If there was ever an “on fire” sermon, it was the apostle Peter’s on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem (Acts 2:22-39). When it was first heard 3,000 Jews were deeply moved- cut to the heart and then cried out, “What must we do?” Peter answered, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ…” (Acts 2:38) In essence it was a call to rightly align their lives with the plan of God in Messiah. The question is, what were they being called to align to?
When we look at the “original recording” of Peter’s message that launched the Jesus revolution and radically impacted those who first heard it, we can clearly see there are indivisible components to the Gospel message. There is the cross – essential for forgiveness of sins and right relationship with God. There is the resurrection – a demonstration that Jesus conquered death and is creating all things new in Himself. There are the prophecies given to David about the exaltation/ascension of Jesus to the right hand of the Father and prophecies that speak of Jesus’ return.
However today, more often than not, the “volume” of the ascension of Jesus has been turned down, or even muted. So, let’s turn the volume of the ascension back up so we can hear the original recording as God intended for every generation!
Forty days after His resurrection, Jesus ascended to Heaven in the presence of the disciples. The context is important. It happened in Jerusalem. These were Jews and staunch monotheists. After witnessing the ascension of Jesus from the Mt. of Olives, they returned to the upper hill of Jerusalem absolutely convinced that Jesus not only gave His life on the cross on Passover, but that He had resurrected from the dead and ascended to Heaven. They were willing to give their lives for what they believed – and they did!
Ten days later on the day of Pentecost Peter proclaimed, “This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore, being exalted to the right hand of God …” (Acts 2:32-33)This was a fulfillment of David’s prophecy recorded in Psalm 110:1 and for which the following passages provide additional insight (Hebrews 10:12; Romans 8:34; Hebrews 8:1; Acts 5:31; Acts 1:11). But more immediate to the context, Peter was explaining that Jesus is the reigning LORD who was giving the Spirit to transform lives on the day of Pentecost, “…and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.” Many Bible scholars see a parallel between the ascent of Moses atop Mt. Sinai where the Law was given and Jesus who ascended to Heaven and poured out the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.
Peter proclaimed, “For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” (Acts 2:34-35). Jesus is at the right hand of the Father and is poised to return to Jerusalem to renew the world and bring healing from its deep dislocation when the enemies of man and God will be under His feet.
And the end of his sermon Peter exclaimed, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:32-36)
Peter’s message was a call to align to a reality of Christ that was much weightier and more impactful than the cultural norms of his day and even of those held by Judaism today.
The term “Christ” comes from the Greek word that means “Anointed” which comes from the Hebrew word Mashiach (from which we get the word, Messiah). It’s a loaded term in the context of the Hebrew Scriptures. There were three roles in Israel that were anointed: Prophet, Priest and King. Jesus is the ultimate Prophet, Priest and King. He is the exact representation of God in human form. He gave His life on the cross for the sins of the world. He resurrected and ascended to Heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father as He makes intercession for us and is coming back to the earth one day. Jesus is THE Anointed One. THE Messiah. THE Christ! No wonder why “Jesus Christ” occurs 187 times in the New Testament with Jesus and Christ occurring separately 546 times.
When Peter declared Jesus as “Lord” (a title of divinity), coupled with “Christ”, he was proclaiming that Jesus is King! It produced a loyalty in the royalty of Jesus to do what was right no matter the cost!
Acts 4:18-20 reads, “So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”
On the day of the Feast of Pentecost, Peter proclaimed Jesus as the Jewish Messiah—the rightful King, chosen by God, to rule the world and the One who is coming again to establish His Kingdom of justice, righteousness, love and shalom on the earth in Jerusalem. (Ps. 2:8; 72:8, 11; Dan. 7:13-14; Zech. 9:9-10)
Years later Paul brought this message to the intellectual capital of the Greco-Roman world of Athens Greece, when he said, “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31)
Paul also warned in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.”
The warning is that unless there is fundamental change in the areas of sex, money and power — there is no evidence that one’s life is aligned with Jesus the King, and therefore that person would have no confidence of being in His Kingdom when it materializes on planet earth.
Jesus is creating a new man and a new community in Himself. The indivisible realities of the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ transforms lives! “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:11)
Below are a few perspectives on how hearing the original recording of the ascension of Jesus in the context of Peter’s “On Fire Message” on Pentecost aligns our lives and impacts the world to His glory.
One, it produces a loyalty in the royalty of Jesus that purges the corruption of western individualism and consumerism and instead embodies holiness, selflessness, love, forgiveness, and justice toward others which glorifies God!
Two, it encourages us that whether our efforts are measurable in this lifetime or not, faithfulness is always seen by God, weighed by God and rewarded by God — and glorifies God! “Therefore, my beloved brethren be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)
Three, it tells us that there is hope beyond the grave in Christ for us today. But it also tells us that Jesus is the promised “Son of David”, the Triumphant King who will set His feet on the Mt of Olives to establish His Kingdom from Jerusalem, and will restore planet earth to wholeness with Israel at the center.
Greg Denham has been a lead pastor for thirty years and is presently the Senior Pastor of Rise Church (a new church plant in San Marcos, Ca.). He is the founder of “The Context Movement”, an author, and spearheads yearly “Friends of Israel Weekends” to fight anti-Semitism and champion friendships between Christians and Jews.