One moment, He was there. The next, He was gone.
The disciples stared at the sky dumbfounded. They had been so engrossed with watching Jesus rise from the ground into the clouds thousands of feet in the air that they did not notice two angels standing next to them (Acts 1:9-10).
Following this encounter, they returned to Jerusalem. Life went on. The disciples and other believers waited to receive the Comforterâthe Holy Spiritâthat Christ had promised (vs. 5).
Imagine the anticipation!
The day of Pentecost quickly approached. Weeks before the Holy Day, which had marked the end of the spring harvest since the time of Moses, the first of the âfirstfruitsâ would have been brought to the high priest during the Days of Unleavened Bread. He would have presented these to God as a physical wave sheaf offering.
Note that the resurrected Christ had presented Himself to the Father during the Days of Unleavened Bread as a spiritual wave sheaf offeringâthe first of the firstfruits in Godâs Master Plan (I Cor. 15:20-23; Jms. 1:18). The Father accepted His Sonâs sacrifice on the same day as the physical wave sheaf offering.
For the disciples, this was the first Feast of Weeks following Jesus Christâs violent death and miraculous return to life. Christ had told them He would restore the Kingdom to Israel, but now He was gone, having only left assurances that they would âreceive power,â and be witnesses of Him in Jerusalem and the âuttermost part of the EarthâŠnot many days henceâ (Acts 1:5, 8).
A total of 120 people kept Pentecost together. The account states they were of âone mind,â galvanized by a promise.
Not fully knowing what to expect, they were suddenly surrounded by the sound of a violent wind from heaven. This phenomenon hearkened to when the risen Jesus Christ had breathed on them and said, âReceive you the Holy Spiritâ (John 20:22).
The Holy Spirit came as promised, filling everyone present. It manifested itself as âcloven tongues like as of fireâ and caused those it affected to speak various languages (Acts 2:3-4). This was to fulfill a specific purpose.
Today, we count 50 days from âthe morrow after the Sabbathâ during Unleavened Bread to observe Pentecost and commemorate God giving His Spirit.
Yet the arrival of the Comforter was even more important than most realize. The outpouring of Godâs Spirit on a group for the first time marked the birth of the Church.
Jesus said, âI will build My Churchâ (Matt. 16:18). These words have added meaning since He is the Master Carpenter. Construction began on Pentecost, with the living, resurrected Christ as its solid foundation and chief cornerstone (I Cor. 3:11; Eph. 2:20).
Christ added that this unique âbuildingâ would be indestructibleâas it would be built with âlively stonesâ (I Pet. 2:5) imbued with the power of His Spirit.
We are those stones. We are Godâs building (I Cor. 3:9). Pentecost is a time in which we reflect on this.
The Churchâs characteristicsâwhat makes it specialâwere evident from its first day of existence.
Devout men from all nations were in Jerusalem for the Holy Day. Yet God had prepared a message for those gathered there and did not want language to be a barrier (Acts 2:1-13).
News of Godâs followers speaking in tongues spread like wildfire and left many people stunned. Some were confused and others incredulous after realizing they could understand what the believersâGalileans who previously had no ability to speak foreign languagesâwere saying after they had received the Holy Spirit.
Some people even thought that they were drunk. But one message clarified what was occurring.
Bringing the message was Peter, a zealous man who spent years with Christ, yet denied Him when it mattered (John 18:27). Only weeks later, however, he was filled with the Holy Spirit and risking his safety and freedom to preach the sermon of his life to thousands. His swift transformation alone evidenced the power of Godâs Spirit.
Peter began his message by highlighting an incredible prophecy. He revealed that the outpouring of Godâs Spirit on the 120 believers just moments earlier was a type of what would eventually happen to all human beings. Someday, the Holy Spirit will be poured out âupon all fleshâ and everyone will be able to freely call on the âname of the Lordâ for salvation. This will occur in the âlast daysâ (Acts 2:14-21).
He also proved that God foretold, through David, that Christ would come doing miracles and showing He was from the Father (vs. 22-35). The Lamb of God would eventually be crucified, then raised to life.
This all built to the climax of the address when Peter declared âthat God has made the same Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.â
With that, the people were âpricked in their heartâ (âto agitate violentlyâ). They realized they had killed God, who had been made manifest in the flesh (vs. 37)!
Godâs discourse through Peter worked. The people wanted to know what they should do.
Peter then uttered what are among the most important words a person can hear: âRepent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spiritâ (vs. 38).
Those âcalledâ (vs. 39) and obedient to these instructions did not have to wait until the âlast daysâ to join the 120. God opened the door for them to receive His Spirit on the spot and save themselves from an âuntowardâ or perverse generation (vs. 40). Those who heard Peterâs words with joy and an open mind were baptized. As a result, the Church grew by âabout three thousand soulsâ (vs. 41) and then later to âabout five thousandâ (4:4).
This should all sound familiar. What occurred with the early Churchâfrom the teachings in Peterâs sermon, to people repenting, being baptized, and receiving Godâs Spiritâstill happens today.
Read Acts 2:42-47: âAnd they continued steadfastly in the apostlesâ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
âAnd they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.â
Do you see these similarities to our modern time in these verses?
Careful reading and tying together a few other passages allows several other characteristics to emerge. Understanding them can help us remain âsteadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lordâ (I Cor. 15:58).
Called Out Ones
The word âchurchâ first appeared in Matthew 16:18, when Christ described what He would build. The same word shows up again in the account of this unique day of Pentecost (Acts 2:47).
What does the term âchurchâ mean? Instead of turning to the Bible for the answer, most assume it is a building with religious-looking symbols where people gather once a week to âworship God.â Yet the scriptures are clear.
The word church is the Greek word ekklesia, which means âa calling outâ or âthe called out ones.â This is a reference to people. Therefore, the Church Christ was referring to was not a building at allâit is people. Christâs promise in Matthew was to build âpeopleâânot buildings.
From its very first day, the Church was âcalledâ by God out of the customs, traditions and ways of the world (John 6:44, 65). It was to be separate and distinct from those around it (II Cor. 6:17).
Those in the Churchâusâare the only true representatives of God on Earth (II Cor. 5:20). By letting our lights shine, we can cause others to glorify our âFather which is in heavenâ (Matt. 5:14, 16).
âChurch of Godâ
The Church is kept in Godâs name. Jesus Christ said: âHoly Father, keep through Your own name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one, as We are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your nameâŠI have given them Your wordâ (John 17:11-12).
The words âkeepâ and âkeptâ mean to guard from loss or injury with the implication of a fortress for protection (Strongâs Exhaustive Concordance).
This ties into Proverbs 18:10: âThe name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runs into it, and is safe.â
The term âChurch of Godâ is used throughout the New Testament to describe those purchased by Christâs blood (Acts 20:28) and afforded safety and other blessings.
In our modern time, âRestoredâ was added not only for corporate reasons, but more importantly as a reminder that Godâs Church in the final era has been given the role of restoring what was lost in the wake of the apostasy or first âperilous timeâ (II Tim. 3:1).
After debuting with upwards of 5,000 converts (Acts 4:4), one could reasonably assume Godâs Church would have quickly grown by millions of members. Yet this was not the case. Persecution and the emergence of a counterfeit movementâa mystery religionâsoon caused it to cease growing at the same rate.
During this counterfeit movement, Godâs doctrines were dismissed and replaced by false versions. The resultant phony Christianity, ironically, did explode with growthâand its followers now number in the billions.
Godâs Church, however, remains small. Even 150,000-plus members in the Worldwide Church of God at its zenith paled in comparison to the total world population. Back then, God, not men, âadded to the church daily such as should be savedâ (Acts 2:47). It is the same today.
Do not let the size of the Church discourage you. God has always worked with a relative few. We are told, âFear not, little flock; for it is your Fatherâs good pleasure to give you the kingdomâ (Luke 12:32).
God gives the Kingdom to a small group, but He does not want it to remain that size. The Church may start small, but once the Kingdom arrives, it will grow to include the entire world.
Let that inspire you.
For centuries, a debate has raged on how to âcountâ Pentecostâas it occurs about 50 days, or seven weeks, after the Days of Unleavened Bread. The confusion stems from when to start counting. Yet the Bible commands that we are to begin the day after the weekly Sabbath during Unleavened Bread. The first day, a Sunday, is to be included in the number. In ancient Israel, the High Priest would perform the âwave sheaf offeringâ on this day (Lev. 23:14-15).
Definition: Vineâs Expository Dictionary defines Pentecost as an adjective denoting âfiftieth,â with the word âdayâ understood. For Godâs instructions about how to keep it, see Exodus 23:16; 34:22; Leviticus 23:15-21; Numbers 28:26-31; Deuteronomy 16:9-11.
Related Names: While the New Testament uses the word Pentecost for this Holy Day, the Bible also uses other terms for the same convocation such as the âfeast of the firstfruitsâ (Ex. 34:22; Num. 28:26), âthe feast of harvestâ (Ex. 23:16), and the âfeast of weeksâ (Ex. 34:22; Deut. 16:10, 16; II Chron. 8:13).
Shifting Date: Pentecost always lands on a Sunday, however, its specific day changes each year because the sacred calendar is used to mark the timing of Godâs annual Holy Days and festivals.
Under Godâs Government
Godâs government is everything. It does not exist in churches and organizations of the world, which explains the confusion, infighting and indecision that define them. Appreciate the fact that the government of God is the reason His Church can accomplish so much with so few members.
The Father is at the top of His government. Under Him is Christ, who is the head of His Church. The Church is under Christ, who primarily works through one man to help it follow His doctrines and traditions (Matt. 15:9; Mark 7:9).
This all forms a top-down government structure.
I Corinthians states, âGod is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saintsâ (14:33). While the first part of this verse is well-known, recognize that it is tied directly to His Church. This âpeaceâ is a result of Godâs government being in place.
The reference to âthe apostlesâ doctrineâ (Acts 2:42) shows that God works through flesh, particularly the ministry (I Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11). These âleaders on the groundâ help exercise Godâs will throughout the Church.
The early Church âcontinued steadfastlyâ all while obeying correct doctrines. This means they were âearnest towardâ them, âperseveredâ in them, and were âconstantly diligentâ in âattendingâ to them and âadheringâ to them (Strongâs). This is far beyond simply paying lip service to Godâs Law.
The true Church is known by its doctrines. Satan knows this and therefore counterfeits every true doctrine of God. Consider this list of Godâs laws versus the devilâs versions:
- Sin is the transgression of Godâs Law versus Christ did away with the Law.
- Godâs Holy Days are to be kept versus menâs holidays.
- Born again at Christâs Return versus born again in this life.
- Baptism by immersion versus baptism by sprinkling.
- Tithing laws still in existence versus tithing no longer in effect.
- Wicked ceasing to exist versus wicked tortured in ever-burning hell.
- Ruling as a king and priest on Earth versus rolling around heaven all day.
The list could go on.
Another key doctrine is properly keeping Godâs Sabbaths (the weekly Sabbath and annual Holy Days). God considers this command a test for His people (Ex. 16:4-5), and also a sign between Him and them to help them not to forget who He is and that He sanctifies them (Ezek. 20:12-13).
Allow the keeping of all of Godâs doctrines to have a similar impact on you.
It could be argued that the far-and-away most evident characteristic of the Church at the close of Acts 2 is unity. All believed and were âtogetherâ (vs. 44). Members simplified their lives to have âall things common,â served each other, kept services together, and fellowshipped with one another over meals. They did it all with âgladness and singleness of heartâ (vs. 44-46).
The Church, also known as the temple (I Cor. 3:16-17) and âhouse of Godâ (I Tim. 3:15), is a single structure. It is a building âfitly framed togetherâ (Eph. 2:21) and âfitly joined and compactedâ (Eph. 4:16).
It also walks together in full agreement (Amos 3:3). Remember, Christ said He would build His Churchâwhich is singularânot churches (Matt. 16:18).
Brethren must dwell in unity (Psa. 133:1). Doing so ensures that we âall speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among [us]; but that [we] be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgmentâ (I Cor. 1:10).
Preaches the Gospel
Peter told the crowd that, one day, everyone would have a chance to receive Godâs Spirit. This description of mass conversion was a glimpse into the Kingdom of God.
Jesus taught this gospel or âgood newsâ from the outset of His ministry (Mark 1:15). Satan, who is the god of this world, wants to blind the world from the light of this glorious message (II Cor. 4:4). Delivering the good news is an important reason Christ built the Church and ensured it would last. It is the one organization in existence tasked with continuing to spread the gospel.
The last days are upon us. We live in the age when Jesus Christ will come with a Kingdom. But how soon?
Consider all the details of how the gospel will unfold that we as a Church have learned recently. This means we are close!
As the world gets darker, the need for a Savior increases. We must continue what Peter started in Jerusalem by wholeheartedly supporting Godâs Work.
Do Not Forget
Jesus Christ built the Church. He is its foundation. He is shaping and building its structure with us as âlively stones.â
Though the early Church only lasted in its initial form until around AD 98, it did not cease to exist. Over the following 2,000 years, Godâs building has manifested itself through phases or eras (Rev. 2-3)âeach with its own inclinations and proclivities. But all in all, the spiritual Temple has maintained its original characteristics.
Yet the Church is not only where Godâs Work is done. It is also the place His begotten children develop and learn to eventually rule with Jesus Christ.
The true meaning of Pentecost in Godâs Plan will be fulfilled when Christ returns to His Temple. The smaller spring harvestâall of usâwill then go on to assist the bountiful harvest of people to follow later.
To help with this Great Work, however, we must remain steadfast and in the position in which the Master Carpenter places us.
Never forget what you have been called to do and the great Work of which you are a part. This is more important every day as our salvation truly is ânearer than when we [first] believedâ (Rom. 13:11).