Pentecost – the Helper comes to give Power & Guidance

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 the forgiveness.  That day can also be experienced by us today, which we learn 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, so they would be assured 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) this promise was fulfilled.  This day is called 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 recorded 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 gathered 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 BC) had established several festivals to be celebrated through the year. Passover was the first festival of the Jewish year.  Isa had been crucified on 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)

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?

Events of the Injil occurred precisely on the three Spring Festivals of the Taurat
Events of the Injil occurred precisely on the three Spring Festivals of the Taurat

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 had 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 fulfillment of this Promise.

One reason that the Gospel is ‘good news’ is that it provides 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 a true inner guidance – guidance from God.  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.

Understanding & Receiving the Gift of Life from Isa al Masih

We examined the final week of the prophet Isa al Masih PBUH.  The Injil records that he was crucified on Day 6 – Good Friday, and he was raised back to life the following Sunday.  This was foreseen both in the Taurat and the Psalms and Prophets.  But why did this happen and what does it mean for you and me today?   Here we seek to understand what is offered by the Prophet Isa al Masih, and how we can receive mercy and forgiveness.  This will help us even understand Ibrahim’s ransom described in Surah As-Saffat (Surah 37), Surah al Fatihah (Surah 1 – The Opener) when it asks Allah to ‘show us the Straight Way’, as well as understanding why ‘Muslim’ means ‘one who submits’, and why religious observances like wudu, zakat and eating halal are good intentions but insufficient in themselves for the Day of Judgment.

Bad News – what the Prophets say of our relationship with Allah

The Taurat teaches that when Allah created mankind He

So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)

“Image” is not meant in a physical sense, but rather that we were made to reflect Him in the way we functioned emotionally, mentally, socially and spiritually.  We were created to be in relationship with Him.  We can visualize this relationship in the slide below.  The Creator, as infinite ruler, is placed at the top while man and woman are placed at the bottom of the slide since we are finite creatures.  The relationship is shown by the connecting arrow.

Created in His image, people were made to be in relationship with the Creator
Created in His image, people were made to be in relationship with the Creator

Allah is perfect in character – He is Holy.  Because of this the Zabur says

For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness;
    with you, evil people are not welcome.
The arrogant cannot stand
    in your presence.
You hate all who do wrong (Psalm 5: 4-5)

Adam committed one act of disobedience – only one- and the Holiness of God required Him to judge.  The Taurat and Qur’an record that Allah made him mortal and expelled him His presence.  The same situation exists for us.  When we sin or disobey in any way we dishonor Allah since we do not act according to the image that we were made in.  Our relationship is broken.  This results in a barrier as solid as a rock wall that comes between us and our Creator.

Our sins create a barrier between us and Holy God
Our sins create a solid barrier between us and Holy God

Piercing Sin’s barrier by Religious Merit

Many of us try to pierce this barrier between us and Allah by religious deeds or works that earn enough merit to break the barrier.  Prayers, fasting, Hajj, going to mosque, zakat, alms to charity are the ways we seek to earn merit to pierce the barrier as illustrated next.  The hope is that religious merit will cancel out some sin.  If our many deeds earn enough merit we hope to cancel all our sins and receive mercy and forgiveness.

We try to pierce this barrier by doing good deeds to earn merit before Allah
We try to pierce this barrier by doing good deeds to earn merit before Allah

But how much merit do we need to cancel sin?  What is our assurance that our meritorious deeds will be sufficient to cancel the sin and pierce the barrier that has come between us and our Creator?  Do we know if our efforts for good intentions will be sufficient? We have no assurance and so we try to do as much as we can and hope it will be sufficient on Judgment Day.

Along with deeds to gain merit, efforts for good intentions, many of us work hard to stay clean.  We diligently perform wudu before prayers.  We work hard to stay away from people, objects and food that make us unclean.  But the prophet Isaiah revealed that:

All of us have become like one who is unclean,
    and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf,
    and like the wind our sins sweep us away. (Isaiah 64:6)

The prophet tells us that even if we avoid everything that make us unclean, our sins will make our ‘righteous acts’ as useless as ‘filthy rags’ in making us clean.  That is bad news.  But it gets worse.

Worse News: the power of Sin and Death

The Prophet Musa PBUH clearly set the standard in the Law that total obedience was required.  The law never said something like “attempt to follow most of the commands”.  In fact the Law stated time and again that the only work that assured payment for sin was death.   We saw in the time of Nouh PBUH and even with the wife of Lut PBUH that death resulted from sin.

The Injil summarizes this truth in the following way:

For the wages of sin is death… (Romans 6:23)

“Death” literally means ‘separation’.  When our soul separates from our body we die physically.  Similarly we are even now separated from God spiritually and are dead and unclean in His sight.

This reveals the problem of our hope in earning merit to pay for sin.  The problem is that our hard efforts, merits, good intentions, and deeds, though not wrong, are insufficient because the payment required (the ‘wages’) for our sins is ‘death’.  Only death will pierce this wall because it satisfies God’s justice.  Our efforts to gain merit are like trying to cure cancer (which results in death) by eating halal food.  Eating halal is not bad, it is good – and one should eat halal – but it will not cure cancer.  For cancer you need a totally different treatment that puts the cancerous cells to death.

So even in our efforts and good intentions to generate religious merit we are actually dead and unclean as a corpse in the sight of our Creator

Our sin results in death - We are like unclean dead bodies before Allah
Our sin results in death – We are like unclean dead bodies before Allah

Ibrahim – showing the Straight Path

It was different with the Prophet Ibrahim PBUH.  He was ‘credited righteousness’, not because of his merit but because he believed and trusted the promise to him.  He trusted Allah to meet the payment required, rather than earning it himself.  We saw in his great sacrifice that death (the payment for sin) was paid, but not by his son but instead by a lamb provided by God.

Ibrahim was revealed the Way - He simply trusted God's Promise and God Provided the payment
Ibrahim was shown the Straight Path- He simply trusted God’s Promise and God Provided the payment of death for sin

The Quran speaks of this in Surah As-Saffat (Surah 37 – Those who set the Ranks) where it says:

And we ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice. And we left (the blessing) for him among generations (to come) in later times.  “Peace and salutation to Ibrahim” (Surah As-Saffat 37:107-109)

Allah ‘ransomed’ (paid the price) and Ibrahim received the blessing, mercy and forgiveness, which included ‘peace’.

Good News: The work of Isa al Masih on our behalf

The example of the prophet is there to show us the Straight Path in accordance with the request of Surah Al-Fatihah (Surah 1 – The Opening):

Sovereign of the Day of Recompense.
It is You we worship and You we ask for help.
Guide us to the straight path –
The path of those upon whom You have bestowed favor, not of those who have evoked [Your] anger or of those who are astray. (Surah al-Fatihah 1:4-7)

The Injil explains that this was an illustration to show how Allah would pay for sin and provide a cure for death and uncleanness in a simple but powerful way.

For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23)

Up until now, it has all been ‘bad news’.  But ‘injil’ literally means ‘good news’ and in declaring that the sacrifice of Isa’s death is sufficient to pierce this barrier between us and God we can see why it is good news as shown.

The sacrifice of Isa al Masih - the lamb of God - makes the payment for sin on our behalf
The sacrifice of Isa al Masih – the lamb of God – makes the payment by death for sin on our behalf just like Ibrahim’s lamb had done.

The prophet Isa al Masih was sacrificed and then rose from the dead as firstfruits so he now offers us his new life.  We need no longer remain prisoners of sin’s death.

The resurrection of Isa al Masih was 'firstfruits'. We are freed from death and receive the same resurrection life.
The resurrection of Isa al Masih was ‘firstfruits’. We can be freed from death and receive the same resurrection life.

In his sacrifice and resurrection Isa al Masih became the gate through the barrier of sin that separates us from God.  This is why the prophet said:

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.  They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:9-10)

Isa al Masih is thus a Gate that breaks through the barrier of sin and death
Isa al Masih is thus the Gate that breaks through the barrier of sin and death

Because of this gate, we now can re-gain the relationship we had with our Creator before our sin became a barrier and we can be assured of receiving mercy and the forgiveness of our sins.

With an open Gate we now are restored in Relationship with our Creator
With an open Gate we now are restored in Relationship with our Creator

As the Injil declares:

For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time.  (1 Timothy 2:5-6)

The Gift of God to you

The prophet ‘gave himself’ for ‘all people‘.  So this must include you as well as me.  Through his death and resurrection he has paid the price to be a ‘mediator’ and offers us life.  How is this life given?

For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23)

Notice how it is given to us.  It is offered as a … ‘gift’.  Think about gifts.  No matter what the gift is, if it is really a gift it is something that you do not work for and do not earn by merit.  If you earned it the gift would no longer be a gift – it would be a wage!  In the same way you cannot merit or earn the sacrifice of Isa al Masih.  It is given to you as a gift.  It is that simple.

And what is the gift?  It is ‘eternal life’.  That means that the sin which brought you and me death is now paid up.  God loves you and me that much.  It is that powerful.

So how do you and I obtain eternal life?  Again, think of gifts.  If someone wants to give you a gift you must ‘receive’ it.  Anytime a gift is offered there are only two alternatives.  Either the gift is refused (“No thank you”) or it is received (“Thank you for your gift.  I will take it”).  So also this gift must be received.  It cannot just be mentally believed in, studied or understood.  To be of benefit, any gift offered to you must be ‘received’.

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God (John 1:12-13)

In fact, the Injil says of God that

God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved … (1 Timothy 2:3-4)

He is a Saviour and His desire is that ‘all people’ receive his gift and be saved from sin and death.  If this is His will, then to receive his gift would simply be submitting to His will – the very meaning of the word ‘Muslim’ – one who submits.
So how do we receive this gift?  The Injil says that

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:12)

Notice that this promise is for ‘everyone’.  Since he rose from the dead Isa al Masih is alive even now.  So if you call on him he will hear and give his gift to you.  You call out to him and ask him.  Perhaps you have never done this.  Below is a guide that can help you. It is not a magic chant.  It is not the specific words that give power.  It is the trust like Ibrahim had that we place in Isa al Masih to give us this gift.  As we trust him He will hear us and answer.  The Injil is powerful, and yet also so simple.  Feel free to follow this guide if you find it helpful.

Dear Prophet and Lord Isa al Masih.  I understand that with my sins I am separated from Allah my Creator.  Though I can try hard, my efforts do not pierce this barrier.  But I understand that your death was a sacrifice to wash away all my sins and make me clean.  I know that you rose from the dead after your sacrifice so I believe that your sacrifice was sufficient and so I submit to you.  I ask you to please cleanse me from my sins and mediate with my Creator so I can have eternal life.  Thank you, Isa the Masih, for doing all this for me and would you even now continue to guide me in my life so I can follow you as my Lord.

In the name of Allah, Most Merciful