I’m finally down to the last element of a pentecostal worldview that James KA Smith describes in his groundbreaking book “Thinking in Tongues.” See the previous post for links to the introduction and the previous four elements.
5. An eschatological orientation to mission and justice
“While baptism in the Holy Spirit, or even speaking in tongues, is often considered the hallmark of pentecostal spirituality, a growing cadre of scholars has emphasized that eschatology is as or even more important in early pentecostal spirituality. The outpouring of the Spirit has meaning and significance precisely because this is a sign of ‘the last days’; in other words, the baptism of the Holy Spirit functions as a sign only within an overarching narrative that has an eschatological orientation toward the coming kingdom.” -James KA Smith p. 44
Spirit empowerment and tongues speech anticipate the age to come, that is unutterable and full of glory. It’s a foretaste of the world to come.
Pentecost came to poor fishermen the marginalized in Jerusalem. The 1906 Azusa Street revival came to an African American preacher, William Seymour, in the midst of a racially divided nation. Both signs of the age to come. Good news to the poor and good news to the racially divided. Seymour considered the racial reconciliation and the gospel reaching the marginalized, during the Azusa Street revival, a surer sign of Spirit than the tongues speech. The activity of the Spirit always subverts the status quo of this age and points us to the age to come, and it always invites us to embody and model the coming kingdom. Early pentecostal spirituality saw tongues, social justice and divine healing as a prolepsis of the Second Coming of Christ.
The Spirit not only empowers us to be a witness, in the sense of preaching and teaching, but also a witness in the sense of embodying the coming reign of Christ on the earth, because in the world to come, there won’t be racism, poverty, sickness or death. It’s a Spirit inspired and empowered eschatological orientation that is the inspiration and motivation behind racial reconciliation, providing for the poor, preaching the good news, healing the sick and raising the dead to life.