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From Sinai to Zion: The Meaning of Pentecost (part 4)

Title: Are We Redeemed Only?

The great sin of Israel illustrates a powerful point. If you do not worship the one true God, you will worship a false god made in your image.

And the LORD said to Moses, "Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, 'These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!'" - Exodus 32:7-8

If we think only in terms of redemption our thinking is incomplete. There is no true freedom apart from our faithful response to revelation; with redemption must come responsibility.

The people failed in their response so a barrier, a tabernacle, was established by the LORD and he filled it with His glory (Exodus 40:34-38). His desire to dwell in them became an accommodation to dwelling in their midst. The Bible is telling the story of a God who is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness (Exodus 34:6).

The tabernacle is a theme that carries through to King David, and to his son Solomon who improves upon it by building a temple at a specific location on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem. Ezekiel has a vision that the glory—the Spirit of God—departs Israel. The first temple is indeed destroyed, then reconstructed, then finished by Herod in the time of Jesus, and finally demolished by the Romans in 70 AD.

From Malachi to John the baptizer there are 400 years, often spoken of as a period of silence. That is really incorrect. It is a time of great stirring, intense speculation, and expectation. A lot is happening in and around Israel during this time. Like a brew beginning to bubble and churn, it is in the midst of these intense messianic speculations and apocalyptic visions that Yeshua, the Son of Man appears.

This time God did not come down in a cloud; he came down in a man. He is the Living Word. And that man became our Passover lamb. He shed his blood to redeem us from our Egypts, from our indebtedness, our slavery to sin. His redemption was so perfect—because he was an unblemished lamb—that the requirements for atonement were definitively met once and for all time.

So much so that the veil of the temple was torn asunder from above to below. Why? Because redemption is always God's initiative and not human effort. The Holy of Holies, the dwelling place of God, is now accessible to his people because of the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

He arose and he ascended. He is spoken of as the firstfruits of the resurrection (1 Cor 15:23), because he is, among other things, the fulfillment of the festival of firstfruits. And when he ascends he tells them to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the promise of the Father.

It is a time of great hope and seriousness as the disciples contemplate the significance of what has happened. So, according to Torah and tradition, they count the omer from Pesach to the upcoming Jewish festival of Shavu'ot.

Where are they gathered? In an upper room (Acts 1:13). I am sure they had intimations that something special would happen because Jesus said as much in John 14. However, they are not just in the upper room, they maintain their custom of going to the temple daily for teaching and instruction (see Acts 2:46). In other words, they continue to go about their Jewish way of life, counting the days until the feast of Pentecost.

On day fifty they were together in one place but that one place is no longer the upper room, it is the temple mount. Why were they there? Because it is the festival of Shavu'ot; you bring up your offerings to the LORD on this day and give thanks for the first fruits.

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:1-4).

The house is the temple, and they were there with people from 70 nations for this important pilgrim feast. The second act of creation is unfolding. The Spirit (the breath, the wind) of God moved upon the deep in the first act of creation, and now that same Spirit of God is moving upon a people, forming them into a kingdom of priests.

Do you see the correlation? What has happened here is a recapitulation of the Exodus and Sinai story, except this time it is on a different level of operation.

You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8).

Jesus has conquered death, hell, and the grave. Now they receive his Spirit. What is the power for? It is a power for service as a priesthood. They hear the sound and they see fire, except this time the fire doesn't stay on top of the mountain. It descends from the mountain to the people and it comes to rest on each of them.

They each now become living tabernacles; the glory of God fills them individually and collectively. Paul says, Don't you know your body is a temple (mikdash) of the Holy Spirit? Don't you understand what is happening? You are living tabernacles, and God—by the atonement of his Son, Jesus—has come to fulfill his desire to dwell in you!

Lest you think I am drawing a correlation that is obscure, consider how obvious all this is to the writer of Hebrews in chapter 12, for you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness. Here he is talking about Sinai and the darkness into which Moses entered. And the sound of a shofar and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them.

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. Do you grasp the Sinai to Zion imagery in this passage? The purpose of Pentecost is the same, only this time it is made possible by Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant.

Do you now hear the resulting royal priesthood expectation?

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:28-29).

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This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.

Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice.

Dwight founded JC Studies in 1984 to edify the people of God. Click here to explore over fifty of his audio and video seminars.

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