18 November 2018

Fulfillment of the Feast of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4)

Day of Pentecost
The famous opening passage of the second chapter of the book of Acts stresses fulfillment as it describes the initial outpouring of the gift of the Holy Spirit.
    This event coincided with the celebration of the annual feast of Pentecost in Jerusalem.  The passage informs the reader that the outpouring of the Spirit has fulfilled what the Levitical feast symbolized.
    The arrival of the gift of the Spirit among the disciples gathered in Jerusalem was the seminal event that marked the inauguration of the Church and set the stage for the spread of the new faith, as is documented in the book of Acts.
(Acts 2:1-4) - “And in filling full the day of Pentecost, they were all together with one intent when there came suddenly out of heaven a sound, just as of a mighty rushing wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them parting asunder tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other kinds of tongues just as the Spirit was giving them to be sounding forth.”
     Prior to his ascent, Jesus commanded the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until “you receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, even as far as the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
   In Acts, gospel proclamation begins in Jerusalem, the center of the Jewish nation, and concludes with Paul preaching in Rome, the center of the world empire (28:23-31). The Messiah of Israel became Lord over the Cosmos.
     The outpouring of the Spirit was accompanied by manifestations that caused a great stir among the Jewish pilgrims. This created an opportunity for Peter to proclaim the gospel.  His sermon highlighted the theme of fulfillment in the new messianic age, which had just been signified by the Spirit's presence and manifestations.
     Pentecost was the first of two annual agricultural feasts. It celebrated the completion of the barley harvest (Leviticus 23:11-16; Deuteronomy 16:9-10). It occurred fifty days after Passover and so was known as the “feast of weeks,” as well as the “feast of harvest, the first-fruits of your labors” (Exodus 23:16; 34:22; Leviticus 23:15-20; 2 Chronicles 8:12-13).
   “Pentecost” is from a Greek word for “fiftieth.” A highlight of the festival was the offering to Yahweh of the first sheaf or the “first-fruits” of the grain harvest.  Every male in Israel able to was required to appear in the Temple before Yahweh during this feast (Exodus 34:22-23).
     The Spirit’s outpouring on this specific day was not coincidental; its theological significance is indicated by the Greek term sumpléroō in verse 1, a compound of sun (“together with”) and pléroō (“to fill up”).  Sun intensifies the force of the verb with the resultant sense, “filled up completely, filled full; filled to the brim” (compare Luke 8:23;9:51). The verb is a present tense infinitive, which signifies action in progress. In other words, the feast was in the process of being fulfilled as the Spirit was given.
     What the feast symbolized was now coming to fruition. On this day God gave the actual “first-fruits” of the end-time harvest, the gift of the Holy Spirit (cp. Romans 8:23; Luke 24:49). All male Israelites were required to attend the feast. Likewise in Acts 2:1, all the disciples were gathered together to one place in accord with the original feast’s requirement.  The “all” is repeated in verse 4 to emphasize the point; “all were filled with the Holy Spirit.” All the new people of God were gathered in prayer before the Lord.
     In his sermon, Peter declared that what had occurred was the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy (Joel 2:28-32):  in the last days I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh.”  The time of the promise was in the past; fulfillment had arrived.
     Peter exhorted his audience to “repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins; and you will receive the free–gift of the Holy Spirit.”  This “free-gift” he identified as “the promise of the Holy Spirit” (Luke 24:49).  The long-awaited gift of the Spirit was now available to “you and to your children, and to all those who are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God will call.”
The language reflects not only Joel’s prophecy (“whoever shall call on the name of Yahweh shall be delivered”) but also the promised blessing of Abraham for all nations (“in you shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3).
     The gift of the Spirit is the sign that the messianic age of fulfillment has dawned (Romans 8:9; 2 Corinthians 5:5; Galatians 4:6; 4:14; Ephesians 1:13-14).  Paul describes this gift as the “first-fruits of the Spirit,” language derived from the original feast of Pentecost (Romans 8:23; Exodus 23:16; Leviticus 23:10-14). He also called it the “promise of the Father” and equates it with the “blessing of Abraham” (Galatians 3:14; Genesis 12:1-3).
     In Colossians 2:16-17 Paul wrote: “let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival or a new moon or Sabbath” (Galatians 4:3-10; Hebrews 8:5; 10:1). Such things were only shadows of what was to come, but the substance is found in Jesus. In him, all God’s promises find their “yea” and “amen,” including the feast of Pentecost (2 Corinthians 1:20).
     The appointed feasts of Yahweh were types and shadows of the reality to come. That time of fulfillment has arrived in Jesus; the time of the shadows and types has ceased.  What the feasts pointed to has become the reality.
    Since the promise has arrived, to continue to observe the shadows of the Old Order is unnecessary and superfluous, for “in him, we were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Ephesians 1:13).

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