On the day of Pentecost, three specific signs were manifested to the disciples, that signaled that something momentous had taken place. The first was that everyone gathered in the upper room heard the sound of a mighty rushing wind that came from heaven (Acts 2:2); next divided tongues of fire appeared to and rested on the head of each disciple (2:3); and finally, each disciple became filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues “…as the Spirit gave them utterance” (2:3).
The first two signs, wind and fire, were manifestations of the presence of the Holy Spirit being sent to earth from heaven as Jesus promised:
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17 ESV).
The disciples heard the sound of the Spirit’s arrival, then they saw the manifestation of his presence as tongues of fire, then they felt the miracle of being filled with his presence, and then they allowed his indwelling presence to be made apparent to everyone through speaking in languages other than their own.
The feast of Pentecost, or Shavuot, is one of three festivals which required all Jewish men to make a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem to offer a sacrifice to the Lord (Deuteronomy 16:16). Because the arrival of the Holy Spirit occurred on the day of Pentecost, Jewish men from “…every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:4b) were in the city and the gathered multitude heard the disciples speaking in other tongues and glorifying God:
“And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?’…And all were perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’” (Acts 2:6-8,12 ESV)
Notice that the men gathered there asked how it was that each of them could hear the disciples speaking in his own language. It wasn’t that each of the disciples was speaking a different language, it was that whatever language the disciples were speaking was heard by each individual man in his native language. It would have been as if I heard them speaking in English, and the person standing next to me heard them in French, and the person next to us heard them speak in German, or Farsi, or Mandarin.
When Peter and the other disciples heard the men wondering about what they were witnessing, Peter stood up and delivered a sermon to the crowd, referring to the Old Testament and explaining that King David had prophesied the coming of the Messiah and the outpouring of the Spirit, saying:
“This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing” (Acts 2:32-33 ESV). He assured them that if they would repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, they would also receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (2:36-38), and three thousand souls accepted salvation on that day (2:41).
It was the manifestation of the baptism of the Holy Spirit through the disciples speaking in unknown tongues, and the sermon preached through Paul, that was the proof of the miracle of God’s presence dwelling within the followers of Christ and the birth of the Church.
(Continued in Part 8)