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NRSVWhen the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.
And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.
Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.
All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
πεντηκοστή pentēkostḗ; gen.
pentēkostḗs, fem. of pentēkostós (n.f.), fiftieth, which is from pénte (4002), five.
A fiftieth part.
In the NT, Pentecost, the day of Pentecost (; ; ), one of the three great Jewish festivals in which all the males were required to appear before God; so–called because it was celebrated on the fiftieth day, counting from the second day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread or Passover, i.e., seven weeks after the sixteenth day of Nisan (cf.
.; .).
In the Sept. it is called the Feast of Weeks or the Festival of Weeks ().
It was a festival of thanks for the harvest, which began directly after the Passover (.) and was hence also called Day of the Firstfruits ().
Josephus tells us that in his day great numbers of Jews came from every quarter to Jerusalem to keep this festival.
Also, during that ten-day wait between the Ascension and Pentecost they became increasingly aware of their need to be filled.
During Christ’s life they had known his exhilarating presence.
Even during the forty days between the Resurrection and Ascension they had repeatedly been blessed by his visits.
But during these ten days the disciples undoubtedly felt empty.
They were more aware than ever of the importance of their Savior’s presence—and now he was gone.
The Master’s words recorded in John 15:5, “Apart from me you can do nothing,” were forever embedded in their consciousness.
But their profound emptiness, as trying as it was, made them ready for Pentecost.
What happened to the apostolic band when the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, what happens when the Holy Spirit personally fills us, and how can we prepare for it?
Verse 1 tells us that “the day of Pentecost” had arrived.
This was fifty days after Passover, and that is what Pentecost means—“the fiftieth.”
(It came literally as a week of weeks after Passover and was also called “The Feast of Weeks.”)
Passover occurred in mid-April, so Pentecost was at the beginning of June.
It was the best-attended of the great feasts because traveling conditions were at their best.
There was never a more cosmopolitan gathering in Jerusalem than this one.
It was the perfect time for the descent of the Holy Spirit of God.
A divinely arranged appropriateness in the feast of Pentecost provides the background for the giving of the Holy Spirit.
Originally regarded as the “feast of the firstfruits,” it was emphasized by a special offering of two baked loaves made from freshly gathered wheat, designated in Leviticus 23:17 as “firstfruits to the Lord.”
As the day of the firstfruits, Pentecost was eminently appropriate for the bestowal of the Holy Spirit and the conversion of 3,000 souls—firstfruits of an even greater harvest.
It was also fitting because by the time of Christ Pentecost was considered the anniversary of the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai, and thus it provided a perfect opportunity to contrast the giving of the Law with the giving of the Spirit.
“The Spirit’s coming is in continuity of God’s purpose in giving the law and yet… the Spirit’s coming signals the essential difference between the Jewish faith and commitment to Jesus… the former is Torah-centered and Torah-directed, the latter is Christ-centered and Spirit-directed.” 1 Pentecost occurred by divine arrangement.
What happened on that special day?
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.
Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.
They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.
All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
As the apostles’ heads were bowed in prayer, a breeze began to move across them, and then it was more than a breeze.
Literally, “an echoing sound as of a mighty wind borne violently” 2 roared through the house like the whirr of a tornado, so that their robes flapped wildly.
The Spirit of God was coming upon them!
A fiery presence was in their midst, and (as the Greek indicates) it suddenly divided into separate flame-like tongues that individually danced over the heads of those present.
Fire had always meant the presence of God.
Through John the Baptist, God had promised a baptism with fire (Matthew 3:11), and now it was here.
They were “filled with the Holy Spirit” and in an electrifying instant began to speak in other languages—literally, “as the Spirit continued giving them to speak out in a clear, loud voice.” 3 They spoke as clearly and powerfully as the Old Testament prophets.
This event may seem esoteric and mysterious, with its “wind,” “fire,” and supernatural utterance.
It has a primal ring like the Greeks’ earth, fire, wind, and water.
But in the Jewish context the phenomenon was perfectly understandable.
The Hebrew word for “wind,” ruah, and the Greek word pneuma are both used for the Holy Spirit.
Ezekiel used ruah to describe the Spirit of God moving over a valley of dry bones (representing a spiritually dead Jewish nation), so that suddenly there was thunder4 and the clattering of bones as they came together “bone to bone.”
Then came the wonderfully macabre spectacle of growing sinews and flesh, and finally skin, and then Ezekiel’s words at God’s command:
Come from the fothey came to life and stood up on their feetur winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live… —a vast army.
At Pentecost, the reviving winds of the Spirit came upon the apostles with incredible spiritual life and power.
In a future day this will achieve final fulfillment in the Messianic Age.
The apostles now had God’s life-giving Spirit in a more intimate and powerful way than they had ever known—than anyone had ever known.
First “wind,” then “fire.”
Fire is a symbol of God’s presence throughout the Bible, beginning with Moses and the burning bush (Exodus 3:2–4) and continuing with the consuming fire on Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:17).
The fire at Pentecost indicated God’s presence, just as its resting on Israel demonstrated a corporate unity.
However, a new significance came when the fire divided into flames dancing over the individual apostles.
The Spirit now rests upon each believer individually.
The emphasis from Pentecost onwards is on the personal relationship of God to the believer through the Holy Spirit.
The inner pillar of fire burns away our dross, flames forth from our inner being, and brings to us a sense of God’s presence and power.
The fire of God!
First “wind,” then “fire,” then divinely empowered utterance.
In the Old Testament, inspired speech was regularly associated with the Spirit’s coming upon God’s servants, as in the case of Eldad and Medad (Numbers 11:26–29) and of Saul (1 Samuel 10:6–12).
Pentecost was the day par excellence of such speech.
To the observant Jew, it was easy to see that the Holy Spirit had come.
When he comes to God’s people, he brings wind, fire, and utterance.
How did the apostles feel when the heavens began to roar so loudly that the sound attracted a vast multitude from all corners of Jerusalem?
Surely there were some involuntary gasps or cries of surprise in the Upper Room.
What was it like when the flames began flashing over their heads and they began speaking languages they did not know?
Some began to speak in perfect Latin, others in an authentic Phrygian dialect.
The burning expectancy of the last fifty days, the persistent emptiness, was suddenly fulfilled.
What did they feel in relation to God and to one another?
We get some idea from Ephesians 5:18–21, where Paul carefully explains the experience by first counseling the Ephesians to be filled and then explains what this means in four subordinate participles.
4; EPHESIANS 5:18–21)
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.
Instead, be filled with the Spirit.
Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.
Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
There was communication!
They were to “… speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.”
On Pentecost and the following days, through the work of the Holy Spirit, believers were united in the core of their beings, they shared the same secret, and they discovered a depth and joy of communication they had not previously known.
This spiritual exchange was best expressed by reading and teaching the Scriptures and by worshiping God with music.
My own experience has borne this out in my relationship with my wife.
If we are both filled with the Holy Spirit and are open to God, there is wonderfully fulfilling communication.
I have also found this dramatically true in my ministry experiences at camps and weekend retreats.
Often when a retreat begins everyone is at arm’s length.
Some know Christ, some do not.
Some are walking with the Lord, and others are not.
But as the Spirit’s ministry takes effect, some confess Christ and allow themselves to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to appropriate the fullness of God.
Everyone revels in the joy of the Lord at such times.
Where there is the fullness of the Holy Spirit, there is communication.
There was also joy !
They were to “sing and make music in [their] heart to the Lord.”
The inner music of their souls went right up to God.
One of the memorable figures of the great Welsh revival was Bill Bray, the Cornish coal miner.
Billy was so alive that when he would descend the shaft in the morning he would pray, “Lord, if any of us must be killed today, let it be me; let not one of these men die, for they are not happy and I am.” 5He was preeminently a man of joy.
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