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Who was J. Dwight Pentecost?

J. Dwight Pentecost
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Dr. John Dwight Pentecost (1915—2014) was an American pastor and professor of Bible exposition at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS). In his six decades on the DTS faculty, he taught more than 10,000 students, who affectionately called him “Dr. P.” He also wrote twenty-one books, including his best-known, Things to Come (1965), a biblical study on end-time events.

J. Dwight Pentecost was born in Chester, Pennsylvania. By age ten, he knew God had called him to the ministry. According to his obituary published in The Dallas Morning News on May 5, 2014, Dwight’s ancestors “changed the family name to Pentecost after fleeing the persecutions of French Protestants in 1573. The family arrived in England on Pentecost, the seventh Sunday after Easter, when Christians celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles” (www.dallasnews.com/news/obituaries/2014/05/06/seminary-professor-j-dwight-pentecost-taught-until-age-98/, accessed 3/26/24).

J. Dwight Pentecost attended Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, graduating magna cum laude in 1937. He entered Dallas Theological Seminary that same year, marking the roll as the one hundredth student to attend the then twelve-year-old seminary. He received his master’s in theology in 1941, again finishing magna cum laude.

While studying in Dallas, J. Dwight Pentecost married Dorothy Harrison. She passed away in 2000 after 62 years of marriage. The couple had two daughters, Jane Fenby (a DTS alumna) and Gwen Arnold, who died in 2011.

In 1941, J. Dwight Pentecost was ordained in the Presbyterian Church, Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania, where he served as pastor until 1946. He then pastored Saint John’s Presbyterian Church in Devon, Pennsylvania, until 1951. During his tenure at Saint John’s, Pentecost took a part-time position at the Philadelphia College of Bible (now Philadelphia Bible Institute). This first experience as a Bible instructor (1948—1955) convinced Pentecost that he needed to return to the classroom for further study, particularly amid the growing debate over end-times theology among Bible scholars.

On his own, Pentecost carved out time to study Greek, theology, and the Bible. In these early morning hours, God further clarified his calling: “While I loved my involvement with people as their shepherd, I felt that I could multiply that effect through teaching,” he said (ibid., accessed 3/26/24).

J. Dwight Pentecost decided to return to DTS to complete his doctorate in theology (1956). While still enrolled as a student, the seminary’s president, Dr. John F. Walvoord, asked him to join the school’s faculty in 1955, teaching Greek, theology, and Bible exposition. Pentecost would soon accept a full professorship in 1958, a position he retained for the remainder of his days.

From 1958 through 1973, Pentecost also served as senior pastor of Grace Bible Church in North Dallas, Texas. When he wasn’t in the classroom or the pulpit, he might have been found volunteering at Luke’s Closet, a ministry that supplied seminary students with free donated clothing items.

J. Dwight Pentecost considered himself privileged to teach the Word of God, and his students felt privileged to learn it through him. He only missed classes once in sixty years of teaching. In 2012, the nonagenarian fell and broke his hip but was back teaching three months later. He taught his final class at age 98.

Upon retirement, Dr. P. was honored as professor emeritus of Bible Exposition at DTS, one of only two faculty members so distinguished. Shortly after being diagnosed with malignant tumors, J. Dwight Pentecost died on April 28, 2014, at age 99.

Mark L. Bailey, Ph.D., president of DTS (2001—2020), honored J. Dwight Pentecost with these words: “Few people have known the Word of God like he did, and few loved the God of the Word like he loved Him. . . . We who have had the privilege to sit under him or teach beside him have all come to know and appreciate the whole of the Bible that our beloved friend believed so thoroughly and taught so faithfully for so many years—all centered in the words and works of Jesus Christ. All of us look forward to God’s ‘things to come’ when we will be reunited with him in glory” (https://voice.dts.edu/article/dr-dwight-pentecost-dies-age-99/, accessed 3/26/24).

Here are a few treasured gems from the pen of J. Dwight Pentecost:

“True honor is not the honor that one claims for oneself, but rather it is the honor that is conferred on one by others.” (The Parables of Jesus, 1982)

“There is the danger that the redeemed one will become so occupied with the anticipation of his own experience of glory that the supreme glorification of the Godhead is lost. Our occupation in the eternal state will not be with our position or glory, but with God Himself.” (Things to Come, 1965)

“God can meet the multitude of needs of an infinite number of His children because He is infinite in the riches of His glory. A man who has limited funds will find those funds depleted as he gives to different causes; but if a man has unlimited funds, he can give without limit, and there will be no depletion of his supply. Since God is infinite in glory, God can give to an unlimited number of needs and still have an infinite supply left. When God gives to His obedient children, He gives according to His infinite riches in glory.” (The Joy of Living, 1973)

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This page last updated: March 28, 2024