The Day of Pentecost
As we find in scripture the command to rightly divide the word of truth (2 TIMOTHY 2:15), it is incumbent upon us to discover the great dividing lines in the Bible. These different administrations or dispensations depict the various ways GOD dealt with man over the ages. How Yahweh (GOD) dispensed to Moses to accomplish HIS purposes is different than how HE might dispense to us today. Unlike Moses, we have not been commissioned by Yahweh to rescue millions of Israelites from Egypt. Thus, we cannot expect Yahweh to part for us the Red Sea or guide us with a pillar of a cloud or of fire. Likewise, the way Yahweh dispensed to Noah was different than was HIS way with Joshua, Jonah or even Yeshua (Jesus). HIS methods change as HE sees fit, "at sundry times and in divers manners".
HEBREWS 1:1-2 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son...
This in times past was describing the period sometime prior to the Gospels, when GOD spoke unto the Hebrew fathers by the prophets. However, these last days of which the epistle to the HEBREWS speaks, was during the Gospel period when HE spoke not by the prophets but by HIS Son. Then, after the Son's earthly ministry was accomplished with His death, resurrection and ascension, GOD then spoke, not by the Son but by them that heard him, His apostles and disciples.
HEBREWS 2:3-4 How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?
Have you ever asked yourself why, after Yeshua's resurrection, did He not return to His ministry? Why didn't He enter again into the Temple and teach as the resurrected King of kings? Why did He no longer feed and heal the multitudes? Why didn't He appear before Pilate and teach him truth? The reason we do not find Him returning to continue where He left off, is simply because the times had changed. GOD's purposes were moving in a different direction. After His ascension, Yeshua's place was at His Father's right hand and it was then given unto others the duty of preparing men and women for Christ's return.
Thus, Yeshua's earthly ministry is set forth for us in the four Gospels. Then the ministry of them that heard him, i.e. the apostles and other disciples, is set forth for us in the book of ACTS. This period covered by the ACTS of the Apostles is where we see GOD confirming the apostle's ministries "both with signs and wonders and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost", as we just read of in the epistle of HEBREWS.
So, simply put, we have GOD speaking through the prophets in most of the Jewish Bible, then we have GOD speaking through HIS Son in the Gospels, and then we have GOD speaking through the apostles during the book of ACTS. And to whom was all this speaking? Unto the fathers, the fathers of the Hebrews. Almost without exception all this speaking was unto the people of Israel, except in circumstances where they refused to hear. Then the word was on occasion sent unto the Gentiles.
Thus, we today cannot expect to hear from GOD as if we lived in either times past or those last days! Instead we must learn how HE speaks to us in our own day. Not in the days before Israel was HIS chosen nation (the early chapters of GENESIS), nor in the days while Israel was HIS chosen nation (as is recorded in the Jewish Bible, the Gospels and the Book of ACTS), but afterwards. This is why the true birth date of today's Church is so important.
Having said all that...
The Feast of Pentecost refers to the number of days (fifty) between the beginning of Passover and the end of harvest, seven weeks and one day. It was originally celebrated as a sort of Thanksgiving for the grain harvest. The day in question here, of which tradition teaches that today's Church is to have began, was the Pentecost festival, fifty days after Yeshua's crucifixion and resurrection.
This particular Pentecost was singularly special above most other Pentecosts, because during this celebration, tongues of fire appeared, which sat upon each of the apostles as they were praying in the temple (not the upper room as Church Tradition teaches). This was a phenomenon to mark that moment as a dividing line in the history of Israel. This was another sign from GOD to announce another coming change for that nation, as was the burning bush for Moses on mount Horeb (EXODUS 3:2).
Let us review the events that led up to this great dividing line called the Day of Pentecost, which falls between Yeshua's ministry and the ministries of His apostles. A little more than thirty years previous an angel had announced to Mary that she would bare Yeshua who would "reign over the house of Jacob". Shortly thereafter Joseph was told that this Son would "save his people [Israel] from their sins". A couple of years later the wise men from the east came and declared that they had followed the star of Him "that is born king of the Jews".
Then about thirty years after that John the Baptist preached to Israel saying, "Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" and again warned them to "flee from the wrath to come". Yeshua Himself "began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand". Yet as a nation, Israel did not repent but instead rejected their Savior and King, delivering Him to be crucified. But GOD awakened Him from among the dead and raised Him into heaven where He was to wait for the time which "the Father hath put in His own power", when He would return as King of kings.
Then a few days later came this Day of Pentecost, with the tongues of fire and the twelve Galileans speaking the many languages of the Dispersion (the languages of Judeans living in various other countries). We learn from the Pentecostal record that those assembled in the Temple "were all amazed, and were perplexed, saying one to another, 'What meaneth this?' " No doubt we too would have been equally perplexed. Galileans were not known to have been very literate and normally spoke only Aramaic, yet here these Twelve were speaking a multitude of languages. Peter immediately gave the gathering crowd the explanation. His words tell us exactly what was happening, and why. We don't have to guess or suppose. We can know precisely what was the reason for this mighty work of GOD with these tongues of fire on this pivotal Day of Pentecost.
Peter's explanation of the event is often referred to as the first sermon of today's Christian Church, but was this really GOD's purpose? Was Peter on this Day of Pentecost calling upon these Judeans to forsake the religion of their fathers (Judaism) and convert to a different religion (Christianity)? Let us read and see. He began by declaring, "...this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel" (ACTS 2:16).
"This is that"
simply means, "this is that". What was happening at that very hour was exactly that which was prophesied of by the prophet Joel, which Peter goes on to quote.
ACTS 2:17 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:
Then Peter commands, "Ye men of Israel, hear these words...". It is again important to note that this event of which we are reading was all about Israel. There are no Gentiles here, only Judeans and proselytes (Gentiles converted to Judaism). Some readers may be in doubt because so many foreigners were present in the Pentecostal record. These were not Gentiles however, but Jews of the Dispersion which were "scattered abroad" (JAMES 1:1) who had returned from Asia, Egypt, Rome and elsewhere to celebrate the day of Pentecost at the temple in Jerusalem.
It was actually against Jewish law for a Judean to even keep company with Gentiles, individuals of other nations. It is of no surprise then that Yeshua's ministry was primarily to the "lost sheep of the house of Israel" (MATTHEW 15:24), not to the Gentiles. Likewise, He instructed the apostles to "Go not into the way of the Gentiles" (MATTHEW 10:5) but only to Judeans, which for many years was their standard operating procedure (ACTS 11:19). Rarely did they deviate from that pattern and only then after special divine revelation commanded them to do so, as when Peter was shown in a vision that it was acceptable to keep company with Gentiles (ACTS 10:28).
But on that extraordinary Day of Pentecost, what Peter was declaring was the last days for the nation of Israel. He was calling on them to "repent...saying, Save yourselves from this crooked generation". A new dispensation was born but not a new religion. GOD was now going to dispense to Israel in a new and final way. As Joel had prophesied, now HE was going to pour out HIS spirit upon all flesh (kindred or blood-relations, not Gentiles), and there would be prophesies, visions and dreams.
Israel's prophets had long ago foretold that GOD would send them a Redeemer. HE finally had in the person of Yeshua, whom GOD had set forth by "miracles and wonders and signs" in an attempt to return them from their ungodly ways unto HIM. However, they rejected GOD's only begotten Son. This is precisely what Yeshua himself had foretold in His parable, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, and sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come" (MATTHEW 22:2-3). This first calling of Israel is set forth for us during the Gospel records. But the parable continues with GOD's second calling of Israel.
MATTHEW 22:4-7 Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: and the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.
These "other servants" of Yeshua's parable in MATTHEW are the very ones written about in the book of HEBREWS, "that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost" (HEBREWS 2:3-4). The book of ACTS gives us the detailed testimony of GOD sending those other servants, bidding Israel to my dinner, and their subsequent rejection of that calling.
It is in the book of ACTS where we have the record of Israel's making light of GOD's calling and going instead their way. They took Peter, Stephen, James, Paul and others and "entreated them spitefully, and slew them". Even though GOD was "bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles" The nation of Israel still rejected HIS call. Thus, according to Yeshua's parable, GOD "was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city", which was accomplished in A.D. 70, shortly after the close of the book of ACTS.
For over fifteen hundred years Israel had been the chosen nation of GOD with a magnificent history. From her bondage in Egypt, to her wandering in the wilderness, to her conquering the land of Canaan, to Solomon exceeding "all the kings of the earth for riches and for wisdom", to her demise and subsequent dispersion and final return again into the Promised Land, to her receiving and rejecting her promised Messiah, all culminating in the book of ACTS with her ultimate rejection of the other servants.
Then her great history ends. Then all is quiet. For nearly two thousand years there has been little mention of this once chosen nation. No longer did the purposes of GOD seem to revolve around this tiny tribe. Then a new age began and that former age ceased. But this new age began after the end of the book of ACTS, not at the beginning. That change of ages came not on the Day of Pentecost but on another day, after the "the day of the Lord", after "the great day of his wrath" (REVELATION 6:17).
Paul may have alluded to this exact event at the close of the book of ACTS.
ACTS 28:23-29 And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening. And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not.
And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: for the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it. And when he had said these words, the Jews departed...
The primary focus of the book of ACTS is about Israel. From the beginning when Yeshua was asked if GOD was about to "restore again the kingdom to Israel" (ACTS 1:6), to the end when Paul declared the solemn words of the prophet Isaiah unto their fathers. This book of ACTS is about Israel being called to the dinner of Yeshua's parable and their subsequent rejection of that calling. Sure, on occasion when one Jewish Synagogue rejected the gospel, Paul might then have preached to the Gentiles, but upon entering the next town he always went back to the Jewish Synagogue. All of the signs, miracles and wonders during the book of ACTS was for the express purpose of GOD "bearing them witness" as HIS servants called upon Israel to repent.
It should be noted that the reason GOD was always so concerned about Israel, was because they were to be a kingdom of priests, ministering GOD's word to the gentiles. GOD's will was always the reconciling of the world back to HIM, but HIS vehicle was to be the nation of Israel. It was only after they had failed to fulfill their calling that they as a nation were then rejected.
The true ministry of today's Church came into being only after the Parousia, wherein Yeshua gathered together into heaven His disciples. GOD does not intend for us today to try to emulate or duplicate all of the signs, miracle and wonders which occurred during the book of ACTS. We today live under a different dispensation. Not a lesser dispensation but a different dispensation. Those believers today seeking to reproduce a supernatural lifestyle patterned according to the book of ACTS are living outside of the will of GOD. Yeshua had said that "A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign" (MATTHEW 16:4) and "blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed" (JOHN 20:29).