Friends, Pentecost just came and went, so it is a great time to talk about the original Pentecost! We’re continuing in our America, Israel and the Church series, but today’s discussion will definitely dip into Pentecost. With it, we will make a slight change in direction over the next few days.
We just passed through another season of intense conflict and exchange of rockets between Israel and Gaza. In many ways, the Middle East is very complicated, and is difficult to understand with a western mindset.
Over the next few days, we’ll consider an important Biblical account, make application to current events and people groups, and learn of incredible works of God among believing Arabs, Palestinians and Jews. So, today, I invite you to turn to Acts 2, where we will anchor for the day. You likely recognize this chapter as the narrative of Pentecost…the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the church.
To get a running start, consider Acts 1, where we find Jesus’ ascension into heaven (after having spent 40 days with His followers), and the regathering of Jesus’ disciples in the Upper Room, where they committed themselves to prayer. Chapter 2 begins with the disciples regathered. Suddenly, a noise like a violent rushing wind filled the place, and the Holy Spirit came upon them.
Pick it up in Acts 2:5 and read through verse 12. According to verses 9-11, what people groups were present at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came down? Verse 5 tells us Jews were there, but we may be surprised by some others:
- Parthians: These are Persian people…or part of modern-day Iran. Bible students perhaps remember that Esther was Persian. These people were at Pentecost and are still calling out to the God of Abraham today! They just haven’t met Him yet. They think His name is Allah.
- Medes: Yep! Them too! The Kurds of northern Iraq…sons of Abraham. They were at Pentecost! Perhaps the most identifiable city within the Midianite empire is Nineveh…modern day Mosul, Iraq!
- Elamites: Elam was a land in modern-day Southern Iraq (extending, perhaps into Iran). This would include the city of Ur, from which God called Abram. Modern-day cities of Basra and Baghdad lie in this region. And they were present at Pentecost!
- Mesopotamia: The land between the great Tigress and Euphrates Rivers in modern-day Iraq was known at the time of Pentecost as Mesopotamia. Present and accounted for at Pentecost!
- Judea: Today the West Bank lies in what was then known as Judea. Jews and Arabs both live there, but many parts are controlled by Palestinians who wish to make it a Palestinian state. Yes, you read correctly…represented at Pentecost!
- Cappadocia, Pontus, Phrygia and Pamphylia: All these people groups answered “present” at the Pentecost roll call! These areas were likely situated in modern-day Turkey. The Apostle Paul was from Tarsus, a part of this region.
- Asia: It is thought that Asia refers to the west coast province of Asia Minor. On the roster at Pentecost!
- Egypt: Egypt!…the Egyptians were also present at Pentecost! Interestingly, the Christian church in Egypt is one of the fastest growing in the Middle East.
- Libya: Yes, the country of the late Muammar al-Gaddafi was represented at Pentecost! Amazing, isn’t it!
- Rome: Those who ruled Israel at the time of Jesus were also represented at Pentecost!
- Cretans: Also known as Philistines, this people group was rebellious, deceitful, worshippers of man, and they originated from the Aegean area, primarily Crete. The name “Palestinians” is thought to derive from the word “Philistines.” (Originally, the Romans called the Jews “Palestinians” as a derogatory name meant to shame them. Today, “Palestinians” refer to the people of Gaza and Arabs in the West Bank.)
- Arabs: Yes, descendants of Ishmael from Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries! Present on that day! Unbelievable!
According to Scripture, these people groups were all represented at Pentecost! Jesus shed His blood for men from every tribe and people and nation! Is that a surprise?
Consider this from One for Israel:
“And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth'” (Rev 5:9-10). For people who don’t like Palestinians, Iranians, Jews, Africans, Chinese, etc., the kingdom of God will be an eternal hell. Notice that people of every color have been purchased by the precious blood of Jesus. The cost of redemption for Arabs was not less than the cost of Jews (and vice versa). Notice that “they will reign upon the earth.” No rank, no slaves, no second class citizens in the kingdom. Everyone will be royalty. So if this is not your idea of paradise, it is better to choice a religion that divides rather than unites. “Praise the LORD, all nations; Laud Him, all peoples! For His lovingkindness is great toward us, and the truth of the LORD is everlasting. Praise the LORD!” (Ps 117:1-2).
Stop and let that soak in. In fact, consider this your homework assignment before we regather tomorrow: meditate on Acts 2:5-12! (That means read it through slowly several times and stop to think deeply about what you are reading.) See you tomorrow!
For a very interesting take on Pentecost, see: