When the Spirit Comes in Power

Today is Pentecost Sunday, the Sunday closest to the 50th day after Easter. It marks the moment recorded in Acts 2 when Jesus poured out the Holy Spirit in power on His followers.

When it happened, fire suddenly fell on them, symbolic of God’s presence. A mighty wind filled the house, demonstrating which member of the Godhead this was. And they all spoke in “other tongues,” that is, languages they had apparently never learned. All these physical phenomena demonstrated one thing: “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4). God Himself had come to dwell with His people personally and permanently. From this point forward, everything changed.

Pentecost is the reverse image of an incident from Genesis 11 that occurred thousands of years earlier. At the Tower of Babel, a unified humanity raised its fist to God and tried to build a tower that reached heaven. So God divided the people into separate nations using the most effective means possible—different languages. It was the last time in biblical history that God’s work was universal, among all nations. Immediately after Babel, God narrowed His focus to a single nation. From Genesis 12 until Acts 2, Abraham and his family were the unique object of God’s redeeming love. That is, until Pentecost.

Pentecost is the exact reversal of Babel. Babel was about rebels attempting to build a kingdom for themselves; Pentecost was about God establishing His own kingdom on earth. Babel was people looking inside themselves to find significance and power; Pentecost was God coming from outside and filling people with His presence and power. Babel was God’s judgment on humanity’s unbelief and pride; Pentecost was God’s blessing on the new humanity’s faith and repentance. Babel was humanity’s attempt to climb up and reach God; Pentecost was God coming down to live with us. At Babel, God drove the nations apart to thwart evil; at Pentecost, God brought the nations together to spread righteousness. Babel was about confusion and alienation; Pentecost was about clarity and reconciliation. Babel spread people out across the earth in suspicion and hostility; Pentecost spread people out across the earth in love and fellowship.

This is what happens when God’s Spirit comes in power.