When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs — we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”‘
The Feast of Pentecost followed the Feast of Passover by a week of weeks. Even as the Harvest of Firstfruits was a natural sequel to the celebration of the exodus from Egyptian bondage, so in Christian experience Pentecostal fullness must follow a Calvary of repentance.
On a historic day when devout Jews from all over the Mediterranean world had gathered in Jerusalem to observe a ritual at the temple, 120 believers who had been to Calvary assembled in an upper room across town to wait for “the promise of the Father.”
No one but the Lord Himself knows all that happened on that memorable morning, but to study the account as given by Luke the historian, and then to gather the testimonies of those who were present, is to be able to discern the dimensions of true revival as they began in the Church of Jesus Christ on the Day of Pentecost. We can see at least three dimensions: (1) The Down-pouring of the Spirit; (2) The Inward-sweeping of the Spirit; and (3) The Out-flowing of the Spirit.
Peter quoted Joel in explaining the Pentecostal phenomena: “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.” The Apostle wants his hearers to understand that they had just witnessed a sovereign move of the Holy Spirit. It was an undeniable manifestation of God’s Presence. It was not the imagination of Christians; it was the mighty Presence of God in power. Up to this time, nothing had been experienced on this scale. In studying the prophecy of Joel (Joel 2:28-32), it should be noted that the vision begins with a manifestation of God’s Presence on His people that will impact all classes of people the world over. There is reason to believe that just as the Church age began in a mighty outpouring of the Spirit, so it will end likewise.
It should not seem strange to us that countless millions of Christians are at this very hour devoted to intercessory prayer for the kind of revival that will sweep the globe. Since nothing is impossible with God, they cry, why not believe Him for an outpouring of His Spirit of love and power that will sweep all nations, engulfing the whole Church in a mighty witness to the nations in this the most dangerous time in human history! I think Joel’s prophecy does point to the kind of a climactic downpouring that assures us the Church age shall not end in a whimper but with a bang.
Thank God for the increasing reports of the outpourings of His Spirit on His people in nearly all parts of the world. We simply need to get ready and expect such glorious things. It appears that we are now entering that period of history when the universal dimension of Joel’s prophecy shall be fulfilled.
Before the Council at Jerusalem the apostle Peter testified to the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of both the apostles in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost and the household of Cornelius at Caesarea: “He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:7). John the Baptist had prophesied just such a purification: “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and He will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matt. 3:11-12).
The most unhappy Christians in the Church today are those who have stopped short of surrendering their all to the Lord Jesus Christ and inviting His Holy Spirit to come in cleansing power. This is a humbling, drastic, subjective experience. But it has to happen before the Holy Spirit can fill us. Thousands are deceived about being filled with the Spirit because they have been blessed by the Spirit in some marvelous way. But remember this: cleansing precedes filling. God does not fill a carnal vessel. He first sanctifies, and then He fills. We were born again in order that we might be filled with the Spirit. This is God’s purpose. Our brain was designed to think the thoughts of God. Our spirit was created to be quickened by the Holy Spirit. Our life was planned to be fulfilled through the indwelling, infilling Holy Spirit. But, oh, the blindness without His light! Oh, the deadness without His life! Oh, the hardness of religion without His love! Christian friend, the Lord is waiting to cleanse your heart from all unrighteousness and begin the glorious process of making you into the likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29; 2 Thes. 2:13-14).
What happened to 120 believers in the Upper Room on the Day of Pentecost was not contained there. What had been subjective and experiential turned objective and redemptive. Their self-consciousness soon changed into an others-consciousness. After a time they descended from the Upper Room to street level to answer the inquiries and meet the needs of hungering multitudes by preaching Jesus and loving and accepting people just as Jesus had done.
The power of any revival can be measured by the extent of its outward reach. We’ve been hearing of the unusual moving of God’s Spirit in Pensacola, Florida, in the Brownsville Assembly of God Church. It’s very exciting to hear the reports of the amazing displays of divine power, but the report that 55,000 people have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior over the last 18 months as the revival continues gives credibility that this is truly a move of God. The citizens of Greater Pensacola are aware that God is at work. The crime rate has dropped, and people who once had no hope now have it.
The great Wales revival of 1904-05 might be in a class by itself insofar as its concentrated power and impact. Rick Joyner writes:
The main focus of prayer in this revival was always for the lost. There can be no revival without soul-winning, and in saving lost souls the Welsh Revival must be considered one of the most intense and effective revivals of all time. This revival was not a program for using a few preachers, or a campaign to get church members testifying to the saving grace of the Lord Jesus. There were no classes given on how to reach the lost. It just seemed like every Christian in Wales erupted simultaneously with a burning agony for the lost. The joy of salvation simply could not be contained by the believers as every coal mine, tramcar, office, school or shop became a pulpit for the gospel. Even more than the preaching, it was the witness of the common believers which led multiplied thousands to a saving faith in Jesus. There was no set pattern of strategy for the witnessing; it was simply born out of an overflowing joy and faith that could not be contained in those who knew the Savior. … It was simply impossible for an unbeliever to escape this overpowering witness, or not to be drawn into it by the sheer love and zeal of the people. Wales fell so in love with Jesus that adoration for Him lifted His name above everything else that could have captured the people’s attention. The knowledge of the Lord simply washed over Wales just as the waters cover the sea. As Jesus was lifted up, all men came.
Rick Joyner, The World Aflame, pp. 26-27
Let us prepare our hearts for an even greater moving of the Spirit of God in our time.