The Day of Pentecost, from Genesis to Acts

This Sunday marks another important point in the church calendar: the Day of Pentecost. This day marks the end of the Easter Season and the introduction to the “Time of the Church.” What is the day of Pentecost? To begin, the word Pentecost comes from the Greek word pentekostos, which means fiftieth. But the fiftieth of what? As I mentioned in a previous blog post, Pentecost marks the fiftieth day from Easter. During this time, the Jews would have been celebrating the Feast of Weeks. Luke tells us in Acts that Jesus had been staying with them for forty days and was now about to ascend to the Father (Acts 1:1-11). But first, He gave His disciples the command to stay in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came.

And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” … But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 

Acts 1:4-5, 8

Thus, the disciples waited for another ten days, gathered together and waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promise.

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”

Acts 2:1-12

As Jesus promised, the Holy Spirit came and filled His disciples. What an amazing event! And what does it mean? To begin, the disciples received the Helper, the Holy Spirit. They were now to go! Then they began to speak in different languages, to the astonishment of those around them. And who were these people? They were from representative nations on earth celebrating this feast in Jerusalem. What an opportunity to share the Gospel! And that is exactly what Peter did (Acts 2:14-41). What a blessing the Lord had given them! But in addition to this promised gift and the sharing of the Gospel, there is another part of this story that I love to focus on. You see, such a linguistic event hadn’t happened since Babel.

Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

Genesis 11:1-9

I love both of these accounts, and I often put them together. Obviously, the Tower of Babel story is one of rebellion and division. Instead of following the Lord’s commands, Noah’s descendants rebelled in hopes of making a name for themselves. In response to their rebellion, the Lord divided them by language and dispersed them throughout the earth. But now a sort of reversal happened on Pentecost, though not completely. Where mankind had once been divided by language, now people could be united once more. And this not by language, although that dividing line was lessened here, but united in Christ. Instead of making a name for ourselves, we became part of the body of Christ, taking on His name as Christians. This was the promise God had spoken to Abraham so many centuries before (Gen. 12:1-3). This incredible promise spoken to one descendant of Noah was now revealed to all people, nations, tribes, and tongues (Rev. 7:9-12). This had been God’s promise since the Rebellion (Gen. 3:15). Furthermore, this is the message Paul spoke about later in Acts,

And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for

“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;

as even some of your own poets have said,

“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

Acts 17:26-28

But why should that message matter to you? What does Genesis really have to do with Acts? While He was on earth, Christ reminded the apostles that, though they would start in Jerusalem, they would also be witnesses to the Gentiles (Mat. 10:18, 24:14, Luk. 24:46-49). His last commands were to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything” He commanded (Mat. 28:18-20, Acts 1:1-8). Jesus was reminding His disciples that it was not just the one group of people He would save; He came to save the whole world. That is still the message for us today. Mankind was never meant to be divided by these manmade races. There are, after all, no races of people. We may look different, but we are all human. We were all created by God and made in His image. We are all descendants of Adam via Noah’s sons (Gen. 10). Thus, the Gospel is for everyone (1 Tim. 2:3-6).

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”

John 3:16-17

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

Galatians 3:27-29

In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus

Ephesians 3:4-6

I love all of these passages from Scripture. They show our dual heritage of humanity in both the flesh and the spirit. Our human heritage is in our sin passed down from our first father, Adam, and our relation to every person on earth. But our Spiritual heritage is so much greater! It is found in the God made man, Christ Jesus, who lived and died to save us from that death of sin that we might Live with Him. Today, we are often separated by manmade distinctions of race, and false ideas that separate us from Christ. God wants us to be joined together as brothers and sisters in Christ. But how do we know we are all part of one human family? How do we know that we are Adam’s children? How do we know where we come from? Do Pentecost, Babel, and Creation really have anything in common?

The answer is yes, and that is what my book, Names, Nations, and the New Testamentis about. And because of this church holiday, and because I love this story so much, I’m offering my book at a discount for a limited time this week. Knowing these Scriptural accounts is more than just trivia, and what happened on Pentecost should be celebrated on more than one day. These accounts are your spiritual and historical heritage. They show how you, made in the image of God, were saved by God along with all people, your brothers and sisters in flesh and spirit. If you ever wondered what my subheader meant, this is it. My book, however, goes more in-depth on the relationships between the nations, connecting them to the spiritual family in Christ found in the book of acts. I hope you’ll pick it up to learn more about this journey of humanity from Genesis to Acts.

Blessings to you and yours,

~Madelyn Rose Craig

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