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"When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound of a strong wind -- gale force -- no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them." Acts 2:1 (The Message).
Such a familiar story! We know it so well, but do we? Funny how I have always taken for granted that the event took place in the upper room! But did it? They had met in a house for the Feast of Passover, hardly big enough to accommodate a hundred and twenty people! Luke said that they spend all their time in the Temple, praising God (Luke 24:53). Perhaps this happened in the Temple where people would have gathered for the Pentecost ceremony, led by the high priest.
Pentecost was a harvest festival, celebrating and giving thanks for the full harvest that had been gathered in. It was also the last of the spring feasts which Messiah was to fulfil, according to the ancient rabbis. It was the only feast in which bread was made with yeast, symbolising God's willingness to dwell with imperfect people.
The high priest would take a loaf of leavened bread, symbolising the harvest, pour olive oil through it and offer it up to God, saying, "Now the Feast of Pentecost has fully come." It was celebrated fifty days after Passover. The symbolism is beautiful. Jesus was the "seed" sown into the ground at Passover and fifty days later, the "harvest" of the church began to be gathered in when the Holy Spirit was poured out on imperfect people. God had now taken up permanent residence in His "temple", the people of God.
Pentecost took place on the same day of the year that God met with Israel on Mount Sinai and entered into a marriage covenant with them. On that occasion His appearance was accompanied by noisy and visual confirmations. There was the blowing of a trumpet, voices and fire and smoke. He offered them a marriage proposal and entered into a marriage covenant which they failed to acknowledge or honour.
The same phenomena occurred when the Holy Spirit was poured out, wind (noise), fire and smoke (visuals) and voices. At Sinai, God's people refused to respond to His marriage proposal -- they were terrified at the sound of God's voice and pleaded with Moses, not God, to speak to them. They did not want to hear God's voice. At Pentecost they spoke back to God, in the languages of the astonished visitors from all over the Roman Empire.
At Sinai they rejected their status as the bride -- at Pentecost the church was born, which is the Bride of Christ! Subsequent to Sinai, they proved their refusal to accept God's marriage proposal by living in perpetual spiritual adultery, consorting with the idols of the surrounding nations and dishonouring the terms of the marriage agreement until God "divorced" them by sending them back into slavery in Babylon.
At Pentecost, Jesus sent His Spirit to betroth the church to Himself once again. She responded to His proposal. Now He has a bride who is learning to submit to her lover, getting to know Him and preparing herself for the day when He returns (Revelation 19:7, 8) to take her to His Father's house (John 14:1-4) to become one with Him forever (John 17:20, 21). Together they will celebrate the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9).
Pentecost has great significance for us. It is much more than the justification for speaking in tongues or exercising spiritual gifts. The Holy Spirit is the inward presence of Jesus, representing Him to us, teaching us about Him, leading us into all truth, glorifying Jesus to us and through us and preparing us for the wedding when the Bridegroom comes to take us to Himself.
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