Ten days after Jesus Christ ascended into heaven and fifty days after He arose from the dead, He poured out His Spirit upon the church. In Acts 2 we read that the place where the 120 disciples of Jesus Christ were gathered was filled with the sound of a mighty, rushing wind; cloven tongues as of fire sat upon each one of them; and they all spoke, in many different languages, the wonderful works of God.
There was a multitude of Jews and proselytes in Jerusalem on that day, for Pentecost was an important Old Testament feast day. Jerusalem was filled with Jews. This multitude gathered in amazement around the 120 disciples upon whom the Spirit of Jesus Christ had been poured out. They stood with doubt and cynicism and asked the question, “What meaneth this?” That is our question today, too.
Pentecost, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the church. What does that mean? The Scriptures, of course, give us the answer. The very beautiful answer of the meaning of Pentecost is recorded for us in the Old Testament prophecy of Isaiah 44:3-5. There we read that God poured “water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground.” There God promised: “I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring.” God spoke of a rich blessing that would follow this outpoured Spirit: “And they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses. One shall say, I am the LORD’S; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the LORD, and surname himself by the name of Israel.”
I would like to consider that beautiful prophecy of Isaiah in chapter 44:3-5 — a beautiful prophecy of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ on the day of Pentecost.
When we read that portion of Scripture in Isaiah, we see that it is very plain that we are dealing with figurative language. We must not attempt to explain that verse from a natural point of view. We must not think that Isaiah is speaking merely of a flood or deluge of water upon dry ground in the vicinity of Jerusalem. But we must see it from a spiritual point of view. We must see it as a word which is spoken to comfort you and me and the church of Jesus Christ as we await deliverance into the final kingdom of heaven which is eternal and everlasting.
If we do not understand that we have a figure of speech here, describing a spiritual truth, then the text would become nonsensical. If Isaiah is talking only about willow trees growing up among lush grass, and floods of water poured out upon dry ground, then there is no comfort here. If all the text means is that God pours out water on dry ground and causes lush pasturage for flocks and for willow trees growing by riverbanks; if it speaks only of physical blessings to be granted to the people of Judah in the land of Canaan, then we could legitimately ask the question: “So what?”
But, you see, that Word of God is much deeper than that. It engages beautiful, figurative language to speak of the outpouring of the Spirit. It speaks of the fact that God would pour out His Spirit on thy seed, in the figure of floods being poured out upon dry ground. It speaks of the fact that God would “give My blessing upon thy offspring,” and speaks of that blessing in terms of waters being poured out upon the ground. The idea is that the blessing of God will be so poured out upon the church, upon His people, that the blessing will saturate the church even as water saturates dry ground; and even as that water causes lush vegetation to grow up. The result of the wonderful blessings of God’s pouring out His Spirit upon the church will be that we are led to confess: “I am the Lord’s. I belong to the Lord.”
Notice, we read in that beautiful prophecy: “I will pour out my spirit upon thy seed.” That does not mean simply that the Lord pours out His Spirit in the sense that the Holy Spirit permeates the whole universe and holds the whole creation and life. That is indeed true. The Spirit of God is that which holds this world in its being. But in the text we have a special pouring out of God’s Spirit. “I will pour out my Spirit” — My Spirit, the author of spiritual life, My Spirit who, according to I Corinthians 2:10, is the Third Person of the holy Trinity, knows the deep things of God, and is able to impart spiritual and eternal life. “I will pour out him upon thy seed.”
Now, you say, what can that mean? Was not the Holy Spirit poured out, that is, given to God’s people in the Old Testament? God’s people in the Old Testament, before Jesus Christ was born –how did they come to faith and repentance in God? They had to come to that faith and repentance by the work of the Holy Spirit. David says in Psalm 51, “Take not thy Holy Spirit from me.” The Holy Spirit is the author of salvation both in the Old and New Testaments. But we must understand that there was an important distinction between the work of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament and the outpouring in the New Testament. It is not that the Holy Spirit did not function and dwell in the people of God in the Old Testament. No, there is no spiritual life without the Holy Spirit of God. But it means that the Spirit always worked through the shadows and through the types of the Old Testament. In the Old Testament He painted the picture of Christ on the canvas of Old Testament prophecies. He painted Christ in all of His beauty, but in shadow and in picture — not yet the reality. God kept His people, so to speak, at arm’s length with regard to the outpouring of His Spirit. The Spirit was there. He functioned through the offices of prophet, priest, and king, through all of the shadows of the tabernacle and the temple, the sacrifices and ceremonies of the law. Certainly the Holy Spirit was at work.
But when the prophet says that God pours out the Spirit, he means that the reality, the fullness of all of these blessings, will be realized in our hearts. Notice that Isaiah puts it this way: “And I will pour out my blessings upon thy offspring.” I will pour out My Spirit, I will pour out My blessings. That means that I will pour Out My blessings upon you in the way of pouring out My Spirit.
Pentecost was the time that the Holy Spirit was poured out with all the blessings that Jesus Christ had accomplished upon the cross. All that was done by and through and in Jesus Christ the Spirit poured this out. The blessings of salvation, merited by Jesus Christ, were poured out on the day of Pentecost. Those blessings which were earned and obtained by Jesus Christ, those blessings which bring us into the fellowship of God’s presence and covenant–I will pour this out upon you. I will pour out upon you the righteousness that Christ has earned, the holiness which is His, the love and the friendship with God which are yours as a result of the work of Jesus Christ.
I will pour out My Spirit, I will pour out My blessings upon you, that is, I will pour out upon you, by My Spirit, all the blessings that Jesus Christ has earned in His suffering and death. That is what happened upon the day of Pentecost. That was a rich blessing. That is a rich blessing for the church and for every believer.
It is a rich blessing because the church and every believer of themselves are totally devoid of any good, any saving good. Would you note that we are pictured here as dry ground. The seed, or the offspring upon which the Spirit will be poured out, are pictured as dry ground, those who have nothing of themselves, as baked earth, crusted, parched, producing no fruit.
And so it was. The church before the day of Pentecost lived upon dry ground. So it is of ourselves. We are of ourselves, by our own sinful nature, without fruit toward God. We are as dry ground. We bring forth nothing pleasing to God. But when the day of Pentecost was fully come, you see, then the blessings of salvation are poured out upon us. The truth is this: the outpouring of the Spirit represents the reality of the salvation of Christ being given to God’s people who, of themselves, have no spiritual good, but now are made rich in Jesus Christ. I will pour out My Spirit upon thy seed, My blessing upon thy offspring.
That is also the significance of the signs of Pentecost. We read that there was the sound of a mighty rushing wind that represented the power of the Holy Spirit, the force, the irresistible power of the Spirit. Just as the wind is powerful and unseen, so the Holy Spirit comes with power and works His work of grace in us. He calls us out of darkness into light. He changes us from the hardness of a rebellious and sinful heart and He works in us to be repentant before God. And we read that there were cloven tongues as of fire upon each of the disciples. That fire represents purification. The Holy Spirit is sent to sanctify, to purify, to make us holy. And they were cloven tongues. The explanation, I believe, is this: it illustrates the fervor of the Spirit–not one flame, but cloven, two flames. A strong flame. The Holy Spirit comes to burn away the iniquity and the dross of our sins and to cleanse and to purify us and to make us holy.
Then we read that the disciples spoke in many different tongues the wonderful praises of God. In Jerusalem, we are told in Acts 2, were people from every region known to man at that time. Yet they all heard the disciples speak in their own languages, or tongues, the mighty works of God. Isaiah already in chapter 44 saw that this would happen. He sees it as a sign that the Word of God will go to all nations in order to gather one church unto Jesus Christ. There would be those who surnamed themselves by the name of Israel, who would subscribe with their hand unto the Lord. The word would be spoken throughout the world in their languages and tongues. And God would gather, out of the whole world, His people whom He has chosen to life eternal.
That is why Pentecost is such a blessed and wonderful event for us. Isaiah could prophesy of it. You and I live in the reality of it. With joy in our hearts we can praise the living God for His great blessing upon us. God poured out water upon the dry ground. He poured out the blessings of Jesus Christ by his Spirit upon us so that we might spring up as grass, as willows by the water courses, says the prophet.
Now turn to Psalm 92:7. Here you have that figure explained to you. There God states, “When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed for ever.” We shall spring up among the grass, that is, in the midst of a wicked world which, apparently, comes up quickly and flourishes in its evil until it is cut down and withered. The people of God, now, will spring up among that grass, out of dry ground. That is, a church will be born and will flourish as a willow tree by the water courses. God pours out His Spirit in order that there might be a church in the midst of this wicked world, a church flourishing in faith and in repentance and in obedience. God’s people, then, will grow up as willows by the riverside in the midst of this earth. They will stand mighty and strong in faith. The result of the outpouring will be this: a church which is chosen to life everlasting will flourish in faith and in repentance in the midst of a wicked world, living in hope for the return of Jesus Christ.
Then we shall say, “I am the Lord’s.” We who, by nature, have no right to say that, we who have no power to say that — we will grow up in faith. And, as a result of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, we will be made bold to say, “I am the Lord’s. I will call myself by His name. I will subscribe to Him. I will call myself by the name of Israel, ‘Prince with God.”‘
And all of this as a result of the Holy Spirit poured forth abundantly into our hearts.
The question, then, is this: What is your name? Are you among those on whom God has poured out His Spirit? The Holy Spirit has been poured out upon God’s church. The blessings of the salvation of Jesus Christ are given to every believer to enjoy and possess in order that he might say, “I am the Lord’s,” in order that he might be assured and convicted that he is a child of God. It is the Spirit who gives us to know that we belong to Jesus Christ, that we are the apple of the eye of God. For God has poured out His Spirit upon us, His blessings in Jesus Christ. He has poured them freely upon us by the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.
That is Pentecost.
Let us pray.
Our Father, we thank Thee for Thy Word and we pray that Thou wilt bless it unto our hearts. We thank Thee for Thy faithful work of taking the salvation of Jesus Christ and pouring that out into our hearts. We pray that we may live to Thy glory and honor, Amen.