The Cosmic Conspiracy, Part 16
Jesus’ physical time on the planet was waning and He was setting final things in order with His disciples to ready them before His ascension into Heaven. He had spent 40 days with them explaining and clarifying His teachings and preparing them to carry the Gospel of the Kingdom into all the world. The written Gospel accounts each emphasize a particular perspective giving us a full picture of what this commissioning entailed.
In summary: Jesus gave them authority to preach in His name, to heal the sick, cast out demons, and even raise the dead! He gave them power and authority over all the works of Satan by giving them the keys of His Kingdom. He gave them the strategy for world-wide evangelism. He gave them the foundational blueprints for the building of His church to be His governmental headquarters on the earth. He warned them of all the persecution and perils that they would encounter as they preached His Gospel. He even opened their minds to fully understand the scriptures and how to relate all the prophetic writings to the glory of His ministry and resurrection. Seemingly, He gave them everything that they would need to succeed. But there was still a lingering weakness in the disciples, and the looming potential for the mission to explode on liftoff.
The last moments of Jesus' time on Earth had come. The ascension was imminent. Jesus was on the Mount of Olives in Bethany surrounded by His eleven remaining disciples. The baton was being passed. In Matthew’s account, when Jesus appeared to them, the disciples fell down and worshipped Him, BUT SOME DOUBTED (Matt. 28:17). Here is the moment of truth, and the team still was struggling with the truth of all that was happening! Satan must have been shocked that Jesus was being ushered away by His angels into Heaven and leaving His entire Kingdom on Earth in the hands of these men who were still struggling to believe that what they were experiencing was even real.
This was too easy. There must be a catch. There must be a trap somewhere that would trigger. With Jesus out of the way, Satan could stomp out the flickering flames of these smoldering wicks and get back to the business of pulling his conspiracy out of the ruins and regain his former glory. The band of disciples gaze incredulously into the sky as Jesus is vanishing like the mist of dawn. Suddenly, two angels appear to them and bring them back to reality. They remind the disciples that Jesus gave one last instruction - go back to Jerusalem and wait for the Promise of the Father.
This was the defining moment for the mission. The disciples were being asked to go back to hostile territory (Jerusalem was still ground zero for the Roman and Jewish authorities’ crack down on the unrest and insurrection that was caused by Jesus’ ministry. The disciples were on the terrorist watch list) and to wait for whatever “The Promise of the Father” was. This seemed more like Jesus was asking them to be martyrs, not missionaries. Was this what Jesus meant when He said that He was going to prepare a place for them in His Father’s house? Would they be seeing Jesus again sooner than later? With Jesus gone, their lives now pretty much wrecked because of their association with Jesus for the last 3 years, the reluctant band headed down the mountain and back to Jerusalem to meet their fate. If they were going to die, why not follow in the footsteps of their master.
More than likely the disciples headed back to the home where they had stayed during their trips to Jerusalem. Some historians believe that this was the home of one of the wealthy women followers of Jesus (possibly John Mark’s mother). The home had enough room for the guests which included a meeting room where they could all gather while they were waiting. Luke, the author of both the Gospel that bears his name and the book of Acts of the Apostles, sheds light on these days of tense anticipation. Luke states that they gathered in the upper room of this house to pray and discuss the business of what this ministry was going to look like with Jesus out of the picture. It was during this time that the team selected another member to take the place of Judas, who had betrayed Jesus and committed suicide. Luke also states that the disciples and a small band of Jesus’ followers who were still in Jerusalem (at least 120 of them) met together in the Temple each day at the hours of prayer according to the customs of the Jews. Time seemed suspended as the days ticked off with no apparent Promise in sight.
The feast of Pentecost was just a day away. The disciples have been waiting for 9 days at this point, and still no sign of anything unusual. Jerusalem was swollen with pilgrims who made the annual journey to honor and celebrate this great Feast Day on the Jewish calendar. The feast celebrated the wheat harvest and also commemorated the giving of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai. It was a very big deal, and attracted devout Jewish worshippers from all over the known world. Satan and his henchmen were lurking in the shadows pouring over their intel to see if any of these visitors to the city were cause for alarm. All was quiet. Perhaps the promise of the Father was just more wishful thinking. Maybe this whole thing was just a ruse. Had they all been duped?
It was approaching 9:00 am on the morning of the Feast and the temple and its courts were jammed packed with worshippers. In this great sea of people, the disciples and the remaining faithful followers of Jesus were all meeting together in one of the courts called the Porch of Solomon. This was a grand and exquisite hall large enough to house thousands of people. It was the only remaining section of the original temple built by Solomon to house the Ark of God and host His presence on the earth. This was the place where the residences for the Levites and Priests were located. This was the place where the Law of God was debated, discussed, and cases decided by the leaders and lawyers of the Jewish nation. It was also located on the Eastern wall of the Temple, which was prophetically declared to be the place where The King of Glory would come to take up residence and rule from His Temple.
In short, if there was ever a place for something special to happen, the Porch of Solomon was the place. If there was ever a time for as many Jews as possible from all over the diaspora to hear and see something spectacular, this was the time. If there was ever an occasion to signify and symbolize a great move of God, this was the occasion (celebrating a great harvest that was about to be reaped, and the Law of God being fully restored to His people). To the disciples and the pilgrims, this was just another Pentecost with its usual traditions and trappings. To Almighty God, this was go-time!
It was now 9:00 am, and the first of 3 special hours of prayer for devout Jews was underway. The din of the massive throng must have made it hard to hear one's own prayers. Then, suddenly, seemingly out of Heaven, a loud, prolonged sound, described by the witnesses as a “mighty rushing wind,” began to fill the Porch and drown out the prayers of the human voices. This wind seemed more like a roar of a Deity than the howling of an earthly storm. Everyone within earshot was in rapt attention, including Satan and his hordes. Something otherworldly was invading. There were still no visible signs of what could be the cause of this deafening wind. What was happening?
Then, as suddenly as it came, the wind stopped and the roar from the Heavenlies was replaced with a glorious chorus of earthly voices shouting and declaring the wonders and majesty of Almighty God. The refrain was coming from one small section of the Porch where the band of Jesus-followers were congregated together. A mass of shocked and shaken onlookers’ eyes were riveted on this group, not just because of the praise that was being proclaimed, but because of the amazing appearance of tongues of fire that were dancing over the heads of these people.
To the astute and prophetically attuned Jew, this was reminiscent of the calling of Moses when he was accosted and mesmerized by a burning bush in the wilderness of Mount Sinai. God spoke to Moses from a bush that was on fire, but not being consumed. God was speaking through the fire. God gave His Word and Law to Moses on the mountain through fire. Now, it seemed, God was again speaking through fire, but out of humans who were on fire, and not being consumed! What could all of this mean?
As the tongues of fire continued to blaze and dance over the heads of these peculiar people, the crowd began to notice that this group was composed almost entirely of people from the region of Galilee (perhaps their form of dress or other cultural markings gave them away). These people would have spoken basic Koine Greek (the trade language of the day), but their mother tongue would have been Aramaic. This would have been the language they would have used in their praise and prayer to God. However, the crowd that was composed of devout pilgrims from all over the known world, were hearing these words of praise to God in their own mother tongues. History records that there were at least 15 different languages represented in the crowd, How could this be? How could everyone be hearing these glorious words in their own mother tongue?
The crowd was stunned. Satan was scrambling to figure out what was going on. Where in the scriptures did this happening have its prophetic place? None of this made sense. If this was the Promise of the Father, it seemed almost laughable. Was anything else going to happen? Was this little show all that there was to the great Promise Jesus spoke about? We are not informed how long this event lingered, but at some point the crowd began to dismiss what they had just witnessed and started to mock and jeer, and call this group a bunch of drunks. If God was going to grab the stage back, now would be a good time to do it.
In a moment of supernaturally inspired boldness, Peter, the irresolute leader of this misfit group of Jesus followers, stepped forward and began to defend what was happening and explain what its meaning was. Thousands of people were wrapped around the words coming out of his mouth. Peter was talking, but God was speaking. Up from Peter’s innermost being were coming rivers of living water (the Word of God). Peter was speaking with the same wisdom and authority that Jesus had when He spoke. Peter’s mouth was moving but the words were not coming from his mind - they seemed to be coming from a fire that's burning deep in his Spirit.
In an instant Peter was making all the connections to what Jesus told his disciples. Jesus said that He would baptize His followers with The Holy Spirit and with fire. Jesus said that He would send the Holy Spirit (the Promise of the Father) and that His Spirit would not only be with them, but live IN them. Jesus said that His disciples would do greater things than He did. Jesus said to wait in Jerusalem until the Promise of the Father was given and then all the Power that came with the Authority that Jesus had already given them at His ascension would be poured out on them. This was it! Peter got it! And now he was burning with the fire of Heaven and the first harvest of this new age was about to be reaped!
Peter’s first public discourse is recorded in the book of Acts, chapter 2. The Holy Spirit, manifesting through Peter, lays out the entire Gospel starting with messages of the prophets of old and leading right up to the resurrection, and now to this great outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit. This sermon would become the model for the amazing ministry recorded in the book of Acts that inaugurated the wildfire-like spread of the Kingdom of God. At the end of Peter’s message, conviction and hope gripped the hearts of his hearers and at least 3,000 people clamored into the Kingdom in one glorious moment. The invasion was underway. The Kingdom of God was on the move. The entire city of Jerusalem was under siege from this Holy Terror that had just been released on the kingdom of darkness.
Satan, taken completely off guard, again, is reeling on the ropes after this Heavenly left hook. He did not know what hit him. Everything he believed about the frailty and fickleness of humans was crushed under the weight of a new reality that he would have to scheme against. This was completely uncharted waters for Satan. He was no longer facing Jesus alone in the flesh. This was now, as the Apostle Paul would later pen, “Christ in us, the hope of glory.” The tiny, broken, and beaten seed of Jesus’ life that was trampled down by Satan and planted in the tomb, had become the womb of resurrected life where Jesus would now live in and through multiple billions of people who accept the glorious Gospel.
What had he done! Satan, in his blinded maniacal pursuit of God’s throne and Kingdom, had personally planted God’s seed of salvation, and was now experiencing the power of God being displayed in this first, great harvest of humanity. He had been the puppet pawn of God’s plan for humanity’s redemption! There must be a way to stop it - but how? As Satan is retracting into the lair of his dark domain to regroup, there is another crushing cosmic blow coming. God is winding up a powerful uppercut that will drop Satan to his knees. There was yet another punch Satan never saw coming…
So, stay tuned and tune in.
by Pastor Jim Anan