40 days is an important time in Biblical thinking. Many people are familiar with the 40 days before Easter, known as the period of Lent. However, I think people are generally less familiar with the 40th day after Easter, which is when Jesus went up into heaven.
At this point he told his disciples to stay around in Jerusalem. 10 more days and it was 50 days after Easter, known as The Day of Pentecost. It was a festival the Jews already celebrated, but this is what the The Bible records happened then:
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 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 2:1–4
Heard of the Pentecostal Church? Recognise some of their teachings in that paragraph? Yep. That’s where they come from.
Like many other Church denominations, there are many different sub-varieties. Yet, the above passage gives some clear ideas that teaching about the Holy Spirit is paramount, as is speaking in tongues.
These ideas are very much debatable – even what you mean when you say ‘speaking in tongues’ can differ from person to person – yet they are some ideas about salvation and a second blessing that were held at the start of Pentecostalism.
It began in Kansas in 1901, when two people at the same Church both spoke in tongues within days of each other, one of them being a minister and evangelist. He then opened a Pentecostal school and convinced a guy called William J Seymour of certain teachings surrounding the Holy Spirit: namely, that you first were saved from your sins. Then you underwent a period of growth after which you received a second blessing of the Holy Spirit. This so called ‘second blessing’ allowed you to do things such as speak in tongues or perform miraculous healings. Seymour was pretty adamant that if you couldn’t speak in tongues, you didn’t have the Holy Spirit.
Seymour’s teaching really took hold when he went to California. Seymour told people that they needed to turn away from their sins or else God would judge them. A week later, San Fran had a massive earthquake – and the Pentecostal movement took off!
Nowadays, as I said, there are many different ideas held within Pentecostal Churches and other things such as music, are also prominent. However, the big focus on the Holy Spirit is where Pentecostals would differ with a number of other denominations.
The belief that if you can’t speak in tongues, you don’t actually have the Holy Spirit, is obviously controversial. The Bible teaches that Christians have the Holy Spirit, so Pentecostalism is basically saying that if you can’t speak in tongues, you aren’t the real deal.
Other denominations would say that this ‘spiritual gift’ (of speaking in tongues) is just one of many and not necessary for someone to be a believer. They might also say that the whole concept of a ‘second blessing of the Holy Spirit’ has no Biblical support whatsoever.
Some Pentecostal Churches also have certain ideas about the end times to do with a rapture and millennialism… and other ideas… that will require another blog post to discuss…
…I should call it ‘The second blessing’…but that might be overrating it…
Yours in the Spirit,
The writing of this post was assisted by Ron Rhodes’ “The Complete Guide to Christian Denominations”.