The Coming of the Holy Spirit Part 3
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
“As of a rushing mighty wind.” Literally, "as of a violent wind or gale or tempest.” Such a wind sometimes blows so violently, and with such a noise, that it makes it difficult even to hear the thunder in the gale. This seems to have been the kind of sound that accompanied this remarkable phenomenon. It does not appear that there was any wind; in fact, it might have been still; but the sudden sound was like the noise a sweeping tempest would make. It should be noted, however, that the wind mentioned in the Holy Scriptures is often used as a symbol of Divine influence. It is invisible, yet mighty, and in view of that, it represents the activity of the Holy Spirit. The same word in Hebrew and in Greek is used to stand for both the wind and Holy Spirit. The mighty power of God may also be represented by the violence of a mighty tempest (see 1 Kings 19:11, Psalms 29, 104:3, 18:10). And along these lines, Jesus by his breath indicated to the apostles the conferring of the Holy Ghost—“And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost” (John 20:22; KJV). In this verse, the sound “As of a rushing mighty wind” was emblematic of the mighty power of the Spirit, and of the great things which His coming would accomplish among men.
Now I wish to call your attention to something that is very important. When the Holy Spirit came, He was not visible. However, He made His presence known in two ways. There was an appeal to two of the gates through which all mankind gets his information: the ear–gate and the eye–gate. We hear and we see. The Holy Spirit used both these gates. Through the ear–gate they heard a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind.
This sound filled the whole house where they were sitting.
Notice that it was not a wind; it was the sound as of a wind. It wasn’t like the sound of the wind blowing through the treetops. It sounded like a tornado (which I have heard sounds like a train), and I believe that all of Jerusalem could hear it. I used to live in Kansas and I saw firsthand the destruction done by tornadoes. I knew several families who were close enough to hear the approach of a tornado. They all said, “The first thing we noticed was a sound like a thousand freight trains coming into town.” Friend that was a rushing, mighty wind and that was the sound. It was that kind of sound that they heard on the Day of Pentecost.
and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
The sound “filled” not only the room but “all the house where they were sitting.” It probably startled the whole city, but, in order to show that it was supernatural, it seemed to be concentrated upon that particular house. This would tend to direct the people who heard it go to that particular house to ask the meaning of it. This wind filling the house would serve to strike the disciples with wonder, and help to put them into a very serious, reverent, and composed attitude, for the receiving of the Holy Ghost.
“And it filled.” The house was filled with the sound that the wind makes, but not with wind. This is evident:
1. Because there is no statement that there was any wind.
2. The verse is clear enough—and suddenly there was a sound as of a wind, and (the sound) filled the house. It should be observed here; that this miracle was really far more striking than the common assumptions make it out to have been. A tempest might have been remarkable. A mighty wind might have startled them. But there would have been nothing unusual or remarkable about it. Such things often occurred; and they may have been troubled by thoughts of a storm, even an ordinary one. But when all was still—when there was no storm, no wind, no rain, no thunder, such a loud rushing sound must have grabbed their attention; and caused them all to wonder what was meant by something so unusual and baffling an occurrence as this was.
“All the house.” Some have assumed that this was a room in or near the temple. But since the temple is not expressly mentioned, this is improbable. Others believe that it was one of the thirty spacious rooms around the temple court, described by Josephus. But it may have been the private dwelling mentioned in Acts 1:12—“For it is written in the book of Psalms, ‘Let his habitation become desolate, and let there be no one to live in it’; and ‘His office let another take.’” If the objection to this is that such a dwelling could not hold so large a multitude as would soon be assembled, it may be replied that their houses had large central courts and that it is not stated that the incident recorded in this chapter occurred in the room which they occupied.
Wherever it was, the crowd gathered there required more space than any private house would provide, especially the upper room where the apostles had been lodging; for that reason, it is probable that it took place in the court and around the house.
3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire,
I would like to call your attention to this—the “tongues” were “like as of fire.” It was not fire, but it looked like fire. Perhaps a better translation would be, “There appeared unto them tongues which divided into separate parts.” That is, the tongues were like a fire and it rested upon each of them. This was the appeal to the eye. So on that Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came to the church, baptizing them into the body of Christ, there was an appeal to the ear and an appeal to the eye.
This is not to be confused with the baptism of fire. The baptism of fire is the judgment which is yet to come. In the Book of Revelation, we see the wrath of God revealed from heaven; fire from heaven. That is a baptism of fire. If men will not have the baptism of the Holy Spirit, then they must have the baptism of fire—judgment. The baptism of fire is for those who have rejected Jesus Christ. When the Holy Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost, they saw something that in appearance looked like fire. Matthew and Luke both report that John the Baptist foretold of One who would baptize “with the Holy Ghost, and with fire” (Mt 3:11; Lk 3:16).
Together the fire and wind make a graphic picture of the coming of the Spirit of God.
God gave them a visible sign of the gift they were to receive. They saw cloven tongues, like as of fire and it sat—It was not those cloven tongues that did the setting, but He, that is the Spirit, rested upon each of them, as He is said to have rested upon the prophets of the Old Testament. Or there was something that looked like flaming fire that divided into parts, which resembled tongues, coming to rest on every one of them. Observe,
1. Here was an outward sign, given to confirm the faith of the disciples, and to convince others of the power of faith. The prophets of old had frequently used signs so that all Israel might know them to be established prophets.
2. The sign given was fire so that John the Baptist’s saying concerning Christ might be fulfilled, He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire; with the Holy Ghost whose appearance was like fire. The Spirit, like fire, melts the heart, separates and burns up the dross, and kindles pious and devout love in the soul, in which, as in the fire upon the altar, the spiritual sacrifices are offered up. This is that fire which Christ came to send upon the earth—“I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?” (Lu. 12:49; KJV).
3. The appearance of this fire was like “cloven tongues.” The functions of the Spirit were many; speaking in foreign languages (tongues) was one, and it was singled out to be the principal indication of the gift of the Holy Ghost, and this sign pointed to that gift.
“And there appeared unto them.” They saw them and experienced everything that happened. They were seen by them before they rested on the heads of the disciples. Perhaps the fire appeared at first as a bright and glistening display, until it became fixed on their heads.
“Cloven tongues like as of fire”—the tongues were the symbol of the languages they were to speak. The cloven tongues pointed out the diversity of those languages, and the fire seemed to imply that tongues would be a spiritual gift, and be the means of bringing light and life to the souls who would hear them preach the everlasting Gospel in those languages.
In this verse, the name “tongue” is used because of the resemblance of a pointed flame to the human tongue. Anything long, narrow, and tending to end in a point, is for that reason called a tongue, in the Hebrew language. Then the word is used here to indicate a slender and pointed appearance of flame; perhaps at first moving irregularly around the room.
“Cloven” means divided, separated, from the verb to divide or distribute into parts. "They crucified Him and parted his garments" (Matthew 27:35); and, "Take this, (the cup,) and divide it among yourselves" (Luke 22:17). The most commonly held opinion is that these tongues or flames were, each one of them, split, or forked, or cloven. But this is not the sense of the expression. It means that they were separated or divided one from another; not one great flame, but broken up, or cloven into many parts, and probably moving without order in the room. In the Syriac, it is, "And there appeared unto them tongues which divided themselves, like fire, and sat upon each of them." The old Ethiopic version reads it, "And fire, as it were, appeared to them, and sat on them." This is a beautiful visible symbol of the burning energy of the Spirit now descending in all His bountifulness upon the Church, and about to pour itself through every tongue, and over every tribe of men under heaven!