LCN Article
The First New Testament Pentecost

May / June 2015

Richard F. Ames

After Jesus ascended to heaven, the disciples “returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey” (Acts 1:12). The disciples met in an “upper room where they were staying” (v. 13). Today, tourists in Jerusalem may visit a location called the Coenaculum (Latin for “supper room”) or Cenacle—often described in English as the “Last Supper Room” or the “upper room.” This room is actually not the original “upper room”—it is a Crusader-built fourteenth century memorial, though many believe it was built near—perhaps even over—the location of the original room where Jesus instituted the New Testament Passover.

Why have people considered this “upper room” so important? Christ’s most intimate disciples met together and prayed there: “And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judas the son of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers” (Acts 1:13–14).

Yes, Christ’s eleven remaining Apostles, along with His mother and brothers, met there. Jesus had told them to wait in Jerusalem for God’s promise. “And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, ‘which,’ He said, ‘you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now’” (Acts 1:4–5).

Pilgrims from sixteen different countries or regions had come to Jerusalem. They were there to observe the Feast of Weeks (Exodus 34:22), also known as the Feast of Harvest (Exodus 23:16) or “the day of the firstfruits” (Numbers 28:26). This was an exciting time for pilgrims—and even more so after sunrise on the Day of Pentecost in 31ad. We read: “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1–4).

Thousands of people gathered to find out what was happening. To their great surprise, they heard the Apostles’ preaching in their own languages! Notice: “And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language” (Acts 2:5–6).

These visitors were not listening to strange languages they could not understand—each heard the apostles “speak in his own language.” Further, what did they hear and understand? “[W]e hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God” (v. 11). There is no question that this gift of languages communicated God’s truth in words each pilgrim could understand.

Still, this large audience was perplexed—they could not grasp the historical meaning of this great event: “So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘Whatever could this mean?’ Others mocking said, ‘They are full of new wine’” (Acts 2:12–13).

Joel’s Prophecy

The Apostle Peter gave them the scriptural perspective by quoting the prophet Joel: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, 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” (Acts 2:17–18).

God’s people—men and women who are converted and close to God—will often speak to one another, or to non-Christians, with comforting counsel or inspired answers to questions. I have observed my wife giving inspired counsel to others over the telephone, and in person. Today, we all need that close contact with God more than ever.

Peter continued with Joel’s prophecy: “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 awesome day of the Lord” (Acts 2:19–20).

Why would Peter emphasize these astronomical signs? We know that the ultimate fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy will be the sixth seal (Revelation 6:12), which introduces the Day of the Lord—the year of God’s judgments on the nations. Many in Peter’s audience on the Day of Pentecost would also have been in Jerusalem for the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread two months earlier. Remember that during the crucifixion, Jerusalem had experienced an awesome astronomical sign of darkness for three hours: “Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land” (Matthew 27:45).

blood moonJoel’s prophecy also foretold that the moon would be turned to blood! Had Peter’s audience seen the moon turned to blood just a few weeks earlier? Even apart from the question of any unique supernatural phenomena, NASA and other astronomical sources document that a partial lunar eclipse would have been visible from Jerusalem on the night after the crucifixion—April 25, 31ad. This night, beginning at the sunset shortly after Jesus was placed in the tomb, is the night we today call the “Night to be Much Observed” (Exodus 12:42, KJV). Astronomical records suggest that indeed this eclipse, which lasted for more than two hours, could well have tinted the moon with a blood-like appearance, giving the exposed edges of the moon a pronounced reddish coloration. 

Yes, the Apostle Peter was speaking of cosmic phenomena most of his audience had recently observed! Peter continued preaching about the Messiah and the resurrection of Christ! When he told his audience that they were responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion, “they were cut to the heart.” Peter boldly proclaimed: “‘Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.’ Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2:36–38). More than 3,000 people heard Peter, since 3,000 were baptized on that day (Acts 2:41).

The Church Meets Together

When pilgrims came to Jerusalem, they congregated at the city’s most holy site: the temple. So, too, did the Apostles and new disciples, every day: “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:46–47).

Around the temple plaza was a colonnade, the eastern part of which was commonly called Solomon’s Porch (though, strictly speaking, “portico” would be the correct term). Jesus often taught His audience at this location. The Apostle John records one such event. “Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch” (John 10:22–23).

A wide variety of groups, or synagogues, would often gather in Solomon’s Porch. The Greek sunagoge can be translated “gathering” or “gathering place.” The Anchor Bible Dictionary explains the term: “Synagogue. The meeting place and prayer hall of the Jewish people since antiquity. During Second Temple times the term ‘synagogue’ referred both to a group of people and/or a building or institution. Although these notions are not mutually exclusive, it is quite probable that at its inception the synagogue did not refer to an actual building but to a group or community of individuals who met together for worship and religious purposes” (Article: “Synagogue,” Vol. VI, p. 251). Many religious groups held gatherings in Solomon’s Porch rather than in a building of their own.

Even after Pentecost, we find that the disciples regularly met at the temple: “And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch” (Acts 5:12).

Let us consider one more example of Peter speaking to a large audience. Shortly after Pentecost, Peter performed a great miracle that eventually led to his summons before the Sanhedrin. “Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour” (Acts 3:1). Peter, in the name of Jesus Christ, healed the lame man who begged at the Temple gate called Beautiful. “So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them—walking, leaping, and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God” (Acts 3:8–9).

As a result of the miracle, a large crowd gathered to hear Peter speak. Where did that take place? “Now as the lame man who was healed held on to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the porch which is called Solomon’s, greatly amazed. So when Peter saw it, he responded to the people: ‘Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this? Or why look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go. But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses. And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know’” (Acts 3:11–16).

Peter then spoke a message similar to his Pentecost exhortation: “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:19–21).

The Apostles and disciples were “with one accord” at the same temple location where thousands of pilgrims and worshipers met for Pentecost. The various language groups or synagogues met in Solomon’s Porch.

The colonnade comprising Solomon’s Porch or Portico was very impressive. The Anchor Bible Dictionary gives this description: “A colonnade which made up part of the temple complex built by Herod in Jerusalem. This colonnade like the others that surrounded the temple precinct, provided a meeting place for individuals to discuss Scripture preceding and following the observation of religious rituals. Jesus’ disciples gathered at this location and the early Jerusalem church also met there (John 10:23; Acts 3:11; 5:12). It was located on the E side of the temple complex overlooking the Kidron Valley (Josephus Ant 20.9.7). According to the tradition reported by Josephus, Solomon’s temple utilized a covered area supported by a platform (JW 5.5.1; Ant 8.3.9). The location described as Solomon’s portico in the NT was certainly designed by Herod’s architects. This colonnade was reportedly double columned and spanned 49 feet. The columns were 38 feet tall monoliths of white marble and supported cedar-paneled ceilings” (Article: “Solomon’s Portico,” Vol. VI, p. 113).

Pentecost Today

The New Testament Church began on the Day of Pentecost. Jesus declared the enduring quality of the Church when He said, “I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). God’s people can take great encouragement from that truth! As we look forward to the Second Coming, we have a responsibility to carry on the mission Christ gave His Church. Remember, before His ascension to heaven from Jerusalem, Jesus assured His disciples that they would receive “the Promise of the Father, ‘which,’ He said, ‘you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now’” (Acts 1:4–5).

God’s Spirit is not “a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). It is by this awesome power that God has given us the means to fulfill the mission He has entrusted to the Church. Jesus’ last instruction to His servants before His ascension was: “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:7–8).

Brethren, we must all be committed to fulfill that mission. We are grateful for Dr. Roderick C. Meredith’s 63 years of dedicated service to the Work of God as an evangelist of Jesus Christ—he was, as most of you know, ordained in the very first group of evangelists ordained by Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong. To put that in perspective, when I was ordained as an evangelist by Mr. Armstrong—during the Days of Unleavened Bread in 1984—Dr. Meredith had already been serving as an evangelist for more than 32 years! I know you will join me in praying that God will bless him with the health, energy and continuing zeal to serve God’s people for many more years!

As we observe Pentecost this year, we must remind ourselves of the power God has given us through His Spirit. Mr. Armstrong summarized the characteristics of God’s Spirit in his article, “A Voice Cries Out Amid Religious Confusion (Part 4).” He wrote: “What, then, is the Holy Spirit? It is the very divine life-begetting Power of God, that imparts divine and immortal life to a repentant and believing Christian, begetting such a person as a child of God. And it is much more!” (Plain Truth, May 1980, p. 42).

Mr. Armstrong continues his description of the Holy Spirit: “It is the power emanating from God by which God creates. It is the love of God which the converted Christian receives from God. It is the faith of Christ. It is the Spirit that imparts to the human mind spiritual comprehension. It is the power of God by which the child of God may overcome sin. It is the Spirit by which, on human surrender, repentance, faith and decision, God imparts His character to a human” (ibid.).

Brethren, at this Pentecost and beyond, we must remember who we are and the responsibility our calling requires of us. Always remember that we are God’s begotten children and the servants of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! And thank God for the awesome spiritual power and gifts He gives us. As we saw earlier, the Apostles and disciples of the first century spent much of their time at the temple.  Today, God has called His people to be the “temple.” The Apostle Paul gave the Corinthians a warning that we, too, must apply to ourselves: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are” (1 Corinthians 3:16–17).

Brethren, God blessed His people at His house, the temple (John 2:16–17). Now, we are His temple, and we must honor Him by all that we do and think and say. Christ is the living Head of His body, the Church (Colossians 1:18). Let us go forward with Christ’s loving and powerful leadership, to fulfill the Work He has given us to accomplish, because we do so, “‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6).