I recently had the opportunity to walk through the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis located in St. Louis, MO. You can see the church from the highway, as its green dome stands out above the city. This magnificent structure was dedicated in 1908 to 'the Victorious Christ and Saint Louis IX, King of France, patron saint of the city'. Once inside the building, I felt as if I had been transported to another time due to the Byzantine-like imagery and colorful mosaics depicting Biblical themes on its walls and domed ceiling. I was instantly struck with awe, not just with its beauty but with the message clearly being sent. The focus on Jesus Christ was undeniable.
I sat down in one of the pews toward the front so I could tilt my head back and scan the beautiful mosaics across the ceiling. My eyes came to a stop when I looked up and over to the left. It was a mosaic of the disciples, some sitting and some kneeling, all within and against the backdrop of a large flame of fire that had engulfed them. In addition, smaller flames of fire were just above the head of each person (the picture inset with this article is the very mosaic I was seeing). Underneath the mosaic on that domed ceiling were the words "I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh". That phrase embodies one of the greatest fulfillments of Bible prophecy, as can be seen in the following.
"And it shall come to pass afterward, that I WILL POUR OUT MY SPIRIT ON ALL FLESH; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants IN THOSE DAYS I WILL POUR OUT MY SPIRIT". Those words were a prophecy spoken by the Prophet Joel around 800 B.C. and can be found in the Old Testament (Joel 2:28-29). The context of this prophecy was that because of Judah's sin the plagues of both locusts and drought were impending on the country. Judah had descended into 'spiritual' poverty, drunkenness, and religious formalism. As a result, locusts devoured their crops. What wasn't destroyed by the locusts was wiped out by the drought, including their cattle and flocks of sheep. Not to mention, the drought would also deplete their water supply. They were left hungry and thirsty.
Do you see where this is going? These people had moved away from God and could no longer sense His presence. Their spiritual life had been devoured away. Now, apart from God's presence, they found themselves in a 'dry place'. Obviously, this was not God's best for His people. By analogy, Joel prophesied that a day was coming when God was not going to withhold water, symbolic in the Bible of the Holy Spirit, but was going to pour out His Spirit on everyone. Like any other prophecy in Scripture, there would be an expected future time of fulfillment.
Approximately 800 years later and just weeks after Jesus' Resurrection, Joel's prophecy began to be fulfilled. There were 120 people who had gotten together over a 10-day period to seek God and pray. And what happened next would literally change the course of history and turn the world upside-down. Luke, the writer of the book of Acts, captured for us all the drama that hit Jerusalem that day. "When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And THEY WERE ALL FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance" (Acts 2:1-4).
Wow! The Holy Spirit was poured out on those people that day just as Joel said it would. The Holy Spirit, God Himself, would invade earth like never before. He came to dwell in people, themselves becoming the new temple of God, individually and collectively. No longer would His presence be kept behind a veil in a temple in Jerusalem. Now the Spirit of the Lord, Christ Himself, would come and dwell in and among His people. No longer would God's people be left thirsty. They would now drink Living Water. No longer would His people be left hungry. They could now eat of the Bread of Heaven! He would now become the Indwelling Presence of God, living on the inside of every born-again believer (John 3:3-7).
Moments after that event, confusion set in as people were trying to figure out how these Galileans could speak in so many languages they had never learned. Just imagine for a moment...I personally speak 'Kentuckian'. Being a transplant from southern Illinois 20 years ago, my accent has changed a little as my words are now a little more drawn out with a slight 'twang'. Sentences take longer to speak. I say "y'all" now instead of "you-ins" (not sure that was an improvement). I talk slower. Even yellow lights take longer here before they switch to red. Kidding aside, can you imagine if I started praising God in English and my language switched over to German or French, neither of which I know, in the midst of a group of people from Germany or France who knew I didn't know their language? That is what happened there in Jerusalem! The Apostle Peter then stepped forward to explain the phenomenon, "...this is what was uttered through the Prophet Joel: 'And IN THE LAST DAYS it shall be, God declares, that I WILL POUR OUT MY SPIRIT ON ALL FLESH, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants IN THOSE DAYS I WILL POUR OUT MY SPIRIT, and they shall prophesy" (Acts 2:16-18). Peter was saying that this 'outpouring' was the beginning of the fulfillment of Joel's prophecy. What's more, it has continued now for 2,000 years.
The mosaic in the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis so beautifully depicted the Holy Spirit being poured out over all the world, being given to those who would call on the name of the Lord (i.e., those who would accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord as a result of what He accomplished at Calvary's Cross 2,000 years ago when He died for the sins of the world). That mosaic, taken from Acts 2, defines God's best for His people. God's best is that we live every day totally engulfed in the Holy Spirit's flame, having a personal sense and awareness of His powerful presence, but also allowing the fire of the Spirit to burn up everything that should not be in our lives so that when people see us, they only see Jesus!