2) Acts 2:1–3: This chapter inaugurates what Jesus promised the apostles after his resurrection (Luke 24:45–49; Acts 1:4–11; Luke 24:50–53).[1]

Indeed, Christ continued to orchestrate events on earth even after his ascension into heaven (Acts 2:22–36).[2]

Luke’s account begins by reporting on the activity of the disciples, stating, “And when the day of Pentecost had arrived, all of them were together in one place.”

The word translated as “had arrived” (symplēroō) also means “was fulfilled.”[3] By employing this verb, Luke hinted at the importance of what occurred on that day (Cf. Luke 9:51).[4]

At last the true purpose of the Feast of Pentecost came to fruition: the reaping of the first fruits of the new age in salvation history (Acts 2:41–47; Rom 8:23).[5]

From this time forward, the Holy Spirit marked God’s people with his intimate presence (John 14:16–27; Rom 8:9–11).[6]

Pentecost (pentēcostē) means “fiftieth.”[7]

On the fiftieth day after the early harvest festival—which had coincided with Passover—Israelites presented the first fruits of the barley harvest to the Lord (Lev 23:15–21).[8]

The Old Testament (OT) calls this celebration “the feast of weeks” or “the day of the first fruits” (Exod 23:14–17; Exod 34:22; Deut 16:1, 9–12).[9]

Just as Passover foreshadowed the redemption to come by Christ’s death and resurrection, so the Feast of Weeks preceded the first fruits of the salvation we enjoy (Rom 8:16–17; 2 Cor 1:21–22).[10]

By the time of Christ, many Jewish people associated this festival with a commemoration of Moses receiving the law at Mount Sinai. This was due to the close dates on their calendar (Exod 12:17–18; Exod 19:1).[11]

Thus, the timing of this event implies that life in the Spirit supersedes living according to the Mosaic law (Rom 7:4–6; Rom 8:1–4; Gal 5:18).[12]

The Essenes of Qumran performed the rites of a Feast of the Renewal of the Covenant on the same day as Pentecost (1 QS 1:16–2:25).[13]

On that Pentecost, Jesus began a new covenant for the last days (Acts 2:14–21).[14]

Many Israelites viewed the age to come this way:[15]

[The hea]vens and the earth will listen to his Messiah, and none therein will stray from the commandments of the holy ones. Seekers of the Lord, strengthen yourselves in His service! All you hopeful in (your) heart, will you not find the Lord in this?

For the Lord will consider the pious and call the righteous by name. Over the poor his spirit will hover and will renew the faithful with his power.

And he will glorify the pious on the throne of the eternal Kingdom, he who liberates the captives, restores sight to the blind, straightens the b[ent] (Ps 146:7–8).[16]

Likewise, when the apostles asked Jesus about restoring the kingdom to Israel, he had responded by saying, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you” (Acts 1:6–8).[17] Christ linked the arrival of the kingdom of God with the coming of the Spirit.

As Jesus instructed them before his ascension, his followers—both male and female—were meeting together regularly in Jerusalem.[18] Most likely, this occurred in the upper room where they had celebrated the Last Supper (Luke 22:7–22; Acts 1:12–15).[19]

Luke wrote, “And it happened suddenly: from heaven a noise like a rushing, violent wind. And it filled the whole house where they were sitting, and there appeared to them divided tongues, just like fire. And it settled on every one of them.”

Visual and auditory signs accompanied this supernatural event.[20]

Typically, the same Greek word (pneuma) denotes wind, breath, spirit, and the Spirit.[21]

The relatively rare word Luke used here (pnoē) refers strictly to wind or breath. However, it can have the nuance of the “breath of life,” as in the Greek translation of Gen 2:7 and in Acts 17:25.[22]

Even so, this rushing wind arrived with, and symbolized, the Holy Spirit.[23]

The noise was “like” (hōsper) a rushing, violent wind, not an actual gale.[24] Jesus used a similar analogy in his conversation with Nicodemus (John 3:1–8).

When the Spirit came, he arrived with power.[25] Sound filled a dwelling large enough to seat 120 people.[26]

In the OT, the Lord usually arrived with a wind (2 Sam 22:7–11; Ps 104:1–4; Ezek 1:4).[27] The phrase commonly translated “cool of the day” (leruakh hayom) in Gen 3:8 also means “wind of the storm.”[28]

Concerning Babel (Gen 11:1–9), Josephus (37–100 AD) reported:

The Sibyl also makes mention of this tower, and of the confusion of the language, when she says thus, “When all men were of one language, some of them built a high tower, as if they would thereby ascend up to heaven, but the gods sent storms of wind and overthrew the tower.”[29]

During Israel’s exile, Ezekiel received a vision foretelling God’s restoration of his people.[30] When Ezekiel prophesied to the wind, it entered the dry bones covered with flesh, reviving them with new life from the Spirit (Ezek 37:1–14).[31]

Similar to Luke’s description of the wind, he called the divided tongues (diamerizō glōssa) “like” fire.[32] The imagery connotes flickering flames.[33]

God’s presence often resembled fire (Exod 3:1–4; Exod 40:33–38; Dan 7:9–10). When the Lord delivered the law to Moses, the entire mountaintop blazed (Exod 19:16–19; Exod 24:17–18).[34]

Such fire could portend judgment (Lev 10:1–2; Num 16:1–2, 35; Isa 66:15–16; 1 Cor 3:10–15). Yet, flames also effected purification (Num 31:21–23).[35]

The Jewish philosopher Philo (20 BC–40 AD) wrote this regarding Moses’s reception of the law:

And a voice sounded forth from out of the midst of the fire which had flowed from heaven, a most marvelous and awful voice, the flame being endowed with articulate speech in a language familiar to the hearers, which expressed its words with such clearness and distinctness that the people seemed rather to be seeing than hearing it.

And the law testifies to the accuracy of my statement, where it is written, “And all the people beheld the voice most evidently” [Exod 20:18]. For the truth is that the voice of men is calculated to be heard; but that of God to be really and truly seen.

Why is this? Because all that God says are not words, but actions which the eyes determine on before the ears.

It is, therefore, with great beauty, and also with a proper sense of what is consistent with the dignity of God, that the voice is said to have come forth out of the fire; for the oracles of God are accurately understood and tested like gold by the fire.

And God also intimates to us something of this kind by a figure. Since the property of fire is partly to give light, and partly to burn, those who think fit to show themselves obedient to the sacred commands shall live for ever and ever as in a light which is never darkened, having his laws themselves as stars giving light in their soul.

But all those who are stubborn and disobedient are forever inflamed, and burnt, and consumed by their internal appetites, which, like flame, will destroy all the life of those who possess them.[36]

Israel’s prophets proclaimed that their messiah would come with fire. He would purge all unrighteousness and purify his people (Isa 4:2–6; Isa 9:1–7; Mal 3:1–6).[37] John the Baptist identified Jesus as the one they sought (Matt 3:11–14).[38]

Luke engaged in word play by calling the flames “tongues of fire.” Their appearance coincided with the disciples’ ability to communicate in languages unknown to them.[39]

Likewise, when the Holy Spirit descended upon Israel’s camp, seventy elders began prophesying (Num 11:23–29). Later in this chapter, Peter cited the fulfillment of Joel’s prediction as evidence of the arrival of the last days (Joel 2:26–32; Acts 2:17–18).[40]

This visual manifestation of the Spirit rested upon each one of the believers in that area.[41] All God’s people, ranging from the eleven apostles to the lowest slave, received the presence of the Spirit.[42]

Unlike the arrival of God at Sinai, neither fear nor trembling ensued (Exod 20:18–21). Instead, the recipients declared the mighty deeds of God (Acts 2:5–11).[43]

By his Spirit, God transformed Peter from a man who denied knowing Jesus to an orator who spoke powerfully in Christ’s name (Luke 22:54–62; Acts 2:22–36).[44]

Image via Wikimedia Commons


a) Read Acts 2:1–3. Why did all the believers gather together in Jerusalem? What made the feast of Pentecost the appropriate time for the Holy Spirit to arrive? How did this event fulfill OT expectations? What change did the arrival of the Spirit make in the disciples? How does the presence of the Spirit affect your life?






Go to Speaking Other Tongues

[Related posts include Speaking Other Tongues (Acts 2:4); A Bewildered Crowd (Acts 2:5–8); Babel Reversed (Acts 2:9–11); Hiding from God (Gen 3:8); Seventy Nations (Gen 10:32); A Plain in Shinar (Gen 11:1–2); Let Us Bake Bricks (Gen 11:3); A Stairway to Heaven (Gen 11:4); A Deity Descends (Gen 11:5–7); Dispersed over the Face of the Earth (Gen 11:8–9); Set Free from Sin’s Dominion (Rom 8:1–14); Co-Heirs with Christ (Rom 8:16–18); Ancient Literature; and Greek Translation of the Old Testament]

[Click here to go to Chapter 12: Scattered to the Ends of the Earth (Gen 11:1–9)]


[1]Hays, From Every People and Nation: A Biblical Theology of Race, 164.

[2]Alan J. Thompson, The Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus: Luke’s Account of God’s Unfolding Plan (ed. D. A. Carson; NSBT; Nottingham; Downers Grove, IL: Apollos; InterVarsity Press, 2011), 50.

[3]Arndt, Danker, and Bauer, “συμπληροω” (symplēroō), BDAG, 959.

[4]William J. Larkin Jr, Acts (IVPNTCS; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995), Acts 2:1, electronic ed.

[5]Ben Witherington III, The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 131, note 7.

[6]Ajith Fernando, Acts (NIVAC; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998), 90.

[7]Arndt, Danker, and Bauer, “πεντηκοστη” (pentēkostē), BDAG, 795.

[8]Witherington, The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 130–1.

[9]F. F. Bruce, The Book of the Acts (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 49–50.

[10]Larkin, Acts, Ac 2:1.

[11]Eckhard J. Schnabel, Acts: Expanded Digital Edition (ZECNT; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), Acts 2:1.

[12]Witherington, The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 131.

[13]Vermes, The Dead Sea Scrolls in English, 54, https://archive.org/stream/pdfy-Uy_BZ_QGsaLiJ4Zs/The%20Dead%20Sea%20Scrolls%20%5BComplete%20English%20Translation%5D#page/n109.

[14]Schnabel, Acts, Acts 2:1.

[15]Keener, IVPBBCNT, Acts 2:1–4.

[16]Vermes, The Dead Sea Scrolls in English, 4Q521, Frag. 2, 244–5, https://archive.org/stream/pdfy-Uy_BZ_QGsaLiJ4Zs/The%20Dead%20Sea%20Scrolls%20%5BComplete%20English%20Translation%5D#page/n469.

[17]Keener, IVPBBCNT, Acts 2:1–4.

[18]Schnabel, Acts, Acts 2:1. The verb “were meeting” occurs in the imperfect tense, which refers to a continuous or repetitive action in the past.

[19]Larkin, Acts, Acts 2:1.

[20]Larkin, Acts, Acts 2:1.

[21]Arndt, Danker, and Bauer, “πνεῦμα” (pneuma), BDAG, 832–6, 832.

[22]Eduard Schweizer, “πνοη” (pnoē), TDNT, 6:453.

[23]Bruce, The Book of the Acts, 50.

[24]Witherington, The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 132.

[25]Bruce, The Book of the Acts, 50.

[26]Schnabel, Acts, Acts 2:2.

[27]Larkin, Acts, Acts 2:1.

[28] Walton, Genesis, 224.

[29]Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews, 1.118, http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0146%3Abook%3D1%3Awhiston%20chapter%3D4. Italics mine.

[30]Keener, IVPBBCNT, Acts 2:2.

[31]Bruce, The Book of the Acts, 50.

[32]Witherington, The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 132.

[33]Arndt, Danker, and Bauer, “διαμεριζω” (diamerizō), BDAG, 233–4, 233.

[34]Keener, IVPBBCNT, Acts 2:3.

[35]Keener, IVPBBCNT, Acts 2:3.

[36]Philo, On the Decalogue, in The Works of Philo, 3:11.46–9, 146–7, https://archive.org/stream/theworksofphiloj03yonguoft#page/146. Italics mine.

[37]Schnabel, Acts, Acts 2:3.

[38]I. Howard Marshall, “Acts,” in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (ed. G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson; Grand Rapids; Nottingham: Baker Academic; Apollos, 2007), 531.

[39]Schnabel, Acts, Acts 2:3.

[40]Marshall, “Acts,” Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, 531.

[41]Schnabel, Acts, Acts 2:3.

[42]Witherington, The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 132.

[43]Schnabel, Acts, Acts 2:3.

[43]Fernando, Acts, 90.