On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit, as the Spirit of the exalted Christ, was poured out into the Church, and through that Spirit Christ Himself, with all the fullness of spiritual blessings He had merited by His suffering, death and perfect obedience, returned to the Church, and the latter was translated from the old dispensation into the new. And this significant change implies, first, that the Church was led out of the dimness of the shadows into the clear light of the revelation of reality; secondly, that the Church was delivered from the bondage of the law into the liberty of the sons of God; and, thirdly, that the Church broke through the boundaries of Jewish nationalism to become ecumenic and be established among all the nations of the earth.

That is the meaning of Pentecost.

When we say that it was the Church that thus received the Spirit, and that was translated thereby from the old into the new dispensation, it will be evident that we stand opposed to the view which maintains that the Church came into existence on that first new dispensational day of Pentecost, and was given birth by the outpouring of the Spirit of Christ.

Especially the modern dispensationalist insists that on Pentecost something wholly new came into existence. In the old dispensation there was no Church. Israel is the kingdom-people. And when their promised King is come, and they receive Him not, but reject Him, nailing Him to the accursed tree, they are sent into exile among the nations, until, in the end of the ages, God will return in mercy to them, they shall accept their King, and be His kingdom-people for ever. In the interim, however, God gathers His Church, which is the Body of Christ. This Church has its beginning on the day of Pentecost, and will be gathered until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, after which Israel will be restored. According to this view, therefore, the line of God’s work does not run through from Israel to the Church of the new dispensation, but is temporarily broken off, in order that a new work may be begun, and a new people be gathered. The day of Pentecost marks the birth of the Church.

Nothing could be farther from the truth as clearly taught in Holy Writ.

For, first of all, the promise of the Spirit, given in the old dispensation, was not for a new kind of people that God would gather in the future, but for Israel. By the mouth of His servant Isaiah, Jehovah had promised: “Yet now hear, O Jacob, my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen: Thus saith the Lord that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee; Fear not, O Jacob, my servant; and thou, Jesurun, whom I have chosen. For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring: And they shall spring as among the grass, as willows by the water , courses. One shall say, I am the Lord’s; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and surname himself by the name of Israel.” Is. 44:1-5. Let us note: 1. That in this passage there is a promise of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit; 2. That this promise is definitely for Israel: “I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring”; and 3. That the result of this gift of the Spirit is that the Church shall be gathered from among all nations: Israel’s offspring shall spring up among the grass, as willows by the water courses, and while they acknowledge the Lord as their God, they shall surname themselves with the name of Israel.

And if there can be any doubt that, in the above passage from Isaiah the reference is to the promise that was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, no such doubt can possibly exist with respect to the passage in Joel 2:28-32: “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions; And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my Spirit. And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call.” Here, too, the promise refers to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. And in this instance, there can be no doubt about this, for the simple reason that, in his first pentecostal sermon, the apostle Peter quotes this passage, proclaiming that “this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel.” Acts 2:16ff. Again, this promise is not to a new people, but to Israel, their sons and their daughters. And, finally, here also the promise of the Holy Spirit is connected with that of the ingathering of the Church from all nations. For it is thus that the apostle Paul interprets the words: “whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered.” Rom. 10:13.

The point is that, according to these passages, Israel, the Church of the old dispensation, on the day of Pentecost, received the promise of the Holy Ghost, and, from there on, continues as the Church of the new dispensation, among all nations.

And this is also the teaching of the New Testament. Suffice it to refer to just one passage, the meaning of which is perfectly clear. In Gal. 4:1-6, the apostle writes: “Now I say, that the heir, as long as he is child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be Lord of all; But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because we are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.” Notice especially that, in this passage the Church of the old dispensation is compared to a small child, that is placed under tutors; while the Church of the new dispensation is the full-grown son, that is free, and need be treated as a servant no more. Now, there can be no question that, even as the small child is one and the same person as the adult into which it has grown, so the Church of the old dispensation, under the law, is the same as that of the New Testament, free from the yoke of the law. And to this Church, that was once under the law, but is now grown up, the Spirit of God’s Son is given. The line runs through. Not a new people is born on the day of Pentecost, but by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the Church passes from the old dispensation into the new.

That is the significance of Pentecost.

It was but proper, therefore, that the outpouring of the Spirit should take place in Jerusalem, that center of the Church of the old dispensation. Only, that Church was no longer represented by priesthood and temple, and by those that sought to continue the bondage of the law, but by the one hundred and twenty that, under the leadership of the apostles were gathered in the upper room, and waited for the fulfillment of the promise. Already the old city of God had lost its significance. Jerusalem was no longer on earth, but above. And from heaven it was to descend, through the Spirit of Christ, into the hearts of those that constituted the true Israel, the Church of the living God.

Through the coming and operation of this Spirit of the glorified Christ, the Church passed from the shadows into reality.

In the old dispensation, the Church lived by the promise, and especially under the Mosaic institution, the promise assumed the form of the shadows. In the new dispensation the shadows passed away to be replaced by reality. No doubt, also in the days of the Old Testament, the elect were saved. They were regenerated and called out of death into life. And they were saved by faith, yet, the contents of their salvation were poor in comparison with the riches of grace now revealed and bestowed upon the Church of the New Testament. Reality had not yet come. Christ was not yet. The full light of His revelation did not yet shine: His significance and riches were only dimly apprehended. The blood of atonement had not yet been shed, and the forgiveness of sins, and the adoption unto sons, and the eternal righteousness we have in Christ’s death and resurrection, could only be apprehended through the sacrifices and shadows. In the land of Canaan they saw the fulfillment of the promise, a shadow of the heavenly Canaan of the kingdom of heaven; yet a most miserable shadow it often proved to be. Jerusalem was the city of God, and it was the chief joy of the true believers; but it was still in bondage with her children, and frequently it assumed the character of Sodom and Gomorrah. The temple was the dwelling place of God among them, but the way into the inner sanctuary was still closed; and, besides,. also that central dwelling place of God could be, and often was changed into a den of robbers.

By those shadows, the Church of the old dispensation lived, and were saved in hope. There was, indeed, an operation and revelation of Christ, but only through the shadows. They stood, as it were, before the still closed door of the kingdom of heaven; and on the door there were representations, pictures of the riches that were within. And the Spirit of God in the old dispensation, through prophets and priests, interpreted to the people of the old dispensation these pictures, and fixed their faith upon them, causing them to live in the hope that presently the door would be opened, and they would become heirs of the reality of the riches of salvation in the kingdom of heaven. With the coming of John the Baptist, and still more with the coming of Christ, we might almost say that the door is ajar: the kingdom of heaven is come near. John stands on the threshold, and the mighty of his day, and of Jesus’ day try to get their foot in between the door, and take the kingdom of heaven by storm. Yet, the door is not opened, till the Lord has died, God reconciled us with Himself, raised Him from the dead, received Him up into glory, fulfilled unto Him the promised Spirit, and in that Spirit the glorious Christ returned unto His Church, to realize in her all the riches of salvation. Now the shadows are needed no more: the body is come. In the Spirit, we are united with the living Lord, by faith, and receive out of Him the fullness of the riches of salvation, even grace for grace. The covenant is realized, the way into the inner sanctuary is revealed, and we have access to the Father, without the intermediation of an earthly tabernacle or a human priest. And we all, with open face, beholding in the mirror of His full revelation the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord. And as to the glorified Church in heaven,—for it also had its Pentecost, and also in her the Spirit was poured out,—the accuser of the brethren has been cast down, and they are now for ever with the Lord.

That is the meaning of Pentecost

And as the shadows passed away to make room for reality, the Church was delivered from the bondage of the law, to pass into the state of the perfect liberty of the sons of God, in principle at least.

The entire religious life of Israel in the old dispensation was under the law. The child was, indeed, placed under tutors and governors, until the time appointed of the Father. Step by step, the way of the old dispensational saint was prescribed for him. The law held him in bondage continually. It directed his life. The law enjoined him just what sacrifices to bring for different occasions, how to offer them and where; when and how to celebrate the holy days and the sabbaths; how to fast and what tithes to bring. In detail the Mosaic law told him what to do, and how to serve God. Moreover, it should not be overlooked that under the law the old dispensational saint was dependent on, and in bondage to the entire Mosiac institution. Only in the land of Canaan could he live his life. Only in the central sanctuary in Jerusalem could he offer his sacrifices according to the law. From the Church institute he could not sever himself. He was dependent upon prophet, priest, and king, to live his religious life under the law. The prophet must inform him concerning the will of Jehovah. To the priest he must bring his sacrifices, first fruits, and tithes. Upon the king he was dependent for war and for peace. In other words, he could not keep the law, except through the mediation of men. And if those that were officially anointed to function as leaders, as prophets, priests, or kings, under the Mosaic institution, were wicked, the entire church suffered and groaned under the heavy curse of the law. Then the temple was defiled, the law was trampled underfoot, the land was filled with idols, the false prophets abounded, the kings became tyrants, lording it over the people, and filling the streets of Jerusalem with innocent blood. And the wrath of God was revealed from heaven, the land, flowing with milk and honey when the people walked in the statutes of Jehovah, became more accursed than any other land; foreign powers were raised up against God’s people to chastise them; and the whole church received double for all her sins. Nor could the remnant according to the election of grace, the true church, initiate a reformation, and separate from the false. They were inseparably connected with the institution under the law.

And thus the law became an unbearable yoke. How often, in the history of Israel and Judah, did the reprobate, wicked element predominate and have control over the Church as instituted under the Mosaic law! How repeatedly did official Jerusalem make itself worthy of the stinging rebuke the Lord directed to them toward the end of (His ministry: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” Matt. 23:37.

All this was changed through the outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost. The law is fulfilled. Christ is the end of the law. The Church is no longer in bondage to the law, but has entered into the state of free sons. Jerusalem is now above; she is the mother of us all; and she is free. Not only is there no longer any external law of precepts, prescribing for us just how and when to worship, enjoining us to keep days and months, to pay tithes and to bring sacrifices; but the Church is no longer inseparably bound to any institution, nor dependent on anyone except Christ Himself to exercise her religious life. It is true, also in the new dispensation, the Lord has instituted His Church, and, for the upbuilding of the saints, He gave unto her apostles, prophets, evangelists, ministers, elders, and deacons. But, although these are given to the Church for the edifying of the body of Christ, this does not mean that believers are now wholly dependent upon an institution of men for the knowledge of the Lord, and for the proper functioning of their spiritual life. All have the Spirit. All have the unction of the Holy One; and they need not that any one teach them. And they no longer “teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord,” for all know Him from the least to the greatest. And if a certain institution of the Church in the world becomes deformed, wicked men are in high places, the truth is corrupted, and the holy things of God’s covenant are profaned, the Church, the true spiritual remnant, is in a position to exercise the office of believers, separate themselves from that false Church, and institute the true Church anew. From the state of bondage under the law, the Church has passed on into the state of freedom. For she has not received as spirit of bondage again to fear, but the Spirit of adoption, whereby she cries: Abba, Father! Rom. 8:15.

And thus, through the outpouring of the Spirit of the glorified Lord, the limitations of the law being removed, the Church has passed beyond the national boundaries of Israel, and is become truly ecumenic, international, universal. As long as the Church was under the law, she was necessarily limited to Israel, to the natural seed of Abraham. For even though this was never strictly maintained, and individuals from other nations occasionally became members of the Old Testament Church, this could only be accomplished by their being incorporated into the Jewish nation through the rite of circumcision. But in the new dispensation, the Spirit is poured out upon all flesh, and the covenant with Abraham now finds its members among all the nations of the world. “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.” Rom. 10:12. And thus: “whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved,” Rom. 10:13. Through the pouring out of the Spirit the Church was placed in the proper position to carry out the injunction of her Lord: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” Matt. 28:19, 20.

This is the meaning of Pentecost!