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Pentecostal History: 120 Years of Faith, Power & Love

Pentecostal History: 120 Years of Faith Power, and Love
Pentecostal history is a growing movement, especially in Latin America and Africa: there may be over 500 million Pentecostals worldwide.

Table of contents:

Pentecostal History: 120 Years of Faith, Power & Love

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses.….unto the uttermost part of the earth. – Jesus in Acts 1:8

Definition of Pentecostal

(Entry 1 of 2)

1: of, relating to, or suggesting “Pentecost” — The word “Pentecost” comes from a Greek word meaning fiftieth. The Jewish Festival of Pentecost (called Shavuot, meaning “weeks” in Hebrew) falls on the fiftieth day after the original Passover. On that day, God gave the Torah to Moses* on Mount Sinai. The Christian festival of Pentecost falls on the 50th day after the resurrection of Jesus.

*means this person has a short biography in my book SPIRITUAL LIVES

2: of, relating to, or constituting any of various Christian religious bodies that emphasize individual experiences of grace, spiritual gifts (such as glossolalia and faith healing), expressive worship, and evangelism

In ancient Greek, pentekoste meant “fiftieth day”—that is, the fiftieth day after Easter (counting Easter itself). On that day, Christians celebrate an event described in the Bible that took place fifty days after Christ’s resurrection, when the apostles heard the rush of a mighty wind, saw tongues of fire descending on them, and heard the Holy Spirit speaking from their own mouths but in other tongues (languages).

“Speaking in tongues”, when everyone in a congregation may begin talking in languages that no one can understand, is the best-known practice of Pentecostals. Pentecostals belong to many different denominations; with growing numbers especially in Latin America and Africa, there may be over 500 million Pentecostals worldwide.

Pentecostal history is not the history of a church but of a movement

Not just any movement but of the 3rd Person of the Trinity, God the Holy Spirit. His power has been on display since the foundation of the world:

In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.

And the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. – Genesis 1:1-2

Pentecostal displays in the books of Moses

The movement of the Holy Spirit in Genesis 1 was invisible, but God moved later to give His Spirit to people so that they did things beyond human capacity through His power.

That is the essence of Pentecostal history, The Holy Spirit filling people with His power to accomplish what is beyond natural human capacity.

The first we see of this is in Joseph*(1745-1635BC):

And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is? – Genesis 41:38

How did Pharaoh recognize the Spirit of God in this young man? He saw Joseph interpret dreams and in this case, one that covered the next 14 years of their future. Pharaoh saw it all come to pass, as Joseph said.

But the Holy Spirit did not just make Joseph a prophet, He made him a prophet with a purpose, in this case, to save His people from famine and to build them into a nation.

The next display of the Holy Spirit’s power is in the work of the great craftsman and artist Bezaleel (fl. 1491-1450 BC) who designed and built the Tabernacle for the children of Israel and created the Ark of the Covenant.

And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship,

To devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass,

And in cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of timber, to work in all manner of workmanship. – Exodus 31:3-5

During this same era, we see for the first and only time in the Old Testament, God pouring out His Spirit on a group, in this case, the 70 elders who were to help Moses*(1571-1452 BC) govern God’s people:

(* means that person is in my book SPIRITUAL LIVES)

And the LORD came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease. – Number 11:25

This was the group that came to be known as the Sanhedrin. The Spirit enabled them to prophesy, and we will see again and again that prophecy is His trademark gift.

Pentecostal displays in Judges

Eight times in this book the Spirit of the Lord fell upon the judges of the children of Israel. Each time the Spirit gave them the power to overcome the wicked and deliver God’s people from oppression.

This was military power and leadership, way beyond any natural power. Othniel*(fl. 1405 BC), Gideon*(fl.1249 BC), Jephthah*(1188 BC), and Samson*(1136 BC). All these men had this anointing of God’s Spirit, Samson, 4 times.

And the Spirit of the LORD began to move him (Samson)…. -Judges 13:25

This anointing of the Holy Spirit was unique for each one and temporary. It was life-changing for both the people of God and for the man He used.

Saul*(1115-1055 BC)/David*(1085-1015 BC)

Neither of these men had any qualifications to be king. Saul was from a lowly family and had no desire to be in a place of prominence. David was a poor shepherd, the least in his family, the 8th son relegated to keeping a few sheep, but the LORD had plans for both.

We see here that God dispenses His Holy Spirit to those for whom He has a special purpose:

Then Samuel took a vial of oil, and poured it upon his head, and kissed him, and said, Is it not because the LORD hath anointed thee to be captain over his inheritance? …1 Samuel 10:1

And the Spirit of the LORD will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man. – 1 Samuel 10:6

This happened at once, and Saul became a powerful leader, a strong, and able king. He began to walk in the Spirit! But when he was victorious and powerful, he disobeyed the Lord and suffered immediate consequences.

But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him. – 1 Samuel 16:14

God’s purposes always prevail, and He chose the poor, young shepherd to take Saul’s place:

Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. – 1 Samuel 16:13

The Holy Spirit manifested Himself in David through the gifts of poetry and music. Half the 150 Psalms are his work, each one Spirit-filled. David himself gives this testimony:

The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue. -2 Samuel 23:2

The Prophets ministered under Pentecostal power

The Holy Spirit moved these men to warn and encourage God’s people. One of their recurring themes was the Messiah, what He would be like, and how He would minister in the Holy Spirit:

And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD; – Isaiah 11:2

Isaiah goes further in giving us the very words that Jesus would use to announce His mission:

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; Isaiah 61:1

At the end of the Old Testament, Zechariah gives us one final prophecy on how all this will be accomplished:

Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts. – Zechariah 4:6

Pentecostal history in the New Testament

John the Baptist*(5 BC-33 AD) and Jesus*(5 BC – 33 AD) introduce us to the Holy Spirit in the Gospels. John was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb, and Jesus was conceived in Mary by the Holy Spirit.

John’s ministry came first, and his job was to prepare the way for Jesus:

For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall neither drink wine nor strong drink. And he shall be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.

And he shall turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God. – Luke 1:15-16

Jesus went to John to be baptized, and the Holy Spirit appeared in visible form:

And John bore record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from Heaven like a dove, and He abode on Him.

And I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water, that One said to me, Upon whom you shall see the Spirit descending, and remaining upon Him, He is the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.

And I saw and bore record that this is the Son of God. – John 1:32-34

The Holy Spirit worked differently in each of these men. John did no miracles but called people to repentance, and everyone John baptized believed in Jesus.

Jesus did signs and wonders, had compassion on the people, taught the Good News of God’s kingdom, forgave sins, died for our sins, and rose from the dead.

When He did, He promised to send the Holy Spirit to comfort and empower his disciples. With this power they were to go into all the world to preach the Gospel, and Jesus told them (and us) the signs that would follow those who believed:

And miraculous signs will follow to those believing these things: in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak new tongues;

they will take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.

Then indeed, after speaking to them, the Lord was taken up into Heaven and sat on the right hand of God.

And going out, they proclaimed everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the Word by miraculous signs following. Amen. – Mark 16:15-20

Jesus commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem,

but to await the promise of the Father which you heard from Me.

For John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days from now. – Acts 1:4-5

Pentecostal History – the Day of Pentecost

The disciples gathered to wait. This was not easy. They were expectant and eager. There were 120 men and women together. They didn’t know what the gift of the Holy Spirit would look like, or how it would be delivered. But they waited ten days!

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.

And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.

And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.

And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. – Acts 1-4

This amazing scene stirred up the people. They saw the miracle of speaking in tongues, many hearing them speak the Spirit’s words in their own language. But this miracle had a purpose beyond amazement. It was given to demonstrate the power of the Gospel:

Peter’s Sermon at Pentecost

Peter delivered a Gospel sermon showing that these tongues were not a random expression of ecstasy or drunkenness but a purposeful, supernatural deliverance fulfilling an Old Testament scripture:

this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel;

And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:

And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:

And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. – Acts 2:14-41

This was the beginning of the church of Jesus Christ and is so celebrated today by all Christians. Those 120 witnesses went out and won 3,000 new believers that day.

There were about 100 churches by the year 100, and one estimate of number of Christians is 40,000 in AD 150, rising to 218,000 in 200, and 1.17 million by 250.

All of this by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Modern Pentecostal history’s immediate background

The 18th century saw the Holy Spirit move in the lives of Protestant ministers like Jonathan Edwards*(1703-1758), John (1703-1791) and Charles Wesley*(1707-1788), and George Whitefield (1714-1770).

Their preaching convicted many of sin and began a series of revivals, the 1st Great Awakening of 1730s to 1750s, and the 2nd 1795-1835.

These were gathering of “enthusiasts” at camp meetings and other settings where the preaching was compelling, and evangelists and people were urged to give their lives to Jesus.

Revivals like this made Methodism the nation’s largest denomination by 1820, with 258,000 members. This Holy Ghost driven growth continued to 1,661,000 in 1860. This was accomplished under their motto and theme “Holiness unto the Lord.”

In this milieu, John Alexander Dowie (1847-1907) preached divine healing and became the most well-known minister in the world. He had thousands of committed followers, all of who believed that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were active presently.

Elder Eugene Brooks*(1856-1954) was healed under Dowie’s ministry and moved into Pentecostal circles at the turn of the century. By this time, there were scattered reports of “speaking in tongues,” in both America and the United Kingdom.

Pentecostal outpourings

On January 1, 1901, Charles Parnum (1873-1929) reported that one of his Bible school students in Topeka, Kansas was baptized in the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues after she prayed to be filled and asked for the laying on of hands. Soon, Parnum began speaking in tongues and manifestations of this gift began to spread.

William Seymour*(1870-1922) was an African American preacher and colleague of Parnum’s. In 1906, his preaching ignited the Azusa Street Revival, now recognized as the birth of the Pentecostal movement.

The revival was characterized by spiritual experiences accompanied with testimonies of physical healing miracles, worship services, and speaking in tongues.

The participants were criticized by some secular media and Christian theologians for behaviors considered to be outrageous and unorthodox, especially at the time.

Today, historians consider the revival to be the primary catalyst for the spread of Pentecostalism in the 20th century.

The following year, the wife of an Anglican pastor laid hands on Smith Wigglesworth (1859-1947) who spoke in tongues and became a great evangelist with a powerful gift of divine healing.

This event, on October 28, 1907, marked the beginning of the Pentecostal movement in the United Kingdom and started a revival as at All Saints Church in Monkwearmouth, attracting national attention.

Aimee Semple McPherson* (1890-1944) was baptized in the Holy Spirit at 17 and dedicated her life to Jesus and preaching his gospel. In 1917 she and her husband began their ministry with tent meetings:

What is my task? To get the gospel around the world in the shortest possible time to every man, woman, and child.

She discovered a gift for divine healing when she answered a request for prayer by laying hands on a woman who was immediately healed. She got up out of the wheelchair and walked under her own power.

Sister Aimee covered the country preaching every chance she got, sometimes 23 times a week.

When she got to Los Angeles she founded Angelus Temple, which became the first megachurch, seating 5300 and welcoming 40 million visitors its first 7 years!

She used the radio and print media to spread the gospel and was most well-known person in America in the 1920s and 30s.

Sister Aimee also established the International Foursquare Church and set up a Bible College to train ministers to share that Gospel around the world.

As of 2016, there were 1,700 U.S. congregations and 66,000 worldwide with eight million members.

John Graham Lake (1870 –1935) was also from Ontario and was healed under the ministry of John Alexander Dowie, like his friend and prayer partner, Elder Brooks.

He had a nationwide healing ministry in the United States and later became a missionary to South Africa establishing the Pentecostal movement there.

He too went to the west coast to evangelize, setting up “healing rooms,” running healing campaigns and establishing Pentecostal churches.

Fred Francis Bosworth (1877 – 1958) was also healed from serious lung disease and emerged from Dowie’s church after being baptized in the Holy Ghost in 1906.

He began to preach, broadcast on the radio, and was a founder of the Assemblies of God in 1914.

He held large tent meetings in the 1920s focusing on healing ministry.

In 1924, he published “Christ the Healer,” now become the classic on divine healing, selling more than 500,000 in his lifetime.

He spent his final years ministering in Pentecostal works in South Africa.

Pentecostal history since World War II

William Branham* (1909–1965) was the most successful healing evangelist in the world in the 1940s and 50s. A charismatic preacher, he held inter-denominational meetings to immense crowds and televised them as well.

Branham was the first American deliverance minister to successfully campaign in Europe; his ministry reached global audiences with major campaigns held in North America, Europe, Africa, and India.

Reinhard Bonnke*(1940-2021) was the son of a Pentecostal minister, born in Germany but educated in England.

After a sermon by his father on the subject, Reinhard was baptized in the Holy Ghost:

“the strength of God poured over me and into me inside. An inexpressible joy filled my heart, and I began to speak in tongues as the Holy Spirit gave me utterance.”

He aspired to be a missionary to Africa, in 1977, moved with his wife and their 3 children to Johannesburg, South Africa. They rented a small hall that seated 800, but only 100 showed up.

“I was naturally disappointed, but after 10 minutes of preaching, a ‘volcano’ exploded and it has never stopped. Without my preaching upon divine healing, people jumped up from their seats

There were indeed some from “every tribe and nation” responding to the Gospel call. In some places, Bonnke used 4 translators to reach those who come. People were saved, healed, and delivered from demon possession.

“When the Holy Spirit sweeps in, evil spirits come out and to the African people, it is the miracle of miracles to see such individuals freed by the Holy Spirit.”

According to Wikipedia, “Bonnke has overseen 75 million recorded conversions to Christ.

“We are agents of omnipotence. This means that unlimited power is at our fingertips. It also means that there are no great men working in God’s Kingdom. Rather, there is a great God at work in human beings who have childlike faith.” Reinhard Bonnke

Toufik Benedictus “Benny” Hinn*(1952- was born in Israel but moved to Canada in 1967. He was saved in high school and began studying the Bible under the guidance of a Pentecostal minister.

While sharing his testimony, he felt the power of the Holy Spirit loosening his tongue, and the stuttering he had been plagued with all his life disappeared.

That same year, 1974, Benny had a vision of people falling into a burning inferno and heard the words, “If you do not preach, every soul who falls will be your responsibility!” From that moment on, Benny knew he was called to preach the Gospel.

He moved to Florida and founded the Orlando Christian Center in 1983, where he began the healing services that attracted national and later worldwide attention.

Soon after he began to hold “Miracle Crusades” at large stadiums and auditoriums, and when one was televised in 1989 a whole new door opened.

He began a daily talk show This Is Your Day, which to this day is the world’s most watched TV program.

He has preached to over 1 billion people, with 7.3 million attending one healing service over 3-days in India.

Thousand have been healed, including former heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield.

Pentecostal history assessment and Outlook

The Pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Spirit 120 years ago is having the same effect as the one in 33 AD Jesus’ 120 followers in the upper room.

When the Holy Spirit fell, “like a rushing, mighty wind,” they were filled with power, began to speak in tongues, preach the Gospel, and do miracles!

Pentecostal people are doing this again today, 2000 years later. We are obeying Jesus and proclaiming his Word, millions are believing, 100s of millions, and they will continue the work buttressed by these signs.

And miraculous signs will follow to those believing these things:

in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak new tongues;
they will take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will be well. Jesus in Mark 16:17-18

Praise God!

Wonderful as the amazing leaders above have been, the greatest work is being done one-to-one, by people like you and me.

35,000 souls a day are born again through the baptism of the Holy Spirit! More than 200,000 Pentecostal churches can be found on Google.

And the best is yet to come as we believe God’s word, obey His commandments, and trust His promises:

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me ….unto the uttermost part of the earth. Jesus in Acts 1:8


Sing with me or listen here

Lord, as of old, at Pentecost,

Thou didst Thy power display,

With cleansing, purifying flame,

Descend on us today.


Lord, send the old-time power, the Pentecostal power!

Thy floodgates of blessing, on us throw open wide!

Lord, send the old-time power, the Pentecostal power!

That sinners be converted and Thy Name glorified!

For mighty works for Thee, prepare

And strengthen every heart;

Come, take possession of Thine own,

And never more depart. Refrain

All self consume, all sin destroy!

With earnest zeal endue

Each waiting heart to work for Thee;

O Lord, our faith renew! Refrain

Speak, Lord! before Thy throne we wait,

Thy promise we believe,

And will not let Thee go until

The blessing we receive. Refrain

Words & Music:Charles H. Gab­ri­el, 1912

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