Jewish Hope and Pentecost
Pentecost as fulfillment
When speaking of the theme of promise and fulfillment in relation to Pentecost most would point to Jesus’s words, in Luke,
“I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Lk 24:49).
“what my Father promised”, Jesus speaks of promises already made. Everyone knows Jesus is taking about Pentecost but we rarely think about the promises that were fulfilled at Pentecost. Jesus promise links the end of Luke to Acts where the promise is restated and reinforced in Acts 1:4–5.
Fulfillment is a major theme of Acts. Luke has built up expectation throughout his gospel and now focuses attention on fulfillment. To this point C.K. Barrett writes:
“Chapter 1 leads the reader to expect that the work of Jesus will not be complete and that his followers will not be fully prepared for their work, until notable activity of the Holy Spirit has taken place. This expectation is for filled on the day of Pentecost. The presence of the spirit -the gift of God in the eschatological age- is made known in visible and audible manifestations”
The coming of the Spirit on the disciples in Acts 2 is very important for it is the foundational event the rest of Acts is theologically built upon.
The four eschatological hopes all promised in the Old Testament can be seen as fulfilled at Pentecost. These Jewish hopes are eschatological in that they are connected to and rise from the hope of God’s work in the last days. They are:
- Universal prophethood,
- Pouring out of Yahweh’s Spirit,
- A new Spirit within Yahweh’s people
- A new covenant to govern the administration of God’s kingdom.
Does Luke demonstrates Pentecost as the fulfillment of these hopes in Acts 2?
In the below outline, under each heading I have given possible evidences that point to Luke implying a hope fulfilled.
I. The first hopes: universal prophethood (ie. the democratization of the Spirit)
A. Peter claimed it had been fulfilled in Joel’s prophecy (2:17-18). Luke emphasizes this in Universal prophecy in his description that these things happened to ‘all’ (2:1, 4, 7; ‘each one’ in v3), All in Acts 2:1, 7, (cf. 2:3). almost certainly means the 120, not just the twelve, as the connections with 1:13-15 are strong — the ‘all’ of 1:13-15 is carried through the ‘they’ of 1:24-26, and into chapter 2. “All” will have access to experience the Holy Spirit in which both young and old, male and female will prophesy. In this way, Joel 2:28–32 has been understood as depicting a democratization of the Spirit. This age is one that the Christian community is to be considered as “sons of the prophets” (Acts 3:24–25).
II. The second hope: a pouring out of Yahweh’s Spirit
A. Peter claimed it was also fulfilled in Joel’s prophecy (2:17-18).
B. More support is found in Peter’s repetition of the phrase ‘poured out’ in 2:33.
III. The third hope, a new Spirit for Yahweh’s people
A. It is implied by the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit (2:38) to the crowd.
B. Supportive evidence is found in the context of both Acts 2:38 and Ezekiel 36:25
(i) both speak of cleansing and forgiveness
(ii) the promise that they will dwell in the land (Ezekiel 36:28, 37:14) suggests that Ezekiel, that like Peter, is calling to those ‘who are far off’ (Acts 2:39).
IV. The fourth hope: a new covenant
A. We do not have explicit connection but a number of implicate ones that make the connection fulfillment likely. It is generally understood that Pentecost was the inauguration of the new covenant. When the Holy Spirit began his work of applying redemption and all its benefits to the people of God.
(i) connection between the fire and wind at Pentecost and the promise of God’s presence of God with his people. In Acts 2 there is an emphasis on a close relationship between Yahweh and his people, which is one of the main themes of Jeremiah’s new covenant promise. Evidence for this is found in the visible and audible signs of Acts 2:2-3. The analogous to fire and wind which are both imagery associated with old covenant theophanies and therefore demonstrate the presence of God with his people. the strong wind blew through the congregation assembled together, and the fire rest on the people individually signifying location of the indwelling spirit. God had come to his new temple, in both its corporate expression and individual expression.
(ii) The timing of the coming of the Spirit as a historical event with the Jewish calendar, particularly the feast of Pentecost connects the idea of new covenant and Pentecost, the evidence is likely that at this time at least some Jews saw Pentecost as a feast of covenant renewal. Luke may be making a theological and literary parallel between the giving of the Torah and the sending of the Spirit. Some scholars see a close parallel other do not hold to the same conviction. In the sending of the Spirit, we clearly have the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s new covenant prophecy, linking the giving of the ‘old’ law at Sinai, with the giving of the ‘new’, internal law in their hearts (Jer 31:33).
The evidence adds up to a promise and fulfillment of the Father. Identifying Pentecost as as the fulfillment of the eschatological hope. For Luke, Pentecost is a unique moment in salvation history.
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