Summary: What is the miracle of Pentecost all about?

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Speaking in Tongues

Acts 2:2-11

When the topic of speaking in tongues is brought up in churches, a storm of questions are asked. Were these tongues at Pentecost known languages or unknown tongues? Is speaking in tongues the initial evidence and proof of Spirit baptism? Does one need to speak in tongues to be saved? Or one could ask whether these tongues belonged to the Apostolic Age and with miracles and prophecy are not for today. I will endeavor to answer these questions as best as I can from the scriptural text itself.

What we learned in the last lesson “When the Day of Pentecost was Fully Come,” we learned of the context of Pentecost. It was a regularly scheduled Jewish holiday celebrating the wheat harvest which was the cash crop for the Israelites. The other harvest festival for the barley harvest was celebrated several weeks earlier during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The wave offering for the barley was held on the first day of the week following Passover. This means that Jesus rose from the dead on the day of firstfruits, which Paul alludes to in 1 Corinthians 15. From a Christian perspective, then, Easter Sunday and Pentecost are related.

We also noticed the similarities between the Spirit Baptism of Jesus and the Holy Spirit Baptism of the church on Pentecost. There was a difference of sign though. For Jesus, the sign was the gentle descent of a dove. For the church, it was a violent wind. The first sign certified Jesus’ public ministry, the second the ministry of the church which was to continue to do what Jesus began to do and teach.

There is a question where this Pentecost miracle took place. Many think that they were in the same upper room that Jesus held the Last supper with the Apostles. However, there were few of these upper rooms which could accommodate 120 or more persons. Others think that this upper room was in the Temple facilities. There was a large upper room there in which Rabbi’s taught. As this was a public place, and a large crowd would be at the Temple at the time of the 9 AM morning prayer and sacrifice, it seems likely that the miracle of Pentecost took place there. This event would quickly catch the interest of the crowd more than some upper room on a side street in Jerusalem.

When we look at the Old Testament manifestations of the presence of God, something which is technically called a “theophany,” we are reminded particularly of two such events. The first is when the Tabernacle in the wilderness was dedicated in which the flaming presence of God came down upon it, and the glory was so great that the ministers could not minister. The same happened when Solomon dedicated the Temple in Jerusalem. But instead of the presence of God coming down upon the Holy Place in the Temple, the presence came down upon the believers. As we will see as we go along in the Book of Acts, there is a transition which occurs in the concept of Temple from being a building in Jerusalem to the body of believers united in Jesus Christ. Jesus in the Gospel of John, chapter 2, had already prepared the Apostles for this when He said “Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up again.” John comments that He was talking about the Temple of His body. Paul tells us that Jesus is the head of the body which is His church. The fact that the manifestation of the glory of God came down upon the believers, emphasizes that the Temple in Jerusalem was already obsolete.

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