Beyond the Upper Room: Wind, Fire, & Word :: By Dr. Donald Whitchard

John 3:8, Joel 2:28-29, Acts 2:1-4, Genesis 11:6, Exodus 13:21

Summary: The arrival of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost was with wind, fire, and the Word of God that would change the world.

At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s promised Messiah and Savior of humanity. On Resurrection Sunday, we celebrate the finished work of Christ upon the cross for our redemption and His triumph over death, hell, and the grave by rising from the dead. Yet when it comes to the day when the Holy Spirit came upon the followers of Jesus, initiating the work of His church, we tend to either give minimal attention to the significance of that day or tend to yearn for emotional experiences that become substitutes for authentic spiritual character and maturity.

The Holy Spirit is often referred to as the forgotten member of the Trinity; yet without Him, we are spiritually destitute, malnourished, impoverished, ignorant, and unequipped to do the work which the Lord expects of His disciples. It would be of tremendous spiritual benefit to us – especially in these last days when false teaching and biblical ignorance are at a peak – to examine what happened that day and go beyond what took place in the Upper Room.

Pentecost has tremendous meaning, not only for the church; it was also an important day for the people of Israel. Pentecost was celebrated fifty days after Passover and commemorated the giving of the Law by God to Moses on Mount Sinai. It was also a significant part of the agricultural system in Israel, where the people would give thanks and gratitude to God for the completion of the harvest season.

The other name for Pentecost was the season of “First Fruits,” an appropriate time to initiate the mission of spreading the Gospel as the Lord Jesus instructed. The season of spiritual harvest would not be at one specific time of year but perpetual until the time of Christ’s promised return to make all things new. Pentecost was the fulfillment of Christ’s promises that He would be with His disciples and all who would follow Him (John 14:16, 16:5-15; Acts 1:8).

A point to consider about the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4) is how the arrival of the Holy Spirit is described as a “mighty rushing wind,” as “fire,” and then “tongues” used by God to open the ears, eyes, and hearts of the Jews in Jerusalem that day to not just hear but respond to the Gospel in their own language. The Hebrew word for “wind” has different meanings. It can mean the breath used by God to bring Adam to life (Genesis 2:7). It can also refer to the winds that blow across the earth (John 3:8). Jesus described the work of the Spirit of God to Nicodemus as a wind that goes wherever it wishes. Wind can be calm or torrential but never stationary. The arrival of the Holy Spirit like a wind on the day of Pentecost was a manifestation of God’s presence in His people.

The symbol of “tongues of fire” was known to the Jews, as it represented God’s visible activity among the nation of Israel in times of devotion and deviancy (Exodus 3:2, 13:21; 1 Kings 18:24; 2 Chronicles 7:1). The tongues of fire that fell on the 120 in the Upper Room was similar to the activity of God when King Solomon dedicated the Temple and the glory that accompanied it. The “tongues” were known languages and dialects of the time. This was a direct act of God that reversed the event initiated by Him at Babel (Genesis 11:6). There were seventeen nationalities with different dialects or languages, and they heard and understood what was being proclaimed by the followers of Jesus (Acts 2:5-15).

Diverse groups from all over the world would now be unified into one body by which Christ could function and by which the Gospel message would proceed from Judea and on into the uttermost parts of the world, just as He said.

The fact that you are reading this is the result of the great day of Pentecost and that the message of salvation be heard and understood regardless of place, time, and language. How great is our God!