When our children were small we used to watch the “A Team” with them. Hannibal Smith was their leader. They were a colourful unit of former Special Forces soldiers who were set up for a crime they did not commit. Smith’s favorite saying after planning and executing an operation to success was … “I love it when a plan comes together.” I’m certain we can all say that. Our Lord’s plan is starting to come together. Maybe his sentiment was similar to Hannibal Smith … “I love it when a plan comes together.” The big difference though was His plan was to do with His Eternal Kingdom. His apostles were ready for action because they had spent many days in constant prayer in the “upper room” in Jerusalem as per our Lord’s instruction. Part of the Lord’s plan was to send His Holy Spirit, the gift He promised, on the day of Pentecost. Our reading is:
Ac 2:1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. 5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” 13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.’”
1) The meaning of Pentecost for the Jew. The Jewish Feast of Pentecost was called Shavuot and was all about the “first fruits” of the wheat harvest. Later it became associated with the giving of the Law to Moses at Mount Sinai. This is what God said:
Lev 23:16 Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the LORD. 17 From wherever you live, bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to the LORD.
(Read from verse 16 to 22 and Numbers 28:26-31). The grain offering together with a burnt offering at Pentecost was a time of celebration and thanksgiving to God. Thanksgiving is an acknowledgement of God blessing the crops and flocks and celebration is worshipping God for His goodness to them as a nation and as families. Interesting, this festival was 50 days from the day after the Passover Sabbath Day. The Jewish Pentecost pointed to the Christian Pentecost.
2) The meaning of Pentecost to the Christian Church. Jesus was crucified on the Friday before the Passover Sabbath. He passed over that Passover Sabbath and rose from the dead on the Sunday … which became known as the Lord’s Day. 50 days from and including this first Lord’s Day is the Christian Day of Pentecost. The Jewish Pentecost was all about first fruits … new crops, God’s blessings upon the land [which meant food for survival], new life, thanksgiving and celebration. For the Christian it is thanksgiving to God, celebrating His gift of the Holy Spirit who brings new life (eternal life through being born again) as the first believers were the first fruits of the Gospel and the first fruits of the earthly Church symbolizing the Eternal Kingdom of God.
3) The First Century Pentecostal Phenomenon. We need to understand that this happening was a onetime occurrence … meaning it would not be repeated again … because God’s gift, the sending and coming of the Holy Spirit would happen only once.
(1) In obedience, as the Holy Spirit arrived, they were together in the same venue … they were all together in one place. This is vital and fundamental. They were told to wait in Jerusalem. They did, but the used their time profitably … the prayed constantly. These two keys are important … obedience and prayer. One could say they are the “golden keys” to seeing God work powerfully and dramatically for His glory and the up building of His Church (Kingdom). These cannot be generated through gimmicks or bringing business planning and strategies into the Church. Faithful Biblical exposition falling into equally faithful ears leading to personal and communal application leads to obedience to God and willing concerted prayer meetings.
(2) As may be expected, when God works, He works!
Ac 2:2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.
(a) The word “suddenly” implies unawares and unprepared. This was not so much for the apostles … but the people present in the city.
(b) The sound they heard. Note the noise sounded “like” the blowing of a violent wind. It was not a wind, it sounded like one though. It was dramatic, purposely so to let the apostles know that the promised gift had arrived. It filed the house where they were and the sound was such that many others would have heard as well. Something dramatic was happening.
(c) The sight they saw.
Ac 2:3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.
Notice again … they saw “what seemed to be”. It was not fire, it seemed to be like fire. The fire symbolizes the work of the Spirit … cleansing, burning away the dross and power. What seemed to be like “tongues of fire” came to rest on each apostle. This act is almost like God ordaining these men for ministry. Each one knew it and each one knew that the others experienced the same “anointing”. Add to this the power Jesus spoke of in chapter 1:8.
(d) The use of the words “tongues of fire” could well be a play on the “tongues” of
Ac 2:4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
We will return to this verse tomorrow, but note that the Spirit enabled these tongues that were spoken, and the “tongues of fire” seen seems to confirm this was of God the Spirit.
Father, help us to grasp that every revival that saw the Spirit come in power, convicting and converting souls was preceded by constant believing prayer. Amen.