18.01.04 Mk. 16:5-7 (See also Mt. 28:5-7)
5 When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; they were amazed and alarmed.
6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he told them. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has been resurrected! He is not here! See the place where they put Him. 7 But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; you will see Him there just as He told you.’”
“A young man dressed in a long white robe.” Angels sang praises to God when Jesus was born and now another angel announced His resurrection. Then the heavenly messenger gave instructions to the women to tell the good news to the disciples. It is interesting that our Lord chose women to be the ones to have this honor. There was an escalation of dynamics – a display of supernatural power during His life. As if His miraculous birth was not enough to stun everyone, when He came of age for the ministry He captured everyone’s attention.
- Jesus impressed everyone with His insightful teaching. His kind words of love impressed thousands who lived in the constant tension of political and economic strife.
- Then He began to perform miracles. First, at Cana where He turned water into wine, and later He healed people everywhere as He continued to teach the principles of the Kingdom of God.
- From “ordinary” miracles He moved on to perform the three messianic miracles – those miracles that for centuries the rabbis said that only the messiah would be able to perform, whenever He comes.
- As if raising someone from death to life wasn’t profound enough, Jesus raised Lazarus to life on the fourth day of death – the day when everyone believed that his soul had already departed. They believed that this was a miracle that only God could perform.
- No one could believe that a person who could do all these things, would so quietly permit others to mock, accuse, and then crucify him. Yet this was precisely what Jesus did. Thousands were stunned; not only at His death, but also at the earthquake and darkness that transpired! Yet only a short time later on Sunday morning, Jesus would walk out of the tomb – the greatest miracle of all! The world would never be the same again.
Scholars universally agree that within two to five years of His ascension, the four-line formula found in 1 Corinthians 15:3b-5 was popular in the early church. Years later the Apostle Paul included it in his letter to the Corinthian church.
3a For I passed on to you as most important what I also received:
3b That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
4 that He was buried,
that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
5 And that He appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve.
1 Corinthians 15:3-5
18.01.04.Q1 How does the name “Easter” relate to the resurrection of Jesus?
It doesn’t. Courtesy of Emperor Constantine, the resurrection day of Jesus was renamed “Easter” in honor of the goddess Ishtar of Babylon. Yet this name is one that the Church continues to use without a thought given as to how it might insult the holy name of Jesus. The Church needs to return to its pre-Constantine days and honor our Lord by praising Him for His Resurrection Day and call it that. Does anyone seriously think that, when Christ returns and reigns during the millennium, He and His Church will celebrate “Easter?” Would it not be better to call it “Resurrection Day.”
18.01.04.Q2 When did the Church Age begin?
Before addressing this question, these thoughts are presented:
- The sacrificial death of Jesus on Passover (Good Friday), was the culmination of the Old Testament and, therefore, is the beginning of the Church Age.
- Resurrection Morning was the evidence that the Church Age had begun, a New Covenant was now in effect.
- The Day of Pentecost was the empowerment of the true believers for the life and calling that is upon them.
Now for some additional details: The answer is somewhat theological, but ever since the days of the apostles there has been anticipation as to when the Church Age will close by the return of Jesus. It appears that seldom has anyone seriously considered the beginning of this Age; the accepted traditional beginning seems never to have been seriously questioned. Therefore, some basic facts will be examined that may lead the reader to reconsider the Day of Pentecost as the first day of this period. Let’s look at some basic facts regarding the beginning of the Church Age.
- It has been commonly said that the Church Age began on the Day of Pentecost in the crucifixion year thought to be either 30 or 33.
- The modern calendar is linked to the birth of Jesus, not to Pentecost. However, the birth of Jesus was inaccurately calculated. It is well known that Herod the Great died in 4 B.C. To be true to the calendar would mean Jesus was born between the years 7 and 5 B.C. This is probably the most accurate conclusion.
- Some say He will return at the end of the two-thousand year period, which began at the time of Christ’s death and resurrection. Considering an adjusted calendar, that would place it anywhere between the years 2029 and 2030, depending on the crucifixion date. The beginning of the Christian era, known as the “Church Age,” or “New Covenant Period,” is generally believed to have begun on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1). A majority of scholars from varied theological positions, Pentecostal, evangelical, or liberal, argue that this is the beginning day of a new dispensational period. This author does not hold to that view, but rather, that the New Covenant Period was birthed the moment Jesus walked out of the tomb. Anything else equates the sacrifice of Jesus equal with the sacrifice of lambs, oxen, etc., of the Old Testament Period.
The essence of the New Covenant was predicted when the prophet Jeremiah spoke of a time when God would make a New Covenant (31:31-34). Also, the writer of Hebrews stated (10:15-17) that the death and resurrection of Jesus is that New Covenant. The essence of the gospel has always been that one must confess Jesus as Lord and Savior, confess their sins, and believe that Jesus was raised from death to life (Rom. 10:9). The work of salvation was completed when Jesus walked out of the tomb. The moment Jesus died, all heaven understood the significance of His death, but humanity would not understand it until He arose. Fifty days later the Holy Spirit came to the believers to teach them the truths of the gospel of Jesus (Jn. 14:25-26), not to complete it or to enhance it. Nowhere did Paul state that one had to receive the Holy Spirit or speak in other tongues to be saved. Romans 10:9 is the central thrust of the apostolic teaching in Acts 2:31-32; 3:15; 4:10; and 10:40. The apostles believed that Jesus not only lived in eternity past, but that He also was still alive and will continue to live through eternity future – as will His believers. These are key points on which the foundation is built to argue that the Resurrection Day was the beginning of the New Covenant Period.
If salvation was available from the moment Jesus walked out of the tomb, then what is the significance of Pentecost? It was the beginning of a new relationship between the Holy Spirit and humanity. Just as Jesus received the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove after His baptism to enable Him in His ministry, so the church received that same Holy Spirit to be empowered to ministry, as per Acts 1:8. That Spirit came first upon His inner circle of disciples in Jn. 20:22. By this time Matthias had been selected to replace Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:23-26), indicating that the 120 had indeed functioned as a corporate body to continue the work of Jesus before the Pentecost experience of Acts 2. This shows that some type of religious governmental structure was already in place. Thereafter, the Holy Spirit continued to fall upon others, as well. Pentecost was an empowerment and confirmation of what God was doing among His believers. The church had been coming to birth in the previous years during the ministry of Jesus.
The Greek phrase anothen means born again  or born from above as the new birth is described in terms of its origin, God (Jn. 3:6) and of the water and the Spirit (Jn. 3:5). In Ephesians 3:17-19 and 4:17-24 is the doctrine that new life or regeneration is found in Christ whereas darkened understanding and ignorance of the natural man leads to the corruption of deceitful desires and eventually death (Rom. 3:9-20). This concept was not so far from Jewish thinking – when a person came out of the waters of the mikvah, which was considered to be “the womb of the world” (as an unborn child is in the waters of his mother’s womb), he was considered born again and rendered a new creation.
The church is seen as the beginning of a new creation; a new humanity as the result of the work of Christ. Jesus died for the sake of all who became subject to Adam’s sin, and thus, have been condemned to die (Rom. 5:6-11). Because of His resurrection and life-giving Spirit, humanity now has the opportunity to receive eternal life and freedom from the curse of sin (1 Cor.15:20, 45). Clearly, the hope of life given to mankind exists because Jesus walked out of the grave. Some theologians will correctly go to great lengths and proclaim the work of Jesus, yet at the same time proclaim the church “did not begin until Pentecost (Acts 2).”
A minority of scholars consider the Church Age as beginning on the evening of His resurrection, when Jesus appeared to some of His disciples and breathed upon them (Jn. 20:22). However, if Romans 10:9 is the “born again” test for the New Covenant, then John 20:22 could not be the beginning of this new era, any more than is the Day of Pentecost.
Other scholars state the event of John 20:22 was only a “down payment” or “deposit” for the event that occurred about fifty days later. However, there is no suggestion of this in the Greek text. Clearly, the disciples received the Holy Spirit (Jn. 20:22) in a significant manner and did so again on the Day of Pentecost.
John connected the life of Creation with the renewed life of mankind (Jn. 1:1). This was the first of many events in which the Holy Spirit moved in a manner to fulfill the prophecies of Joel and Jesus. The breathing of the Spirit in John 20:22 is related to the breathing in the prolog in which John referred to breathing life into man in the Creation narrative (Gen 2:7). There was a new birth on the day of creation and there was a new birth (in the New Testament sense of the word) the day Jesus arose from the grave. By their faith in the risen Lord they became born again; by divine breathing they became the empowered church.
The resurrection was the day of the birth of the church, but Pentecost was the day of Holy Spirit baptism and confirmation of the church and New Covenant era. For the purpose of this discussion, it is limited to the application of Romans 10:9 to one’s life as the covenant to be drawn close to God.
There is an interesting cultural-religious implication for the Jews. Passover was marked by the barley harvest and the Festival of Weeks ended with the wheat harvest at the Feast of Weeks and the beginning of the offering of first fruits. To the first believers who were Jewish, the significance of the second feast, known as Pentecost, is that on that date the law was written on tablets of stone and was an incomplete and partial revelation of God. However, on Pentecost the Holy Spirit came to write the perfect law of liberty on men’s hearts, which is the law of the Spirit of Life. The significance of the imagery is found in Romans 8:53, where Paul referred to the Pentecostal gift as the “First Fruits of the Spirit.” To fully understand the full significance of this passage, one must note that Paul’s reference to the “first fruits of the Spirit” (Rom. 8:23) contains a direct reference to the Jewish festival of Pentecost – the festival of the “first fruits” of the summer harvest.
During the times of the Old Covenant the Holy Spirit came upon a chosen few prophets as a transitory visitation. That has changed. In the New Testament the Spirit comes upon all believers. Formerly the Spirit stayed for a season and then departed, but in the New Covenant Period the Spirit remains in the believer to transform him into the image of God. The promise of Jesus is a permanent, inward, and abiding Spirit.
It has been suggested that the New Covenant began at the Last Supper. The wording would certainly suggest this. However, this was only anticipatory, as it could not have had any effect upon anyone unless Jesus died and arose from the grave. Jesus said “This is my blood of the covenant which is poured out” (Jn. 26:28). Obviously His blood was not poured out then, but it would be when He died on the cross.
There are several arguments for the Resurrection Day vs. Pentecost as being the beginning of the New Covenant Period / Church Age / New Testament Period. The disciples were born again one by one as they witnessed the incredible event of the resurrection. Most certainly Mary Magdalene was “born again” the moment she realized the gardener she was talking to was Jesus, even though she may never have learned that He was also the Gardener of Eden. Peter and John most certainly believed when they came to the empty tomb (Jn. 20:3) and discovered Jesus was not in it. However, if there was any doubt, it was clearly removed that same evening when all gathered in the Upper Room and Jesus appeared before them. If the New Covenant Period or Church Age really did begin on the Day of Pentecost, there are some difficult questions that need to be addressed.
- Since Pentecost is fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus, does this interpretation not place His entire ministry, death, and resurrection into the Old Covenant Period? If the Old Covenant was still in effect until Pentecost, then the blood of Jesus was equal to the blood of bulls, lambs, and goats of the Old Covenant sacrificial system. Is Jesus not the defining personality of the New Covenant? Then how could Jesus possibly have come to fulfill the Old Covenant promises and remain totally within that era? His resurrection of life is the resurrection into the New Covenant/New Testament Period/Church Age.
- If the Old Covenant ended with the death and resurrection of Jesus, then, under what covenant did the people of God live during those fifty days until the Day of Pentecost? It should be noted that there is no way to God without a covenant. There was no “transitional covenant” between the Old and New Testament Periods and, therefore, there was no transitional period.
- If Pentecost was the date the church was to be birthed, then Luke, John, and Paul are strangely silent on the subject, while focusing their attention only on the Holy Spirit. No mention is made until Acts 5:11, where the “church” appears as an existing institution in connection with the story of the dishonesty and death of Ananias and of Sapphira. Thereafter, the church is not mentioned until the martyrdom of Stephen (Acts 8:1) and the persecution of the church that followed.
- If Romans 10:9 would be ignored so that Pentecost could be considered the beginning of the New Covenant, then all that would be needed to receive salvation would be the Baptism of the Holy Spirit with evidence of speaking in tongues. The point is that the resurrection is the essence of the New Covenant and without the work of the Holy Spirit, there is no renewal or regeneration. Many early theologians, such as St. Athanasius (296-298) and St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430), argued that the center of the Christian faith was His death and resurrection and the justification of humanity by the blood of Christ.
- If the ten disciples (Thomas and Judas were excluded, of course) were born again on the day of resurrection, when Jesus breathed the Holy spirit upon them (Jn. 20:22) and if the Day of Pentecost was the beginning of the Church Age, then were they born again on Pentecost? Or were they simply born again on the Day of Resurrection and filled with the Holy Spirit on Pentecost? Furthermore, if the position is held that this was a one-time event, unique to the disciples, then the question must be asked as to what the biblical basis is for this and what other biblical blessings have been so limited.
- After the ascension there was a meeting during which the saints prayed to our Lord (1:14). Could they have prayed to God without a covenant? Hardly! Again, one can only come to God if there is a covenant. Were these praying saints Jews or Christians, or were they disciples waiting for the promise of the Comforter spoken of by Jesus?
- If it is assumed that the Old Covenant ceased to be effective on Good Friday, and the New Covenant did not begin until the Day of Pentecost, then there is a short time period between the Covenants when God had no Covenant with His people. That is hardly acceptable in any theological interpretation.
- Every evangelist who has ever given an invitation to a sinner to accept Jesus as his Lord and Savior, has done so because Jesus died and arose from the grave, not because the Holy Spirit fell on the Day of Pentecost. Jesus is the essence of the New Covenant, not the Holy Spirit.
The real significance of Pentecost is that the disciples were empowered by the Holy Spirit for the task of evangelizing the world, as instructed in Acts 1:8. As if seeing Jesus alive was not already exhilarating, now they were ready to conquer the world with transformed bold conviction. The indwelling Holy Spirit was the new essence of Jesus embodied in every believer. Furthermore, the promise of Joel 2:28-29 was not limited to Pentecost, as it was given to ten disciples previously in John 20:22 and later to many others. Pentecost was a defining moment; however, the once cowardly Peter was now preaching with boldness before the Spirit fell on that day. This is a tribute to the “breath” of God he received (Jn 20:22) on the first coming of the Spirit on the evening of Resurrection Day. The disciples had an experience parallel to that of the baptism of Jesus. Clearly, the intent of Jesus was to bring Himself into the lives of His believers prior to them going to fulfill the Great Commission.
Therefore, the New Covenant Period sets forth a new relationship with God that is possible only because Jesus sacrificed Himself and rose from the grave. The Holy Spirit functions as the purifying agent that also empowers and comforts the believer in his quest to be conformed into the image of God, as Adam was before the fall.
Why is the Day of Pentecost not the first day of the New Covenant? The primary reason is that nowhere is there an indication that the work of the Holy Spirit would be the New Covenant. Regeneration is possible because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which is followed by the work of the Holy Spirit to empower the saints. In chronological history, the work of Jesus came first and, hence, the date of the Church Age needs to be adjusted to its proper setting, the morning of Resurrection day.
The dispensation of the Spirit could not begin until the work of Jesus, as Redeemer, was finished. There could not have been a Pentecost until there was a Calvary. Only after Jesus was exalted in heaven did the Spirit celebrate the coronation. Only after the Rock (Jesus) was smitten could the rivers of water (Holy Spirit) flow. The extent to which the Holy Spirit flows is dependent to a large extent on how much the Church desires the living water of God and believes in the glorified Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “If any man thirst” (Jn. 7:37), and Jesus continued to speak of the Holy Spirit. Nothing could stop Resurrection Day and nothing could stop Pentecost that would be the living water of Jesus.
Just as a sinner’s reaction to Jesus is a test of his faith in God, so a saint’s reaction to the control of the Spirit is a test of his love and devotion to Jesus. The New Covenant / Church Age / New Testament Period began when Jesus walked out of the tomb. The promised Holy Spirit appeared afterwards, most significantly on the Day of Pentecost, to empower and energize the believers to do the work of the Great Commission and build the Kingdom of God.
. One of the incredible features of the Bible, that elevates it far above other books deemed to be holy, is the number of prophecies that have been literally fulfilled and so verified by extra-biblical sources.
. See 04.03.10.Q2, “When was Jesus born (Lk. 2:1-7).”
. The term appears 33 times in the New Testament, half of them in the book of Hebrews. The noun is translated as “covenant” twenty times and “Testament” thirteen times. Payne, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible. 1:995.
. Rylaarsdam, “Pentecost.” 4:727.
. Dunn, Baptism in the Holy Spirit. 51; Dusing, “The New Testament Church.” 528.
. 1 Cor. 15:3-4, 17, 20-34; Heb. 7:27.
. Fowler, The History and Literature of the New Testament. 50-51; Kostlin, “The Christian Church.” 3:78.
. Clemens, “Pentecost.” 2:160-64.
. See also Jn. 3:31; 19:11, 23.
. Jn. 1:13; 1 Jn. 2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:18.
. Lang, Know the Words of Jesus. 203-04.
. Bromiley, “Regeneration.” 4:69.
. Moseley, Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Jesus and the Original Church. 127.
. Minear, “Church, Idea of.” 1:615.
. The opinion of Lewis, “Feasts.” 860. Also, C.L. Feinberg mentions near universal agreement of theologians on this matter. “Pentecost.” 4:694.
. Ervin, Conversion Initiation and the Baptism. 133-37.
. Kay, Pentecost: Its Significance in the Life of the Church. 31.
. Scott, C. “What Happened at Pentecost?” 129.
. Ex. 34:22; Num. 28:17; Deut. 16:10; 2 Ch.. 8:13; Feinberg, “Pentecost.” 4:692.
. Scott, E. The Spirit in the New Testament. 96.
. Kay, Pentecost: Its Significance in the Life of the Church. 28.
. Kay, Pentecost: Its Significance in the Life of the Church. 63-64.
. Mendenhall, “Covenant.” 1:722.
. Kay, Pentecost: Its Significance in the Life of the Church. 31.
. Charry, By the Renewing of Your Minds. 93, 143; See Appendix 20.
. Andrews, “The Acts of the Apostles.” 46.
. Foakes-Jackson, “The Acts of the Apostles.” 9.
. Decker, The First Christian Pentecost. 62.
. Erickson, Christian Theology. 943.
. For further study, see John F. Walvoord. Matthew: Thy Kingdom Come. Chicago: Moody, 1974.