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Just as Christmas and Easter are annual holidays for many of us today, Pentecost was an annual holiday to the Jews. It was also called Feast of Weeks, it was celebrated in May or June, and it was invented by Yahweh in Leviticus 23:15-22. It was essentially a harvest festival, and it was supposed to be a day of no work when the people would present certain kinds of offerings to Yahweh. People were told to make bread using some newly harvested grains, and then offer that bread plus some animals to God. Pentecost coincided with the summer harvesting of grains, and it was celebrated 50 days after Passover.
Today adherents of Judaism view the Feast of Weeks as a time to celebrate Yahweh giving the Law to Moses, but this isn’t what Yahweh said the holiday was about. Yahweh is a festive Guy, and He invented many party days for the Jews to put on their annual calendar. Holidays are good times to take a break from the daily grind, praise God, eat, socialize, and contemplate what really matters in life. Because Christianity came out of Judaism, there is an unhealthy obsession in the Church with all things Jewish. Some people act like it’s a super holy thing to celebrate Old Covenant holidays like Pentecost even when you’re a New Covenant believer. Well, no, this is ridiculous. And since Yahweh never said Pentecost was supposed to be anything more than a time of stopping to remember Him and to offer Him the first fruits of one’s summer harvest, we’re just being silly to turn it into more than that.
Now because the Holy Spirit made His grand entrance on Pentecost, today when you hear Christians refer to “Pentecost,” they’re usually only thinking of the specific day that is described in Acts 2. So why did the Holy Spirit come on a harvest holiday, anyhow? It was all about showing off.
When Yahweh invented a holiday for the Jews, He naturally wanted to be the focal point of that day. So He often required all of His followers to bring Him sacrifices on that day. In Moses’ time, making sacrifices meant crossing the enormous Israelite campground and bringing your stuff to the tent Tabernacle that was set up in the middle of camp. In Acts, it meant trooping on down to Jerusalem so that you could hand your stuff off to a priest in the Temple. The bottom line was this: on certain days of every year, Jerusalem became a super crowded place.
Now Jerusalem already had some impressive architectural features. So maybe you want to go there just to check the place out. Well, if you want to experience New York City without people climbing up your back, you don’t go there when the city is hosting some major event that is drawing people in from all over the world. But maybe that event was the reason you came to New York—in that case, you’re going to be one more person squeezing through the crowded streets. This was how it was in Jerusalem on days like the Passover and Pentecost: the number of Jews skyrocketed, plus there were all the extra folks who came just to see the Jews go through their religious motions. It’s not an accident that our glory loving Jesus decided to time His death with the Passover. By choosing to get crucified at a time when Jerusalem was extra crowded, Jesus got far more attention than He otherwise would have. And since people came from miles around to spend Passover in Jerusalem, when they went home, they took the news of Jesus with them.
Pentecost is another Jewish holiday which required Jews to physically travel to the city of Jerusalem in order to bring sacrifices to Yahweh at His Temple. Ever wonder why Jesus told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to come? Why not send them up north to Galilee where they could get some privacy? Well, like Jesus, the Holy Spirit doesn’t want to perform to an empty theater. He wants a packed out audience and plenty of firsthand witnesses who will spread the news of His arrival all throughout the Roman Empire. So He decides to show up on Pentecost day, and inside of a city that is just bursting with people.
THE THIRD GOD
On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability. (Acts 2:1-4)
It’s so easy to blow through this account without appreciating just how hair-raising this experience was. Notice the reference to a roaring that made people think of a mighty windstorm. Imagine what it would sound like if a huge freight train went speeding past your picnic table in a park or if you were walking on the tarmac when a huge jet came in for a landing. We’re talking about a very loud sound here in Acts, and Luke says that the sound filled the house. When a sound is filling a place, it means you can’t tell what direction it’s coming from. This only adds to your panic. So first the Holy Spirit scares the wits out of everyone with this unidentified, deafening sound, and then He causes the air to burst into flames. Wow. One minute your ears are ringing, your heart is racing, and your eyes are terrified saucers. Then suddenly the whole place is on fire. Talk about a nightmare.
Now if a bunch of flames were to suddenly appear in your room, is your first thought going to be, “Gee, I wonder if this is a God thing?” No, you’re going to be thinking, “Help me, God! I’m about to catch on fire!” And indeed you are, because now some of the creepy flames are moving through the air directly towards you. Is this smart fire some kind of alien lifeform? How is it that the flames can see where you are? Do you run or scream? Do you pray or pass out? And how are your nerves not shrieking with fearful anticipation of being scalded as you see the freaky fire moving towards you? None of your pals can help you, because they’re in the same predicament: the smart flames are gunning for them as well. Talk about something out of a demonic horror movie. And yet once the terrifying fire creatures land on you and your pals, some switch flips in your brain and you start hearing yourself babbling in some foreign language that you never knew before. Wow. Who says God isn’t full of surprises?
THE DIVINE AGENDA
When you stop to really contemplate what terrifying theatrics the Holy Spirit used in Acts 2, you get a whole new appreciation for just how wild our Gods can be. Today we read about Pentecost and say, “Tongues of fire? Cool! Wish I’d been there!” But no, when it’s your house that some invisible tornado is tearing through and when it’s your delicate tissues that the smart flames are closing in on, you don’t think, “What a great moment!” You think, “God, where are You?! What’s happening?! Please save me!!”
As we read through the Bible, we find all three of our Gods intentionally striking terror into the hearts of fragile humans. In Revelation, Jesus could have appeared in front of John in some comforting, friendly form and began to talk. But instead, Jesus sneaks up from behind and scares the life out of John by blasting him with some deafening Voice. In the Old Testament, we find story after story of Yahweh scaring the wits out of people. In Daniel 5, Yahweh makes a human hand appear out of nowhere and start etching words into the plaster wall of a banquet hall. There’s no body to go with the hand—it’s just the hand.
The king himself saw the hand as it wrote, and his face turned pale with fright. His knees knocked together in fear and his legs gave way beneath him. (Dan. 5:5-6)
Well, of course the king is freaking out—who wouldn’t? We might enjoy scaring ourselves at the movies, but that’s something we’re choosing to do. When fingers and flames show up uninvited, suddenly there’s nothing funny about it. The Bible is full of accounts of our Gods coming up with all kinds of terrifying theatrics, and given what fearful little creatures humans are to begin with, scaring us just isn’t hard to do. But if our Gods really are as good as They claim to be, why would They want to scare us so much? The Holy Spirit didn’t have to send everyone into a panic with roaring sounds and freaky fire. He could have just given them all some fabulous adrenaline rush—that certainly would have been more appealing. And yet our Gods aren’t going to teach us to view proximity to Them like some sensual joyride. While we work ourselves into a lather at our worship concerts and then call all of that manufactured hype evidence that “God was moving in our midst,” no, it really isn’t. God is not just a pleasant wave of love and laughter. God is not some idiot grabbing a mic and prophesying about how much Jesus love, love, loves us. While we insult the Holy Spirit by pleading for Him to entertain us by “falling afresh” in some dramatic way, we forget that the Being we’re calling out to was one of the Creators of both Heaven and Hell.
Our Gods didn’t just come up with cuddly kittens and dainty flowers. They also came up with molten lava, crushing ocean depths, broiling deserts, and freezing mountain peaks. They are the Ones causing the ground to shake, volcanoes to erupt, and hurricanes to form. If it exists, They created it. If it’s happening, They’re choosing to cause it. Think about that the next time you browse through the daily news headlines and you’ll realize that snuggling up to the Creators of all things is not a game. These are three terrifyingly powerful and incredibly complex non-human Beings. They could uncreate this universe and everything in it with a single word, yet do we fear Them? Do we even begin to have proper regard for Their awesome power? Given how casually we take the concept of obeying Them, and given how often we talk to Them as if we are Their superiors, the answer is obvious.
Reverence is a soul attitude which is essential to pleasing our Creators, and yet reverence for God is in very short supply among humans. Most Christians fear the things of earth far more than they do the Gods who created the earth, and this is quite a problem. It is reverence which drives submission, and without submission, we end up on the wrong side of God’s wrath. So reverence is vital, and we must cultivate it. But how? Well, reverence is a fear-driven respect that is based on an understanding of God’s superior power. What better way to give the early Christians a boost of reverence than for the Holy Spirit to make His Presence known through some terrifying theatrics?
It’s very good for us humans to get properly scared out of our wits now and then. It helps us remember what incapable little flecks we are, and it reminds us why anything less than total submission to our Makers is so deserving of discipline (see The Benefits of Reverence: Keeping Us Close to a Loving God). There is simply no justification for impotent specks like us lipping off to the Ones who are holding our molecules together. We lip off anyway, and our Gods are quite gracious about it. But that grace should not be taken for granted, and that is something reverence helps us with.
The Holy Spirit doesn’t exist to entertain us. He is God Almighty, and when we tell Him to fall afresh or come anew or show His power or breathe on us, we’re being grossly disrespectful (see Worship Songs from Satan: Fall Afresh). The Holy Spirit is not a dog who will perform tricks upon command, nor is He some kind of weather system that we can make blow or rain down whenever we want. When we talk as if He’s some spiked drink that we can all get “drunk” on or a sword that we can “slay” each other with, and when we try to control His movements by shoving each other down onto the ground and then declaring that the demonic fits we go into are signs of His “anointing,” we’re only building up Divine wrath against ourselves (see Is getting drunk in the Spirit worth an eternal hangover?). Is there anything more foolish than provoking the Gods who control the quality of your existence? No, and yet we’ve got scores of Christians today treating the Holy Spirit like some kind of entertainment device which they can turn on and off at will. Well, if you mess with the God who is currently enjoying the experience of torturing countless humans in Hell, what can we say? You’re in for some very unpleasant surprises when you die. Our Gods are powerful, demanding, and totally unreasonable. Please Them, and They will heap rewards on your head that you don’t even begin to deserve. Displease Them, and They’ll tear you apart with punishments that you will think are insanely extreme. This is who They are, and They’re quite upfront about it. If we don’t respond wisely to the information They’ve given us, well, then we’ll have no one to cry to when Their wrath nails us.
So wait—what happened to “God is love”? Aren’t we being a bit negative? No, we’re not. We’re just talking about the other side of the Divine Nature—the side that never gets discussed in many Christian circles. Our Gods certainly are incredibly loving and gracious. They are extremely compassionate and at times They can be wonderfully gentle. But all of Their sweetness becomes irrelevant if we end up on the wrong side of Their patience. Reverence is essential to pleasing Them, so with early Jewish believers whose spiritual priorities were far from correct, we see the Holy Spirit choosing to come in a way that reminds everyone that an Almighty God is not Someone to be trifled with.
In the Old Testament, spontaneous prophesying was a very common indicator that Yahweh’s Spirit had come upon someone. The idea here is that a guy would suddenly start pontificating about spiritual things. Prophecy isn’t limited to future telling—any Divine insight is a form of prophecy.
Well, here in the New Testament, the Holy Spirit starts a new pattern. We’ll find that He likes to zap people with tongues as a way of announcing His Presence. And because the whole issue of speaking in tongues is so grossly abused in the Church today, let’s take a moment to debunk common tongue theories.
If you don’t speak in tongues does that mean that you’re not saved? Certainly not. The reality is that most Christians will never speak in tongues. Another very important thing to realize is that most of the tongue speakers you see in the Church today are just faking it. Here are some key indicators that someone’s faking tongues: they claim to speak tongues on a regular basis, and they claim to be able to speak in tongues whenever they want. You see, true tongues is a miraculous event. It’s when you say something in a language that is unknown to you. This isn’t something you can do on your own—it’s something God must do through you. And since God won’t be controlled by you, anyone who claims to be controlling Divine activity is an obvious liar. This goes for healers, prophets, tongue speakers, and anyone else who struts around claiming that they can turn God on and off like some kind of faucet.
So what exactly is tongues? Is it true that those who are speaking in tongues are speaking the language of angels? No, it’s not. You get that foolish notion from the apostle Paul (1 Cor. 13:1). Paul also said humans would judge the angels (1 Cor. 6:3) because Paul’s ego was out of control. He wanted to judge the angels, co-reign with Christ (2 Tim. 2:12), and have all believers look up to him as the ultimate spiritual role model (1 Cor. 11:1). You aren’t going to get much truth from Paul.
When people speak in tongues, they’re simply speaking another language of earth. If a man who only speaks English suddenly starts saying a bunch of stuff in Swahili, that’s speaking in tongues. Now if the English speaker doesn’t know a word of Swahili, will he recognize what language he is speaking? Not at all, and this leaves room for him to jump to the absurd conclusion that he’s speaking some mystical spiritual language. But no, spirits do not have vocal cords, nor do they need to communicate using verbal words. The way humans talk to each other in this world is strictly an earthsuit thing. When you talk to God, you talk to Him with your soul, and your soul’s language isn’t something you could articulate even if you wanted to. The best you can do is try to translate some of what your soul is saying into a verbal language—that’s what you’re doing when you pray out loud with other Christians. But whenever you translate spiritual thoughts into verbal words, a lot is left out. Your soul’s language is so much more efficient and complex than those noises you make with your vocal cords that you simply can’t accurately translate it (see Communing with God: The Language of Your Soul).
Putting soul thoughts into words is like taking a book that was written using a vocabulary of 5,000 words and translating it into a language that only has 50 words. You simply aren’t going to capture the richness and depth of the original writing because the second language is so much more limited than the first. Once you understand how vastly different spiritual and verbal languages are, you realize why it is so absurd for Christians to claim that they are uttering spiritual languages when they stand around making a bunch of meaningless noise.
Now once some idiot declares that speaking in tongues is evidence of salvation and a bunch of other fools agree with him, what happens? Suddenly Christians are afraid not to speak in tongues, because this makes them think God is refusing to accept them. Today we have sincere new believers getting totally traumatized by the idea that God is rejecting them simply because no tongues are happening. We also have Christian leaders shamelessly encouraging new converts to fake tongues by telling them to start mumbling a bunch of rubbish on their own when no miracle occurs at the moment of salvation. The point of faking tongues is to help God flow by warming up your vocal cords for Him. This is obnoxious behavior, and one which promotes deception as a glorious thing. Never mind that both Yahweh and Jesus rail on and on in the Bible about how much They hate hypocrisy—let’s teach Christians that it pleases God for them to fake tongues. Does this sound right to you?
True tongues is a miraculous event. Calling it a “gift” is inappropriate, because Christians use the term “spiritual gift” as a synonym for “talent.” Well, no, speaking in tongues is not like being good at baseball. It’s not something you can do whenever you feel like it. It’s something God does to you at certain strategic moments, and you’ll find that real tongue speakers often find God setting them up in some very embarrassing situations. Remember that a real tongue speaker has no idea what he’s saying—he just hears a bunch of nonsensical noise coming out of his mouth. Who wants to draw attention to himself by making a bunch of embarrassing noises? Yet this is exactly what God has real tongue speakers do: He suddenly compels them to start speaking nonsense out loud, and in the midst of the highly embarrassing moment, someone ends up blessed. You see, the whole point of tongues is for God to show off. To be impressive, a tongue speaking event has to be recognized as the miraculous thing that it is.
Let’s go back to our English speaking man who has just blurted out something in Swahili. Now he’s feeling flushed faced and embarrassed, and he doesn’t realize that a Swahili speaker standing nearby just understood what he said. God spoke through our English speaker and said something very personal to the Swahili speaker—perhaps something that no one else could have known. The Swahili speaker is now feeling very wowed and he realizes that something supernatural just happened when he sees that the English speaker has no idea of what he just said. This is how legitimate situations of speaking in tongues often work today: they are primarily personal moments between God and the tongue hearer, but the hearer doesn’t always speak up and share what was said with the tongue speaker. Sometimes God just leaves the tongue speaker feeling very awkward as a bunch of people give him strange looks.
The purpose of real tongue speaking is for God to pull the focus onto Himself. You’ll find that God is not the One being focused on when tongue promoting Christians get together and take turns showing off how “anointed” they are. The Church has made a mockery out of tongues, turning it into a game where one person gets up and makes a bunch of noise, then someone else stands up and claims to have an “interpretation” of what was said. Of course the interpreter is just putting words in God’s mouth that God never said, and the tongue speaker is just making noise to look holy. That’s one popular version of tongue games. A second popular version is for a speaker to intentionally interrupt himself in the middle of some sermon or prayer to make a bunch of meaningless noise. It goes something like this:
“The Lord gave me a word this morning—yiddiyiddiyiddiyiddi—it was a powerful word—blublublublub—He said that some of you are withholding your tithes from Him—yiddiyiddiyiddiyiddi—and that your stinginess is building up wrath against you!”
In this scenario, the speaker fakes tongues as a way of flaunting his Divine connections. It’s very effective among Christians who have been brainwashed into thinking any incoherent noise a man makes must be an act of God. Throw in a few jerky motions that make you look as though the Holy Spirit is knocking around inside of your body, and everyone will walk away saying, “Wow, what an anointed man of God.” This is how gullible Christians are, and how shameless our leaders are. The abuse of tongues abounds today, and most of the tongues you hear being spoken are pure hooey (see Speaking in Tongues).
So now that we understand how tongues are abused, let’s talk about how the Holy Spirit used them to His advantage in Acts. Remember that it’s Pentecost, and that means Jerusalem is stuffed to the gills with folks who have come there from all over the Roman Empire. Realize that an ethnic Jew is different than a religious Jew. A religious Jew is simply one who claims to adhere to the tenants of the religion Judaism, and such a person could be of any ethnicity. Here in Acts 2, religious Jews from all over the Empire have come to Jerusalem to celebrate this important religious holiday and mingle with fellow believers.
At that time there were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem. When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running, and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers.
They were completely amazed. “How can this be?” they exclaimed. “These people are all from Galilee, and yet we hear them speaking in our own native languages! Here we are—Parthians [parth-EE-ins], Medes [MEEDS], Elamites [E-luh-MITES], people from Mesopotamia [MESS-oh-puh-TAME-ee-yuh], Judea, Cappadocia [CAP-pah-doe-SEE-uh], Pontus [PAWN-tuss], the province of Asia, Phrygia [FRIG-ee-yuh], Pamphylia [pam-FILL-ee-yah], Egypt, and the areas of Libya around Cyrene [SIGH-reen], visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans [KREE-tuns], and Arabs. And we all hear these people speaking in our own languages about the wonderful things God has done!” They stood there amazed and perplexed. “What can this mean?” they asked each other.
But others in the crowd ridiculed them, saying, “They’re just drunk, that’s all!” (Acts 2:5-13)
The Holy Spirit has made such a loud ruckus that people have run over from all around. They can tell just looking at the disciples that they are from the northern region of Galilee, and this means that the disciples shouldn’t be fluent in languages that are spoken outside of that region. So how is it that so many dialects are being spoken at once?
Notice what the Holy Spirit is talking about as He forces the disciples to speak in foreign languages: He’s exalting Yahweh, and reminding these religious Jews about things that Yahweh has done. Our Gods always exalt Themselves and Each Other. Many of these religious Jews are properly impressed, but there are always some scoffers in the group. Some of the people are accusing the disciples of being drunk—and this is an easy conclusion to come to when so many of the disciples sound like they’re just babbling nonsensically. Imagine ten men who were all talking at once in ten different languages. Only one man is speaking your own language, so to you, that man makes sense. But the other nine sound strange, and if you didn’t recognize any of the languages, then all ten of the men would sound strange.
Well, Peter isn’t going to just let these mockers go unchallenged. He now gets up and delivers a sermon which many evangelists still froth over today. Why? Because they think Peter’s brilliant sermon played a large role in raking in a hefty number of converts, so there’s a desire to turn Peter into a formula that we can all use to get converts today. This is how foolish we act in the Church: we credit people for things which only God can do. We say it was our brilliant sermon or our fervent prayers that caused some spiritual event to take place. We’re always trying to rip the glory away from God because we just can’t stand facing what non-essential roles we play in His work.
Now as Peter launches into his sermon, he’s going to start whipping out more Old Testament quotations. To these Jews, the Old Testament is the only Bible they have, and no one anticipates a New Testament being written. So it makes sense for Peter to try to quote the Bible to fellow religious Jews. But will he quote relevant passages or will he be as ridiculous as he was in our previous lesson? Let’s find out.
Then Peter stepped forward with the eleven other apostles and shouted to the crowd, “Listen carefully, all of you, fellow Jews and residents of Jerusalem! Make no mistake about this. These people are not drunk, as some of you are assuming. Nine o’clock in the morning is much too early for that. No, what you see was predicted long ago by the prophet Joel:
‘In the last days,’ Yahweh says, ‘I will pour out My Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams.
In those days I will pour out My Spirit even on My male and female slaves and they will prophesy. And I will cause wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below— blood and fire and clouds of smoke. The sun will become dark, and the moon will turn blood red before that great and glorious day of Yahweh arrives. But everyone who calls on the Name of Yahweh will be saved.’” [Joel 2:28-32] (Acts 2:14-21)
So what was the original context of this passage from Joel 2? Well, the prophet Joel preached just before the epic and very graphic destruction of Jerusalem and the fall of Yahweh’s first Temple—the one that King Solomon built. It was the terrifying Babylonians who sacked Jerusalem and in the first two chapters of Joel, Yahweh is building up anticipation of how awful this act of Divine discipline will be for the Jews living in and around Jerusalem.
“Blow the trumpet in Jerusalem; shout a warning on My holy mountain. Let all the people who live in the land shake with fear, because Yahweh’s day of judgment is coming; it is near. It will be a dark, gloomy day, cloudy and black. Like the light at sunrise, a great and powerful army will spread over the mountains. There has never been anything like it before, and there will never be anything like it again.” (Joel 2:1-2)
The term “Day of Yahweh” or “Day of the LORD” is frequently used in the Old Testament to refer to times when Yahweh delivers some major spanking to a group of rebellious souls. Today you’re taught to believe Old Testament “Day of Yahweh” passages are really references to the end times. Well, no, they’re not. Yahweh makes it clear in His various speeches what historical events He is talking about when He speaks of a coming Day of Yahweh. Because the Jews were very exaggeratory, theatrical people, Yahweh uses exaggeratory language and metaphors when He is speaking to them. This is why we so often find Him talking as if the earth is falling apart, the stars are falling, and all of mankind is being obliterated from the planet whenever He’s about to deliver some major spanking. These are absurdly extreme metaphors which are not at all meant to be taken literally (see Distinguishing Between the Real End Times & the Day of Yahweh). But when you’re talking to people who go around tearing their clothes and wailing at the top of their lungs whenever they feel upset in life, you can’t get across the concept of extreme terror without using over the top language because the Jews were already so over the top in their reactions to normal life events. This is why you find Yahweh describing the whole planet undergoing epic disaster when He’s really just talking about some army invading Jerusalem. This is why you find the entire human race getting obliterated over and over again in Revelation when Jesus and Yahweh are predicting the fall of the Roman Empire. If God were really to cause the sun to stop shining or if He were to actually knock the earth out of its current orbit, we’d all be dead in a very short matter of time. Yet though Yahweh claims to do all of these things in the Bible, here we still are, because Yahweh was not being literal.
In Joel 2, Yahweh isn’t talking about the last days on earth. He’s talking about the Babylonian army coming to level Jerusalem and burn His Temple to the ground. It’s going to be a bloodbath for the Jews when that day comes. The Babylonians will be unstoppable because they are Yahweh’s chosen instruments for dishing out Divine discipline onto the heads of bratty Jews. And yet not everyone in Judah is a snarky rebel. God always has a small remnant of folks who actually still care about Him, and it is those folks who we find Him pep talking after He delivers some terrifying message of doom.
Here’s how it works with Divine predictions of doom: the rebels never take such messages seriously, thus they remain unafraid and unrepentant. It’s only sincere believers who pay attention when God speaks, and then they end up terrified by what He’s predicting. This is why we find God then flipping themes and suddenly speaking of hope and restoration after scaring the wits out of His followers by prophesying horrible events in their futures. God isn’t interested in paralyzing His good guys with fear. He wants them to stay focused on Him and understand that He isn’t going to lose track of them in the crowd when He starts unloading on all the souls who He is mad at. And because God is almost always talking to Jews when He prophesies in the Bible, His pep talks are as exaggeratory as His doomsday speeches. Over and over, we find Yahweh painting glorious pictures of a perfect life on earth for faithful Jews. He describes His chosen people kicking back in a lush Israel, worshiping Him at the Temple and being the envy of all other nations. Of course none of this really happens, because Yahweh is being exaggeratory. In real life, He knows that He’s planning to dispense with the Temple and the whole sacrificial system when He changes Covenants. He knows that He is going to transition His followers from the worship of just Him to the worship of Him and Jesus and the Holy Spirit. But all of this is TMI for Old Testament believers, so when Yahweh speaks of hope to folks who are living in a war torn land, He paints pictures of a sweet life using Old Covenant imagery.
When we don’t recognize just how exaggeratory Yahweh is being, we end up taking Him far too literally and believing that it really is His plan to reconstruct a Temple in Jerusalem and turn the political nation of Israel into some world power. Well, no, this is not at all His plan. In the first place, rebuilding the Temple would be a major slam on Christ, who claimed to take away the sins of the world. If Christ has put the atonement issue to rest, why on earth would we need a new Temple? Today the only people pining for a new Temple are religious Jews who refuse to acknowledge the Divinity of Christ and Christians who fail to understand how insulting the revival of the sacrificial system is to both Yahweh and Jesus. If we were to actually ask Yahweh for His opinion on the matter (which we don’t), we’d discover that He finds it quite tiresome when we act like the destruction of the Temple is an epic crisis when it’s actually something that our Gods did on purpose.
Now here in Acts 2, Peter is quoting a passage from Joel which Yahweh used to give hope to a bunch of discouraged believers that better days would come after the attack by the Babylonians. Peter believes he is actually living in the last days, so suddenly this passage from Joel seems terribly relevant. He now suggests that Yahweh was actually prophesying the coming of the Holy Spirit in Joel 2, and Peter says that what’s just happened in Jerusalem was a fulfillment of that ancient prophecy. But was it?
In Joel 2, Yahweh is using Old Covenant language. He says that anyone who calls on His Name will be saved. He says that He will send His Spirit. As we learned in our previous lesson, Yahweh’s Spirit is just another name for Yahweh, and Yahweh is not the Holy Spirit who we are all supposed to be worshiping today. Yahweh isn’t talking about our third glorious Creator in Joel 2, nor is He talking about the importance of believing in multiple Gods. In Joel 2, Yahweh says that believing in Him alone is sufficient, because the Old Covenant promoted monotheism (the belief in only one God). But when Yahweh changed Covenants, He threw out the idea of monotheism and switched to polytheism.
Today salvation is only obtained through reverential submission to three Gods: Yahweh, Jesus, and the magnificent Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not just “the Spirit of Yahweh.” The Holy Spirit is a separate and distinct God, but we’re not going to get a grip on this critical truth by quoting Joel 2, because Joel 2 is using monotheistic language. See the problem? You can’t just go yanking out any Old Testament passage you want and trying to hold it up as a guideline for how to operate under the New Covenant. Our Gods have changed the rules and if we don’t keep up with those changes, we’re going to end up in Hell. Viewing the magnificent Holy Spirit merely as some extension of Yahweh Himself will get us nowhere. This is what followers of Judaism do today and followers of Judaism are on their way to Hell for rejecting the Divinity of Christ and refusing to acknowledge the Holy Spirit as the separate God that He is.
So is Yahweh talking about the coming of the Holy Spirit in Joel 2? No, He’s painting a picture of Himself drawing near to Old Covenant believers in a special way. Throughout the Old Testament, Yahweh often used spontaneous prophecy to indicate that He was with someone in some special way—this is why He refers to all believers of every gender and social rank prophesying and having prophetic dreams. It was considered a sign of Yahweh’s favor to have Him prophesy through you, and in Joel 2, Yahweh is specifically encouraging true believers who are stressing over what a spiritual mess their homeland is in and about how mad their God is.
Notice the dramatic language that Yahweh uses in Joel 2:
“I will show miracles in the sky and on the earth: blood, fire, and thick smoke. The sun will become dark, the moon red as blood, before the overwhelming and terrible day of Yahweh comes.” (Joel 2:30-31)
Notice that reference to the terrible day of Yahweh. Yahweh is speaking once again about the coming Babylonian attack. During his quotation, Peter cuts Yahweh off in mid thought, but if we actually finish the original thought, it goes like this:
“Then anyone who calls on Yahweh will be saved, because on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be people who will be saved, just as Yahweh has said. Those left alive after the day of punishment are the people whom Yahweh called.” (Joel 2:32)
One minute it sounds like the end of the world, then Yahweh talks about a group of folks who He intentionally spares from dying during the day of judgment. A “day of judgment” is hardly the same thing as the entire planet getting obliterated. Yahweh isn’t talking about the real end times here, even though this is how Peter interprets this passage. Yahweh is talking about the Babylonian attack—an attack which will result in the epic slaughter of Jews, and yet a remnant will survive.
Imagine if God were to start announcing today that He was going to launch some epic attack against your own ethnic group. That’s very disturbing stuff. The prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel are preaching at the same time as Joel, and they’re both describing a situation of mass slaughter for the Jews. If you’re a Jew listening to God talking about mowing down the members of your ethnic group, you’re going to be very upset. It would be very comforting for you to have God assure you that He isn’t going to go as far as total genocide, and Yahweh gives this assurance many times to the Jews living in Judah prior to the major attack. This is just how nice Yahweh is, and if we’d stop trying to change the meaning of what He said, we could do a better job of appreciating His original sentiments.
As Peter continues on in his sermon, he’s going to quote the Old Testament again. Brace yourself, because here comes another feeble attempt to say that David was prophesying about Christ.
“People of Israel, listen! Yahweh publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through Him, as you well know. But Yahweh knew what would happen, and His prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed Him to a cross and killed Him. But Yahweh released Him from the horrors of death and raised Him back to life, for death could not keep Him in its grip. King David said this about Him:
‘I see that Yahweh is always with me. I will not be shaken, for He is right beside me. No wonder my heart is glad, and my tongue shouts His praises! My body rests in hope. For You will not leave my soul among the dead or allow Your holy one to rot in the grave. You have shown me the way of life, and You will fill me with the joy of Your Presence.’ [Ps. 16:8-11]
Dear brothers, think about this! You can be sure that the patriarch David wasn’t referring to himself, for he died and was buried, and his tomb is still here among us. But he was a prophet, and he knew Yahweh had promised with an oath that one of David’s own descendants would sit on his throne. David was looking into the future and speaking of the Messiah’s resurrection. He was saying that Yahweh would not leave Jesus among the dead or allow His body to rot in the grave.” (Acts 2:22-31)
This is just painful, and Peter is demonstrating some major errors in his personal theology, starting with his refusal to see Jesus as the One who raised Himself back to life. Notice how Peter describes Jesus as merely someone who Yahweh worked through. It is Yahweh who Peter credits as performing all of those miracles and of releasing poor helpless Jesus from the grip of that mysterious entity called Death. Well, no, this is garbage theology.
Jesus is God Almighty, not just some wimp of a human who was at the mercy of Yahweh’s plan. Death is not alive, and death does not grip things. Jesus didn’t need to be released from anything because Jesus cannot be bound by anything—least of all death. And no, David was not talking about Jesus in Psalm 16. Good grief, is poor David ever going to be quoted correctly? Let’s now check out what David actually said in Psalm 16, because the language he uses is a bit different than Peter’s.
In Psalm 16, David is reminding Yahweh that he’s not joining with the spiritual rebels who worship other gods. And because David is so faithful to Yahweh, he naturally thinks Yahweh ought to respond by blessing David’s earthly circumstances. This was a very common Old Covenant mindset, and one which we still get stuck in today.
Protect me, God, for I take refuge in You. I said to Yahweh, “You are my Lord; I have nothing good besides You.” (Ps. 16:1-2)
The sorrows of those who take another god for themselves will multiply; I will not pour out their drink offerings of blood, and I will not speak their names with my lips. (Ps. 16:4)
After making these declarations of loyalty to Yahweh, David says:
Yahweh, You are my portion and my cup of blessing; You hold my future. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. (Ps. 16:5-6)
David seems to be in a pretty up mood when he pens this psalm. He’s thinking about his personal relationship with Yahweh and rightly viewing it as a great blessing. He’s looking forward to a future that is securely in Yahweh’s hands.
I will praise Yahweh who counsels me—even at night my conscience instructs me. I keep Yahweh in mind always. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my spirit rejoices; my body also rests securely. For You will not abandon me to Sheol; You will not allow Your faithful one to see decay. You reveal the path of life to me; in Your Presence is abundant joy; in Your right hand are eternal pleasures. (Ps. 16:7-11)
David is so obviously thinking about himself in this passage. How many times does a man have to use the terms I, me, and my, before we grasp that he’s talking about himself? When David speaks of Yahweh not abandoning him in the negative underworld of Sheol, he’s expressing faith in the concept of being transferred to some positive eternal dwelling, much as we Christians look forward to going to Heaven today. Hope of a joyous afterlife is not new to this Covenant. David has great hope that after he dies, he’ll end up in Yahweh’s Presence enjoying “eternal pleasures.” And yet Peter says:
“Dear brothers, think about this! You can be sure that the patriarch David wasn’t referring to himself, for he died and was buried, and his tomb is still here among us. But he was a prophet, and he knew Yahweh had promised with an oath that one of David’s own descendants would sit on his throne. David was looking into the future and speaking of the Messiah’s resurrection. He was saying that Yahweh would not leave Jesus among the dead or allow His body to rot in the grave.” (Acts 2:29-31)
What a bunch of baloney. David was not thinking about anyone but himself when he wrote Psalm 16. When David says “You will not allow Your faithful one to see decay,” he’s referring to himself as the faithful one. David had no problems with boasting of his own righteousness in the psalms, and yet if you look up Psalm 16 in certain English translations of the Bible today, guess what? You’re going to find the term “Faithful One” capitalized. Why? Because of what Peter says in Acts. You see, once some New Testament speaker misapplies an Old Testament passage, our Bible publishers go back and alter the Old Testament text to make those passages line up with what the New Testament guys say. You’ll find this happening in many places throughout the Old Testament: capitals appear where they don’t belong to indicate references to Christ where no such references exist. It’s all a part of the Church’s idolatry trip as she teaches you not to think for yourself but to blindly accept whatever is written in the book. If Peter says David is prophesying about Jesus in Psalm 16, then you’re just supposed to swallow that idea whole, even though it’s a bunch of malarkey. And to help you feel wrong about questioning it, Bible publishers sneak in some capitals. In case you’re wondering, the original Hebrew didn’t use upper and lowercase letters, so there’s no way anyone can possibly make a case for David speaking about Christ except by context, and the context clearly reveals that David is talking about David. But in Acts 2, we’re listening to a guy who thinks Death is some kind of god and Jesus was some mere mortal who was helplessly locked in Death’s grip until Yahweh came along and freed Him. Peter’s theology isn’t what you’d call advanced. Peter is still on the fence about the Divinity of Christ, which is why he isn’t ready to accept that Christ has the chops to raise Himself back to life. No, only a true God could have the power to bring souls all the way back from that fictitious underworld of Sheol or Hades which the Jews believed in. And since no one is comfortable with accepting Jesus as fully God, Peter sticks with the much more comfortable theory that Yahweh was the One who raised Christ.
PETER DEMOTES CHRIST
“Yahweh raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this. Therefore, since Jesus has been exalted to the right hand of Yahweh and has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit, He has poured out what you both see and hear.” (Acts 2:32-33)
Are you hearing how monotheistic this speech is? Jesus isn’t God, He’s just a human who was super exalted by Yahweh. Yahweh’s the King—Jesus only sits at the King’s right hand. In this historical context, everyone was familiar with the image of a supreme human ruler sitting on a throne. To be invited to sit at the right hand of the human king was just about the greatest honor a man could hope for, but it was clearly understood that sitting at the king’s right hand in no way made you equal to the king. This is the major problem with these references to Jesus sitting at the right hand of the Father which we find throughout the New Testament. To say Jesus sits at Yahweh’s right hand is the same as saying that Jesus is a lower ranking subordinate of Yahweh. The New Testament boys do not promote the idea of Jesus being a co-regent, for that would make Him a King of equal status. No, Jesus is always parked in a lower-ranking position beside the only real King the Jews will recognize: Yahweh. And even though Jesus said He raised Himself back to life, thus proving just how Divine He really was, Peter says Yahweh raised Jesus, because Peter is not theologically comfortable with seeing Jesus as Yahweh’s equal. And as for the Holy Spirit—well, He’s merely portrayed as some kind of baton which Yahweh passes to Jesus so that Jesus can pass Him on to the disciples. No, no, no, this is grossly demeaning language which is totally unacceptable for Christians to embrace.
We have three Gods, not one God and His human helper. As a New Covenant believer, you need to understand that it is not okay for you to worship any created being, and if you see Jesus as just some super favored human, or as a human-God hybrid, then you’re saying He is created. Jesus is not created, He is God Almighty. He, Yahweh, and the Holy Spirit co-created everything that exists. The Holy Spirit is not just some extension of Yahweh, He is a separate Individual. The Holy Spirit is an independent God, not some object that Yahweh pulled out of a closet. The Holy Spirit is not a slave to Yahweh any more than Jesus is. If this doesn’t sound right to you, then you need to do some serious praying and ask your Gods directly to clarify who They are. We can’t be worshiping some Being who is “fully God and fully man.” We don’t worship men under any circumstances. We only worship Gods.
Now Peter isn’t done talking and he isn’t done trying to force David into the role of a prophet. David wasn’t a prophet, he was just a guy who Yahweh was very pleased with. David sought the guidance of legitimate prophets in his life, but he didn’t go around prophesying personally. Yet we can’t expect Peter to tell us the truth about what David did and didn’t do when Peter won’t even allow for Jesus to have the ability to raise Himself back to life. Are you seeing what a theological mess our early Church fathers were? And the mess will just get bigger in our next lesson.
UP NEXT: Know Your Bible Lesson 73: Peter Reduces Christ
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