The Miracles of Pentecost
January 23rd, 1977 @ 7:30 PM
THE MIRACLES OF PENTECOST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-23-77 7:30 p.m.
And we are grateful for you who are listening to this service on radio. The title of the message tonight is The Miracles of Pentecost. We have come, in our preaching through the Book of Acts, to the second chapter, the Pentecostal chapter. We now approach one of the tremendous phenomena in human experience. This is the introduction of the new dispensation of grace: the age of the Holy Spirit, of the calling out of the saints built into the body of Christ, baptized into the body of the Lord. Will you turn therefore with me to the Book of Acts, chapter 2, and we shall read together the first eight verses. The Book of Acts, chapter 2, verses 1 through 8, and we would invite and encourage you on radio to get your Bible and to read it out loud with us. Acts chapter 2, verses 1 through 8, now all of us reading it out loud together:
And when the Day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.
Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.
And they were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galileans?
And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?
Pentecost: it is significant in typology, in the ritual of the Mosaic legislation; it is significant that this new dispensation came to pass at Pentecost. The Greek numeral for fifty is pentekonta; and the substantive form of it, pentekosta, Pentecost; and that is the Greek word for fiftieth, the fiftieth day, Pentecost. It refers to the fiftieth day after the Passover. The Passover was followed by the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of Unleavened Bread [Exodus 12:13-20]. And in those seven weeks that followed, forty-nine days, the fiftieth day was called the Feast of Pentecost [Leviticus 23:15-16; Numbers 28:16-26]. And in typology, in the Old Testament, among many other things, this was done after the Passover: on the day of the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, there was offered unto God, waved before the Lord, a sheaf of the barley harvest. It is the firstfruits [Leviticus 23:10]. And when the Lord was crucified on Passover [Mark 14:1], He was raised on the first day of the week [Matthew 28:1-7]; He was the firstfruits unto God [1 Corinthians 15:20], and that sheaf represented His marvelous and heavenly resurrection. It was the beginning of the harvest. It was the beginning of the firstfruits unto the Lord.
Now, seven weeks later, forty-nine days later, on the fiftieth day, the typology of the Mosaic legislation offered unto God a loaf of wheat bread; and that represented the gathering together of the final harvest, and it was offered unto God [Leviticus 23:15-16]. So at Pentecost; as at the Passover Jesus was crucified for our sins [Luke 22:1-2, 1 Corinthians 5:7], and as on the first day of the week, the sheaf, the firstfruits of the harvest was offered unto the Lord [Leviticus 23:10-11], so at Pentecost, forty-nine days later, seven times seven, seven weeks later, there was offered unto God the ingathering, the harvest of the wheat [Deuteronomy 16:6-10]. So at Pentecost is the ingathering of the peoples and nations of the world into the family of Christ, into the body of our Lord [1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:28]. It is therefore deeply significant that this new era, this new epoch, this new dispensation, this new age of grace, this new era of the church is introduced to us at Pentecost, the gathering together of the harvest of the Lord [Acts 2:1-47].
Now, when that day was come, there came to pass, upon this group of one hundred twenty [Acts 1:15], who had been praying since the ascension of our Lord [Acts 1:9-10], there came to pass some miraculous and marvelous things. I can illustrate that exactly. However the archaeologist and the geologist and the men who study in scientific stratum and record and fossil all of the ages and the ions of the past, however these archaeologists and geologists push back the age of the world, and however the anthropologists and the biologists push back the age of life in this earth, however they push it back, push it back, push it back, sometimes they will number it as billions of years, sometimes millions of years, but however they push it back, they are forced to acknowledge that there were phenomena in the world at that time that men no longer know and no longer experience. There were things back there that shaped this universe, and there were things back there that shaped life and living that no longer are to be found in modern human observation and experience. So it is that, in the first chapter of Genesis, you have a new creation; the Holy Spirit of God brooded over the dark chaos of this primeval world [Genesis 1:1-2], and out of it brought the beauty of the new creation [Genesis 1:3-31], and the garden of Eden in which the Lord sat our first parents [Genesis 2:8-15, 21-25].
That is an exact thing as this new dispensation into which we are entering. There are miraculous phenomena that accompanied this new introduction, this new age that is not experienced by our people today. One of them is this: "Suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting" [Acts 2:2]. There was no wind; it was not a tornado, it was not a cyclone, it was not a hurricane, but "there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind." Now that is in itself of tremendous typological and exegetical and revelational meaning and significance, this "sound as of a rushing mighty wind."
In the Bible, the word for "spirit" is "breath" or "wind"; in Hebrew it is ruoc, the ordinary word for "breath" or "wind." In Greek it is the same, it is pneuma, which is the word for "breath" or "wind." When you have a pneumatic tire, that refers to a tire that is pumped up with wind, with breath, pneuma, "breath," ruach, "breath." When the Lord said – in the third chapter of the Book of John and the [third] verse, Nicodemus is overwhelmed by the doctrine of the Lord: "You say a man has to be born again to enter the kingdom of God. How can a man be born again when he is old? How could it be that he goes back into his mother’s womb, and is born?" [John 3:3-4], and the Lord said: "Marvel not that I say unto thee, You must be born again. The wind, the breath, the pneuma bloweth, breathes, moves where it wills, and you hear the sound thereof, you hear the sound thereof" [John 3:7-8]. "There came from heaven a sound as of a rushing mighty wind" [Acts 2:2]. And you hear the sound thereof, but you cannot tell where it came from or whither it goes. So it is with everyone that is born of the Spirit" [John 3:8]. In this new dispensation, the pouring out of the breath of God, this marvelous phenomenon of the sound of a great rushing mighty wind, the pneuma, the ruach, the breath of God.
Do you remember, again, in the twentieth chapter of that same Gospel of John, when the Lord appeared to His disciples after He was raised from the dead, He breathed on them, He breathed on them the breath of God; He breathed on them, and said, "Receive ye, labete, take ye the Holy Breath, the Holy Spirit" [John 20:22]. This is the phenomenon that happened at Pentecost: the breath of God, the presence of the Lord, the Spirit of the Lord was poured out upon the apostles [Acts 2:1-4].
Now, there was a second tremendous miracle at this Pentecostal Day. Not only was there "the sound as of a rushing mighty wind," the breath of God, but "there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them" [Acts 2:3]. The phenomenon that happened was this: while they were there praying, assembled in one accord, there came down from heaven a great mighty shekinah glory; the presence of God [Acts 2:1-2]. There came down in one great full-orbed glory, the Lord coming down; and as it came down, the King James Version says it became "cloven," that is, it separated, it was cleaved, it separated. And as the great shekinah, as the great glory, as the great light, he says, "like as of fire," as the great burning was lowered from heaven, when it came down it separated. And as a lambent flame burns, so it glowed, upward and upward over the head of each one of them. This also is a tremendous type, figure, and symbol. "There appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each one of them" [Acts 2:3]; a tongue that flamed and that burned.
The Lord could have let down from heaven a burning flaming sword and placed the hilt of it in the hand of each one of those disciples. But He did not send a sword; what He sent was a tongue like as of fire, and it burned over the head of each one of them [Acts 2:3]. That is the propagation of the faith, of the gospel of Christ: it’s never to be by the sword, it is never to be by coercion, by force; but it is to be by the witnessing, by the preaching, by the testimony of God’s people. As the Revelation 12 says, "And they overcame him," our archenemy, "by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony" [Revelation 12:11]. Do you remember again in the incomparable vision of John in the first chapter of the Revelation of the glory of the risen Christ? [Revelation 1:9-20]. You remember the word, "And there proceeded out of His mouth a two-edged sword, a two-edged sword out of His mouth, which is the word of God" [Revelation 1:16]. There is a saying that is everlastingly true: "The pen is mightier than the sword"; the word is mightier than the force, the coercive agent. All you have to do is to look around you. The explosive power in a word, in an idea, is something that cannot be slain, and it cannot be killed; an idea, a word.
One of the things that I see today is the explosive power of the idea of communism. I have been through those communist lands like Russia, like East Germany, like Czechoslovakia, stand on the border and look into the interior of China, in two different places; and I think of the explosiveness of the words, the words of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. There is power in an idea. There is an explosion in a word. And that is the great assignment of God for us who are His witnesses in this earth. It is by the idea, it is by the witness, it is by the testimony, it is by the spoken word that God has assigned that we evangelize the world [Acts 1:8]. And that’s our weakness; we don’t speak. That’s our weakness; we don’t testify. That’s our weakness; we don’t deliver the message. We are indifferent about it. And it doesn’t flame, and it doesn’t burn, and it doesn’t rise upward from our souls. That was the great tremendous phenomenon in this verse: "There appeared unto them tongues like as of fire, and it burned over the head of each one" [Acts 2:3].
Then there was a third phenomenon here at Pentecost. It says, "And they began to speak in other glossa, languages, they began to speak in other languages the wonderful things of God, as the Spirit gave them utterance" [Acts 2:4]. And those who were present at that Pentecostal feast said,
How hear we each one of us in his own tongue, glossa, in his own language, wherein we were born, the marvelous things of God? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamians, Judeans, Cappadocians, Pontians, Asians, Phrygians, Pamphylians, Egyptians, Libyans, Cyrenians, Romans, Jews, proselytes, Cretians, Arabians, we do hear them speak in our own tongues, in our own glossa, the wonderful works of God.
That has also no less a profound meaning. God intends for every tribe and language under the sun to hear this glorious message in his own speech and in his own language. There ought to be missionaries over there preaching to the Chinese in China in Chinese. There ought to be missionaries in Thailand preaching to the Thais in the Thai language. There ought to be missionaries to the Hottentots, preaching to the Hottentots in Hottentot. There ought to be talking in every language of the world the glorious good news of Jesus. And you know one of the miraculous things of that message is this: no matter what language you put it in, in whatever language you speak it, when you translate the Bible into it, the message of Christ, the people who read it say, "That’s the most marvelous thing in this earth."
You know what happened one time? This actually happened. A Hottentot was talking to an English missionary, and he said, "I am sorry for you people over there in America." And the missionary said, "Well, what makes you think you’re sorry for us over in America?" Well he said, "Because you can’t read the Bible in Hottentot, and you don’t know how John 3:16 sounds in Hottentot." It’s a marvelous thing; each in his own language, listening to the voice of the Lord. And isn’t that the seventh chapter of the Revelation? "Lord, who are these, who are these? I never saw them before." And the answer was, "These are they who are coming out of the great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" [Revelation 7:13-14]; out of every nation, and tongue, and tribe, and family in the earth, all of them praising God. Oh, what a glory, what a marvel! And that’s Pentecost. It is the gathering together of all of God’s saints in the earth, the full loaf, the gathering of the harvest. Some day when it is complete, when this age of Pentecostal grace is done, we shall all be together, raptured up before the Lord, from every family, and nation, and tribe, and tongue, and language in the earth [Revelation 7:9-10]. Oh, what a day, what a day!
Well, our time is gone, just about, and I have two more of the marvelous miracles at Pentecost. Not only the breath of God, "the sound as of a mighty wind"; and not only the lambent flames, the tongues of confession and witness; and not only the languages that were spoken, praising the wonderful works of God [Acts 2:1-11]; but will you look at no less a marvelous miracle, the change that has come into the life of Simon Peter? Why, bless your heart, it hasn’t been but seven weeks ago when he cowered before a little damsel who said, "Aren’t you one of His disciples?" and he cursed and swore and denied that he ever knew Him [Matthew 26:69-74]; just seven weeks ago, forty-nine days previous. I want you to look at him. Here is Simon Peter, standing before those people, and he says to them, "Him, Jesus, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, you, you have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain; you" [Acts 2:23]; bold like a lion! This same man, cowering before a little maid in a house, bold now before all Jerusalem, and accusing them of crucifying and with wicked hands slaying the Prince of Glory. Then he repeats it: "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, whom you have destroyed, both Lord and Christ" [Acts 2:36]. I haven’t time to expatiate upon it; the miracle in the life of Simon Peter.
And a last miracle: the miracles of Pentecost, "And when they heard this, they were convicted in their hearts, and said to Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, men and brethren, what shall we do? What shall we do?" [Acts 2:37], convicted in their heart. Look at that. There is a marvel there! The Lord spoke in this same place; He is in the temple [John 10:23]. The Lord spoke to these same people there in Jerusalem. But when the Lord spoke to them they were infuriated, irritated beyond compare, and put a price on His head, and said, "If anybody can find Him and lay hands upon Him, bring Him to us for judgment" [John 11:57]. And of course, Judas did it. Thirty pieces of silver [Matthew 26:14-16]; they suborned witnesses against Him [Matthew 26:59], and they crucified Him; they nailed Him to a tree [Matthew 28:32-50]. These are the same people, the same people. What has happened? Jesus said, "It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, He will not come; but if I go, I will send Him unto you. And He will convict the world of righteousness, and of judgment, and of sin" [John 16:7-8]. And the Lord said to them, in the fourteenth chapter of John, "Greater works than these should he do, because I go to My Father" [John 14:12]. Look at the miracle of that: these same people to whom the Lord spoke and they became infuriated, and crucified Him, sold Him unto death [Acts 2:22-23]; these are the same people. And Simon Peter in boldness, speaking to them of their sin in crucifying the Son of God [Acts 2:23-36], and they are convicted in their hearts, and cry, saying, "Men and brothers, what shall we do? Where shall we turn?" [Acts 2:36-37]. I haven’t time to illustrate that; I wish I did.
John Wesley, when he had that marvelous Aldersgate experience, when the Spirit of God came upon him, John Wesley wrote, "I preach the same sermons, using the same texts. Before they didn’t come; now they come": thousands and hundreds of thousands; the difference – the Spirit of God, the breath of the Lord. Dwight L. Moody wrote that same and identical thing: after the wonderful spiritual experience of Dwight L. Moody, he says, "I preach the same sermons, I use the same texts; but now they come, and they come, and they come." It’s the difference of the Holy Spirit of the Lord. It is the breath of God. This is as great a miracle, the foundation of the new spiritual day of grace, this is as great a miracle, Pentecost [Acts 2:1-47], as the miracle when the Spirit of God brooded over the face of the deep and brought beauty and order out of the chaotic universe [Genesis 1:1-2]. And this is the day in which we live.
O breath of God, fall fresh on me
Break me, melt me, mold me, fill me, use me
Breath of God, Spirit of God, fall fresh on me.
[adapted from "Spirit of the Living God," Daniel Iverson, 1926]
The miracle of Pentecost: God’s outpoured Spirit of grace and power upon us.
We sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing it, the Spirit of the Lord speaking to your heart: "Tonight, this hour, I listen to the voice of God for my life; and I’m answering. I’m coming now. I’m on the way. Here I am, pastor, opening my heart to the Lord Jesus, receiving Him as my Savior, coming down to be baptized as the Lord said in the holy page, putting my life in the fellowship of this dear church. The Spirit of God has spoken to me, and I’m answering; I’m coming now." In the balcony round, you, on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, you, make the decision now in your heart, and on the first note of the first stanza, come. Do it now, make it now, come now. "Here I am, preacher, look." And may angels attend you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
THE MIRACLES OF PENTECOST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. A new dispensation
A. Significant in typology that it came to pass at Pentecost
1. First day of Passover firstfruits offered
2. Fiftieth day the ingathering (Acts 2:1-47)
II. Miraculous phenomena
A. The wind (Acts 2:2)
1. The breath of God (John 3:3-8, 20:22)
B. The tongues like fire (Acts 2:3)
1. Shekinah glory of God
2. The human voice is the instrument of propagation of the faith (Revelation 12:11, Hebrews 4:12)
C. The gift of languages (Acts 2:4, 8-11)
1. God intends for every tribe and language to hear the message (Revelation 7:9-10)
D. The courage and illumination of Simon Peter (Matthew 26:69-74, Acts 2:23, 36)
E. The response to the sermon (Acts 2:37)
1. Conviction and repentance (John 16:7-8, 14:12)