Summary: This was the first great revival.
THE DAY OF PENTECOST
The feast of Pentecost was held at the end of the wheat harvest, fifty days after the Passover. It was also used as a commemoration of the giving of the law, fifty days after the Exodus. As the disciples continued to pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the New Testament church, maybe they would have had in view two prophecies which pointed synonymously to the writing of the law upon the hearts of God's new covenant people (Jeremiah 31:33) and the placing of God's Spirit within His people in order to enable them to keep the law (Ezekiel 36:27). Before the day was through, they would also reap a harvest of souls for Christ!
Before Jesus ascended into heaven, He instructed His disciples to await the Promise of the Father. He told them to expect an empowering from the Holy Ghost “not many days hence” (Acts 1:5). For another ten days after the ascension, we are told, the small band of apostles, along with the women and Jesus' brothers “continued with one accord with prayer and supplication” (Acts 1:14). When the church unites in prayer, things happen!
It was “when the Day of Pentecost had fully come” (Acts 2:1) that the three phenomena of a wind-like noise, fire-like tongues and coherent words in strange languages heralded the dawn of the age of the Spirit. There is a set time for everything in God's kingdom. Along with the incarnation, the crucifixion, the resurrection and the ascension, this was one of the great acts of what Jesus “said and did” (Acts 1:1) in the inauguration of His kingdom upon earth.
The Apostles received the promised “power” (Acts 1:8) for their ministry, their lips being as it were touched by the purity of fire, like Isaiah's live coal (Isaiah 6:6-7) Thereafter the first great revival took place with the conversion of 3000 souls in Jerusalem.
John the Baptist had prophesied that Jesus would baptise “with the Holy Spirit and with fire,” and he also spoke of a harvest (Luke 3:16-17). (The word for Spirit, wind and breath is one and the same in the Greek language, as it is in Hebrew.) The three phenomena of fire, tempest and words are also found present at the giving of the law in Mount Sinai (Hebrews 12:18-19). Yet it is chiefly upon the languages that Luke focuses our attention.
The “other tongues” of Acts 2:4 have been recognised as a reversal of the curse of Babel. These are not the ecstatic tongues of 1 Corinthians 14, which need an interpreter for them to be of any but private edification, but were words in known human languages. So just as God came down upon Babel to “confound” the language of mankind (Genesis 11:6-9), so He came at Pentecost with a universal message which could be understood by Jews and proselytes from throughout the Roman world, whose native tongues included languages from all the main family groups of Noah's sons. As such, the hearers represented all mankind.
The miracle of these “tongues” is all the more apt in that the men who witnessed that day were all Galileans (Acts 2:7). They were looked down upon as common country folk, whose accent would always give them away (a fact known only too well by Peter, Luke 22:59). They were considered uncultured, and uneducated, yet here they were coherently speaking the words of God in languages which they had not learned, but which their hearers could clearly understand. This gave rise to the question, “What can this possibly mean?” (Acts 2:12).
As always when God is at work, there are those who choose to cover up their ignorance by mocking. The accusation of drunkenness was just that. In fact, far from being incoherent, these men were very coherent to those who had an ear to hear. Far from being out of control, they were under the control of God's Holy Spirit. One of the fruits of the Spirit is “self control” (Galatians 5:23). Anyway, as Peter would pronounce in their defence, it was only 9a.m. (Acts 2:15)!
Peter's sermon showed, first of all, that this was the fulfilment of Joel 2. Peter was already convinced that the last days had begun (Acts 2:17), a fact which he echoed towards the end of his ministry (2 Peter 3:3). This is the Messianic age in which we are living, the age of the out-poured Spirit. This is the age of the church, when young and old, near and far, servants and free are enabled to speak forth the words of God, and when all who call upon the name of the Lord (Jesus) shall be saved.
Then Peter outlined his doctrine of Christ as attested by the “miracles” (using here the same word which in Acts 1:8 is translated “power” and speaks of the dynamic of God), “wonders” (arousing astonishment), and “signs” (signifying spiritual truth). These things, Peter asserted, were done by God in their midst, as they well knew (Acts 2:22).