When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested 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.
Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”
But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
“‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
And I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
the sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
Summary – This passage is aptly assigned for the Sunday of Pentecost, since it is the account of the Spirit’s descent upon the Church. Jesus, in some of His last moments on Earth with His disciples, told them to “stay in the city [of Jerusalem] until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). They were “all together in one place” because of their common residence in Jerusalem as they waited for the Spirit. The Spirit’s arrival, then, has multiple witnesses and, moreover, was a fairly monumental event. There was a loud sound, like wind blowing, tongues of fire rested on each of them, and they spoke in other tongues. By this point, no doubt, the group of disciples and followers had exploded into the streets of Jerusalem, for people of other nationalities were hearing them speak, except in their own language! In response to charges of drunkenness, Peter delivers a sermon to explain what is happening. What was happening, accompanying the coming of the Spirit, was what Joel prophesied. Therefore, the first century AD when the Spirit came was the beginning of the “last days” (Acts 2:17). Other “wonders” would accompany these last days: visions, prophecies, dreams, a dark sun, and a blood-red moon. All this precedes the day of the Lord which was, to the prophet Joel and seemingly to Peter, near at hand. The day of Pentecost doesn’t start the world into a downward spiral of loss and failure culminating in a 2nd Coming of Christ in the midst of rank unbelief and apostasy: Pentecost inaugurates a great spread of the Gospel to the whole world, as the apostles did throughout the book of Acts, which will continue to gain influence more and more in the world!
Insight – Have you ever wondered why tongues of fire came on the people at the day of Pentecost? Let’s look at a couple of Bible passages to find out. In Exodus, we find out that the Tabernacle had a golden lampstand that burned inside the tabernacle. Picture it: a stand with seven branches, each of which had a “tongue” of fire burning on it. When the Israelites camped, a cloud would cover the tabernacle to show God’s presence with them, and at night, “fire was in it” (Ex. 40:38). Then, when King Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem, he again made lampstands to burn inside the holy place (1 Kgs. 7:49, two this time!) and after it was dedicated, a “cloud filled the house of the Lord” (1 Kgs. 8:10) just like it had in the days of the tabernacle. So when the Spirit came at pentecost, the sound of a rushing wind filled the room they were in (possibly reminiscent of the cloud that covered the tabernacle/temple) and tongues of fire rested on them, making them essentially human lampstands. This fire symbolized God’s presence and also showed that they were now the true Temple of God (1 Cor 3:16). But what else in the temple was on fire? The burnt offerings and sacrifices. So this Pentecost remember that you, as a temple of the Holy Spirit, have the Spirit with you and are holy to the Lord. But also remember that you are a living sacrifice (Rom 12:1) and present yourself to God in true worship and service to Him.
Child Catechism – On the day of Pentecost, what came on the disciples? Tongues of fire.
Discussion – What were the tongues that the disciples spoke in, as described in verse 4? Compare your answer with verses 7 and 8. What was the purpose of the disciples speaking in other languages?
Prayer – Triune God of the universe, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; you have created us in your image and charged us to let our lights shine before men that they might turn and glorify you. As we celebrate Pentecost, fill us with the light of your Holy Spirit, causing us to live our faith before the world. And since everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved, act mightily through your Spirit to add to your numbers daily those who are being saved. In your name and for your glory we pray, Amen.