What Happened At Pentecost?

by Pastor Jack Hyles

(Chapter 25 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, Meet The Holy Spirit)

Dwight L. Moody put it best when he said, "Pentecost was a specimen day." God was saying to the New Testament church, "Look, this is what you can have now." However, Pentecost has been so misunderstood, so exaggerated and so complicated that many dangerous doctrines have arisen. Let us see what the Bible says about Pentecost.

1. Pentecost was not the founding of the church. Note Matthew 16:28, "And I say also unto thee, That thou are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it." The key word in this verse is "build." It is the Greek word that is used for building a house. To be sure, there must be a time when he house is BEGUN to be built, but it is not a house until the plans are completely made into reality. The word "build" is in the linear tense in the Greek, and our Lord is simply saying, "Upon this rock I will be building My church." The church spoken about here is not a church yet; it is a church that is BEING BUILT. Because of this, there is not such thing now as a universal church, and there is not such teaching that the body of Christ is now a church. The word "church" comes from the Greek word which means "a called-out assembly." Now since the body of Christ has not yet been called out and assembled, it is not yet a church. Note Hebrews 12:23, "To the general assembly, and church of the firstborn, which are written in Heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect." The church of the firstborn will become exactly that when she is a called- out assembly. She becomes a called-out assembly at the rapture when all of the saved, both dead and alive, are called up in the air to assembly with Jesus. Then and then only do all believers become a church!

Much stress should be placed upon this because so many people bypass the local body of believers, this is the church of this age, or perhaps it should be said, which are the churches of this age.

The truth if that there is not one mention in the Bible of the church being founded at Pentecost. That local organization known as the New Testament church was founded sometime during the life of Jesus. Matthew 18:15-17, "Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go an tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But it he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican." Here Jesus says, "Tell it to the church." He does not say, "Tell it to the future church"; He says, "Tell it to the church." Hence, we know the church was in existence at the time of the writing of this chapter. Added light is given to this in Acts 2:41, 47, "Then they that gladly received His Word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church such as should be saved." Note the words, "added to the church." It is impossible to add to something that is not in existence. The church was already in existence at Pentecost and people were added to it at that time. People often make light of the New Testament churches by saying they belong to the "big church" or the "church of the blood-washed," etc. These terms may be spiritual ones, but the truth is, nobody belongs to a church unless he has associated himself with a group of born-again believers such as our Lord started sometime during His earthly ministry.

The question comes, "When did He start the church?" The Bible does not say, but is possible that in Matthew 10 when He called His disciples and assembled them, He was starting the church at that time. It is unwise to be dogmatic about this, but is not unwise to be dogmatic in emphasizing that the church was not started at Pentecost. It is important that this is seen because it takes away the attention from the real meaning of Pentecost- the fact that the church prayed and witnessed, 3,000 people were saved, and God gave us, as Moody said, "a specimen day."

2. Pentecost is not the coming of the fulness of the Holy Spirit. There are those who teach that the fulness of the Holy Spirit came for the first time at Pentecost. It is important that this error be refuted in order that we may strip away another of the distractions from what really happened at Pentecost. It is without question that the fulness of the Holy Spirit was known by many before the day of Pentecost.

John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb. Luke 1:15, "For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb."

Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit. Luke 1:67, "And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying."

Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit. Luke 4:1, "And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit in to the wilderness."

Bezaleel was filled with the Holy Spirit. Exodus 35:30, 31, "And Moses said unto the children of Israel, See, the Lord hath called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and He hath filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship."

Hence, it is not difficult to see hat Pentecost was not the day when Christians were first filled with the Holy Spirit.

There is no doubt that others in the Old Testament were filled with the Holy Spirit and that this fulness was simply described with other terms. In Judges 6:34 we read that the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon. In Judges 14:6 we read that the Spirit of the Lord came upon Samson. In I Samuel 11:6 we read that the Spirit of the Lord came upon Saul. In I Samuel 16:13 we read that the Spirit of the Lord came upon David. All of these occasions were before Pentecost, so let us strip away another of the detractors of what really happened on Pentecost-that great specimen day when the church prayed and witnessed and 3,000 were saved.

3. Pentecost was not the beginning of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. There was a time when the Holy Spirit did not indwell all believers. This coming of the Spirit to indwell God's people is taught by many to have happened at Pentecost. Yes, the Holy Spirit was promised by Jesus. John 14:16, 17, "And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth; Whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him,; but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you." He is said to indwell believers. Romans 8:9, "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His." I Corinthians 6:19, 20, "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of he Holy Ghost Which is in you, Which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." This coming of the Holy Spirit to indwell believers did not, however, happen at Pentecost. John 7:37-39, "In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake He of the Spirit, Which they that believe on Him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because Jesus was not yet glorified.)" Notice, the Holy Spirit "was not yet given; BECAUSE THAT JESUS WAS NOT YET GLORIFIED." In other words, the thing that was necessary before the Holy Spirit could be given for indwelling was that Jesus must be glorified. Hence, it was at the resurrection of Jesus that the Holy Spirit came to indwell believers, not at Pentecost!

Now examine John 20:19-22, "Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when He had so said, He shewed unto them His hands and His side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. Then said Jesus to them again, peace be unto you: as My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you. And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost." Notice that Jesus came to the upper room in His glorified body and said to His disciples, "Receive ye the Holy Spirit," so the coming of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit was not at Pentecost, but rather, when our Lord's body was glorified. This may seem to the reader to be a trivial thing. It is, however, made important by the fact that it removes another of those things that would divert our attention from the great truth of Pentecost, when the church prayed and witnessed and 3,000 people were saved, giving a specimen day for the New Testament.

4. Pentecost was not the beginning of a new dispensation. We will not enter into a dealing with the controversy over dispensationalism. This author believes, however, that it is a dangerous thing to speak of a dispensation of law and a dispensation of grace. This could lead some weak ones to believe that there was a time when men were under the law and now men are under grace. From the time that Adam and Eve offered a sacrifice which pointed to God's sacrifice of His Son that would someday come on Calvary, men have been SAVED BY GRACE.

The purpose of the law the day that it was given is STILL the purpose of he law today. The law is holy and good. Romans 7:12, "Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good." The law was given in order that we may know sin. Romans 7:7, "What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet." The law was given as a plumb line to reveal our true crookedness and as a mirror to reveal oar true condition and inability to satisfy the righteousness of God. The law was given so that sin might appear to be sin. Romans 7:13, "Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good: that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful." Then we could say that though we are to attempt to keep the commandments of God, it is impossible to do so. Hence, the law was given to be broken rather than to be kept, not that God wanted us to break it, but that God knew that we were helpless to fulfill it. God, knowing that man likes to establish his own righteousness, gave us the law to reveal to us our unrighteousness and to cause us to realize that we cannot save ourselves and that in order to be saved we must come to Him Who fulfilled the law for us, even the Lord Jesus. This was the purpose of the law the day it was given, and it will be the purpose of the law until Jesus comes again.

Salvation was by grace when Adam trusted the coming Messiah by shedding the blood of an innocent substitute. Salvation will be by grace until Jesus comes again. No one was ever saved by the keeping of the law. No one has ever kept the law. So then the law was given to show us that we could not met the righteousness of God in ourselves, causing us to turn to Jesus Who met that righteousness for us. Romans 10: 2, 3, "For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God."

It is also a dangerous thing to talk about the seven Gospels. Though the theologian may understand what it means, the weak Christian may be deceived into thinking that there have been seven ways to be saved in the history of man. There has been only one Gospel, and there will never be another; that is, the good news that man, though he is a sinner, may be justified in the sight of God by faith in the finished work of Calvary, where our sin debt was paid by Jesus.

As mentioned before, this is not an effort to argue the merits or demerits of dispensationalism. It is an emphatic statement that whatever dispensations there may or may not be in the Bible, no dispensation started at Pentecost! No Christian could sit down with JUST his Bible and come to that conclusion. Let us be reminded again that the issue here is not to become sidetracked on these doctrines but rather to remove those things which cloud the real meaning of Pentecost- the church prayed and witnessed and 3,000 souls were saved, giving us a specimen day for the church for this age.

5. Pentecost was a sample day fulfilling the prophesy of Joel 2:28, 29, "And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out My Spirit." This prophesy told of the age after the resurrection of our Lord when the message of Christ would be carried to all the world and that the amazing power of the Holy Spirit would be available, not just for a Zacharias here and a John the Baptist there, but for all flesh. In other words, now all can be soul winners, all can do the work of Christ, and all are supposed to do so! John 14:12, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto My Father." The mighty power of God became available to all. Pentecost was just the first time that this happened after the resurrection of Christ.

To conclude this discussion, it should be emphasized that the author's desire is not to divide the believers concerning starting of the church, the time of he indwelling of the Spirit, etc. If differences along those lines persist, it will not destroy the spirit of the author. The intention of this discussion is to emphasize that whatever else Pentecost may or may not have been, it was, to say the least, a time of 3,000 people being saved and a time when God was saying the New Testament churches, "Look at Jerusalem on Pentecost and you will see what is available for you during this entire age."


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