Although building on what came before, Pentecost ushered in something new. The experience of Pentecost in Acts 2 echoes many earlier biblical themes and particularly echoes Jesus’s experience of the Spirit in Luke’s Gospel. Nevertheless, it simultaneously signifies something new: the last-days outpouring of God’s Spirit prophetically empowering all God’s people for ministry. No longer was prophetic empowerment restricted to only some prophets in Israel; now it was for all God’s people, and for a mission to all peoples. The Spirit would be poured out on all flesh, so that all Jesus’s followers, Jew and Gentile, would be empowered to share in that mission.
Jesus ascends and bestows the Spirit in a manner that evokes the model of Elijah and his successor who received a double portion of his spirit, namely, Elisha (Acts 1:8-11). The transfer of Elijah’s spiritual power and ministry to Elisha is relevant to Luke’s connection between the gift of the Spirit and Jesus’s ascension because it is the Old Testament’s only explicit ascension scene (explicitly connected to the transfer; 2 Kgs 2:10, 13). Such a biblical model indicates that Jesus is delegating his prophetic empowerment to his followers. The opening of Peter’s Pentecostal sermon highlights this feature.
Because I have ministered regularly in the gift of prophecy in certain periods of my life, I have not only an empathy for biblical prophets but also a sense of what prophetic inspiration sometimes feels like. I also find such an experience in Scripture impossible to dismiss and easy to resonate with. That said, I recognize that prophecy must be evaluated and it is possible to depart from the spirit of the message.
This content is by Craig Keener, but edited and posted by Defenders Media.
For more on how to interpret Scripture in light of Pentecost, read Spirit Hermeneutics (2016).