If you could learn one foreign language today, which would you choose? Why? What do you know about Pentecost (also called the Feast of Harvest and the Feast of Weeks)? Before we delve into Acts 2 it is helpful to have a basic understanding of the Jewish calendar and major feasts.
The first verse of Acts 2 reads, "When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place." We need to take a look at "the Day of Pentecost and how it fits into the scheme of Jewish practice, and in order to do that, we need to look at the Jewish calendar. Our Gregorian calendar is a solar calendar based on the length of a year (365 1/4 days – adjusted with a leap day every four years). The Hebrew calendar is a lunar calendar based upon moon cycles. It is comprised of twelve months (either 29-30 days) for a total of 354 days. To remain in sync with the reality of the solar year, the Hebrew calendar adds a leap month 7 times in a 19 year cycle – about once every three years. The leap month is known as Adar II and is inserted between Shebat and Adar. From the graphic above note that the Hebrew months match well to the four seasons.
When the Hebrew and Gregorian Calendars are overlaid the Hebrew months match up with the mid-points of Gregorian months. Only the month of Adar II (leap month) always matches with the solar month of March. To add even a bit more complexity, the Hebrew year begins in the month of Tishri – which happens to occur in the fall (Sept-Oct). The first day of Tishri is Hebrew New Year. But, since Hebrew is a unified language, government, and religion, the Hebrew calendar is typically displayed beginning with Nissan (late March on our calendar). The month of Nissan is important because it is the month in Jewish people celebrate Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It also happens to be the month that we celebrate Good Friday and Easter!
Now we can visualize the seven Jewish Feasts, the three in Nisan connected to Exodus AND the Messiah. The middle Feast, Pentecost, occurs on the seventh day of Sivan and is connected to Giving of the Torah AND the giving of the Holy Spirit. The final three feasts occur in Tishri (Trumpets, Atonement, Tabernacle) and correlate to the Messianic Rapture, Second Coming, and Millenium reign! There is more to learn but the key point is the timing of Pentecost: The Jewish celebration of the "giving" of the Torah matches the "giving" of the Holy Spirit.
Passover: Exodus 12 and Matthew 26. Exodus 12:15 “This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover.” Leviticus 23:4-5, “These are the Lord’s appointed festivals, the sacred assemblies you are to proclaim at their appointed times: 5 The Lord’s Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of Nisan. Matthew 26:18, “My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.”
Unleavened Bread: Leviticus 23 and 1 Corinthians 5. Leviticus 23:6 On the fifteenth day of that month the Lord’s Festival of Unleavened Bread begins. 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, “Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
First Fruits: Leviticus 23 and 1 Corinthians 15. Leviticus 23:10, “When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest. 1 Corinthians 15:20, “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”
Pentecost: Leviticus 23 and Acts 2. Leviticus 23:15, “‘From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks. Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the Lord." Acts 2:1, “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place…. (The prefix pente means 50 - fifty days.)
Trumpets: Leviticus 23 and I Corinthians 15. Leviticus 23:24 “On the first day of Tishri you are to have a day of sabbath rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts. 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
Atonement: Leviticus 23 and Matthew 24. Leviticus 23:27, “The tenth day of Tishri is the Day of Atonement.” Matthew 24:29-30, “Immediately after the distress of those days “‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.
Tabernacles: Leviticus 23 and Revelation 20. Leviticus 23:34 “On the fifteenth day of Tishri the Lord’s Festival of Tabernacles begins.” Revelation 20:2-6, “He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended.
On the Thursday before the first Easter, Jesus was turned over to the authorities. This was Passover, the first dark green square. On the Friday before the first Easter, Jesus was crucified and buried. This was Feast of the Unleavened Bread where the Hebrew celebrated God providing them a way out of bondage – the second dark green square. The Saturday before the first Easter was the Sabbath, but the next day was Sunday – the first Easter. While the Hebrews celebrated the festival of “First Fruits” all creation celebrated the Resurrected First Son of God!
For the next 40 days (the 40 yellow squares on the chart) Jesus was visible to over 400 people. On the Thursday before Pentecost, Jesus Ascended to heaven – the light blue square. On Pentecost, the Hebrews celebrated God providing them the Torah (law), while all creation celebrated God providing the Holy Spirit. Also note that Pentecost was exactly seven weeks after Easter. This also means that the Apostles waited in Jerusalem for ten days (the light green squares), praying and waiting, for the Holy Spirit.
With this understanding of feasts and calendars, let us read the first four verses of Acts 2. "When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.The Holy Spirit is often illustrated as a dove, yet the Holy Spirit comes as a violent wind with tongues of fire coming to rest on each person. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues."
Why do you think God selected Pentecost as the day for the Holy Spirit to come?
There are many references to the Holy Spirit beginning in the first chapter of Genesis. Take a quick look at Luke 1:15, 1:41-42, and 1:67-68. Still, as we shall see, this time was significantly different!
Let us continue by reading verses 2-8: "Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?"
The Holy Spirit is everywhere and experienced by everyone. While the Apostles were "filled" with the Holy Spirit, a crowd of people from every nation heard the sounds, the words. This crowd was amazed because they heard the message in their own language. From this passage, how would you describe the gift of tongues?
Side note: All of the Apostles, except Judas Iscariot, were from the area around the Sea of Galilee.
We continue reading from Acts 2:9, "Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” 13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
As we can see from the map above, there are people from many regions of the globe in Jerusalem at this moment. And each of them hear this message in their native language. What would you have thought had you been part of this experience? What would you have reported back to your home country? While amazed and perplexed, some (verse 13) attempted to make light of the situation. "They have had too much wine."
Let us next consider Peter's response beginning in verse 14, "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. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 17 “‘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.18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.19 I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. 21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
22 Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him."
Before we continue with Peter's message to this crowd let us consider his reasoning to this point. Peter knows that this crowd is mostly followers of the Jewish religion. So he begins by referring to the Jewish Scriptures, specifically the book of Joel. What you have just experienced was the Holy Spirit as the prophet Joel announced. That quote alone must have gotten the attention of most present. But Peter doesn't stop there. In verse 22 he turns to Jesus. Everyone present would have been a witness to the death and resurrection of Jesus - either first hand or via the gossip mill. Peter would NOT have referenced Jesus in this way had this not been a commonly understand fact. He even uses the statement, "... as YOU yourselves very well know," in verse 22. Peter then announces that the Gospel message was God's deliberate plan.
Let us continue reading at verses 25-36, "David said about him: “‘I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest in hope,27 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your holy one see decay. 28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’29 “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand35 until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”’ 36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
Peter understand Jewish law and customs. He knew that making the argument he was making required witnesses (proof). In this passage he makes the "legal" argument in support of his claims about Jesus.
Peter's first witness is King David, the writer of most of the Psalms. Peter quotes a passage from Psalms 16:8-16, "I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure,10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay.11 You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand."
Peter first witness is David, a rock solid passage summarizing the dead and resurrection of the Messiah.
In verse 32 Peter introduces his second witness (actually witnesses), when he declares, "God has raised this Jesus to life, and WE ARE ALL WITNESSES of it." One does not use this argument if anyone present could disprove the statement. Even today, the most skeptical of scholars believe the evidence that a man named Jesus lived in the first century, that he was crucified by the Roman authorities in 33 AD, and was later seen alive by over 400 witnesses. Much later in this ministry, Peter notes (in 1 Peter 1:16), "For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty."
Peter's third witness is announced beginning in verse 33 (quoting Psalm 110:1), "Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.
Peter's three witnesses comprise the past, the present, and the future. Peter's three witnesses comprise Old Testament Scripture, the experience of many (500) human witnesses, and God's manifest promise of the Holy Spirit. I would summarized Peter's argument as: 1) Scripture attests that Jesus is Lord; 2) We (humans) attest that Jesus is Lord; and 3) The Spirit attests that Jesus is Lord."
Let us continue the rest of Acts 2 beginning at verse 37, "When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” 40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."
Following Peter's message the crowd was engaged and wanted to know more. They declared, "What shall we do?" They understood the reality of Peter's words and were convinced. Peter explained to them that they needed to repent and be baptized. The word repent means to turn 180 degrees away, to turn away from sin, to turn away from self and toward God. Sometimes the modern church seeks to minimize the concept of repentance. We willing share John 3:16 without mentioning Romans 3:23.
In a similar way we often minimize baptism. The concept of baptism is the public declaration of one's faith in Jesus Christ. Peter (via Luke) instructed his audience that they needed to do two things in RESPONSE to the Gospel message. These are the two things that WE are to do FOLLOWING our acceptance of the Gospel message. First, we are to repent. To be a Follower of Christ means to turn away from our own desires. Secondly, we are to make a public declaration that we are a Follower of Jesus. As a Christ Follower, have you repented? Have you declared your heart-felt belief in Jesus?
In verse 41 we see that Peter's message was well received with about 3000 converts on that one day! Could you imagine seeing 3000 converts at our church in one day?
There is another important detail we can take away from Peter's message. Peter was a witness of Jesus; that simply means that Peter told them what Jesus had done. Peter also testified to the Truth of Scripture. Lastly, Peter urged (exhorted and encouraged) his audience. We can emulate Peter by: being a witness of Jesus, testifying to Scripture, and urging others in their faith. If we do those three things, the Holy Spirit is more than able to do the heavy lifting of convicting spirits and saving souls!
One final message for the Church in the last five verses of Acts 2. The congregation devoted itself to teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. How much of our lives are devoted to those four roles? In addition, Luke notes that the congregation sold property and give to those in need. The congregation had joyful hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of everyone. And the Lord added .... daily those who were being saved! What a glorious description of the Church. How does the early Church compare with our Church?