Pastor David B. Curtis

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Pentecost

Acts 2:1-4

Delivered 04/27/2008

We ended our study last week by looking at what the disciples were doing in the ten days between the Ascension and Pentecost. During this time the emphasis is upon the selection of the twelfth apostle. Let me underscore the importance of this by pointing out that the selection of the twelfth apostle is the only incident that Luke recorded during the ten-day period of the disciples' waiting.

Why did there need to be twelve Apostles? Jesus was reconstituting Israel. As such, twelve apostles were the perfect number; not only to show the ending of the old, but of the beginning of the new:

And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles. (Acts 1:26 NASB)

Luke concludes by noting that the full complement of the twelve apostles has been restored. Here is the New Israel, the True Israel. Here we see our theme "The Restoration of Israel" being demonstrated. And now the New Israel is ready for Pentecost.

As we begin our study of Acts 2, one thing that I want you to keep in mind is that the context is clearly "Jewish." The events take place in Jerusalem. The apostles are all Jews. Peter's message is rooted in First Testament prophecy, prophecies given to Israel. Peter speaks of God's coming judgment on Israel and calls on the "men of Israel" to repent, offering not only forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit, but the kingdom as well.

And when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. (Acts 2:1 NASB)

As we have said, the context is Jewish, Pentecost is a Jewish feast day. Before we examine these verses, we must have an understanding of Pentecost. Old Covenant Israel had seven holidays or "feasts" that were prescribed by God. These seven holidays are discussed throughout the Bible in both Testaments. But only in Leviticus 23 are all seven holidays listed in chronological sequence:

'These are the appointed times of the LORD, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at the times appointed for them. (Leviticus 23:4 NASB)

The words "appointed times" are often translated "feasts." The words "holy convocation" mean: "rehearsal." In other words, the feasts of the Lord were appointed times of worship for Israel that would serve as "dress rehearsals" in God's prophetic calendar. Things that happen to Israel in the natural (types); parallel things that happen spiritually in the church (anti-types).

These feasts are not just part of the heritage of Israel, there is something much deeper going on here. Fundamentally, these seven feasts represent and typify the sequence, timing, and significance of the major events of the Lord's redemptive career. They commence at Calvary, where Jesus voluntarily gave Himself for the sins of the world (Passover), and climax at the consummation of the Messianic Kingdom at the Lord's Second Coming. These seven feasts depict the entire redemptive career of the Messiah. The number "seven" is the Biblical number of completion.

The study of the feasts is a study in Typology. Thomas Hartwell Horne explains in An Introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, the text that was standard reading for British divinity students: "A type, in its primary and literal meaning, simply denotes a rough draught, or less accurate model, from which a more perfect image is made; but in the sacred or theological sense of the term, a type may be defined to be a symbol of something future and distant, or an example prepared and evidently designed by God to prefigure that future thing. What is thus prefigured is called the antitype."

So we have a type and an anti-type. The type is the picture, the anti-type is the reality. A type is a real, exalted happening in history, which was divinely ordained by the omniscient God to be a prophetic picture of the good things which He purposed to bring to fruition in Christ Jesus.

A type is an acted out prophecy. It is as truly prophetic as is a spoken prophecy, and had equal value with spoken prophecy in directing the faith of the Israelites to the coming salvation. For example, in Joel 2 is given a spoken prophecy of God pouring out His Spirit on Israel:

"And 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. (Joel 2:28 NASB)

The same great truths were yearly predicted in the life of Israel through the Feast of Pentecost. Remember what we said about types in a previous study: "There is a graduation from type to antitype; of the lesser to the greater; from the material to the spiritual; the earthly to the heavenly."

These Feasts of the Lord were given to us by God so His people could understand the coming of Christ and the role that Christ would play in redeeming man back to God following the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. Although most non-Jewish Bible believers have heard of the feasts, the deep meaning and the importance of these feasts are not understood by most.

I believe the seven annual feasts, or holy days, of physical Israel, which take place in the first seven months of their agricultural year, were all fulfilled both prophetically and spiritually in the period from the cross to the fall of Jerusalem, which equates with the return of Jesus Christ, the end of the Jewish age, the resurrection of the dead, and the consummation of the kingdom of God in A.D. 70.

The feasts of the Lord actually convey two forty year exodus periods. The first exodus period is one familiar to all of us. Israel, after the flesh, was removed from bondage to Egypt at Passover, and they were put in the wilderness on a physical journey to a physical promised land. Now, the more important, the anti-type, is the spiritual exodus. This exodus runs from the Cross to A.D. 70. In this exodus, Israel, after the Spirit, left its bondage to the law of sin and death (Ro. 8:2) and begins a forty year spiritual journey to a spiritual inheritance: the Kingdom of God or the New Heavens and New Earth.

In our study of the book of Mark, we looked at the first three feasts, which were: Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits. We saw that Passover pictures the substitutionary DEATH of the Messiah as the Passover Lamb. The Feast of Unleavened Bread pictures the BURIAL of the Messiah, and the feast that follows, which is FIRST FRUITS, pictures the RESURRECTION of the Messiah. Do you see the Gospel in the feasts?

The fourth feast is known in Hebrew as Shavuot. It is called the Feast of Weeks, because God specifically told the sons of Jacob that they were to count seven weeks from Firstfruits, and then the day after this fourth feast was to be observed:

'You shall also count for yourselves from the day after the sabbath, from the day when you brought in the sheaf of the wave offering; there shall be seven complete sabbaths. 16 'You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh sabbath; then you shall present a new grain offering to the LORD. (Leviticus 23:15-16 NASB)

Seven weeks are 49 days. Add one day ("the day after"), and it brings the total to fifty days. This fourth feast was to occur precisely fifty days after Firstfruits (Jesus' resurrection).

Names are very important in the ancient Jewish world. They usually reflected the significant character, history, or meaning of that to which they were attached. Three separate names were used by the Hebrew Scriptures for the feast of Shavuot, which in the Hebrew means: "Weeks." Each name emphasized a different facet of its observance. The most common Hebrew designation was Hag Hashavuot, meaning: "The Feast of Weeks." Shavuot was called the Feast of Weeks, because seven weeks were counted from the Feast of Firstfruits until the observing of this feast.

The primary meaning of the feast was reflected in the Hebrew name, Yom Habikkurim, or the "Day of Firstfruits," since Shavuot was the day on which the firstfruit offerings of the summer wheat crop were brought to the temple:

"And you shall celebrate the Feast of Weeks, that is, the first fruits of the wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the turn of the year. (Exodus 34:22 NASB)

Thus, Shavuot marked the BEGINNING of the SUMMER WHEAT HARVEST even as Israel's earlier Feast of Firstfruits marked the beginning of the SPRING BARLEY HARVEST.

The third designation, Hag Hakatzir, or "The Feast of Harvests," reflected the fact that this festival was the official beginning of the summer harvest season. In addition to the Biblical designations, the Talmud and Josephus referred to this festival as Atzeret, meaning: "CONCLUSION." They viewed Shavuot as the conclusion of the Passover season and of the seven-week spring harvest, since there are no other major Jewish holy days until the autumn.

Now you might be thinking, What does this have to do with Pentecost? In the Greek language, Shavuot was known as Pentecost, meaning: "fiftieth" since it was celebrated on the 50th day from the Feast of Firstfruits. Fifty days has the fragrance of Jubilee. Jubilee is a fifty year concept that has to do with releasing the captives.

Thus the Feast of Pentecost had four main names: The Feast Of Weeks, The Feast of Harvest, The Day of Firstfruits and Pentecost:

'You shall also count for yourselves from the day after the sabbath, from the day when you brought in the sheaf of the wave offering; there shall be seven complete sabbaths. (Leviticus 23:15 NASB)

The measure of barley, which was brought to the temple as a firstfruit offering on the Feast of Firstfruits, was known as the omer (Heb. "measure, sheaf"). Since this counting of days was to begin with the offering of the omer, this 50 day period is also known as THE OMER

History of the Feast of Pentecost

In the third month after the Israelites left Egypt, they arrived in the Sinai desert and camped opposite Mount Sinai. Moses was then told by God to gather the Israelites together to receive the Law:

In the third month after the sons of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. 2 When they set out from Rephidim, they came to the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness; and there Israel camped in front of the mountain. 3 And Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, "Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel: 4 'You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings, and brought you to Myself. 5 'Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; 6 and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. 'These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel." (Exodus 19:1-6 NASB)

Does verse 5 & 6 remind you of anything? Writing to believers Peter says:

But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; (1 Peter 2:9 NASB)

Believer, understand this; we are Israel­true Israel, the people of God. Back to Exodus:

So Moses came and called the elders of the people, and set before them all these words which the LORD had commanded him. 8 And all the people answered together and said, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do!" And Moses brought back the words of the people to the LORD. (Exodus 19:7-8 NASB)

Moses gave the Israelites two days to cleanse themselves, wash their clothes, and prepare to receive the Law on the third day. At the same time, Moses told them not to come too near Mount Sinai. From early morning, dense clouds covered the peak of the mountain. Thunder and lightning were frequently seen and heard. The sound of the shofar (ram's horn) came very strong, and the top of the mountain was enveloped in fire and smoke. The Israelites at the foot of Mount Sinai stood in great awe:

Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently. 19 When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder. (Exodus 19:18-19 NASB)

Moses then went up alone on the mountain, and as he neared the top, a mighty voice announced the Ten Commandments (Exodus 19:20-25; 20:1-21). No date is actually associated with it in the Bible. Yet, ask any observant Israelite concerning Pentecost, and he will answer that it is always celebrated fifty days after the Feast of Firstfruits.

So, a very notable historical event happened on the first Pentecost, and that was the giving of the Ten Commandments.

Israel came to Mount Sinai on the third day of the third month (Exodus 19:1). The Lord visited the people three days later (Exodus 19:10-17). Therefore, the Law was given by God on the sixth day of the third month of the Biblical religious calendar, which is the month of Sivan (Sive-in). This day is exactly 50 days from the crossing of the Red Sea.

Pentecost is called the season of the giving of the Torah in Hebrew, because this is the literal day that God revealed Himself to the people of Israel as they stood at the base of Mount Sinai.

The New Covenant anti-type­Pentecost

When you hear the word "Pentecost", what do you think of? Tongues? Charismatics? What should come to your mind is, the birth of the Church; the beginning of the New Covenant.

Jesus was crucified on Passover, He was buried on the Feast of Unleavened Bread, He was resurrected on the Feast of First Fruits. Then fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus, the promised New Covenant arrived on the Feast of Pentecost. Do you see that the whole Christian message is in the Feasts? This is not Replacement Theology, but Fulfillment Theology. Christianity is the fulfillment of God's promises to Israel, because we are true Israel. Every single piece of the Christian Bible falls right into the framework of the Hebrew world. Believers, our roots are Hebrew:

And when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent, rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. 4 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 NASB)

Pentecost was a particularly important Jewish feast in Bible days. Of the seven divinely appointed feasts that were given to Israel, THREE were decreed by the Lord as "SOLEMN FEASTS." Their presence in the Holy City on the three major festivals was in obedience to the Torah as God commanded Moses:

"Three times in a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses, at the Feast of Unleavened Bread and at the Feast of Weeks and at the Feast of Booths, and they shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed. (Deuteronomy 16:16 NASB)

The Roman historian Tacitus, speaking of Pentecost wrote, "The Holy City, with a population then of about six hundred thousand, exploded into between two and three millions because of the pilgrims." The people had gathered for the festival, and it was at this time that the Lord chose to fulfill prophecy. They may well have come for the festival, but our Lord had something else, something far more spectacular, for these people. This day they were to become the first fruits; members of a new Church, God's Church, the Church of Jesus the Messiah. There was a new message for a new people, it would be heard in every language and by every people. Christian scholars mark that historic Pentecost in Jerusalem as the "spiritual birthday of the church."

And when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. (Acts 2:1 NASB)

Who is the "they"? Some seek to limit this to the apostles, referring it back to the phrase "the eleven Apostles" in 1:26. But from 1:15 on the stress has been on "the disciples," whom Luke then immediately defined in terms of the one hundred and twenty. I think that 120 disciples are the "they" mentioned here.

"All together in one place"­I see this as a reference to the temple where they were regularly meeting for prayer:

and were continually in the temple, praising God. (Luke 24:53 NASB)

Why doesn't Luke say in Acts 2:1 that they were in the temple? I think it is because Luke's focus is not on the old physical temple, but on the new spiritual temple. The Jewish temple is now being replaced by the temple of His people who will from now on be the dwelling place of God:

Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, "I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. (2 Corinthians 6:16 NASB)

What is Paul quoting here?

"But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the LORD, "I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. (Jeremiah 31:33 NASB)

The New Covenant had arrived on Pentecost. The center of their worship will no longer be the old temple, but the place of prayer and worship through the Spirit wherever they may be. The old temple is being "left behind."

And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent, rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. (Acts 2:2 NASB)

The phenomenon of Pentecost was spectacular. "From heaven" means: "From God." First, there was a loud sound, like the sound of a mighty, rushing wind, but only "like" it. There was no wind, just the sound. This perhaps "tornado-like" sound seems to be that which drew the large crowd to the place where the disciples were gathered. Pentecost was an audiovisual experience.

The word used for wind here is interesting. It is not the usual word for wind. The Greek word used here is pnoe. It is used only one other time in the New Testament:

neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all life and breath (pnoe) and all things; (Acts 17:25 NASB)

Here it means: "breath" and is paralleled with "life." This word is common in the Septuagint, the Greek First Testament where it is most often translated "breath of life" (e.g. Genesis 2:7; 7:22; 2 Samuel 22:16; Psalm 150:6; Isaiah 42:5; 57:16). In Genesis 2:7 it is the breath of life breathed into man to give life.

Luke uses this particular word here to stress the life-giving breath of God, as symbolized by the wind. This would immediately bring the thoughts of those who knew their Scriptures to another time when the breath of God came like a mighty wind. In Ezekiel 37:5-10 Israel was likened to a valley of dry bones, which remained dead until God's wind came and revitalized the people. The wind blew on them and they lived through the breath of God. The picture is of God giving life to a spiritually dead people. It is the imparting of resurrection life. The disciples were being empowered to bring life to the dead bones of Israel. God is breathing into His people and beginning His new creation, which will finally result in the New Heaven and the New Earth (Isaiah 65:17-19; 66:22).

And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent, rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. (Acts 2:2 NASB)

Notice that this wind filled the "House"­the question that is asked here is what house?

John MacArthur writes, "In Acts 2:46 he talks about people who were 'with one accord in the temple.' Why would Luke use a different word when he talks about the same situation? Since he used the Greek word for house (oikos), they were most likely in a house."

In Luke's writings the temple is elsewhere referred to as "the house" (Luke 11:51); "your (Jerusalem's) house" (13:35; Acts 7:47-50), while when he refers to private houses he usually tells us whose house it is (12:12; 18:7; 21:8). Luke elsewhere describes the temple, in words of Jesus, as the "House of prayer", in Luke 19:46.

In the temple area, apart from the Holy Place and the court of the priests, there was a courtyard for the men of Israel, a further courtyard which women also could enter, and an outer court for Gentiles. Each courtyard was surrounded by walls in which were large porticoes, where people regularly met for prayer. There were thirty spacious rooms around the temple court, described by Josephus and called oikoi, houses. Later these became a general meeting place for disciples (Acts 3:1, 10-11; 5:12).

Their presence at this time in the temple would explain how the crowd gathered so quickly and could witness the "sound" (2:6), and how such a large group of disciples could be together (120). But Luke avoids stressing the temple because he does not want to suggest that the temple has become the center of Christianity.

And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. (Acts 2:3 NASB)

What is the significance of these tongues of fire? Throughout the Scriptures, fire is always a sign of God's presence among His people. You remember that when God came and spoke to Moses He said, "Moses, I want you to be My leader," how did He speak to him? Out of what? A burning bush. There was fire. God regularly revealed His presence by "fire". He did it to Abraham (Genesis 15:17), when God led the people of Israel out of Egypt, there was a pillar of fire that went before them. It signified the presence of God (e.g. Exodus 13:22) at Sinai (Exodus 19:18; 24:17) and at the tabernacle (Exodus 40:38), and Moses could say that God "spoke out of fire on the mountain" (Deuteronomy 4:11) at the giving of the covenant, so that they saw no likeness of God, only heard His voice. Moses stated, "Our God is a consuming fire" (Deut. 4:24). Similarly in Ezekiel 1:27; 8:2 God reveals Himself in "the likeness of the appearance of fire," while in Isaiah 4:5 God is to be a flaming fire shining over His people when He covers them with His protection. This would suggest that the fire is here a symbol of the presence of God.

Note how at Pentecost the manifestation of the flaming presence of God is not positioned over a tent. This time it is over PEOPLE. Why? Because they are the new tabernacle and the temple of God. God is descending in fire on the new temple of His people by His Spirit.

This tongue of fire resting on each of them, in the same way as it had rested on the Mount, is declaring that as God had dwelt on the Mount so He was now permanently indwelling each and all of His people as His new tabernacle and temple, while the dividing of the fire demonstrates that each one present is experiencing the fullness of the whole:

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. (Acts 2:4 NASB)

They are all "filled" with the Holy Spirit. It means to come under His complete and total control. They were under the complete guidance and direction and control of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:1-4 as a whole is describing the "baptism (baptizo) in the Holy Spirit" of Acts 1:5. It is the arrival of God by His Spirit in His permanent power and distinctive presence in His people, never to leave them.

To whom was the promise of the Spirit given? Israel. Pentecost is the fulfillment of that promise and the Church­true Israel, it its recipient.

Pentecost Type and anti-type

Fifty days after the first Passover in Egypt, the Law was given to the nation of Israel at Mount Sinai, written upon tables of stone. Fifty days after the final Passover was sacrificed, the Law was given to the "Israel of God," written upon their hearts by the Spirit of God (2 Cor. 3:3), thus fulfilling God's promise to Israel:

"But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the LORD, "I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. (Jeremiah 31:33 NASB)

On the first Pentecost, the Law was given; 3,000 people died for worshiping the golden calf, signifying the covenant of the law that brought death (Ex. 32:28; cf. 2 Cor. 3:16-18).

On the first New Covenant Pentecost day, the Spirit was given; 3,000 people received life and were added to the Church of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:41), signifying the covenant of the Spirit brought life:

who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:6 NASB)

We see here that the New Covenant is LIFE but the old KILLS:

But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was, (2 Corinthians 3:7 NASB)

On the first occasion, and 50 days after the Feast of Firstfruits, God came down to Moses on Mt. Sinai to bring the Law. In the giving of the Law, God established the nation of Israel. As His covenant people, they were destined to become a people manifesting the righteousness of God. They would become a "royal priesthood and a holy nation." Both the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai and the giving of the New Covenant through the Holy Spirit to the 120 in the temple were events that occurred on the very same day of the lunar calendar, the sixth of Sivan, the Day of Pentecost.

Pentecost was the fulfillment, the anti-type, of the type given to Israel. It was the birthday of the Church of Jesus Christ. God was now to dwell, not in a tent, but with His people. We, the Church, are the New Israel of God and in us all the promises made to the Fathers are fulfilled.

The giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai involved the Aaronic priesthood, the sacrificial system, the tabernacle, the Sabbath days, the festivals, the civil and ceremonial laws, and the Ten Commandments (Exodus 19:17,20; 20:1,21-22; 21:1-2,12; 22:1,16; 23:10-11,14; 24:1-8,12,18; 25:1,8-9,40; 28:1; 31:12-18; 32:1; 34:27-28; Hebrews 8:1-6; 9:1-12,15,18-24; 10:1,10; 13:20). These things were given by God as a shadow of things to come (Hebrews 10:1) to teach us (Galatians 3:24) about Jesus and the redemptive work of God (Colossians 2:16-17). Shavuot was the birth of the congregation in the wilderness (Acts 7:38). The things given at Mount Sinai were divine and from God, but shown in a physical way (Hebrews 9:1) to enable us to understand the spiritual truths that God wanted to communicate to us (1 Peter 2:5-9). So God gave Israel the covenant; the Torah; the services; the oracles of God; and the promises (Romans 9:4-5; 3:2), which were divine (Hebrews 9:1), at Mount Sinai to teach us about Jesus:

Then I said, "Behold, I come; In the scroll of the book it is written of me; (Psalms 40:7 NASB)

Old Covenant Israel was a type, to point us to Christ. It is all about Jesus!

Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, "And to seeds," as referring to many, but rather to one, "And to your seed," that is, Christ. (Galatians 3:16 NASB)

All the promises that God made to Israel are fulfilled in Christ. All believers are in Christ and share all that Christ is and has.

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