- Pentecost was one of the three great pilgrimage festivals when all Jewish men went up to Jerusalem. Pentecost is also known as the “Feast of Weeks” because the feast took place 7 weeks (50 days) after Passover. The name “Pentecost” comes from the Greek word “pentekoste” which means “50”.
- Pentecost was also called the “harvest festival”. Because the first harvest was celebrated (Leviticus 23:15-22).
- On the Day of Pentecost, “about 3,000” were the first to be saved and thus became “the first harvest”.
- According to Paul, we have received the Spirit as the “firstfruits” and just as the first harvest was a foretaste for the farmer of what is to come, so the Spirit is a foretaste of what we will eventually receive in full (Rom 8:23).
- Pentecost, according to Jewish tradition, was also called the “Birthday of the Law” and was celebrated to commemorate Moses receiving the Law from God on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19-20). The English translation “Law” comes from the Hebrew word “torah” which actually means “teaching” or “instruction”.
- There are many parables and parallels between the giving of the Law and the giving of the Spirit:
- At the Old Testament Pentecost, God’s people received the Law at Sinai; at the New Testament Pentecost, God’s people received the Spirit in Jerusalem. According to Isaiah, God’s torah/teaching is to proceed from Jerusalem and God Himself will teach us His ways (Isa 2:3). God teaches both through his Word, but also through the Spirit.
- At Sinai, God appeared in smoke and flames of fire (Exodus 20:18); on the Day of Pentecost, the Spirit appeared through storms and tongues of fire.
- At Sinai, “about 3,000 men” died (Ex 32:28); on the Day of Pentecost, “about 3,000” were saved (Acts 2:41).
- At Sinai, the Law was written with God’s finger on tablets of stone (Exodus 31:18). God told the prophet Jeremiah that “I will put my law within them and write it on their hearts” (Jer 31:31-34) and to the prophet Ezekiel “I will give you a new heart and a new spirit will enter into you. I will remove the heart of stone from your body and give you a heart of flesh. “At Sinai, then, the Law was written on tablets of stone, while at Pentecost the Law was written on the heart by the Spirit coming to each one (2 Corinthians 3:3).
- At Sinai, the Law was given to the people as a whole and communicated to the people through priests. On the Day of Pentecost, the Spirit was given to all and opened up the possibility for each and every person to have their own personal relationship with God and God’s Word/Law/instructions/will without a “priest” or “mediator” standing in between. The Holy Spirit teaches us and reminds us of all that Jesus has said (John 14:26).
- When Moses received the Law on Mount Sinai, “the Lord descended on the mountain in fire” and Sinai was surrounded by clouds, lightning and thunder (Exodus 19:16-18), on the Day of Pentecost the Spirit comes in a violent storm and with tongues of fire. At Sinai the people were not allowed to come too close to God (Ex 19:21), but on the Day of Pentecost God comes close to man.
- Many times in the Old Testament, fire symbolizes the presence of God (Exodus 3:2, Exodus 13:32, Exodus 19:18, Deuteronomy 4:24).
- According to Malachi, God is like a goldsmith who purifies his people in “fire” (Mal 3:3). According to John the Baptist, Jesus would baptize in the Holy Spirit and in fire, in other words, purify his people so that they can enter the kingdom of God. For those who belong to the Lord, the fire of God is purifying, but for those who do not belong to the Lord, the fire is consuming.
- It is probably no coincidence that the Spirit came in the context of a “storm” because “spirit” in both Hebrew and Greek is the same word as “wind”.
- In Old Testament times, only certain chosen people were filled with the Holy Spirit, but here Joel’s ancient prophecy is fulfilled that there will come a time when everyone can be filled with God’s Spirit (Joel 2:28-32), something Moses prayed for (Numbers 11:29) and Jesus promised (Luke 24:49).
- No distinction is made between apostles, disciples, women or men. ALL were filled with the Holy Spirit. Or as Paul wrote: “Here is not Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female. You are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:28).
- All who believe in Jesus are born again of the Spirit of God (John 3:1-8), and receive the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 12:13). In addition to this, all believers can also be filled anew with the Spirit of God over and over again (Acts 4:8, Acts 4:31, Acts 6:3, Acts 6:5, Acts 7:55, Acts 9:17, Acts 13:9, Acts 13:52).
- The difference between the two is that the one who is born again by the Spirit of God is saved and the one who is filled with the Spirit of God is given power and courage to testify about Jesus.
- All the disciples, not just the apostles, miraculously begin to speak languages they do not know. Here Jesus’ promise is fulfilled (Mark 16:17).
- In the beginning, when all people spoke the same language, God forbade their language, so that they could not understand one another (Genesis 11:1-9). Now this is happening again, but in reverse.
- The fact that the disciples begin to speak foreign languages indicates that the gospel is for all peoples, not just the Jewish people.
- Even today, Jesus’ disciples can receive this gift of speaking in a foreign language (1 Corinthians 12:10, 1 Corinthians 12:28).
- Speaking in tongues can mean, on the one hand, receiving the gift of being able to miraculously speak a foreign language, but it can also mean receiving a language that only God understands (1 Corinthians 14:2) that you pray in your spirit (1 Corinthians 14:14) in order to build yourself up (1 Corinthians 14:4).
- During the Feast of Pentecost, many of the Jews living in other countries gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the feast; they now hear the disciples speaking in their own language.
- The people’s response to the disciples’ tongues is either to ask the curious question “What could this mean?” or to mock. Still today, people react the same way to the tongues.