Fifty days later, in the same way God descended from heaven to dwell with His people in Sinai, God Himself descended again to dwell with the people of God at Pentecost. But unlike the Old Testament version, where the people needed to remain far off from God because of the finished work of Christ, the Holy Spirit of God would not remain distant but would live even within the heart of every believer. This was the chief end that the Festival of Weeks always pointed to: God living with His people forever.
Eschatological Blue Diamonds
All diamonds are beautiful and rare. They are formed as a collection of carbon atoms, subjected to unimaginable heat and pressure over the space of time, melding into one of nature’s greatest crystalline masterpieces that has ever captivated the eyes of man. Some diamonds, such as the standard white diamond, are easier to find, occurring nearer to the surface of the earth in the alluvial deposits and within volcanic pipes, which makes them more abundant and affordable in the market. Other diamonds, however, such as the elusive blue diamond, are buried much deeper within the earth’s strata, making them not only harder to extract but also rarer and more costly.
In the same way, every truth learned from Scripture is precious and essential. Some truths hang right on the surface of the text and do not take much digging to lodge them loose. Other truths, however, take a bit of digging. Yet, the reward for peeling back the layers of Scriptural strata is most definitely worth the reward for all who will venture into its depths.
This is a good way of thinking about our passage today. Many of you will be familiar with some truths on the surface. These truths are precious and glorious, and I do not want to minimize them. But, if you will grab your shovel and pickaxe, I’d like to take you down just a bit further, below the surface and into the eschatological crust of the text, as we hunt for the Biblical equivalent of blue diamonds.
The Text: Acts 2:1-12
1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.2 And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.5 Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 They were amazed and astonished, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.” 12 And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”
To understand this text, let us first consider what eschatology is and how this text is eschatological.
Expanding Our Definition
As we covered last week, we are in a series on eschatology where we are working our way through the eschatological texts found throughout the New Testament, having found ourselves currently in Luke’s second book, called Acts. This will require stopping and staring at the various eschatological passages and building a coherent end-times theology from this great book. To do that, we will need a proper definition of what eschatology is.
First, eschatology is not merely about the final climactic moments of human history. That is a futurist’s perversion. Instead, eschatology is about what life will look like during the final age of man. Eschatology is about how the history of planet earth will be brought under the rule and dominion of Jesus Christ in these last days we are living in. That end-time age began when Jesus Christ rose from the dead and poured out His Spirit upon all flesh, which we will see in greater detail next week.
But for now, it is crucial to understand that everything within the old covenant, all of the promises of God, all of the types and shadows, will either pass away under the rule of Christ or will soar to its climax in the rule of Christ. In this way, eschatology has just as much to do with fulfilling the past as it does with the future. Thus, eschatology is trying to understand how all of the old forms and norms will find their ultimate realization and transformation in the new covenant that Christ has ushered in. To say that in shorthand: eschatology is how Christ ushers in His end-time Kingdom, now in part, one day in full.
To that end, let us explore a few examples, beginning with Pentecost.
Pentecost and the Festal Calendar
Pentecost comes from the Greek word πεντηκοστή, which means “the fiftieth” or “the fiftieth day,” referring to the fact that the miraculous outpouring of the Holy Spirit happened fifty days after the resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday. Yet, the origins of Pentecost and the other key events during Holy Week run much deeper than the first century AD.
For instance, underneath the events of Good Friday, Easter, and Pentecost are buried Old Covenant feasts that directly and chronologically correlate with what Christ is doing. Take, for example, the festival called Passover. This feast was the first among the final three feasts in the Jewish year. During that feast, a lamb was slaughtered for the people’s sins, and its blood was painted on the doorpost of every home so that the angel of death would pass over them. As Christians, we look to Christ as the final and perfect Lamb, whose blood was painted over the mantle of our own hearts, causing the angel of death to pass us over so that we may inherit eternal life in the Son.
Likewise, underneath the events of Easter and Christ’s resurrection was a Jewish festival immediately following Passover called “First Fruits.” In that feast, the people would praise and worship God for the first sign of the harvest, that once more He had caused the seeds that went down into the earth dead to sprout and break through the ground again, symbolizing new life and resurrection from the dead. When Jesus rose from the dead, during the celebration of this festival, He was not only claiming to be God; He was fulfilling an Old Covenant rite with precision and beauty.
In the same way, underneath the events of Pentecost was an Old Covenant norm that must be explored if we are going to understand what God is doing in Acts 2. After the Passover and the festival of First Fruits, the Israelites hightail it out of Egypt and travel ferociously towards the Red Sea. After God’s final and glorious showdown with Pharoah, the Israelites continue to Sinai, where God leaves His throne in heaven and descends upon the mountain to dwell with His people. The journey from celebrating the First Fruits in Egypt to seeing Yahweh descend upon the mountain and deliver His law to Moses took exactly fifty days (Just like Pentecost).
To commemorate that arduous fifty-day journey, God established a feast called the Festival of Weeks (Shavuot in Hebrew), which would become one of the three mandatory pilgrimage festivals that all Jewish males were required to attend once a year in Jerusalem. Furthermore, within the ordinary annual calendar of the Jews, this feast was the last and final celebration of the year, spiritually symbolizing how God’s ultimate and final purpose in redemption was to condescend and draw His sojourning people into His presence forever.
This is why the timing of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2 is so rich and eschatologically significant. All of the events that happen during holy week and Pentecost track perfectly along with the Old Testament Festal calendar. This is not by accident or mere coincidence. God is purposefully taking His Son through each of the final feasts of Israel to show His people how His Son is the end and point that each of these feasts was pointing to.
In the same way, God rescued His people from the Pharaoh and their taskmasters in Egypt, Heaven’s spotless Lamb came and offered Himself during the final Passover, freeing the people of God from a far worse tyrant than Pharoah. In Christ, we have been set free from the wicked rule of Satan, the slavery of our own sinful flesh, and the bonds of death that once accosted us. He is the hope the Passover was always pointing to.
Immediately after Christ fulfilled the Passover, He fulfilled the feast of First Fruits, being the first fruit of a new creation, being the first to rise from the ground, breaking out of the earth like the first barley harvest the people were worshiping God for. In this, Christ (the bread of life) became the first one to rise in the new covenant Kingdom. And through His power, He is bringing all His people back to life and out of the grave until the entire harvest has come in. He is the hope the feast of Firstfruits was always pointing to.
Then, fifty days later, in the same way God descended from heaven to dwell with His people in Sinai, God Himself descended again to dwell with the people of God at Pentecost.