The Final Harvest
In the book of Acts, the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost stresses the theme of fulfillment. On that day, what was foreshadowed in the ancient feast began to receive its substance. The bestowal of the Spirit was an epochal event that marked the start of the messianic age, and the gift fulfilled what the Levitical feast symbolized.
|[Photo by Paz Arando on Unsplash]|
The receipt of the Spirit by the disciples assembled in Jerusalem is the seminal event that inaugurates the Church and sets the stage for the spread of the new faith. With the arrival of the Spirit, the great harvest of the “last days” has commenced.
Unfortunately, the full force of Luke’s language is often obscured in English translations of the original Greek in the passage.
- (Acts 2:1-4) - “And when the day of Pentecost was being filled full, they were all assembled with one intent when there came suddenly out of heaven a sound, like of a mighty rushing wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues like as of fire parting asunder, and it sat on each of them; And they were all filled with Holy Spirit and began to be speaking with other tongues as the Spirit was giving them utterance.
WAIT FOR THE SPIRIT
Prior to his ascent, Jesus commanded the disciples to “tarry in Jerusalem” until they received the “promise of the Father.” The Spirit’s empowerment is vital for making his followers into effective witnesses for God’s kingdom - (Luke 24:44-49, Acts 1:7-9).
The proclamation of the gospel began in Jerusalem, the heart of the Jewish nation, but it did not end there. At the conclusion of Acts, Paul is found preaching in Rome, the center of the World Empire, and to both Jews and Gentiles. What occurred on Pentecost was the beginning of the church’s mission, not its end.
Originally, Pentecost was an agricultural feast celebrating the completion of the barley harvest. It occurred fifty days after Passover, and it was also known as the “feast of weeks.”
In Scripture, the celebration is called the “feast of harvest, the first fruits of your labors.” Its highlight was the offering of the first sheaf, the “first fruits” of the grain harvest, and every able male was required to appear at the Temple during the feast - (Exodus 34:22-23, Leviticus 23:11-16, Deuteronomy 16:9-10).
The outpouring of the Spirit on this feast day was not coincidental. The theological significance is indicated by the Greek term sumpléroō found in the Greek text of verse 1 where it is rendered as “being filled up.” The verb’s sense is something that is “filled up completely” - to fill something to the very brim.
In the passage, a present-tense infinitive is used to signify action in progress. In other words, the feast was in the process of being fulfilled fully as the Spirit filled the 120 disciples. What Pentecost symbolized was coming to fruition, the “first fruits” of the final harvest - (Compare - Romans 8:23, Luke 24:49).
Under the Law, all able males were required to attend the feast. Likewise, all 120 disciples were assembled in the Temple. The “all” repeated in verse 4 emphasizes the point - “ALL were filled with the Holy Spirit, and ALL began to speak in tongues.” The entire company was gathered in prayer in the Temple.
BEGINNING IN JERUSALEM
Similarly, the passage stresses that they all “BEGAN (archomai) to speak in tongues as the Spirit was giving them utterance.” The verb rendered “began” echoes Christ’s command to “tarry in Jerusalem” until they received the Spirit:
- (Luke 24:47) – “Thus it is written that the Christ should suffer and rise again from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”
- (Acts 1:8) – “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
By the first century, the feast of Pentecost was associated with the giving of the Torah at Sinai. But that was a later Jewish tradition. It originally celebrated the first fruits of the grain harvest, and that is the image behind its usage in the second chapter of Acts.
Jesus commanded his disciples to preach “repentance, and that the remission of sins should be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning (archomai) from Jerusalem.” Likewise, when the Spirit filled all the disciples in Jerusalem, they “BEGAN (archomai) to speak in tongues as the Spirit was giving them utterance.”
Thus, the disciples gathered in Jerusalem became the “first fruits” of the final harvest. The period known as the “last days” had begun.
And that very day, the harvest began with the salvation of “about three thousand” souls that were added to the church. “Beginning from Jerusalem,” the proclamation of “repentance and remission of sins” was now moving across the face of the earth.