Acts 2 Part 3
16. But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
Another great mistake that is made by many in interpreting this passage is assuming that Peter meant that what was going on then was the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. If we actually read Joel’s prophecy, however, and compare it with what was happening on that day of Pentecost, we will see that not a single thing that Joel talked about actually came about in its fullness at that time. Nor did Peter ever say that Joel’s prophecy was then being fulfilled. Rather, he said that “this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel.” What he meant by “this is what,” we will discuss as we go through the prophecy he quoted from Joel.
17. ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your young men shall see visions,
Your old men shall dream dreams.
This is the prophecy from the book of Joel that Peter is referencing in explaining this event. First, it speaks of the “last days.” This is rather a peculiar use of this word eschatos in the New Testament. Eschatos generally means “last” or “end,” but it is also related back to the Hebrew word acharith, which carried with it more the idea of the result of a thing than the last thing. The acharith days in the Old Testament were the resultant days, and this is what is meant here. Otis Q. Sellers has suggested making this, “in the sequel of the days,” as that is what is implied in the resultant days. This phrase is used for more than one time period, but in this case it refers to a specific time in the future, which precedes the day of the Lord but follows after our dispensation of grace. I would refer to this period as the premillennial kingdom of God.
God declares that in these “last days” to come, He will pour out of His Spirit on all flesh. In Greek this is literally “the Spirit of-Me,” and so this refers to the Person of the Holy Spirit, not just His power. Notice that He pours out of His Spirit upon all flesh. This is an amazing prediction that cannot be diminished or disregarded. Men insist that this event has already taken place, or that it is currently taking place every time someone believes and is given of God’s Spirit. Yet if we honestly face up to this phrase, “on all flesh,” we would have to admit that the Spirit has not been poured out in this way, nor is a work done among a small number of believers the same thing as an event that takes place upon all flesh.
Some have argued that, since this verse was spoken to Israel, as we saw in verse 14, that this means that only Israel is meant, and that this refers only to the Spirit being poured out upon all Israel. Yet this makes no sense. While it is true that Israel is being spoken of in the words following this, for “your sons and your daughters,” as well as “your young men” and “your old men” cannot refer to anyone but these groups of people among those of the nation of Israel, still it cannot be argued that “all flesh” means “Israel” just because that is who was being spoken to here. This logic is about the same as if I should say to you, “I don’t like my doctor,” and you interpreted that as meaning I don’t like you since I was talking to you. It doesn’t matter whom I was talking to, but rather whom I was talking about.
Others have suggested that, since Peter said that “this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel,” that that means the Spirit being poured out on these one hundred and twenty men is what was meant by the Spirit being poured out upon all flesh. Yet this is an idea that is so illogical that it seems to me just pointing it out is enough to refute it. If we really need to have what “all flesh” means defined for us, then Genesis 6:12-13 should be sufficient to define it for us.
12. So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. 13. And God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth.
Can anyone argue that “all flesh” here does not mean everyone without distinction? Indeed, in the statement that the end of all flesh had come, even the animals could be included. Though some might argue that this does not mean all without exception since it does not include Noah and those with him on the Ark, I would reply that this is just the exception to prove the rule. All flesh meant every being, and these few exceptions only point out the universality of the statement otherwise.
So God is someday going to pour out of His Spirit upon all flesh. Many people have no place for any such event or any such period in their eschatological timelines. That is largely because most Christian prophetic schemes are pulled directly from the book of Revelation, and Revelation does not say a word about this great event. Nevertheless, this is an event that will take place in the future, albeit before the events that Revelation sets forth, and that truth is revealed to us clearly by passages such as this one.
When this Spirit is poured out, God declares that “your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.” “Sons” here refers to the representative men, and “daughters” to the representative women. All societies have those in leadership who represent the people, and though in some bad governments they may not do so justly or well, still they are the representative people. So this declares that in that day, the official words that are spoken forth by both the male and the female governmental representatives will be inspired by the Spirit Himself. What a very different kind of government this would produce!
Then it is revealed that these blessings will come on all regardless of age. Young men, regardless of their youth and inexperience, will be wise beyond a current man of years, because they will have seen visions from God. Old men will no longer live in their memories with the productive years of their lives behind them. Instead, they will dream God-inspired dreams, and these dreams will promise them things they themselves will enjoy. Old age will no longer be a harbinger of the end of life, for life will be spread out as far in front of the old as it is in front of the young. Sin and death will be defeated, and no longer will old age signal an end to life.
18. And on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days;
And they shall prophesy.
The Lord speaks here of His menservants and maidservants in that day yet to come. These two words in Greek are actually forms of the word doulos, and indicate male and female slaves. Yes, God will have those in that day who will yield themselves as slaves to His will. Consider even men like the apostle Paul, who began several of his books by declaring himself to be a doulos, a slave, of God. (See Romans 1:1, Philippians 1:1, and Titus 1:1.) To be a slave might not be an honorable thing in the eyes of the world, but to be worthy of being called a slave of God is a great honor indeed!
These ones might be slaves to God, but in the eyes of men they will be the governmental rulers in His kingdom to come. And here He promises that He will pour out upon these slaves of His the Spirit. Again the phrase is “the Spirit of-Me” in Greek, and so it is referring to the Person of the Holy Spirit, not just His power. Thus, the point is not just that these people rule powerfully, but that they receive guidance in the use of that power by the activity of the Spirit Himself. Never will a governmental ruler be able to misuse his office or position when he is being directly watched over by the Spirit!
One of the great results of God’s Spirit being poured upon these people is that they will prophesy. We tend to think of prophecy as meaning “to foretell the future,” but that is not how the word is used in the Bible. Rather, to prophecy means to speak forth God’s words. When God speaks, He can speak of many things, not just the future. It could be that He would speak of the past. It could be that He would speak of things that are present. Or it could be that He would speak of things that are yet future. Yet whichever one of these He might speak, all of them would be prophecies, since they all would be words inspired directly by God. Thus, what is meant here is that these slaves of God will speak forth His words. We see this very thing happening in the Acts period, and these men upon whom the Spirit was poured at this time did speak forth God’s words all during that time.
19. I will show wonders in heaven above
And signs in the earth beneath:
Blood and fire and vapor of smoke.
Another great feature of that time will be wonders in heaven above. All of us at one time or another have probably gazed up on a clear night in wonder at the great heavens above us. The heavenly lights and the vast distances they cross turn our minds to the wonders of the Creator Who made them, who above and beyond these great signs that nightly exist in the heavens, the Lord is actively creating wonders in heaven for the instruction and consideration of those on the earth beneath. What an amazing time that will be! It seems one could hardly desire to sleep at night for fear of missing some great new sign the Lord might be making in the sky.
Now we come to signs in the earth beneath. Up until this point in the list, all the things listed have been events that are wonderful in character indeed, and anyone who truly loves God, upon reading them, must long for the day when such glorious things will come to pass. Yet now we come to things that seem perhaps to be of a different character, and that at first glance might seem to be deleterious to those on the earth. When we read of things like blood and fire and vapor of smoke, our first thought is of some terror or destruction that is coming upon the earth. This has led many to the opposite idea from the things that have been listed before this, and has led them to dread the time that is coming. As Cornelius Stam writes when considering these signs in his book Acts Dispensationally Considered, “The signs which began at Pentecost finally vanished away again and the horrors predicted did not—have not even yet—come to pass.” So Mr. Stam thinks of these things to come as “horrors,” which I believe means he equates them with the great tribulation. Yet the fact remains that, up until this point in the list, all the manifestations of God have been of a most wonderful character. Would any dare consider the pouring out of the Spirit on all flesh, or sons and daughters prophesying, or young men seeing visions, or old men dreaming dreams, or the pouring out of the Spirit on God’s male and female slaves, and call these things a “horror”? Most certainly not! These things are manifestations most wonderful. How, then, in the middle of the list, can we have switched from listing wonderful things to terrible things? That would split this list down the middle, making half of it wonderful and half of it horrible. It would be like if I promised a woman I would, “Love, honor, cherish, harm, terrify, and humiliate you.” That would make no sense. The two halves of the list just do not go together. I cannot love and harm. I cannot honor and terrify. I cannot cherish and humiliate. A list like this just makes no sense.
Now since we cannot believe that the Spirit being poured out or God’s sons and daughters prophesying are bad things, then the only possibility left to us is that “blood and fire and vapor of smoke” are good things. Some might refuse to accept this. They insist that to them, blood means murder and death. Yet they neglect to consider that for those of us who claim Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, His blood does not mean for us murder and death, but rather it signals our redemption. For the Israelites too it was by blood that they received atonement for their sins. They will consider the signs of blood that appear then to be wonderful things, not terrible things, since they will be signs of the redemption that our Lord Jesus bought for the world.
As for fire, some might stubbornly insist that this can only mean destruction and punishment. Yet consider a verse like Deuteronomy 4:12, where Moses tells the people, “And the LORD spoke to you out of the midst of the fire.” Fire was a sign of the presence of God, perhaps as a symbol of His purity and His purifying power. Remember that while inflammable materials are destroyed by fire, metals are purified by it. So our pure God often manifests His holy presence in fire. As for vapor of smoke, this too reminds us of the manifestation of God among the Hebrews, as Exodus 13:21 declares, “And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night.” So both fire and a vapor of smoke were associated with the very Presence of God among the Israelites in time past.
But what signs might these be that will appear in the future? We can get an idea by looking at Isaiah 4:5. “Then the LORD will create above every dwelling place of Mount Zion, and above her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night. For over all the glory there will be a covering.” This will be a wonderful thing indeed, and would be a great sign both of smoke and fire. The word “dwelling place” might better be rendered “foundation,” and I believe this refers not to every house, but to those who are associated with the government of God in Israel. In other words, those with whom God has identified Himself will themselves be identified by this sign of smoke and fire. The word “covering” might better be translated “canopy,” and tells us what this sign over these “foundations” will be. Yes, this prophecy that Isaiah made is a truly marvelous one indeed, and is in no way “horrible.” No, signs of fire and smoke do not have to be a bad thing at all.
20. The sun shall be turned into darkness,
And the moon into blood,
Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD.
The list of events that were predicted by the words of Joel as taking place in the “last days” continues with more of what some would consider to be “horrible” events. Joel speaks of the sun being turned into darkness. Of course, if this is literal, it would seem to be a most terrible thing. If our sun really went out, science tells us that the world would quickly go into a deep-freeze, and all life on earth would come to an end. Yet though some doomsayers and sensationalists might predict such an end for the earth, that is not what the Bible sets forth as God’s plans for the future of this planet on which we live.
I do not believe that this verse has anything to do with the sun actually being extinguished, any more than it has to do with the elements that make up the moon being converted into actual blood. If we would consider the record God gives us of the ninth plague upon Egypt in Exodus 10:21-23, I think we would get an example of the kind of darkness this might be talking about.
21. Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, darkness which may even be felt.” 22. So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. 23. They did not see one another; nor did anyone rise from his place for three days. But all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.
When considering this story, we could certainly describe the scene here presented as that the sun was turned to darkness in the land of Egypt. This did not mean that the sun was actually extinguished or went out, of course, but that God stopped the light from reaching the land of Egypt. In the same way, the sun being turned dark, though it would be a great sign, would not really have to mean that the sun was destroyed, or that great destruction was coming on the earth. A sudden manifestation of God that plunged the world into darkness could slow men down long enough to consider the One Who made them, and to Whom they should own their allegiance.
Yet I do not believe that this darkness needs to be even this literal. If we will consider Acts 26:13, I think we will get an idea of what the Holy Spirit could have meant when He inspired Joel to write these words. Paul is speaking in Acts of his conversion on the Damascus road, and he describes the scene as follows.
13. “At midday, O king, along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me.”
If we had been there and had seen this light, brighter than the sun, shining from heaven, it would have seemed to us that the sun had been turned into darkness by comparison with this great light. And if the sun was darkness, how then would the moon appear? The moon would no doubt be like a great, dark drop of blood in the sky. So this could well be what the Lord means here. The sun is turned into darkness, not as a terror, but because a light goes out from God that is so much brighter that the noonday sun seems like darkness in comparison. This will occur when God sends, not a literal light upon earth, but the great light of His truth, a light that will so outshine the sun in brightness that it will dazzle those on earth who have long been in darkness, and will lead them to see and understand their own blindness, even as Paul did. What a day it will be when that light goes forth at last!
Now Peter, quoting Joel, declares a great truth about the time when this occurs that most students of prophecy miss, or else choose to ignore. Peter declares that these things will take place, “before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD.” This is a most positive statement regarding the time element of when this all will occur. It declares a truth, and it is a truth that it is not right for us to ignore. It is declared here that the Spirit must be poured out on all flesh before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. When, then, is this day of the LORD, and what does it mean to say that these events take place before it comes?
I believe that Revelation 1:10 tells us a truth about this day of the LORD that is most relevant here. There, John speaking by the Holy Spirit says, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet.” John declares here that he was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day. Some have tried to make this to be Sunday, or the Sabbath day. Yet this suggestion is made without a shred of evidence, for neither Sunday nor the Sabbath day is ever called “the Lord’s Day” in Scripture. Since there is no real difference in Greek between the phrase, “the Lord’s Day” and “the day of the Lord,” other than which word is emphasized, I believe that this expression “the Lord’s Day” means the same thing as the “day of the LORD” in Acts 2:20. Thus, Revelation 1:10 teaches us that all the events recorded in the book of Revelation after chapter one verse ten take place in the day of the LORD (or after it,) whereas Joel’s prophecy is said to take place before that Day ever begins!
The eschatology of most of Christianity is taken almost exclusively from the book of Revelation. Yet since Revelation begins once the day of the LORD is already present, and yet the Bible sets forth that there are certain things that must take place before the day of the LORD ever begins, it makes sense that those who do this are missing whole events and time periods from their scheme of the future. Revelation is not a complete record of what is to come in God’s plan for His creation. This pouring out of the Spirit upon all flesh that Peter was talking about here will take place before any of the events in Revelation ever take place. These last days then cannot be the Millennium, for that thousand year period takes place in the day of the LORD, as Revelation 1:10 declares. Nor do I believe that the “last days” when this pouring out occurs are the last days of this dispensation of grace and man’s day upon earth. Instead, this pouring out takes place in a time period yet to come, when God will reign over the earth in a premillennial kingdom.
21. And it shall come to pass
That whoever calls on the name of the LORD
Shall be saved.’
In that day, when all these things take place, we are told that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. Many in their theology like to interpret as many passages in the Bible as possible as being soteriological, or having to do with the salvation of sinners. Those who do this might see in this verse a description of what a sinner needs to do for salvation. Yet that is not what is being set forth here. Crying out, “Lord, save me” does one little good. In order to call upon someone for help, you need first to establish the right to call upon him. I cannot call upon strangers to help in my time of need, unless my need is very insignificant. Only those with whom I already have a relationship will seriously consider my pleas in that time. Thus, if we expect to be able to call upon the LORD in our times of distress, we must have established the right to call upon Him. How is such a right established? It comes by believing, as is set forth in Romans 10:12-14.
12. For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13. For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” 14. How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?
How is the right to call on the Lord established? By belief in Him. In this day, we establish our right to call upon the LORD by entering into relationship with Him through faith in the Savior Jesus Christ. However men might receive that right to call in the day to come described here, it is by believing in Him that we receive this right today. I pray that each one of my readers has established that right, and has built a relationship with the One Who will truly be with us through all these amazing events to come.
22. “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know—
Peter completes his quotation from the book of Joel. Now, he speaks right to these men, and he addresses them as Israelites. The name of Israel was given by God to the man Jacob, and it meant “a prince with God.” To appeal to these men by this name, then, was an appeal to them to live up to the character that the name Israel implied.
Peter now draws their attention to the Lord Jesus. He refers to Him as Jesus of Nazareth, the name most often used by skeptics and enemies of the Lord. Yet this was also the name by which He was commonly known, and so the Holy Spirit used this name so that there would be no misunderstanding on the part of those who were hearing Peter proclaim these things. Peter then reminds them that this One was a Man attested by God to them by miracles, wonders, and signs. They had seen these worked before their eyes, and none of them could deny it. These miracles had happened, and they knew they had happened. They could not deny the reality of what God had done in their midst.
23. Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death;
Here we see that there were two purposes and counsels at work in the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. One was the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, Who had a plan through all that transpired, and Who was guiding events up to the death of Christ exactly as He willed. The other plan at work was that of the lawless rulers of the nation of Israel, who, though they had no legal charge against the Lord Jesus, nevertheless took Him and crucified Him and put Him to death. Thus God showed that He could and did work through those whose hearts and purposes were completely contrary to Him. Though they did not mean it to be so, their godless actions worked to bring about the purpose and the glory of God. Yes, God can use even the wicked and lawless to accomplish His will. How much better for us it is, however, if we let Him use us as willing servants ready to honor and obey Him in whatever He asks of us.
The Greek word for “crucified” here is different from every other occurrence in the Word of God. This time, it is prospegnumi, which means nailed up. In every other occurrence, the Greek word is stauroo.
24. whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.
God sent forth His power to start to reverse what lawless men had done. Indeed, this was the central point in all of our history, when God did what was necessary to turn back the sin and destruction we had brought into the world and to bring about His purposes and plans upon earth. Now, the One Who was slain by lawless hands was raised up by God from death. He loosed the very pains of death to bring Him forth. The word here for “pains,” odin, is used only four times in the New Testament, but it literally means “birth pains.” It was as if death itself, upon taking Him in, found itself plagued by the pains of labor until it finally released Him from its clutches. Death, which had complete power over those of us who were bound there by sin, found that it was not possible for it to hold the pure and sinless Son of God. And so He issued forth from it, triumphant over the grave!