When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. (Acts 2:1-4 NIV)
The signs of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus are the centerpiece of all history and the source of our salvation. We understand these signs are unique to Jesus as Messiah and cannot be replicated (He died and rose – once, for all). Likewise, the signs of Pentecost (the Harvest Festival) – the mighty rushing wind, the tongues of fire, and the disciples speaking the glories of God in languages they didn’t know (but were known to their hearers) constitute a distinctive, concentrated explosion of the indwelling and power of the Holy Spirit.
This phenomenon recorded in Acts 2 was foretold by the prophet Joel around 825-809 BC.
“…I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days. (Joel 2:28-29 NIV)
The fulfillment of this passage was the Holy Spirit’s unique, inaugural address to the Unseen World, the Jewish people, and all nations. The Holy Spirit’s indwelling in Jesus’ followers exerted the same power that raised Christ from the dead. This indwelling enables the proclamation of His Kingdom to all nations until the end of the age. Here’s what Jesus foretold:
“This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:45-49 NIV)
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 NIV)
Later in Acts, Luke recorded two other prophetic utterances of Jesus’ followers exalting God in languages unknown to the speakers; first with gentiles (Acts 10:46) and second in Ephesus (Acts 19:6). In later generations, some have conjectured that this was a formula for replication of this tongues phenomenon and is almost a mandate. I’ve observed that those efforts too often cause unnecessary frustration and unhelpful practices. Why do human efforts at replication fail? A closer look at these signs in Acts clarifies they were sovereignly initiated in heaven (Acts 2:2 and 10:44-48 and 19:2-6), not generated by humans following formulas.
So how should we regard this first Pentecost after the Resurrection and the subsequent occurrences in Acts 10 and 19? At the very least they are a reminder that bringing in the Harvest of all nations is graciously enabled by the filling and power of the Holy Spirit. They also remind us that God’s worldwide expansion of His kingdom is accomplished by the full participation of every member of the body of Christ…male and female, Jew and Gentile, slave and free (Galatians 3:28).
Does the Holy Spirit have full access to every part of your life? Does an artificial barrier hinder the power of the Holy Spirit? Ask God to reveal obstacles that obscure bringing glory to Jesus.
NOTE: The unknown tongues manifested in Acts 2, 10, and 19 don’t appear to be in the same category as the private prayer language or individual gift of tongues accompanied by the individual gift of interpretation described elsewhere in the letters of Paul.