In this second part of our series on Pentecost, we will review the events that occur in the days leading up to the arrival of the Holy Spirit. To set the scene, it is vitally important that we understand the context in which He arrives. In turn, we can learn a great deal about the atmosphere through which the Holy Spirit desires to exist and operate as He sees fit. In fact, Luke dedicates a whole chapter to this task because He understood this as well.
First, Luke links the acts of Christ (the Gospel of Luke) to the acts of the apostles by stating that both sets of acts were through the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:1). He establishes up front that Jesus chose the apostles and gave commandments to them through the Holy Spirit.
“The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:1-3)
Second, we also see from these initial verses that Jesus spent forty days after His resurrection demonstrating “infallible proofs” and “speaking of things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” Although no specifics are given about what He spoke about, some believe that it was the mystery mentioned by Paul in Ephesians 3:4-6. On a side note, it is interesting that Jesus spent the same amount of time preparing the future church for the coming of the Holy Spirit that He spent preparing Himself for His earthly ministry, which was 40 days.
“For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles–if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.” (Ephesians 3:4-6)
The key to understanding this mystery lies in understanding that Jesus revealed it through the Spirit, which would be revealed to the apostles by the same Spirit once He arrives in the coming days. The mystery itself would have been about the church that would come alive and grow through their faithful execution of the Great Commission through the Spirit as well.
Third, the last words that Jesus spoke on earth is crucial to understanding the context of Pentecost, and these words gave the apostles an expectation of Who was coming and what would happen when He arrived. While I provided the entire dialogue of Jesus as laid out in the Gospels in my previous post, for this post I will focus on His words in Acts 1:4-8.
“And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, ‘which,’ He said, ‘you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’ Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, ‘Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ And He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’” (Acts 1:4-8)
In this passage, Jesus provides the apostles a few expectations of what was to happen shortly after He ascends to heaven. He commands them to wait in Jerusalem for “the Promise of the Father” which they had heard Him talk about previously in passages such as this one:
“Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:8-15)
In His ‘briefing’ to the apostles in Acts 1:4-8, Jesus describes their coming encounter with the Holy Spirit as a “baptism” and contrasts this baptism with the water baptism instituted by John the Baptist.
The apostles also ask Jesus if He will “restore the kingdom to Israel”, and Jesus immediately shifts their focus back to the coming of the Holy Spirit by telling them “it is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority” (Acts 1:6-7). By asking this question, the apostles revealed their limited understanding of the kingdom of God because they were still focused only on the kingdom of Israel. Jesus quickly shifts their focus to the greater kingdom by revealing the work that the Holy Spirit would do through them, not only in Israel and its surrounding communities, but also “to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8b). Immediately after uttering these words, Jesus ascends to heaven.
Finally, one key word in these last words of Jesus accurately describes the work of the Holy Spirit, both then and now, that many overlook or disregard today–POWER. The Greek word used here is dunamis, which means force (literal or figurative; specially miraculous power, strength, violence, and might). In His statement above concerning the Holy Spirit, Jesus directly connects power with witnessing…that “you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
As we reflect on these words, let us also reflect on what Jesus is telling His apostles…that there is a direct connection between witnessing and preaching/sharing the Gospel and the dunamis power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus leaves no room for a disconnect between the two…if we engage in the first without the power of the latter, it is in vain. A sermon that is void of Holy Spirit power is simply a lecture that has no supernatural power to convict the inner man/woman.
Many today forget and/or forsake the supernatural work of the Gospel, and the truth of it can only come from the work/power of the Holy Spirit. While apologetics is important, it will only get you so far…there must be a bypassing of the mind and a piercing of the heart (the inner man/woman must be engaged supernaturally), which only a Spirit-empowered person speaking the Spirit-inspired Gospel can accomplish.
- All Scripture references/passages are taken from the New King James Version (NKJV) translation.