“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. 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. They were amazed and astonished, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and]visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.” And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others were mocking and saying, “They are full of sweet wine.”
The Church Age began on the day of Pentecost. Acts deals with the pre-canon transitional period of the Church Age. One of the unusual characteristics was the existence of temporary spiritual gifts. On the day of Pentecost we have certain characteristics which were different from anything in previous dispensations. First of all, positional truth/baptism of the Spirit did not exist in the past. Furthermore, no believer in the Old Testament was ever indwelt by Christ or the Father. Universal indwelling of the Holy Spirit did not exist in the Old Testament, but from the day of Pentecost every believer was indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Also, in the Church Age every believer is his own priest. We also have something they didn’t have in the Old Testament: a completed canon of Scripture, so that God reveals Himself to us by the Word of God only.
The timetable for the coming of the Holy Spirit to indwell all believers is given in the phrase: “And when the day of Pentecost had come.” Pentecost was God’s schedule for starting the Church; “they” includes 120 believers. The Church has two times when it will be with one accord: the day it begins and the day it ends with the Rapture. “One place” refers to Jerusalem.
“And suddenly” means that when things begin with God they often begin suddenly. One second we have the Jewish Age and then in the next second we have the Church Age. The Jewish Age was discontinued for a time. “There came a sound” – the Church began with the noise of the coming of the Spirit; the Church will end with a loud noise: the trumpet at the Rapture. The Greek word for sound means a roar, a reverberation. “As a rushing mighty wind” means like the rush of a tornado. “As” introduces an analogy. The word “it” is not “it” but “He” and is a reference to the Holy Spirit. “Filled the room” meant the Holy Spirit had arrived for a new dispensation. The Jewish dispensation began with Abraham; the dispensation of the Church began with God.
“And there appeared to them”—He appeared in a special way—“tongues” is the true gift of tongues. It should be translated, “And it was distributed to them divided tongues.” They were divided into languages. The Holy Spirit was dealing out the languages. The word “tongues” is a reference to the gift of tongues, which is declaring the Gospel. The Greek word is the word to divide, they received this distribution, they didn’t get to pick, the Holy Spirit made the decision. “As of fire” is an analogy. Fire represents judgment. The gift of tongues was designed to announce the fifth cycle of discipline to Israel. This is the fulfillment of Isaiah 28:9-12.
This announcement of the Gospel to the Jews was an announcement of judgment to the Jews, but it is an announcement that included grace. It says cursing can be turned to blessing through faith in Christ. While they are being warned of coming judgment they are also given a way out. “And He [the Holy Spirit] sat upon each of them.” This is not the gift of tongues at this point. The Holy Spirit distributed the spiritual gifts but as soon as He “sat upon” each of them for the first time God the Holy Spirit indwelled every believer.
They were all filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit does five things for us at the moment of salvation. We do not experience these things, these are things the Spirit does for us—regenerating, indwelling, sealing, baptizing, and giving of gifts. We do not ask for any of these. “And they began to speak” – the word “began” is a chronological verb indicating that they immediately began to speak with other languages they had not previously learned. “As the Spirit gave them utterance” – it is the Holy Spirit who gave them the ability to speak a foreign language.
Isaiah 28:9-11 is the prophecy regarding this event. The word “stammering lips” in verse 11 is a reference to Gentile languages. This is the sign which would indicate the coming of the fifth cycle of discipline. The Jews were responsible in the Old Testament for the dissemination of the Gospel. They were custodians of the Word of God and were responsible for getting the Gospel out to Gentile nations. And the sign that the fifth cycle of discipline would come for a prolonged period of time was to be the fact that the Gentile languages would be used to evangelize the Jews. Tongues have nothing to do with those who believe, but to those who do not believe. The Jews were to go to the Gentiles, and the warning to the Jews was that they personally were going to be evangelized by Gentiles. But this is more than a warning; it is a sign with a purpose. When they go into the fifth cycle of discipline in 70 AD they will be scattered, and they will remain scattered until the Second Coming of Christ. During this particular period all Jews will be under the curse of the fifth cycle of discipline, and the only way to remove the curse on any individual Jew will be to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and become a member of the Church, the body of Christ. Only when a Jew believes in Christ during this age is cursing turned to blessing. There needs to be a warning which fulfills the principle of a sign, and the warning was the fact that the Jews, through a miracle, would be evangelized in Gentile languages—“tongues are for a sign.”
The first fulfillment of this sign is found in Acts 2, beginning at verse 5. “And there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men.” Why the gift of tongues on this occasion - because there were dwelling in Jerusalem, Jews. The word for “living” means to dwell temporarily, to dwell according to a standard, and the Jews who were living in Jerusalem were there according to one standard: Judaism. That is why we have the word “devout,” a word that is never used in Scripture for spirituality; it is used for an unbeliever who is religious. In other words devout men were the worst kind of unbelievers. These are religious Jews and they have come to Jerusalem for one purpose: for the holy period which is being observed. It began with the Passover which was followed by the Feast of Unleavened Bread. In the midst of the Feast of Unleavened Bread there was the Feast of First-fruits, and the fourth feast at the end is Pentecost.
Pentecost was fifty days after the Feast of First-fruits. The Feast of First-fruits was always held on Sunday, and that bothered the Jews because Sunday was the first day of the week. Pentecost was always held on Sunday, and Pentecost simply means fifty days. Actually, these feasts were a part of God’s plan and they showed His schedule. The Passover represents the Cross; Christ died on the Passover—“Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.” The Feast of the First-fruits represents His resurrection. The Feast of Unleavened Bread represents fellowship with God. Pentecost is not only the day the Church Age began but it is also the beginning of the warnings for the Jews that they are going into the fifth cycle of discipline. All of these things were involved in the phrase, “Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem.” These are religious Jews, they are not saved. They had come from all over the world for one reason; they were pilgrims who at least once in their lifetime had tried to get into the holy city to observe the Passover during the Pentecost period, a period of great religious activity. They are said to be “from every nation.” They are out of every nation based on several principles. When Alexander the Great came to Jerusalem on his conquest of the world the Jews came out to meet him. Under the leadership of the high priest they brought out to him the Daniel manuscript and pointed the story of Alexander out from chapter eight. Alexander was so impressed that he was found in Scripture that he immediately took a liking to the Jews, and he became their benefactor. He immediately discovered that they were excellent in administration and wherever Alexander went during his twelve years of conquest he took Jews. In this way the Jews had their first scattering, and they were scattered all over the earth. Then, during the course of the Roman Empire, Jews had been discovered in the field of administration to have great abilities and also in international business. Therefore Jews were scattered all over the Roman Empire. Many of the Jews had been living away from home for several hundred years, and they had now gathered in Jerusalem during this particular holy period.
“And when this sound occurred” it sounded like an explosion of some kind. When the Holy Spirit came there was a tremendous explosive type noise which woke up everyone in Jerusalem. This is how the crowd was gathered together on the day of Pentecost: people came to investigate, “the crowd came together.” And it says “they were bewildered (confounded, startled], because that every man heard them speak in his own language.” This was the true gift of tongues. The people heard the disciples speak to every man in his own language. The language of Judea at this time was Aramaic, but these men had been away from Judea a long time and they spoke Gentile languages. The disciples kept right on preaching the Gospel and the people kept right on hearing it. They kept listening for two reasons: because they were astounded and because of the content.
“And they were all amazed and astonished.” The word “amazed” means to stand out of yourself, and to stand out of yourself or to jump out of your skin. They were utterly startled. They were so astounded that all they could do was concentrate on what they heard. “Behold are not these who speak Galilieans?” Galilean is used for a person who has had no formal education. “And how hear we every man in his own language, wherein we were born?”
In verses 9-11 we have the mechanics of the gift of tongues. First of all there are languages—people from all over the world. Parthians, who occupied the country which is north of Persia or Iran and south east of the Caspian Sea were there. The Medes, along with the Persians, once part of a great empire, were present. The Elamites, part Persian and part Semitic who lived in wild, mountainous country east of Babylon were there. The “dwellers of Mesopotamia” from the Tigris-Euphrates valley were there. Judea refers to southern Palestine, Cappadocia takes us to Armenia, its western side, famous for being the Hittite empire and they were there. Pontus is an area of southern Russia, located on the Black Sea and they were represented. Asia refers to the Roman province of Asia. “Strangers of Rome” is literally, “those living among the Romans.” All these are representative of the Roman Empire, as represented by Jews.
Jews lived throughout the entire Roman Empire. So we have people who came from all over the world: religious Jews, motivated to come to Jerusalem for one reason: to observe the Passover and to stay through Pentecost, to observe these religious feasts. But even though they came out of religion, they stayed to hear the Gospel and many believed in Christ. The thing that startled them of the day of Pentecost was that for the first time the thing that Isaiah had predicted in 700 BC was finally fulfilled. The people who responded would go back home all across the Roman Empire to evangelize their areas with the Gospel. “We do hear them speak in our languages the wonderful works of God” – the wonderful works of God was the content of the gift of tongues - the Gospel message of faith in Christ.
“And they were all amazed, and were in doubt (perplexed).” When it says they were all amazed, this means that everyone was flabbergasted by the phenomenon. But others were mocking and saying, “They are full of sweet wine.” Some of the residents of Jerusalem didn’t understand these foreign languages. It was Peter who stood up and spoke in Aramaic so that all the people in Jerusalem could understand what was going on. The languages spoken in Galilee and Judea during the first century include the Semitic Aramaic and Hebrew languages as well as Greek, with Aramaic being the predominant language. Most scholars agree that during the early part of first century Aramaic was the mother tongue of virtually all natives of Galilee and Judea. Most scholars support the theory that Jesus spoke Aramaic and that he may have also spoken Hebrew and Greek.