Due to inclement weather, the 9 a.m. service for Sunday, Jan. 20 has been cancelled. We will have one morning service at 10:45 a.m. as road conditions improve.

What is Pentecost?

by Jeremy Shaffer

The Jewish festival, which is termed in the Greek language as “Pentecost,” is the same festival we find in the Old Testament called the “Feast of Weeks” or “Feast of Harvest” (Lev.23:15-ff). The actual word Pentecost literally means “fiftieth,” which means that the Festival of Weeks/Harvest was celebrated fifty days after the Passover (Deut.16:9-12). This festival signified the joy of the completed harvest and God’s provision for His people. Furthermore, Jewish tradition records Pentecost as the anniversary date of the giving of the Mosaic Law (Exo.19:1).

In a similar way, the historic Day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2, signified the first harvest of souls during the church age and God’s provision for His people that will come in the form of the Holy Spirit. This implies that on the Day of Pentecost, the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit becomes the replacement for the external guidance that the law provided under the old covenant.Pentecost was one of the three feasts at which all Jewish males had to be present (Exo.34:22-23). Because Pentecost normally fell in May or early June, traveling conditions were much better, allowing many Jews who lived much farther away to make the trip. This is likely the reason that so many were present in Jerusalem at the historic Day of Pentecost.  It seems that God wants the entire Jewish nation to witness this spectacular day, a day in which the church is inaugurated.

Be careful to pay close attention to the similes (“like” or “as”) that Luke uses in verses 2-3. Luke is attempting to describe an event that has never happened in history, an event that has a definite supernatural element to it. When a person has trouble describing something to another, they often revert to making comparisons and contrasts as a way of explanation. “Wind” was an audible indication that the Holy Spirit had come; and “fire” was the visual indication. Remembering that this is a unique event, some Bible translations translate the Greek words in these verses in a different way than other translations. It appears that a “fire” came into the room in the shape of one large flame, and then separated itself into smaller flames (tongues of fire) that rested on each person. In the Old Testament, the spirit of God rested on the nation of Israel symbolized by the pillar of fire, but now He rested on each believer as He had rested on Jesus. The distribution of the Holy Spirit to every individual believer was remarkably demonstrated on the Day of Pentecost.

As a result of the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles began to speaking in tongues (other languages). Apparently, there were pious Jews from many nations who were living in Jerusalem at this time (2:5). It was customary for pious Jews to live out their last days in Jerusalem and around the Temple. These devout Jews, along with many others, came running to find out what all the commotion was about. When they got closer, they began to hear their own languages being spoken (verses 9-11). The onlookers were completely astonished that Galileans were speaking in languages that were unknown to them. Furthermore, if we were to arrange the list of nations in verses 9-11 on a map, we would see another dimension of this event. From the vantage point of Jerusalem: east (Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia); center (Judea); north (Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia); southwest (Egypt and Libya); west (Rome and Crete); and south (Arabia). The Gospel will move out in every direction right at the very beginning! Acts 1:8 prophecies how the Gospel will progress from Jerusalem, then to Judea and Samaria, and eventually to all the world, but right here at the very beginning of the church the Gospel is already on the move! The people present from all these nations would take the Gospel back to their own nations and people groups. When the Apostle Paul finally gets to Rome at the end of the Book of Acts, guess what he finds out?  The Gospel is already there!

For Luke, the miracle of Pentecost is as much a “seeing” miracle as it is a “hearing” miracle. This miraculous event was not without its doubters, some of the onlookers thought that the Apostles were filled with new wine (i.e. wine with higher alcoholic content). The irony here is that these onlookers accused the Apostles of being filled with wine rather than filled with the Holy Spirit. Peter realizes that the crowd needs some explanation of this miraculous event and so he seizes the opportunity to preach his first sermon, a sermon that would persuade 3,000 people to put their faith in Christ!

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