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What the Bible says about Pentecost , Miracle of
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Deuteronomy 4:5-10

God chose ancient Israel out of all the nations of the earth and determined that they would be a holy nation. He ordained that they would be a people set apart from the rest of the world. The Old Covenant was intended not only to be a schoolmaster to teach Israel how to live in such a way that they would recognize the Messiah when He came (Galatians 3:24), but it was also intended to set Israel apart—to make them holy. In so doing, He intended the entire nation to be a witness of Him. This passage demonstrates this.

God proposed the Old Covenant to Israel on the day of Pentecost. Israel accepted the terms of the agreement and thereby signed up to be a light to the rest of the world. God had given them the most superior set of laws that mankind had ever encountered, which would leave the rest of the world in awe due to the beneficial effects that would come from it.

We know from the New Testament that the only problem with this covenant was the heart of the people entering into it (Hebrews 3:10-12; 8:7-8). The God-given terms of the agreement were absolutely perfect for what He wanted to accomplish. One of His main purposes was for Israel to be an example, a witness, to the rest of the world of the right way to live. Incidentally, the Tabernacle that Israel carried with them in the wilderness was even called "the Tabernacle of witness" (Numbers 17:7; Acts 7:44).

If Israel had been faithful to the covenant, they would have received blessings beyond belief. In the blessings portion of Deuteronomy 28, God was prepared to set Israel high above all the nations of the earth. Their cities and farms would be prosperous; their children would be healthy and strong; their herds and flocks would be numerous; they would have an abundance of food; and they would have protection from their enemies. They would have rain in due season, and everything they put their hands to would be blessed. They would have enough that they could lend to other nations and not borrow. God intended them to be a holy people whose behavior and prosperity would make it obvious to the rest of the world that God had set them apart. The effect would be so dramatic that Israel would be feared!

However, as we know, Israel failed. The accounts of the Old Testament prophets show the great lengths to which God went for Israel in cleaning her up and taking her under His wing. Yet, once she caught a glimpse of her God-given beauty and wealth, all she did was play the harlot with the surrounding nations, rather than being a witness to them (see Ezekiel 16).

Today, the United States is the richest nation on earth, which seems to coincide with God's promise of blessing until we realize that America is also the greatest debtor nation. Parts of the nation suffer drought, and other parts are practically floating away. Much of our food is either imported or grown from genetically mutated seed. Our cities are filthy, crowded, and corrupt, and our family farms are dying through environmental regulation and corporate buyouts. We live in abundance yet cannot afford our lifestyles, plunging further into personal debt. The nation's churches are pathetically weak, barely standing to fight the onslaught of secular culture—and, in fact, accepting much of it in a misguided spirit of tolerance. In short, America is the farthest thing from being a kingdom of priests or a holy nation. Our entertainment industry shows, like nothing else, what sort of "witness" we are making to the world.

Israel failed because her heart was not right. Biblically, the word "heart" is synonymous with "mind" and "spirit." We know that God desires that all Israel be saved (Romans 11:26; II Peter 3:9) and that in the future He will replace Israel's heart of stone by pouring out His Spirit (Ezekiel 36:26-27). However, for a few—known as the remnant, the church, the Body of Christ, spiritual Israel, the Israel of God, or the firstfruits—God decided to do this ahead of time.

He gave His Spirit on the Feast of the Firstfruits, the day of Pentecost, AD 31, so that a remnant of Israel would have a heart of flesh and not of stone. God gave His Spirit so that spiritual Israel could obey God both in the letter and in the intent of His law. In addition, just as He gave Israel His law so she would be a witness, God gave the church His Spirit so that Christ's disciples would be witnesses. By receiving a portion of the Spirit that proceeds from the divine Lawgiver, the firstfruits are able to understand the intent behind God's laws. More than this, by yielding to the promptings and motivations of God's Spirit, they can begin to take on His character and actively do good rather than merely avoid sin.

David C. Grabbe
The Pentecost Witness

Matthew 4:12-17

It was in the Gentile area of Galilee—not in Jewish Jerusalem to the south—where Christ began His ministry of light. In Romans 11:11, Paul asserts that "salvation has come to the Gentiles." Peter, in citing Joel in his first sermon, understands the Gentiles to be spiritually "in the region and shadow of death," in deep darkness, with clouds obscuring their vision of God's salvation. He relates Joel to Pentecost because, on that day, God spread apart those clouds to allow the light of His salvation to reach the Gentiles, dispelling their gloom. What happened in Acts 2 gave the Gentiles the hope that they could build a relationship with the God of salvation. The hope of the Gentilesbecomes the theme of the book of Acts, as seen, for example,

» in the preaching by Philip to the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8);

» in the work by Peter with Cornelius and his family (Acts 10); and

» in Paul's ministry to the Gentiles in every city he visited. God called Paul "to bear My name before Gentiles" (Acts 9:15). Chapters 11 through 28 of Acts relates how Paul did that.

Charles Whitaker
Peter's Trumpets Message—on Pentecost

Matthew 16:15-18

Christ had not yet built the church of God when this episode took place, though its formation had begun in that it had its Head, who had chosen and begun preparing a number of trainees, including the twelve apostles, to become part of it. Another year or two would pass before it would be prepared to begin carrying out its responsibility to preach the gospel to the world.

The epistle to the Hebrews did not exist when Jesus suffered a horrific beating and then was mercilessly crucified. Nor did it exist seven weeks later when Jews from all over the Mediterranean observed Pentecost in Jerusalem, and God gave a highly visible and audible demonstration of His awareness of this massive injustice while giving His Holy Spirit to those already loyal to our Savior.

The church did not officially exist until this last act, as God connected each of His chosen children with a truly holy, spiritual bond. Only then did the apostles and others began to fulfill their assignments from Jesus of preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God to the people of Jerusalem. Then the church began to grow significantly in purpose, numbers, and unity.

On that Day of Pentecost, as recorded in Acts 2:40-41, “with many other words [Peter] testified and exhorted them, saying, 'Be saved from this perverse generation.' Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.” After God healed a man's crippling affliction at the Temple, one he had suffered since birth, Acts 4:4 reports, “many of those who heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.” In Acts 6:1, Luke writes that the number of disciples within the church was multiplying, and the internal organization to care for the brethren was taking shape. The church, with a dramatic growth spurt, was actively coming into being, demonstrating to the unconverted Jews that it was a spiritual force to be reckoned with.

All this vital activity within the tiny organization named “the church of God” took place within about six months and changed the course of world history. It all occurred within a small, second-rate province of the mighty Roman Empire. Considering this thin slice of history, we know that the Creator God engineered this spiritual activity as He moved to reveal His creative purposes to more than just a few Jews within the Jerusalem area.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Why Hebrews Was Written (Part Four)

Acts 2:2-11

The day of Pentecost is typically associated with stupendous signs and miracles. Acts 2 records that when the Holy Spirit was given, the display of ability and power astounded everyone present. There was a sound like a mighty rushing wind (verse 2). It appeared that fire rested on the apostles (verse 3), and when they spoke, every person present could hear what was being said in his own language, even his own dialect (verses 4-11).

Because of the brief description given in Acts 2, various religious denominations have sprung up which practice speaking in gibberish—which the disciples definitely were not doing—and being "slain in the Spirit," which is clearly not a biblical concept. These sincere but misled people focus on miracles and manifestations as "proof" that they have received the Holy Spirit. Every week they gather to "pray down" the Spirit—or at least a spirit—for their own use and gratification. The focus of their meetings is on the experience rather than on instruction, admonition, rebuke, or encouragement (see II Timothy 3:16).

Before this event in Acts, Jesus Himself explained to His disciples the importance of their receiving the Holy Spirit, as well as what signs would be shown as a result (Acts 1:4-9). The very last thing the resurrected Christ said before He ascended to the Father was, to paraphrase, "You will receive power when you receive the Holy Spirit, and this will enable you to be witnesses of Me." Through the giving of the Holy Spirit, Christ's disciples would have the necessary means to be lights to the world and to demonstrate a way to live that glorified God.

David C. Grabbe
The Pentecost Witness

Acts 2:3

In addition to the wind-like sound, flames of fire appeared either to fall upon or to rise from those who were given God's Spirit. There is no indication that these flames appeared on anybody else except those who were in the house. God may have done this because fire had previously been associated with a form of baptism by John the Baptist (Luke 3:16). God used the fire to identify those who were receiving His Spirit at that time—a form of visible "sanctification" (being set apart). In any case, nothing like that occurs at "tarry meetings," nor does it occur when any today receive God's Holy Spirit. Neither did it occur when the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:44-48). It was a one-time sign.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pentecost and the Holy Spirit

Acts 2:4

Those in the house were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke with other languages. These were not unknown languages, but languages familiar to people in the area, as Acts 2:6 shows.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pentecost and the Holy Spirit

Acts 2:6-11

Notice two things about the miracle of Pentecost: its nature and its participants.

The Miracle's Nature: The miracle temporarily "healed" the ailment God imposed at Babel. There, God divided the languages of mankind, inflicting on it an impediment to communication (see Genesis 11:1-9). Suddenly, relationships became much more difficult to establish and maintain. Mankind scattered.

Communication is a two-way street, involving a source and a receiver. These are what we call the speaker and the hearer, respectively. By changing speaker and hearer, the miracle brought source and receiver together, where normally they would remain distant. The disciples spoke languages in which they were untutored. Members of their audience heard the disciples "speak in his own language" (Acts 2:6). Communication took place.

As miracles go, this is a "strange" one. It did not involve healing the blind, deaf, or lame en masse; it did not involve the wholesale casting out of demons. Compared to the plagues God sent on Egypt or to Jesus' raising of Lazarus from the dead, the Pentecost miracle was not dramatic. Nevertheless, we will see that it was significant.

The Miracle's Participants: The miracle involved Jewish speakers of a substandard dialect and Gentile hearers from around the world. The disciples were Galileans. By virtue of the distance separating them from Jerusalem, Galileans spoke a different dialect of Aramaic than that spoken in Jerusalem. Like many dialects, theirs was what linguists call a "shibboleth," a term they get from Judges 12:6. A shibboleth is a speech pattern that identifies the speaker's background. In the disciples' case, it marked them to be what the Jerusalem leadership considered uneducated and low class. As an analogy, one could compare the Galilean dialect to "cockney" English—also a shibboleth. The dons of Oxbridge look down on those who are "unfortunate" enough to speak cockney. That is how the effete Jewish elite in Jerusalem reacted to the Galilean dialect. Everyone who heard the disciples knew they were from Galilee. Their audience was dumbfounded that these untutored fellows could fluently speak other languages.

Notice that they mention "Jews and proselytes." The cosmopolitan audience was not composed merely of Jews who had traveled from abroad for the holy day, but also of Gentiles converted to Judaism—that is, proselytes. Unlike typical Jews today, pre-Diaspora Jews (before AD 70) were dedicated missionaries. Christ Himself refers to their evangelistic zeal: "You travel land and sea to win one proselyte" (Matthew 23:15). Over the years, the Jews—like evangelicals today—had carried their religion everywhere. Paul preached the gospel in synagogue after synagogue throughout the Roman Empire. There were synagogues in the Parthian Empire as well; Peter, when he served God in Babylon, certainly frequented them. Judaism had reached the Far East by Christ's time and perhaps the distant West as well.

Pentecost's was a miracle of language. It showed Peter what Pentecost was all about: God had enabled communication between Himself and mankind. He had made it possible to build a relationship between God and man and between man and man. Even if human civilization had reached the end of its rope—suffering the judgment of God, as Joel apocalyptically describes it—"whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved" (Acts 2:21).

Most importantly, Peter understood that this new level of communication included the Gentiles. This is why Joel's words struck home to him on the Day of Pentecost. He knew that the word "whoever" included the Gentiles scattered about in the audience. He preached good news to them: They now had access to God's salvation.

Charles Whitaker
Peter's Trumpets Message—on Pentecost


 




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