What Is Pentecost Sunday and What Does It Mean for Christians?

Nigerian Pentecostals
Pentecostals worship at a church in Nigeria. |

Pentecost Sunday is an annual holy day that falls on May 20 of this year. While denominations like the Roman Catholic Church and the United Methodist Church officially celebrate it, large numbers of Christians who do not follow a liturgical calendar might not be familiar with the observance.

Taking place 50 days after Easter, Pentecost commemorates the events of Acts 2:1–13, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles and the early Church.

For many churches, Pentecost is celebrated with sanctuary decorations featuring the color red, young people undergoing confirmation, and in some traditions, the dropping of rose petals from church ceilings.

In contrast to special dates like Christmas and Easter, Pentecost has yet to have a large presence in secular culture; it is not a federal holiday and few movies are made with it as a premise.

The Holy Spirit descending upon the apostles. |

Many evangelical congregations do not observe the occasion, not out of theological disagreement but for other issues.

"Most free-wheeling evangelicals don't follow the church calendar at all, except for Christmas and Easter," explained Grace Christian Fellowship Pastor Ron Benson to The Christian Post in a 2011 interview.

"Ironically, a second reason we don't pay much attention to Pentecost Sunday is that we're afraid of the edgy displays of Holy Ghost-ism. It's sad, but the more outrageous expressions of Pentecostalism and Charismatics make a celebration of Pentecost a little risky."

However, Bethlehem College & Seminary professor Ryan Griffith has said, if "it weren't for Pentecost, we wouldn't know about Easter."

Griffith laid down three important reasons to celebrate Pentecost in a 2013 piece for "Pentecost fulfills Jesus's promise to never forsake his own," "Pentecost launches the global proclamation of the gospel," and "Pentecost signals the coming of fuller restoration and a greater celebration."

"Pentecost is a pointer that history is inexorably moving towards the restoration of all things. The bridegroom has come; his bride is making herself ready. We await the greatest celebration of all," wrote Griffith.

Got Questions Ministries noted in an entry on its website that Pentecost is significant because it "reminds us of the reality that we all have the unifying Spirit that was poured out upon the first-century church."

"It is a reminder that we are co-heirs with Christ, to suffer with Him that we may also be glorified with Him; that the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good," noted Got Questions.

"This gift of the Holy Spirit that was promised and given to all believers on the first Pentecost is promised for you and your children and for all who are far off whom the Lord our God will call."

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