Pentecost: The Fulfillment of Joel 2 Part 3
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call” This will not be quoted literally either from the Hebrew or from the Septuagint. The substance, however, is preserved. It is worth mentioning that though Peter was filled with the Holy Ghost, and spoke with tongues as the Spirit gave him utterance, he did not set aside the scriptures, or think he was above them. Much of his sermon is quoted from the book of Joel (he lived around 800 B.C.), and with the aid of these verses he proves what he says. Christ’s scholars never outgrow their Bible; and the Spirit is not given to them in order to enable them to take the place of the scriptures, but to enable us to understand and share the scriptures with others.
He uses this prophecy as a response to the pessimist, the unbeliever, and the mocker. This is his purpose for quoting it. Though some say this was fulfilled prophesy, as I have noted, there is also the opinion that He is saying, “This is similar to or this is like that “which was spoken by the prophet Joel.” He does not say that this is the fulfillment of that which was spoken by the prophet Joel. He is saying, “Why do you think this is something odd or something strange? We have prophecy that says these things are going to come to pass.” Peter goes on to quote the prophecy from Joel. I’m glad Simon Peter quoted as much scripture as he did because he makes it obvious that he was not attempting to say this was fulfilled, but rather, that this was in accordance with the predictions in their own Scriptures.
JOEL, BOOK OF—a brief prophetic book of the Old Testament that predicted the outpouring of the Spirit of God on all people—a prophecy fulfilled several centuries later on the Day of Pentecost (Joel 2:28–32; Acts 2:14–21). The title of the book comes from its author, the prophet Joel, who identifies himself in the introduction as “the son of Pethuel” (1:1). This is all we know about this spokesman for the Lord. From the evidence in the book itself, we can assume that he knew a great deal about Jerusalem, Judah’s capital city, and the rituals associated with temple worship (2:15). But he probably was not a priest, since he called upon the priests to go into mourning because of the sins of the nation (1:13). Indeed, Joel’s many references to agriculture (1:7, 10–12) may indicate he was a farmer or a herdsman, although this is not certain.
2. That it was also the fruit of Christ’s resurrection and ascension, and consequently the proof of both. Peter shows how this prophecy is germane to the present event: This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; it is the accomplishments of that prophecy. This is that outpouring of the Spirit upon all flesh which was predicted, and we do not need to look for another, no more than we are to look for another Messiah. Even as our Messiah lives eternally in heaven, reigning and interceding for his church on earth, so this Spirit of grace, the Advocate, or Comforter, that is given now, according to the promise, will, according to the same promise, continue to be with the church on earth until the end. This Holy Spirit will do all of its wonderful works in the church and for the church, and for every member of it, both ordinary and extraordinary, by means of the scriptures and the ministry.
Now, what is it that is to come?
17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:
And it shall come to pass in the last days,
Again, these verses are a quotation of Joel 2:28–32 in which the prophet announces the coming day of the Lord. Joel’s prophecy was given in the midst of a call for repentance from the nation of Israel—“Yet even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God. For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment. Perhaps he will again relent and leave behind him a blessing, offerings, and libations for the LORD, your God” (Joel 2:12–14; NABWRNT). Peter quotes that prophecy in the same context.
“It shall come to pass” means it will happen, or shall occur; because God said it, it is a certainty.
“The last days” are the times in which we are living, the current gospel dispensation, which is called the last days because it is the dispensation of God’s kingdom among men, which began with the advent of Christ—“has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds” (Heb 1:2; NKJV); and is the last dispensation of divine grace, and there will be no other because this one will last until the end of time. There are many other things which can be said about “the last days,” such as:
1. They began a great while after the ceasing of prophecy in the Old Testament church.
2. They shall end in the days immediately preceding the destruction of the Jewish nation, in the last days of that people, just before that great and notable day of the Lord spoken of in verse 20.
3. It was prophesied and promised, and therefore you should expect it, and not be surprised when it happens. You should desire it, and welcome it, and not debate it, or ignore it like a thing that is not worth taking notice of.
4. It is the time of the Messiah according to the Jews—“It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it” (Isa. 2.2; RSV). This verse refers to the messianic age when the Holy City shall be the center of the earth and all nations shall come to it to learn the ways of God. It should be noted that this universal emphasis will not be fulfilled in the days of Israel’s earthly kingdom, or in the days of the church, but in the last days. This points our attention to the millennial future when Israel’s kingdom shall become a reality, and that will occur only during the time when the Messiah shall rule after the church age. The mountain of the LORD’s house refers to Mount Zion, formerly known as Mount Moriah, on which the various temples of Israel were built. In Isaiah’s day, the Temple of Solomon was still standing. The implication of this passage is that in the millennial kingdom there will once again be a Temple in Jerusalem which shall serve as the focal point of the worship of Jesus Christ during His kingdom rule on earth. God’s kingdom is pictured as being exalted above the hills, i.e., the kingdoms of this world. All nations refer to the Gentile nations.
In order to avoid confusion, a distinction must be observed between "the last days" when the prediction relates to Israel, and the "last days" when the prediction relates to the church (1Ti 4:1-3; 2Ti 3:1-8; Heb 1:1, 2; 1Pe 1:4, 5; 2Pe 3:1-9; 1Jn 2:18, 19; Jude 1:17-19). Also, the expression the "last days" (plural) must be distinguished from "the last day" (singular); the latter expression referring to the resurrections and last judgment (John 6:39, 40, 44, 54; John 11:24; John 12:48). The "last days" as related to the church began with the advent of Christ (Heb 1:2), but have special reference to the time of decline and apostasy at the end of this age (2Ti 3:1; 2Ti 4:4). The "last days" as related to Israel are the days of Israel's exaltation and blessing, and are synonymous with the kingdom-age (Isa 2:2-4; Mic 4:1-7). They are "last" not with reference to this dispensation, but with reference to the entirety of Israel's history.
These are not Peter’s words, but God is speaking through His servant.
I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh:
“I will pour out of my Spirit” is a figurative expression that indicates the abundant gifts of the Spirit; it is in contrast with the mere drops of the Spirit that were sprinkled on a few of the Old Testament saints, such as Samson and Saul. Consider these verses—
• “…I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, And My blessing on your offspring” (Isaiah 44:3; NKJV).
• “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them” (Ezek 36:27; NKJV).
The expression in Hebrew is, "I will pour out my Spirit." The word “pour” is commonly applied:
• To water, or to blood, in the Old Testament; the general idea is to pour it out, or to shed it (Isaiah 57:6).
• to tears, to pour them out, that is, to weep, in the Old Testament (Psalms 42:4, 1 Samuel 1:15).
• To water, to wine, or to blood, in the New Testament—"The blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed" (Acts 22:20) (Also see Matthew 9:17, Revelation 16:1).
• It also conveys the idea of communicating a large amount, or freely, similar to how water pours freely and abundantly from a fountain—"The renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly" (Titus 3:5, 6). "They (the clouds) pour down rain according to the vapour thereof" (Job 36:27). "I will pour water upon him that is thirsty" (Isaiah 44:3). "Let the skies pour down righteousness" (Isaiah 45:8). "Will I pour you out a blessing" (Malachi 3:10).
• To fury and anger, when God intends to say that he will not spare, but will greatly punish (Psalms 69:24, Jeremiah 10:2, 5).
• To the Spirit (Proverbs 1:23, Isaiah 44:3 Zech 12:10), and in that case it means that He will bestow large amounts of spiritual influences, as the Spirit does when He renews and sanctifies men; so to pour out the Spirit is to grant freely His influences, and to renew and sanctify the soul.