Pentecost is interesting in itself. The whole phrase ‘Pentecost’ is connected to the Greek word ‘fifty’.
Notice that it is 40 days after the resurrection that Jesus ascends to Heaven. He tells the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to come and, ten days later, the Spirit comes on the day of Pentecost, fifty days after the resurrection.
What’s the significance of Pentecost?
Pentecost was also the Jewish festival of Shavuot which means ‘weeks’ and which happens 50 days after the day of yom habikkurim which is the first the first day of the week after the Sabbath in the in the Passover week.
What happened on the first day of the week in the Passover week?
Jesus rose from the dead.
Therefore, 50 days after the day of the resurrection, and, in the teachings of Judaism, the day on which Moses received the Torah at mount Sinai, we have Pentecost.
With Moses receiving the Torah you have the beginning of a new dispensation.
A dispensation in which God would give the written Law through Moses to the people of Israel and, from the time of Moses through to Jesus, the way He would mediate His rule is through the Torah which was given on this day of Pentecost or Shavuot.
We now have the giving of the New Covenant by which the Holy Spirit is going to write the Law on the hearts of God’s people.
Jeremiah had spoken about the covenant with Moses which government the people broke, and said that God would give a New Covenant in which they would know the Lord, they would know His forgiveness of sin, and they would come to a personal relationship with God in which God’s Law would be written on their hearts by the Holy Spirit.
And so, we have the fulfilment of this in what was going to take place on the day of Pentecost.
It’s interesting to see, if you look in the Old Testament, that you have three days which change the world:
- The Passover night,
- The Exodus, and
- The giving of the Torah
Each one of those represents the type of something which happened in the New Testament:
- The Crucifixion took place at the time of the Passover as Jesus, ‘the Passover Lamb’, was put on the cross, suffered, and died to take the punishment for our sins. Shed His blood in order that we could be redeemed
- The Resurrection happened on the ‘day of first fruits’. Jesus rose from the dead, corresponding also to the Exodus out of Egypt and the Crossing the Red Sea. And then, we have
- Pentecost, the day in which the Torah was given and when the Holy Spirit was given.
Death of the First born – The Passover>>Lamb is sacrificed>>>>The Crucifixion
Crossing of the Red Sea – Day of First Fruits>>Exodus>>>>>>The Resurrection
The giving of the Law – Pentecost>>>>>>>>>>>The giving of the Holy Spirit
These things changed the way the world was run as far as God was concerned. They brought in a new dispensation as Jesus ascended and was glorified and sent the Holy Spirit into the world.
Let’s see what happened on the day of Pentecost.
First of all, something visible happened. Acts 2 speaks to us about a sound from Heaven, a mighty rushing wind which filled the house where they were sitting.
Question: Where is the house they were sitting? Was it a normal house in Jerusalem? Was it actually the temple compound?
If they were going to speak to a large group of people of at least 3,000 people listening to them, this suggests to me that it probably was the temple compound. But we can’t say that’s for sure.
Certainly, something happened which gathered the people when they heard this loud sound. They also saw tongues of fire coming upon them, and the scripture tells us that this came from Heaven.
This was an intervention of God from Heaven, bringing this sign of the mighty rushing wind, the tongues of fire, which was both visible and audible.
We’re then told that the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with tongues – the Greek word is glossa – as the Holy Spirit gave them utterance.
The Holy Spirit, by the way, is ‘the communicator between God and man’.
Notice that this event affected their tongues, the part of the body through which we communicate with others. It empowered them then to speak the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Note also that something visible happened. The same thing happened in Exodus when God gave the Law through Moses.
We go back to Exodus chapter 19 and we see something visible and audible taking place as a sign that God was coming to bring something new to the people, as He gave them the commandments, gave them the Torah.
Exodus 19 verse 18 says:
Then, in Exodus 20 it says:
giving the Ten Commandments. So, Moses had a visible manifestation of God at the giving of the Commandments on that day, which corresponds to the day of Pentecost in the New Testament.
Interestingly, according to Jewish tradition, on the day the Torah was given at Sinai, the languages of the 70 nations were heard supernaturally.
According to Genesis chapter 10, God divided the nations into 70 nations, and Judaism tells us that they heard the tongues speaking in the languages at the time of the giving of the Torah.
This is not in the Bible, but it’s an interesting story, especially in the light of what happens in the Book of Acts.
These were two times when God came down in a supernatural way to change what happens on the earth, a change in what we call ‘the dispensation’.
Now we’re entering into the dispensation of the Church by which God is going to speak not just through Israel but through all nations as they come to faith in Jesus the Messiah.
It’s the beginning of the dispensation of Grace which we call the Church Age, a very important change in God’s dealing with humanity which has come about through the death and resurrection of Jesus, and now, through the giving of the Holy Spirit.
In Exodus 19 we saw that God gathered the people together at Sinai for this revelation. And here, in Acts chapter 2 we also see that God had gathered a significant number of people together for this revelation which was taking place.
People were already gathered at Jerusalem from the Jewish dispersion for the feast of Shavuot or Pentecost, one of the three festivals in which Jewish people are told to come up from the nations, from around the world, and to go up to Jerusalem to worship the Lord.
It says that they had Jews and proselytes of Judaism living in different countries. If you go through the countries which are mentioned there, it goes from Persia to Rome, to north Africa, to Egypt, Libya, Cyrene, a wide geographical area with people coming together in Jerusalem.
And they heard everyone speak in their own language.
In Acts chapter 2 verse 4 it uses the word glossa for the ‘tongue’, which in Greek can mean ‘the tongue’ or ‘a language’. In fact, it is the same in English, you can sometimes speak about ‘a tongue’ as being a language. And that works in Greek as well as. It does in Hebrew too.
However, in chapter 2 verse 8, the word used is dialektos which can only mean ‘language’.
Clearly, they were hearing a spoken language which they could understand the meaning of. God was doing something to reverse, if you like, the division of languages which took place at The Tower of Babel, which prevented people from communicating with each other. And there’s here this temporary reversal of Babel as they were able to communicate with each other supernaturally, through common languages.
Notice also that, in the end times, according to the Book of Zephaniah:
There’s a connection with languages being scattered and languages coming together.
This was also the beginning of the age in which God was going to communicate the Gospel to people of all races so, they were going to speak to them ‘of all tongues and of all nations’.
Therefore, the speaking in all these languages could be understood as a sign of the Gospel going out into the nations.