On the Day of Pentecost, the Spirit of God descended on the 120 followers of Jesus who were gathered in Jerusalem for prayer. The outpouring was accompanied by audible and visual manifestations. As the disciples were “filled with the Spirit,” they all began to “speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” This caused confusion among the Jewish pilgrims present in the city who witnessed this epochal event.
The second chapter of Acts stresses the theme of fulfillment, beginning with the opening clause: “And when the Day of Pentecost was fully come.” The outpouring of the Spirit was in fulfillment of what the original Feast of Pentecost foreshadowed.
|[Photo by Ben White on Unsplash]
The visible and audible phenomena caused by the Spirit confounded many of the men in the crowd who were assembled near the Temple. It was to them that Peter addressed his first sermon.
His sermon is bracketed at its start and finish by two questions. First, “What does this mean?” Second, “What shall we do?” The first question sets the stage for what follows. The second provides the opening for the Apostle’s summons for all men to repent and receive the Spirit - (Acts 2:12, 2:37).
Peter began by citing a passage in the Book of Joel, “These men are not drunk, but this is that spoken by the prophet Joel.” The emphatic pronoun or “THIS” means that what the crowd had just witnessed was in fulfillment of that promise. “In the Last Days,” God would pour out His Spirit on “all flesh.”
In the Hebrew Bible, the prophets promised that Yahweh would fill His sons and daughters with His Spirit, a promise linked to the “Last Days” and the New Covenant. In Acts, that promise is fulfilled in Jerusalem - (Joel 2:28-32, Jeremiah 31:31-34, Ezekiel 11:19-21, 36:25-27).
Peter deviated from the original Hebrew text of Joel at several points. First, he changed Joel’s term “afterward” to “the Last Days,” and to the clause “they shall prophesy” he added, “servants and handmaidens.” He inserted the term “signs” and paired it with “wonders” (“I will show wonders in the heaven above, and signs on the earth beneath”). Finally, the “great and terrible Day of Yahweh” becomes, “the great and manifest Day of the Lord.”
Next, Peter focused on what God did through Jesus, and Joel’s prophecy about “wonders and signs” is applied to His Son:
- “You men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man pointed out of God to you by mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know - (Acts 2:22-24).
SIGNS AND WONDERS
The predicted “signs and wonders” of the “last days” began in the ministry of the Messiah and in his newly Spirit filled Assembly. This term becomes a key theme in Acts as the Apostles take the Gospel from Jerusalem to the “uttermost parts of the earth” – (Acts 2:43, 4:30, 5:12, 6:8, 8:6-13, 14:3, 15:12).
Peter reminded his audience of Jesus “whom you slew.” The priestly leaders of the Temple conspired to put him to death and accused him of sedition to the Roman governor. However, though he was executed by the Romans, Peter placed the primary responsibility for his death on these Jewish leaders, describing them as “lawless men.”
“The counsel and foreknowledge of God…suspending.” His crucifixion was in accord with the redemptive plan of God. He was the one truly righteous man; therefore, God raised him from the dead, having “loosed the pangs of death.”
- (Acts 2:25-28) – “For David says concerning him: I beheld the Lord always before my face; for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore, my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover, my flesh also shall dwell in hope: Because you will not leave my soul in Hades, neither will you give your Holy One to see corruption. You made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with thy countenance.”
Peter then quoted a Psalm of David validating his claim that God had raised Jesus from the dead. His resurrection fulfilled biblical prophecy. His application of the Psalm assumed that the Messiah was the one speaking through his illustrious ancestor with the term “your holy one” taken as a reference to Jesus – (Psalm 16:8-11, Acts 13:36).
- (Acts 2:29-32) – “Brethren! It is allowable to say with freedom of speech concerning the patriarch David, that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is among us until this day. Being, then, a prophet, and knowing that with an oath God had sworn to him of the fruit of his loins to seat on his throne, with foresight spoke he concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that neither was he abandoned to hades nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus did God raise up, whereof we all are witnesses.”
Peter explained how the Psalm applied to Jesus and his resurrection, and not to David. The latter remained dead and buried. However, God promised that the “fruit of his loins” would sit on his Throne forever; therefore, David must have been speaking prophetically of the Messiah.
CONFIRMED BY RESURRECTION
Peter’s proposition was validated by the resurrection of Jesus, an event for which the Apostles were “witnesses.” The introduction of the Messianic “Throne” prepared the audience for Peter’s next point.
- (Acts 2:33-36) – “Being, therefore, exalted to the right hand of God, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured forth this, which you see and hear. For David ascended not into the heavens: but he said himself: The Lord said to my Lord: Sit on my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool. Let all the house of Israel, therefore, know assuredly, that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Unlike David, Jesus was raised from the dead and exalted to the right hand of God. It followed that he was now reigning, and therefore he received the “Promise of the Holy Spirit.” To reinforce this claim, Peter also cited another Psalm: “Yahweh said to my Lord: Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.” -(Psalm 110:1).
This very same Jesus “God made both Lord and Christ.” The Greek term rendered “made” or poieō was the common verb used for “make, do, perform, accomplish.” Following his resurrection, God acted to make Jesus “Lord and Christ.”
The presence and activity of God’s Spirit on that day was demonstrated by “signs and wonders,” incontrovertible proof that the final phase of history was now underway. The “Last Days” referred to by Joel had commenced.
The manifestations of the Spirit play an important part in the story as told by Peter. In his sermon, the stress is on the exaltation and present reign of Jesus, and his receipt of the “Promise of the Spirit.” All this was in fulfillment of the Scriptures.
Moreover, if the “Last Days” did begin on that Day of Pentecost, then the Messiah now reigns from David’s Throne whence he dispenses the Gift of the Spirit, the “promise of the Father,” to his covenant community and all those who repent and are “baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.”