Great Days in History (Part 5): The Day of Pentecost

Great Days in History

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance” (Acts 2:1-4).

The day of Pentecost – called the Feast of Weeks in the Old Testament (Exodus 34:22; Deuteronomy 16:10) – occurred fifty days after the Passover (Leviticus 23:15-16). This was to be observed every year by the Jews; however, this lesson is not about the annual event, but one specific day – the day of Pentecost following Jesus’ ascension.

The Background

Jesus spoke about the kingdom – As we noticed in the previous lesson, Jesus appeared to His disciples on several different occasions following His resurrection (Matthew 28:9; Luke 24:13-31, 36-43; 1 Corinthians 15:4-8). However, He spent more time with those whom He had chosen to be His apostles. Luke emphasized this in the opening statement of the book of Acts:

The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:1-3).

For forty days, Jesus spent time with these men and spoke to them about things pertaining to the kingdom. While it is doubtful that this was all that He discussed with them, we can safely conclude from Luke’s account that this must have been the primary theme of Jesus’ discussions with the apostles during this time. This is significant, especially as we will notice what took place on this day.

Jesus told His apostles they would be His witnesses – Jesus said to them, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). He had already told them that they would “testify” about Him since they had “been with [Him] from the beginning” (John 15:27).

The apostles’ being “witnesses” to Jesus would be done in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and throughout the world – a reference to their work in carrying out the Great Commission. This was recorded expressly in the synoptic gospels with each one emphasizing different details. Matthew emphasized the apostles’ work in making disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). Mark focused on their role in preaching the gospel (Mark 16:15-16). Luke stressed the fact that the apostles would testify of Christ as His witnesses:

And He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:46-49).

When the apostles spoke about the risen Lord, beginning at the day of Pentecost, they would do so as eye-witnesses (cf. 1 John 1:1-3).

Jesus ascended to heaven – After Jesus told His apostles they would be His witnesses (Acts 1:8), “He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9). However, when this happened, these men were not left to wonder about when or how He might return; two angels explained this to them: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). This would be done just as Jesus said it would happen (John 14:3).

The Events on That Day

The Holy Spirit came upon the apostles – This was how the events on the day of Pentecost had to begin:

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance” (Acts 2:1-4).

The coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles was a fulfillment of prophecy. We already noticed that Jesus told His apostles, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8). Just before that, He said, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:5). But long before this, the prophet Joel foretold this event: “It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. […] And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be delivered” (Joel 2:28-32). Peter cited this prophecy in his sermon on that day. While some people were amazed or confused and others were mocking what was taking place, Peter explained, “This is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel” (Acts 2:16-21).

The reason why the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles was to help them complete their mission – to carry out the Great Commission as witnesses of Jesus (Luke 24:46-49; Acts 1:8). Shortly before His death, Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to them for this reason:

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:26).

When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, and you will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning” (John 15:26-27).

But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come” (John 16:13).

As the apostles were commissioned to preach the gospel (Mark 16:15), make disciples (Matthew 28:19), and testify of Christ (Luke 24:46-48), the Holy Spirit came upon them on the day of Pentecost so they could begin this work.

Peter preached the first gospel sermon – For the sake of space, the entire text of Peter’s sermon will not be included here (Acts 2:14-40); but the thrust of the message can be seen in the verses below:

Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know—this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power” (Acts 2:22-24).

Peter cited various prophecies to show that Jesus’ death and resurrection were part of God’s plan – His soul would not remain in Hades (Acts 2:25-28; cf. Psalm 16:8-11), He would be a descendant of David and sit on his throne (Acts 2:30; cf. Psalm 132:11; 2 Samuel 7:12), and He would sit at the right hand of God until His enemies became His footstool (Acts 2:34-35; cf. Psalm 110:1). Not only did Peter show that Jesus’ death and resurrection were part of God’s plan, he also showed that God revealed through the prophets that this would happen.

While Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost is often referred to as the “first gospel sermon,” there is a sense in which the gospel was preached before this. Paul wrote that “the gospel” had been “preached…beforehand to Abraham” (Galatians 3:8). Both John the Baptist and Jesus Himself preached the gospel (Luke 3:18; Matthew 4:23). However, when the gospel was preached before Pentecost, it was preached in promise. On the day of Pentecost, it was preached for the first time in fact. Jesus had been crucified and raised from the dead – facts that were “of first importance” to the message of the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

When Peter preached on the day of Pentecost, three thousand people responded: “So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). What did it mean to receive his word? Notice what Luke recorded:

Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’ Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2:37-38).

The ones who “received his word” (Acts 2:41) were those who did what Peter told them to do. They believed, repented, and were baptized for the remission of sins.

The Lord’s church was established – From the day of Pentecost onward, God “added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47, KJV). The church was active in Jerusalem in assembling together (Acts 2:42), helping one another (Acts 2:44-45), spending time together (Acts 2:46), and praising God (Acts 2:47). These individuals were not merely recorded on a list of members, they were actively involved in the church.

It is also important to note that this was also the establishment of the Lord’s kingdom. When Jesus promised to “build [His] church,” He told Peter He would “give [him] the keys of the kingdom” (Matthew 16:18-19). He was not referring to two different institutions; rather, the church was the kingdom. Jesus told His disciples that “the kingdom” would “come with power” (Mark 9:1). They would “receive [this] power when the Holy Spirit [had] come upon [them]” (Acts 1:8). This Spirit came upon them on “the day of Pentecost” (Acts 2:1-4), when the church was established.

Jesus promised to “build [His] church” (Matthew 16:18) and this “kingdom” would “never be destroyed” (Daniel 2:44).

Key Lessons

The Lord’s church is open to all – Though the gospel was first preached to the Jews on the day of Pentecost, it would eventually be taken to other nations. Peter alluded to this in his sermon: “For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself” (Acts 2:39). This was also prophesied by Isaiah: “Now it will come about that in the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream to it” (Isaiah 2:2). The Lord’s church, which was established on the day of Pentecost, would be open to all.

The Lord’s plan was for the apostles to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15). Paul explained to the brethren in Thessalonica that the gospel is the means by which God calls us (2 Thessalonians 2:14). Since this call was intended for and has been extended to all, we can safely conclude that God will welcome all who will come to Him. However, we do not merely need to conclude that; Peter explained that specifically when he spoke to the household of Cornelius: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him” (Acts 10:34-35).

God welcomes all from every nation into just “one body” (Ephesians 4:4). Both Jews and Gentiles have been reconciled “in one body to God” (Ephesians 2:16) – this body being the church (Ephesians 1:22-23) which began on the day of Pentecost.

God adds people to the church – Luke clearly recorded, “The Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47, KJV). The ones that God added were those who believed, repented, and were baptized (Acts 2:37-38).

Since God adds people to the church, that means that we do not get to dictate the terms of admission to Him. We can be guilty of doing this in two ways:

  1. We might accept people as members of the church whom God has not added – Some time after Paul obeyed the gospel in Damascus, he returned to Jerusalem and “was trying to associate with the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple” (Acts 9:26). At first, the brethren in the church in Jerusalem had no reason to believe that Saul was a disciple. Until they knew he had been converted (and, therefore, added by God to the church), they could not accept him into their fellowship (cf. Ephesians 5:11; 2 Corinthians 6:14-17). Yet many are tempted to accept anyone and everyone, regardless of whether they are truly the Lord’s disciples.
  2. We might refuse to accept those whom God has added to the church – After the gospel began being preached to Gentiles (Acts 10:34-48; 11:1-18; 14:27; 15:3), some Jewish Christians started to insist that these brethren had to be “circumcised according to the custom of Moses” in order to “be saved” (Acts 15:1). Of course, the Lord never required this. Peter said, “Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are” (Acts 15:10-11). Yet some people are like these Judaizing teachers and want to add more requirements than the Lord gave for us to be added to the church.

We simply need to be preaching God’s plan of salvation – the gospel which Peter preached on the day of Pentecost – so that others can hear what they need to do to be saved and be encouraged to make their lives right with Him through faithful obedience.

Responsibilities for those in the church – It is not enough for us to simply be “added to the church” (Acts 2:47, KJV). There are certain things that the Lord expects us to do after we are part of His church. Notice what Luke recorded about the early church immediately after Peter preached the first gospel sermon:

  • They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). They were worshiping God as He had prescribed. This harmonizes with the statement Jesus made about the fact that we “must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24).
  • And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need” (Acts 2:44-45). They were willing to help others, just as we need to be. John wrote, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11).
  • Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple” (Acts 2:46). They were united in one mind. This unity was based upon their continuing in “the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42). This was the “unity of the Spirit” that Paul described (Ephesians 4:3). We must have agreement and harmony with one another based upon what the apostles taught. Jesus prayed for this: “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:20-21). Therefore, it must be a priority for us as well.
  • Breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart” (Acts 2:46). They were regularly together with other Christians. This is important for us so that we can “encourage one another day after day…so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13).

As members of the Lord’s church, we are not to be idle, nor are we to do whatever seems right to us. We simply need to carry out the Lord’s will as He has revealed it to us in His word.

Conclusion

The Lord’s church was established on the day of Pentecost. This was the beginning of a kingdom that would never be destroyed. This kingdom is open to all. We can be part of it by doing what the Lord has said we must do to be saved (Acts 2:37-38).


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