July 4, 1776 is considered as an important date in the history of the United States, because it marks the independence of the 13 colonies from British colonial rule. March 7, 1957 is an important day to Ghanaians because it commemorates our independence. October 1960 is a significant date for Nigerians because it established Nigeria’s independence from British imperialism.
On December 7, 1941, Japanese aircraft attacked Pearl Harbor, wiping out American air units. World War II begins. October 31, 1517, a German monk, by the name of Martin Luther, nails his Ninety-five Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. The Protestant Reformation is launched.
July 16, 1942, at Alamos, New Mexico, a tremendous blast rushes out across the desert. A huge mushroom-shaped cloud lifts heavenward. Nuclear weaponry becomes a reality.
On the day of Pentecost, ten days after the ascension of Jesus, the Holy Spirit descended in a way it had never happened before, and the Christian Church was born. Amen.
I like what Dr. Jerry Vines says. He says, “the average Christian is bogged down somewhere between Calvary and Pentecost. Christians have been to Calvary for pardon, but they have not been to Pentecost for power. Bethlehem means ‘God with us’; Calvary means ‘God for us’; but Pentecost means ‘God in us.’” This is a true statement so I would like you to pay attention as we deal with the topic: “A Day That Changed the World.”
THE FULFILLMENT OF THE PROMISE VV. 1-4
The Apostles and other disciples took the promise and command of Jesus seriously. Before Jesus ascended to heaven, He commanded the disciples to wait in Jerusalem. The disciples heeded Jesus’ word. This is a sign of obedience to Christ. The difference between the disciples in the first century and today is that while they were obedient to Christ, we are not. We do what we want not what the Lord wants us to do. The disciples did not know the exact day the Holy Spirit would descend, but they were willing to obey their Master’s word. Let me ask you a question, when the Lord speaks to you in His word do you obey Him? When the Spirit of God prompts you to do something for Christ, do you do it? When God speaks to you through the preaching of His word, do you do what Jesus wants you to do?
Verse 1, when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. What an amazing astounding day. No ordinary, average day, but one of the greatest days in the history of the world. This day completely changed the Christian enterprise. If Pentecost had not come, the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ would not have gone forth with such power and great effectiveness. Luke tells us that there were about 120 people (1:15) waiting for the fulfillment of this promise. Let me tell you the significance of Pentecost from a historical perspective. Pentecost had two meanings, one agricultural and the other historical. According to the Jewish custom and calendar, Pentecost was the middle of the three annual Jewish harvest festivals (Dt. 16:16). All these three feasts became very significant spiritual landmarks in the ministry of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. The feast of Unleavened Bread is the same as Passover feast. The feast of Passover commemorated the time when the Israelites were miraculously delivered from a long period of slavery in Egypt. The Old Testament Passover found its fulfillment in the death of Christ on Calvary. For Apostle Paul says that Jesus Christ became our Passover lamb (1 Cor. 5:7). The feast of Booths is the same as the feast of Tabernacles.
This feast reminded Israel of the days during the exodus from Egypt when the people lived not in houses, but booths made of cut branches. The celebration came when the harvests were in, so it is called the Feast of Ingathering in Exodus 23:16. It was during the observance of the Feast of Tabernacles that Jesus issued an invitation to the thirsty to come to Him and drink. In John 7:38, Jesus said, he who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, from his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water. Here Jesus was speaking of the coming of the Holy Spirit whom those who believed in Him were to receive. Pentecost, the middle feast was known as the feast of Weeks, because it was celebrated on the day following the passage of seven Sabbaths—a Week of Weeks from Passover. Pentecost was also called the Feast of Harvest because it celebrated the completion of the grain harvest. The Greek speaking Jews gave the name Pentecost, a word from the Greek (pentekostos), which means fiftieth; that is fifty days after the Passover. Jesus ascended back to heaven forty days after His resurrection. Then ten days following His ascension was Pentecost. When Jesus ascended to heaven, in ten days’ time the Holy Spirit descended. Hallelujah.
Unquestionably, the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost marked a crucial turning point in the history of God’s dealing with the human race. It is one of the five past events, which are essential components of the Christian gospel: The Incarnation (Jesus stepping out of eternal shekinah glory to become human); the Atonement (Jesus dying on the cross for us); the Resurrection (Jesus raised from the dead); the Ascension (Jesus going back to heaven); and Pentecost (the permanent descent of the Holy Spirit). A sixth event is still in the future—the Second Coming of Christ. If you have any doubt regarding the Second Coming of Jesus go back and examine the five events that have all been fulfilled.
Since the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit is the link between the first and second advent of Jesus. The Holy Spirit applies the work of Jesus Christ to you and me in this age. The Gospel narratives demonstrate the work of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit during His earthly life. The Book of Acts portrays the work of Christ through the Apostles in the person and power of the Holy Spirit. The day of Pentecost was obviously an earth-shaking day. It was a day that makes all the difference in the world to us. In the OT, God predicted there would be a special day when He would pour out His Spirit on all flesh (Joel 2:28). The day came. Have you wondered why the Holy Spirit came? The Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost because He has a work to do in the Church, in the world, and in the individual Christian. The day of Pentecost was the birthday of the Church. How can a church be the church of Jesus Christ when the members don’t believe in the Holy Spirit? Pentecost is an event not to be repeated. It was an event prophesied by God to take place, and like the birth, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus it will not be repeated.
Let us explore the three phenomena that accompanied the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. The Spirit came upon all the 120 disciples. First, there came from heaven a noise like violent rushing wind and filled the whole house, where they were sitting (v. 2). Second, there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves and they rested on each one of them (v. 3). Third, all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance (v. 4). These three experiences seemed like natural phenomena (wind, fire, and speech); yet they were supernatural both in origin and in character. The noise was not wind but sounded like wind. The sight was not fire but resembled fire; and the speech was in languages, which were not ordinary but, in some way, other. The word other is the Greek word (heterais). I explained to you that there are two Greek words for the English word another. They are (allos) and (heteros). Allos means another of the same kind and heteros means another of a different kind. So here Luke is saying that the disciples were speaking in languages other than their own. The languages they were using were not the ones they already knew or had learned. They were foreign languages. They were languages known to the hearers, but not known to the disciples. What was the significance of these phenomena? If you and I allow other parts of Scripture to guide our interpretation, it seems that these three signs at least represented the era of the Spirit which had begun. The wind and fire are the fulfillment of the prophecy of John the Baptist in Luke 3:16. It also speaks of the prophet Joel’s word about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Joel 2:28-29). The noise like wind is a symbol of power and the presence of God (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8). The sight like fire is symbolic of purity (Is. 6:6-7), and the speech in other languages is the symbol of the universality of the Christian church. God made His presence known to this group of believers in a spectacular way—violent wind, fire, and His Holy Spirit. Last two Fridays ago, I was watching and listening to a preacher on TV, who said that if a Christian does not speak in tongues then he/she is not filled with the Holy Spirit. And he referred to this text. I was sad for the pastor, so I prayed for him.
The answer to the phenomenon of tongues to Acts 2, on the day of Pentecost is so obvious and yet some Christians miss it. The experience of Pentecost is like the symbols in the Book of Revelation. Some Christians bog down in the intricacies of the symbols that they miss the message of Revelation. What did Jesus say in Acts 1:8? Acts 1:8 is the table of content for the Book of Acts. Acts 1:8 is the summary of the Book of Acts. The Book of Acts is divided into three sections. Chapters 1-8:4, the gospel is preached in Jerusalem and in all Judea. In chapters 8:5-12, the gospel is preached to Samaria and neighboring people. Chapters 13-28 the gospel is taken to the ends of the earth.
On the day of Pentecost, the custom was that all adult Jewish males traveled to Jerusalem to participate in this great feast which God had given to their fathers. Verse 4 states that all the apostles and the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit. The gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost was unconditional. The central fact and the greatest wonder are that they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. This speaks of an inward experience of the divine presence. The word all is significant, showing that the experience was not confined to the apostles. To be filled with the Holy Spirit is to receive as much of the Holy Spirit as you can contain. Though the Pentecost experience was both a baptism (1:5) and a filling (2:4), we should distinguish between baptism of the Spirit and the filling with the Spirit. Baptism of the Spirit is once and for all; it is a one-time experience. On the other hand, the filling of the Spirit may be repeated often (cf. 2:4: 4:8, 31; Eph. 5:18). Since the day of Pentecost believers have experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit at the time of conversion (1 Cor. 12:13).
Moreover, nowhere in the NT are Christians commanded to be baptized with or by the Holy Spirit. However, the NT commands you and I to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18; Gal 5:16). The filling of the Holy Spirit is needed for effective service and Christ-like living. Do you want God to manifest Himself to you in such a dramatic way? He may do so but be careful of forcing your expectations on God. In 1 Kings 19:10-13, Elijah needed a message from God. There was a great wind, then an earthquake, and finally a fire. But God’s message came in a “gentle blowing.” God may use dramatic methods to work in your life—or he may speak in gentle whispers. Wait patiently and always listen. Please, hear me and hear me well. Don’t make your Christian experience the norm for everybody to follow.
- THE EFFECT OF THE PENTECOSTAL
PHENOMENA VV. 5-13
According to verse 5, the Holy Spirit descended on the 120 disciples on Pentecost; a day when all devout Jewish men had traveled to Jerusalem to participate in the feast. Before I go on let me, say this. When the Holy Spirit descended, He filled only the 120 disciples. These disciples already belonged to Jesus. Therefore, it is impossible for you to be filled with the Holy Spirit if you have not received Jesus Christ as your Lord and personal Savior. But you would protest I go to church every Sunday. I am a deacon in my church; I am an elder; I am a leader in my church; I attend Sunday school regularly; I sing in the choir. I pay my tithes and offerings. The question is not what you do, but whose you are. Do you notice how the Bible describes the Jewish men who have convened in Jerusalem? Luke the writer uses the adjective devout. The word devout means “earnest, fervent, godly, holy, pious, religious, and reverent.” These men were devout, but the Holy Spirit did not baptize nor fill them. You know why? Because they were not properly related to God. They did not have relationship and fellowship with the ascended Lord Jesus Christ. I hope you understand what I am saying.
Verse 6 tells us the reaction of the crowd when they were hearing what the disciples were saying in their own dialects. Verse 6 says that they were bewildered or amazed. Verse 7 says, they were amazed and astonished. Verse 12 says that they continued in amazement and perplexity. This presupposes that the tongues the disciples spoke on the day of Pentecost was different from the gift of tongues in 1 Corinthians 12 & 14. On the day of Pentecost, the disciples did not need any interpretation. The crowd heard it in their own dialects. In those days when the Roman Empire ruled the world, Koine Greek was the Lingua Franca; in other words, Greek was the national language, but the nations also had their own dialects.
In verses 7 & 8, in their amazement, the crowds were saying, are these people not Galileans? Their statement was a “tongue in cheek.” Calling the disciples Galileans was not a compliment. It was a disparaging remark. The Jews regarded the Galileans as people who spoke with a different and a funny accent. They considered them as uncultured (Matt. 26:73).
Therefore, the miracle was both in the speaking and the hearing. In this phenomenon of tongues, God was demonstrating that Christianity was not limited to any race or group of people. Jesus offers salvation to all people without regard to nationality. In this supernatural episode of Pentecost, God is saying that no matter what your race, color, nationality, or language, God speaks to you. The question is not whether God still speaks today. The question is are you listening to God. God has always been speaking, but are you listening?
Verses 9-11 are the lists of nations of the Roman world from which the pilgrims have converged in Jerusalem to observe Pentecost. Many of the pilgrims were Jews who have been dispersed due to captivities and persecutions. Some too were Gentile converts to Judaism, they were known as proselytes. Their response to the phenomenon of tongues was a mixture of perplexity and wonder. But there were others who were making fun of the whole experience. These were the mockers and ungodly that Psalm 1 says you are not to keep their company, neither should you take their advice. Anytime revival has touched the church and the world there has always been mockers of the things of God. Perhaps there are even some mockers of the things of God in our midst today. You are here to make fun of the things of God, be careful that God’s wrath does not come upon you. Instead of becoming a mocker, become like one of the three thousand people who gave their lives to Christ on the day of Pentecost.