“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were witting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”—Acts 2:1–4
The Day of Pentecost was an annual feast-day prescribed by God in the Law of Moses for observance by the nation of Israel. The name pentecost comes from the Greek word for fifty, and the festival took place fifty days after the first day of the week that followed the Passover (Leviticus 23:15–19). It was one of three festivals mandated for attendance by all Israelite males (Exodus 34:22–23). The focus of the ritual on the Day of Pentecost was the offering at the Temple of the two “wave-loaves” which, strangely, were to be leavened.
What Christians regard as the great Day of Pentecost happened fifty days after the resurrection of the Saviour, and brought events of significance which are recorded in the second chapter of the book of Acts. The two outstanding features of Pentecost for us are these:
- It marked a dispensational change. On the great Day of Pentecost, the program of God moved from the age of the Old Covenant (the Old Testament era) to the age of the New Covenant (the Church Age or the New Testament era). The most practical difference between the Old Testament believers and New Testament believers in Christ is that New Testament believers have the Spirit of God who occupied the Temple in Old Testament days actually living in their bodies, making them the Temple of God, and doing phenomenal things for them and through them.
The Holy Spirit came once and for all on the Day of Pentecost, as Jesus promised (see John 14:12–20). This great change happened for all believers on that day, and it will never happen again. Now men are “sealed” and indwelt by the Holy Spirit the moment they trust in Christ for their salvation (read Romans 5:1–5, 1 Corinthians 6:19–20, 2 Corinthians 1:21–22, and Ephesians 1:12–14). In this sense, Pentecost will never be repeated.
- It was the first New Testament revival. Pentecost, in the sense of the transition from one era of divine dealing to a better one, will not be repeated; but Pentecost, in the sense of the experience of revival, will be and has been experienced again and again. It happened again in Acts 4. After a congregational prayer meeting in a time of crisis, verse 31 of that chapter says that the members of the same church that was revived at Pentecost (only much larger now because of the effects of Pentecost) “Were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.” We know that the powerful experience of the church at Jerusalem was a revival because we are told they were filled with the Holy Ghost.
The book of Ephesians, which clarifies the doctrine of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christians, says in chapter 1 (verse 13) that we all were “sealed with that holy Spirit of promise” when we “believed.” Chapter 4 says that although we can “grieve” the Spirit by our actions and attitudes, He will not leave us (“ye are sealed unto the day of redemption,” verse 30), and chapter 5 says that those who are sealed with the Spirit are commanded to “be filled with the Spirit” (verse 18).
This means that people “sealed” with the Spirit have both the opportunity and the obligation to be “filled with the Spirit.” In the book of Acts the term “filled with the Holy Ghost” describes the ideal level of Christian living. It is the way of life described in John and in First John with the term “abide in me” [Christ] that carries the promise of the fullness of the Holy Spirit’s ministry in our lives. When we learn to live in dependence and submission to the Lord Jesus, we will walk in the Spirit and be filled with the Holy Ghost. This is the state of revival.
So the 120 believers who met for prayer in the Upper Room for 10 days after the Lord’s return to Heaven experienced not only the sealing of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, but also the filling. Pentecost is the prime example in the Bible of a corporate revival in the New Testament age, and on that level it can be repeated.
Historians use the term pentecost to label a number of important Christian revivals. There was the “Moravian Pentecost” in 1727. The Cane Ridge camp meeting of 1801 is called “America’s Pentecost.” A phenomenal local revival and awakening was called “The Portland Pentecost of 1905.” The great “Korean Pentecost” of 1907 converted many thousands from Buddhism and Confucianism to Christianity and left a permanent imprint on the nation’s culture.
Is it proper to call revivals “Pentecost”? It is absolutely fitting and appropriate when we consider the events of the great Pentecost in terms of revival. And the coming of that revival to the 120 which led to the conversion of thousands in Jerusalem is described in such a way as to show us the way to Pentecost in our own places, and in our own churches. What brought about the Pentecostal revival and awakening? Clearly revealed are four measures we can follow.
1. They Came to an Agreement
Acts 2:1 records that, “When the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.” Before they were filled with the Spirit, the company of disciples praying in the Upper Room had come to the point of perfect and absolute unity.
Jesus Christ prayed for unity among His followers, but the unity of which He spoke was not what men today often think Christian unity is. In John 17, we find that Jesus prayed for the apostles and for us, and in verses 20 and 21 we come to these words: “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.”
True Christian unity is unity in God. It is not just surface agreement between the members of a church. It is not just the absence of overt conflict. It is unity of heart and mind caused by agreement with God! The revivals at the church in Jerusalem were produced by prayer meetings characterized by unity in purpose (see Acts 1:14, 2:1, and 4:24, and remember the promise of Matthew 18:19).
When you are filled with the Spirit and I am filled with the Spirit, we will be united in heart and mind because we both agree with God! So after 10 days of praying together, the 120 were brought to full accord, because they all agreed with God.
The basis of their agreement was the mandate Jesus left with them just before He went back to Heaven. On the crest of the Mount of Olives, He had said: “Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
When they came to agree wholeheartedly with Jesus Christ regarding His plan for His people in this age, God came into their midst. This is the pattern of every pentecost. Christians pray together until they are in full agreement with God and with Acts 1:8!
Most churches are not really in agreement about very basic things. If the truth were known, the members do not agree on important things such as what the church is for! Ask around in your congregation, “What do you think is the purpose of our church?” If people are honest, you will get a great variety of answers. But there is only one right answer, and it is the one prescribed by the Head of the church, spelled out in Acts 1:8. Do you agree with Jesus about His plans for His people? Do you agree with Him about sin, so that you can be cleansed in order to be filled? Do you desire to live in total submission and dependence on Him? That’s what He wants, and church-wide revival won’t come until His desires become our desires.
Are you committed to His mandate and plan that we evangelize our city, the surrounding area, and the next country (“both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria”) or is this aspect of the Christian life omitted from your agenda? Do you agree with Him that the whole world should be evangelized in our lifetimes (“ye shall be witnesses unto me…unto the uttermost part of the earth”)? It may take an extended period of prayer for a church to come into full agreement with the Lord, but such agreement is required for pentecost to come to the church.
2. They Partnered with God
Acts 2:4 says that “they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.” The Lord never planned for us to fulfill His plan by ourselves. In Matthew 11:29–30 Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” The burden is easy for the Christian when he is yoked up with Jesus to do the work because the Lord is carrying most of the load and doing most of the work! He said in John 15:4–5, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.”
First Corinthians 3:9 tells us that “we are labourers together with God.” The church was agreed on Acts 1:8, but they were also convinced that they could not fulfill it without divine help. When people partner with God to do His work, it is called taking His yoke, abiding in Him, and being filled with the Holy Spirit. They set out to evangelize, fully depending on the Spirit for boldness, power, wisdom, and faith. So must we, by a definite step of faith, partner with Christ if pentecost is to come to our churches.
3. “They Began to Speak”
Acts 2:4 then says that they “began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Now the miracle they all experienced did not happen until they began to speak. Have you begun to speak as yet? It is the will of Christ that all of His followers be His witnesses. A witness by definition must speak. He tells what he knows for a fact. If the gospel is to be preached to every person in the world, we all will have to begin speaking for the Lord.
Do you think that these believers had a feeling that they could speak in languages they had never learned before as they opened their mouths to tell the crowds that Jesus had risen from the dead? No, they just began to speak, and a miracle happened. When we obey, God helps us supernaturally (read again Philippians 4:13—we do what He wants, and He gives us the power to do it). We must begin to speak for Jesus. Until we do, we will not experience Pentecost.
4. They Had Something to Say
Acts 2:5–11 tells us how God enabled these unlearned Galileans to speak the gospel in the many languages spoken by the multitude of “Jews out of every nation under heaven” that had gathered in Jerusalem for the Day of Pentecost. These “other tongues” were not gibberish or unintelligible babble like the sounds our Pentecostal friends use in church.
Every one of the devout pilgrims from the nations listed in this passage heard the gospel “in his own language.” They said that “every man” heard the story “in our own tongue, wherein we were born.” It was not a heavenly language that was spoken, but rather many earthly languages, by which the followers of Jesus communicated the good news that the One Who had been crucified at the last feast had been raised from the dead.
“We do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.”
The rest of this exciting chapter clarifies what wonderful works of God were being told. Eyewitnesses were testifying to the wonders of the miraculous life, the sacrificial death, the triumphant resurrection, and victorious ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ. Do you have something to say about these monumental things, and how your life has been impacted by them? Do you have a personal testimony of salvation in Jesus? Every saved person has something to say.
Every New Testament church can and ought to have a Pentecost. And most Bible-believing churches need Pentecost right now. We can expect God to respond to our repentance and faith if we pray until we are in unity with and in Him, trust Him for the filling of the Holy Spirit, begin evangelizing right where we are, and tell others the story of what Jesus has done for us. Let us delay no longer. Let us preach for revival and call for prayer meetings to seek the Lord as a church until He sends the Pentecostal power!