What does Pentecost mean? What actually happened on that day? Keep reading to find out what happened at Pentecost and some Bible verses about Pentecost.
Pentecost actually means 50 in Greek and is celebrated on the 50th day (the seventh Sunday) after Easter. This means that the date changes as the date of Easter can vary by up to a month.
Pentecost commemorates the time that the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples and others who were with them while they were in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of Weeks. (The Feast of Weeks is a Jewish festival that marks the wheat harvest and also symbolizes the giving of the Torah to the Israelites.) Pentecost is also known as Whitsun, particularly in the UK. The meaning of ‘whit’ is unclear but it has been used in Old English from as early as 1067. Suggested meanings could be ‘wit’, meaning understanding or perhaps white, which comes from the white traditionally worn for baptisms.
Bible verses about Pentecost
We can find out about Pentecost in the book of Acts. Jesus rose from the dead and then spent time on earth with His followers. He then ascended to heaven to be with the Father but in His last few days, He said to His followers:
“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 1:4-5
This echoes imagery from the time Nicodemus spoke with Jesus in John 3:3-20.
“Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again…
“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, “You must be born again.” The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.””
Jesus told His disciples to wait, saying that they would receive a gift, this new and unheard-of gift: the Holy Spirit.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8
These disciples were willing to do anything for Jesus, but still, He asked them to wait for the infilling of God, for the helper that Jesus said He would send.
We read in John:
“And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever — the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you.” John 14:16-17
A violent wind
So on the day of Pentecost, we know that the disciples were “all together in one place” (Acts 1:2). We don’t know exactly where this place was. And then:
“Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” Acts 2:2-4
The presence of God comes as a violent wind. I love the description of the Holy Spirit here – violent wind is not passive; it is active and powerful and changes whatever it encounters.
As we read earlier in our passage from John: “you hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going, so it is with everyone born of the Spirit”. John 3:8
The Greek word for ‘spirit’ is the same as the word for ‘wind’, tying the two images firmly together.
Jesus came not only to fulfill the law but to add the breath of life to it. He told the disciples to wait for Him and then the Holy Spirit came to fortify and strengthen them. The Holy Spirit enabled them to talk in other languages, so that everyone in the crowd could understand the good news (Acts 2: 5-12).
Peter stands up and explains to the crowd the prophecy from Joel that says:
“In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Acts 2:17-21
A new chapter
These Bible verses about Pentecost show that it is the beginning of a new chapter – the beginning of the last days when the church is born and Christians learn to live on earth with the power of the Holy Spirit. This marked a huge change from Judaism where people had to go through priests to access God. By contrast, we read, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people” (Acts 2:17).
Peter explained that salvation was now available for all, the whole world.
“Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2:38-39
So what do these Bible verses about Pentecost teach us?
From these scriptures we learn that we can’t do it on our own. Jesus sent us a Helper, as He said He would, and the Holy Spirit brings many gifts to enable us. Jesus did not leave us as orphans (John 14:18) listlessly waiting for the second coming, rather, He gave us the Holy Spirit to walk alongside us, to comfort and help us. Read on for some final Bible verses about Pentecost that describe the character of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit prays for us:
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit hHimself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” Romans 8:26
He walks with us:
“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16
He gives us gifts:
“To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and He distributes them to each one, just as He determines.” 1 Corinthians 12:8-11
And finally, John 14:26 in the Amplified Bible sums up what He does for us in this:
“But the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counsellor, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will help you remember everything that I have told you.”
Wow. What an amazing Helper, here with us, day in day out, strengthening, encouraging and accompanying us on our walk here on earth.
We hope you have found these Bible verses about Pentecost helpful and that they inspire you to lean into Him and take strength from Him, each and every day. For more reflections on the life of Jesus, be sure to check out our other Glorify blog posts.