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The Birth of the Church, Part 3

Acts 2:5-21 March 02, 2014 44-8

     Let’s go back to the second chapter of Acts for a little while tonight.  We are in the Book of Acts, and we’ve taken a long time to get through the opening chapter because we wanted to really establish the sort of overview of this great book, and I hope you found that part of the series helpful, kind of working our way up to chapter 1, verse 1, and then we went through chapter 1, all of which was preparation for chapter 2, which is the birth of the church.

     So we’re in chapter 2, the famous text on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came and the church was born.  Let me read this text to you beginning in verse 1.  “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place, and suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.  And there appeared to them languages or tongues in this case, tongues as of fire, distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other languages as the Spirit was giving them utterance.”

     “Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven, and when this sound occurred, the crowd came together and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language.  They were amazed and astonished, saying, ‘Why are not all these who are speaking Galileans?  And how is it that we each hear them in all our own language to which we were born?’  Parthians and Meads [???] and Ilomites [???] and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus, and Asia, Fragia [???], Pamfilia [???], Egypt, and the districts of Libya around Sirene [???] and visitors from Rome, both Jews and Proselytes.  Cretins and Arabs, we hear them in our own tongues or languages speaking of the mighty deeds of God.”

     “They all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’  But others were mocking and saying, ‘They’re full of sweet wine.’  But Peter, taking his stand with the 11 raised his voice and declared to them, ‘Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words.  These men are not drunk as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day.  But this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel, and it shall be in the last days, God says, that I will pour forth of my Spirit on all mankind, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams.  Even on my bond slaves, both men and women, I will in those days pour fourth of my Spirit, and they shall prophesy, and I will grant wonders in the sky above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and vapor of smoke.’”

     “‘The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come, and it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”  Really an epic time in redemptive history.  Remember now, Jesus promised, “I will build my church,” back in Matthew 16.  He also promised repeatedly that He would send His Holy Spirit, and He did both on the same day, the day of Pentecost at this great event.

     The church was born because the Holy Spirit came, and we’ve talked about that.  We’ve talked about the fact that the work of the Savior in sending the Holy Spirit and by the Holy Spirit, immersing his redeemed people into one body essentially formed the church.  The baptism of the Holy Spirit we have talked about.  It is Christ immersing his people in the Holy Spirit and placing the Holy Spirit in them that established the church.  This is new.  The Holy Spirit Jesus says has been with you but shall be in you.  The church is new.  It is a mystery.

     It is identified in the New Testament as a mystery, which means it was hidden in past ages.  It is the new people of God who will become his witness in the world.  No longer an ethnic group as in the Old Testament, the Jews, but a body.  The body of Christ made up of Jew and Gentile.  We have learned that this is a one-time event, a one-time event.  Subsequent to this, every believer at the point of salvation is baptized with the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ and given the Holy Spirit to take up a place in that believer’s life. 

     That is normal for every believer, so much that Romans 8:9 says, “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ or the Holy Spirit, he’s none of his.”  First Corinthians 12 is explicit about every believer has been baptized with the Holy Spirit and received the Holy Spirit.  There is no such thing as a believer without the Holy Spirit dwelling within. 

     “Know you not,” 1 Corinthians 6:19, “that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.”  That is crystal clear.  This is an event that launches what then becomes the common experience of every believer since then.  Now that posts a question that people ask, and they ask it because there are a couple of interesting passages in the Book of Acts, and I need to at least look at them for a moment.  Turn to chapter 8.  Turn to chapter 8.  In chapter 8, we have Samaritans in view, and Philip preaching.  Verse 14, we pick it up.  “When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for he had not yet fallen upon any of them.  They had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  And they began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit.” 

     Now people look at that, and they say, “Wait a minute.”  They had believed in Christ.  They had declared the name of the Lord Jesus and been baptized in His name, but they had not yet received the Holy Spirit?  I thought you just said that from Pentecost on, every believer at the point of salvation receives the Holy Spirit.  That is the norm.  That is the norm.  Then why is the coming of the Holy Spirit, the baptizing with the Holy Spirit and the residence of the Holy Spirit and the believer’s life subsequent to the salvation of the Samaritans?

     A very simple answer.  The key is in verse 14.  The Holy Spirit didn’t come until the apostles arrived.  Peter and John came, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit.  He had not yet fallen on them even though they had been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  What is this about?  This is because the Jews were very antagonistic toward Samaritans.  Very antagonistic.  We all understand that.  That’s part of the gospel narrative history.  It would have been very hard for them to believe that the Samaritans were included in the body of Christ.  If the apostles had not been there to bring back the report that indeed the Spirit fell on them, and even though it’s not stated here, we could assume that they probably spoke with languages. 

     They didn’t know.  We can’t be sure.  But there is a subsequent coming of the spirit in the case of the Samaritans to make it crystal clear to the Jews that they are in the same body with them, the one body of Christ.  That’s what the church is.  In Christ, it’s neither Jew nor Gentile or Samaritan, for that matter.  In chapter 10, you have a similar event.  Chapter 10.  Only this time, it’s Gentiles.  This time, it’s Cornelius.  You can pick it up in verse 44 of chapter 10.  Peter was speaking. 

“The Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message.  All the circumcised believers, all the Jewish believers who came with Peter were amazed.”  Why were they amazed?  Because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on Gentiles.  How did they know that?  For they were hearing them speaking with languages and exalting God, which is exactly what the Jews did at the day of Pentecost.  They spoke in languages they didn’t know.  The wonderful works of God.  So you have a repeat of Pentecost, a microcosm, at the home of Cornelius with the apostles present and Jewish believers present, so there’s no question that the same reality and the same phenomena occurred with the Gentiles that occurred with them.

So as the church is coming together, it’s coming together with Jews and Samaritans and Gentiles, and that’s why I personally believe that we can assume that the same phenomena occurred with the Samaritans, even though it doesn’t say that.  How else would they know that the Holy Spirit actually came since the Holy Spirit is invisible unless there was a parallel miraculous phenomenon at the Pentecost?

Peter then answers in verse 46.  “Surely, no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?”  That assumes that there might have been people whose initial reaction was, “We can’t baptize Gentiles.  We can’t do that.”  “We can’t refuse them, can we now, that the Holy Spirit has come.  You order them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.”  In the case of the Samaritans, they had already been baptized in the name of Christ, but the Spirit didn’t come because the apostles hadn’t arrived, and it was critical that the apostles be able to give testimony, eye witness testimony to the same reality.

Tying up one other loose end, the 19th chapter of Acts.  And we can look at verse 1.  It happened while Apolis [???] was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus and found some disciples.  Here are some disciples who are a long way from home.  He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”  And they said to him, “No, we’ve not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.”  He said, “Into what then were you baptized?”  And they said, “Into John’s baptism.”

     Here we have some of John the Baptist’s followers who had been baptized by John the Baptist, anticipating the coming of Messiah.  Paul said, “Well John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who is coming after him.  That is in Jesus.”  When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  They hadn’t yet come out of the Old Testament, in a sense.  When they heard concerning Jesus, they believed and they were baptized, and when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came to them, and they began speaking with languages and prophesying, and there were about 12 men.

     Now here’s this one other loose end.  Some wandering followers of John the Baptist who needed to be folded into the body of Christ.  It is true that these are unique events, and that’s necessary because this is transitional history.  Critical that we understand that follow carefully.  Samaritans, Gentiles, and some serious Old Testament saints all folded into the one body receiving the same Spirit, demonstrated by the same miraculous speaking in languages.

     Now you can go back to Acts 2 with that explanation in mind.  The Jews needed proof of everybody’s inclusion, and there it was.  From then on, we all receive the Holy Spirit and all are baptized with the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ at the time of our salvation.  The Holy Spirit comes and deposits within us eternal life, and that’s the shared common life that flows through all believers and makes us one with each other.  So that was point one in looking at the birth of the church.

     That’s just kind of a summary of part of it.  But point one was the evidence of the coming of the Spirit.  The evidence for the church’s birth.  Now I want you to come to point two, the effect of the Spirit’s coming.  The effect of this event that is the birth of the church, and that’s starting in verse 5.  Last time, we talked more about languages.  In fact, last Sunday night, if you have any questions about what it means, quote unquote, to speak in tongues, get last Sunday night’s message, and you’ll have a clear understanding of what that refers to, and you’ll understand that what is called that today is an artificial invention of men.

     So when we come to verses 5 to 11, we come to the effect of the Spirit’s coming.  The Spirit comes.  We see that in verses 1 to 4.  They’re all filled with the Holy Spirit.  They begin speaking these languages as the Spirit is giving them utterance.  We see the immediate effect, verse 5.  “There were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven, and when this sound occurred, the crowd came together and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language.”

     Devout, ula [???] base.  I guess the origination of that word is cautious.  Cautious in the sense that they’re fearful of offending God, fearful of blaspheming God.  They are reverent.  They want to get this right.  They’re devout because they’re there.  It’s Pentecost, and they’ve come from everywhere from all over the place.  Not just living in Jerusalem, but from every nation under heaven, and they’ve all come because they’re devout.  They’re cautious.  They’re reverent from everywhere.  In fact, the phrase simply stating every nation under heaven means everywhere.

     It’s just really generic.  Here in Jerusalem then are these pilgrims who have been part of the Diaspora, the dispersion of the Jews in previous centuries, and they come back for this event.  And when this sound occurred – what sound, remember back in verse 2, there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind.  And it filled the whole house where the 120 believers were sitting.  But it went beyond the house, as I told you at the time we first looked at that.  This sound drew the crowd. 

     The term sound is singular.  If it was referring to the languages, it would be plural because there were multiple languages.  It is singular.  It is not the sound of languages.  It is the sound of what essentially would be like a violent hurricane.  Also, the verb indicates a point action, not some kind of continuing activity such as speaking in languages would be.

     They were attracted by this sound, this massive sound.  And verse 6 says, “When the sound occurred, the crowd came together.  They came together around the house where the sound was originating and where the 120 followers of Christ were receiving the Holy Spirit.”  And of course, they were bewildered, confused.  It’s a verb used only in the Book of Acts, by the way.  Not in any other place in the New Testament.  And it means to pour together.

     It’s a picture of just mixed up people, perplexity.  And why?  Because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language.  That means his native language.  Native language.  Now that’s the first thing you need to understand about whatever this phenomena called tongues is.  It is actual languages.  Everybody heard his own language.  It’s not a non-language.  It’s language.  And in verse 7, they were amazed and astonished.  We already saw they were bewildered.  Now they’re amazed and astonished, and they say, “Why?  Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?”

     Galileans were the hay seeds of Israel.  They were the backwoods people.  They were the folks who were out of the mainstream, the uneducated.  It’s a bit of a slur against them.  These people aren’t linguists.  They’re Galileans.  Everybody knows that Galileans are inferior.  And of course, the inner circle of Christ’s disciples had been known as Galileans for a long time.  They had been referred to as Galileans in Matthew 26 and in Mark 14.  We have indications of the followers of Christ being called Galileans in a disparaging way.

     Natives of a somewhat uncivilized district.  Just about as far away from Jerusalem as you could get.  The people therefore are absolutely astonished that they are speaking all these languages.  Now I told you last time what this meant from 1 Corinthians.  Didn’t I?  I told you this is a fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah.  It said that when you don’t listen to me when I speak a language you can’t understand, I will speak a language you can’t understand as a sign of judgment.  This is a sign of judgment on Israel that is essential to the establishment of the church because the church is established to take the place of an unfaithful nation.

     The nation is judged.  The judgment comes in 70 AD when the Romans destroy and slaughter them.  This is a sign of that, a sign of judgment, and that will become clear, and that’s how it’s expressed and explained by the Apostle Paul who gives us the only explanation of its purpose.  It drew a crowd, but in primary usage, it was a sign that God was in judgment on Israel.  All these were Jewish people or Proselytes to Judaism.  And as I told you last time, they had never heard God being praised in any language but Hebrew, or its derivative, Aramaic, the more vulgar form of Hebrew.  They’d never heard God praised in a Gentile language.

     That would have been a kind of sacrilege.  But now they’re hearing God being praised in their own language to which we were born, it says in verse 8.  Native language.  The role call of the nations, I think, is quite interesting.  It goes from the east to the west.  There were Parthians there.  That’s east.  That would be modern day Iran where that area is.  The Parthians, some would tell us, were the most dreaded foes and antagonists of the Roman empire.  There were the Meads [???] also east, a part of the great Persian empire at one point and partners with the Parthians.

     So we start east.  Then there were the Ilomites [???].  That’s also east.  That would be the old area of Babylon.  Again, in southwest Iran, Iraq area.  Mesopotamia.  That word means that which is between two rivers.  And that was the area between the Tigress and the Euphrates where the Garden of Eden once was.  That would be Iraq.  Then we move west further into Asia Minor, and there’s Cappadocia, which is the really eastern part of Asia Minor, directly north of Israel.

     Then there’s Pontus, which is directly north of Israel, north of Cappadocia.  Then there’s Asia Minor, which is a little further west, which would be modern Turkey.  Then there’s Fragia [???], which is west of the area of Galatia.  Them there’s Pamfilia [???].  Just a small little strip of the coast of Asia Minor, very, very narrow.  Maybe 50 miles by 25.  Then we cross the Mediterranean, and we find Egypt and also Libya and Sirene [???], and now we’re in Africa.  Then we cross the Mediterranean again, and there were visitors from Rome.  The Imperial City.  People from Rome, both Jews and Proselytes.

     There had been a Jewish community in Rome for a very, very long time.  Very long time.  In fact, one of the most famous set of ruins of a Jewish ghetto is in Rome, and it goes all the way back to the origins of Rome.  Jews were there very early, and they would go all the way back to Jerusalem for these kinds of events.  There were Proselytes.  Proselytes because the Pharisees in particular made Proselytes everywhere they could.

     Unfortunately, according to Matthew 23:15, they made them into sons of hell.  And then there were Cretins.  That’s an island about 60 miles south of Greece.  And then there were Arabs.  That’s Nabataian [???] which would be near Damascus.  All these languages.  All these people hearing the truth of the wonderful works of God in their own languages, verse 11 says.

     We hear them in our own languages speaking of the mighty deeds of God.  As I said to you I think last time, I wish the translators would start using language, glosa [???], because that’s what it is.  I think tongues tends to confuse people.  It shouldn’t, but because of the misuse of that word to misrepresent some work of God, it has brought confusion to it.  Again, we see in verse 12, they all continued in amazement and great perplexity.  So that’s five different times a word has been used to describe their confusion.

     And they’re saying to one another, “What does this mean?”  Now let me make it very simple.  The miracle of Pentecost was that the apostles and disciples of Jesus, the 120 believers in the upper room in the Holy Spirit came were enabled to speak foreign languages they did not know.  They were enabled to speak foreign languages they did not know.

     And with those foreign languages declare the mighty deeds of God.  What would that be?  Just about anything and everything in the Old Testament that talks about God.  His attributes and his mighty works.  This is that gift.  But it was not only for the purpose of declaring the mighty works of God.  Because if only the mighty works of God were being declared, they could have spoken in their own native Aramaic.

     But all these languages appear because of a judgment.  The content of their speech is the mighty deeds of God in Gentile languages.  Amazing phenomena.  And the Jews should have known that this was a judgment.  What are you going to do with this when the entire massive population of people from all these places – I can’t even calculate how large this crowd was that all these languages would be represented, and not just by one person, but by many groups.  The obvious thing they’re saying to each other going through the crowd is what does this mean, what does this mean.

     Verse 13 shows you how bankrupt they were for an answer.  Others were mocking and saying they’re full of sweet wine.  That is a strange explanation.  How does being full of sweet wine enable you to do that?  It might cause you, if it was fermented wine, to slur your words, but it doesn’t necessarily help even your own language that you speak, let alone give you another one.  It’s just such a stupid comment, but they didn’t know what else to say. 

     And by the way, they used the word for sweet wine, which is the fresh grape juice that’s not even fermented.  They’re very confused.  Why would they say that?  Because it’s 9:00 in the morning.  They’re giving them the benefit of the doubt that they’ve got some fresh grape juice early in the morning that hasn’t spent the day in the sun being fermented.  But that makes no sense.  But then they make no sense.  But then the whole thing doesn’t make sense to them. 

     Their explanation is completely ridiculous.  But it also is full of scorn.  So we go then from the evidence of the coming of the Spirit, the birth of the church, to the effect of the coming of the Spirit and birth of the church, to the explanation.  The first explanation, they’re full of sweet wine.  But before we get to that, let’s back up to verse 12 for just a minute.  They were amazed, they were perplexed, and they were asking, “What does this mean?”

     “Now long after this, at least 3,000 of those people were saved.”  Right?  Acts 2:41.  Peter preaches to them.  Three thousand of them are saved.  So there were some open minds.  There were some people who understood that this was supernatural.  And under the preaching, the great preaching of Peter, and he preached the gospel of Jesus Christ, they repented and were saved.  And not many days later, there were thousands more and thousands more and thousands more. 

     Their amazement and their legitimate and honest questioning was answered in the sermon, and they came to salvation.  But then there were those who only wanted to mock and scorn, and they make this hopelessly feeble effort to say, “Well they can’t handle their grape juice,” because people tended to drink the least fermented in the morning so they could function during the day.

     And the mockery is they’re like little babies that when they take a sip of sweet wine, they’re drunk.  They can’t handle it.  So with mockery, they come up with some crazy theory that that’s going to cause people to speak in languages they don’t know.  Pentecost they say is a drunken frolic, nothing more.  Nothing more.  And this is the beginning of another trend.  In chapter 4, they go from mocking to asking questions.

     The first part of chapter 4 – a little later in chapter 4, they go from asking questions to threatening the apostles and believers.  Chapter 5, they imprison them.  Later in chapter 5, they beat them, and by the time you get to chapter 7, they kill them, and then slaughter breaks out.  That’s the trend launched in verse 13.  There’s a trend in verse 12, and it’s a trend to salvation.  In verse 13, it’s a trend to persecution. 

     We know where these people in verse 13 come from.  Don’t we?  They’re the children of the Jewish establishment.  They’re the products of the Pharisees and scribes and rabbis who were the avowed and vicious enemies of Jesus.  Peter wants to offer a true explanation, and so starting in verse 14, we meet the new Peter, the post-Holy Spirit Peter, and he’s amazing.  He’s remarkable.  But Peter, taking his stand with the 11, raised his voice and declared to them, “Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words for these men are not drunk as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day.”  They calculated their day from 6:00 AM, so it’s 9:00.  “But this is what was spoken of through the Prophet Joel.”  We’ll stop at that point.

     What did I tell you was the distinguishing mark of the apostles in the Book of Acts?  Immediately clear.  They understood what?  The Old Testament.  They understood the Old Testament.  You don’t hear that from them in the gospels anywhere.  How did they come to this understanding of the Old Testament where they’re pulling scriptures out of everywhere immediately in Chapter 1, even before the Holy Spirit comes? 

     How did they come to such an understanding of the Old Testament?  The answer to that is Luke 24 because Jesus met two of them on the road to Emmaus, and then in the upper room, and he opened the Old Testament, the law, the prophets, the holy writings, and spoke to them out of the Old Testament of the things concerning himself.  He gave them a course on Old Testament interpretation that took place over a period of 40 days.  From the day of his resurrection to the day of his ascension, he taught them the fulfillment of the Old Testament in him. 

     And they get it for the first time, and so Peter stands up and launches into an explanation drawn right out of Joel 2:28-32.  He lifts up his voice to everyone to hear the explanation.  “Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words.”  I love the authority of that.  Don’t you?  There’s no hesitance.  That’s bold confidence.  He’s now God’s man, empowered by God’s Spirit with God’s message.  He doesn’t say, “I’d like to offer a possible explanation you might want to consider.”  He doesn’t say, “I’m here to provide for you some options.”

     Most likely speaking in Aramaic, the vernacular Hebrew of Israel familiar to everybody, he explains Pentecost, and it’s a masterful explanation.  His introduction was pretty dramatic.  Everybody who is a preacher would like a dramatic introduction.  He got one.  He probably got the most dramatic introduction to any sermon ever preached.  Pentecost.  His introduction was staged by God with astonishing, audible sound and visual effects and miraculous languages.

     And they’re filled with the Spirit, and everyone is stunned and bewildered and amazed and perplexed, and Peter steps in after God has given him the perfect introduction and says, “This is what it means.  This is what you’re seeing.”  First of all, he says, “They’re not drunk.”  By the way, it was the regular practice of the Jews to be very careful early in the day, drink very little, and especially to wait until after the third hour, some historians say, on the Sabbath or a festival day, and this was that.  Why? 

     Because you start drinking early, and because there’s no refrigeration, eventually the accumulated effect of drinking all day is going to take its toll.  So universal was the custom that Peter appeals to the fact that it’s 9:00 in the morning, and everybody understand that.  That that’s not an explanation that works for the Jews.  What’s going on here is exactly what Joel wrote, and starting in verse 16, he quotes that prophecy. 

     “It shall be in the last days,” God says, “that I will pour forth of my Spirit.”  Drop down to verse 18, and Joel further says, “Even on my bond slaves, both men and women, I will in those days pour forth of my Spirit.  This is that.”  And what was Joel talking about?  Joel was talking about the arrival of Messiah.  When Messiah comes, the Holy Spirit will be poured out.  When Messiah comes, there will be evidence of his arrival, miraculous things.  There will be visions, prophecies, revelatory dreams.  There will be wonders in the sky, signs on the earth, blood, fire, vapor of smoke.

     Sun will be turned to darkness, the moon to blood.  And then the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come.  Whoa, that’s a big prophecy.  It sweeps from the day of Pentecost to the second coming.  You say, “What – how did – how are we supposed to understand that if Joel connects the coming of the Holy Spirit with the second coming?  How are we supposed to understand that, that he put that all in one prophecy?”  Because in the Old Testament, the church age is a mystery.  It’s hidden.  They saw the coming of Messiah, and with him the Spirit, and a flourishing of divine revelation, and then the final judgment.  What they didn’t see was the interval of the church because that’s a mystery.  That’s a mystery. 

     This is not the complete fulfillment.  I love what my teacher, Dr. Feinberg, used to call it.  He says, “It’s a pre-fillment.”  And notice Peter doesn’t say, “This is the fulfillment of it.”  He just says, “This is what Joel was talking about.”  And it starts with the last days, verse 17.  It starts with the last days.  When do the last days start?  You say, “Are we waiting for the last days?”  No, we’re in them.  The last days started when Messiah came.  The last days started when Messiah came.

     That’s why the writers of the Epistles say, “My little children, John says it is the last time.”  That’s why the Scripture says Christ appeared once in the end of the age.  When Messiah came, the last days began.  The last days are the Messianic days.  From the arrival of Messiah to the kingdom of Messiah.  We’re in the last days.  Common Old Testament expression, by the way, for Messianic times used by Isaiah in chapter 2, Jeremiah in chapter 23, Ezekiel in chapter 38, used by Josiah, used by Micah, used by Joel.  The last days to every Jew meant the messianic era.  What they didn’t know is he wouldn’t just come and set up the kingdom.  He would come, be rejected, purchase our redemption, launch the church, and the church would take the gospel to the world, which Israel failed to do, and when it was complete, then he would establish his kingdom.  But that is the mystery age hidden in the past.

     So Peter doesn’t say it’s the fulfillment of what Joel says.  He just says, “This is what Joel was talking about, the coming of the Holy Spirit.”  So far, we’ve been waiting 2,000 years for the parenthesis to close and the kingdom to come.  But the last days of Israel, the last days for the world, really, began when Christ arrived.  And you are seeing the evidence that we have entered the last days.

     And since it is the last days, know this, verse 21.  It shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.  The last days are characterized by gospel proclamation by calling sinners to repentance, and that’s the ministry of the church.  That’s the mission of the church.  It’s why we do what we do.  Now I know you’re asking what are all those things in the middle.  Prophecy, visions, dreams, wonders in the sky, signs on the earth below, blood, fire, vapor, smoke.  Sun turned to darkness, moon to blood.  Well that all has to be understood within this great era from when he came to when he judges finally and establishes his kingdom.

     I’m going to help you with that, but not tonight because time is gone.  But I want you to understand this great prophecy, and I want you to understand all that’s in it.  And it goes back to the Old Testament, back to Zephaniah 1, for example.  But primarily, it stretches forward to the Book of Revelations.  In a couple of weeks, since we don’t have a Sunday night service next week, we’ll dig into this, and we’ll sweep across the whole prophetic scene, all the way to the glorious and terrible day of the Lord final judgment. 

     Let’s pray.  We’re so grateful, Lord, to be a part of your church, so grateful to have received the baptism with the Holy Spirit, placing us into union with all other believers in the one body.  So grateful to be a part of being in Christ and all those who are in Christ who are one with each other, among whom there is neither male nor female, bond nor free, Jew nor Gentile.  So thankful that you have given us that eternal life that guarantees our future glory.  So thankful that you have placed the Holy Spirit in us as our security, the guarantee of our eternal redemption as our anointed teacher, as the one who guides, as the one who comforts, and as the one who enables.  Thank you that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, individually as well as collectively, that He is the life-giving Spirit, and He will always be ours to bring us into your presence.

     Thank you that you have made us a part of your church.  How thrilling it is to belong to the body of Christ, the church.  To have received baptism with the Holy Spirit, to be the temple of the Holy Spirit who dwells within.  To participate in the same great reality as these 120 who were there on the day of Pentecost, and all believers through history.  Thank you that you are building your church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.  Nothing can stop it.  Thank you that you have made us a part of it by the gift of the Holy Spirit and his gift of regeneration and life. 

     Make us faithful in the church to minister, to serve, to love, and to rightly represent the one who died for us.  To purchase the privilege that we have to be part of the church.  Bless the folks who are here tonight, Lord, and we pray that you’ll find ways in which this powerful and rich truth can be passed on by them, be found useful in the life of others.  We pray these things in Christ’s name, amen.


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