Pentecost and the Last Days
In Acts, the application of Joel’s prophecy to the events in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost links the initial outpouring of the Spirit to the start of the “Last Days.” The activity of the Spirit beginning on that day and continuing thereafter is essential for understanding the rapid spread of the Gospel from Jerusalem to the center of the Roman Empire, a process that would and must continue until the “arrival” of Jesus at the end of the age.
Before the disciples began to proclaim the Gospel, Jesus commanded them to wait in Jerusalem until he “sent the promise of my Father upon you.” The receipt of the Spirit would equip them to become his witnesses to “the uttermost parts of the Earth.”
|[Photo by Irina Iriser on Unsplash]
After the outpouring of the Spirit, the Gospel began to move inexorably from Jerusalem to the eastern regions of the Mediterranean basin, and by the end of the Book, though under house arrest, Paul is found sharing the message with all who would listen near the city of Rome - (Luke 24:45-49, Acts 1:6-11, 2:38-39).
The disciples waited until the Spirit arrived on Pentecost when the feast had “fully come.” This term translates a compound Greek verb signifying the filling of something to the full (sumpleroō). The fulfillment of the annual feast began in earnest with the bestowal of the Spirit on the 120 disciples gathered in prayer – (Acts 2:1-4).
When Jewish pilgrims were confounded by the sights and sounds that accompanied the Spirit, Peter declared, “These men are not drunk, but THIS is that which was spoken through the prophet Joel.” In the Greek clause, an emphatic pronoun is found on his lips. THIS very thing witnessed by the crowd was the great end-time outpouring of the Spirit predicted by Joel for the “Last Days” - (Joel 2:28-32).
In his sermon, Peter quoted Joel but deviated from the original Hebrew at key points. First, the original term translated as “afterward” became the “Last Days.” Second, he added, “They shall prophesy” after the promise of the Spirit for “servants and handmaidens.” Third, he added the term “signs” and paired it with “wonders.” Fourth, the “great and terrible Day of Yahweh” became “The great and manifest Day of the Lord.” Fifth, Peter dropped the last half of Joel 2:32 (“for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem, there shall be those that escape, and among the remnant those whom Yahweh calls”).
Peter then focused on Jesus and what God had done in and through him. He was a man “pointed out of God by mighty works and wonders and signs,” but he also was “delivered by lawless men” and slain on the cross.
However, he could not be held by the “pangs of death.” Just as David foretold, God raised him from the dead and seated him at his “right hand.” This “same Jesus” also received the “Promise of the Spirit” which he poured out on his Assembly, thereby demonstrating that God “made Jesus both Lord and Messiah” – (Acts 2:22-36).
Peter’s description of “wonders and signs” performed by Jesus was a verbal link to the prophecy in Joel. The predicted signs and wonders that were expected in the “Last Days” began in the ministry of Jesus, and following his ascension, he “received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, that which you see and hear.”
After his sermon, Peter once more linked the Gift of the Spirit to the prophecy recorded in the Book of Joel when he summoned his audience to repent and believe the Gospel:
- “Peter said to them: Repent, and let each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins, and you shall receive the free gift of the Holy Spirit; for to you is the promise and to your children, and un all them who are afar off, as many soever as the Lord our God shall call” - (Acts 2:37-39).
He identified the Gift as the “promise” that was given to Israel, but also one intended for “all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Likewise, the prophet Joel promised that “WHOEVER calls on the name of the Lord will be saved,” an invitation to all men. God never intended to limit salvation to the nation of Israel.
SIGNS AND WONDERS
Joel foretold the coming of “wonders in the heavens and in the earth before the great and terrible Day of Yahweh.” Peter added the term “signs” or semeion and paired it with “wonders” (teras).
Both terms occur together in Acts, beginning with the final verses of Chapter 2 (“Many wonders and signs were done by the apostles” – Acts 2:43). The end-time “wonders” predicted in Joel began on Pentecost with the “sound like a rushing wind,” “tongues of fire,” and the disciples “speaking in tongues,” and they continued through the evangelistic efforts of the Church as recorded in Acts.
The Greek terms translated as “wonders” and “signs” are thematic in the Book, describing the Spirit’s activity in and through the Assembly - (Acts 4:30, 5:12, 6:8, 8:13).
Peter ended his quotation at the midpoint of the original passage - “All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” He did not include the original ethnic and geographic limitations of the prophecy (“For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those that escape”).
|[Way Forward - Photo by Wojciech Portnicki on Unsplash]
No longer would salvation be limited to Jerusalem or the remnant of Israel. Instead, it and the Gift of the Spirit would be offered to everyone who responded to the Gospel with repentance and faith, including “all those who are afar off… to the uttermost parts of the Earth.”
Thus, the Last Days began, and the prophecy of Joel was universalized. Its fulfillment commenced on the Day of Pentecost, but it started a process that would continue until its consummation at the arrival of Jesus and the “Day of the Lord.”
- The Life-Giving Spirit - (There is no life without the Spirit of God - His Spirit creates, animates, sustains, and restores all life)
- The Era of the Spirit - (The gift of the Spirit is part of the New Covenant and the first fruits of the New Creation, the gathering of the nations, and the resurrection)
- In the Last Days... - (The outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost signaled the arrival of the last days, just as prophesied by the Prophet Joel – Acts 2:17-21)