And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high (Luke 24:49, RSV).
But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8, RSV).
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:1-4, RSV).
Luke the historian pinpoints the exact day on which God fulfills His promise to send the Holy Spirit to the disciples of Jesus. The 120 believers, including those disciples, had been praying faithfully and waiting in the upper room in Jerusalem for The Promise of the Father. Jesus hadn’t given them the full details concerning the outpouring of the Spirit, but they had been following His instructions.
The Holy Spirit came and poured Himself on these obedient believers on The Day of Pentecost. It is important that we understand how Old Testament patterns were simply shadows of the realities of God’s plans for His New Testament Christian believers. So I want us to understand The Day of Pentecost in light of the Jewish celebrations.
The Feast of the Passover took place on Friday. The blood of the sacrificial lamb on the doorposts was used for the deliverance of the firstborn sons. John the Baptist prophesied that Jesus would be the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29, RSV). Jesus, the Lamb, gave His life on the cross at the exact time the high priest would offer the Paschal Lamb on Good Friday.
The next day was the Sabbath with the celebration of The Feast of Unleavened Bread, commemorating the difficult journey out of Egypt.
Next came The Celebration of Harvest, or The Feast of First Fruits, a shadow or type of the resurrection of our Lord. He is the first fruits of the great harvest to come (I Corinthians 15:12-28).
The harvest continued for a period of 50 days. It climaxed on The Day of Pentecost. Two loaves of bread were presented to the high priest, a symbol of the fulfillment of the harvest. During those 50 days Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father. We are given only a brief insight into the activities in the heavenly realms. Jesus serves as the Great High Priest who offers His sacrifice once for all. He receives The Promise of the Father in order to pour out the blessing upon us on The Day of Pentecost.
I would have us consider three dimensions of the Pentecostal outpouring of the Spirit:
The Downpouring of Anointing
The disciples were to tarry in the city of Jerusalem for the anointing of the Holy Spirit before they embarked on their commission to evangelize the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Priests in Old Testament times applied oil on prophets, priests, or kings to designate, commission, or anoint them for the special tasks to which they were called. Jesus clearly delayed His disciples’ launching of their holy enterprise of spreading the Gospel until they had been clothed with power from on high (Luke 24:49, RSV).
When the 120 filed out of the Upper Room of prevailing prayer, they had been filled with the Holy Spirit, anointed to witness to Christ’s crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. As they opened their mouths to speak, they miraculously spoke in languages understood by the thousands of pilgrims there from all over the Mediterranean world. Luke reports, they were cut to the heart, and they asked the apostles, Brethren, what shall we do? (Acts 2:37, RSV). Peter answered, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38, RSV).
The apostle Peter, under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, spoke the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit’s anointing which made the difference between his audience’s casual hearing and their spiritual conviction for sin. They were enabled by the Spirit to become convicted of sin concerning their response to Jesus; they had not believed in Him as the Son of God, and they had condemned Him to be crucified as a blasphemer.
Jesus knew that His apostles, apart from the Spirit’s anointing, had no ability, no power, and no authority to bring anyone to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Every true believer is given the Holy Spirit in the new birth experience and is anointed with the power of the Holy Spirit for praying, worshiping, witnessing, serving, and ministering whatever gifts of the Spirit given him or her.
The Inward Sweeping
After the 120 believers had been in the Upper Room for ten days, suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:2-4, RSV). What really happened to those believers on receiving the Spirit?
First, they came alive in Christ; the rush of a mighty wind represented the breath of God breathing into them bringing a new birth. They had been Christian believers from the time they believed in Jesus as the Son of God. Now they are Christians alive in the Spirit, aware of eternal life, and indwelt by the Spirit of life.
The tongues as of fire represent the cleansing of their sinful hearts. John the Baptist had prophesied that Jesus would baptize His followers with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire (Matthew 3:11-12, RSV).
Fire is a symbol of refining power. Even in the presence of Jesus some of His disciples had demonstrated selfish ambitions, seasons of doubt, and even acts of denial. They desperately needed a cleansing. Looking back upon their experience at Pentecost, Peter reminded his fellow apostles that God had through the Holy Spirit cleansed their hearts by faith (Acts 15:9, RSV).
May the Lord deliver modern believers from becoming too casual and presumptuous about the doctrine of sanctification! So many believers in our churches today do not hear the call to cleansing that early Christians took seriously. Since the Holy Spirit does not fill unclean hearts, the modern church is lacking in Spirit-filled believers for praying, worshiping, witnessing, and serving. Because of the lack of the fullness of the Spirit, we fail to attract and win the lost to Christ.
The Outward Sweeping
Jesus ordered His apostles to go into the world and make disciples. But they were not to begin until they had been clothed with power from on high.
On the day of Pentecost, only hours after having been cleansed and filled with the Holy Spirit, the 120 went down from the Upper Room to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As we’ve already seen, 3,000 heard, believed, repented, and were baptized and added to the Church.
The manner and spirit in which early Christians prayed, lived, loved, and witnessed was so powerful that they attracted thousands more with hungry hearts to believe in Jesus. Continuing in Acts, chapter two, we see a multiplication of believers. The earliest harvest of souls (3,000) devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And fear came upon every soul; and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common; and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved (Acts 2:42-47, RSV).
I wish to remind us modern Christians that the same Holy Spirit who filled believers on the day of Pentecost is still available to sincere, humble, hungry believers today. The Holy Spirit did not come and go. The Holy Spirit is here to stay until Christ returns.
The Church of today is paying a tragic price for our lack of the Holy Spirit. The same God who came in wind and fire at the Pentecostal outpouring is waiting at this late hour to work His baptism of fire on the weakest generation in the entire history of the Church.
Our world is on fire! The signs Jesus gave concerning the end times are being fulfilled. When will Christian believers respond to God’s call to repent, pray, and believe God for the revival He wants to give? God must be grieved with our prayerlessness, as we go about our daily routines with false hopes that spiritual, moral, social, and political conditions will automatically improve.
Our gracious God has extended to His people the only remedy for the judgments we face in our present darkness. And it must begin with us: If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land (II Chronicles 7:14 RSV).
Pastors, let’s call solemn assemblies and gather our Christian members together for confessing our sins—prayerlessness, unbelief, unfaithfulness, gossip, spiritual pride, materialism, criticism, and division. Parents, let’s call the families together and confess our sins —coldness of heart, cheap worship, prolonged anger with little or no humility for apologies, withheld giving to the Lord’s work, missing worship, ignoring family altars, and little reading of the Scriptures.
The revival we need in American has to begin with people who call themselves Christians. We must lead the way in repentance until God honors our prayers and pours out His Spirit on His people. Revival fires, beginning with Christians, will then spread to the unchurched, the secular, and the cynics.
Our praying must be in the power of the Spirit—sacrificial, tearful, costly, burdensome, faithful, prevailing. The rending of the Heavens will be our reward, as our children are saved and our churches are restored to power for worship and reaching the lost. It will be great to see communities safe to live in and civil order restored in the nation. It will be a joy to hear that we are free to pray in public places again and feel the glory of God in the land.
Lord, teach us to pray!