Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Pentecost, the Beginning of the Harvest

Yesterday was Pentecost, the day that the Holy Spirit fell in Acts 2.  Today, I want to post on Pentecost and what it means to us.  I think you’ll find it interesting.

Acts 2:38-39 (NKJV)
2:38 Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call."

The Crucifixion Timeline and the Holy Spirit

First, I want you to follow the timeline that directly precedes the Day of Pentecost.

1.        Jesus was crucified on the Day of Preparation.  This is the day when the lambs were prepared for Passover.  They were sacrificed by the priests in the temple until three o’clock and then they blew the shofar to announce the end of the sacrifices.  Jesus died at what the Bible called the ninth hour – three o’clock.  So, picture this Jesus cries out, “It is finished” and then the shofar is sounded, signifying the end of the sacrifices.  When Jesus died it was the last sacrifice in the Temple.
2.        The next day was Passover – The commemoration of the death of the first-born in Egypt.  The angel passed over the home where the Jews had killed their lamb the night before.  It was a day of deliverance from death.  Jesus died and His death causes the death from sin to “pass over” us. 
3.        Jesus rose on the third day – The Day of First Fruits.  This is the beginning of the Barley harvest.  It was like a precursor to the Wheat harvest, in fact, the timing of the Wheat harvest was measured as seven weeks from the Festival of First Fruits.  Jesus was the first to rise from the dead, he shows us the way.  He shows us the promise of the resurrection.  His resurrection is the precursor to ours.  In fact, Paul called Him the First fruit:

1 Corinthians 15:22-23 (NKJV)
15:22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming.

4.        Pentecost is fifty days after this feast.  Pentecost is the Greek Name, it comes from the New Testament, but in Hebrew it’s called the Festival of Weeks, because it’s seven weeks after the Festival of First Fruits.

Jesus rose from the dead and was on earth for forty days afterward.  On the fortieth day as He was about to ascend into Heaven, He told the disciples to wait for the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 1:4-5 (NKJV)
1:4 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; 5 for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."

So this day, Pentecost was a feast day – The Festival of Weeks – It was a celebration and a day of thanks to God for the wheat harvest that was about to begin.  First Fruits was the beginning of the Barley harvest and Weeks was the beginning of the wheat harvest.  It was seven weeks after First Fruits.

You can see from timeline how all of this ties together with other references in the Bible:  How Jesus’ death and resurrection was foreshadowed by the festivals and rituals of he Old Testament, and Jewish life.  If the Jews had seen Jesus’ death and resurrection through this prism of foreshadow and prophecy, His death and resurrection would have held some significance for them.

Now, let’s look at the events of the Day of Pentecost:

Acts 2:1-4 (NKJV)
2:1 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

We know this as the day and the moment that the Holy Spirit landed on the disciples.  I want to get into greater detail about what’s happening at this time:

Pentecost was a day of prayer and celebration.  People had the day off; they met to pray and thank God for the upcoming harvest.  Acts 2:1 tells us the disciples were all together in one accord.  They were there to pray and celebrate the feast day.  Remember, they continued to be involved in the temple.

While they are there they hear a sound like a mighty rushing wind.  The word translated from Hebrew as wind can also be translated as Spirit, and as breath.  Look at the Book of Genesis, when God created Adam:

Genesis 2:7 (NKJV)
2:7 And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

So here is the word “breath.”  The word translated as breath is defined in the Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionary as “a puff, that is, wind” It can also be translated as breath, inspiration, soul and spirit.

So, this sound like a “might rushing wind” signifies the Spirit.  The Holy Spirit entered into the place where they were and filled the house.  Then, fire appears and sits on each one of them.  In the temple there was a fire that was always burning.  That fire signified the presence of God.  On this day the presence of God sat on each one of them and it symbolized that now they each contained the presence of God

So think about this for a moment:  The Holy Spirit came upon them and God dwelt in them.  They were immersed (baptized) in the Spirit of God.  They became a temple of His Spirit.  They began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit moved them.  It was loud, too.  People in the street heard the noise; it was loud enough to attract three thousand people.  It must have been pretty loud.

What Happened After

Now, remember that this day was the day of a great festival – The Festival of Weeks.  This was a pilgrimage festival.  That means that devout Jewish believers came from all over the world to Jerusalem; to the temple to participate in this festival.  There were a lot of visitors in Jerusalem that day:

Acts 2:5 (NKJV)
2:5 And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven.

Those visitors heard the disciples, speaking in tongues.  They heard this noise but they understood it in their own language.

Acts 2:6 (NKJV)
2:6 And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language.

They gathered around – They wanted to see what was going on.  They heard the noise and thought the disciples were drunk, but Peter stood up and began to preach a message.  He reminds the of Joel’s prophecy, (I’ll cover this in detail later.)  He tells them how they crucified their Messiah.  He brings it all out into the open and look at the result.

Acts 2:37-38 (NKJV)
2:37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" 38 Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The conviction of the Holy Spirit fell on these men.  They recognized their guilt and sin.  They were frightened of the Wrath of God, “Men and Brethren what shall we do?”  They cried out in fear, “How can we fix this?  How can we make this up to God?”  Peter tells them to repent…and they did:

Acts 2:40-41 (NKJV)
2:40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation." 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.

Three thousand men received Jesus – The first harvest of the early church.  The beginning of the harvest of Jesus’ church and it took place on Pentecost, the day set aside by the Jews to mark the beginning of the wheat harvest.

Let’s look briefly at the timeline again with what we’ve learned.

1.        Jesus was crucified on the Day of Preparation, when the lambs were killed for the Passover.  He died at three o’clock at the moment when the sacrifices stop. He was the last sacrifice at the temple in Jerusalem.
2.        Jesus resurrected on the festival of first fruits.  He was the first to experience the resurrection and eternal life.  He shows us the way.
3.        The Holy Spirit fell on the day of Pentecost.  The Feast that marks the beginning of the harvest season.  He came upon the disciples like wind (spirit) and fire (presence of God) and the harvest began for the church of Jesus Christ. Now, I want to show you one more thing.

This is Available to Us Today

During Peter’s sermon he reminded them of the following prophecy in the book of Joel:

Acts 2:17-18 (NKJV)
2:17 'And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. 18 And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy.

This is the way that Peter spoke Joel’s words.  Peter was saying that in the last days these things would happen.  “In the last days,” refers to the time from Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension until the time Jesus returns.  Another way he could have said it is, “From now on…”  Peter even clarifies this idea in Acts 2:39:

Acts 2:39 (NKJV)
2:39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call."

In verse 2:38 he told the men 1) repent, 2) be baptized and 3) receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  He continues:

For this promise is to you – Those who were there hearing his words
And to your Children – The next generation
And to all who are afar off – He’s talking generationally.  He’s talking about all of those who will come in later generations.  For many generations to come would be another way to say it.
As many as he Lord will call – We are called.  Remember Jesus said, “You have not chosen me – I have chosen you.”  We are called  - We are as many as the Lord will call. 

These things that happened on Pentecost are available to us today.  We can still speak in tongues, as the Spirit give utterance.  We can see visions.  We can dream dreams.  Young men and women can prophesy.  These things still happen to day and there are other things, too.  Peter became bold.  He boldly spoke the Word of God and brought conviction.  He and John went to the temple and saw a lame man healed.  People brought out their sick, lame and demon possessed to the street so that Peter’s shadow could fall on them and they’d be healed.  These things are manifestations of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  These can happen because of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  Look at what Jesus said:

John 14:12 (NKJV)
14:12 "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.

If we believe in Him we can receive the Holy Spirit and we will do greater things.

The Holy Spirit and His power came with a purpose.  That purpose is the harvest.  That’s why it happened the day that it did.  That harvest is still taking place – We need the Holy Spirit.

The Bible says this promise is for us, but I know some people that have prayed to receive the Holy Spirit many times and still have not received it.  This promise is for us – It’s a PROMISE. God keeps promises.  It’s like any gift, though, you have to receive.  It isn’t a gift until you receive it.  If you are one of these I want you to think about it – What is the impediment to receiving the Holy Spirit in you?  What stops you?  It has to be something in you, God has given it.  Is it hidden sin, fear, unbelief – try to identify it and overcome it.  Repent, then pray again, and continue until it happens.  It’s a promise.  It’s a promise for all who believe.

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