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Fire Comes Down | Acts 2:1-21

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Before diving into Acts 2, let's rewind by about several years. We can't pinpoint the exact date Joel was written, but it was penned by a prophet named Joel, obviously. Many speculate he might have prophesied during King Josiah's reign. Joel's primary message was the urgency for repentance. The people at that time were rebellious and acting against God. Joel's message was simple: if you repent, God will relent. However, if repentance wasn't sought, divine judgment would be imminent.

By the time Joel wrote his prophecies, signs of God's judgment were already manifesting through various circumstances. Yet, Joel emphasized that this wasn't the conclusion of God's design. If people refused to repent, there would be destruction. But following that, God planned for restoration, promising a future event that would be hard to grasp.

Until then, and for some time after, the Holy Spirit didn't inhabit people perpetually. The Holy Spirit would come upon individuals momentarily, guiding and assisting them, but not residing within them permanently. However, Joel proclaimed in chapter two, verse twenty-eight, voicing God's promise: "I will pour out my spirit. Then your sons and your daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions. I will even pour out my spirit on both male and female servants in those days." Joel predicted this remarkable event where the Holy Spirit would dwell among and within people.

Yet, this prophecy wasn't fulfilled for ages. Generation after generation waited, pondering if theirs might be the time when God's Spirit would reside in humanity.

Fast forward to Acts, specifically chapter two. Following His resurrection, Jesus gave directives to His apostles. Do you recall those directives? Precisely, the command was to wait in the city for an event to unfold. What did He say in chapter one?

He mentioned that they would receive power. Imagine telling our children this; they might envision superpowers, like flying or seeing through walls. Whatever the disciples anticipated, the reality in chapter two was probably far more astonishing. By this point, ten days have passed since Jesus ascended, and they're in Jerusalem. We can't be certain, but it's possible they were in the same upper room they had used before.

On the day of Pentecost, they were all together in one place. The term 'Pentecost' comes from the prefix 'penta,' which means five. It takes place 50 days after Passover. Recalling that Passover, what significant event transpired? Jesus was betrayed. That particular Passover is pivotal, perhaps the most momentous Passover in human history.

Fast forward 50 days to Pentecost, which correlates with the Jewish harvest. It's a significant date on their calendar, and it's closely tied to the Passover celebrations. People from all over would converge on Jerusalem for these two events, also recognizing Pentecost as the Feast of Weeks.

As the day unfolded, they heard a sound like a violent wind from heaven. It wasn't ordinary. The noise seemed to descend, filling the entire house where they were gathered. Then, they witnessed what appeared to be tongues of fire separating and resting on each of them. What could this signify? It's challenging to picture, but imagine the phenomenon of the burning bush: it was on fire, yet remained unscathed. This might have been a similar miraculous fire.

By verse four, they were all imbued with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in various languages as the Spirit enabled them. Wouldn't it be convenient, especially on international trips, if one could spontaneously speak other languages through the Spirit's empowerment? Have you ever been to a place where different languages are spoken? How incredible would it be to possess this gift of the Holy Spirit?

Some believe that the modern version of speaking in tongues is an ecstatic, angelic, or spiritual language that no one can understand. However, in Acts, it's a real language. They didn't learn it, yet they could articulate it flawlessly, even unintentionally.

By verse five, we learn that devout Jews from every nation were in Jerusalem. By this period, Jews had been dispersed globally. Despite the 7th-century B.C. scattering of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and later the Southern Kingdom, many Jews maintained their unique culture even while integrating into different societies, which is rare historically.

These Jews would journey to Jerusalem for festivals. When they heard the disciples speaking, they were confused, expecting chaotic sounds but finding clarity in their native tongues. This experience is profound. If you've ever been abroad and suddenly hear your language amidst others, it resonates differently, drawing you closer, cutting through the noise.

By verse seven, there's astonishment. The crowd notes, "Aren't all these who are speaking Galileans?" This is tinged with disbelief, as Galileans weren't known for their linguistic prowess. The crowd marvels at how they can hear the disciples in their own languages. The subsequent verses then list the places these people came from, spanning the known world: Parthians, Medes, Elamites, those from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, parts of Libya near Cyrene, and even visitors from Rome, both Jews and converts. The converts, interestingly, were individuals who had converted to Judaism. Even though they were originally Gentiles, they followed Jewish laws. There were also Christians and Arabs. They all testified to hearing the magnificent acts of God in their native languages, witnessing a profound miracle.

A consistent theme we notice throughout Acts, and even in the Gospels, is that miracles come paired with a message. Miracles are not simply for show; they serve to validate and lend credibility to the messenger. When someone proclaims a revelation, backed by a miraculous act, it signifies the importance of their message. In this case, there's a person ready to make such a proclamation. If found false, the punishment is stoning. Having a miracle as evidence lends weight to his words.

The miracle they experienced was personal. It wasn’t something observed from a distance. It was either taking place in the speaker's mouth or the listener's ear. It's uncertain which, but regardless, hearing one's own language is deeply intimate. Being in a place where you're unfamiliar with the language can be isolating. Hence, this miracle was not only attention-grabbing but also conveyed the magnificent acts of God in a language familiar to the listeners.

By verse 12, the crowd was both amazed and confused, asking, "What does this mean?" Some even ridiculed them, suggesting they were drunk on new wine. This reaction highlights the necessity of a message accompanying a miracle. Without an explanation, a miracle can lead to confusion or misinterpretation. Miracles prompt questions, creating an opening for someone to elucidate the event's significance.

Peter seizes this opportunity. In verse 14, he confidently addresses the crowd, clarifying the situation and refuting their assumptions. He might have been addressing hundreds, given that at least 120 were with the apostles and disciples. Guided by the Holy Spirit, Peter felt the moment was ripe to speak.

In verse 15, he counters the drunkenness assumption by pointing out it's only nine in the morning. During Pentecost, most devout Jews would be fasting from the previous evening until late in the morning. By referencing the hour, Peter highlights the improbability of anyone being intoxicated.

Finally, in verse 16, Peter cites the prophet Joel to further explain the events they witnessed."We've eagerly anticipated this moment. These devout individuals, reverent and God-fearing, are familiar with Joel's words. Some might even have memorized them, especially the significant passages. They've awaited the fulfillment of Joel's prophecy for countless generations. And now, in a breathtaking display, a miracle beyond our comprehension unfolds.

Peter rises and proclaims, 'This is the day.' He then recites from Acts, 'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. Both men and women will receive my Spirit in those days, and I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below: blood, fire, and billows of smoke. The sun will turn to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'

What a powerful proclamation! It certainly amplifies one's message when it's paired with a recent miracle and the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy.

While we won't delve into the entirety of Peter's sermon now, I want you to deeply feel the gravity of this moment. It signifies a monumental shift in human history. Up to this point, the Creator, though close to some, had maintained a certain distance. He'd never before bestowed His Holy Spirit upon a collective group of believers. This event changed everything, and its impact reverberates to this day. Truly astounding."


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