Bible · Holy Spirit

Before Pentecost

Forty days after Jesus ascended into heaven, a historical event took place that was essential to His ascension. While Jesus ascended to heaven, the Holy Spirit descended to earth in great power. The story is told in Acts 2:1-21.

“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5 And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. 6 Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. 7 And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? 8 And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? 9 Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, 10 Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. 12 And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? 13 Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine. 14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: 15 For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. 16 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; 17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: 18 And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: 19 And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: 20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: 21 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:1-21)

Dr. R. C. Sproul reminds the Church that, touching His human nature, Jesus is no longer present with us. Touching his Divine nature, He is never absent from us. When Jesus told His disciples that He was going to leave, the disciples were very sad until they heard the Lord promise He would not leave them comfortless. Jesus promised to send His Spirit to be with them. Jesus would be with His people until the end of the world. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matt. 28:19-20)

With the promise of the Lord Jesus in their hearts, the disciples could explain to others on the Day of Pentecost an important question when it was asked, “What does all of this mean?” (Acts 2:12) It is a good question. “What does the ‘strange tongues’, called glossolalia, mean?”

We know the result of the glossolalia. People heard others speak in their own language. That phenomenon raises another question. “Was this a miracle of hearing, or, was it a miracle of speaking?”

Skeptics who were present that day said, “These men are drunk. They are full of new wine. That is what the phenomenon means.”

However, Peter had a different interpretation. Standing up with the eleven, Peter “lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: 15 For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. 16 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; 17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: 18 And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: 19 And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: 20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: 21 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:14-21)

To get to a deeper understanding of what happened at Pentecost, attention must be given to something that happened before Pentecost. Attention is turned to Numbers 11.

“And when the people complained, it displeased the LORD: and the LORD heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the LORD burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp. 2 And the people cried unto Moses; and when Moses prayed unto the LORD, the fire was quenched. 3 And he called the name of the place Taberah: because the fire of the LORD burnt among them. 4 And the mixt multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat? 5 We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick: 6 But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes. 7 And the manna was as coriander seed, and the colour thereof as the colour of bdellium. 8 And the people went about, and gathered it, and ground it in mills, or beat it in a mortar, and baked it in pans, and made cakes of it: and the taste of it was as the taste of fresh oil. 9 And when the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell upon it.” (Num. 11:2-9)

In context, Israel has been delivered from the Land o Bondage, brought into the dessert, and been given food to eat. However, after a while, the people grew to hate their heavenly diet

In an emotional revolt in their souls, the people remembered the foods they had eaten in Egypt, and longed for them. They remembered the cucumbers, the garlic, the onions, and the leeks. That is just what human nature is like. Instead of remembering the dreadful conditions of being slaves in Egypt, the people romanticized the past. The people asked Moses, in anger, “Who is going to give us meat to eat?”

In an ironic understatement we read, “Then Moses heard the people weep throughout their families, every man in the door of his tent: and the anger of the LORD was kindled greatly; Moses also was displeased.” (Num. 11:10) The Lord was angry, and Moses was also displeased.

At this point, Moses engaged in some self-pity by making the situation personal to the point he wants to die.

“And Moses said unto the LORD, Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant? And wherefore have I not found favour in thy sight, that thou layest the burden of all this people upon me? 12 Have I conceived all this people? Have I begotten them, that thou shouldest say unto me, Carry them in thy bosom, as a nursing father beareth the sucking child, unto the land which thou swarest unto their fathers? 13 Whence should I have flesh to give unto all this people? for they weep unto me, saying, Give us flesh, that we may eat. 14 I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me. 15 And if thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray thee, out of hand, if I have found favour in thy sight; and let me not see my wretchedness.” (Num. 11:11-15)

This was not the last time in the Bible that people in a leadership position cursed the day of their birth, and asked to die. Moses was exasperated with the people, and terrified of his own limitations. He was right in his conclusion. He was not able to bear this burden alone. The LORD was sympathetic to the appeal of Moses, and instructed him what he was to do.

“And the LORD said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee. 17 And I will come down and talk with thee there: and I will take of the spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone. 18 And say thou unto the people, Sanctify yourselves against tomorrow, and ye shall eat flesh: for ye have wept in the ears of the LORD, saying, Who shall give us flesh to eat? For it was well with us in Egypt: therefore the LORD will give you flesh, and ye shall eat.” (Num. 11:16-18)

What this narrative teaches is that Moses was the Mediator of the Old Covenant. As the Mediator of the Old Covenant, Moses is a charismatic leader, meaning, he is a gifted leader. The gift of God to Moses was the Holy Spirit in fullness and power.

Moses did not lead Israel on the basis of his own inherent natural strength and personality, but upon the gifts of God given to him. Moses is given a peculiar gift and that gift is an endowment imposed upon him by the Holy Spirit.

The leadership of Moses is exercised in the power of God by the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

Question. “Did the believers in the Old Testament have the Holy Spirit?”

Answer. “Yes. Of course they did.” No one can be a part of the LORD apart from His Spirit.

Those who believed in the Old Testament economy enjoyed many of the functions and activities of God the Holy Spirit.

However, there were certain individuals, officers, and other people, who received a special endowment of the Spirit in order to do the work that the LORD entrusted to them.

This special endowment was designed to empower individuals for ministry. They were often anointed with oil as a sign of being endowed with the Holy Spirit. The priests were consecrated. The Spirit of the LORD came upon the prophets. The craftsmen and artisans were anointed with the Spirit to build the Tabernacle. In the book of Judges, the Spirit of the LORD came upon individuals such as Samson, and Deborah.

Now when Moses informed the LORD that the burden of ministering to this vast multitude of people was too much, God gathered seventy men, and poured out upon them the same measure, of the same Spirit that empowered Moses.

From this point forward, the Old Testament Church, during its wilderness journey, had 71 men to do the work of the ministry.

“And Moses went out, and told the people the words of the LORD, and gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people, and set them round about the tabernacle. 25 And the LORD came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease.” (Num. 11:24-25)

This was the prototype for the prophecy of Joel that was ultimately fulfilled in the Church on the Day of Pentecost. From one man to 71 men to the whole church, the Spirit was poured out. This pouring out of the Spirit was not to be restricted, or rebuked, not in the day of Moses, and not on the Day of Pentecost.

When Eldad and Medad began to engage in prophecy in the camp, Joshua was alarmed, and pleaded with Moses to forbid them. Numbers 11:29 (KJV)

“And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? Would God that all the LORD’S people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!”

And, that is exactly what happened on the Day of Pentecost. God put His Spirit upon all His people. The plea of Moses, the prayer of Moses, was honored.

The prayer of Moses became a prophecy in Joel, and then a fulfilment, following the resurrection and ascension of Christ.

The power for ministry is now given to all believers in the New Covenant. Every believer is gifted by God as per 1 Corinthians 13. But every Christian receives a gift and is empowered by the Spirit for ministry. The New Testament Church is a charismatic church; it is a gifted church for the work of ministry.

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