When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: “ ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
Pentecost was part of the Feast of Weeks: Seven weeks (49 days) plus the Day of First Fruits. It was a time of celebration to remember when God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, which was the sealing of God’s covenant with the Hebrews. Jews from all over the Roman Empire gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate this time.
It is significant because this was the day the Holy Spirit sealed God’s new covenant with all believers.
Approximately 120 were gathered together.
They were obeying Jesus’ command to wait in Jerusalem until God sent the Holy Spirit.
They had no idea what this would mean, especially speaking in tongues.
They were in some sort of building that had great public access.
Over 3000 people heard Peter preach.
They were devout Jews who would have been participating in the Jewish festival.
They might have been meeting and praying in a part of the temple in Jerusalem.
The Baptism of the Holy Spirit
Sound of wind
Tongues of fire on their heads
They began to speak in other languages.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
The significance of these signs: These followers of Jesus didn’t consider themselves Christians. They were Jews who had found the promised Messiah. Everything that happened to them was founded in their scriptures, which we call the Old Testament.
The Hebrew word for Spirit is ruach.
This word also refers to wind and breath.
So when they heard the sound of the wind, they knew that the Holy Spirit had come in a mighty way, just as Jesus had promised.
For the Jews, the story of Moses is one of the most important. They knew every part of that story, including the burning bush, which was covered in fire, but did not burn up.
They also remembered the pillar of fire which led the Israelites through the wilderness for 40 years.
They knew that the fire was God’s manifest presence in that room.
Speaking Other Tongues.
This is special on two levels.
First, you need to realize that speaking in tongues did NOT begin on the day of Pentecost.
In Numbers 11, Moses complains to God that he is overwhelmed governing the Israelites, so God tells Moses to select 70 godly men and bring them together in the tabernacle.
So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord. And he gathered seventy men of the elders of the people and placed them around the tent. Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. And as soon as the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied. But they did not continue doing it. Now two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the Spirit rested on them. They were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp.
The Hebrew word that is translated as prophesy is NABA.
It refers to an excited, unintelligible utterance.
This is not the only time NABA is used in the Old Testament.
In 1 Samuel 9, Samuel anoints Saul as Israel’s first king.
As proof that Saul really is God’s chosen king, Samuel prophesies three signs.
When Saul leaves Samuel’s house, he meets two men with a message from Saul’s father who is worried about him.
When Saul reaches the oak of Tabor, three men meet him, carrying 3 loaves of bread, 3 goats, and a container of wine. They give Saul 2 of the loaves.
When Saul comes to Gibeath-elohim, he immediately meets a group of prophets coming from their place of worship, playing instruments and prophesying. In their presence, the Holy Spirit comes upon Saul, and he begins to prophesy.
Again, the word NABA is used in the Hebrew, and it is translated here as PROPHESY.
In both of these cases, the Holy Spirit comes on certain individuals, causing them to speak in a language nobody else understood.
This was a sign that God, through His Holy Spirit, and specially anointed and consecrated these individuals for a special task.
And in Acts 2, 120 ordinary people are suddenly imbued with the same gift, speaking in languages they did not understand, as an indication that they were now anointed and consecrated to be God’s messengers to the world.
But the other reason this is special is because this sign involved language. It is a sign of the WORD.
Just as the wind signifies the Holy Spirit and the fire signifies God, the sign of the word signifies Jesus.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
So through these manifestations in the upper room, we see that the entire Trinity was present to empower and confer authority upon these men and women.
Jews from the other parts of the empire recognized their native languages and came to listen.
Peter was empowered to preach boldly.
This is also significant. The same Peter who had acted as a coward, denying that he even knew Jesus, was now standing boldly before thousands of people and sharing the gospel with authority!
Approximately 3000 people became Christians that day.
Explanation and defense of the Speaking in Tongues
But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: “ ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit. “And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.
When Peter quotes Joel, he only makes one change. Joel begins with a vague “And afterward…” Peter calls it the “last days.”
Peter believed in the imminent return of Jesus.
If Peter was in the last days, what are we in?
What does this say about what we can expect to see?
The Birth of the Church (Acts 2:41-47)
Approximately 3000 people accepted Christ (Acts 2:41).
The new believers devoted themselves to learning about Jesus from the Apostles.
They immediately began to spend almost all their time together in community.
They devoted themselves to much prayer.
They began to share their belongings with each other and met each other’s needs.
Many miraculous signs and wonders were done by the Apostles.
God revealed himself as real and as someone who cares about His people.
The number of new believers kept growing.
What can we learn?
The early church only knew to expect the Holy Spirit.
In Acts 1:5, Jesus tells his followers that that will soon be baptized in the Holy Spirit.
In verse 8, he tells them that they will receive power from the Holy Spirit and they will become Jesus’ witnesses to the end of the earth.
But Jesus does NOT tell them anything about speaking in tongues.
He didn’t say, “Go and wait in Jerusalem until you speak in tongues.”
So they went and waited, looking only for the Holy Spirit.
The manifestation was merely an evidence that Jesus’ promise was being fulfilled.
When we say we seek the Holy Spirit, are we looking for the person, or just his gifts and manifestations?
We need to seek God’s face and not His hand.
When the Holy Spirit comes, He brings power that transforms people.
It is easy to be distracted by the immediate blessings we receive when we encounter the Holy Spirit.
We get a flood of joy and peace.
We see miracles happen.
But these are only the signs that the Holy Spirit is here.
He comes to transform us into people who will boldly share the gospel like Peter did.
When people are transformed by the Holy Spirit, the church is empowered, and the lost will come to know Christ.
The Spirit of God radiated within the members of the early church. Everyone who saw them knew they were different.
When we are transformed by the Spirit, then we will develop the Fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, kindness…
God will give us boldness to share the gospel.
People will see that gospel lived out in our lives.
They will then know the gospel is real, and they will want to turn to Jesus.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
So if we are to be the priests, the messengers of hope that Jesus called us to be, we need the empowering of the Holy Spirit.
He is here. These are the last days.
We can expect to see God pouring out his Spirit on all his children.
Men and women prophesying.
The young seeing visions.
The old dreaming dreams.
Every social class witnessing God’s wonders.
And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved!