Named after the Jewish festival of the Pentecost feast, the term ‘Pentecostal’ signifies the number ’50’. The Pentecostal Church came to a strong rise in the early 1900s and had various impacts on the Christian Church due to its uniqueness and familiarity. Pentecostal faith is concerned with the worship of the Holy Spirit and establishing a direct connection with god through it. Pentecostal is a Christian denomination, meaning it keeps up with the Christian traditions, but the way of worshipping God is different from that of mainline churches.
1. What is it All About?
Pentecostalism mainly emphasizes a direct, personal experience with God through baptism with the Holy Spirit.
The Pentecostal church adheres to the inerrancy of the Bible, meaning it believes that the Bible “is without any error or fault in teaching.” The only distinction between the Pentecostal Church and Evangelical Protestant Church is the belief in Baptism of the Holy Spirit, which allows the follower to lead a life full of spiritual and Divine healing.
As described in the Gospel, the Pentecostal Church also follows the doctrine of the “Fourfold Gospel.”
1.2 Evangelical Christianity
Evangelical Christianity was a movement spread after the rise of Protestantism, which is associated with firm faith in the Bible and Jesus Christ as a Savior.
The word ‘Evangelical’ is derived from the Greek word ‘Euangelion,’ meaning ‘good news or the ‘gospel.’ The main belief of the movement was the doctrine that Jesus was crucified to atone for the sins of mankind.
Evangelicalism originated in the 1600s in Germany. By the early eighteenth century, it had spread throughout England and the United States. Pentecostalism is considered to be a part of Evangelicalism.
1.2 The Fourfold Gospel Doctrine
The Fourfold Gospel of Full Gospel is a doctrine adopted by various Evangelical denominations, which summarizes the Gospel with four concepts: Salvation (deliverance of the soul from sin and its consequences), Sanctification (state of being holy), Divine Healing (divine intervention in physical and spiritual healing) and the rebirth of Christ (a Christian belief associated with the return of Christ).
These four concepts, thus, serve as the core concepts in the Pentecostal Church. Pentecostalism, in this sense, is directly associated with the ministry of Christ, believing in Christ as Savior, Sanctifier, Healer, and King who will return soon.
2. Major Pentecostal Beliefs
The movement today can be observed in the form of various independent churches, approximately 600 million followers across the globe, and about 700 Pentecostal denominations today.
Most Pentecostals believe in the following concepts:
The primary belief of the Pentecostal Church is the salvation of sins through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. The belief is termed the ‘Gospel‘ or ‘Good’ news. The Pentecostal Church believes that once an individual is born again, they are accepted in the family of God. After the rebirth, the job of the holy spirit, known as ‘sanctification’, commences.
2.2 Baptism With the Holy Spirit
Baptism with the Holy Spirit or the Holy Ghost is a theological concept wherein a believer undergoes an ‘immersion of the Spirit and is one of the prime beliefs of most Pentecostals, with the aim to live a Spirit-filled life.
According to this concept, when Pentecostal believers accept Jesus and the Lord in their hearts, the Holy Spirit indwells that person. After the Baptism, the person is able to experience the gifts of the Holy Spirit based upon the Holy Spirit’s will. In Pentecostalism, it is considered to be a different experience, which is beyond conversion and Baptism with water.
2.3 Divine Healing
As mentioned earlier, the Pentecostal church is in the Fourfold Gospel, one of which is Christ as a Healer. In the Bible as well, there are four reasons why God heals, known as the Biblical reasons for Divine Healing.
Divine healing is included in the belief of the Pentecostal church due to the following four reasons, as described in the Bible:
- God heals because God has Compassion.
- God heals for his glory.
- God heals in response to faith.
- God heals in response to his own Promise.
For the Pentecostal Church, divine healing is a testament to the future return of Christ, which can be obtained by praying to God with utter devotion.
Eschatology refers to the belief concerning death, the end of the world, and the future of mankind and is concerned with the biblical concept of the Second Coming, or the rebirth and return of Christ. It is believed that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross secured the possibility of eternal life for humankind.
It is the branch of Christian Theology that deals with ‘The end’ or ‘The last things’. It can be concerned with the end of an individual, the end of an age, the end of the world, and the nature of the kingdom of God.
It focuses on the ultimate end of the individual souls. Concepts such as life, death, heaven, hell, afterlife, return of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, tribulation (time of the end as mentioned by Jesus), millennialism (a belief according to which a Paradise will occur on the earth prior to the final judgment), the end of the world, the final judgment, the New Heaven, the New Earth in the world to come (the kingdom of God).
2.5 Supernatural Gifts
The Pentecostal Church believes that after the baptism with the holy spirit, the supernatural gifts of the holy spirit are acquired, and the fruits are received after rebirth and continued allegiance to Christ.
A spiritual gift can be explained as a power granted by the holy spirit. These abilities can be the word of knowledge or tongues speaking, increased faith, the gift of healing, the gift of prophecy and miracles, speaking in tongues, and interpretation of tongues.
The gifts are intended to build up the church and are described in the new testament.
2.6 Oneness and Trinitarianism
The Pentecostal Church holds a strong belief in the holy trinity as a representation of one God. According to the holy trinity, an orthodox Christian doctrine, there is a representation of God as three divine persons in one: God the Father (the creator and sustainer of everything), God the Son (incarnation of God as a human being, Jesus Christ) and God the Holy Spirit (the power of God which is active in people and promotes faith). This belief is also known as the ‘Oneness Theology’ concerning God or ‘Trinitarianism.’
The Pentecostal churches, which are strong Trinitarians, believe that all these three forms of the Lord are found in Jesus Christ himself. Thus, they omit the use of the word ‘trinity’ with ‘oneness’.
2.7 God’s Kingdom
God’s kingdom or the Kingdom of Heaven is the spiritual realm where God is the ruler. The Kingdom of the Lord appears twice in the Hebrew Bible. First in 1 Chronicles 28:5 :
“And all my sons, for the Lord, have given me many, he has chosen my son Solomon to sit upon the throne of the Kingdom of the Lord over Israel.”
Next, it appears in 2 chronicles 13:8:
“And now you think you can withstand the Kingdom of the Lord in the hands of the sons of David because you are a great multitude and have with the golden calves that Jeroboam made as gods for you.
The Pentecostal Church believes in the role of Christ as the King of God’s Kingdom, where he is seated at the right hand of the Lord. As described in the Gospel of Luke:
“Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, ‘We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes the payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christ, a king. (Luke 23:1-2)
3. Pentecostal Church: History
3.1 The Pentecostal Movement
Classical Pentecostalism spread from the famous Protestant Charismatic Movement, which resulted in the formation of Protestant churches due to the corruption practiced by the early church. The term Pentecostalism is derived from the word ‘Pentecost,’ a feast that takes place on the 50th day after Easter Sunday. The term references the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the original twelve followers of Jesus, known as the Apostles, and his other followers in Jerusalem.
3.1.1 The Protestant Charismatic Movement
The Protestant Charismatic Movement was born out of the Reformation Movement: the rise of Protestant churches in the early 1500s, after the Renaissance movement. It mainly emphasized on the presence and worship of the Holy Spirit and establishing a direct connection with God.
3.1.2 The Feast of Pentecost or the Whitsun
The feast of Pentecost has been referenced in the Bible and is known by various names, such as Shavuot, Whitsun, Feast of Weeks, Feast of Harvest, and The Latter Firstfruits. It is celebrated 50 days after the Passover– Israel’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt. It is an agricultural festival, enjoying and thanking the Lord for the Summer wheat harvest in Israel.
The feast is also tied to the Ten Commandments. According to Jews, it is the precise time when the Lord gave guidance (known as Torah in Hebrew) to people through Moses on Mount Sinai.
It is believed that, as promised by Jesus himself, the holy spirit came down from heaven on the followers of Jesus.
“All the followers”, as the Bible says, “were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”
On the same day, these 3000 followers of Jesus Christ were baptized and added to the family of god.
3.2 Where Did it All Began?
The beginning of the Pentecostal Church is a conflicted topic. While some experts suggest that it started in the early 1900s, the older denominations of Pentecostal Church date back to 1886, in the form of The United Holy Church and The Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee).
Another Pentecostal church dates back to 1879, The Pentecostal Holiness Churches, which adopted Pentecostalism in 1908.
The original roots of Pentecostalism were laid down a week after Jesus ascended to Heaven. 120 believers waited for the promise of the descent of The Holy Spirit to be fulfilled. When the Holy Spirit came upon these believers, they were able to speak in different tongues, which marked the fulfillment of the promise made by Jesus.
3.2.1 The Azusa street revival
On the night of April 9, 1906, William Seymour, an African American preacher, was ‘waiting on God’ on Bonnie Brae Street “when suddenly, as though hit by a bolt of lightning, they were knocked from their chairs to the floor.” The seven other men then started speaking in tongues while praising God.
This event quickly turned into a mass gathering and resulted in the Baptism in the Holy Spirit of various people. There was a stir across the country; sick persons were healed, fell down, and even fainted; and everything was attributed to the presence of God and the Holy Spirit.
The movement took the form of 3 year-long revivals. The revivals were described by various people and were explained to be miracles in the forms of healing, ecstatic spiritual experiences, and speaking in various tongues. Such events continued to take place as later as 1915.
3.2.2 The apostolic faith gospel mission
The Apostolic Faith Gospel Mission, which later turned into Apostolic Faith Church, is a denomination of Christianity that came to birth after the gathering of The Azusa Street Revival. It was founded by Florence L. Crawford, who was affiliated with Seymour during the revival. It is a Trinitarian Fundamental Church, following all the doctrines particularly followed by a Pentecostal Church.
4. Speaking in Tongues: How is it Significant?
After the first descent of the Holy Spirit on the original 120 followers of Jesus Christ, it was believed that Jesus’ true followers and believers acquired the ability to speak in unknown languages, which is today referred to as Speaking in tongues.
According to the Pentecostal Church, speaking in tongues is considered as a physical evidence of the descent of the Holy Spirit. This gift, according to believers, is only given to those who are completely and utterly devoted to the Lord and Jesus. Others, who are unable to do so, are considered to be deficient and lacking power.
4.1 Where did the Idea Come From?
Various patterns made many Pentecostals believe that speaking in tongues was a sign of the Holy Spirit, as mentioned in the Bible:
The first description of speaking in tongues appears in Acts 2:1-4
“When the day of the Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force- no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, The Holy Spirit spread through their ranks and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the spirit prompted them.” (Acts 2:1-4 The Message(MSG))
The second description related to the blessings of the Holy Spirit, evidenced by speaking in tongues, comes to light in Acts 10:44-46:
“While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.” (Acts 10:44-46 NIV)
The third reference as found in the Bible, which relates to Speaking in tongues, can be found in Acts 19:4-7:
“Paul said, ‘John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance.’ He told the people to ‘believe in the one coming after him, that is, Jesus.’ On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. They were about twelve men in all.” (Acts 19:4-7 NIV)
Since these three episodes depict the believers speaking in tongues as the Holy Spirit came upon them, the Pentecostal Church started believing that speaking in tongues was a physical sign of baptism with the Holy Spirit.
If you want to know more about the Bible, you can read this article.
This gift of speaking in tongues today is described as one of the fundamental beliefs of the Pentecostal church.
5. Trinitarian Pentecostals: How Are They Different?
Also known as the “Oneness Pentecostalism” or the “Jesus only movement”, Trinitarian Pentecostalism, as the name suggests, is a denomination of Pentecostalism in which the Pentecostal Church believes in the ‘Oneness’ of the Lord in the form of the Holy Trinity.
The oneness pentecostalists believe in baptism in the name of Jesus Christ, as opposed to all three forms of the Lord. Believers follow the belief that Jesus is the one name for The father, The son, and The Holy Spirit. Therefore, all religious activities are performed in his name and are devoted to him.
The major doctrines of the Trinitarian Pentecostal Church are:
- Salvation by grace through faith.
- Repentance by true faith.
- Baptism by full submersion in water in the name of Jesus Christ.
- Holy Spirit Baptism with the evidence of speaking in tongues.
- An inerrant view of the Bible as the true message of the Lord.
6. The Largest Pentecostal Denominations
A denomination is a Christian religious body identified with various traits such as doctrines and organizations.
Following are the top 10 Pentecostal denominations:
6.1. The Assemblies of God (AG)
Officially known as the World Assemblies of God Fellowship, Assemblies of God is a group of national groupings of Pentecostal Churches. It is the largest denomination within Pentecostalism.
This assembly originated from the Azusa Street Revival in the early 20th century. As an assembly based on Pentecostal beliefs, it strongly believes in the Holy Spirit Baptism and the practice of speaking in tongues.
The assembly has about 70,000,000 members and approximately 368,703 churches.
6.2. The Apostolic Church
The Apostolic Church is a Christian denomination associated with the Pentecostal movement, which came into existence after the Welsh revival of the early 20th century.
The organization views scriptures as of extreme importance and the true facts and messages of the Lord. It believes in various doctrines, such as Baptism by Immersion and Baptism with the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, worship of one god, Jesus as the Messiah, and repentance.
The Apostolic Church has about 15,000,000 active members, under 5,000 churches.
6.3. Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG)
Founded in Lagos, Nigeria, in the later 20th century, RCCG believes in the Holy Trinity and the Bible. It believes in repentance, cleansing of sins by God’s grace, and the major Pentecostal doctrines, such as water baptism, holy spirit baptism, and healing powers of the Lord.
RCCG is known to have approximately 7,000,000 active members, with an average church attendance of 1,000,000.
6.4. Indonesian Bethel Church
Also known as Bethel Full Gospel Church of God, the Indonesian Bethel Church is a group of Pentecostal Churches in Indonesia, with its headquarters in Jakarta.
Being a Pentecostal Institution, the Indonesian Bethel Church strongly believes in the Inerrancy of the Bible, the Trinity of God, and the Dual nature of Christ. Practices of Divine Healing and the concept of Baptism with the Holy Spirit are also believed in.
The church is known to have around 3,000,000 active members.
Pentecostalism was the result of the reformation movement. It came into its full glory after a series of events such as The Azusa Street Revival (1906-15) and the consequent formation of The Apostolic Faith Gospel Mission.
Pentecostal Church holds a strong belief in various Christian doctrines such as Salvation, Baptism with the Holy Spirit, Divine Healing, Eschatology, Spiritual revival and gifts, Trinitarianism, and God’s kingdom. It holds a strong belief in the inerrancy of the Bible.
The most significant practice of the Pentecostal Church is Speaking in Tongues as a shred of evidence for Baptism with the Holy Spirit. The idea came into existence due to the various pattern associated with the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
Trinitarian Pentecostals hold a strong belief in the Oneness of the Lord and baptize in the name of Christ rather than the trinity: Lord the Father, Lord the Son, and Lord the Holy Spirit. All their worship and practices are performed in the name of Christ himself.
Pentecostalism movement spread and gave birth to various denominations we know today. The largest of these are the Assemblies of God (AG), The Apostolic Faith Church, The Redeemed Christian Church of God, and the Indonesian Bethel Church.
Do you know any other interesting facts about the Pentecostal church and its practices and History? Let us know in the comment section!