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THE COMING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

Acts 2:1-2:21
Key Verse: 2:21

In Luke chapter 2, Luke described how Jesus was born. When Caesar Augustus ruled the world, Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, according to the prophecy in the book of Micah (5:2). How did God the Holy Spirit come to this world? Luke wrote this other historic event in Acts 2. Today’s passage is about the Holy Spirit coming manifestly in human history and Apostle Peter’s explanation of this event based on the Scripture. Let’s observe this historical fact and think about its meaning.

First, the Holy Spirit coming at Pentecost (1-13). Look at verse 1. “When the day of the Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.” What is Pentecost? Literally it means “The Fiftieth.” In the Old Testament it is the Feast of Weeks (the Feast of Harvest), which is one of three great Feasts in the history of Israel, along with the Feast of Unleavened Bread, that is, Passover, and the Feast of Tabernacles (The Feast of Ingathering). The Israelites were to appear before the LORD three times a year at these Feasts (Ex 34:22-23). The Feast of Weeks took place fifty days (counting off seven full weeks) after the Passover, which was when the grain harvesting began. The Pentecost was a special occasion, the occasion of thanksgiving for the harvest. Spiritually speaking, we can think of the Pentecost as the fiftieth day after the death of Jesus, the Passover Lamb, on which a spiritual harvest was gathered through the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Look at verse 1 again. “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.” The group numbering about a hundred and twenty had been staying in an upstairs room, joining all together in prayer. Now Luke wrote, “…they were all together in one place”, not writing, “…they were all together in the upstairs room.” We don’t know where this place was, probably one of the rooms in the house they were staying. Then what happened there?

Look at verse 2. “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.” Jesus once said, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (Jn 3:8). Jesus illustrated the work of the Holy Spirit with the wind blowing, of which nobody knows the directions or of its coming and going. This time a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven. It was like the sound of hurricane. When Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove (Lk 3:22). It was the gentle coming of the Holy Spirit on Jesus. Now the Holy Spirit’s coming was like the violent wind. It would be the powerful coming of the Holy Spirit on the inhabitants of the earth. The sound like the blowing of violent wind filled the whole house where they were sitting.

Look at verse 3. “They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.” The coming of the Holy Spirit was not only audible but also visible, although the Holy Spirit is himself invisible. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated. In Luke 3:16, John the Baptist said to the people, “…He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” While Matthew and Mark wrote, “…He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit”, Luke wrote, “…with the Holy Spirit and fire.” The Holy Spirit can work like fire for cleansing and purifying. Tongue is a means of communication. What seemed to be tongues of fire that separated came to rest on each of them. The coming of the Holy Spirit was upon the whole and also upon each one.

Then what happened? Look at verse 4. “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” Each one has one’s own mother tongue and can speak in the mother tongue naturally after learning stage. Speaking in another tongue requires rigorous learning and discipline, and it takes time. But when they were filled with the Holy Spirit, they could speak in other tongues right away as the Spirit enabled them. In the book of 1 Samuel when the Spirit of the God came upon Saul, the Spirit came in power and Saul could take a pair of oxen and cut them into pieces (1 Sam 11:6,7). This time the Holy Spirit affected their tongues, enabling them to speak in other tongues.

This took place where they gathered sitting. Then what is Luke’s further description? Look at verse 5. “Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.” Here is another group of people, God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. It can represent the entire world. In verses 9-11, they were “Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs.” Parthia, Media and Elam were to the east. Mesopotamia, Cappadocia, and Pontus were to the north. Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Rome, Crete and Cyrene were to the west. Egypt and Arabia were to the south. These places encompassed Jerusalem. Luke included in his list descendants of Shem (Elam, the first of Semitic nations), Ham (Egypt and Libya) and Japheth (Cretans and visitors from Rome), and gives us in Acts 2 a ‘Table of the Nations’ comparable to the one in Genesis 10.

It is interesting that Luke used the word “heaven” two times: “a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven” and “God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.” The contrast is “from heaven” and “under heaven.” Eventually, “from heaven” would influence “under heaven.” Anyway, the entire world under heaven gathered in Jerusalem. Of course, this was a hyperbolic expression.

Then what happened to them? Look at verse 6. “When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.” The sound of the group of 120 people speaking was loud enough for the crowd in Jerusalem to hear. Hearing the sound of the group’s speaking in other tongues, the crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. How can such a thing happen? They were from many countries. Humanly it was impossible. The Holy Spirit enabled it to happen. When we read Genesis, we see that at one time the whole world had one language and a common speech. When humans became proud to reach to the heavens by building a tower, the LORD came down and confused the language of the whole world. Then they could not communicate and stopped building the tower and were scattered over the face of the whole earth. So the town was called Babel meaning “confused.” Now the Holy Spirit enabled them to communicate. People of different languages could gather and hear together.

Look at verses 7-8. “Utterly amazed, they asked: ‘Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?” What made the crowd amazed was that the Galileans unschooled could speak in other tongues so that the crowd could hear in each one’s own language. At this they were utterly amazed and raised the questions, “How? How?” Then the crowd exclaimed, “We hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own language!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” We don’t know what the group that received the Holy Spirit spoke and what the crowd heard. But the crowed said that they heard the wonders of God (in ESV “the mighty works of God”, in KJV “the wonderful works of God”). Then what does this mean as they asked? At this point the coming of the Holy Spirit meant all could hear the wonders of God, the mighty and wonderful works of God. All people of the world are to hear the wonders of God. The Holy Spirit enables all people on the earth, not just the people in certain parts of the world, to hear the wonders of God. Nothing or no one can stop it.

Second, Peter’s explanation of the Holy Spirit’s coming (14-21). Look at verse 13. “Some, however, made fun of them and said, ‘They have had too much wine.’” They were those who were insincere and did not have an objective view of what had happened. They were subjective in their interpretation. It caused Peter to explain the biblical interpretation of the event. Look at verses 14-16. “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. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning!” Peter was appealing to their reason. And then he said, “No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:” The coming of the Holy Spirit was the fulfillment of the prophecy in the Old Testament. As God kept his promise to send his Son Jesus, he also kept his promise to send the Holy Spirit.

Look at verses 17-18. “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. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.” First of all, the coming of the Holy Spirit will change people: sons and daughters, young and old, people of rank and servants, man servants and maid servants.

Let’s think about this prophecy. “Your sons and daughters will prophesy.” The word, “prophesy”, is in Greek, “propheteuo.” It means first of all, “to be a prophet, speak forth by divine inspiration.” In the Old Testament, prophet were God’s spokesmen, not merely forecasters. They delivered God’s message to people so that they might return to God. Even their prophecy was focused on the coming of the Messiah, the Saviour of mankind. Since the coming of Jesus God’s message became very clear. It is for the salvation of mankind through the preaching of the gospel. So “your sons and daughters will prophesy” may well mean that they will become God’s prophets and messengers who deliver the gospel of salvation to the people of their times. The gospel message is directed to one’s eternal life or eternal condemnation (Mk 16:15,16). The gospel messengers predict one’s eternal destiny. What can be more significant prophecy than this? Through the coming of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit, they will become very important prophets (real VIPS).

“Your young men will see visions.” In Acts Peter saw a vision that heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth, which contained all kinds of four-footed animals. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat” (Acts 10:11-13). That was the vision of God accepting all people of the world, both the Jews and the Gentiles, in Christ Jesus for the salvation of all. Peter obeyed the vision and that was the beginning of the gospel coming to the Gentiles. Paul saw a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us” (Acts 16:9). Paul accepted the vision and went to Philippi, which was the starting point of European evangelization. Young men in our times seem to be confined by the practical things and pleasures of this world. But through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit they will see visions, visions from God.

“Your old men will dream dreams.” Old people are to sigh, waiting for the day of the end of their lives. But they will dream dreams. In God there is no retirement. Though their bodies get old, their minds can be renewed and have the dream of doing greater work of God. Dreaming is the beginning of reality. People dream before accomplishing a great thing. It will be done through the coming of the Holy Spirit.

In this world nothing can change people, but the Holy Spirit will change them. Through the filling of the Holy Spirit, the apostles became powerful and untiring gospel workers with visions and dreams.

Look at verses 19-20. “I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.” Not only people are changed, but also there will be changes in the heaven and on the earth. No human can do such things, but only God . He is the ruler of the heaven and the earth.

Then what is the point of all changes? Look at verse 21. “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” All things are directed for the saving of the people of this world. Calling on the Lord comes from faith in him. Salvation is for all people of the world, but each should respond very personally. God is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. He is the God of individual as well as the God of community. He is a personal God. He wants to save all people through each one’s personal faith. Living in this world, it is not easy to call on the name of the Lord. There are so many things that can draw people’s attention. People living on the earth are occupied with the things of the world for their survival and better lives. The spirit of this world does not want us to call the name of the world. So it is a spiritual battle. It is easy to call someone who seems to have power here and now. They rely on what they see, what is visible now.

Some may say, “I will repent and call on the name of the Lord at the last moment, just like when I call 911.” They think they can act wisely in an emergency case. But God’s salvation does not work in that way. When people do not know how to call on the name of the Lord, it will not be guaranteed for them to call on the name of the Lord at the imminent time for judgment. When we read the book of Revelation, even in their extreme suffering and pain people persist in their unbelief, not repenting of their murder, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts (Re 9:20-21). Calling on the name of the Lord should be done here and now. This is God’s wonderful promise at the last days that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” God does not want anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Pe 3:9). If one can call on the name of the Lord here and now is a great blessing. It is the true wonder of God. Salvation of mankind is the wonder of God. Nothing can be more wonderful than this. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”: this is truly a great promise to all mankind.

Thank God for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit may we be Spirit-filled prophets with God’s vision so that we can serve God’s will in this generation leading the people of this world to call on the name of the Lord one by one.

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