When The Fire First Fell
by: Bill Perkins
Evidences of a changed earth in 33 AD.
Just after Jesus’s death on Calvary’s cross, the most spiritually impacting of all dispensational changes occurred … God’s primary focus transitioned from Israel to the Body of Christ–Christians throughout the world.
Eventually this remarkable period, called the “Church Age,” will end with the departure of the Holy Spirit and God will again go back to making Israel as His primary focus. But currently, the Church Age, in which we live, began with quite unique and powerful characteristics.
The 4″ thick, 60′ high and 30′ wide curtain that ripped in the Jewish Temple from top to bottom, exposing the private Holy of Holies area, was the visual indicator that the blood of Jesus had been accepted as payment for sin. There was now no more barrier to accessing the God of the universe.
It’s amazing to think that for some 4,000 years, Adam, Moses, Noah and every other Believer saved by faith through the ages was barred from heaven due to the stain of sin.
Granted, where they waited, after death, was called “Paradise,” but it wasn’t heaven. (Paradise & Hades is explained in Luke 16:19-31 and is not a parable.)
And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many. Matt. 27:50-53
Wow! That sheds a whole new light on the saying, “dead men walking.” Imagine a possible interaction that day:
Ben sees Joe, a friend who had died several years before, standing in the street and exclaims, “Good grief Joe, what are you doing here? I thought you died years ago!?”
Joe responds, “I did die, but I couldn’t go to heaven until my sins were paid. But now, Jesus, the perfect sacrifice, has made payment for all my sin and I’m headed for heaven now….and look at the time, gotta go, bye.” (You have to love God’s humor.)
So things had changed. God did not change, but He was changing the way He dealt with mortal man. Before the cross, no one could go to heaven due to their sin. Now of course, when a Believer dies, their spirit goes directly to heaven…made possible because of the shed blood of Jesus.
Just before Jesus departed this earth, He told the disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit to come and permanently indwell Believers. 50 days after His death, on the Jewish Feast Day of Pentecost, the disciples were gathered in Jerusalem, probably near an entrance into, or possibly on, the Temple Mount.
People have often assumed the “upper room” in the Acts 1 account of choosing a new disciple to replace Judas was the same room in the Acts 2 account of the arrival of God’s Holy Spirit. But a careful reading of the text makes no such definitive assertion.
Acts 2 was definitely a later time than the Acts 1 account when they were meeting in the “upper room,” with the 120 people, because the scripture says:
“When the day of Pentecost had come . ..” Acts 2:1a
The last part of this verse continues,
” . . . in one place.” Acts 2:1c
Although it is usually assumed and taught that this place is the upper room of Acts 1, the text doesn’t say that. It only says “in one place.” Scripture suggests a lower room on the ground floor that could be observed by people outside in the street seeing the faces of those inside well enough to identify that they were Galileans inside.
The middle part of Acts 2:1 says,
“. . . they were all together . . ” Acts 2:1b
Who is “all”? Referring back to the previous verse, the last verse of Acts 1, Scripture states,
“. . . and the lot fell to Matthias, and he was added to the eleven apostles.” Acts 1:26
And in verse 2:14 Peter refers only to the 12 apostles who were present.
“But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, …” Acts 2:14
So it was in this ground floor room where the God of the universe first permanently indwelled humans… beginning with the 12 Apostles. He did not indwell hundreds of people on His initial arrival, only the twelve Apostles.
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 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 tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. Acts 2:2-4
This was a loud event…all of Jerusalem could hear the “sound” of God’s Spirit’s arrival. Then, those nearby the disciples’ gathering place saw and heard “signs” that this was something new from the Lord.
The three recorded signs of the Spirit’s coming–wind, fire, and inspired speech–are considered in Jewish tradition as a sign of God’s presence. Wind (pneuma) is associated with God’s Spirit (Ezek 37:9-14). Fire from heaven is always an attention grabber (Sodom and Gomorrah, Elijah calling fire down from heaven, etc.). And speech alterations once began a whole new dispensation at Babel.
So a first-century Jew knew full well this was something very powerful from heaven above. God was making the statement that things had changed. God did not change but He was changing the way He dealt with mortal man.
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. Acts 2:5-6.
To further establish this “things have changed” moment, God had the disciples each speaking in a different language. Only the disciples were doing this, not others observing the Apostles strange behavior.
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 our own language to which we were born? Acts 2:7-8
Due to so many people in town for the Feast of Pentecost, there were visitors from all over the Mediterranean. And these visitors were dumbfounded that these men from Galilee were speaking in their native tongues. The Romans, Greeks, Arabs, etc., all heard an uneducated Galilean Apostle of Jesus speaking in their native tongue.
“Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs – we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.” Acts 2:9-12
The diverse and culturally mixed Jewish crowd was mesmerized by what was happening, and quite curious.
And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” Acts 2:12
The third evidence that God was changing how He dealt with humans was evidenced by visible observations. The apostles began speaking in foreign languages. Those observing first thought they were drunk. But Peter explained things more thoroughly.
But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, 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;” Acts 2:14-15
Peter corrected their assertions of drunkenness and presented them with the Gospel, the good news about who Jesus was, what He did, how He was killed and that He rose from the dead. It was at this time that individuals responded to the conviction of the Gospel Truth and received the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:37-38
This permanently indwelling Spirit from God, the third part of the Triune God now able to live in humans, births a new creature on arrival.
When the Holy Spirit comes into our lives, He illuminates scripture, heightens spiritual sensitivity and gives us access to an unequalled power source from above. Lives are changed.
So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. Acts 2:41
The 3,000 people who were saved that day had responded to Peter’s invitation to trust what Jesus had provided via the cross. There is no evidence that these new Believers spoke in other languages, known or unknown. Only the 12 Apostles were exhibiting signs.
Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders
and signs were taking place through the apostles. Acts 2:43
> Many responded to the Good News and were saved, the same way people get saved today, by Believing the Gospel. God’s Spirit entered each new Believer, permanently, when they Believed.
Bill Perkins is the founder and Executive Director of Compass International, Inc.
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