The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost
[Acts chapter 2, verses 1-21]
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Last week when we concluded our study of chapter one of the Book of Acts, Matthias had just been elected by straw poll to replace the disgraced Judas. These were the 12 apostles from that point forward. There are some who assert that the apostle Paul was actually the 12th apostle, but I disagree with that idea. Let’s remember that the Gospel was preached by Christ Jesus almost exclusively to the Jews there in Judea and Israel. So after Christ ascended into the heavens, the Twelve – including Matthias and the author of the Book of Acts – continued to preach to the Jews as well as the non-Jews who were beginning to convert to Christianity. The apostle Paul, on the other hand, preached mostly to Gentiles, as you no doubt recall from my book of studies published last year, “The Apostles In Plain English Vol. 1: the Apostle Paul”. For my newer readers, this book is available in print on Amazon or from my website (at a discount!) by clicking here. The digital and audio versions are also available from Amazon (on Kindle or Audible) for anyone interested.
This week as we move on to chapter 2 of the Book of Acts, the apostle Luke begins his narration with his account of the Day of Pentecost, the arrival of the Holy Spirit promised by Christ just before his final ascension into the heavens. Please refer to chapter 1, verses 4 and 5 if you missed that study so you can get the context of today’s Biblical analysis. As he begins, let’s also get started at verse 1.
“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all gathered together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled with house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one of them hear them speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed, they all asked, ‘Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each one of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphilia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs – we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!’ Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, ‘What does this mean?’” Acts 2, verses 1-12)
So, the first thing we can ascertain from the apostle Luke’s narrative is that the arrival of the Holy Spirit, which apparently occurred with no advance warning whatsoever, sounded similar to a category 5 hurricane. The sound they heard in that upper room – which by the way damaged nothing like damaging winds normally would – was immediately accompanied by “tongues of fire” that in actuality were pure energy. They were then filled – literally – with the Holy Spirit. Now the Holy Spirit is defined as the indwelling Spirit of the risen Lord Jesus Christ, and it is a living Spirit. (That’s why the Term “Holy Ghost” is a misnomer, since a ghost is an apparition of a dead spirit, whereas Jesus is alive forever.) That’s why the tongues of pure energy that rested upon each person in the room had the appearance of being fiery. The “tongues of fire”, then, were alive, flickering and pulsating. They were a life form far above our own – a superlative form of life! The first thing that happened was the apostles found themselves preaching in other languages previously unknown to them. Allow me to quote further down in the text before I say something about that, OK?
“Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one of them heard them speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed, they all asked, ‘Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each one of us hears them in his own native language?’” There are many churches today, mainly of the Protestant variety, that teach and preach about Holy Spirit baptism. Rest assured there is such a thing (see Acts 1 verse 5), but the apostle Paul took up where Acts left off over in 1st Corinthians chapter 14. When there is speaking or praying in tongues, Paul wrote, there must be someone there to interpret. Otherwise, the person praying in tongues must pray to themselves and not out loud, since no one else will know what is being said. There you go, that’s what the Bible says about praying in tongues in church. Doing that elsewhere, such as in your car or during a time of prayer and meditation, is different, since you’re praying in private. In that case, you can pray in tongues until dawn tomorrow, that would be just fine with God! Anyone, or any church, that teaches or preaches anything other than these basic facts concerning Holy Spirit baptism, or the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, is deviating from the truth and will bring judgment down upon themselves! The Word of God is not a play-toy, not is it an instrument meant for manipulation!
All the different places named in the original Biblical texts are situated between the Roman empire’s capital on the west to Asia Minor, wrapping around the eastern Mediterranean sea to the Middle East. These are the origins of the Christian church as we know it today. The western half became the Catholic church, and the eastern half became the modern Orthodox church. Yet the apostles were preaching about Jesus in all of those different languages, which were more numerous back then than today, despite the fact that those apostles didn’t even know many of them prior to receiving their Holy Spirit baptism! “Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, ‘What does this mean?” What the people heard who were gathering around where the apostles were was totally beyond the scope of their collective experience. Had there been cell phones back then, somebody would have been dialing 911 already! But that’s not what happened at all. The Spirit had made the apostles aware of the crowd that was gathering outside, intensely curious about what what was happening. So they went outside to address them, and presumably to calm them down.
“Some, however, made fun of them and said, ‘They have had too much wine.’ Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd. ‘Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen very carefully to the words that I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days, God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’” (Acts 2, verses 13-21)
So here we see Peter addressing the crowd by first quoting scripture. Since the Bible as we know it today was what we now call the Old Testament, considered a Jewish document written only for Jews at that time, the apostle Peter quotes from it for 2 reasons. In the first place, it was something the crowd had prior knowledge of, so it was something they could relate to. But the other reason is far more important – it was the newly initiated indwelling of the Holy Spirit of the Lord present in Peter and all the others that was prompting Peter to quote from the prophet Joel. It does not say whether Peter had any of the scrolls from the prophet Joel or not, but since they are not mentioned at all in the entire Book of Acts, it is likely that Peter had no scrolls – meaning Peter said all those verses from memory. When we consider that many of the apostles were illiterate – most people were at that time – that makes this all the more remarkable.
“In the last days, God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit on all people….” This can be interpreted in more than one way. This is often cited by many Protestant church denominations as a prophecy of the Reformation of the early 1500’s. We may get to heaven first before we find out if that is true or not, I honestly can’t say for sure. Personally, I believe this could also be a prophecy about the Internet. As you all know, the Web is currently being used as a tool for evangelism and discipleship with dramatic results. My blogs and social media posts got over 11,000 hits last year, and that was without spending one nickel on advertising. That, my good people, is the power of the Gospel.
“Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.” Who are God’s servants? They are those people who do God’s will, like a military adjutant does the will of his or her commanding officer. What does it mean to “prophesy”? It means to accurately declare the Word of God – the holy Scriptures – as it applies to an individual or group personally, or as it applies to a situation either past or present. Sometimes this can also mean to an entire nation, such as the prophecies against Babylon, Assyria and Judah in the Old Testament. In a modern context, this blog or website you’re looking at is a modern example of what I mean.
“I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood….” There are only a few things that could cause this. Either this is describing World War Three or some kind of enormous natural disaster, such as an asteroid or comet impact, or possibly a huge volcanic eruption that will darken the skies for months. One thing is for sure – these days will be very perilous, and if you’re not already preparing yourself accordingly, you had better get started before you run out of time. “….everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” During these times there will be an amnesty from Christ for all who have not yet placed their faith in him. This is a prophecy from Christ on behalf of those people, whose brains will not doubt be on ‘overload’ from all the disaster and devastation all around them. Those words from the Lord will enable those people and their families to make it through those extremely difficult days. Remember what Jesus said in Matthew chapter 24: “He who stands firm to the end shall be saved.” So let us all resolve to do exactly that for the remainder of the week as we constantly draw ourselves closer to Jesus. And next week we’ll move on to part three of Acts chapter 2.