Pentecost and Ezekiel 37

Philip P. Eapen


What is the significance of the Day of Pentecost? It was the day the Lord Jesus poured out His Holy Spirit on hundred-and-twenty disciples who were waiting in prayer to receive the Promise. They were baptized in the Spirit (Acts 1:5). They spoke foreign languages they had never learnt. But there’s more.

Of course, you’ll tell me about Peter’s sermon and the amazing response to it. Three thousand Jews repented and accepted water baptism in obedience to the gospel. They too wanted the Holy Spirit! They were added to the Church. It was a great day indeed.

There’s still more to that day. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Apostle Peter announced the fulfillment of messianic prophecies in Jesus—the very things Jews longed to see in their Messiah. The Jews were disappointed because the kind of fulfillment they had expected in a Messiah was missing in Jesus. Peter, the former Jew, addressed those very concerns and he successfully drove home his point. Those key prophecies are found in Ezekiel 37. Peter declared the fulfillment of three key predictions in that chapter.

1. Coronation of Jesus as the Messiah (King)

“My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd. … David my servant will be their prince forever.” Ezekiel 37:24-25

Peter claimed that God’s promise to David was fulfilled when Jesus was raised from the dead and installed as Lord and Messiah (King):

“Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah …
Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. …
God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” Acts 2: 29-31,33,36

Peter claimed that the outpouring of the Spirit was proof that Jesus was indeed crowned as Messiah at the right hand of God’s throne.

“Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.” (Acts 2:33)

The visible and audible signs of the Spirit made it all the more convincing to the Jews who had gathered there. Yes, it involved a paradigm shift in their understanding of the Messiah. Wasn't the Messiah supposed to be a King, with a geographical domain, ruling over ethnic Israel? They were prepared to abandon their Zionist interpretation and to embrace Peter's interpretation of a heavenly Messiah, seated on David's throne in heaven, ruling over every nation of the earth!

But didn't Ezekiel say that Judah and Israel would be gathered and united to form one nation before the Messiah is enthroned? What about that prophecy?

2. The Grand Unification of Israel

“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone. I will gather them from all around and bring them back into their own land. I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. There will be one king over all of them and they will never again be two nations or be divided into two kingdoms.” Ezekiel 37:21-22

This prophecy too was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost when Jesus was first proclaimed as Messiah. Peter, full of the Holy Spirit, delivered the punch line of his sermon addressing thousands of Jews, who had gathered in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost, as “all Israel.”

“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” (2:36)

Peter was not mistaken. The Holy Spirit made him say that. Humanly speaking, there was no “all Israel” assembled there. People knew that the kingdom of Israel (the ten tribes) was lost forever. However, there were Jews from “every nation under heaven” in the city.

“Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken.
“Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!
Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” (2:5-11)

It is in answer to this question that Peter stood up with the Eleven and spoke to the crowd. He convinced them that Jesus was exalted by God as their Messiah. Peter’s words cut to their heart. They had no more objections.

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (2:37)

Thus, three thousand Jews were led to repentance. They were baptized. They too must have received the gift of the Spirit. It was to that end that Peter had invited them to surrender before Christ.

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (2:38-39)

Apostle Peter’s statement is, sadly, lost on Christians who are still looking forward to see a physical gathering of all Jews to the land of Palestine. How can they believe Jesus became the Messiah without having restored Israel in His own way? The theological system called Dispensationalism makes people believe that Jesus the Messiah is still a work in progress and that His mission on earth is yet unfinished.

How unfortunate that Bible-believing Christians should spend their time, money, and other resources on a misplaced project called ‘Aliyah’—the immigration of Jews to the land of Palestine. Worse still, Zionism and Aliyah continue to defile that land with the blood of innocents. Crimes against humanity, apartheid, persecution of Palestinians, ethnic cleansing, and illegal settlements on occupied territory are being justified as actions that lead to fulfillment of prophecy! May the good Lord open the eyes of Christians to see what Peter saw on the Day of Pentecost. May God open the eyes of Jews to see what those three thousand Jews saw on the Day of Pentecost—David’s Son ruling over one unified Israel from heaven.

It is also a sad spectacle to see Christians reduce and restrict Acts 2 to one of their favourite themes: either the baptism of the Holy Spirit or glossolalia or the practices of the early Church. Pentecostals were focussed on the initial physical evidence of Holy Spirit rather than on what the outpouring signified. Peter’s sermon, including his powerful declarations, are conveniently pushed aside.

Now that two important prophecies in Ezekiel 37 were declared to be fulfilled, we look at the third one in that chapter.

3. Dry Bones Become Spirit-animated Army

“The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” …
“… And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.
“… Then he said to me, Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’ So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.” – Ezekiel 37:1-10

In his sermon, Peter stated that the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost was a fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. But Joel is not the only prophet who predicted the outpouring of the Spirit.

“All Israel” that was gathered in Jerusalem from “from every nation under heaven” was like dry bones—beyond redemption and without hope. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Jesus’ disciples (and eventually on the thousands of Jews who were baptized that day) created a living army out of those dead bones. Nothing of that significance and scale was ever seen in the history of Israel.

This was God’s way of fulfilling the vision of the Valley of Dry Bones described in Ezekiel 37.

Significantly, this Israel, belonged to Y’shua the Messiah. The resurrected Spirit-animated Israel was the Church of Jesus Christ! It is to this new Israel that God added Gentiles who later believed in Jesus.

There was no unbeliever among them! They were God’s children and, as a result, true heirs to Abrahamic promises through the “seed of Abraham,” Jesus Christ. Israel, a mass of dry bones, was resurrected and formed anew to bear a new identity. Jews who refused to believe in Jesus had no part in this new Israel.

The apostle Paul acknowledged this change in the identity of the People of God by redefining the terms “Jew”A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. – Romans 2:28 NIV and “Israel” in his epistle to the Romans before saying “all Israel shall be saved.”“all Israel will be saved. As it is written: "The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.” Romans 11:26 He anguished over the stubbornness of Jews in whom God had invested so much.“I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.
For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers,a my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.” (Rom 9:1-5)
Paul comforted himself thus:

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but
“Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”
This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. – Romans 9:6-8 ESV

Who then are “the children of the promise?” Who is worthy to be called Abraham’s offspring? None other than Jesus! Paul states that clearly in Galatians.Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring.
It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. – Gal 3:16 ESV
If Christ alone qualifies to be called “Abraham’s Seed,” ethnic Israel cannot claim Abraham’s inheritance or promises! Only those who come through Christ can be true heirs. The Gospel of Jesus Christ opened that privilege to Jews and Gentiles.

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise. – Gal 3:27-29 ESV

To Jews who still boasted in the flesh, Paul had this to say:

It doesn’t matter whether we have been Jews or Gentiles. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. May God’s peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the Israel of God. – Gal 6:15-16

Peace and grace be upon God’s true Israel!

Conclusion

The Day of Pentecost is not just about an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Jesusʼ disciples. On that day, Jesus demonstrated that He was indeed the Lord and Messiah by receiving the Spirit from the Father and gifting Him to His disciples. Jesus thus proved that God had fulfilled His promise to David. A Davidic King was installed in heaven. God had also fulfilled His promise to gather and unite all Israel under this Messiah. The Church of Jesus Christ that received the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost was the Spirit-animated Israelite army that Ezekiel had foreseen.

The resurrected Jesus, on Davidʼs throne in heaven, may not match the Zionist’s dream of a parochial Jewish kingdom on earth. Misplaced expectations prevented Jews from believing Jesus. If only they knew that the Kingdom of heaven that was at hand became a reality after Jesus was exalted! Christians can now boldly answer Jewish objections about Messiah Jesus, like Peter did, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Nothing is more effective in defeating carnal, earthly Zionist interpretations than the demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit.

End Notes

About the Author:

Philip Eapen, an environmental scientist by training, devoted his life to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ ever since he realised that the world needs Jesus Christ more than anyone or anything else. Apart from sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, Philip also teaches Christians in order to equip them for service.