From Pentecost to Holocaust

On the day of Pentecost, when the Spirit had been poured out and the Christian community spoke with other tongues, Peter declared the Biblical interpretation of the event:

This is that which was spoken of through the prophet Joel: "And it shall be in the last days, " God says, "that I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days, and they shall prophesy. I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath: blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and glorious Day of the Lord. And it shall be that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Acts 2:16-21).

We have already seen how the "blood and fire and vapor of smoke" and the signs in the sun and the moon were fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem (see pp. 100f.). What is crucial to notice at this point is Peter's precise statement that the last days had arrived. Contrary to some modern expositions of this text, Peter did not say that the miracles of Pentecost were like what Joel prophesied, or that they were some sort of "proto-{u\fi\\-ments" of Joel's prophecy; he said that this was the fulfillment: "This is that which was spoken of through the prophet Joel." The last days were here: the Spirit had been poured out, God's people were prophesying and speaking in tongues, and Jerusalem would be destroyed with fire. The ancient prophecies were unfolding, and this generation would not pass until "all these things" were fulfilled. Therefore, Peter urged his listeners, "Be saved from this perverse generation!" (Acts 2:40).

In this connection, we should note the eschatological significance of the gift of tongues. St. Paul showed, in 1 Corinthians 14:21-22, that the miracle of tongues was the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy against rebellious Israel. Because the covenant people were rejecting His clear revelation, God warned that His prophets would speak to them with foreign tongues, for the express purpose of rendering a final witness to unbelieving Israel during the last days preceding her judgment:

Indeed, He will speak to this people

Through stammering lips and a foreign tongue. . . .

That they may go and stumble backward, and be broken

And snared and taken captive.

Therefore, hear the Word of the Lord, O scoffers,

Who rule this people who are in Jerusalem,

Because you have said, "We have made a covenant with death,

And with Sheol we have made a pact.

When the overwhelming scourge passes through,

It will not reach us,

For we have made falsehood our refuge

And we have concealed ourselves with deception."

Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD:

"Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone,

A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed;

He who believes in it will not be in a hurry.

And I will make justice the measuring line,

And righteousness the level;

Then hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies,

And the waters shall overflow the secret place.

And your covenant with death shall be canceled,

And your pact with Sheol shall not stand;

When the overwhelming scourge passes through,

Then you become its trampling place.

As often as it passes through, it will seize you.

For morning after morning it will pass through,

And by day and by night.

And it will be sheer terror to understand what it means." (Isa. 28:11-19)

The miracle of Pentecost was a shocking message to Israel. They knew what this meant. It was the sign from God that the Chief Cornerstone had come, and that Israel had rejected Him to its own damnation (Matt. 21:42-44; 1 Pet. 2:6-8). It was the sign of judgment and reprobation, the signal that the apostates of Jerusalem were about to "stumble backward, be broken, snared, and taken captive." The Last Days of Israel had come: the old age was at an end, and Jerusalem would be swept away in a new flood, to make way for God's New Creation. As Paul said, tongues was "for a sign, not to those who believe, but to unbelievers" (1 Cor. 14:22) - a sign to the unbelieving Jews of their approaching doom.

The early Church looked forward to the coming of the new age. They knew that, with the visible end of the Old Covenant system, the Church would be revealed as the new, true Temple; and the work Christ came to perform would be accomplished. This was an important aspect of redemption, and the firstgeneration Christians looked forward to this event in their own lifetime. During this period of waiting and severe trial, the Apostle Peter assured them that they were "protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Pet. 1:5). They were on the very threshold of the new world.

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