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History of the Church #4

The Miracle of Pentecost


(BRIEF) CHURCH HISTORY

From the multi-volume work of Philip Schaff (latter part of the
1800s)


THE MIRACLE OF PENTECOST

The ascension of Christ to heaven was followed ten days
afterwards by the descent of the Holy Spirit upon earth and the
birth of the Christian Church. The Pentecostal event was the
necessary result of the Passover event. It could never have taken
place without the preceding resurrection and ascension. It was
the first act of the mediatorial reign of the exalted Redeemer in
heaven, and the beginning of an unbroken series of manifestations
in fulfilment or his promise to be with his people "alway, even
unto the end of the world." For his ascension was only a
withdrawal of his visible local presence, and the beginning of
his spiritual omnipresence in the church which is "his body, the
fulness of him that filleth all in all." The Easter miracle and
the Pentecostal miracle are continued and verified by the daily
moral miracles of regeneration and sanctification throughout
Christendom.

(See how Schaff was brain-washed into the "Easter" stuff which of
course he would have grown up in from a child, never questioning
the tradition, although his study of Church Hitory of the 2nd
century A.D. should have smashed him right between the eyes, as
Easter was the replacement by the Roman church for Passover -
Keith Hunt)

We have but one authentic account of that epoch-making event, in
the second chapter of Acts, but in the parting addresses of our
Lord to his disciples the promise of the Paraclete who should
lead them into the whole truth is very prominent, and the entire
history of the apostolic church is illuminated and heated by the
Pentecostal fire.

Pentecost, i.e. the fiftieth day after the Passover-Sabbath,
was a feast of joy and gladness, in the loveliest season of the
year, and attracted a very large number of visitors to Jerusalem
from foreign lands. It was one of the three great annual
festivals of the Jews in which all the males were required to
appear before the Lord. Passover was the first, and the feast of
Tabernacles the third. Pentecost lasted one day, but the foreign
Jews, after the period of the captivity, prolonged it to two
days. It was the "feast of harvest," or "of the first fruits,"
and also (according to rabbinical tradition) the anniversary
celebration of the Sinaitic legislation, which is supposed to
have taken place on the fiftieth day after the Exodus from the
land of bondage.

(Such rabbinic traditions as the law given on Pentecost, is
proved in studies on this website to be totally false and made up
by the Pharisees Jews - Keith Hunt)

This festival was admirably adapted for the opening event in
the history of the apostolic church. It pointed typically to the
first Christian harvest, and the establishment of the new
theocracy in Christ; as the sacrifice of the paschal lamb and the
exodus from Egypt foreshadowed the redemption of the world by the
crucifixion of the Lamb of God. On no other day could the
effusion of the Spirit of the exalted Redeemer produce such rich
results and become at once so widely known. We may trace to this
day not only the origin of the mother church at Jerusalem, but
also the conversion of visitors from other cities, as Damascus,
Antioch, Alexandria, and Rome, who on their return would carry
the glad tidings to their distant homes. For the strangers
enumerated by Luke as witnesses of the great event, represented
nearly all the countries in which Christianity was planted by the
labors of the apostles.

The Pentecost in the year of the Resurrection was the last Jewish
(i. e. typical) and the first Christian Pentecost. It became the
spiritual harvest feast of redemption from sin, and the birthday
of the visible kingdom of Christ on earth. It marks the beginning
of the dispensation of the Spirit, the third era in the history
of the revelation of the triune God. On this day the Holy Spirit,
who had hitherto wrought only sporadically and transiently, took
up his permanent abode in mankind as the Spirit of truth and
holiness, with the fulness of saving grace, to apply that grace
thenceforth to believers, and to reveal and glorify Christ in
their hearts, as Christ had revealed and glorified the Father.
While the apostles and disciples, about one hundred and twenty
(ten times twelve) in number, no doubt mostly Galileeans, were
assembled before the morning devotions of the festal day, and
were waiting in prayer for the fulfilment of the promise, the
exalted Saviour sent from his heavenly throne the Holy Spirit
upon them, and founded his church upon earth. The Sinaitic
legislation was accompanied by "thunder and lightning, and a
thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet
exceeding loud, and all the people that was in the camp
trembled." The church of the new covenant was ushered into
existence with startling signs which filled the spectators with
wonder and fear. It is quite natural, as Neander remarks, that
"the greatest miracle in the inner life of mankind should have
been accompanied by extraordinary outward phenomena as sensible
indications of its presence." A supernatural sound resembling
that of a rushing mighty wind, came down from heaven and filled
the whole house in which they were assembled; and tongues like
flames of fire, distributed themselves among them, alighting for
a while on each head. It is not said that these phenomena were
really wind and fire, they are only compared to these elements,
as the form which the Holy Spirit assumed at the baptism of
Christ is compared to a dove. The tongues of flame were gleaming,
but neither burning nor consuming; they appeared and disappeared
like electric sparks or meteoric flashes. But these audible and
visible signs were appropriate symbols of the purifying,
enlightening, and quickening power of the Divine Spirit, and
announced a new spiritual creation. The form of tongues referred
to the glossolalia, and the apostolic eloquence as a gift of
inspiration.

"AND THEY WERE ALL FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT."  This is the
real inward miracle, the main fact, the central idea of the
Pentecostal narrative. To the apostles it was their baptism,
confirmation, and ordination, all in one, for they received no
other. To them it was the great inspiration which enabled them
hereafter to be authoritative teachers of the gospel by
tongue and pen. Not that it superseded subsequent growth in
knowledge, or special revelations on particular points (as Peter
received at Joppa, and Paul on several occasions); but they were
endowed with such an understanding of Christ's words and plan
of salvation as they never had before. What was dark and mys-
terious became now clear and full of meaning to them. The Spirit
revealed to them the person and work of the Redeemer in the light
of his resurrection and exaltation, and took full possession of
their mind and heart. They were raised, as it were, to the mount
of transfiguration, and saw Moses and Elijah and Jesus above
them, face to face, swimming in heavenly light. They had now but
one desire to gratify, but one object to live for, namely, to be
witnesses of Christ and instruments of the salvation of their
fellow-men, that they too might become partakers of their 
"inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not
away, reserved in heaven."

But the communication of the Holy Spirit was not confined to the
Twelve. It extended to the brethren of the Lord, the mother of
Jesus, the pious women who had attended his ministry, and the
whole brotherhood of a hundred and twenty souls who were
assembled in that chamber. They were "all" filled with the
Spirit, and all spoke with tongues; and Peter saw in the event
the promised outpouring of the Spirit upon "all flesh," sons and
daughters, young men and old men, servants and handmaidens. It is
characteristic that in this spring season of the church the women
were sitting with the men, not in a separate court as in the
temple, nor divided by a partition as in the synagogue and the
decayed churches of the East to this day, but in the same room as
equal sharers in the spiritual blessings. The beginning was a
prophetic anticipation of the end, and a manifestation of the
universal priesthood and brotherhood of believers in Christ, in
whom all are one, whether Jew or Greek, bond or free, male or
female.

This new spiritual life, illuminated, controlled, and directed by
the Holy Spirit, manifested itself first in the speaking with
tongues towards God, and then in the prophetic testimony towards
the people. The former consisted of rapturous prayers and anthems
of praise, the latter of sober teaching and exhorta tion. From
the Mount of Transfiguration the disciples, like their Master,
descended to the valley below to heal the sick and to call
sinners to repentance.


The mysterious gift of tongues, or glossolalia, appears here for
the first time, but became, with other extraordinary gifts of the
Spirit, a frequent phenomenon in the apostolic churches,
especially at Corinth, and is fully described by Paul. The
distribution of the flaming tongues to each of the disciples
caused the speaking with tongues. A new experience expresses
itself always in appropriate language. The supernatural
experience of the disciples broke through the confines of
ordinary speech and burst out in ecstatic language of praise and
thanksgiving to God for the great works he did among them. It was
the Spirit himself who gave them utterance and played on their
tongues, as on new tuned harps, unearthly melodies of praise. The
glossolalia was here, as in all cases where it is mentioned, an
act of worship and adoration, not an act of teaching and
instruction, which followed afterwards in the sermon of Peter.   
It was the first Te Deum of the new-born church. It expressed
itself in unusual, poetic, dithyrambic style and with a peculiar
musical intonation. It was intelligible only to those who were in
sympathy with the speaker; while unbelievers scoffingly ascribed
it to madness or excess of wine. Nevertheless it served as a
significant sign to all and arrested their attention to the
presence of a supernatural power.

So far we may say that the Pentecostal glossolalia was the same
as that in the household of Cornelius in Ceesarea after his
conversion, which may be called a Gentile Pentecost, as that of
the twelve disciples of John the Baptist at Ephesus, where it
appears in connection with prophesying, and as that in the
Christian congregation at Corinth.

But at its first appearance the speaking with tongues differed in
its effect upon the hearers by coming home to them at once in
their own mother-tongues; while in Corinth it required an
interpretation to be understood. The foreign spectators, at least
a number of them, believed that the unlettered Galileeans spoke
intelligibly in the different dialects represented on the
occasion. We must therefore suppose either that the speakers
themselves were endowed, at least temporarily, and for the
particular purpose of proving their divine mission, with the gift
of foreign languages not learned by them before, or that the Holy
Spirit who distributed the tongues acted also as interpreter of
the tongues, and applied the utterances of the speakers to the
susceptible among the hearers.

The former is the most natural interpretation of Luke's language.
Nevertheless I suggest the other alternative as preferable, for
the following reasons: 1. The temporary endowment with a
supernatural knowledge of foreign languages involves nearly all
the difficulties of a permanent endowment, which is now generally
abandoned, as going far beyond the data of the New Testament and
known facts of the early spread of the gospel. 2. The speaking
with tongues began before the spectators arrived, that is before
there was any motive for the employment of foreign languages. 3.
The intervening agency of the Spirit harmonizes the three
accounts of Luke, and Luke and Paul, or the Pentecostal and the
Corinthian glossolalia; the only difference remaining is that in
Corinth the interpretation of tongues was made by men in audible
speech, in Jerusalem by the Holy Spirit in inward illumination
and application. 4. The Holy Spirit was certainly at work among
the hearers as well as the speakers, and brought about the
conversion of three thousand on that memorable day. If he applied
and made effective the sermon of Peter, why not also the
preceding doxologies and benedictions? 5. Peter makes no allusion
to foreign languages, nor does the prophecy of Joel which he
quotes. 6. This view best explains the opposite effect upon the
spectators. They did by no means all understand the miracle, but
the mockers, like those at Corinth, thought the disciples were
out of their right mind and talked not intelligible words in
their native dialects, but unintelligible nonsense. The speaking
in a foreign language could not have been a proof of drunkenness.
It may be objected to this view that it implies a mistake on the
part of the hearers who traced the use of their mother-tongues
directly to the speakers; but the mistake referred not to the
fact itself, but only to the mode. It was the same Spirit who
inspired the tongues of the speakers and the hearts of the
susceptible hearers, and raised both above the ordinary level of
consciousness.

Whichever view we take of this peculiar feature of the
Pentecostal glossolalia, in this diversified application to the
cosmopolitan multitude of spectators, it was a symbolical
anticipation and prophetic announcement of the universalness of
the Christian religion, which was to be proclaimed in all the
languages of the earth and to unite all nations in one kingdom of
Christ. The humility and love of the church united what the pride
and hatred of Babel had scattered. In this sense we may say that
the Pentecostal harmony of tongues was the counterpart of the
BabyIonian confusion of tongues.

The speaking with tongues was followed by the sermon o Peter; the
act of devotion, by an act of teaching; the rapturous language of
the soul in converse with God, by the sober words of ordinary
self-possession for the benefit of the people.

While the assembled multitude wondered at this miracle with
widely various emotions, St. Peter, the Rock-man, appeared in the
name of all the disciples, and addressed them with remarkable
clearness and force, probably in his own vernacular Aramaic,
which would be most familiar to the inhabitants of Jerusalem,
possibly in Greek, which would be better understood by the
foreign visitors. He humbly condescended to refute the charge of
intoxication by reminding them of the early hour of the day, when
even drunkards are sober, and explained from the prophecies of
Joel and the sixteenth Psalm of David the meaning of the
supernatural phenomenon, as the work of that Jesus of Nazareth,
whom the Jews had crucified, but who was by word and deed, by his
resurrection from the dead, his exaltation to the right hand of
God, and the effusion of the Holy Ghost, accredited as the
promised Messiah, according to the express prediction of the
Scripture. Then he called upon his hearers to repent and be
baptized in the name of Jesus, the founder and head of the
heavenly kingdom, that even they, though they had crucified him,
the Lord and the Messiah, might receive the forgiveness of sins
and the gift of the Holy Ghost, whose wonderful workings they saw
and heard in the disciples. This was the first independent
testimony of the apostles, the first Christian sermon: simple,
unadorned, but full of Scripture truth, natural, suitable,
pointed, and more effective than any other sermon has been since,
though fraught with learning and burning with eloquence. It
resulted in the conversion and baptism of three thousand persons,
gathered as first-fruits into the garners of the church.

In these first-fruits of the glorified Redeemer, and in this
founding of the new economy of Spirit and gospel, instead of the
old theocracy of letter and law, the typical meaning of the
Jewish Pentecost was gloriously fulfilled. But this birth-day of
the Christian church is in its turn only the beginning, the type
and pledge, of a still greater spiritual harvest and a universal
feast of thanksgiving, when, in the full sense of the prophecy
of Joel, the Holy Spirit shall be poured out on all flesh, when
all the sons and daughters of men shall walk in his light, and
God shall be praised with new tongues of fire for the completion
of his wonderful work of redeeming love.
..................

To be continued


Note Schaff's last sentence: yes the prophecy of Joel in its
context, is yet in the future, at the time of the end of this
age, when Jesus will return, when mighty miracles will accompany
his return. This passage of Joel I have expounded in my book "The
Biblical Prophets for Toady" which is obtainable from Amazon.com
and is also on this website free of charge - Keith Hunt     



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