Pentecost: The Fulfillment of Joel 2 Part 7
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
before that great and notable day of the Lord come:
Much of the difficulty with interpreting these verses consists in fixing the proper meaning to the expression, "that great and notable day of the Lord." If it is limited to the day of Pentecost, it is certain that no such events occurred at that time. It would be wrong to confine it to that time. The description here pertains to "the last days" (Acts 2:17), that is, to that entire period of time, however long, which was known by the prophets as the last times. That period might be extended through many centuries; and during that period all these events would take place. The day of the Lord is the day when God shall manifest himself in a peculiar manner; a day when He shall so strikingly be seen through His wonders and His judgments, that it may be called His day. Thus it is applied to the day of judgment; the day of the Son of man; the day in which He will be the great engaging object, and will be expressly glorified (See Luke 17:24, 1 Thessalonians 5:2, Philippians 1:6; 2 Peter 3:12).
It is quite evident that there was nothing transpiring at the time of Peter's speech to which the multitude could perceive as the fulfillment of these words; therefore the remark with which he introduces the quotation, “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel” is to be understood only as referring to the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. The remainder of the prediction must have looked to the future for its fulfillment. How far in the future is not indicated, except that the events mentioned were to take place, “before that great and notable day of the Lord.” This day of the Lord is certainly spoken of as a day of terror and danger; and no doubt the salvation contemplated in the words, “every one who will call on the name of the Lord shall be saved (v. 21),” is salvation from the dangers of “that great and notable day.” The interpretation of the whole passage, therefore, depends upon determining what is meant by that day. Is it the day of the destruction of Jerusalem, or of the final judgment? The best way to settle this question is to examine the use of the phrase, “day of the Lord.”
The great and illustrious day must not be confused with the “signs and wonders” mentioned by the prophet; for these are to occur before that day. Whatever may be the exact symbolic meaning of the “blood and fire, and smoky vapor,” and the darkening of the sun and moon, they represent events which are to take place before the Day of Judgment.
Having now determined the day in question, we can at once decide what salvation is contemplated in the declaration, “Every one who will call on the name of the Lord shall be saved (v. 21).” The only salvation connected with the Day of Judgment is the salvation from sin and death. The reference, therefore, is to this, and not to salvation from the destruction of Jerusalem.
It had been little more than seven weeks since the people in Jerusalem had actually seen the sun turned into darkness, during the early afternoon of the day of our Lord’s crucifixion. And on the same afternoon, the moon may have appeared blood-red in the sky due to that mysterious, ghostly gloom. These signs were to be understood as being symbolic of the arrival of the day of the Lord, “that great and notable day,” a day of judgment, for sure. This conclusion is confirmed by the consistent use of this phrase by the New Testament writers. The Apostolic writings afford little ground indeed for the prominence that has been given to commentators who offer a different opinion, such as the destruction of Jerusalem. There was another and far different day, in their future, to which they gave the title, “the day of the Lord.” Paul says, “Deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. “ “We are your rejoicing, even as ye also are ours, in the day of the Lord Jesus.” “Yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.” “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night.” These are all the times that this expression occurs in the New Testament, and they show conclusively that “the day of the Lord,” according to the apostles, was the Day of Judgment. However, this phrase can be applied to any day in which God manifests himself; but particularly to a day when he shall come forth to punish men, such as at the destruction of Jerusalem, or at the Day of Judgment. The meaning is that those wonders would take place before that distinguished day should arrive when God would come in judgment.
21 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Here we have the one and only means of preservation for the Lord’s people, and it comes as a promise: “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord Jesus (which is the description of a true Christian according to 1 Co. 1:2, where it says: “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place CALL ON THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST our Lord, both theirs and ours”) shall be saved.” The name of the Lord is the same as the Lord Himself. Notice that the saved are described as praying people: they call on the name of the Lord, which implies that they are not saved by any merit or righteousness of their own, but purely by the grace of God, which must be solicited by prayer. Those that distinguish themselves by outstanding holiness shall be distinguished by receiving special preservation. One example of this occurred during the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans; there was a remnant sealed to be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger; and when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans not one Christian perished.
“Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord” entails turning to the Lord for salvation in His appointed way. It means far more than simply prayer. The person who calls on the name of the Lord for salvation must do more than say, “Lord, Lord, please save me.” He must hear and obey, because Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matt 7:21; NKJV). Not everyone professing Christ is genuinely saved. Even the outward verbal acknowledgment of His lordship is in itself not enough to save the unbeliever apart from true repentance and faith. A genuinely saved person is one that doeth the will of my Father; he is continually living in obedience to the will of God as the normal course of his life. He may fail at times, but in the general course of his life, he consistently obeys the will of the Father. It is tragic to note that many who will proclaim in that day, Lord, Lord will be lost. On what do they base their profession? Their many wonderful works cause them to think that they have attained salvation and yet the response of Christ will be I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Those who are continually living in sin, as the normal course of their lives, have no assurance of salvation whatsoever. This does not mean that one must experience basic and initial changes in one’s life to validate his claim to conversion.
My friend, Joel 2:28–32 has not been fulfilled to this day. I don’t think that anyone would claim that on the Day of Pentecost the moon was turned to blood or that the sun was turned to darkness. When Christ was crucified, there was darkness for three hours, but not on the Day of Pentecost. Nor were there wonders in the heavens above and signs in the earth beneath. Nor was there blood and fire and a vapor of smoke. Simon Peter quotes this passage to show these mockers that the pouring out of the Spirit of God should not be strange to them. Joel had predicted it, and it is going to come to pass.
If we turn back to the Book of Joel, we will find that he had a great deal to say about the Day of the Lord. The Day of the Lord will begin with the Great Tribulation period. It will go on through the Millennium. In three chapters of the Book of Joel, the Day of the Lord is mentioned five times. Joel talks about the fact that it is a time of war, a time of judgment upon the earth. That has not yet been fulfilled. It was not fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost.
This verse teaches us:
1. That in view of the judgments of God which are to come, we should make sure we are prepared; that we are saved.
2. It is easy to be saved. All that God requires of us is to call upon him, to pray to him, to ask him, and he will answer and save. If men will not do such an easy thing it is appropriate for them to be cast off. The terms of salvation could not be made clearer or easier. The offer is open to all, free, universal, and there is no obstacle but what exists in the heart of the sinner.