Series: Next Things: Acts 1,2,4 - Part Four
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
May 19, 2002
Please turn with me to Acts 2 starting at verse 14. As you’re turning let me put this passage into context.
I was reminded recently about a man - Luigi Corneglio - who died in New York City after having lived in extreme poverty for 70 years - having spent most of his life as a beggar. They found his dead body in an old dilapidated attic where he’d been dead for 3 days. Among the piles of old newspapers and garbage they found $225,000 in cash and 47 violins - one of which was a priceless Stradivarius. Who knows if Luigi - who loved music - loved the violin - who knows if Luigi ever played that Stradivarius?
Imagine this - a priceless violin made by the world’s most famous artist - lying silent amidst piles of garbage and the owner - relatively well off - starving to death.
So many Christians are like that. The Church can be like that. God has meant us for greatness - fullness of life - usefulness - people of great value and purpose - people who will have a tremendous impact on our world. But so many times we’re content to live with garbage - clinging to things that don’t really matter. God wants to bless us and use us out to here and we settle for this.
In recent Sundays - looking through the Book of Acts - we’ve been looking at the what took place after the resurrection of Jesus - trying to understand the next steps in Jesus’ work in and through His Church - through us. The potential that God desires to unleash in our lives - to move us beyond where we are and our thinking about things - to move us forward into His possibilities and future.
Which brings us to Acts chapter two and the events of Pentecost. Pentecost - being the Greek word for 50 - the Feast of Pentecost took place 50 days after the Passover Feast - or the events of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Counting from Passover to today - today is Pentecost. Pentecost was one of the big three Jewish festivals. Jerusalem was crowded with over a million plus pilgrims from all over the Jewish Diaspora.
On the day of Pentecost the Apostles - the disciples - about 120 believers are gathered together - waiting in Jerusalem just as Jesus had told them to do. On that day the Holy Spirit came. We know this scene - the Holy Spirit - with the sound of a violent rushing wind blows into the house where they were. Fire like little tongues - little flames - distribute themselves and rest on each believer.
The sound of the Holy Spirit’s coming was so unusual that a large crowd rushed to find out what had happened. What they found was these 120 or so disciples all speaking the languages of those who had literally come from the 4 corners of the earth. And, not just speaking - like someone who had studied the language - but speaking like a native - like someone born and raised in that far off place - same accent - local dialect. Men and women - in the different languages of those who had come - all speaking together of God’s mighty deeds - praising God.
The Bible says that those who came were “amazed” - stunned - bewildered - it just blew their minds that “odars” could speak their native tongues so well. They were “perplexed” - which means that they tried to come up with an explanation. But, they couldn’t. Some suggested that those speaking were drunk. Others asked, “What does this mean? Why has this taken place? What’s the purpose of all this?” (Acts 2:1-13)
Acts 2:14: 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; but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel.”
Let’s pause and understand the importance of this statement.
Some years ago a ship strayed off course near San Diego and became stuck in a reef at low tide. Twelve tugboats were unsuccessful in their attempts to budge it. Finally, the captain instructed the tug boats to go back to the harbor. He said, “I’ll just be patient and wait.” He waited until high tide. All of a sudden the ocean began to rise. What human power could not do, the rising tide of the Pacific Ocean did. It lifted that ship and put it back into the channel.
Something like that happened on Pentecost. A group of ordinary men and women - waiting in a room. The tide of God rolls in - lifts them - carries them along - and is still carrying disciples of Jesus today.
To explain what’s happening Peter quotes Joel - what we’re seeing - says Peter “was spoken of through the prophet Joel.”
Notice this - Peter does not say - as is said so many times in the New Testament - Peter does not say, “This is the fulfillment of what was spoken of by the Prophet Joel.” The reason is because Pentecost was only the beginning. Today - as they were at Pentecost - today we’re living in the ongoing “rising tide” - the ongoing fulfillment of that prophesy.
In Genesis 12 - God makes a covenant with Abraham. God promises Abraham 3 things. First - land - the Promised Land. Second - that Abraham would be the father of a great nation. Third - God promised that through Abraham all the nations of the world would be blessed. The fulfillment of that promise began at Pentecost.
Jesus - descendant of Abraham - crucified and risen - becomes the cornerstone of the Church - God’s plan of salvation and blessing which goes beyond the children of Abraham to all the nations of the earth. Its no accident - no coincidence - that Jews were gathered from all over the world - that the sign of the Holy Spirit’s coming - the birth of the Church - was the declaration - the praising of God’s mighty deeds - in languages from the 4 corners of the world. God is making a statement that the Gospel is for all men - not just the Jews. But, of every ethnicity in every place.
Those that were there - that believed - went out to where the name of Jesus had never been named - planting churches - converting - baptizing - discipling. Every one of the disciples fulfilled that task. Church history tells us that Thomas went to India - Peter went to Europe - others to North Africa - Thaddeus and Bartholomew went to Armenia. The disciples became Apostles - the pioneers of faith by which the ground of the Church was laid. A tide that is still rising today.
Let’s go on. Acts 2:17 - Peter quoting Joel’s prophecy: “And it shall be in the last days,” God says, “That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind - that’s Pentecost - and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on My bondslaves, both men and women, I will in those days pour forth My Spirit and they shall prophesy.”
The “last days” are these days - today. We’ve been in the “last days” - waiting for the return of Jesus Christ - for almost 2,000 years now. These are the days when God is using the Church to carry the Gospel to all men. Notice 3 things about these days.
First: “your sons and daughters - My bondslaves - servants of God - shall prophesy.” Prophesy is the declaration of God’s word - could be about the future - could be about the present. Prophecy is God explaining His actions to us.
We saw this in Acts 1:12-26. The disciples had a decision to make - who would replace Judas as the next Apostle. We saw that they made that decision through a process of prayer and intense study and application of the word of God. Peter is doing that here in Acts 2 - he’s declaring the word of God - teaching and applying it to the circumstances they were in - explaining what God was doing.
Second, notice that “your young men shall see visions.” Young believing men are going to look down the road and see the potential - the possibilities of what God is doing. Young men do this. When we’re young everything is new. We come into the world wide-eyed and excited - ready to explore and try everything. Looking into the future - young men will have visions - all kinds of limitless ideas - about what can be done to share the Gospel. Visionaries.
Third, “your old men shall dream dreams.” Literally, these dreams are the kinds of thoughts that run through our minds and keep us awake at night. Do you ever have that happen? We get something in the back of our minds and we spend the whole night thinking it through. Young men see visions and the older men loose sleep. Does that sound familiar?
The older men - in Greek the word is “presbuteroi” - the older men are elders - the Godly leadership of the Church - who loose sleep sifting through the ideas of the young - pondering them - considering them - weighing them. Here’s the pattern. The Elders give Godly wisdom and guidance to the visions of the young - all of which is shaped through the practical application of the word of God.
Verse 19 - here’s the purpose for all this: “And I will grant wonders in the sky above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come.”
On the day of Pentecost there were no wonders in the heavens and signs on the earth - no blood, fire, and vapors. The sun was not darkened. The moon didn’t turn to blood. The fulfillment of this prophecy will come in the future on the Day of the Lord. Let’s make sure we understand what that means.
The Day of the Lord is a phrase used in the Bible to describe a series of future events that take place over a period of time - that take place as God is bringing history to a close. Joel - in 3 chapters - discusses the Day of the Lord 5 times. He describes it as a time of destruction, famine, darkness, mourning, war, and judgment. The great final judgment when men will enter into eternal life with God or eternal death and damnation.
Verse 21 - on that day - it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
The only salvation on the Day of the Lord is through Jesus Christ. Those who call on His name - who have trusted in what He has done on the cross and through His resurrection. Trusting in Jesus as their Savior only those people will be saved from eternal judgment.
Too often when we hear about Pentecost we end up in a discussion about being “pentecostal” or being “charismaniacs.” Are these known languages or a heavenly language? Is everyone suppose to speak in tongues? Did this just happen back then? What about being baptized in the Spirit? What about prophecy and visions and dreams? The debate goes on endlessly creating division and distraction from the purpose of the Church.
The reason for all these people speaking in different languages - for the prophecy and visions and dreams - the reason for Pentecost - is because there’s a day of judgment coming - and the church needs to be about the work of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When eternity comes the Church - those who call upon the name of the Lord - the Church will remain. But the opportunity to invite others to join us in eternity will be gone forever. Language - signs - spiritual gifting - these are all tools - means - to accomplish the great purpose of the Church on earth - to proclaim the salvation of God through Jesus Christ.
Thinking this through for us today - we who are living in the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. Today our world is moving farther away from God. There is a great need today - perhaps greater than there has ever been - a tremendous need for men and women - for churches - to be where God wants us to be - to be led and empowered by the Holy Spirit - proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
What visions do you have? Sometimes people say, “We’re a small church.” Maybe you’ve heard someone say that. First, that’s not true. Compared to the national average for church attendance we’re on the larger side of the middle of the pack. Among AEUNA churches there’s only a few that are larger. Second, if we think we’re small we’ll be small.
What visions do you have? How do we take the Gospel to 25,000 Armenians in the Bay Area - 8,000,000 Armenians around the world? How do we impact our neighborhoods with the Gospel regardless of what language they speak or ethnicity they are?
Does that mean satellite ministries in San Jose - the East Bay? Daughter churches? Teams of youth - music teams - missions teams - traveling in ministry? Outreach to the homeless? To the gay community? 100 years from now what will the ministry of this church look like? What foundations need to be laid now?
And, while our elders are up at night thinking about this we need to ask, “What dreams do you have? What Godly wisdom - what guidance can you give us?” What can we learn together from God’s word about His ministry in us and through us?
There’s story about a man who looked at the obituary column of his local newspaper. To his surprise he saw his own name - indicating that he had just died. At first he laughed about it. But pretty soon his stunned friends and family began to call to inquire and offer sympathy to this man’s immediate family.
Finally, in irritation, he called the newspaper editor and angrily reported that - even though he had been reported dead - he was very much alive. The editor was apologetic and in a flash of inspiration said, “Don’t worry, sir, I’ll take care of it. Tomorrow I’ll put your name in the birth column.”
There’s a spiritual truth here. Not until we’ve allowed ourselves to die - to be crucified with Christ - can we be born into the new life that God offers to us in Jesus.
So with our lives is our control of the direction and usefulness of our lives. So often we’re content to live with what is - what’s familiar and safe - rather than surrendering to God what He would like to do in us and through us.
The Holy Spirit came. He took these 120 disciples - gathered together - held together only by a mutual experience with Jesus Christ - He baptizes them into one Body - infills them - empowers them - transforms them into the Church of Jesus Christ - to boldly proclaim the Gospel - beginning with that crowd in Jerusalem - and transforming the world of men. May we who live in the fulfillment of Pentecost be that Church.