Now we get to the exciting part of the book. Chapter one seems to be just a prelude to what happens next. The traditional name of the book is "Acts." Acts done by whom? Well, traditionally the answer to that is “the Apostles.” But an equally useful name might be “Acts of the Holy Spirit.”
Just to give you a heads up, we’re going to be studying the nature and work of the Spirit for a few days starting tomorrow, so we’re not going to delve too much into that subject today. I'd prefer, instead, to focus a bit more about Pentecost and what it means. “Wait a minute, I thought they were one and the same?!” Not quite.
Let me preface this by saying that I have some very dear brothers of the Pentecostal/Charismatic persuasion. We have no trouble fellowshipping together, praying together, worshiping together, and encouraging each other. I have no doubt as to their salvation or their sincerity. They have a strong desire to please our Father and exalt Christ. But we have some differences, some major and some not so much.
Let me come right out and say it. Pentecost was a one-time event. It’s not something we need to repeat over and over. People who pray for “another Pentecost” might be sincere, but I think they’re confused. Let me explain.
In several ways, Pentecost mirrors the Incarnation. In the latter, the Son left his home by the Father’s side and came to take on human flesh. He didn’t subtract at all from his Divine nature; he only added to it. He took on a human body and dwelt among men. This was the Father’s means for accomplishing his purposes.
Can you guess the parallels? During the O.T. period, the Holy Spirit came and went. He came and dwelt within people for a short period of time, accomplished his purpose, and then he might or might not stick around afterward. He came upon Saul, empowered him as king, and then left when the king became disobedient. This is why David, when he repented from egregious sin, pleaded with God not to take the Spirit away from him.
Now everything is different. Jesus promised that when the Spirit came after his Ascension, the Spirit would come to stay: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever.” Not come and go. The Spirit was sent by Jesus, and he came down to inhabit flesh and blood. This is how he accomplishes his purposes in this age: Through the Body of Christ, otherwise known as the Church. It’s not to be repeated any more than the Incarnation.
Let me make one more parallel which is really interesting to me. When the new tabernacle was inaugurated in Moses' day, the glory of the Lord came down and filled the structure with a physical manifestation. When the new temple was dedicated by Solomon, the people also saw a physical manifestation of God "moving in," so to speak. This was his new place of residence, the official meeting-place of God and men. Now we see him moving into his final temple, the universal Church. God has a new place of residence, and he again demonstrated it publicly and physically.
Let me point something else out here, and it’s really wonderful. One of the saddest incidents in Scripture is found in Genesis 11. Remember the Tower of Babel? Men in their pride decided to unite in rebellion against God and erected a tower to symbolize and facilitate their unity. The Lord came down to “see” what was occurring and in (relatively mild) judgment confused all their languages. And we’ve been disunited ever since. I’m not saying that disunity is a bad thing necessarily. Quite frankly, I’m suspicious and nervous when people start uniting except under the banner of Christ. Despite what you might've been told, unity is not good in and of itself. People can be united in bad things as well as good things.
But on Pentecost we see God mercifully begin the grand reversal of that curse. People from all different languages, cultures, backgrounds, etc. were united by the work of the Spirit. And the process is continuing. I have—right this instant--millions of siblings in Christ from all languages, cultures, nations, economic statuses, skin colors, etc. None of those things make a bit of difference now. Now we actually can unite in submission to Christ, and it’s nothing but a beautiful thing.
And it continues all the way into Heaven. God parted the veil a bit for John the apostle, and this is what he described to us:
“After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:
"Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb!’”
I can’t wait to see that, can you?
Father, may that day swiftly come, and I want to have a part in that. Please.