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"The Coming of the Holy Spirit"
Acts 2:1-21

Wednesday Evening Home Bible Study
July 25, 2007

Theme: This passage describes the events that surrounded the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, in accordance with Jesus' promise.

Just before He ascended to the Father, Jesus issued a command to His eleven disciples. They were to wait in Jerusalem for the Promise of the Father, "which" He said, "you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now" (Acts 1:4-5). Shortly thereafter, He told them of the significance of this event; "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (v. 8). Jesus spoke of the promise of the Holy Spirit many times to His disciples when He was with them--along with the power they would be given to witness of Him as a result. He spoke of this both before He went to the cross (John 14:15-18; 25-26; 15:26-27; 16:5-15); and after He was raised from the dead (John 20:22; Luke 24:48-49).

And now, after Jesus had ascended to the Father; and after the disciples had waited in obedience to Him in Jerusalem, we come to Acts 2--and to the story of the keeping of that glorious promise. From that time forth, the "last days" had begun (Acts 2:17); and now, we are living the age in which the Spirit of God has taken up residence in this world in the people who belong to Christ.

The events described in the second chapter of Acts explain what goes on to happen in the rest of this book; and even beyond to the spread of Jesus' church throughout the word all the way up to our present time. It gives us the reason for the power of His church to bear witness of Him in this world.


A. It occurred on "the Day of Pentecost", which, to the Jewish people, was the day on which the "first fruits" of the land was celebrated (Lev. 23:15-22). It was a time of reaping and ingathering. And in a spiritual sense, it was certainly that on this day (Acts 2:41).

B. As the twelve were gathered together in one place (and most likely, the others of the 120 who were with them; see Acts 1:12-26), three things suddenly happened. These can be seen as three distinctive tokens of the Holy Spirit's coming:

1. A sound from heaven, "as of a rushing mighty wind", came and filled the house in which they were staying. Jesus once described the Holy Spirit as a "wind" (John 3:8); and the Spirit's work was typified in the vision of Ezekiel as manifested by a "noise" (Ezekiel 37:7) and a "breath" (v. 9-10).

2. Divided tongues, "as of fire", appeared to them--separating and resting upon each one of them. "Fire" is often associated with God's presence in the Old Testament (Exodus 3:2; 19:18; 1 Kings 18:38-39; Ezek. 1:27). And John the Baptist promised that Jesus would baptize with "the Holy Spirit and fire" (Luke 3:16). Here, we see "fire"; which symbolically illustrated the unity of the Holy Spirit. But then we see this fire "divide", with individual "tongues" (flickering flames?) of fire coming upon each individual; which symbolically illustrated the individuality of the Spirit's work, and diversity of His gifting (1 Corinthians 12:4-11).

3. Finally, they were all "filled" (pimplami) with the Holy Spirit; and began to speak with other tongues as the Holy Spirit gave them utterance (see vv. 8-11; see Isaiah 28:11). There are three times that this particular token of the Spirit's work is described as having occurred in the book of Acts; 1:4, 10:46, and 19:6.


A. In the providence of God, there were many devout Jewish men (and probably their families) present at the time of this event. They had already been remarkably prepared by the Spirit of God for the witness that was to be borne to them because of the things they had already heard about Jesus (Acts 2:22-24). Note that they came from a diversity of places--from "every nation under heaven" (v. 5). It was to these Spirit-prepared men that the promise of the same Holy Spirit would be offered (vv. 38-39).

B. The sound of the rushing wind was, in part, for this great multitude. It drew them to the place the sound was heard--and to the disciples who had just then been filled with the Spirit. And to their amazement and confusion, they found this small band of uneducated "Galileans" speaking to them in their own individual languages of the places in which they were born (vv. 6-11). The content of their message was "the wonderful works of God" (v. 11). As one commentator said, "The Pentecostal emphasis fell on communication" (Everett F. Harrison, Interpreting Acts [Grand Rapids: Zondervon Books, 1986], p. 59).

C. Many of those who heard the disciples pondered carefully what it was that they were witnessing. They asked (literally), "What [act of] will is this?"--suggesting the recognition that this was the act of Someone beyond just those whom they heard speaking. Not all responded with reverent wonder, however. Some mocked; saying that the disciples were filled with "new wine" (or perhaps better, "sweet wine" (gleukos); a weak or unfermented grape juice). No doubt, this accusation was being made because of the joy and freedom the disciples felt in the power of the Spirit to speak. The filling of the Holy Spirit is contrasted with "drunkenness" in the Bible (Eph. 5:18).


A. Peter stood up at this opportune moment and spoke. What follows is a whole "sermon"; but here, we look only at the explanation he gives for what the people were then seeing.

B. He makes it clear that the disciples are not "drunk" (methuo). This would not have been possible; since it was only the third hour of the day (probably between 9:00 to 10:00 am), and such drunkenness would have taken many hours to achieve.

C. Rather, he explains that this is "that" which was spoken of by the prophet Joel in Joel 2:28-32. Note that Peter doesn't simply say that this is "like that" which Joel spoke of; but that it was that very thing that Joel prophesied. Many of the things that are spoken of in this prophecy parallel the things that Jesus Himself spoke of in His "end times" discourse in Matthew 24:4-31; see especially vv. 29-31). This suggests that the beginning of the end times began with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and continues until the time of Christ's return. Note that Joel speaks of "visions and dreams"; many of which are seen in Acts (Acts 9:10, 10:13, 17; 16:9; 18:9; 23:11). We are living today, under the Holy Spirit's ministry, in that time that Joel spoke of; saying, "And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved" (v. 21; see Acts 2:38-40).

* * * * * * * * * *

The story we read of in this passage is still going on. We today live in the light of Jesus' wonderful promise: "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scriptures said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water" (John 7:37-38). This Jesus spoke of the very same Holy Spirit we read of in Acts 2.


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