What does Pentecost mean to a teenager attending God’s Church? What lessons can resonate with a youth whose parents have been called out of the world, baptized and who are actively involved in God’s master plan of salvation?
Think about it.
Some of the other holy days obviously contain an element of participation for everyone who attends God’s Church—not just the baptized adults. No matter what our ages, everyone eats unleavened bread for seven days; we all travel to special locations to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles for eight days; even teenagers and younger will participate in the meaningful 24-hour fast commanded on the Day of Atonement.
But Pentecost? How can this holy day resonate with a young person? After all, it’s about God calling people out of this present evil world, giving them His Holy Spirit (after baptism), and preparing them to marry His Son Jesus Christ. Many members in God’s Church—possibly your parents—were “called out” of this world: They lived in the world cut off from God until God opened their minds and brought them into His Church. But the majority of our youth, raised in God’s Church, had no similar experience. Our youth have not yet been baptized or received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
And what youth can relate to marriage—particularly the idea of being married to Jesus Christ? The youth in God’s Church have no direct personal experience with marriage themselves—except for what they observe in their parents or others. Even the quintessential Bible story that ties in with Pentecost—that of Ruth and Boaz—doesn’t superficially appear to connect with the unbaptized teens; it’s about a poor widow who finds a husband many years older than she is.
Even when Pentecost was celebrated by ancient Israel—a nation populated by millions who did not have God’s Holy Spirit—they, at the very least, could understand that this festival was tied to a small, physical, 50-day spring harvest. Today, however, the lives of young people in God’s Church are not connected to any harvest from the ground. We get our food from stores and restaurants; a young person could go through life never really conscious of any harvest season.
Of course, God intended all of His holy days to resonate with young and old alike—no matter what the level of conversion. Pentecost is no different. Every element of this holy day relates to our youth in some respect.
In addition to understanding that this world is cut off from God, and that God is only selecting a few now in the first phase of His plan of salvation—that this is not the only day of salvation—our youth also understand that their relation to converted parents gives them special access to God that no youth in the world has. They can understand how their parents, and they themselves, fit into this category of firstfruits as typified by a spring harvest—even if not understanding a harvest from personal experience. We discussed this in an article to our youth last Pentecost season (“What the Modern Teen Needs to Know About ‘Firstfruits’”). Youth can also understand how God gave the Holy Spirit to the baptized members of His Church on the day of Pentecost back in a.d. 31—and they can, to some degree, know what the Holy Spirit does for us and why we need it dwelling in us. They can also, by observing the physical marriages around them, understand the marriage of Christ and the Church to a degree.
But that is just head knowledge. What can teens and young people do to actively participate in the meaning of Pentecost? The answer is ever so inspiring!
Called for What?
If someone calls you on the phone, one of the first things you wonder (and probably ask, in a polite way) is why that person is calling. In this case, it is as though God Himself picked up the phone and dialed one or both of your parents, or your grandparents (or maybe a great-grandparent). Sure, that puts you in a special category, but you also need to understand why God called them in the first place.
If you understand God’s holy day plan, you know that God is planning to call everyone who has ever lived. The Last Great Day teaches us that. So, ask yourself, why are some called now? The answer is critical to your part in Pentecost.
Since God cut off His Holy Spirit (His power and very nature) from mankind until the end of approximately 6,000 years, consider why He would then give it to a select few now. In the Garden of Eden, the cutting off of the Spirit was depicted by a flaming sword keeping the way to the tree of life. But with your parents or grandparents, it’s like the flaming sword was lifted, allowing them—and their children—to access the tree of life.
So why these “exceptions”? Why this calling? It’s not merely so they will be the first to obtain salvation in God’s Kingdom. This is thoroughly explained in Herbert W. Armstrong’s seminal work, Mystery of the Ages. God did not give access to His Holy Spirit to those called now “merely for the purpose of giving them salvation,” as Mr. Armstrong wrote. In short, it was because they were called to do a Work.
That “work” has two components. One of those components has to do with the work that lies ahead—people being called out now to help when God calls the rest of humanity in the future: “In order for Christ to restore God’s government over the Earth, he would need with and under him a qualified and organized personnel of God Beings …. God’s Church was designed in His supreme master plan to prepare that dedicated and organized personnel of God Beings … that we may prepare the way for the ultimate call and salvation of the world!”
The way they qualify for that future has to do with the other component of the Work they are called to do: the Work to be done now. Mr. Armstrong explained this in a February, 1974 member letter: “God has set before us His way of preparing us—by growing in spiritual character, in grace and the knowledge of Christ, ready for our part in the Kingdom, reigning under Christ! And that way is our part in fulfilling the special end-time Work …. And this great Work of God is the way God has set before us for each to grow and develop spiritually. … In 40 years I have observed that only those whose hearts are in this great Work are themselves growing spiritually.”
Not only is this current Work of God the way that converted Christians prepare to help serve in God’s Family in the future, it is the main reason they were called first—now—despite the flaming sword currently barring everyone else from God’s truth.
Helping God’s Work
That’s the reason your parents or grandparents were given access to God now—so they could support His Work (namely, supporting God’s message as it goes out to the world). They actively participate in the meaning of Pentecost by throwing themselves into this Work—lending their support through prayer, through their tithes and offerings, through offering encouragement, sometimes in actually offering hands-on assistance, and in being a godly example (a light) to the world. This is how they fulfill their purpose of being called today.
Much of this applies to you as well! You can actively participate in the meaning of Pentecost by putting your heart—your interest, energy and passion—in this great Work.
Consider first the aspects of the Work aimed at the youth. The Work of the end-time Elijah actually had to do with strengthening the bond between adults and youth (Malachi 4:5-6). The Philadelphia Church of God follows this pattern in the myriad of projects it has devoted to young people: Philadelphia Youth Camp, Imperial Academy, Herbert W. Armstrong College, publishing projects aimed at youth (Bible Story volumes, True Education magazine and the new IA Bible lessons for youth), certain activities in the local congregation designed for youth, and activities at various Feast sites designed for youth.
You can serve at pyc, you can make a difference in others’ lives because of your involvement with Imperial Academy, and you can follow with great anticipation the progress of Armstrong College and its many endeavors—whether by listening to a basketball game via kpcg.fm or following the construction of the new performing arts conservatory. You not only can participate in the local and Feast activities designed for youth, but you can also serve in the local congregation or at Feast sites in a number of ways. Even beyond these youth-specific activities, however, there are many areas of the Work that a young person can actively follow and be excited about.
Every summer at pyc, we take campers on a tour of the Edmond headquarters facilities to show them the many facets of God’s Work. Some are excited about the programs that relate more specifically to youth—like the college or TE—but we also see many of them light up when they sit in the broadcasting facilities, when they walk through the Mail Processing Center, or when they hear about the famous artists who perform in Armstrong Auditorium.
Additionally, every dorm has one period out of the three weeks devoted to “campus improvement”—following the landscaping crew and helping to beautify these award-nominated grounds. In both the tours (what we call the “Work Party”) and the campus improvement period, young people get a feel for these operations firsthand—and even participate in a literal “hands-on” way!
Now consider, even for programs of the Work that aren’t aimed at young people, many of the staff involved are young. You can look to these employees—many of whom are second- and third-generation Christians—as role models. Did one of them take a career path that you might want to take? Follow that department with keen interest! Get wrapped up in what’s going on with that aspect of this Work!
The components of God’s Work are so varied and the skill sets they require are so broad that there really is something in this Work for everyone to get excited about. Technology has made it possible to keep tabs on all these activities in nearly real time. With your parents’ supervision, you can follow the growth and progress of the Work in several different ways.
God Is Literally Counting on Us
Having your heart—your passion and excitement—in this Work certainly makes Pentecost much more meaningful for you. But it can also make a difference for this Work. Have you ever considered that you—now—could have a positive, significant impact on the Work of God? That’s what Pentecost teaches us.
Consider that this is the only holy day that’s not on a fixed date every year. God has us count 50 days from the first day of the spring harvest (the Sunday in the middle of the Days of Unleavened Bread). The 50th day (the day after the seventh Sabbath of the spring harvest) is always the same day of the week, but the date will fluctuate. This holy day is tied to the duration of time between the events pictured by the first day of the spring harvest (the day that the resurrected Christ was accepted before the Father—see Leviticus 23:11 and John 20:17) and the last day of the spring harvest (the day the Church is accepted before God as the firstfruits of His plan of salvation—see Leviticus 23:16-17).
Pentecost (literally “count 50”) is largely about the duration—the age of firstfruits, the time period when the great Work of God’s Church is accomplished. In English, we have the expression that someone can “count on you” to get something done. Well, in a sense, God is “counting” on His Church—He’s seeing how we make use of this duration.
There’s a verse in 2 Peter 3 that indicates that those in God’s Church can actually hasten the end of this age (verse 12). Those in God’s Church do make a difference—and our young people are no exception. Look at how they contribute to this Work!
Just because you aren’t a baptized member does not mean that you don’t contribute to the meaning of this holy day—the purpose of this great Work.
Young people have actively contributed to the efforts of God’s Work for millennia. Noah’s three sons who were saved from the Flood were born around the time the ark’s construction began (see Genesis 5:32 and Genesis 7:6), and their youth would have been consumed in the family business of building this epic floating home. God wanted a barely teenaged Samuel to deliver a dark prophecy to his high priest (see 1 Samuel 3:15). A teenaged David changed the whole course of military momentum in Israel by taking on one Philistine giant (1 Samuel 17:51-55). God gave the young Jeremiah some extremely weighty commissions, and He rejected Jeremiah’s excuses that revolved around him being only a child (Jeremiah 1:5-9).
These are just a handful. And, as stated earlier, examples are all around you today in this present Work!
Not only can you actively participate in the meaning of Pentecost by centering your passion and excitement around the activities of God’s Work, you can even—as a youth—make a difference in this great Work. Keep track of and follow as many aspects of this Work as you can using the literature and technology available today.
If you know people employed at headquarters, stay in touch with them. Find out what their days are like. (There was one teen who occasionally would even ask me what we had for lunch at headquarters; that person is an adult now who works at headquarters.) Get excited about all of the progress. When possible, participate in as many aspects as you can—through the Sabbath’s service opportunities or local fundraisers, or through occasional opportunities to visit headquarters.
Pentecost teaches that your parents, grandparents or guardians have God’s truth today—in a world cut off from God—for the main purpose of supporting this great Work. As youth who have the same access to the same God and the same truth, you can also throw your heart in this global effort and help fulfill the meaning of this great holy day!