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William Atkinson: Jesus before Pentecost

Baptizer in the Spirit. The two pillars that preceded—Jesus as savior and healer—are not unique to Pentecostalism (neither is soon-coming King), so this chapter may be of greater significance to the Pentecostal believer than the others. Although Atkinson writes that he would “if necessary correct Pentecostal thinking in this area” (124), I noted no corrections.

Jesus freely received power and authority from heaven by the Spirit, and freely gave it to his team.

What Pentecostal would not agree that “the promised power of the Spirit is intimately tied to the responsibility to engage in Christian mission” or that “the same Spirit of God is at work in their lives as enabled Jesus to engage in his mission” (123). Atkinson argues that the anointing of the Spirit that Jesus received was for his mission” (129); likewise, he called not just the twelve but scores (Luke 10:1–12) and instructed them to pray for more workers of the harvest; Jesus understood this as a “worldwide” mission (146). “He was looking for people to go and engage in his prophetic mission, performing miracles too” (135).

Jesus freely received power and authority from heaven by the Spirit, and freely gave it to his team (140). “There is no reason to suppose, then,” Atkinson writes, “that Jesus expected his co-missioners to experience any less success in their mission than he did in his, for they were now equipped with divine authority by the Spirit’s agency” (141).

After the resurrection, with the cross behind him, Jesus proceeded with his mission, which would now be taken internationally.

When his promises were fulfilled, the first generation of believers discovered all sorts of ways that Jesus was involved in their experience of the Spirit, beyond merely assuring them that it was going to happen. Thus they rightly picked up both John the Baptist’s promise and his language, and identified the exalted Jesus as their “baptizer in the Spirit” (Acts 11:16; 1 Cor 12:13). … Pentecostals are not wrong to regard this as a promise and activity of Jesus; neither is it wrong to associate it with power and authority to engage in the mission Jesus both initiated and commanded. (151)

Soon-coming King. There are two issues in this pillar and Atkinson discusses both: the imminent return of Christ and his kingly nature. Pentecostals hold with great passion Jesus’s return, though their “fervor has cooled over the course of the twentieth century. It remains a central Pentecostal conviction that Jesus will return in power and glory to rule and judge the world …” (156). In the beginning of the Pentecostal movement (and even today), this fervor in Pentecostal thinking was not misplaced, and it translated into a zeal for evangelism (187).

Atkinson notes that not only was Jesus nailed to the cross, but so was his crime—“king of the Jews”: “Jesus died as a deeply traumatized and virtually deserted man. He died as a convicted criminal. But he died labeled a king” (170). In the epilogue appropriately titled “In the Time Before He Comes,” Atkinson concludes: “As he had sent some out in pairs to further his mission in preaching and healing, so too they would send out others in the same mission, until he came once again, as the king he had always been. Maranatha; Come, Lord Jesus” (189).

For a heady but semi-devotional read, I highly recommend Jesus before Pentecost.

Reviewed by Robert W. Graves


Full disclosure: Atkinson serves on the Board of Advisors of The Foundation for Pentecostal Scholarship for which Robert Graves is the co-founder and president.


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Category: Biblical Studies, Fall 2018

About the Author: Robert W. Graves, M. A. (Literary Studies, Georgia State University), is the co-founder and president of The Foundation for Pentecostal Scholarship, Inc., a non-profit organization supporting Pentecostal scholarship through research grants. He is a Christian educator and a former faculty member of Southwestern Assemblies of God College in Waxahachie, Texas, and Kennesaw State University (adjunct). He edited and contributed to Strangers to Fire: When Tradition Trumps Scripture and is the author of Increasing Your Theological Vocabulary, Praying in the Spirit (1987 and Second Edition, 2017) and The Gospel According to Angels (Chosen Books, 1998).

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