Events that took place on the day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2 are unique and unrepeatable. In this article, we explore how Pentecost is: (1) a fulfilment; (2) a birthday; and (3) an empowering. Today, we must be aware of the significance of Pentecost and realize these blessings for ourselves.
On the evening before His crucifixion, the Lord Jesus is in the Upper Room with His disciples. He explains that He is going away and promises to send ‘another comforter’, John 14. 16. The Lord Jesus refers to the coming of the Spirit many times on this occasion, John 13-17. The nervous and confused disciples are expecting comfort and understanding when the Spirit comes.
Moments before His triumphant ascension, the Lord Jesus is on the mountain with His disciples. He gives them authority to preach the good news, Luke 24. 47, but how will they acquire the necessary power? He tells them to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit, so that they can be ‘clothed with power’, v. 49 ESV.
As the Spirit arrives on the day of Pentecost, the disciples thankfully recognize that the Lord Jesus has fulfilled His promise. He is God, who ‘cannot lie’, Titus 1. 2 – He always keeps His promises.
Pentecost is more than a fulfilment of the Lord’s promise; it is also the realization of an Old Testament picture. The feasts of Jehovah in Leviticus chapter 23 are a symbolic timeline of God’s programme through the ages. If Passover speaks of Christ’s death, and First fruits of His resurrection, then Pentecost speaks of the beginning of the rewards for His sorrows. ‘He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied’, Isa. 53. 11. At the feast of Pentecost in the Old Testament, grain from the early harvest was used to make bread – two loaves – reminding us of Jew and Gentile united together in the church. We are the beginning of Christ’s reward from Calvary, which will eventually encompass the whole universe.
Peter recognized that the events in Acts chapter 2 related to Old Testament prophecy, Joel 2. 28. Peter carefully stated that Pentecost is not the complete fulfilment of Joel – merely ‘this is that’, Acts 2. 16 – i.e., similar, but not all of it. Peter knew that Joel was predicting a moment when all Israel would know the Spirit outpoured upon them, causing them to mourn and repent for rejecting their Messiah, Zech. 12. 10.
The church was founded on the day of Pentecost. Individual believers are now united together into a corporate body. The Lord Jesus anticipated this moment when he told Peter, ‘I will build my church’, Matt. 16. 18. The building commenced on the day of Pentecost with the Spirit’s arrival. The believers were ‘all with one accord in one place’, Acts 2. 1. The Spirit filled the room in which they were gathered, so they were collectively immersed in the Spirit. This is the baptism described by Paul, 1 Cor. 12. 13. A baptism marks a new start: this Spirit-baptism marks the church’s beginning. Like other major events, there were aftershocks, e.g., Acts 11. 15, but these are reminders of the original event rather than repetition.
How did a few cowardly, uneducated peasants manage to ‘turn the world upside down’, Acts 17. 6? Christ’s resurrection gave them courage and the Spirit’s indwelling gave them power.
The disciples became the Holy Spirit’s containers as He filled them. They became the Holy Spirit’s instruments, as He used them to bring about God’s purpose. The character of the Holy Spirit was seen in the lives of the disciples. The Spirit was seen as tongues on each person. The disciples spoke in tongues, to tell the ‘wonderful works of God’, Acts 2. 11. The Spirit came as fire. The disciples had a searching message that brought conviction to many, e.g., Acts 2. 37. Later, Paul had a discussion with Felix about ‘righteousness’, Acts 24. 25. This is precisely the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit described by the Lord Jesus, John 16. 8.
It has happened once; it will not happen again. Nevertheless, we can enjoy the benefits of Pentecost. We should rely on the Holy Spirit to give us comfort and insight into divine truth. We should enjoy fellowship with other Christians in the body of Christ. We should experience the Spirit-filling that produces a sanctified sensitivity to accomplish His work in the world.