Ps 110; Acts 2:1-41
My final talk in this series “The End of Revival” is about God’s ultimate purpose in sending revival. Teachers on revival are correct to link post-biblical moves of God in the Church to Pentecost as a paradigm for revival. In seventeenth-century New England Cotton Mather was a John the Baptist like figure praying for a “new Pentecost”, his prayers were answered a few years after his death with the First Great Awakening (Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield etc).
Back in Europe, Moravians united in prayer under Count Zinzendorf received a visitation of the Holy Spirit on the 13th August 1727 so that “their hearts were set on fire with a new faith and love towards the Saviour, and likewise with burning love for one another”, they referred to this as their “Pentecost” and it launched a 24/7 prayer meeting that continued for more than 100 years and the first great expansion of Protestant missions.
The pivotal nineteenth-century Second Great Awakening revivalist Charles Finney said, “The antecedents, accompaniments and results of revival are always substantially the same as in the case of Pentecost.” Much nearer us, the Indigenous leader of the Elcho Island revival in the NT that broke out in 1979 wryly comments, “People come and say,” Oh, that’s charismatic.”
What is this “charismatic”?
To us, it was a Pentecost with praying, singing, healing, evangelism. It was to strengthen the church.” (Rev Djiniyini Gondarra).
The Church’s awareness of God’s immediate overpowering presence, striking physical phenomena (v.2ff.), deep conviction of sin (v.37), multitudes being converted (v.41) and widespread awe (v.43) are present in revivals because they are present at Pentecost.
Teachings on revival are often historical and descriptive and fail to open up the broad theological horizon behind Acts 2 which alone can reveal to us the “end” of revival.
Along with the incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, the sending of the Spirit at Pentecost is a new stage in the history of salvation because it is an event in the life of the Trinity.
Revivals have profound significance because they share in an unusually intense way in the purposes of Pentecost to renew humanity and define the identity of the new covenant people of God.
Pentecost the Proto Revival
The events of Pentecost transcend ordinary time and space, vs.1 “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place.vs.2And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. vs.3And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.vs.4And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance…. (Act 2:1-4 ESV)
Whilst fire, wind and words from heaven signified the arrival of God at Mt Sinai to give the Old Testament law, at Pentecost the Spirit is outpoured through grace and the fire and wind empower the disciples to speak the saving word of God in all the languages “under heaven”.
The amazed crowds puzzled inquiry, “ “What does this mean?” (Acts 2:12 ESV), is answered by Peter with a testimony to events beyond the visible and audible level of the earth. vs.32 “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. vs.33 Being, therefore, exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.” (Acts 2:32-33 ESV).
The Father was so infinitely delighted with the obedient humanity of Jesus (cf. Phil 2:5-11 ESV) that he gave him all of his Spirit to rule over the universe (Heb 1:8-9 ESV).
The spectacular divine revelation at Sinai communicated fiery judgement (Heb 12:21, 25-26 ESV) but the wind and fire from heaven at Pentecost communicate the power to eternally renewing the whole creation has come in the exaltation of Christ.
Those who heard and saw signs of the divine presence at Sinai kept their distance from God in fear, but the Spirit sent by the glorified Jesus at Pentecost communicated to the disciples what he was seeing and hearing before the face of his heavenly Father.
They can now speak and act in unison with him (cf. John 5:19 ESV). “All flesh” i.e. all types of people, young, old, male, female had all become prophets (Acts 2:17-18 ESV).
“Pentecost has changed all things” (Bingham) because it witnesses to the transformation of human existence in the exalted life of Christ communicated to his Church.
Raised to heaven at God’s right hand Christ gives the Spirit to his Church as the Father once gave him the Spirit on earth.
As a glorified human, Jesus pours out the Father’s promised Spirit of God upon the Church so that we may in his power enable others to see and hear God for themselves.
[Pentecost reveals that in Christ humanity has been taken “into God”.]
Revelation’s dynamic symbolism testifies that Jesus “has the seven spirits of God (the Spirit in fullness Rev 1:4 ESV; Rev 4:5 ESV) and the seven stars (the Church Rev 1:16 ESV)” (Rev 3:1 ESV).
Incredibly this means that the Church and the Spirit are in the closest possible relationship so that the natural state of the people of God is to be filled with the Spirit. (This insight has been troubling me greatly.)
Being Spirit filled the Church becomes a visible witness to the infinite joy and delight of the Father in the excellencies of Christ (1 Pet 2:9 ESV); this witness is by its essential nature communicated to the world in converting power.
The references to hearing and seeing at Pentecost have another layer of interpretation, Peter’s preaching about the outpouring of the Spirit on “all flesh” is contained in an apocalyptic context.
vs.19 “And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke;vs.20the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the day of the Lord comes, the great and glorious day.vs.21And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’” (Acts 2:19-21 ESV).
Whereas this is language is used in the Old Testament to broadcast the end of an old empire and the triumph of a victorious earthly kingdom, [In line with Jesus end-times passages in the Gospels] at Pentecost these apocalyptic symbols declare that “the kingdom of the world” is becoming “the kingdom of God and his Christ” for from this day Jesus is triumphantly putting all his enemies under his feet (Ps 110:1 ESV).
From this time on his Spirit anointed people are offering themselves willingly on the day of his power and his kingdom is being spiritually established in the world.
Pentecost is a pivotal answer to the prayer, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt 6:10 ESV).
Apocalyptic meaning did not end with Bible times. 9/11 was a message to global capitalism that security cannot be established by money and military power.
The burning of Notre Dame Cathedral was a sign that even the most beautiful constructions of sinful mortals must perish (2 Pet 3:7 ESV).
One of my favourite stories is about the life Christiaan Beker who became a theologian especially interested in apocalyptic themes in the apostle Paul.
A Dutchman, Beker was a Nazi slave in Berlin towards the end of WW II. Falling sick with typhus, a Polish youth beaten to a pulp for picking up a cigarette butt in a work camp was placed in the hospital bed next to him, the young man died 3 days later and Beker began to consider whether his time was near.
It was then that he determined to become a theologian but around the same time, he became convinced he would not live. He made his way to the window to see how he would die. The night sky over Berlin was ablaze with searchlights and anti-aircraft fire. The city itself was a conflagration, bombs exploding and buildings consumed in flames. That day he confessed that “Only God is real.” i.e. permanent
Church for Glory
In the period between the first and second comings of Jesus, God is enacting a merciful plan. Instead of confronting humanity with a vision too dazzling to directly behold and live, God has called the Church to be like a prism refracting his glory into a diversity of spiritual gifts (1 Cor 12:7 ESV) and multi-coloured wisdom (Eph 3:10 ESV).
All the power, majesty and glory of God is gathered up in the Church (Eph 3:20 ESV) and dispersed in a way that can be seen, heard and received unto salvation.
The church is a revelation of Jesus Christ birthed at Pentecost, and revivals are mercifully sent to manifest the invisible Christ’s glory with special clarity.
Revival is about the “power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing!” of the Lamb (Rev 5:12 ESV) radiating through the Church into the world so that it may be saved (John 3:17 ESV).
To petition God for the manifest coming of his kingdom is a petition that reaches far beyond church meetings.
Every genuine revival has penetrated the cultural realms of social justice, law, politics, education, health, art, music etc.
I have been sensing recently how the exalted Lord wants to continue amongst us the tangible dynamic he began at Pentecost, then the hearers were “cut to the heart”, later “the Lord opened Lydia’s heart” and when hands were laid on people they “received” the Spirit with power.
Such palpable realities have continued down the centuries, Calvin was “inflamed” by a desire for true godliness, John Wesley’s heart was “strangely warned”, German Pietists spoke of their hearts being on fire for God (Luke 24:32 ESV), and multitudes have been overcome by supernatural peace or joy.
The point/“end” of such phenomena is not our personal experience but to reveal the identity of Jesus as the crucified, resurrected and glorified Lamb of God (Rev 5:6 ESV etc.)
I had an insight into the ongoing presence of Pentecost power at a prayer meeting in the city last Tuesday. Chris, the silver-haired older visibly disabled Indigenous brother who sometimes attends here, is a well-known street preacher around Perth, told us the following story. Thursday of Easter week he had a sense that God wanted him to preach in public, but he had no idea how that could happen.
Then he was in the Galleria shopping centre and the fire alarm went off, a crowd moved outside and he told them openly about Jesus’ love in his death and resurrection. This is what I sensed when I laid my hands on him about this event.
As Pentecost was in God’s plan a “fullness of time” event when we are led by the Spirit we can enter that same fullness of time again and again – this is the space where the fullness of the Spirit connects with the fullness of Christ in the overwhelming manifest favour of the Father.
This is the place of God’s rest in Christ where strivings cease (Heb 4:10 ESV) and in this space manifestation of God’s wisdom, power, healing, conversions etc. take place. When such things come together on a mass scale “revival” happens.
Why Revivals Fail
If the “end” of revival in terms of God’s great goal is a renewed humanity sharing in the glorious love of the Trinity, then the “end” of revival in terms of its premature death must also be explained likewise.
Much of what happens in revival movements confuses the energies of the finite human spirit with the infinite resources made available to the Church in the “life-giving S/spirit” of Christ (1 Cor 15:45 ESV).
When the gratification of our spirits is made the goal of ministry, when things at our level are substituted for the fulness of the Spirit as he proceeds from the Father and the Son, then “devival”, a decline in the power of godliness (2 Tim 3:5 ESV), always follows.
This is the crisis we face across the churches today with their activism, pragmatism, relevance, rationalism, worship of worship or political correctness.
When the Lord has a set apart people who in their deepest hearts are satisfied with nothing less than a manifestation of what happened when the Spirit was sent from the Father through Jesus to bring him and him alone glory in the Church for the salvation of the world, then we will have “another Pentecost”.
Our thinking about revival has been far too small.
When people “received” the Spirit in Acts, the rest of the New Testament and in subsequent revivals they were sharing in Jesus heavenly reception of the Spirit according to the promise of the Father (Acts 2:33 ESV).
They were sharing in the Trinitarian dynamic of God’s own life! Prophetically, looking through the lens of the Father’s pleasure in Jesus made manifest at Pentecost, this is how we should interpret the Lord’s promise, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”” (Luke 11:13 ESV).
At Pentecost Jesus received all the gifts and fruit of the Spirit in the overwhelming favour of his favour and poured them out on the Church for the salvation of the world to the glory of God.
As an action of the exalted Christ Pentecost put in motion the restoration of human life of such magnitude that the Bible describes it as a “new creation” and a “sharing in the divine nature” (2 Pet 1:4).
The Spirit glorifies Christ by revealing him through a revived people, the Church, to be an immortalised “life-giving spirit” (1 Cor 15:45 ESV) in whose triumphant humanity we can all share.
The energies of the crucified and risen Lamb (Rev 5:6 ESV) released at Pentecost are undiminished until he comes again.
Once full of the Spirit always full is true for the once crucified Jesus but not for the Church (Eph 5:18-19 ESV); we need to be filled again and again.
Since in Christ “the seven spirits of God” (the Spirit in fullness Rev 1:4 ESV; Rev 4:5 ESV) and “the seven stars” (the Church Rev 1:16 ESV) are in the closest possible proximity (Rev 3:1 ESV) let us come to him and drink of the water of life, let us drink in deeply Jesus’ own life in the Spirit.
The lost need to “see and hear” (Acts 2:1-4, 11, 32-33 ESV) the mighty works of God in our own day as they did first at Pentecost.
MESSAGE DELIVERED: 28th April, 2019 Location: Alive@5
Author: Dr. John Yates
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