36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. 37 But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 38 For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 40 Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left.
Good afternoon church. Today I want to tell you about a storm far greater than anything this world has ever seen. I can't tell you when it will take place but when it does there will be no place to hide! The storm that I am referring to is the storm of God's wrath!
Matthew 24 tells of a time known as "The Time Of Jacob's Trouble." This phrase is found in Jeremiah 30:6-7. In these verses, the nation of Israel, is portrayed as one who is about to give birth. She is pictured as suffering great pains and enduring great agony. Nothing this world has ever seen can compare to the misery that Israel will endure in those days. The time of Jacob's trouble is a phrase that may be foreign to you, but you have likely heard it referred to as "The Great Tribulation".
There are two main purposes of the Tribulation period. The first purpose is to purge the people of Israel.
37 “I will make you pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant; 38 I will purge the rebels from among you, and those who transgress against Me; I will bring them out of the country where they dwell, but they shall not enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Lord.
The Nation of Israel rejected Jesus as Messiah and they took part in His death. But God will use the time of Jacob's trouble to prepare Israel for Jesus' return. At the time of His appearing, Jesus will be greeted by remnant of the Jewish people who believe in Him.
Another purpose of the Tribulation will be to judge the Gentiles.
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.
Then In Revelation 19:15 John describes Jesus at His return, he said that…
15 Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
For thousands of years men have rejected God's call to repentance... they have rejected His amazing offer of salvation. When the Tribulation comes, God will judge their sin!
Without a doubt there are people in this building who have never trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. My friend, if Jesus returns in your lifetime you will face this time of devastation and judgment. It is for that reason that I want to sound an alarm today. I want to walk through these verses and preach on the fact that…Gods judgement is coming.
Whenever inclement weather is in the area, the local news channels will interrupt regular scheduled broadcasting and inform the public as to the possible danger. When a hurricane makes landfall or when a tornado has been spotted, they will warn the people in the path of the storm to make preparations and to take cover. It is their goal to reach as many people as possible in time for them to protect themselves from the effects of the storm.
In Chapters 24 & 25 of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus warns that a storm is on the way! I want to look at three warnings that Jesus provides in this passage. The first is found in v37, JESUS WARNS OF HIS IMMINENT RETURN…
36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. 37 But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
Jesus wants us to know that He is coming back! There are several scriptures where He declares that His return is imminent.
12 “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.
20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.”
Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!
Jesus told His Disciples that the last days will be like the days of Noah. In those days, mankind was desperately wicked, violence and evil filled the land. Things were so bad that "it grieved the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him at His heart." (Genesis 6:6) In Genesis 6:7 the LORD said, "I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth". But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord and God instructed Noah to build an ark. For 120 years Noah worked on that massive boat and he warned the people to repent for God was going to destroy the earth with a flood. The people refused to listen to the warning of God's messenger.
They continued to live lives of wickedness with no fear of the impending judgment of God. Then one day the rain began to fall, the waters began to rise and the people had no place of refuge. God had shut the door to the ark, the opportunity for salvation had passed.
Jesus tells says that the last days will be like the days in which Noah lived. This prophecy is being fulfilled right before our very eyes. When comparing the daily news to the Word of God, it is apparent that we are living in the end times. (Keep in mind, “no one knows the day or hour”)
Listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 24:5-8…
5 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. 6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.
These are some frightening verses, but the reality is they do not describe the storm itself, they are merely signs that the storm is drawing near. Sometimes you can sense that a storm is brewing. You step outside and feel an eerie breeze, the clouds begin to darken, in the distance you hear a roll of thunder.... you don't exactly when, but you know something is about to happen.
THE SIGNS OF THE END TIMES - In these verses Jesus warns of:
1. FALSE MESSIAHS - Jesus said that many false Christ’s would come and deceive many. Some false messiahs came before Jesus... some were present while He was here on earth... some came after He ascended ...and some are present even today. Jesus tells us that false Christ's will increase as the end draws near.
- He also mentions:
2. WARS AND RUMORS OF WARS - Our world has been marked by war since the beginning of time. Jesus said that wars and rumors of war would increase as the end of time approached. Currently our troops are involved in conflicts in certain parts of the world. Its not mentioned much in news now, because Covid is the main issue. But…facts still remain, the wars never stopped.
Along with these wars, Jesus reveals that in the end times there will be:
3. WORLD-WIDE TURMOIL - v6 "For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom". Throughout the history of the world there has been in strife among the nations. Things are bad now... they were bad before... and as the end approaches things will get worse!
Jesus also tells us of natural disasters such as:
4. EARTHQUAKES -v 7 "there shall be earthquakes in divers places" Millions of people have died in earthquakes over the past 4,000 years. We are told that there are earthquakes somewhere in the world each and every day. Scientists tell us that earthquakes are increasing in their frequency and their intensity. They will continue to do so as the end of time approaches.
On top of earthquakes there will be:
5. FAMINES - Every 3.6 seconds someone dies of starvation. Every year 15 million children die of starvation and of hunger related illness. Famines will continue to increase as the end nears.
- Jesus also warns of:
6. Pestilences - There will be an upsurge in disease and plagues as the end times approach. Just think of all the disease that we have seen in the past and what is around today: Black death, Spanish Influenza, AIDS, SARS, Bird Flu, Swine Flu, Ebola, Covid 19 and so on. Troubles and pestilences will increase as the end approaches.
This is bad, but Jesus says this is only the beginning! He told His disciples in verse 8 that "these are only the beginnings of sorrows". Every single sign of the times that is mentioned in these verses can be seen in abundance each and every day of our lives. Things are bad and they are only going to get worse!
Though this storm is rapidly approaching, many people refuse to take cover. This leads us to the second warning that Jesus delivers in this text. Notice….
JESUS WARNS OF PEOPLE'S INDIFFERENT WAYS - v38-39
38 For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
When God sent His judgment upon the earth in Noah's day it was not without warning. For 120 years, as he built the ark, Noah was preaching about the coming judgment of God. Noah warned the people of what was to come but they ignored him. They continued to live life their way. They ate, they drank, and they married and lived it up. God gave the people an opportunity to repent, But they ignored the warning, they rejected God's grace and they paid an eternal price for doing so!
- Verse 39 says that “and did not know until the flood came and took them all away” and by then it was too late. Some thought that they would be able to "ride the storm out" so to speak. By the time they realized the severity of the storm it was too late. Sadly, they have paid a great price as a result of their decision. It was not because they were not warned. They were warned but they chose to ignore that warning!
There will be people in the Tribulation who could have escaped its devastation. But they made the decision to ignore God's warning! Each day we see the end getting closer and closer. God is sounding the alarm for people to flee the wrath to come but people refuse to heed His warning.
We live in a day when the majority of people are focused on the things of this world. They live with an earthly perspective instead of an eternal perspective. They want to accomplish their goals, they want to see their dreams come true, they want to "conquer the world" so to speak. Some of these people don't believe in God at all... some believe but they just don't have time for Him and some say that they will turn to God 'one day".
Unfortunately, many people continue to put God off and live life for themselves. There are some who actually believe the very warnings that we are examining today. They believe that Jesus is the only way to Heaven, they believe that He is coming back one day, they believe that there will be a time of Great Tribulation, but they are just not concerned with these things. They are complacent and indifferent... they are just like the people in Noah's day. And just like the people in Noah's day they will face the wrath and judgment of God!
This leads us to the 3rd warning that Jesus delivers in this text. Notice that…
JESUS WARNS OF GOD'S INESCAPABLE WRATH…
39 and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 40 Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. 42 Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.
Jesus says that when the floods came in Noah's day it "took them all away". People were going about their business living life as normal. That day began as just any other day. Then the floods came and swept them out into eternity. The door to the Ark was shut. The opportunity for salvation was no more. There was absolutely no way for them to escape God's judgment of their sin!
The return of Christ will be the same way. But the flood will be nothing compared to the wrath that God will pour out on this world at that time. The Tribulation will be a time marked by severe “afflictions” or "Troubles". The Tribulation will bring sorrow and devastation that this world has not seen before.
The bible gives us a clear description of the storm that is one the way. There will be 2 sets of intense judgments that will occur during the Tribulation. The first of these impending judgments is:
THE TRUMPET JUDGMENTS
1. The First Trumpet - 1/3 of the Earth's vegetation will be destroyed.
2. The Second Trumpet: 1/3 of the oceans will become blood, 1/3 of the life in the sea will be destroyed and 1/3 of the world’s shipping will also destroyed.
3. The Third Trumpet - 1/3 of the freshwater will be polluted.
4. The Fourth Trumpet: The sun’s light will be diminished by 1/3 and 1/3 of the light of the other heavenly bodies will be destroyed.
5. The Fifth Trumpet: The earth will be invaded by an army of demons. The demons will have the power to torment men for 5 months. They won’t kill men, but the pain will be so intense that men will want to die, but they will be unable to achieve death!
6. The Sixth Trumpet: Will bring a demonic invasion of an army that numbers 200,000,000. and 1/3 of the human population will be destroyed.
7. The Seventh Trumpet: This trumpet announces the soon return of the Lord Jesus.
The second of these impending judgments is:
The Vial Judgments
1. The First Vial - a cancerous sore in poured out on mankind.
2. The Second Vial: The waters of the sea are turned to blood and every creature in the sea dies.
3. The Third Vial - The fresh waters of the earth are turned to blood.
4. The Fourth Vial: The sun’s heat is intensified, all who remain on the earth the earth will be burned by the heat of the sun.
5. The Fifth Vial - This plague brings darkness and intense pain to the remaining inhabitants of the earth.
6. The Sixth Vial - The Euphrates River is dried up preparing a pathway for the nations of the earth to descend upon Israel for the final conflict.
7. The Seventh Vial: There is an earthquake of such magnitude that the islands of the sea sink and all the mountains of the earth fall down flat.
During the Tribulation, over one-half of the world’s population will die from starvation, disease and war. And these are just a few of the things that will come upon those who fail to heed the warnings to turn to Jesus for salvation. The only way for you to avoid this storm is for you to put your faith in Jesus Christ for salvation.
These passages serves as a warning to the lost man. A storm of wrath is coming to this earth and you do not want to experience what it will bring. Our minds cannot comprehend just how horrific this storm is going to be.
Are you prepared for the storm? Are you ready for the return of Jesus? Do you know that you will be safe and secure when God's wrath is poured out? If not, I encourage you to come to Jesus by faith and He will save you. If you are saved, praise the Lord!
27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
There is an old story about a shipwreck where many men died, in fact there was only one survivor. When the sole survivor reached a small, uninhabited island, he prayed for God to rescue him, but help didn’t come. Eventually he built a hut out of driftwood for protection from the elements. One day he returned from scavenging for food and found his hut in flames, the smoke rising into the sky. Angrily he cried, “God, how could You do this to me?” The next morning, he was awakened by rescuers. “How did you know I was here?” he asked. “We saw your smoke signal,” they replied.
What that man thought was a horrific tragedy was actually a blessing in disguise. God never tells us that things will work together when we want. Nor does He promise us that things will work out how we want. But through His Word God promises us that God says that "all things work together for good"
Romans 8:28 (says) ...we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
Often when you are going through a time of great trouble someone may seek to encourage you by quoting this verse. (Sounds familiar right!) But if we are honest, sometimes we just don't want to hear it! Sometimes we may not even believe that "all things work together for good". Sometimes we enjoy wallowing around in self-pity and at times we just want to feel sorry for ourselves.
Then there are times we look at situations and ask, "HOW CAN ANY GOOD COME OUT OF THIS?" You may not see any way that it is possible for good to come out of your situation when you are laid off from work, or when the repo man has come for the car, or when the eviction/foreclosure notice has been served. When your child has become a drug addict or an alcoholic you may ask "how is it that all things work together for good?"
When the test results come back, and you have a terminal illness you may cry to God and ask "how is it that all things work together for good?" It may be hard to see how God is going to bring good from you losing a spouse, parent or child.
Often when we face these very trying times we tend to go beyond questioning God and begin to blame Him for our circumstances. It is important for us to understand that God's idea of "good" is not the same as what we would call "good". God is working the events of our life together for our final, eternal, ultimate good. You see, we are wired/programmed…We tend to focus on the here and now, God focuses on the here AND the hereafter!
Sometimes troubles come directly from God for the purpose of strengthening our faith. Other times troubles come as a result of sin in our lives, our Heavenly Father will chasten/discipline His own. (Hebrews 12) There are many reasons that we face times of difficulty. Regardless of why you are facing troubles... the good news is God can use these things for our good.
Some of you are facing extremely difficult situations at this very moment. It has often been said that you are either in a storm, coming out of a storm or headed into a storm. Because of what is going on in our world today, many of our brethren have turned from God. Troubles came and they began to face doubt and discouragement as a result they became bitter and even angry with God. Perhaps you are on the verge of reaching that place as we speak. I hope that before you leave here you can find encouragement through God's Word.
Of course, there are others who are not bitter or angry with God, but you just want some answers. You just want to know WHY??? Some would say that there is no answer to this question.... THEY ARE WRONG! There is an answer, in fact there are several answers and they are found in the Word of God.
Romans 5:3 ...we glory in tribulations also:
3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance.
2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.
I believe that Romans 8-28 is one of those passages that answer the question, "why?" But this verse does more than answer the question, this verse gives us a promise. Let's begin by examining: The Certainty Of This Promise - “And we know”
Notice that Paul does not say “we think”, “we hope” or “we pray”. He states a fact…. “We know!” Paul possessed full assurance that “all things work together for good”. We can "know" this truth as well? How? By looking at what God has already brought us through. Notice if you will… Past experiences assure us that “all Things work together for good”. Consider what Paul said in - 2 Corinthians 4:8-10
2 Corinthians 4:8-10
8 We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.
Paul had been through more than any of us can imagine. He had been in prison, He had been shipwrecked, persecuted, beaten, stoned, and betrayed. Through it all God had proved Himself faithful.
Take a moment and remember where you were and then remember how far God has brought you from and then trust Him to carry you through. Also, think about all of those times that God has been with you through storms and valleys. Consider this, if God loves you enough to save you (and He did) then He loves you enough to sustain you. He knows what you are facing, and He cares for you. Not only does He know what you are facing, HE KNOWS WHY. Every aspect of your current trouble is part of His greater plan!
Past experiences assist our faith and remind us that we can cling to God's promise. Notice also that, a proper perspective assures us, “that all things work together for good”. Paul did not live life focused on the problems of the present. Instead he was focused on glories of the future. He was assured that regardless of the troubles he faced in this life, nothing could separate him from the love of Christ.
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
It is imperative that we keep the proper perspective. People often fall away during times of tribulation because they do not have the correct outlook. They are focused on the temporal rather than the eternal. The severity of their problems blind them to the sovereignty of the Savior. When trouble comes in our life just remember... there is a reason. God has a plan... and His plan will work together for good!
Let's move a little further and consider, the context of this promise – “v28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”
This verse is often oversimplified. The common application of Romans 8:28 is "Don’t let life get you down... God’s going to make everything better.” This is not the case at all! God did not remove Paul's thorn in the flesh, but He did assure him that "His grace was sufficient".
(2 Corinthians 12:9)
God is always working in our lives to bring about His will. Many of the things that we endure in this life are simply part of the sanctification process.
John MacArthur says "God is working out our good during this present life as well as ultimately in the life to come. No matter what happens in our lives as His children, the providence of God uses it for our temporal as well as our eternal benefit, sometimes by saving us from tragedies and sometimes by sending us through them in order to draw us closer to Him.
Yes, God is working "all things together for good" but remember this is not merely for the temporal, God is focused on the eternal…
29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
I hate to disappoint you, but chances are pretty good that this verse does not mean what you have always thought it meant. Romans 8:28 is not a promise that God is going to remove your troubles. It is not a promise that God is going to make you happy. It is not a promise that the doctor's report is going to be good. It is not a promise that you will have enough money at the end of the month. This verse is not a guarantee of health and/or wealth. This context of this verse is… this, God does what He does in your life to make you more like His Son.
God will use good things, bad things and things in-between to conform you into the image of Jesus Christ. With that being said, God can use anything He chooses to accomplish this task.
Simply stated... "all things" is all inclusive. There is nothing that God cannot use to mold you into the image of His Son. According to the Word, everything that happens... happens for our good.
The things that we don’t like, and the things that we do, the things we don’t understand, and those that we do, the things that hurt, and the things that don't, the things that break our hearts, and those that bring us joy, the things that make us cry, and the things that make us smile, the things that make us want to quit, and the things that make us press on, .EVERYTHING works for our good!!
God has blessed us with some amazing things. Our homes, our possessions, our health, our family, our friends... all of these are pleasant things that bring good into our lives. God has also provided us with many spiritual blessings. He has secured our salvation, given us a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, provided an abundant life here and promised us eternal life and a home in Heaven. It is easy to see how these things work together for good in our lives.
When trouble comes into our lives our first reaction is probably not to rejoice. But the bible says that we can... in fact, we should! --- 1 Peter 1:6-7
1 Peter 1:6-7
6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been [a]grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Troublesome times strengthen our faith. In those times when we cannot handle things on our own... those times when we have nowhere else to turn but to God... those times are faith building experiences. Though you may not see it at the time, tough times work together for our good! I don't know what you are facing right now, but I do know that God can use your troubles to work out something great in your life! You will be a great testimony.
Lastly: (Again…you are a great testimony)
Many of us can testify that God can take our failures/trials and bring some great things into our lives as a result. He may be doing that kind of work in your life as we speak. You may not see the good right now, but God has a plan for your life. And that plan is for you to be "conformed into the image of Jesus Christ"!
God's promise concerning the greater good is not a promise that we will never face suffering, but it does give us comfort in the midst of that suffering. God is all-powerful, all-knowing and ever present. He is able to take control of every situation in life. He is sovereign and He cares for you. When you face those difficult times of life just remember that God is behind every circumstance you encounter. He can use the difficulties of your life to strengthen your faith in Him. He can use the trials that you face to mature you spiritually. He can use you to reach other people and He can use your life to bring glory to His name.
No matter how bad things may be, no matter how difficult your situation is, remember…… ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD. Romans 8:28 contains a wonderful promise from God. It is comforting and encouraging, but the fact is this promise does not apply to everyone. The final truth about this promise that I would like to consider is…The Condition Of This Promise - “to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose”
We have already noted that this verse is often misused and commonly oversimplified. It is also regularly shortened. In most cases all you hear is "all things work together for good". The last half of the verse shows us who can actually claim this promise. This verse is a promise to 'those who love God and those who are called according to His purpose"
This is a passage that refers to the born again Child of God. If you are not born again, your temporary troubles and sufferings pale in comparison to the horrors of an eternity separated from God in the Lake of Fire. I encourage you and invite you to turn to Jesus today! Then you can claim the wonderful promise of Romans 8:28.
Those who are born again can rest in the fact that ... “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord”. (Romans 8:38-39)
What a great promise... what great assurance we have that God is sovereign and His way is better than anything we could think, dream or imagine. (28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”)
Coming Of The Holy Spirit
2 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5. And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven.
The Holy Spirit is our power source for when God wants to do the impossible through us. It all began with a promise Jesus left His disciples right before He ascended back to heaven. You’ll find it in the chapter before today’s reading.
On one occasion, while He was eating with them, [Jesus] gave them this command, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized in water, but in a few days you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit. ... You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Today we separate what happened about 50 days after that first Passover, a holiday the ancient Jews called Pentecost. Instead of celebrating a harvest of crops, the early church would come to know this as a harvest of souls. Overnight, the church would be born. Not a brick and mortar church, but a church of people who had trusted their lives to Christ. The story is in Acts ch.2
I want to share today three observations of this original Pentecost experience. These three happenings are as true for us today as they were for the original disciples. Starting with,
Pentecost is all about the mysterious power of God. Verse 2 describes the “rushing mighty wind”, in another translation, “blowing of a violent wind” filling the house where these disciples were sitting. Imagine a tornado blowing through your house, on the inside! Power, potentially destructive power, humbling power. The Greek word for power here is “dunamos,” from which we get “dynamite!”
This is the kind of power undoubtedly experienced by the nation of Israel when they were led in the wilderness by a pillar of smoke by day and fire by night. And they saw smoke and experienced earthquakes from Mount Sinai as Moses met with God. Or the prophet Isaiah when he experienced a vision of angels singing, temple doorposts shaking as in a violent earthquake, and smoke filling the space around him.
To demonstrate to the disciples and to the unbelieving world that the Spirit had come in power on the church in a new way, every believer in the upper room began to speak in languages they had never learned. It was The Gift, The Holy Spirit.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes, I’ll admit, I take God for granted. I know He loves me, and nothing will ever stop that love. On the other hand, I forget that “His ways are not my ways, His thoughts not my thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9), that He is so much higher and greater and grander and smarter and stronger than I am, that there is no real comparison between God and I… God is God...and I am not.
Pentecost is about recognizing the power of God. It’s about having your world shaken to the core, having your life turned upside down, and realizing God is God...and we are not.
The early believers would know about myths and legends surrounding seemingly powerful gods. Remember the Greek and Roman gods you studied in school? They were powerful. They were even downright mean at times, messing around with human lives as if they were nothing. Yet, there is something different about this one true God. He is all powerful and yet, He is all loving as well. Notice that even in the midst of all of this potentially destructive power.
Did you catch that in the reading? There is the blowing of a violent wind, and then what seemed like tongues of fire. Both of those things would send my mind sailing in fear! I would be looking for exits out of the building, for fire alarms to pull, for my cell to put in a quick 911 call. I would be thinking, “Escape at all costs!” But notice what happens next. Those tongues of fire separate. They originate out of one source, which we will learn is the Holy Spirit, the very Spirit of God himself. And then they separate, and they come to “rest” on each of the believers (v3).
What an interesting term. God does not forcefully invade the believers, like some alien in a sci-fi movie. No, He comes down to gently rest on each one. What a beautiful picture of the mercy of God! He who is so much stronger than any of us, so much more powerful, so much wiser, so much more in control, this God of all that is created...lovingly comes to rest on His creation.
The Israelites in the desert discovered a God of power and glory and mystery on Mount Sanai, but they also discovered a God who wanted to personally communicate to them through Moses, to guide them and feed them, and bring them into a land full of milk and honey. Isaiah met a God who thought so highly of this one human being, that He sent an angel to touch him and make him righteous and holy (Isaiah 6:7). The people in the upper room at Pentecost found a powerful and mysterious God who came to rest gently on each one of them. And we find that same God… when we humble ourselves and wait for His presence.
Sometimes we think, It would be a lot simpler to know God if I could have been in that upper room with a rushing wind and tongues of fire coming down to rest on my head! That wouldn’t require so much faith. I want my own tornado and fire experience! But maybe God doesn’t change as much from Bible times as we think He does. Maybe this same God works in much the same way today. Maybe, as the author of Hebrews says, Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
Maybe our problem is, we don’t get quiet enough in the upper room to clearly hear from God. I know I have a lot of clutter in my own life. Busy, busy, busy. I think, “God, why don’t you come in a louder way?” And God may answer, “I am, but you’re not quiet or still enough to hear it!” Speak, Lord, your servant is hearing. Come, Holy Spirit, come. And then the third most amazing thing happens at Pentecost...
3. The presence of God enables us.
That’s what the Holy Spirit is all about. This mysterious third person of the Trinity that is so hard to nail down, He comes to enable us to do what we could never do on our own. The power worship God. To love one another. Believe me when I say this, those two miracles that I had mention would not be possible if it were not for the Holy Spirit. We will not worship God or love one another.
The Holy Spirit arrived on the Day of Pentecost, accompanied by extraordinary manifestation of His presence. These manifestations were sign oriented, not character oriented. In other words, the Bible doesn’t say that after being filled with the Holy Spirit in the upper room, they went out with great patience, kindness, gentleness, and so on. Rather it says they immediately began speaking in other tongues. That is how the unbelievers who heard then knew that something/someone, supernatural had taken place.
Sure, there will always be doubters. As there was it that time. Some in this Pentecost crowd mocked them, “You’ve just had too much to drink!” They thought they were drunk. But others, oh, their lives were turned around forever. Peter preached with a newfound boldness. Yes, this same Peter who had denied even knowing Jesus just weeks before. Now he is a new person. And he cuts right to the chase. “Your sins put Jesus on the cross!” (Which is true for each of us as well, by the way.) And they say, “What can we do?” He tells them to turn away from their sin and receive the risen Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior. And they do, as 3,000 people are added to the church that day! That is how the church/not a building. A body of new, born again believers were born. All by the power of God, through His Spirit.
Are you ready for God to give you super-natural abilities? The right words when you need them? The right presence of love and forgiveness and truth when you need it? Pentecost is not reserved to the original 120 believers. It is for you and for me. This same God still speaks, still moves like a tornado, still rests on us like tongues of fire, still fills us to do the impossible. Our part… to wait, to watch, to listen, to yield.
Pastor Richard Santos
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