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THE DAY OF PENTECOST 2021

Today is Pentecost. It is the 50th day since the anniversary of our Lord’s resurrection. On this date almost two thousand years ago the Holy Spirit outpouring began.

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In the beginning God initiated the initial Great Awakening. He brought forth a great spiritual event heavily prophesied in Old Testament literature and in His own ministry. He told everyone with ears to hear what would happen and it is apparent that only very few had such ears. As recounted here often, the Lord Jesus had preached to tens of thousands at the populous height of His ministry. They came from near and far. Word had spread rapidly. For a while He was the most sought after and popular Israelite in history. But alas, like all things spiritually solid and truthful in a fickle, unbelieving, sinful, and shallow religious world, His popularity and support began to fade.

WAS IT SOMETHING I SAID?

Though it was the greatest of Messianic ages in that a probable majority were aware of the prophetic times, there was much difference of opinion and confusion over what the Messiah must be. Most Israelites were obviously put off with their station in life and with the status of their nation as a whole, though it was no longer much of a nation. From the heights of the later portion of King David’s time a thousand years before when the Lord had brought together a roughly unified people after the defeat of Saul and emerging Israelite interlopers intent on the throne, a time not unlike the heights of Joshua’s conquest when the warrior David regained and established much territory, Israel began its long and steady decline. David’s son Solomon, like King Saul before him, had started out well but fell into sin and eventually descended into abject idol worship and tyranny. All that David had gained was lost not soon after Solomon’s death when the nation was split in two. From there it was a precipitous fall. The great nation began hemorrhaging and never recovered. Over the next millennium God did all He could to keep His believing remnant intact for His eventual arrival.  

The Lord’s ministry experienced a similar pattern. The tens of thousands of followers were reduced over time due to various reasons, though He was as powerful and consistent as ever. It appeared as though His school might end. The Lord even alluded to the possibility of being reduced completely in the following passage:

As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” [John 6:66-67]

By the time the great prophesied and hoped-for event of Pentecost arrived, only a relative fraction remained as His faithful followers.

The people of the Lord’s time thus looked back with great remorse over what had become of a once profound nation and also seethed with anger over its centuries-long perceived mistreatment at the hands of various world powers. Little did they know or appreciate that such powers—Babylon, Medo-Persia, the Macedonian Greeks, and now the hated Romans—were actually being used to keep the nation intact. Without the strong unifying governmental structure applied from without, the Israelites would have easily destroyed themselves years before from within. Which brings to mind a statement of God made early in their history which encapsulates and defines Israel’s true identity that it would never be able to slough off or prove otherwise:

And the LORD said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people… [Exodus 32:9 KJV]

This descriptive term arrived in the English language in 1526, undoubtedly associated with William Tyndale’s first printed English translation of the New Testament of the same year, the first to be translated directly from the Greek. Most of the much later King James Version (1611) was taken directly from Tyndale’s version, though not credited to him. The echo of the preceding statement of God referencing the early Israelites in Exodus 32:9 is found in its only New Testament occurrence, translated by Tyndale and spoken by Stephen, telling the world that nothing had changed in the intervening centuries:

“Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.” [Acts 7:51KJV]   

And they still resist the Holy Ghost. And most Christians do likewise. In fact, Christianity has taken such stiffneckedness to entirely new levels beyond that of its early Israelite forebears. In somewhat reasonable defense of the Pharisees et al who pretty much had no impulse control whatsoever when it came to any perceived slights against their prideful exalted religious standing and highly slanted, opinionated, and goofy interpretations of OT Scripture, they never had any hands-on frame of reference to Pentecostal happenings as later Christians did. In fact, the history of Christianity in the world contains a world class stiffnecked opposition toward all things New Covenant spiritual that actually puts the rebellious Pharisees to shame, if that were possible, and thus evokes the notion, judging by having so much in common, that those same Pharisees had somehow morphed into fake Christians.  

RESISTANCE AGAINST THE HOLY SPIRIT

There are several strange non-New Testament beliefs held by some Christians who are not so clear on the concept regarding the Holy Spirit’s identity. Many Christians actually believe that God is literally three different persons. They believe this because they were taught it. They did not acquire this belief from the Lord’s pure teachings or the New Covenant writings because it simply isn’t there. Call it an interpolation. The classic trinity doctrine was invented two to three centuries after the Lord’s time. There is obviously no such thing ever alluded to in OT literature which consistently and repeatedly states, in direct contrast to the rest of the world, that God is one. He is one Person. This was a quite radical departure among the ancient Hebrew patriarchs from the polytheism of the time. The prophets especially reveal this truth. Isaiah shouts it. But whatever. That was a long time ago and those guys just didn’t get it, right? I wrote about this in my post, IF ISAIAH SAID THAT HE’S A LIAR!

To illustrate this further, I remember seeing a Christian production a few decades back likely put on by some mega church and broadcast on Christian TV that featured the Lord Jesus in the usual stage depiction but also added the Holy Spirit as an additional personage. One might have thought prior to production, “But how do we display the Holy Spirit?” They solved that problem by essentially using the Casper the Ghost model. I kid you not. They made a Holy Spirit effigy out of a very white sheet flowing loosely below but gathered together at the top in a clearly delineated rounded head motif by installing the required wadding and utilizing an unseen band at the neck. They were somehow controlling this from above with piano wire or something to make it flit about. So there was the Lord and His disciples and some other hangers on all in the usual Biblical dress with robes and head wrappings and whatnot and among them flitted this “Holy Spirit” ghost thing, in appearance pretty much exactly like a ghost and invoking memories of Halloween. As far as I remember this person of the Holy Ghost had a non-speaking part, which, when one thinks about it, probably did much to further the notion of etherealness and spiritual distance from lower level humans. But I think it might have been just this side of awesome if this depiction of the Holy Ghost did speak just to see how far they might have taken it.

I would think if this is the real Holy Spirit no one should have anything against Him. It has been opined in the past that if Jesus was the super cool hippie dude as often presented by the know-nothings, why would anyone hate Him? Who in their right mind would crucify Mister Rogers? But again, Scripture is quite clear that the Israelites in general and the Israelite religious leaders in particular really hated the Holy Spirit pretty much the same way they hated the Lord Jesus (clue alert). And I guess since we’re on the trinity theme they must have also hated God the Father.

HEART CIRCUMCISION (OR NOT)

Stephen told them what their problem was. He said their hearts were each encircled with a fat encrusted infected mass that also had metastasized to their ears. Now, the concept of fat encrusted infected masses on human hearts was not a new thing. It too, as the previously mentioned stiffneckedness, was spoken of in the vast distant past in Old Testament lore which came to the fore through Moses (15th century BC):

“So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer.” [Deuteronomy 10:16]  

Jeremiah (late 7th to early 6th century BC), brought a prophetic explanation to the issue 800 years later in the following:

“For thus says the LORD to the men of Judah and to Jerusalem, ‘Break up your fallow ground, And do not sow among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the LORD and remove the foreskins of your heart, men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, or else My wrath will go forth like fire and burn with none to quench it, because of the evil of your deeds.” [Jeremiah 4:3-4]

Imagine then, a thick foreskin-like wrapping encircling the heart encrusted and hardened like sun-baked fallow ground impervious to plows. Then imagine the stiffest of necks reinforced with #18 rebar. Then imagine ears plugged with epoxy and spiritual eyes sealed with super glue. How is a loving God supposed to get through to such evil people? How are such spiritually diseased people to apply a remedy? What concoction from great grandma’s dusty cupboard might do the trick and heal the sick?

In the few more explanatory Bible translations we get a fuller academic meaning of the word stiffnecked. A more expository definition of the Hebrew and Greek originals results in the well known English word obstinate. And if you’re wondering how that plays out consider the thesaurus entries of this word from Misters Merriam and Webster:

obstinate  adjective:

    1. unwilling to submit (as to reason or control) <he had an obstinate determination to live as he pleased>

Synonyms: bullheaded, closed-minded, deaf, hardheaded, headstrong, incompliant, intractable, intransigent, muleheaded, muley, mulish, pertinacious, perverse, pervicacious, pigheaded, refractory, self-willed, ||sot, stiff, stiff-necked, stubborn, tough, unpliable, unpliant, unyielding, willful, wrongheaded; Compare UNRULY 1

Related: resistant, unsubmissive, withstanding; contrary, crabbed, recalcitrant, renitent; inexorable, inflexible, obdurate; opinionated; resolute, staunch, steadfast, unbudging [1]

Yikes. Now that we have a greater understanding of the heart, neck, eyes, and ears condition of those on the other side of rightness with God, we must get to the (ahem) heart of the matter regarding Christian religious prejudice against the Lord’s teachings and spiritual ways of operating. Again, the Pharisees and those guys in powerful opposition to the Lord were certainly bad enough but the later Christians who subverted the New Covenant were in my opinion far worse. Once the Light has come there is no longer any excuse for darkness. Once the first guy way back when decided to reject particular aspects of the New Covenant and opened the door for later anti-Christian hordes successfully masquerading as pro-Christian to further undermine and sabotage real Christianity to the nth degree and coerce millions to follow accordingly (or else), the die had been cast as it were and evil gained a great upper hand. It would do all Christians good to admit there is a devil and that he is extremely good at what he does. And it should not be so difficult to believe he has power to convince anyone to follow him and believe his tripe. And furthermore it must follow that there is only one cure for his great ability to deceive and if that one cure is not applied then one has no chance.

THE DEVIL GOES TO CHURCH

Many years ago there was a popular minister who pastored a very large denominational church, one of those “First” churches located in a large metropolis. He used to shout from the pulpit something to the effect that if one didn’t like something in the Bible then just tear it out! I am not sure if he only pretended to tear pages out of his Bible or just acted like it but he made his point very clear. Of course, this man also had his extreme prejudices against holy writ and had effectively already torn much from the New Testament, but this mattered little. No one among his own ever called him on it because they all believed the same. His church had a membership role in the tens of thousands. His denomination consisted of thousands of churches. Except for the ever-present minor squabbles among those otherwise perfect Christians they all believed basically the same thing. Isn’t that why they call them denominations?

Anyway, this particular minister apparently made a definitive anti-Pentecost statement at the forefront of the Holy Spirit outpouring of the early 1960s which I’ll get to shortly. A little background: The Lord had begun blessing Protestants with the infilling of the Holy Spirit at that time. Before then, due to religious prejudice, this experience was only possible for the most part among Pentecostal Christians. The new outpouring of the 20th century dated back to the Topeka, Kansas event in 1901 and the Azusa Street Revival which began in 1906 in Los Angeles. In the 1950s a few Protestants from various denominations began receiving the experience and their influence spread the word among their own. By about 1960 the movement had started to spread throughout Protestant churches and by early 1967 the movement even found favor among Catholics. Catholic priests and nuns were suddenly speaking in tongues, which brings me to the statement apparently made by the minister in question:

He supposedly said “Tongues are of the devil.” This was very well known at the time in Pentecostal circles. After all these years we must attempt to understand that “speaking in tongues” was a huge cutting-edge issue at the time and extremely divisive. Nevertheless, and despite the shenanigans of more than a few within the movement, the overall historical Pentecostal outpouring of the 20th century was decidedly very real. It has since spread all across the planet. Multiple millions have received the infilling of the Holy Spirit.

Returning to our origins then, what happened on the first Pentecost in Jerusalem in about 32AD was clearly unprecedented. Also, in true Gideon paradigm form, many thousands of the Lord’s one time followers were eliminated from participating in the Upper Room Experience by their own unwillingness to walk with the Lord to the finish line and were reduced to a relatively microscopic 120 ever-faithful ones. In line with Gideon’s retort to God, how could the Lord’s future ministry, after so much work and spiritual achievement, possibly be successful with so few remaining disciples? The point here is that many were called but few were chosen. To put it another way, real disciples were not only called, they were also chosen and remained faithful, no matter what. That last part is really tricky because a Christian’s faith in the Lord Jesus will be tested greatly, far beyond the point one ever would have previously thought. The remaining 120 had been through the ringer. They were threatened always and sometimes with death. The disciples knew the religious leaders were out to stomp them into the ground. Sound familiar? The others could not handle it. It was simply too much. There were various reasons for departing, all involving some form of fear. For the most part it was simply because they either refused full obedience or could not bring themselves to the 100% commitment level. They were concerned about their status and livelihoods unlike the 120 who pretty much lost everything and had their reputations destroyed. It was the cost all real disciples must pay and are willing to pay.

But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” [Luke 9:62]

THE FINAL MEMBER TO YIELD

The Lord’s brother James, in the third chapter of his noted epistle, taught that the unregenerate human tongue is evil. It is a condition, of course, that every human has in common prior to spiritual regeneration and commitment to the Lord. Whereas the tongue is a miraculous creation with great abilities and is capable of many astounding achievements, it is also responsible for the worst atrocities. The following are the descriptions James used to define the tongue:

    1. A boaster of great things
    2. A fire
    3. Able to create allegorical forest fires
    4. A world of iniquity
    5. A body part that defiles the entire body
    6. It sets the course of one’s life on fire
    7. Is set on fire by hell
    8. A restless evil
    9. Full of deadly poison

Wow. James certainly didn’t stutter. Everything he wrote, however, is absolutely true though not often acknowledged. It is clear then, that this body organ we call the tongue is the most powerful organ we possess. Of course, James is referring to human speech. He gives the cure in chapter four and it essentially comes down to giving one’s all to the Lord Jesus in total surrender. This is actually what a real believer is. One either gives 100% to the Lord or one does not. If one never submits completely then one’s tongue is never tamed. Why? Because only the Lord can tame the tongue. Only He can bring it out of subjection to sin. And this means He must be in total charge. Any remnant of remaining human control will subvert the process.

It is thus completely within the realm of spiritual rationality that there must be a universal sign that the most unruly, rebellious, and sinful member of the human body has been tamed and brought under control. The New Covenant writings, especially the Book of Acts, reveal this sign. Paul mentions it directly in First Corinthians 14. In the recorded historical events regarding the infilling of the Holy Spirit it was not only the event that proved something profound and miraculous took place, but also that each one additionally proved in some way the taming of the tongue and a brand new use of human speech never utilized before. Just as the human heart must be spiritually circumcised to remove the fat encrusted infected mass encircling it so must the human tongue be cleansed of evil. Both are a vital part of the sin removal process. Both require the hands on participation of the Lord Himself. Only He can do it. Our part is to fully surrender to Him so He can. The tongue is the last member of the body to submit.

THE EVIDENCE

Though most Christians probably look for long term evidence proving one’s genuine relationship with God, from a New Testament perspective there was also immediate evidence. Just as there were immediate healings, immediate miracles, immediate answers to prayer, and immediate occurrences of deliverance, so were there immediate transformations of heart and tongue. These things did not have to take long. They did not need to be drawn out. It was simply a matter of the Lord Jesus taking authority. He has ALL authority on earth and in heaven but will never force anyone to do anything. Thus, a person must simply submit to His authority. When the Lord Jesus is given authority to act on one’s behalf by that person then all things become possible according to His will, and it is certainly always in His will to excise the evil from one’s heart and tongue. Once a person has been spiritually cleansed and becomes a clean vessel the Holy Spirit can then take up residence.

For perhaps most Christians, this is an entirely new definition of faith in Jesus. It demands total trust. And this demands the complete abdication of our own personal opposing authority which makes His work on our behalf impossible. When we allow Him to work, miracles happen. Always.

Happy Day of Pentecost everyone.

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. [Acts 2:1-4] [2]

© 2021 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] ©1997, 1996 Merriam-Websters Collegiate Dictionary/Thesaurus. Zane Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved.             

[2] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

THE MIRACULOUS DRAFT OF FISHES

But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. [John 21:4]

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DAY FOLLOWS NIGHT

And darkness is obliterated by Light.

Anyone with an ounce of spiritual understanding knows very well by now that a probable majority of those who call themselves Christians in America are spiritually clueless, especially when being clued-in matters most. For example, a great many instantly bought into the false virus narrative early in the year and most have apparently refused to budge since. As one who has been doing my part in trying to wake Christians up over the last few decades before it became obvious to all that most were snoring away and living in a nether world, and not being appreciated for disturbing their deep slumber and whatever Sunday school dreams they were having, now that it has become not only obvious put proven to be so, those who see know there is not only a Great Awakening currently taking place but also that said majority “did not know that it was Jesus.”

He’s right over there, standing on the beach. But they didn’t know. They had no clue. They failed to detect His presence. Why? Maybe because they barred the door to His presence. Maybe because they were working in darkness. They were working fruitlessly. They were having church and throwing their nets and preaching to one another and catching nothing and mainly spending much energy and effort achieving not a dadblamed thing. Sound familiar? “But that’s the way we do it!” Said one. “That’s the way we’ve always done it!” Said another. They fished all night and caught nothing. They were used to working at night catching nothing. It was part of their culture. This is the picture of our present dead head Christians who insist on an alternative gospel that coddles the flesh and pacifies simple minds.

UH OH. WHAT’S THIS?

Then the day began to break. That is, spiritual Light began to shine. Light started to come upon their dark little world. Their sight began increasing beyond the mere gray waters beside the boat to several yards out and beyond. Vague shadowy shapes began appearing off in the distance, the ambiguous outlines of great hills and landscapes separating from the dark gray sky, and then a few individual trees and eventually the distant shoreline. They were done fishing and were about to announce the benediction and head for restaurant row.

Then the daylight progressed to the point that a form became visible on the beach—it was a Man, a Man appeared, standing there alone—but who was it? They didn’t know. They had no clue. The Light had come but it didn’t register. They didn’t get it. Then they actually saw the Lord but didn’t know they were seeing the Lord, thinking Him to be just a man, a man they didn’t know. They should have known, because they used to know this Man. But they were spiritual deadheads and didn’t get it.

Then He spoke:

“Children, you do not have any fish to eat, do you?” [John 21:5]

They all began thinking, what? What’s He talking about? We never catch any fish. We come out here after sunset, work all night fruitlessly every Sunday, never accomplish anything whatsoever spiritually, then close the service and head for the buffet line before it gets too long. What does He even mean, have fish to eat? And who is this guy? He doesn’t look familiar. But He does appear strange and somewhat otherworldly.

“No.” They said.

AND THIS IS WHERE IT ALWAYS STARTS WITH THE LORD

He, of course, knows that a probable majority of Christians are a bunch of stubborn smiling half-wit lame brains who oppose the Lord more often than support Him. They wouldn’t touch an Upper Room experience even if there was money in it. They are absolutely fine and dandy with Christianity in the dark. Light makes them uncomfortable. It shines too close to home. It reveals them for the pretenders they are. And they really don’t like it when the Lord sends them a messenger, especially if the messenger is the Lord Himself.

So here we have a strange conundrum. These Christians were fishing. But they were not really fishing for fish. They were just going through the act of fishing. They would cast out their nets, draw them in with not so much as an old beer can, and repeat the process ad nauseum all night long. This was their life. It was their tradition. “My daddy taught me. My daddy’s daddy taught him. And his daddy did the same going way back. It’s all we’ve ever known and we ain’t about to change.” There could be no variation in the venue, no matter how dumb the whole thing was. But there was something in that question asked by the Stranger that wouldn’t leave them be. They felt like idiots answering Him but when they did a little spark went off in their closed minds. A few brain cells were suddenly activated and every one of them cocked his head in unison like a dog hearing something far off that no one else heard.

“Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you will find the fish.” [John 21:6a]

This was the dumbest thing they ever heard. You might as well have told them to overcome their dead church institutional custom with a real live jumping Acts Chapter 2 spiritual happening! And yet even though they had been told forever that all that Acts 2 stuff had died out with the apostles and there had never been any fish in the lake though we must go through the motions anyway and always have, they suddenly were compelled to obey the Stranger.

So they cast it, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great quantity of fish. [John 21:6b] 

What just happened here? We were always told this would never work! Where did all these fish come from? You would think that after a million casts by multiple generations over several centuries that one of them would have caught at least one fish at some point but they never did because they were fishing in the dark and kept insisting to all and all future generations to never change a thing because this is how we do it and people who actually catch fish are WEIRD, especially in the daytime. But the miracle before them began changing minds post haste. Light dawned. Recognition came.

“It is the Lord!” [John 21:7][1] 

Instantly, when something so incredibly miraculous takes place everyone immediately knows it is God. There is no question. And they tell everyone they know. And they lose all semblance of caring about church social standing and street cred.  

Of such are Great Awakenings.

All Christians must do is quit laboring fruitlessly in darkness, find the Light and walk in it instead of running from it, recognize the Lord instead of treating Him like a stranger, and do what He says rather than refuse His will.

Then people wake up.

Then the dead are raised.

Then the Gospel works.

Then your nets, whatever they may be, are miraculously filled to overflowing.

© 2020 by R.J. Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

EARLY CHURCH HISTORY 101 (Lesson 16)

Peter had begun the first anointed message of the Early Church. After assuring the assembly of clueless Jews outside that the 120 were high on the Holy Spirit, not wine, he declared prophetic fulfillment!

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INTRODUCTION   

Ch 1: LESSON 1   LESSON 2   LESSON 3   LESSON 4   LESSON 5   LESSON 6   LESSON 7

Ch 2: LESSON 8  LESSON 9  LESSON 10  LESSON 11  LESSON 12  LESSON 13  LESSON 14 

Ch 2: LESSON 15

LESSON 16:

Acts 2:16-21

16 “But this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: 17 ‘AND IT SHALL BE IN THE LAST DAYS,’ God says, ‘THAT I WILL POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT ON ALL MANKIND; AND YOUR SONS AND YOUR DAUGHTERS SHALL PROPHESY, AND YOUR YOUNG MEN SHALL SEE VISIONS, AND YOUR OLD MEN SHALL DREAM DREAMS; 18 EVEN ON MY BONDSLAVES, BOTH MEN AND WOMEN, I WILL IN THOSE DAYS POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT And they shall prophesy.” [1]

This was not to be a one time occasion for a few but an all time occasion for everyone. The Upper Room experience would be universal from that time forward throughout the Church Age until the present, dependent only on following the prototypical example of the originals as they followed to the letter the teachings of the Lord Jesus.

THE PROPHET JOEL

There is no consensus regarding the time Joel lived. Various dates have been given. It was most likely before the Babylonian exile. A good case can be made for the early 600s BC. Whatever the case, the Lord anointed Peter to use the writings of this relatively obscure Hebrew prophet as the first Scriptural reference in the very first message ever delivered. One might notice that he chose the prophetic and not the priestly. Until John the Immerser there had been no prophet in Israel since the death of Malachi over four centuries earlier. In that non-prophet gap the priests had finally achieved their dream and had taken over. They substituted their own word and natural reasoning over the anointed message of the prophet. It caused a downward slide they never recovered from, even to the point of killing the greatest Prophet of all.

Joel said something far out would happen in the Last Days, meaning the final days of what was left of the Israelite nation. He spoke of not just a few prophets but many, and they would also include women. Is this not awesome? He also spoke of great celestial signs in the sky, fully observable, epochal, and dripping with spiritual portent:  

19 ‘AND I WILL GRANT WONDERS IN THE SKY ABOVE AND SIGNS ON THE EARTH BELOW, BLOOD, AND FIRE, AND VAPOR OF SMOKE. 20 ‘THE SUN WILL BE TURNED INTO DARKNESS AND THE MOON INTO BLOOD, BEFORE THE GREAT AND GLORIOUS DAY OF THE LORD SHALL COME.’

Peter finished this portion with a flourish, telling the vast assembly before him that the Lord’s hand is not too short to save! His ear is not too dull to hear! He extends the promise of Joel to everyone both then and now:

21 ‘AND IT SHALL BE THAT EVERYONE WHO CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.’” [2]

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Please note that the use of all caps in the NASB denotes Old Testament passages occurring in the New Testament.

[2] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

EARLY CHURCH HISTORY 101 (Lesson 15)

Beyond the spiritual manifestations of the infilling of the Spirit, there were also the emotional and physical ones. To outside observers, it appeared as though the Upper-Roomers were drunk or high on something.

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INTRODUCTION   

Ch 1: LESSON 1   LESSON 2   LESSON 3   LESSON 4   LESSON 5   LESSON 6   LESSON 7

Ch 2: LESSON 8  LESSON 9  LESSON 10  LESSON 11  LESSON 12  LESSON 13  LESSON 14

LESSON 15

Acts 2:12-15

12 And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others were mocking and saying, “They are full of sweet wine.” 14 But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: “Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. 15 For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day… [1]

In the ancient city of Babel, God transformed the one language of all people into many languages. The people could no longer understand one another and were consequently dispersed into separate regions. Conversely, on the day of Pentecost, the languages of the dispersed peoples of the world were spoken by the power of one Person who resided within many. This was a reversal of the confusion of Babel. This act would unite instead of divide. The builders of the city and tower of Babel were united against God. The constructors of the Church are united for Him. This was the clarion call sent out to all nations to join the kingdom without walls, the spiritual kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the new Jerusalem.

But as now and throughout the church age, some were not impressed. Some people openly mocked the work of the Spirit, claiming the boisterous activity and loud voices were merely the actions of the inebriated and ignorant. Though there have always been excesses, were the Upper-Roomers excessive? Was the Lord Jesus excessive? When He walked the earth, His detractors called Him a wino. Is it merely coincidence that the same accusation emerged once again?

Something about the disciples’ behavior reminded the naysayers of common drunks. Sweet wine, or “new wine,” was that which was produced the same year of its harvest. It was very intoxicating. In a relatively joyless world of difficult toil and little natural merriment, wine provided a relaxing and welcome respite from the rigors of the work week. Maybe few Jews drank to excess but those who did were obvious to all. It was indeed a cheap shot to label the Lord’s people Sunday morning Mardi Gras revelers under the influence of strong drink, but what else were the mockers to think? Such a thing had never happened before. It was relatively early in the day and a house load of fellow Israelites had taken on the apparent appearance of festival-goers too impatient or undisciplined to at least wait until evening before engaging the vino.

But the majority of those below sensed something else. Instead of simply making a quick judgment based on minimal evidence, they were drawn to the spectacle in wonder. The Spirit of God was everywhere around them. They began to feel what the Upper-Roomers were feeling. Joy was spilling out of the windows. Great smiles and laughter abounded. A release was taking place. Over and over the same thought kept running through their awestruck and somewhat confused minds, What does this mean?

Peter, sensing that the time had arrived to explain the current happening, moved to the forefront and prepared for his address. He was no longer the impetuous fisherman, but the articulate and well-versed spokesman of the “fishers of men.”

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

EARLY CHURCH HISTORY 101 (Lesson 14)

While the unprecedented and astonishing miracle was taking place in the Upper Room with those inside oblivious to the outside world, a great stirring was occurring in the streets below: They had an audience.

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INTRODUCTION   

Ch 1: LESSON 1   LESSON 2   LESSON 3   LESSON 4   LESSON 5   LESSON 6   LESSON 7

Ch 2: LESSON 8  LESSON 9  LESSON 10  LESSON 11  LESSON 12  LESSON 13

LESSON 14

Acts 2:5-11

5 Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 They were amazed and astonished, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.”

The Lord said they would be witnesses. I remember many years ago I heard a New Testament studies teacher expounding on the subject. He was a brilliant man and a friend, who has since made the big trip. By this time in my walk I had witnessed to countless people but I had never before heard one particular thing that man spoke forth. It stood out within his teaching and has remained strong in my memory ever since. He said, “Witnessing is a forced option.” What he meant was that Christians are witnesses twenty-four hours a day whether they want to be or not, or whether they think they are or not. We are not witnesses only when we are witnessing.

While that particular thought settles in, let’s think about the mindset of the believers in the midst of the greatest event of their lives. Many had their eyes closed, lost in the Spirit, emotions spilling forth. There were loud voices of praise at various levels, male and female, bass, alto, soprano, all speaking forth in languages they had never spoken before. Most were unaware of their surroundings, being completely focused on the Lord. Tears were streaming. Smiles were beaming. Pure joy was breaking out all over. They had been clothed with power from on high.

And in the midst of it all, those on the streets below, Jews from all over the empire in town for the great Feast of Weeks, were beyond perplexed. It was unprecedented for them as well.

The Upper-Roomers were already fulfilling their call to be witnesses and did not even know it.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” [Acts 1:8] [1]

Every one of those temporary residents of Jerusalem and the city dwellers themselves were receiving a forced witness. They had no choice in the matter. They heard unlearned and ignorant Galileans, given away by their accents, “speaking of the mighty deeds of God,” in their own respective languages. It was the first instance of this “sign for unbelievers,” as Paul mentioned, which would be given again and again—the evidence of a surrendered heart and the fruit of holy speech. It was also an awakening moment for those on the outside looking in.

Pentecost was a reversal of Babel.

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

EARLY CHURCH HISTORY 101 (Lesson 13)

It happened fast: A loud sound of wind filling the house—A visible Light filling the Upper Room—Division into smaller Lights upon each believer—Speaking new languages by the power of God…

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INTRODUCTION   

Ch 1: LESSON 1   LESSON 2   LESSON 3   LESSON 4   LESSON 5   LESSON 6   LESSON 7

Ch 2: LESSON 8   LESSON 9   LESSON 10   LESSON 11   LESSON 12

LESSON 13

Acts 2:1-4

1 And when the day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all assembled together in one place, 2 when suddenly there came a sound from heaven like the rushing of a violent tempest blast, and it filled the whole house in which they were sitting. 3 And there appeared to them tongues resembling fire, which were separated and distributed and that settled on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled—diffused throughout their souls—with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other (different, foreign) languages, as the Spirit kept giving them clear and loud expression (in each tongue in appropriate words). [1]

THE TONGUE IS A FIRE

The last member of the human body to yield to the Spirit of God is the tongue. The Lord’s brother James held nothing back when writing the following revelatory verses—strong, intense, and filled with spiritual import—explaining this phenomenon:

Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well. Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires. So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!

And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. [James 3:3-8] [2]

Speech is a powerful force. It is a great gift from our Creator. Humans are hardwired with the ability to speak. Small children gain the use of extremely complicated language skills, grammars, and word dictionaries with no scientific explanation. We take it all for granted but the evolutionists among us are stymied by this otherwise impossible ability possessed by mere babes.

As all things human can be corrupted and have been corrupted, so it is with speech. In the beginning, God spoke creation into existence. Sinful man destroys by the same power. This is yet further proof that every human is estranged from God until delivered from sin and born anew from above. Those who would gain the Lord’s spiritual life must humble themselves and surrender all. It is not an easy process. As illustrated perfectly by James, the tongue is the deadliest and most sinful member of our body. It dies the hardest.

FREEDOM OF SPEECH

It is no wonder then that the Lord chose speech as an outward sign. It is the last to yield to the Spirit of God and the first to break forth in praises to Him. And this is exactly what the 120 did that morning. Like newborn babes who cry at birth, the first significant thing we ever do under our own power and will, so were these new born babes in the Lord crying forth. They had no idea what they were saying. Remember, these believers were disparaged as mere unlearned and ignorant Galileans, most of whom had no higher education or training. They were certainly not linguists. Yet, from the depths of their hearts, enabled by the newly indwelling Holy Spirit, they were all speaking perfectly and fluently in languages they had never learned.

Again, the same inexplicable phenomenon takes place with babies, whose first word is spoken as early as six months. By eighteen months there are multiple word sentences. They are soon communicating with eye-contact and inflection. Though they pick up this ability in part empirically, most arrives miraculously. Language is far too complex for such unaware babes to develop it at such a young age without some unknown, unexplainable ability.

So it was with the Upper-Roomers. Their speech was miraculous. The sign was unmistakable. The hand of God was evident.    

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] The Amplified Bible © 1965 by Zondervan Publishing House. All Rights Reserved.

[2] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

EARLY CHURCH HISTORY 101 (Lesson 12)

Pentecost was an either-or option. Though most were not aware of this and many refused to acknowledge the possibility, the nation would either get right with God or suffer complete destruction.

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INTRODUCTION   

Ch 1: LESSON 1   LESSON 2   LESSON 3   LESSON 4   LESSON 5   LESSON 6   LESSON 7

Ch 2: LESSON 8   LESSON 9   LESSON 10   LESSON 11

LESSON 12

Acts 2:3

3 And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them.

This was the event prophesied by John the Immerser four years before. He also made a second prophecy that worked in tandem with the first. This was not unlike what the prophet Moses had proclaimed in the early days of the nation. In essence, Moses said that obedience to God equaled blessing and disobedience the opposite. He told the people exactly what would happen to them if they honored the Lord or dishonored Him. The latter was not good.

It may sound as if God was making unfair ultimatums or unreasonable demands, or that He somehow must force people to respect Him. The reality is that God is holy and perfect. He is the Creator. And He knew their hearts. He knows everybody’s heart. He knows those who strive for His morality and righteousness and those who couldn’t care less. The following, as spoken by Moses, is an example of the either-or option:

“All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the LORD your God: Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country…” [Deuteronomy 28:2-3]

“But it shall come about, if you do not obey the LORD your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes with which I charge you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you: Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the country…” [Deuteronomy 28:15-16]

The apostle Paul said the Law acted as a disciplinarian or schoolmaster before faith came (Gal. 3:24-25). Those who strove to keep the Law in the times of Moses and Joshua were not necessarily gaining salvation through such, since that could only come through faith, but their personal life and society was certainly superior compared to those who did not.

John the Immerser echoed Moses in this regard in that he presented the nation of Israel an either-or choice. Though the Jews had always seen fire as a symbol of the Divine Presence of God, and though it in a sense acts as a purifying agent, fire is primarily presented in the New Testament Scriptures as an agent of destruction. John said this fire was coming soon and would consume entire forests and remaining grain stalks:

“The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” [Matthew 3:10-12][1]

The Day of Pentecost began this process. Over the next forty years an Israelite Remnant would submit to the Lord Jesus and be saved. The rest would reject Him and choose the same fate as the city of Jerusalem itself—the fiery destruction of their souls. 

The Upper Room was a wheat barn.

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

EARLY CHURCH HISTORY 101 (Lesson 11)

While the Spirit of the Lord continued to move among the believers as an unseen wind “filling the whole house,” a visible manifestation also took place, centered among them in the Upper Room.

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INTRODUCTION   

Ch 1: LESSON 1   LESSON 2   LESSON 3   LESSON 4   LESSON 5   LESSON 6   LESSON 7

Ch 2: LESSON 8   LESSON 9   LESSON 10

LESSON 11

Acts 2:3

3 And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them.

Wind is the movement of air from an area of high pressure to an area of low pressure. Wind fills a relative void. The lower the air pressure in a given location, the greater the onrushing air there is from a high pressure zone to fill it.

The Upper-Roomers had spent ten days emptying themselves. This was done through much repentance, much fasting, much prayer, much worship, and many tears. They were preparing themselves as a bride adorned for her husband (Rev. 21:2). [1] It was a human low pressure zone. No pride. No sin. No spot, wrinkle, or blemish (Eph. 5:27).

UPPER ROOM DIMENSIONS

Although there is no way of knowing exactly, implications in Scripture would indicate that the Upper Room was probably the same size as the Tabernacle (tent) of Moses, which was 10 x 30 cubits. Based on the Hebrew long cubit of 20.4 inches, the Upper Room would have been 17 x 51 (867 square feet).

An interesting thing happens, however, if it was 840. This number is divisible by every number from 1 to 12 except 9 and 11, which are not especially good numbers for an event like Pentecost (9 is the Biblical number of finality or judgment and 11 signifies disorder and imperfection). In order to arrive at this “perfect” number of 840, the cubit would have to be 20.08 inches, completely within the realm of probability. Based on such, the Upper Room would be 16.73 x 50.2 feet. It would contain 134 feet of perimeter wall space allowing the majority to sit on benches along the walls, and overall floor space would allow each person an average of 7 square feet.

THE BIG EVENT

Pentecost was an explosion of spiritual power and truth—the dunamis of God torqued down to a manageable level for reception within humanity but fully concentrated for the work at hand. They were filled with joy! It was both a release and a reception for those fortunate ones in the Upper Room. In a matter of minutes their pain was gone—the pain of the past, of unrealized dreams, of bitter life in a cold world dominated by the devil’s minions. This was the upper hand! The right hand of God reaching down to infuse them with His strength and might! Though they continued to dwell in houses of clay, they became dynamic and demonstrative.

At nine o’clock in the morning they appeared drunk or high on mushrooms. Joy to the nth degree was ensconced on their shining faces and they were each filled with that very agape love of the Lord that He tried to teach them about previously. They were now as He was, filled to overflowing with a power to work miracles and love others without measure, even enemies who may maim and slander.

As the rushing wind of the Spirit continued to swirl around among the disciples, a visible manifestation accompanied the audible. In the middle of the large Upper Room a great energized Light suddenly appeared, seeming to manifest from thin air. The Spirit of God filled the entire space! The Jews had long considered fire to be a sign of God’s presence and purifying energy and here was God Himself as such fire. He did not come to consume, though, but to infill all these who had properly prepared for His arrival. The warm and engaging Light instantly began dividing into many smaller portions and each of these tiny fire-like Lights began moving about in every direction, this way and that, locating every disciple, and hovering over their heads.

120 small flickering manifestations of God’s presence appeared upon everyone there, and then, as all beheld the great miracle, the Spirit of the Lord entered into each disciple and took up residence in their hearts.

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

EARLY CHURCH HISTORY 101 (Lesson 10)

“Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” [John 20:21-22] 

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INTRODUCTION   

Ch 1: LESSON 1   LESSON 2   LESSON 3   LESSON 4   LESSON 5   LESSON 6   LESSON 7

Ch 2: LESSON 8   LESSON 9

LESSON 10

Acts 2:2

2 And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.

Our author Luke characterized the loud sound from heaven that morning as a strong and driving wind, a bearing breeze “bringing forth.” But rather than the prevalent word for wind he used another—pnoe—which primarily means “breath” or “breath of life.” It had a purpose and destination: It was the holy breath of God.

The first thing we must recall is this:

Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. [Genesis 2:7]

Adam had been formed—created from the element-rich dry soil of the earth—though was in an inanimate condition. He was the highest life form of Creation and made in God’s own image. This is beyond profound. For such a being there could only be one animating force possible. It must be the breath of God.

“The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” [John 3:8]

Though this verse is well known, it is also otherwise well known for containing a subpar translation. In the New Testament, there are a total of thirty-one occurrences of the Greek word for wind—anemos. As in Acts 2:2, this is not one of them. The word “wind” in this verse is from the Greek word pneuma which is translated as “Spirit” in every other instance of its use in the passage. Thus, the Lord never said, “The wind blows where it wishes,” but more like “The Spirit goes where it will.”

Now, let’s try this verse again and see how closely it matches up with Acts 2:2:

The Spirit goes where it will and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” [John 3:8]

And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. [Acts 2:2]

The 120 people in the Upper Room were about to be born again, or born of the Spirit, just as Adam was once literally born of the Spirit, or the breath of God. The Lord specifically told Nicodemus that no one could see (perceive, discern, discover) or enter into the kingdom of God unless he was born again.

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” [John 3:6-7][1]

No one of us remembers our physical birth. Not so with our mothers. It goes without saying, of course, but human birth is a powerful process and unforgettable experience. So is the new birth. It denotes a completely new life and a total transformation. After all, it is the Spirit of God we are referring to here. He is like a rushing mighty wind. There was a sound, a noise. He filled the Upper Room and the entire house with His presence. He would soon fill each person with His Holy Spirit.

He would breathe new life into them just as He did with Adam.  

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

EARLY CHURCH HISTORY 101 (Lesson 8)

They had been tarrying for ten days. The relative few who remained for the duration in faithful obedience to the Lord’s final instructions had been fasting, praying, and preparing themselves for the highly anticipated promise of the Father.

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INTRODUCTION   

LESSON 1   LESSON 2   LESSON 3   LESSON 4   LESSON 5   LESSON 6   LESSON 7

LESSON 8 

Acts 2:1

1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.

It was early morning on the first day of the week, fifty days after the Resurrection of the Lord. A second Sabbath had passed. The 120 were gathered together in the large Upper Room, the home of Mary, mother of John Mark. No one knew what would happen. They did know it would be a big event, something that had never previously occurred. Throughout the long age of the Hebrew nation from the time of Abraham nineteen centuries before, God had been preparing His people. And now, millions of Israelites later, they were minutes away.

From the vantage point of the Upper Room, historically located on the city’s high southwestern hill, disciples looked down upon the old city of King David immediately eastward across the valley in the glint of sunrise. The former village of the Jebusites, first secured by Israel in 1003 BC, was ornamented gloriously with Jerusalem’s new temple glittering in the morning sun. There, amid the clatter and bustle of street life below, the temple priests attended to their quotidian duties as they had for centuries on end, ever since Solomon completed the first temple over a thousand years before. Unfortunately, due to egregious national sin and rebellion, his magnificent edifice was destroyed by invading Babylonians in 586 BC. After the Hebrew Captivity a second temple was constructed, being completed exactly seventy years later, fulfilling in part the following prophecy:

“For thus says the LORD, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place.’” [Jeremiah 29:10] [1]

By the time King Herod began his energetic building projects in Jerusalem fifty years before this historic Day of Pentecost, the substandard second temple, of no comparison to Solomon’s original wonder, was in serious architectural decay. It was five hundred years old and had not only suffered the onslaught of time but also the ravages of several foreign incursions. Herod actually had to rebuild it entirely. This made it the Third Temple. Religious law, however, and the insistence that temple service must be perceived as perpetual, refused to acknowledge this obvious distinction and rendered this third temple as a continuation of the second, a fact somewhat lost to history.

Meanwhile, back in the Upper Room, there was another form of construction in the works. What King Herod had done in the natural with ornamental dressed stones, the Lord Jesus was doing in the Spirit beyond the perception of the shallow minded and dull hearted. He was building another Temple—the Real One—which all relative Old Testament prophecy pointed toward and of which the other temples were mere three-dimensional types and shadows. The real Temple would be a spiritual house composed entirely of Living Stones.

The Chief Corner Stone, the one the builders rejected, was already set.

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

EARLY CHURCH HISTORY 101 (Lesson 7)

The lost apostleship of Judas Iscariot had to be restored. The eleven must again become the twelve. The lesson of Judas is that any believer can become a traitor.

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INTRODUCTION   LESSON 1   LESSON 2   LESSON 3   LESSON 4   LESSON 5   LESSON 6

LESSON 7

Acts 1:21-26

21 “Therefore it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us— 22 beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.” 23 So they put forward two men, Joseph called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus), and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two You have chosen 25 to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles. [1]

Even though it was prophesied in the distant past there would be a man who betrayed the coming Messiah, it was never written in stone that Judas must take the course he did. It was a choice, the result of his own will. There were signs all along that there was something wrong with him that needed attention. And then he betrays the Lord with a kiss? How can any man so blessed be such a jackass?

Most of us would consider being one of the apostles as the highest possible honor. Imagine being with the Lord every day, being taught by Him, and being a witness of His majesty. This was the greatest Man who ever lived living an extraordinary life willing to pay the highest price for those He loved. Walking with Him, regardless of the challenges and persecution, would have been an absolute trip.

But Judas was a thief. He ripped off the Lord. He stole money dedicated to ministry. He griped about perceived excess or waste, even though he ended up wasting his own life. There is no excuse for such behavior, not then and not ever. He was a liar, a pretender, and a manipulator. It appears that other apostles didn’t like or trust him. The Lord called him a devil (diabolos), being defined as one prone to slander, vicious gossip, fraudulent accusations, and bearing false witness. Judas characterized an entire group of people. Was this why the Lord chose him? To reveal to His followers what they would face and to thus be prepared? All the apostles were tempted but Judas was the weak link. He refused to discipline himself properly. He never allowed the circumcision of his heart. He chose to oppose.

There had to be twelve. One must be chosen to replace him. It had to be a man who followed the Lord from beginning to end and witnessed His resurrection. The original twelve apostles represented in part the twelve tribes of Israel. Judas had much in common with the progenitor of the tribe of Dan, who was the likely ringleader in betraying Joseph and sending him off to Egyptian bondage. At some point in history this tribe disappeared. There is no record of Dan in the Book of Revelation tribe list. This lets us know what becomes of traitors.

Matthias (gift of God) was chosen as an honorable replacement to resurrect a dead apostleship and restore fullness to the twelve. The thief would be replaced with a giver. It was the highest of honors for one who must have been a thoroughly humble man.

Matthias was an apostolic example of the new birth.

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

EARLY CHURCH HISTORY 101 (Lesson 6)

The 120 were gathered together in the Upper Room. The apostle Peter took his place as spokesman for the group. Keep in mind that this assembly was the entire Early Church, from the Greek Ekklesia, which is defined as “the community of the called-out ones.”

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INTRODUCTION   LESSON 1   LESSON 2   LESSON 3   LESSON 4   LESSON 5

LESSON 6

ACTS 1:16-20

16 “Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was counted among us and received his share in this ministry.” 18 (Now this man acquired a field with the price of his wickedness, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out. 19 And it became known to all who were living in Jerusalem; so that in their own language that field was called Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 “For it is written in the book of Psalms, ‘LET HIS HOMESTEAD BE MADE DESOLATE, AND LET NO ONE DWELL IN IT’; and, ‘LET ANOTHER MAN TAKE HIS OFFICE.’

This was Luke’s first recorded post-Ascension message of the followers of the Lord Jesus. They had a safe place at Mary’s house. Though the Lord was no longer physically present in the environs of Jerusalem, His small group of disciples was still considered a dangerous heretical faction. From the limited perspective of the Jewish religious leaders, however, with the Lord finally out of the way, there remained a consensual relief not presently threatened by the existence of His small band. But this would soon change.

Regarding the traitor, the greatest villain known to history, he did have second thoughts. He was assisted in his dastardly deed, however, by the devil himself, along with the murderous and conniving chief priests, which assisted in pushing him over the edge.

And Satan entered into Judas who was called Iscariot, belonging to the number of the twelve. [Luke 22:3]   

One wonders at the arguments Satan may have made that at last convinced Judas to act. It was more than the man’s love of money. In essence, though, he was simply deceived. His bad spirit, bad attitude, constant grumbling and complaining, and refusal to adhere to real discipleship, caused the man’s unregenerate flesh, his sinful human nature, to remain forever on display. This condition is common to all, and without self-imposed restrictions, wreaks havoc. It is why all real Christians must at the onset deal strongly with this spiritual enemy and defeat it if they hope to have any chance at serving the Lord.

When Judas saw the Lord condemned, and that he had been deceived by the priests and elders, he felt great remorse. He tried to return the money but they wouldn’t take it.

“I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to that yourself!” And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself. [Matthew 27:4-5][1]

According to tradition, the Field of Blood was located just beyond the southern edge of the old city of David on the other side of the Hinnom Valley.

This had otherwise been known as Gehenna, the allegorical destination of the wicked.

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

EARLY CHURCH HISTORY 101 (Lesson 5)

After watching the Lord rise up before them enveloped by a cloud, the disciples removed from Mount Olivet and returned to Jerusalem per the Lord’s command. It was time to await the promise.

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INTRODUCTION   LESSON 1   LESSON 2   LESSON 3   LESSON 4

LESSON 5

ACTS 1:13-15

13 When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. 14 These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers. 15 At this time Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty persons was there together), and said…  

This Upper Room was most likely in the house belonging to Mary, the mother of John Mark, as mentioned in the twelfth chapter of Acts after Peter’s miraculous release from certain execution:

…he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was also called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. [Acts 12:12] [1]

It was a very large room which, of course, implies a large house. This denotes Mary, a probable widow, as a woman of means. Mark was a cousin of Barnabas, the apostle Paul’s traveling partner, which made Mary his aunt. One can deduce that the respective fathers of Barnabas and Mark were brothers who were wealthy enough to (1) Own a large high end property in Jerusalem with servants, and (2) Send Barnabas, a man of letters with probable training under a rabbi to school. Barnabas was also the most likely writer of the Book of Hebrews.

The Last Supper was held in this same Upper Room, which made the private home a regular place of meeting for the Early Church. In fact, the entire Early Church at that time could take up residence within it. All eleven apostles were there along with possible family members. The Lord’s brothers were there, maybe all four, as was, of course, His mother Mary. Many other women were there, which must have included Mary Magdalene. With all of these together, it came to about 120 people, on the one hand a large group for a house church, but on the other relatively quite small.

After preaching to perhaps hundreds of thousands over a three and a half year period, having a large band of following disciples, and appearing to as many as five hundred after His resurrection, the Lord Jesus only gathered 120 dedicated praying disciples in the Upper Room awaiting the Day of Pentecost.

This should enlighten us to His selection process.

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Acts of the Apostles [2:40-43]

         And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!”

         So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.

         They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

         Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. [1]


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Acts of the Apostles [2:36-39]

         “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.”

         Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?”

         Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

         “For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” [1]


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Acts of the Apostles [2:1-4]

         When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.

         And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.

         And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them.

         And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. [1]


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Sivan 7: The Day Of Pentecost

The View of Jerusalem from Mount Zion 1849

        

The following is an excerpt from Real Christianity, The Nature of the Church:

THE UPPER ROOM

         Why did Jesus create His community of called-out ones in the humble upper room? For starters, He had to have a place off the beaten path, so to speak. It would have to be owned by a disciple or a disciple’s family who was sympathetic to the cause. It could not be a public place, such as the temple complex, but private, to allow for complete unity of spirit and purpose. It had to be a place big enough for 120 people to pray and seek God for about ten days without interruption. In short, it had to be a house. In reality, it was a house.

         Though we cannot yet be positively certain, particular statements in Scripture lead one to the strong conclusion that it was located on Mount Zion, Jerusalem’s highest southwestern hill, and that it was probably the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark.[1] If placed on Mount Zion, this house would be located roughly a half mile due southwest of the Temple Mount, approximately five hundred feet south of the present Zion gate. At the time of the Qahal’s creation, however, this house was within Jerusalem proper since the southern wall of the city was located further to the south. Therefore, though Jesus was betrayed, died, was entombed, and rose again outside the city walls, He created the Church inside the city. Not only that, He created the Church in a house.

         Why did He create the Church in the city that condemned Him to death? If it had to be within Jerusalem, why didn’t He create the Qahal in a place of high honor, such as the temple? Was it because He was rejected by the ruling hierarchy? Was it because there was no place of high honor for the Lord of all Creation? Or was it because Jesus simply created His community in the most appropriate of all dwelling places, a place which had been foretold in Scripture?

         You will bring them and plant them

                 in the mountain of Your inheritance,

         The place, O LORD,

                 which You have made for Your dwelling,

         The sanctuary, O LORD,

                 which Your hands have established.

         The LORD shall reign

                 forever and ever. [2]

THE HOUSE OF GOD

         From the untold millions which had descended from Abraham by the first century A.D., only the upper-roomers were present when this scripture was fulfilled. Each and every one of these original 120 were Jews. On the birthday of the Lord’s Qahal, Jesus established a sanctuary, a dwelling place on His own mountain—Mount Zion. On this mountain, the 120 were planted, both in the Lord and by the Lord, and functioned as the ovum fertilized by the Holy Spirit which would eventually develop into a body—the body of Christ. Before the sun went down that first day, the original 120 grew by twenty-five times to three thousand—all Jews, all descendants of Abraham, all devout and God-fearing, from every country under heaven to which they had been dispersed. Even though Luke, the author of the book of Acts, doesn’t say so specifically, can there be any doubt that each tribe of Israel was represented in the initial outpouring?

         This was the mysterious destiny of the house of Israel—to one day become the actual dwelling place of YHWH!

         When Abraham was first called forth and told he would be the progenitor of many people, God had His own future residence in mind. Later, He revealed this truth to Moses, who led God’s people to the land of promise. The house of God would only be a home for the obedient, however, since they would be sharing quarters with God Himself. The structure of the tabernacle of Moses reveals to us The Nature of the Church. The tabernacle was a tent, mobile, following after the Lord as He moved onward into the future. It was filled with His presence. It was where the ark of the covenant was kept. The priests would minister in its midst. Sacrifice was called for. Repentance, baptism, and the infilling of His Spirit were all typed into its construction. It was pliable and moveable, built for eternal purposes.

         The tabernacle and all the rites associated with it continued to the time of David. It was then that God revealed to yet another generation the purpose of the tent, and the great revelation of its underlying meaning. After building his own house, David desired to build a house for God. But the Lord would not. God’s plans had not changed, nor would they ever. His eternal purpose was wrapped up in the illustration of the mobile tent. In the future, His dwelling place would be similar—it would be within humanity. [3]


[1] Acts 12:12

[2] Exodus 15:17–18

[3] Pages 281-284 Real Christianity, The Nature of the Church © 2001 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.