The Greater Pentecost
“Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting” (v. 2).- Acts 2:1-13
The festival of Pentecost was set by God to be celebrated fifty days after the Sabbath that occurred during the week of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Lev. 23:15). Therefore, Pentecost always came on the first day of the week, inaugurating a new week.
Jewish tradition has it that the first Pentecost coincided with the day God gave the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. There is good reason to think that this was the case. Exodus 19:1 says that Israel arrived at Mount Sinai on the day of the third new moon. This would have been roughly 45 days after the Exodus, which occurred on the fifteenth day of the first month (Passover). Counting the days in Exodus 19 leads us very close to, if not precisely to, the day of Pentecost. Since the Feast of Pentecost had not yet been established, Exodus 19 says nothing explicit about it; but on the basis of the hints we have just summarized, the Jews celebrated Pentecost as the day God drew near and gave His law to His people.
Certainly we see some interesting Sinai-like phenomena in Acts 2. Just as God appeared on Mount Sinai in thunder, fire, and wind, so the phenomena of God’s glory also filled the apostles’ room and shook all Jerusalem. As God had the people summoned around Him at Mount Sinai, so all Jerusalem flocked to the apostles’ room to see what was going on. As God gave His law to Israel at Sinai, so God gave the Spirit of Holiness, who would enable His people to keep His law.
But there are important contrasts as well. Only Moses was allowed into God’s glory cloud on Sinai. Similarly, when God’s glory filled the tabernacle in Exodus 40, the priests had to flee. In Acts, however, all the apostles were surrounded by the wind and fire, yet they did not have to flee. They departed the room only to bear witness.
In the old covenant, the cherubim maintained flaming swords to keep sinners away from God (Gen. 3:24). The fire on the altar would destroy any man or woman who drew near to it without special permission (Lev. 9:24–10:2). At Pentacost tongues of fire came down on the heads of the disciples. This altar fire was no threat to them, and their tongues became their swords to preach the Gospel and judge the world (Eph. 6:17; Rev. 19:15).
The manifest presence of God emboldened the early church to the monumental task at hand, going into all the world and making disciples. That task still lies before us. Remember the boldness of the early church in the face of persecution as you seek to bring God’s kingdom to bear today.
Passages for Further Study
Hebrews 4:14–16; 10:19–25