Light for the Last Days

The birth of the church

The birth of the church took place on the day of Pentecost. That is 10 days after Jesus’ ascension (Luke 24.50-53), 50 days after His resurrection. Jesus told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the gift of the Holy Spirit (Luke 24.49).

It all happens as Jesus said. A supernatural event takes place in Acts 2.  Signs and wonders are seen by all: 

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Acts 2.2-4

God is moving into a new phase in his dealings with humanity. It is the birth of the church. God is always involved in His Creation, but there are occasions when He intervenes in a big way, using miracles, signs, and wonders. 

Examples of such ‘big events’ are the Creation, the Flood, the Exodus from Egypt, the First Coming of Messiah / His death and resurrection, Pentecost and the pouring of the Holy Spirit.

We know that there will be an even greater intervention from God when the events of the Second Coming of Jesus take place. The world is shaping up for them now and that is why we need to be ready by responding to the Gospel message.

Why is that relevant to what happens in Acts 2? Because the message of Salvation is given to all on day of Pentecost.

This event probably happened on Temple Mount, in the plaza surrounding the Temple building.  It was an area large enough to contain a crowd of at least 3,000 listening to Peter speak. The house spoken of in verse 2 is הַבַּיִת [habayit].  Hebrew for Temple Mount הַר הַבַּיִת [har habbayit] which means ‘Mount or Hill of the House [of the Holy]’. 

On this occasion, supernatural signs: a mighty rushing wind, the tongues of fire, the speaking in tongues (or unknown languages) are all witnessed by a crowd gathered in Jerusalem; in what we believe was the Temple area.

And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marvelled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” 12 So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?”

13 Others mocking said, “They are full of new wine.”

Acts 2.5-13

They all gathered for the Feast of Shavuot which takes place 50 days after the Passover.

Shavuot is a pilgrim Feast. Visitors from far afield, from Elam [Persia/Iran], from Rome, from Libya all came to hear God being praised in their own languages! A miracle!

Peter then explains this gathering is the fulfilment of a prophecy in Joel about the pouring of the Holy Spirit on the people of Israel.

28 “And it shall come to pass afterward
That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your old men shall dream dreams,
Your young men shall see visions.
29 And also on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days.

Joel 2.28-29

The Holy Spirit bears witness to Jesus

Peter then goes on to explain how the work of the Holy Spirit bears witness to Jesus, and more specifically to His death and resurrection.

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— 23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; 24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it

Acts 2.22-24

What Peter is highlighting here is Jesus’ unique status among those sent of God. He is not just a prophet, not just a great man but עִמָּנוּאֵל Immanuel [God with us]:

 “Hear now, O house of David! Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. 15 Curds and honey He shall eat, that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good.

Isaiah 7.13-15

Jesus too, performed signs and wonders which only God can perform. He performed miracles that testify to His divine power and status.

Jesus had power over nature, over sickness, over death, over demons. And, though He was put to death, being God, it was not possible that death would hold Him.

Who killed Jesus? Where did He go after the Cross?

Peter explains that Jesus’ death was achieved by lawless hands which refers to the way in which Jesus was tried and judged by the Sanhedrin [the highest level grouping of Jewish religious leaders in Jerusalem] when, among many other laws they broke, they carried his trial during the night.

Jesus, because He is God, He cannot die. His body may be put to death as it was on the Cross, but His spirit lives on and returns to the body in the resurrection.

Jesus had to rise from the dead as prophesied in scripture, and He had to do as prophesied in all the main events of His life. This is something unique no other religion or faith can claim.

25 For David says concerning Him:

‘I foresaw the Lord always before my face,
For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken.
26 Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad;
Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope.
27 For You will not leave my soul in Hades,
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
28 You have made known to me the ways of life;
You will make me full of joy in Your presence.’

Acts 2.25-28

Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices;
My flesh also will rest in hope.
10 For You will not leave my soul in Sheol,
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.

Psalm 16.9-10

Hades, from the Greek ᾍδης, is the place of the dead. In Hebrew the word is Sheol שְׁאוֹל [šǝʾôl] as used in the Psalm above.

Gehenna, from the Greek γέεννα, is a different place which means ‘hell’. Jesus could not go into Gehenna or Hell but could go into the ‘good’ compartment of Hades.

Jesus speaks of going to Paradise,

39 Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.”

40 But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”

43 And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

Luke 23.39-43

For reference, the Greek mythological account of Hades ᾍδης provides a description of a paradisial place called Elysium or Elysian Fields where the spirits of the ‘good’ reside after death.

So, Jesus went to Paradise, to the ‘good’ part of Hades during the time between His crucifixion and His resurrection which explains what Acts 2.27 says

27 For You will not leave my soul in Hades,
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.

Acts 2.25-28

The Holy One, God cannot see corruption or remain dead.

Peter also points out the responsibility for Jesus’s death. He says,

36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

Acts 2.36

What does this mean?

It means that ALL are responsible, not the Jews alone but all. No doubt, among those present, there had been those who 50 days earlier had been calling for Jesus’ death. Peter was a Jew, as were all the disciples of Jesus and all the church members. It is not until Acts chapter 10, after Paul’s conversion and Peter’s vision in Joppa when the first gentiles were converted.

There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always. About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius!”

And when he observed him, he was afraid, and said, “What is it, lord?”

So he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God. Now send men to Joppa, and send for Simon whose surname is Peter. He is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea. He will tell you what you must do.” And when the angel who spoke to him had departed, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier from among those who waited on him continually. So when he had explained all these things to them, he sent them to Joppa.

Acts 10.1-8

Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, for Jews and gentiles alike.

What should we do when we know Jesus?

What does Peter say they were to do? What are we to do faced with these news, when faced with the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”

38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”

Acts 2.37-39

Good questions! Here are the things we all need to do:

Repent and be baptised

Why should we repent?

Sin is the problem of all humanity. We should repent that there be remission of our sins. That can only be achieved through Jesus, who took on the sin of the world that we may have forgiveness of sins. But we can only get forgiveness if we acknowledge our sins and change our ways (μετανοίας repentance) in the Name of Jesus; there is no other name.

Why be baptised?

We are baptised in confession of our faith in Jesus Christ, Son of God, to identify with Him in His death and resurrection.

What is the result of this conversion, this change, of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ?

The result is the gift of the Holy Spirit, being Born Again.

It is a gift available to all, it is universal and it results in a new life in Jesus. It is for those who are near and for those who are far away, for yourself and your children, including all of us.

This gift allows us to ask for the Holy Spirit to fill us and empower us, and to give us all we need to cope and survive and this time of trouble.

40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.

Acts 2.40-42

Probably, many of those hearing Peter thought themselves righteous and ‘good’ people. Were they right? No, not really! Today, we too live in a very perverse generation. People call evil good, and good evil. There is immorality, violence, corruption in our countries. The antichrist forces are taking control of the nations.

The world is like a sinking ship and there is only One Lifeboat: Salvation in Jesus the Messiah.

Baptism is a sign of our Salvation. The act of baptism does not, in itself, save us, our faith in Jesus does that. Baptism is a sign that we believe the Gospel.

It is the identification with the death and resurrection of Jesus. It’s a testimony to God, to our congregation, and to the Devil that we BELIEVE. It is a step of obedience to Jesus’ Command.

40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.

Acts 2.40-41

Where were all these people baptised? Was it in the Jordan River, in the Mikvah by the Temple, in the Pool of Siloam, at the Pool of Bethesda? Did it all happen that day? We do not know for sure.

The qualification for baptism was not having ‘super faith’, they just had to believe.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,

Ephesians 2.8

What is the result of Salvation?

The results of Salvation are many. First and foremost, we continue in the faith. We also fellowship with others, we teach and are taught in the Way of Jesus, we pray, we break bread.

Importantly, it is essential to understand that receiving Salvation through the Holy Spirit is but the beginning. It was so for the 3,000 who converted in Acts 2, and it is for us as well.

The world wants us to stop, the Devil tempts us, we become influenced by doubt and fears. We may also face persecution, difficulties, and have to engage in spiritual warfare.

In the parable of the sower, Jesus shows us 4 types of seed. Only one of them ends up producing good fruit.

… “Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

Matthew 13.3-9

We want to produce good fruit in our lives in faith. We want to reflect the character of Jesus, and partake of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We want to do God’s will, not our own. We want to move on and take the path to Life.

Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: 24 God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. 26 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ 29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. 30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

Acts 17.23-31

God commands all people everywhere to repent because a day is fixed when we will all be judged in His Righteousness by Him whom He has appointed, the One Lord Jesus Christ, Messiah.

Representation

And we know He will accomplish this because He has raised Jesus from the dead.

What is the wisdom of Salvation?

Therefore, Jesus tells us to distinguish those who offer good fruits from those who don’t:

16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.

Matthew 7.16-20

And the Way to ensure that we can do that is clear. Jesus has told us:

13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

Matthew 7.13-14

The consequences of our choices are drastic. We are to choose between Salvation and an eternal life lived with Jesus on one hand, and, on the other hand, eternal damnation, suffering, and separation from God.

Jesus does not hide such consequences from us. He says:

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

Matthew 7.21-23

Sincerity in our life, in following Jesus, sincerity in doing God’s will, not ours, sincerity in calling on His Name are all essential demonstrate our faith in Jesus our Saviour.

We must build on the Rock of our Salvation in Jesus Christ.

24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.

26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

28 And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, 29 for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

Matthew 7.24-28

I won’t be around forever. The Bridge Fellowship will not be around forever. As we are able, we will be her to help you, but we cannot guarantee that we will be always here.

However, we can guarantee that those who build their lives on the Rock of Salvation in Jesus Christ will stand now and for eternity. Some manifestation of the true church of Jesus Christ will be around until Jesus returns. It may be persecuted, it may be small, but it will be there. So, continue in the faith, grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Tony Pearce

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