Did you know…?
- The book of Acts says that Jesus’ last words on earth were instructions to his followers to wait in Jerusalem until they were “filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Acts 2:1-4reports the earliest Christians’ dramatic individual and group experience of God’s Spirit at the Jewish festival of Pentecost. Acts 2:1-4associates the earliest Christians’ experience of God’s spiritual presence with sounds of gusting wind and sights of blazing fire.
- Wind and fire are classic biblical symbols of God’s life-giving, liberating power and guidance.
- According to the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit enables the earliest Christians from Galilee to speak about God in the languages of the many pilgrims to Jerusalem at Pentecost.
- In the story of Acts, the experience at Pentecost prepares Jesus’ followers to spread the news about Jesus throughout the Jewish homeland and into Greek, Roman, and other non-Jewish areas.
- Many Christians throughout the world today identify themselves as “Pentecostal,” experiencing the energy of the Holy Spirit in similar ways to those described in Acts.
What do the signs of wind and fire mean?
The special effects include the “sound like the rush of a violent wind” and the sight of a tongue-shaped flame of fire resting upon the heads of each person in the group. These are powerful symbols of spiritual experience, though they are not to be taken literally. The people are not physically blown around the room, and their hair is not burnt. However they might “feel” or sense the loud wind and bright flame, they no doubt interpret these effects as evidence of God’s awe-inspiring, dynamic presence among them. Their sacred writings, the Hebrew Bible, provide the prime examples.
In the story of creation, a mighty “wind from God” sweeps over the unformed dark, deep space that God is about to transform (
What is the purpose of spirit-filling in the story of Acts?
Apart from providing assurance of God’s dynamic presence and guidance, the infilling with the Holy Spirit has a more specific purpose related to the spreading of the Christian message. In his final instructions after his resurrection, Jesus tells his followers “not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father” (
The Pentecost event offers a preview of this expanding “witness,” as the Spirit enables Jesus’ followers to communicate in languages from “every nation under heaven” (