OST is closed for business but its spirit survives on my blog.

Making sense of Pentecost

Making sense of Pentecost

Peter, I’m conscious of the fact that I’m being a bit stubborn at the moment - it’s a failing I have. But I am trying very hard to nuance the argument in response to your feedback and criticism. I am conscious of the fact that you are seeking to safeguard something of extreme importance.

Your description of the role of the Spirit pre A.D.70/downfall of Rome suggests that its (the Spirit’s) main function was to help the church survive until those liberating events occurred. (Survival = ‘victory’ for the churches in Revelation). This suggests to me far too defensive a description of what was taking place - the emphasis in Acts is on the growth and spread of the church throughout the known world. This was happening before Jerusalem fell or Rome declined.

It wasn’t meant to sound that ‘defensive’. Part of the impact of the outpouring of the Spirit on Israel was the movement of the disciples out into the world and the development of communities of believers that would themselves confront Christ’s enemies and suffer from that confrontation. But this expansion of Christ-like (Son-of-man-like) communities was precisely the means by which the Spirit-renewed people of God ‘survived’ the collapse of second temple Judaism and the opposition of Rome. This is why Jesus was so concerned that the good news of the kingdom should be preached to the nations before the ‘end’ (Matt.24:14).

Let’s agree to disagree on the connection between the ascension and Daniel 7 for now. I could be wrong; I need to go back and look at the whole thing again. I do want to keep in view, though, the significance of the judgment theme in relation to Pentecost. I’ve just read a very interesting article by G.K. Beale (‘The Descent of the Eschatological Temple in the Form of the Spirit at Pentecost’) in Tyndale Bulletin 56.1, in which he argues that Acts 2 has in the background not only Joel 2 but passages from Isaiah that associate the image of ‘tongues of fire’ with judgment on Israel (Is.5:24-25; 30:27-30; 66:15). What we need to recognize is both this more restricted narrative-eschatological significance and the implications of this new covenant in the Spirit for the ‘post-eschatological’ life of the church. The challenge we face, both here and for the gospels, is to make sense of the universal dimension through the particular narrative, not by-passing it or compressing it to the dimensions of an a-historical religious myth as so often happens. Your question about the basis for the relevance of the gospels today is highly pertinent and needs to be addressed properly. All I would say is that in my view resetting the Gospel stories in this narrative-historical framework gives us a very powerful and compelling starting point: it certainly does not render either the Gospels or the gospel irrelevant, but we may have problems making them work in quite the way we used to.

Revelation, the lake of fire and A.D.70 By: peter wilkinson (29 replies) 3 June, 2005 - 11:40