“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place … And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”[Acts 2:1,4]
After the Lord Jesus — our Passover Lamb — was crucified, buried and triumphantly resurrected as the Firstfruits from the dead, the Bible says that He “presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God” [Acts 1:3].
Just before His ascension, Yeshua commanded His disciples to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the promise of the Holy Spirit who would come “not many days from now” [Acts 1:4]. As the disciples gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost, there must have been a spirit of enthusiasm and anticipation for what would happen next. The purpose of Pentecost was about to be fulfilled.
God’s Presence and Power on Display
As I mentioned in my last post, there are obvious parallels between the giving of the law at Sinai and the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost that we cannot overlook.
The LORD commanded Moses to gather all of Israel in one place and to have them consecrate themselves before entering His presence at Sinai. At the appointed time, the people of Israel witnessed perhaps the greatest manifestation of God the world has ever seen.
The theophany at Sinai was as terrifying as it was awesome to behold. The people heard thunderings and trumpet blasts, saw lightening flashes and a thick cloud cover the mountain, and finally the LORD Himself descended in fire (Exodus 19:16-18). The sheer presence of God caused all of Israel to tremble.
And there the LORD commenced to thunder with His mighty voice and speak the holy commandments of God to His people.
Fast forward to the fulfillment of Pentecost. We find God’s people all gathered in one place, waiting in expectation for the promised coming of the Holy Spirit. At that moment, a mighty rushing wind from heaven descended upon them, like a tornado raging through the city. As the whirlwind moved through Jerusalem, multitudes heard the sound and wondered in amazement (Acts 2:5-6).
Divided tongues of fire came down and rested upon each individual disciple, giving them utterance to proclaim the word of God in other languages. Just as the LORD descended in fire and proclaimed His word to all Israel at Sinai, the Holy Spirt had come baptizing with fire and proclaiming the gospel to all Israel at Pentecost.
Birth of a Nation — Birth of the Church
“Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”[Exodus 19:5-6]
The LORD redeemed the children of Israel from bondage out of Egypt, brought them through the baptismal waters of the sea, and established a covenant with them at Sinai. It was the confirmation of this covenant that effectively sealed the relationship between the LORD and His people. It was much like a marriage ceremony, as God claimed Israel as His “treasured possession” and a “holy nation.”
The day of Pentecost likewise was the birth of the “ekklesia,” the blood-bought church of the living God. The Lord Jesus had accomplished the necessary work of redemption on the cross and proven His power over death and the grave in His resurrection. At Pentecost God would seal the New Covenant with the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which enabled the Lord to indwell each and every believer in a new and living way!
God’s promise to bless all the nations of the earth would begin to be fulfilled on this day, as there were ” devout men from every nation under heaven” in Jerusalem at Pentecost [Acts 2:5], who heard the good news about Jesus for the very first time. God’s redemptive work would move beyond the unique nation of Israel to the ends of the earth.
The church — the people of God — now included the Gentiles. Just as Pentecost was also called the Feast of the Harvest of the Firstfruits, the birth of the church was the initial, spiritual harvest for all who would believe in Christ.
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”[1 Peter 2:9-10]
The Law Written on our Hearts
The relationship between the law of Moses (Sinai) and having faith in Christ has often been misunderstood and misrepresented.
God’s law is good. It is pure and perfect. It is God’s fixed standard of righteousness by which we must measure ourselves and all things.
The reality, however, is that no flesh can be justified by keeping the works of the law because we all have sinned and fall short of God’s glorious standard. We can strive to live by the law, which is good, but ultimately the law will condemn us because we can never measure up to the moral perfection required by God.
So what is the purpose of the law?
The law exposes our sinfulness and ultimately shows us our need for a Savior, which is why the gospel is such good news!
Yeshua perfectly fulfilled the law, and having never sinned, He is the only person who ever met God’s righteous standard in perfect obedience to the Father. Because of the righteousness of Jesus, who did keep the law of Moses, we are offered the free gift of salvation through faith in Christ.
When we believe in the finished work of Christ, the Bible says that God makes Him (Jesus), who knew no sin, to become sin for us so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. In this gracious exchange, God credits the righteousness of His Son to all who believe, having imputed the punishment for our sin upon Christ at the cross.
So what does all of this have to do with Pentecost? Everything!
The giving of the Holy Spirit changed the way God’s people related both to Him and His perfect law. No longer are we like the Israelites, trying to obtain righteousness by keeping the law of Moses, but now we are set free from sin and death by the law of the Spirit of life! We are justified not by works but by the law of faith (Romans 3:27).
The New Covenant is the promise that God would take the very laws written on tablets of stone at Sinai and write them on the very hearts of His people. And in addition to the spiritual transformation of our hearts, which changes our very desires, the Lord also promised to give us His Spirit as our Helper to enable us to obey the law. We are set free to walk in step with the Spirit in obedience to God!
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”[Jeremiah 31:31-33]
“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”[Ezekiel 36:26-27]
God of Holiness, God of Grace
Finally, it is worth noting that we see the full representation of God’s divine nature both at Sinai and Pentecost.
At the very moment the LORD was writing His law on tablets of stone, the Israelites had already transgressed the first two commandments. Convinced that Moses had abandoned them, the children of Israel tempted Aaron to mold a golden calf to be their “god,” and they bowed down to worship this idol in the very face of God.
As a result of this gross transgression, the LORD demonstrated His holiness and judgment upon Israel, and 3,000 people died that very day [Exodus 32:28].
On the day of Pentecost, after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Peter stood up and preached the good news of Jesus to the crowds. And what happened next was not a coincidence. God demonstrated His goodness and grace in direct contrast to Sinai. The Lord saved 3,000 souls that very day!
And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.[Acts 2:40-41]
Pentecost will forever be memorialized with the coming of the Holy Spirit, the birth of the church, and the confirmation of the New Covenant established by the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Feast of Weeks is the last of the spring feasts of the LORD, which all have been fulfilled in the first coming of Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Next time I will begin examining the fascinating connections between the fall feasts of the LORD and the second coming of the Lord Jesus!