We are looking at Acts 2 and the subject of Pentecost. On the Jewish feast day of Pentecost the pouring out of the Spirit that was promised throughout the First Testament arrived, it was an audiovisual experience-with the sound of a strong wind, and the appearance of tongues of fire.
On the first Pentecost, the Old Covenant was given to Israel-this was a type. Then almost 1600 years later on the last Pentecost, the New Covenant was given to the new Israel-this is the anti-type.
Jesus was crucified on the Jewish feast of Passover, He was buried on the Feast of Unleavened Bread, He was resurrected on the Feast of First Fruits. Then fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus, the promised New Covenant arrived on the Feast of Pentecost. The whole Christian message is in the Feasts, because the Church is the New Israel of God.
During His earthly ministry, Jesus spoke of this "pouring out of the Spirit" that was to come:
Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. 38 "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.'" 39 But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39 NASB)
Jesus was in the temple on the Feast of Booths talking about "living water". This Living water was the Spirit.
'For I will pour out water on the thirsty land And streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring, And My blessing on your descendants; (Isaiah 44:3 NASB)
This is what happened on Pentecost, God poured out His Spirit, His Living water, upon His new people-the church was born.
As the Spirit fell on the 120 disciples in the temple with the sound of wind and tongues of fire it got the attention of those worshipers in the temple:
And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, "What does this mean?" 13 But others were mocking and saying, "They are full of sweet wine." (Acts 2:12-13 NASB)
Because of the audiovisual effect of Pentecost, a crowd gathered around, giving Peter the opportunity to preach. In that crowd were two kinds of people. One kind ultimately thought everything that was happening was ridiculous. They rationalized it away by saying, "They are drunk." Today people still respond to the Gospel this way, "You are wasting your life believing a myth. I'm glad it makes you happy, but . . . (what an idiot)." There will always be this response from some, there will always be mockers.
There were others there who were asking, "What does this mean? What is going on?" So Peter stands up and addresses both groups:
But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: "Men of Judea, and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give heed to my words. 15 "For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; 16 but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: (Acts 2:14-16 NASB)
I find it hard to believe, but I have read that the number one fear that people have is the fear of speaking in public. It ranks ahead of the fear of death! And the fear of speaking in public would increase if a person knew that he would be speaking to a hostile audience. The same audience that had just had Jesus put to death.
Just a couple of months ago Peter was a big coward running when a little slave girl asked him if he knew Jesus. But we don't see any fear in Peter today. What's going on here? What happened to Peter? Well for one thing he had seen the risen Christ:
To these He also presented Himself alive, after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. (Acts 1:3 NASB)
The disciples fled in all directions when Jesus was arrested, and they did not offer any defense on His behalf. But after the resurrection, there was a dramatic change in their lives. These men, who were afraid to be present at Jesus' death or burial, now were going into the very city where the crucifixion occurred and were boldly proclaiming His resurrection at their own peril. Why would they suddenly have such a change of heart that they would preach the same Jesus that they had just denied? They had seen, talked to, and been taught by the resurrected Christ. Jesus is alive!
And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth. (Revelation 5:6 NASB)
This is resurrection-the slain Lamb standing in heaven.
Not only had Peter seen the risen Christ, but he will filled with the power of the Spirit just like Jesus promised they would be:
but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth." (Acts 1:8 NASB)
The coward Peter is now filled with power and willing to die for his faith in Christ. So he stands up and begins to preach to this crowd in the temple.
What is significant about this sermon of Peter's? This is the first sermon ever preached in the Church. This is not the first sermon that Peter had ever preached. He had been a part of an Israelite Mission Team. He had gone out with many other disciples in a ministry of preaching and teaching and healing and casting out demons. But this is the first New Covenant sermon.
Please notice that the very first act of this newly constituted Christian congregation was to do an expositional study of the Scriptures. In the midst of this great outpouring of the Holy Spirit, among signs and wonders and speaking in tongues, what did Peter do? Essentially, he said, "Let's have a Bible study! Let's study Joel to gain an understanding of what is happening."
Notice what Paul calls the Church:
but in case I am delayed, I write so that you may know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:15 NASB)
Paul calls the church: "the pillar and support of the truth". The word "pillar" here is the idea of "display". The idea is that the church's mission is to hold up the truth of God for all men to see. The church is to support and display the truth of God. We are not the source of truth, the Bible is, but we are to support and display it. The Bible is God's Word, and the church is to support and display that truth. Timothy was to do this through preaching and teaching the Word of God:
Prescribe and teach these things. 12 Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. 13 Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching. (1 Timothy 4:11-13 NASB)
I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. (2 Timothy 4:1-2 NASB)
I don't believe that the church's mission has changed, we are to be the pillar and support of the truth. This is done through faithfully expounding the truth of God's Word. This is the mission of every local church, but I believe that most local churches have forsaken this role.
In his book Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman writes, "Toward the end of the nineteenth century. . . the Age of Exposition began to pass, and the early signs of its replacement could be discerned. Its replacement was to be the Age of Show Business."
Postman is right on with his assessment. In this Age of Show Business, truth is irrelevant; what really matters is whether we are entertained. Substance counts for little; style is everything. I'm afraid that the church is forsaking its calling; it is no longer the pillar and ground of the truth, but has become a source of entertainment.
The first act of the newly constructed Church was to expound the Word of God, and Paul told Timothy to preach the Word to the Church. This calling hasn't changed. This is our mission, this is our calling as a local assembly, we are to preach the Word; not to put on plays, not to give three points and a poem, or topical series based upon the latest popular TV show, but to expound the Word of the Living God. May God grant us strength and grace to do just that. Back to our text:
But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: "Men of Judea, and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give heed to my words. (Acts 2:14 NASB)
He addresses the Judaeans present and all who dwelt at Jerusalem. The Jerusalem dwellers always saw themselves as distinctive from the Judaeans who did not live in Jerusalem (compare Mark 1.5; Isaiah 1.1; 2.1; 3.1; 5.3; Jeremiah 4.3 etc.).
"For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; (Acts 2:15 NASB)
Peter begins with a touch of humor. Some mockers were accusing the believers who spoke in tongues of being drunk. Peter could have ignored them or responded defensively, "We don't drink, we're Christians!" But instead he says, in effect, "It's too early for us to be drunk!" In a culture where the first meal is not taken until ten o'clock, nine o'clock in the morning is too early in the day to find people drunk (see Josephus, Life, 279).
but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: (Acts 2:16 NASB)
Notice carefully what Peter says here. "This"-referring to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the birth of the Church, the New Israel. Peter says that what you are seeing happen here is "what was spoken of through the prophet Joel". This is what God told us would happen through Joel.
Peter proceeds to quote, with a few minor variations, Joel 2:28-32. Later Peter will cite Psalm 16:8-11 and Psalm 110:1. He did not have a Bible in book form, since books as we know them, were not yet invented. And he did not unroll several scrolls to the right text so that he could read these verses. Rather, he recited them from memory! The Jews placed a huge emphases on memorization of God's Word. We should all be hiding God's Word in our hearts.
Peter's citation of Joel makes three points:
A. In the last days, God will pour forth of His Spirit on all flesh (2:17-18).
'AND IT SHALL BE IN THE LAST DAYS,' God says, 'THAT I WILL POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT UPON ALL MANKIND; AND YOUR SONS AND YOUR DAUGHTERS SHALL PROPHESY, AND YOUR YOUNG MEN SHALL SEE VISIONS, AND YOUR OLD MEN SHALL DREAM DREAMS; 18 EVEN UPON MY BONDSLAVES, BOTH MEN AND WOMEN, I WILL IN THOSE DAYS POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT And they shall prophesy. (Acts 2:17-18 NASB)
Joel 2.28 in the LXX reads, "And it shall come about afterward that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh". But Peter, under the inspiration of the Spirit changes it to "the last days."
"In the last days"- What exactly are the "last days"? When did they start? When did they end? These are very important questions that must be answered if we are going to interpret the Bible correctly. Hopefully, this study will answer these questions.
Most Christians today would probably say that we (twenty first century American Christians) are living in the last days. This is a commonly held view. There are many today who believe we are in the last days, because they see all of the Middle East turmoil, technological advancements, "new world order", high gas prices, immorality etc. They claim that these are fulfillments of Biblical prophecy that prove that we are in the last days.
John MacArthur writes, "Now I'll tell you something very simple. Put it in your theological file, you're living in the last days. Everybody's been living in the last days since Jesus arrived to minister." He goes on to say, "The Jewish last days began 2,000 years ago, did you now that? That's right. The Jewish last days began 2,000 years ago with the arrival of Messiah. They will be completed when the setting up of the kingdom takes place. It just so happens that the last days has stretched at least 2,000 years."
Notice that he calls it "the Jewish last days." I agree with that, but he says they have lasted for 2,000 years. At the time that Peter preached this message Israel had been in existence for about 1600 years. If Israel was only 1600 years old ,does it make sense that her last days would last for 2,000 years? How could her last days last longer than her whole prior existence?
Let's examine what the Bible says about the "last days" and see if we can come to an understanding of their meaning. Peter is saying that Pentecost is the fulfillment of Joel, which was to happen in the "last days." So since it was now happening, it must be that they were in the last days. Notice what the author of Hebrews says:
in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. (Hebrews 1:2 NASB)
The writer of Hebrews says that they (first century Christians) were in the last days. Most Christians would agree that the last days began around the time of Christ, the big debate comes over when do the last days end? Hopefully, our study today will help us answer that question.
In order to understand the term "last days," let's look at how the phrase was originally used in the Hebrew Scriptures. The Bible's first use of the phrase "last days" is found in Genesis:
Then Jacob summoned his sons and said, "Assemble yourselves that I may tell you what shall befall you in the days to come. (Genesis 49:1 NASB)
The NKJV says, "in the last days." Consider carefully to whom the phrase "last days" is primarily addressed. Jacob is talking to his sons (the twelve tribes of Israel), and he pronounces the general evil that would come upon them. So, clearly, Israel is the subject of the last days, and the last days concern Israel:
'Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not do anything contrary to the command of the LORD, either good or bad, of my own accord. What the LORD speaks, that I will speak'? 14 "And now behold, I am going to my people; come, and I will advise you what this people will do to your people in the days to come." (Numbers 24:13-14 NASB)
Here again the vision is concerning the Jews. It was concerning what would happen to Israel in the last days.
Isaiah predicts these last days as well:
The word which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. 2 Now it will come about that In the last days, The mountain of the house of the LORD Will be established as the chief of the mountains, And will be raised above the hills; And all the nations will stream to it. (Isaiah 2:1-2 NASB)
The vision was concerning Judah and Jerusalem. This is speaking of the New Covenant that is inaugurated in the "last days." Nowhere is the phrase "last days" used to refer to the physical planet, but, rather, it is referring to the "last days" of the nation Israel.
Moses confirms that the "last days" of the Jews would be characterized by devastation and their ultimate scattering.
"And the LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and you shall be left few in number among the nations, where the LORD shall drive you. (Deuteronomy 4:27 NASB)
"When you are in distress and all these things have come upon you, in the latter days, you will return to the LORD your God and listen to His voice. (Deuteronomy 4:30 NASB)
He continues this idea toward the end of the book:
"For I know that after my death you will act corruptly and turn from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days, for you will do that which is evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking Him to anger with the work of your hands." (Deuteronomy 31:29 NASB)
Moses says, "evil will befall you in the latter days." Moses was leading the company of Israel. There is no reference to Gentiles being the subject of these latter days:
Thus says the LORD of hosts, "Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you. They are leading you into futility; They speak a vision of their own imagination, Not from the mouth of the LORD. 17 "They keep saying to those who despise Me, 'The LORD has said, "You will have peace"'; And as for everyone who walks in the stubbornness of his own heart, They say, 'Calamity will not come upon you.' 18 "But who has stood in the council of the LORD, That he should see and hear His word? Who has given heed to His word and listened? 19 "Behold, the storm of the LORD has gone forth in wrath, Even a whirling tempest; It will swirl down on the head of the wicked. 20 "The anger of the LORD will not turn back Until He has performed and carried out the purposes of His heart; In the last days you will clearly understand it. (Jeremiah 23:16-20 NASB)
Throughout the book of Jeremiah God condemns the Jewish false prophets. Here Jeremiah predicts that when these last days come, the people of God will understand what He will do to the nation in destroying it and punishing it for its wickedness.
God, through Ezekiel, warns Israel (My people) of their destruction by the hand of foreign nations:
and you will come up against My people Israel like a cloud to cover the land. It will come about in the last days that I shall bring you against My land, in order that the nations may know Me when I shall be sanctified through you before their eyes, O Gog." (Ezekiel 38:16 NASB)
Michael, the archangel, spoke to Daniel associating the latter days with Daniel's people:
"Now I have come to give you an understanding of what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision pertains to the days yet future." (Daniel 10:14 NASB)
The phrase "your people" is referring to Israel. Israel is Daniel's people. The time of this writing is about 536 B.C. He says that the vision of what will happen to Israel in the latter days is a long way off, "the vision pertains to the days yet future." So, in Daniel's time, the "last days" were a long way off.
Hosea talks about how the elect remnant will turn to God in the "last days."
Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king; and they will come trembling to the LORD and to His goodness in the last days. (Hosea 3:5 NASB)
Finally, in Micah, the prophet states that the last days involves the destruction of physical Israel, and the establishment of the true Israel.
Therefore, on account of you, Zion will be plowed as a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of ruins, And the mountain of the temple will become high places of a forest. (Micah 3:12 NASB)
And it will come about in the last days That the mountain of the house of the LORD Will be established as the chief of the mountains. It will be raised above the hills, And the peoples will stream to it. (Micah 4:1 NASB)
In order to understand these verses, we must understand that there are two Israels.
But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; (Romans 9:6 NASB)
What does that mean? Within national Israel is "true Israel," or "spiritual Israel." Most of Israel was faithless, only a remnant was redeemed. Those of faith made up the remnant.
God is saying that there is going to be an end to some aspect of Israel and a resurrection of something else. God was going to destroy her national, political existence and spiritually resurrect her.
She has fallen, she will not rise again-- The virgin Israel. She lies neglected on her land; There is none to raise her up. 3 For thus says the Lord GOD, "The city which goes forth a thousand strong Will have a hundred left, And the one which goes forth a hundred strong Will have ten left to the house of Israel." (Amos 5:2-3 NASB)
"In that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David, And wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins, And rebuild it as in the days of old; (Amos 9:11 NASB)
Booth refers to his family line. God is going to destroy and rebuild Israel.
Israel is not a term like Ammon, Moab, Greece, or Rome. Israel cannot be defined in terms of physical descent, or understood simply on the human side; it is created not by blood or soil, but by the promise of God. Romans 9:6 clearly teaches us that there are two Israels. There is ethnic, physical, national Israel, and there is true, spiritual Israel, God's chosen people.
It is evident, or at least it should be, that physical Israel was the main subject involved in these texts dealing with the "last days."
The nation of Israel has not existed for nearly 2,000 years. National Israel was destroyed in A.D. 70. Those in the Middle East who affirm themselves as Israel have no right to do so. There is no Jewish race or nation today. God put an end to Judaism in A.D. 70. The "last days" were the "last days" of Israel. The last days ended when the nation Israel ended.
Peter's second point is:
B. This outpouring of the Spirit will be followed by a time of terrible judgment (2:19-20):
'AND I WILL GRANT WONDERS IN THE SKY ABOVE, AND SIGNS ON THE EARTH BENEATH, BLOOD, AND FIRE, AND VAPOR OF SMOKE. 20 'THE SUN SHALL BE TURNED INTO DARKNESS, AND THE MOON INTO BLOOD, BEFORE THE GREAT AND GLORIOUS DAY OF THE LORD SHALL COME. (Acts 2:19-20 NASB)
We see the first two verses that Peter quotes from Joel taking place at Pentecost, but what about these two verses? What happened at Pentecost was awesome and a blessing, but these verses speak of judgment.
This whole prophecy of Joel is predicting "the Christ Event." This "Christ event" encompasses the Cross, Pentecost, the Resurrection, the Judgement, and the Parousia. Joel's prophecy covers from Pentecost to the Day of the Lord. It covers a 40 year period that was equal to a generation:
"Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. (Matthew 24:34 NASB)
Jesus, here, very plainly and very clearly, tells His disciples that ALL of the things He had mentioned would come to pass in THEIR GENERATION. This includes the Gospel being preached in all the world, the abomination of desolation, the great tribulation, and the coming of the Son of man. Notice verse:
"But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken, (Matthew 24:29 NASB)
This is what Joel talked about, and Jesus said it would all be fulfilled within that generation. Biblically, a generation is forty years. This is what is known as the "Transition period"- it is a time of transition from the Old Covenant to the New. This is the second exodus. So Joel's prophecy covered a forty year period. And this forty year period is the Christ event. We see this same idea in:
Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, 2 "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 3:1-2 NASB)
The same expression, "at hand," is used later in the Gospel as Jesus was drawing near to Jerusalem. It indicates that something is on the verge of coming; it is close. John is telling them that they need to repent, because this kingdom is at hand-a kingdom which will be set up by the Messiah.
What I want you to see here is that John's message also covered a forty year period. John announced in verse 2 that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, meaning it was very near-this is a reference to Pentecost. But John's message also involved judgement:
"And the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (Matthew 3:10 NASB)
In order for the kingdom to be consummated (which would happen forty years later), there must be a time of judgment. The axe is there at the root ready to cut down any tree that is not bearing good fruit. John places an emphasis on fire again in verses 11 and 12. In those verses there is a reference to the coming destruction.
The Jews of John's day knew these prophecies. They understood that before the kingdom would be consummated, God's judgment would fall on unbelievers, who would be rooted out of the kingdom as the Messiah established His rule and reign.
"As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (Matthew 3:11 NASB)
Here John refers to the Christ event. It begins with Pentecost-"He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit" and ends with "fire"- the destruction of Jerusalem. Notice what Jesus told the Jewish leaders of His day:
And He began to speak to them in parables: "A man PLANTED A VINEYARD, AND PUT A WALL AROUND IT, AND DUG A VAT UNDER THE WINE PRESS, AND BUILT A TOWER, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey. 2 "And at the harvest time he sent a slave to the vine-growers, in order to receive some of the produce of the vineyard from the vine-growers. 3 "And they took him, and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. 4 "And again he sent them another slave, and they wounded him in the head, and treated him shamefully. 5 "And he sent another, and that one they killed; and so with many others, beating some, and killing others. 6 "He had one more to send, a beloved son; he sent him last of all to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.' 7 "But those vine-growers said to one another, 'This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours!' 8 "And they took him, and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. 9 "What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the vine-growers, and will give the vineyard to others. (Mark 12:1-9 NASB)
Jesus is saying that He is the Son of God, that He comes in God's authority, that they will kill Him, and that God will not only destroy them, but He will give their leadership to the Gentiles.
Historically, how did God destroy the "vine-growers"? Forty years later, Roman armies came in, surrounded the city of Jerusalem and captured it, and the chief priests, the scribes and the elders were led away in chains into captivity, to be dispersed among the nations. God did exactly what He said He would do in this parable.
Matthew says, "He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire"-This is Pentecost to Holocost. The outpouring of the Spirit and the outpouring of judgment on old Israel. The Spirit had been poured out and within forty years judgment would fall on all who reject the Lord Jesus Christ.
Then Joel offers good news:
C. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (2:21):
AND IT SHALL BE, THAT EVERYONE WHO CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD SHALL BE SAVED.'(Acts 2:21 NASB)'
To "call on the name of the Lord" was to approach God in worship and to seek His mercy. Compare Genesis 4.26; 12.8; 2 Samuel 22.4; Psalm 55.16; 86.5; 105.1; 116.13, 17; 145.18). But here was probably the added idea that it was Jesus Who was the Lord Who had to be called on.
In the following verses he gets specific about just who this Lord is that a person must call upon to be saved. He shows them that they had crucified their Messiah!
This outpouring of the Holy Spirit means that God is offering salvation in a way previously unknown: Whoever calls on the name of the LORD-Jew or Gentile-shall be saved. As we will see, will be many years until the Gospel is offered to Gentiles.
Contrary to popular opinion, we are not living in the "last days," but the first days of the New Covenant age. The New Covenant age is "the eternal covenant."
Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, (Hebrews 13:20 NASB)
An everlasting age has no "last days." We are living in the first days of the eternal age. The "last days" spoken of by the Biblical writers were the "last days" of the Jewish old covenant age, which became obsolete and passed away in the A.D. 70 judgement and destruction of Jerusalem.
|Continue the Series|