(Series: “The Early Church of Jerusalem” post #1)
What we call the “church age” began on the Jewish feast day known as Pentecost that is described in Acts chapter 2. It was on that day that God the Holy Spirit began indwelling Christ’s followers. Jesus had said, “I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18), and what happened on that day of Pentecost was the official beginning of that work.
This new ministry of the Holy Spirit fulfilled four promises that Jesus had made:
- On the last night of His earthly life, He had told His chosen 12 apostles concerning the Holy Spirit, “…for He dwells with (emphasis mine) you and will be in (emphasis mine) you” (John 14:17, N.K.J.V.).
- Later in that same teaching session, He had told them, “…if I do not go away, the Helper (the Holy Spirit) will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7, N.K.J.V.).
- After His resurrection and in the last seconds prior to His ascension back to heaven, He had stood on the Mount of Olives just outside Jerusalem and commanded a group of approximately 120 of His followers to stay in Jerusalem and wait because, “…you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:5, N.K.J.V.).
- Seconds later as part of those same departing words, He had told that group, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8, N.K.J.V.).
And so there that group of approximately 120 were, staying in Jerusalem, waiting for God the Holy Spirit to “come upon them,” “baptize” them, and grant them “power” even though they didn’t have a clue what all that might look like or feel like. All they knew was that Jesus had promised that it would happen. That was good enough for them.
How long did they wait? To answer that, let’s do a little math. First, we know that Jesus observed the Passover meal with His chosen 12 apostles on the night before He was crucified (Matthew 26:17-30). Second, we know that He made various post-resurrection appearances in His glorified body in the forty days immediately following His resurrection (Acts 1:3). Third, we know that the day of Pentecost (also known as the feast of Weeks) occurred exactly fifty days after the day of Passover (Leviticus 23:15-22). Putting all this together, and adding in the fact that Jesus was dead for three days before resurrecting, that group of approximately 120 waited approximately one week (seven days) before Christ’s promise was fulfilled. That number of days also fits with Christ’s promise that those believers would be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from the day of His ascension (Acts 1:5).
As for what lesson we can learn from the beginning of the church age, the obvious one centers around the necessity of the indwelling Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian (the believer in Jesus). Putting it simply, if you haven’t been baptized with the Holy Spirit in this church age, the Holy Spirit does not dwell inside you. This means two things. First, you are not an authentic Christian (Romans 8:9). I don’t care how long you’ve had your name on a church roll, how much Bible you know, or how much morality you showcase in life. Second, you have no real power when it comes to living for Jesus and serving Him. You’re like a car with nothing under the hood.
God the Holy Spirit coming to dwell inside the believer is the “born again” experience of which Jesus spoke (John 3:3). And unlike those believers who first experienced it on that day of Pentecost, no one who places saving belief in Jesus today has to wait for it. Now the new believer is baptized with the Holy Spirit the moment that God rates the person’s belief as real and saving. That’s why the apostle Paul could confidently write, “…Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His” (Romans 8:9 N.K.J.V.). It’s also why He could rightly describe the indwelling Holy Spirit as being the believer’s inner guarantee of a heavenly inheritance (2 Corinthians 1:21-22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30).
Therefore, in light of all this, I guess the only thing left to ask is, “Does God the Holy Spirit dwell inside you?” Rest assured that if you have placed legitimate saving belief in Jesus Christ, He does. But rest just as assured that if you haven’t placed legitimate saving belief in Jesus Christ, He doesn’t. The difference really isn’t hard to understand.
You see, there are various religions that teach that adherence to their rules can in some way make you either God yourself or very close to Him. Christianity, however, is the only one that teaches that God Himself — in the person of God the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Holy Trinity — will come to you and literally take up residence inside your earthly body. That’s a whole different ballgame, and it’s one in which Jesus wants you to participate.