witness this City;- And thou art a freeman of this City;- (Surah Al-Balad 90:1-2)
When comes the Help of God, and Victory, And thou dost see the people enter God’s Religion in crowds, Celebrate the praises of thy Lord, and pray for His Forgiveness: For He is Oft-Returning (in Grace and Mercy).(Surah An-Nasr 110: 1-3)
Exactly fifty days after the resurrection of Isa al Masih PBUH the vision captured in Surah Al-Balad and Surah An-Nast came to pass. The city was Jerusalem, and the disciples of Isa al Masih were the freemen who were the witnesses to that city, but it was the Spirit of the LORD moving amongst the crowds in that city which caused the celebration, praises and forgiveness. We can learn more as we understand the history of this unique day.
The Prophet Isa al Masih PBUH had been crucified on Passover but then rose from the dead on the following Sunday. With this victory over death, he now offers the gift of life to any who will receive it. After being with his disciples for 40 days, to assure them of his resurrection, he then ascended to heaven. But before he ascended he gave these instructions:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”Matthew 28: 19-20
He promised to be with them always, yet he left them shortly afterwards when he ascended to heaven. How could he still be with them (and also with us) after he ascended?
The answer comes in what happened a little later. At the supper, just before his arrest, he had promised the coming of the Helper. Fifty days after his resurrection (and 10 days after his ascension) he fulfilled this promise. This day is the Day of Pentecost or Pentecost Sunday. It celebrates a remarkable day, but it is not only what happened that day but when and why it happened that reveals the sign of Allah and a powerful gift for you.
What happened on Pentecost
The complete events are in the Book of Acts chapter 2 of the Bible. On that day, the Holy Spirit of God descended on the first followers of Isa al Masih PBUH and they started speaking loudly in languages from around the world. It created such a commotion that thousands who were in Jerusalem at the time came out to see what was happening. In front of the gathering crowd, Peter spoke the first gospel message and ‘three thousand were added to their number that day’ (Acts 2:41). The number of followers of the gospel has been growing ever since that Pentecost Sunday.
This summary of Pentecost is not complete. Because, just like the other events of the Prophet, Pentecost happened on the same day as a Festival that had begun with the Taurat in the time of the Prophet Musa PBUH.
Pentecost from the Taurat of Musa
Musa PBUH (1500 BCE) established several festivals for the people to celebrate throughout the year. Passover was the first festival of the Jewish year. Isa had been crucified at the Passover Day festival. The exact timing of his death to the sacrifices of the Passover lambs is a sign for us.
The second festival was the feast of Firstfruits, and we saw how the Prophet had been raised on the day of this festival. Since his resurrection happened on ‘Firstfruits’, it was a Promise that our resurrection would follow for all those who trust him. His resurrection is a ‘firstfruits’, just as the festival name prophesied.
Precisely 50 days after the ‘Firstfruits’ Sunday the Taurat required the Jews to celebrate Pentecost (‘Pente’ for 50). It was first called Feast of Weeks since it was counted by seven weeks. Jews had been celebrating the Feast of Weeks for 1500 years by the time of the Prophet Isa al Masih PBUH. The reason that there were people from all over the world to hear Peter’s message that day the Holy Spirit descended in Jerusalem was precisely because they were there to celebrate the Pentecost of the Taurat. Today Jews continue to celebrate Pentecost but call it Shavuot.
We read in the Taurat how the Feast of Weeks was to be celebrated:
Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the LORD. From wherever you live, bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of the finest flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to the LORD. (Leviticus 23:16-17)
The precision of Pentecost: Sign from Allah
There is a precise timing of the Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended on people since it occurred on the same day as the Feast of Weeks (or Pentecost) of the Taurat. The crucifixion of Isa al Masih occurring on the Passover Festival, his resurrection occurring on the FirstFruits Festival, and this coming of the Holy Spirit on the Feast of Weeks, are clear signs to us from Allah. With so many days in a year why should the crucifixion, resurrection, and then the coming of the Holy Spirit happen precisely on each day of the three spring festivals of the Taurat, except if this was to show us His plan?
Pentecost: The Helper Gives New Power
In explaining the signs of the coming of the Holy Spirit, Peter pointed to a prophecy from the prophet Joel predicting that one day the Spirit of God would pour out on all peoples. The events of that Pentecost day fulfilled the prophecy.
We have seen how the prophets revealed to us the nature of our spiritual thirst that leads us to sin. The prophets also foresaw the coming of a New Covenant where the Law would be written inside our hearts, not just on tablets of stone or in books. Only with the Law written in our hearts would we have the power and ability to follow the law. The coming of the Holy Spirit on that Pentecost Day to dwell in believers is the fulfilment of this Promise.
One reason that the Gospel is ‘good news’ is that it provides the power to live life better. Life is now a union between Allah and people. This union takes place through the indwelling of the Spirit of God – which began on the Pentecost Sunday of Acts 2. It is Good News that life can now be lived on a different level, in a relationship with God through His Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives us true inner guidance – guidance from God.
What the Bible tells us about firstfruits
The Bible explains it like this:
And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him. (Ephesians 1:13-14)
The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you. (Romans 8:11)
Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.(Romans 8:23)
The indwelling Spirit of God is a second firstfruits, because the Spirit is a foretaste – a guarantee – of completing our transformation into ‘children of God’.
The gospel offers a new life not by trying-but-failing to keep the Law. Nor is it an abundant life through possessions, status, wealth and all the other passing pleasures in this world, which Suleiman had found so empty. Instead, the Injil offers a new and abundant life by the indwelling of the Spirit of God in our hearts. If Allah offers to indwell, empower and guide us – that has to be Good News! The Pentecost of Taurat, with the celebration of fine bread baked with yeast pictured this coming abundant life. The precision between the Old and New Pentecosts is a clear sign that this is the plan of Allah for us to have an abundant life.