Read Part 1 of Dr. Richard Land Answers: How Important Are Symbols in Evangelism and Discipleship for Evangelicals?
As I confessed last week, I was reared, converted, discipled, and called to preach in a Baptist “free church” tradition, which at best downplayed or ignored the Christian liturgical calendar other than Christmas and Easter. While I happily remain in that tradition, over the years I have come to a new and deeper appreciation of the evangelizing, discipling, and teaching role such observances can contribute to advancing people’s understanding of the manifold blessings and riches available to us as followers of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
This week I want to discuss the particularly rich liturgical season Christians are presently in right now and the manifold opportunities provided to teach immortal truths by engaging a plurality of the senses (including sight, hearing, touch, smell, and if you include observance of the Lord’s Supper, taste). We can heighten and deepen our understanding of the significance of these eternal truths as we celebrate the Ascension and Pentecost. Easter and the Resurrection are not the end. Easter (including Good Friday) victoriously concludes the supreme purpose of our Savior’s incarnation (the cross always casts a shadow over the manger and the joy of the birth of a Savior). Easter and the Resurrection symbolize Jesus’ triumph over death and the grave (1 Cor. 15:55-58) and the fact that He purchased salvation for all who accept Him as their personal Savior and Lord.
Ascension Thursday or “Holy Thursday” is celebrated 40 days after Easter and will be celebrated this year on May 21, as well as being observed by many churches on the following Sunday. The Ascension commemorates and celebrates the pivotal event recorded by Luke in the book of Acts:
And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven (Acts 1:9-12 KJV).
The symbolism and the significance of the Ascension signifying Jesus’ triumphal return to heaven as the Lord of glory should be an encouragement and an inspiration to all Christians. As the Apostles Creed states so eloquently, “On the third day He arose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven, and is seated on the right hand of God the Father almighty; from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.”
And then, ten days later, as Jesus had promised, He sent the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, who came in a new and mighty way upon believers, empowering them in unprecedented ways to preach the Gospel of Jesus crucified, resurrected, and ascended to the right hand of God the Father (Act. 2:1-41). The celebration of Pentecost also reminds Christians of the origin and linkage of their faith to biblical Judaism because the Feast of Passover celebrates the liberation of the Jews from their enslavement in Egypt, an observance of which occasioned Jesus’ inauguration of the Lord’s Supper. Just so, Pentecost, or the Feast of Weeks (sharuot) celebrates God’s revelation of the Ten Commandments to the Israelites on Mt. Sinai forty-nine days after the Exodus from Egypt. Passover and Pentecost are two of the three “pilgrimage festivals” of ancient Judaism when the residents of Judah were expected to make the pilgrimage to the temple in Jerusalem.
For Christians, of course, the paramount significance of Pentecost is that fifty days after Easter, as Jesus had promised, the Holy Spirit descended on the Lord’s disciples and inaugurated a new era in Christendom, the “Age of the Spirit.” From this point onward, the Holy Spirit permanently indwells each believer, empowering them in unprecedented ways to serve our Savior and His purposes.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Dr. Richard D. Land