By Peter C. Coker
After Jesus had been crucified and raised from the dead, He presented Himself to His disciples for a period of forty days. During this period He spoke to the disciples about things pertaining to the kingdom of God. At the end of the forty days, on the day He ascended into heaven, He assembled with the apostles and commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father. When the Promise of the Father came they were going to be baptized with the Holy Spirit and given supernatural power to be Christ’s witnesses in Jerusalem and to the whole world. This was the coming of the Day of Pentecost, the day that Christ sent the Holy Spirit (a.k.a., Helper, Comforter, Spirit of Truth) to His people.
Pentecost is derived from the Greek and means fifty. The Day of Pentecost in the Old Testament was fifty days from the end of Passover to the Feast of Pentecost. In the New Testament [Book of Acts] this meant that the Promise (gift of the Holy Spirit) was to come fifty days after the resurrection of Christ. Since He appeared and fellowshipped with the disciples for forty days after His resurrection, the day of Pentecost was ten days (not many days) after His ascension.
The New Testament Day of Pentecost also coincides with the Hebrew Feast of Pentecost in the Old Testament and is also called: the Feast of Weeks, Feast of Harvest, and the Day of the First Fruits. The Feast of Pentecost (Sivan, June) was a one day event that occurred seven weeks after the Passover (Nisan, April) and is also known as one of three pilgrimage festivals (Passover, Pentecost, Tabernacle). The Feast of Pentecost signified the introduction of the harvest season.
With the Passover, unleavened bread was eaten, but with the Day of Pentecost the bread was to be leavened, acknowledging God’s blessings and goodness. The New Testament Pentecost was an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and a reminder that the joy of the harvest season (God’s blessings to man) not only celebrated God’s blessings but also included the responsibility of charity towards the poor (Man’s blessings to his fellow man). The Feast of Pentecost was celebrated on the first day of the week, confirming the Christian Sabbath, and serving as a memorial for the resurrection of Christ and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus Invisible Return
“But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.”
Prior to His crucifixion, Christ taught the disciples about how the unified interaction between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit would relate to believers. Jesus also explained how He would return to them, through the Holy Spirit. In speaking to Philip (see John Chap. 14: 8-21) Jesus said that the world would no longer see Him, but, the disciples would see Him:
“And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever (v.16), even the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you (v.17)…A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me (v.19)…”
Then Judas (not Iscariot, but the son of James) said to Jesus, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?” And Jesus replied:
“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love Him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him (v.23). He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me (v. 24)…These things I have spoken to you while being present with you (v.25). 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 things that I said to you (v.26)…You have heard Me say to you,’ I am going away and coming back to you.’(v.28a)…And now I have told you before it comes, that when it comes to pass, you may believe (v. 29).
Again, in John chapter 16, Jesus told His disciples that in “a little while” He would come again and manifest Himself to them by sending the Holy Spirit:
“Nevertheless I will tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you” (Jn. 16: 7)… “He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He takes of Mine, and will declare it to you” (Jn. 16: 14-15).
Jesus taught these things to the disciples prior to going to the cross. He told them these things before His death and resurrection so that when these things happened, they would remember and truly believe what He was telling them.
After Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead, he appeared to the disciples for forty days speaking about the kingdom of God. He told them they were going to be baptized with the Holy Spirit: “For John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (Jesus; Acts: 1: 5) The disciples then asked Jesus if He was going to restore the kingdom to Israel at this time. Jesus said, “It is not for you to know the times and seasons which the Father has put in His own authority” (Acts 1: 7). Then Jesus spoke His last words before ascending into the clouds:
“All power and authority in heaven and earth has been delegated to me (Matt: 28: 18). And listen, I am sending the promise of My Father upon you, but you remain in the city of Jerusalem until you be clothed and imbued with the power from on high (Luke 24:49). But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1: 8). “You shall go therefore teaching and making disciples in all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matt. 28: 19-20). He who believes and is baptized shall be saved; and he who disbelieves shall be condemned. And these things shall follow after those who believe: in My name they shall cast out demons; they shall speak in new languages; and in their hands they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick and they will recover” (Mark: 16: 16-18). Amen.
After Jesus had spoken these words He led the apostles out as far as Bethany. And after lifting His hands He blessed them. As He was blessing them, while the disciples were still looking on, He ascended to heaven from Mt. Olivet and was received into a cloud. After worshipping Jesus, the disciples returned to Jerusalem as Christ had instructed them to do (Luke 24: 52). And everywhere they went, they preached and the Lord was working with them, confirming the word with signs and miracles following them. They returned to Jerusalem with great joy and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God.
When they returned to Jerusalem, they gathered together and proposed to replace the office previously held by Judas Iscariot. The disciples determined that the office held by Judas Iscariot was to be given to another from among them, in accordance with Psalm 109: 8. The disciples proposed two candidates: Joseph (a.k.a., Barsabas, surnamed Justus) and Matthias. The disciples then prayed and asked for God’s guidance. The disciples cast their lots and the lot fell on Matthias. Matthias was then numbered with the other eleven apostles and appointed to the office previously held by Judas Iscariot.
The Day of Pentecost
On the Day of Pentecost the disciples, the women, the brothers of Jesus, and Mary (Jesus’ mother) were all gathered together in a house in Jerusalem. Then, suddenly, the sound of a mighty rushing wind filled the house and there appeared to them divided ‘tongues as of fire,’ distributed and resting on each of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues (note: all, indicates Jesus mother Mary spoke in tongues as well). When the disciples began speaking in tongues, others in the city heard them speaking of the wonderful works of God in their native languages. Not understanding what was going on, the people were both amazed and perplexed. Some even thought they might be drunk. But, the Apostle Peter stood-up and proclaimed; “this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel.” Peter quoting Joel 2: 28-32, said this:
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your young men shall see visions,
Your old men shall dream dreams,
And on My menservants and on My maidservants,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days;
And they shall prophesy.
I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath:
Blood and fire and vapor of smoke.
The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood,
before the coming of the great and notable Day of the Lord.
And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2: 17- 21; Joel 2: 28-32)
Joel’s prophecy describes how God would pour out His Spirit on all flesh, Jews and Gentiles alike. The Apostle Peter also quoted Psalm 16: 8-11, where David spoke of God, saying: “…my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad…my flesh will also rest in hope…” Peter told the multitude that David as a prophet understood that God would raise-up the Christ and that he foresaw the resurrection, as he said; “the Lord said to my Lord, sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” (Ps. 68: 18, 110: 1)
Peter then called on the multitude to repent and be baptized in Jesus name and they too would receive the Promise, the gift of the Holy Spirit. That day, three-thousand (3,000) repented and were baptized.
John the Baptist had previously proclaimed: “I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Mt. 3: 11). The pouring out of God’s Spirit by Christ Jesus was in accordance with Old Testament scripture prophecies; Isaiah 32: 15, 44: 3, and Joel 2: 28.
The Sign of Tongues
“For by your words you will be justified — and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matt. 12: 37)
“And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of existence; and it is set on fire by Gehenna (Hell)… But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison…Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.” (James 3: 6, 8, 9, 10)
“Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver who is able to save and destroy. Who are you to judge another?” (James 4: 11, 12)
Joel’s prophecy shows that the sign of tongues demonstrates the spreading of the gospel to Jews and Gentiles alike. This was reconfirmed later through the vision of the “great sheet” with the Apostle Peter while he was praying in the city of Joppa (Acts Chap. 10 & 11). In his vision, the Lord showed Peter a “great sheet” coming down and descending to earth. The sheet was full of unclean and common animals. The Lord instructed Peter to kill and eat the animals. Peter initially said no, as they were unclean and common animals. God repeated this vision to Peter three times before the “great sheet” rose to heaven. Peter was perplexed and wondered about the meaning of what he had seen. God then showed Peter that he was not to call any man common or unclean; Jesus was Lord of all, Jew and Gentile alike. This was a revelation of the New Covenant, the revelation of the mystery of the church; that Gentiles are fellow heirs of the same spiritual body; that is, partakers of Christ’s body.
“Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you are also being built for a habitation of God in the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2: 19-22)
The scriptures in the Book of James (above) also teach that the tongue’s natural use defiles men (Ps. 31: 20; 34: 13; 39: 1). The Holy Spirit changes this natural course by changing the heart of man and changing his speech. Those endowed with the Holy Spirit begin to have a new Spirit influenced language, a language which does not defile a man, but instead unifies fellow believers to one another. This means that believers, of the one body, filled with the Holy Spirit, walk in a spirit of brotherhood and unity with one another by honoring the commandments of God; and not the traditions or commandments of men. Jesus called the scribes and Pharisees hypocrites for teaching false doctrines that transgress the commandments of God:
“Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you saying: These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men”…Then Jesus said, “Hear and understand: Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” (Matt. 15: 7-11)
When the disciples informed Jesus that the Pharisees were offended at what He said to them, Christ said, “Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind.”
The Last Days
Joel’s prophecy also describes “the last days,” and the “great and terrible day of the Lord,” in which Jerusalem would endure “great tribulation.” The Day of Pentecost and the destruction of Jerusalem, thus signaled: the birth of the New Covenant Age in Christ, the Age of the Gentiles; and the death of the Old Covenant system with the destruction of the Jewish Temple.
The Jewish Temple was destroyed when Jerusalem fell to the Roman armies in A.D. 70. The destruction of the Jewish Temple completed the break between the Old Covenant Temple and the New Covenant Church, the body of Christ. Jesus spoke of the temple of His body, which He raised after three days. In Christ, the individual believer and the Church (the one and the many) are considered a spiritual temple, the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit; members of the mystical body of Christ.
The Spirit’s Influence
In Old Covenant Israel, the sanctuary was God’s throne room. When the civil government was established, God communicated through the seventy elders of the people and poured out His Spirit upon them. Initially, the first Pentecost was a civil Pentecost with the ordination of the civil authorities (Num. 11: 16-17; 24-30). Moses, as a model or representative of the future Christ, was the mediator of the gift of the Spirit.
Likewise, the anointing of Saul in First Samuel was also a civil Pentecost. The offices of civil magistrates are [biblically] considered to be prophetic offices, in that civil officers are to speak for God, insofar as [they] observe, study, obey, and enforce the law of God. According to the law of God, for civil authorities or the State to operate as an autonomous entity, independent of God, is to operate as a false prophet and to be profane. Since the Spirit of God is a sovereign free spirit, He is not restricted to operating in any particular sphere of life, religious or civil.
Union in Christ is a living relationship with divine power within believers. By faith believers are made alive in Christ through a divine relationship with the Holy Spirit. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit comes upon all who put their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation and life. Christians are thus identified with Christ as members of His mystical body. Union with Christ also manifests the unity of Christ’s body; Jews and Gentiles alike are unified through the Holy Spirit, in Christ. “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” There is no partiality in Christ, no racial partiality, and no partiality between rich and poor, all are of one unified body.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit is a universal experience for all believers and not a special experience for a select few. A ‘body of believers’ who claims a special experience, a special knowledge, or a special spirituality are by definition a sect in the manner of the [Gnostics]. All who put their faith in Christ are grafted into God’s family and divinely “sealed” by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14). Faithful believers are united in Christ in salvation, and filled with the Holy Spirit as the experience of God’s grace.
“For He is like a refiners fire and like launderers soap. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver;” (Mal. 3: 2-3)
“I came to send fire on the earth, and now I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished!
Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division.” (Jesus; from Luke 12: 49-51)
The gospel message and the outpouring of the Spirit are memorialized in fire, just as the giving of the law on Mt. Sinai was given in fire. The baptism of fire by the Spirit, in its function, signifies a refining quality, as with purifying silver or gold. Fire represents the breaking down and separating of any impurities as with the purifying process.
The Apostle Paul said in 1Corinthians chapter 3; “…each one’s work will be manifest; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.”
In addition, the sign of fire also describes the divisive nature of the gospel message. Faith in Christ creates a divisive spirit; the supernatural against the natural world (the unbelieving world). Christ Himself taught this when He proclaimed in Luke 12: 51 that He came to bring division, not peace. As Christ also stated in John 15: 18, 19: “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” In spite of the division with the unbelieving world, God’s gospel message is designed to spread, grow and conquer the natural world.
…As the tongue of fire devours the stubble, and the flame consumes the chaff…Because they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. (Isaiah 5:24)
The anger of the Lord was kindled against those who would not walk in God’s ways. Was it not the Lord whose ways they would not walk? Is it not the Lord whose laws they would not obey? So, according to Isaiah in chapter five the stubble represents those who reject the law of God and despise the word of Christ Jesus. Isaiah chapter forty-two says as a result, God, poured out the heat of His anger…it set Him on fire…it burned Him up! The purpose here is the destruction of unbelief through the propagation and spread of the gospel message.
To believers, those in Christ, God says: “…when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” (Isaiah 43: 26)
Describing the wicked, God says: …the light of the wicked is put out, and the flame of his fire does not shine. (Job 18: 5) [The wicked] are the rebellious ones, those unwilling to hear God’s instructions, who do not want their eyes opened, who do not want to hear what is right, who speak smooth and convincingly about false prophecy, who turn aside from the truth, who do not want to hear of Jesus, who advocate and trust in oppression (oppression of God’s people) and perverseness. (Is. 30: 9-12)
Deuteronomy says that God is as a consuming fire who desires to purge evil from the midst of His people.
In Jeremiah chapter 23 it says, “…is not My word like fire,” declares the Lord. So, the sign of tongues indicates the essence of the gospel message and speaking that message is likened to fire, and its results are indeed, analogous.
Regarding the preaching of the gospel, Rousas John Rushdoony summed it up nicely:
“The essence of true preaching is this; that we proclaim the Spirit-given word to men in the confidence that He who gave the word will give the hearing; so to preach means that we have no confidence in our power, and all confidence in the Holy Ghost.”
The “cloven” or divided tongues of fire that sat upon each of them are likely representative of the various gifts of the Spirit that God distributes to each believer for the building and strengthening of the church. The constant burning flame reflects the constant indwelling of the Holy Spirit to individual believers and to the church as a whole. In general, the purpose of the Holy Spirit in believers as described by Jesus in the Apostle Luke’s account (in Acts 1: 8) is that:
“… You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in all Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Jesus as mediator of the New Covenant sent the Holy Spirit as the universal blessing to all who call upon his name and place their faith in Him. Water baptism proclaims and signifies the inner experience of Spirit-baptism and believers are commanded to take part in submitting to water baptism as an outward expression of the inner grace experience of Spirit-baptism.
The Spirit’s influence is not limited to a specific sphere of life, but is inclusive of all of life; the spiritual affecting the material, the religious influencing the civil.
Christ aims to conquer the world with His gospel message, through the divine-power of the Holy Spirit. He has chosen and empowered the faithful to carry out His conquering gospel throughout the world, from generation to generation. The Book of Acts describes the beginnings of the church under the influence of the Holy Spirit. It demonstrates the new boldness of the disciples to proclaim the good news of the gospel message. It also describes the church confronted by opposition and ultimately overcoming and converting many. The Book of Acts says the believers in the New Covenant church adhered to the Apostles doctrine and fellowship, “…continuing daily with one accord in the temple and breaking bread from house to house…and the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”
The essence of the Day of Pentecost is that Christ comes to believers through the Holy Spirit in order to empower believers to proclaim the gospel to the world, and to walk in God’s ways. As stated in the Great Commission, to disciple people and nations to walk in the ways of Christ Jesus; “teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you.”
The defeat of Satan’s dominion was proclaimed at the cross. The will of God is that believers love and honor God by submitting to God’s ways and by proceeding with the gospel message to disciple the world with the commandments of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit sent by Jesus on the Day of Pentecost transformed a small group of faithful believers into a thriving, Spirit empowered church, progressively moving forward towards fulfilling the Great Commission. The power of the gospel and Holy Spirit has transformed civilizations throughout the history of Christ’s church and continues to do so today.
Christ’s death and resurrection broke the ancient, politico-magical worldview and philosophy and began turning it towards a Christ inspired worldview philosophy. The Christian worldview, since its beginnings, has transformed the way mankind thinks about the totality of his environment — both spiritual and material — and how mankind lives out a transformed life. The transformation continues. The mystical church has grown and continues to grow phenomenally throughout the world as the Holy Spirit changes the hearts and lives of converts. Although the church struggles within itself and contends with the unbelieving world, the Spirit of God is daily transforming His church, incrementally subduing the world through the gospel to the cause of Christ.
Note: I have left out of this discussion, the practice of “tongues” as it relates to the church assembly. The practice of “tongues” as it relates to the church assembly, is, as I see it, a separate discussion from its designation as a “sign” in the Day of Pentecost narrative.