entry02I received the following questions:

Nathan, I had not thought of this before but (my wife) and I were thinking about the triumphal entry of the Lord. These that are accompanying the Lord into Jerusalem are described as being a multitude. These were certainly followers of the Lord during His earthly ministry. They are the ones that you teach would not have turned against the Lord in a couple of days to have been part of the mob crying for His crucifixion. These would be the ones who had seen all His miraculous works. They had been healed, fed, and ministered to by Christ. Many, maybe all of these were made up of the ones who had submitted to God, concerning the Kingdom of God, ahead of time (metanoia) through John’s baptism. Why is it then in Acts 2, we see only 120 of His followers that were privileged to be part of the beginning of the “sending” of the Holy Spirit? Otis Sellers and yourself both make note in your commentary of Acts 2 that “there are now 120 believers,” then
in Acts 3 “there are now 3,120 believers, then in Acts 4 there are 5,000.” Is it right to call these the only believers at this point? Are we to discount the ones in Israel who had submitted beforehand with the “after-mind” of metanoia?

I understand that at the triumphal entry it is seen that the multitude is celebrating the entry into Jerusalem of “the King of Israel” John 12:13. They cry “He that comes in the name of the Lord,” and “blessed be the Kingdom of our Father David” Mark 11:9-10, Mat. 21:9. That is all they know about who He is. They have no clue that He will soon be crucified, let alone what the implications of His death are concerning forgiveness of sins. Clearly all recognize that something new is starting at Pentecost. What most of Christendom misses is that the new thing starting here is still Jewish and is a fulfillment of OT prophesies and has nothing to do with what is called “church” today.

What is also missing however, even among dispensationalists, is that Christ had not yet presented Himself as Israel’s Messiah. Until His death, burial, and resurrection, this was not revealed. Now however through the preaching of His “apostled” men, this is now being proclaimed. The Holy Spirit empowering these first 120 men clearly starts the Kingdom of God. Most of Christendom teaches that all had forsaken Christ and there were only 120 men that had stayed faithful. Maybe I’m wrong and there were only 120 that had stayed faithful. With that said, my questions are these:

1. Why is it that there are only 120 included in the first group at Pentecost when there had been such a “multitude at the triumphal entry? Had so many already left town after Passover was over? Wasn’t Pentecost also one of the three required feasts? 2. The 120 are called disciples in Acts 1:15. Can we say that because Peter’s message is a new and further truth in Acts 2 and beyond, that these first 120 are the only believers because all in Israel are now responsible for this further truth so the believer count starts over? What about the ones who during John’s and Christ’s ministries had metanoia? Do they start from scratch again concerning their status as a “believer?”

3. Is it that these 120, 3,120, and 5,000 men are now ekklesia? If so then it would not be correct to describe these men just as believers and the counting of believers would not start with them.

4. Is it that there were only 120 that had stayed faithful? Is it that the multitude that had been with Him, while they were still with Him up through His trial, had now given up after He had been put to death? This would put the counter back to 120 at Pentecost but it seems then that only 120 men truly had metanoia… 😦  Hard to believe.

You have a good point about the 120 being the only believers. According to I Corinthians 15:6, over 500 brethren at once had seen the Lord after He rose from the dead, and this puts the number of “brethren” at over 120. I would note that the reference to the 120 calls them “disciples,” which indicates that they had dedicated themselves to following and serving Christ, more than just believing that He rose from the dead. It could be that not all of the 500 who saw Him raised were so quick to dedicate themselves to the new unity of believers. Really, what was going to happen next seemed up in the air for quite a while, and Israel only began to understand what God was going to do next as it was announced on Pentecost.

I think there were many who heard the Lord Jesus gladly during His earthly ministry, yet who had not necessarily dedicated themselves to following Him and becoming His disciple. To these, He had never been presented as the Messiah, though many of them probably guessed that that is Who He was. When the Lord died, many of these probably figured that His death proved He was not the Messiah. Only when He was presented as risen from the dead and still working through His apostles would they have realized for certain the truth that He was the Messiah. There was immediately a fairly wide-spread response. The number grew very quickly, because many of these people were ripe to hear it, as you say. The number of believers is called a “multitude” in Acts 4:32, and then “multitudes” in Acts 5:14, and then the number “multiplied” in Acts 6:1. This rapid growth makes sense from our understanding that many people were ready to believe in the Lord when He was announced, and even would have been ready before during His earthly ministry, though He was never announced as their Messiah then.

As for question number 1, there were above five hundred brethren who had seen the Lord after His resurrection, so the number there was not just one hundred and twenty. However, these 120 were those who had dedicated themselves to the Lord such that they are called disciples. It had not yet been revealed by the Lord what exactly He wanted of those who believed in Him now that He had risen from the dead. The call to join the group of believers did not come until Peter announced it in Acts 2. As you say, there were those who were already dedicated to being metanoia who must quickly have responded upon hearing the call to believe and be publicly identified with the group of believers. Certainly those who had seen Him risen from the dead earlier, whom Paul calls “brethren,” must have been among those who responded and were identified.

The pledge to be metanoia could not be fulfilled until it was revealed exactly what it was that God wanted them to do. When Peter made his proclamation at Pentecost, that requirement was revealed to those who heard. Yet surely the several million Jews in Israel could not have been in attendance and all heard Peter’s proclamation that day, even if they were in town for the feast. The word had to spread and carry to others, and it did as time went on. As more and more heard, more and more came on board. Yet they could not prove themselves metanoia until they heard.

2. The 120 were the only ones among the group of believers who had been disciples and were publicly identified with Jesus Christ already. The rest in Israel, though many were favorable toward the Lord Jesus Christ and many were honest in their promise to be metanoia made at John’s baptism, had not yet heard what was expected of them or that they were to join the multitude of disciples and be baptized into the name of Jesus Christ. This was the first step they were to take in proving themselves faithful to that pledge to be metanoia they had taken when they had participated in John’s baptism. They could not be counted as believers until they had taken the step, been after-minded, and actually been identified with Jesus Christ.

3. The 120; 3,120; and 5,000 are the sum total of those who have believed and been publicly identified as disciples of Jesus Christ. This was what was required of them in the Acts period. They might be favorable to the followers of Christ for a while, but ultimately, God demanded them taking a side, either for the Lord or against Him. Many did come down on the side of the Lord, tens of thousands in and around Jerusalem, as they tell Paul in Acts 21.

4. The word had not yet been proclaimed in Acts 1. No one even really knew if the Lord Jesus was the Messiah or not at this point. He had never been actually proclaimed as such. No one knew what He required of them. Some had heard of the resurrection, no doubt, but this in itself did not signify to them that they should run off and join themselves to His disciples. Everyone was not required to run off and join Him when they heard of Lazarus being raised from the dead. No one was required to run off and join Elijah or Elisha when they heard of them raising people from the dead. There is no reason to blame them for not doing what they had never been told they were supposed to do.

It is true that to be His disciple you had to leave everything and follow Him. Yet was everyone in Israel supposed to be His disciple? We see no indication of this. His disciples were a special, dedicated group. Others loved Him much but were only faithful to Him, not His disciples, such as Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.

On the day of Pentecost, for the first time the people were presented with Jesus Christ as their Messiah, and commanded to publicly identify themselves with Him. Many responded, and the numbers grew quickly as word got out. The fact that their hearts were metanoia is shown by how quickly the numbers increased.

Hope that helps. Thanks for the great question. Talk more later.