In our studies of the Feasts of Israel, we have worked our way through Passover, (034) Unleavened Bread, (040) and Firstfruits (044) to Pentecost. (046) In that study we noted that Pentecost is associated with the giving of the Law at Sinai and the birth of the Church in Jerusalem.
Interestingly both events had sights and sounds associated with them. Today we want to pursue the significance of those sights and sounds. God is a great communicator Who uses audio and visual means to get His message across. At Sinai the people were intimidated by the lightning (sight) and the thunder (sound) so that they were afraid to get close to God. At Pentecost in Jerusalem about 1500 years later, the people were attracted to the apostles' preaching by a sound as of a mighty rushing wind (sound) and the appearance of tongues of fire which rested upon the disciples (sight). Instead of being afraid, many of them asked how they might have a right relationship with God. So, though the sounds were very similar, and the sights were much the same, the response of the people was very different.
What made the difference?
The gradually increasing understanding of the Feasts of Israel. Pentecost was being understood as the Feast which commemorated the revelation of God to people. So, when the day of Pentecost was come, the people were longing for and looking for a manifestation of God. Each year they longed and looked.
In A.D. 33, the year of the death of Christ, God revealed Himself on the Day of Pentecost by the audio-visual of the sound of a wind and the sight of fire.
What did this mean?
The answer is found in a comparative study of the Bible in respect to the sound and the sight. The original language of Acts 2 records that the sound was like a mighty breath from heaven (translated a mighty rushing wind). In the imagery of the Bible, though, the issue of a breath from heaven is first introduced in Genesis 1 where God breathed from heaven into the nostrils of the man He had created. Thus, the mighty breath was a signal of heavenly life being imparted to man.
The accompanying sight was cloven (split) tongues of fire. The issue of the division of tongues is first introduced in the Bible in Genesis 11 where God split the language of the people into many different languages so that they could not understand each other and had to stop work on the idolatrous Tower of Babel. Interestingly, at Pentecost the cloven tongues of fire indicated that the separation of peoples by language was overcome by the fact that the apostles could speak the Gospel in the languages of all who heard them that day. However, the tongues were of fire. Fire in the Bible symbolizes judgment. This indicates that God was threatening judgment at the same time He was offering life.
The sound was a sound of life. The sight was a visual picture of judgment. This is the essence of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: an offer of life against the background of judgment. Heaven is available, but Hell awaits those who refuse it.