Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Understanding Old Testament Prophesy

Test Case Continued

Acts 2:14-21

It is in Acts 2:14-21 where we find Joel’s prophetic prediction of the Day of the Lord quoted by the apostle Peter. In this passage Peter is preaching the Gospel to the Jews gathered for the feast. Even before Peter quotes Joel there are similarities between Joel 2:28-32 and Acts 2:14-21. It is in verse two that the Spirit comes down like a “violent rushing wind” and indwelt the believers gathered together. Immediately following this they “began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterances.” Luke records in verse six that a large crowd gathered around Peter and those with him. And to the amazement of the crowd every man heard them speak in their own language. The reaction fo the crowd, recorded in verses 12 and 13, was one of confusion and hostility. Responding to the reaction of the crowd, Peter applied Joel 2:14-21 to the situation by proclaiming that the Spirit had been poured out on them through Christ, which explained the miraculous events that were occurring. Essentially this is Peter’s apology of the Gospel of Christ based on Joel’s prophetic prediction. It is important to note that Peter altered the reading “afterwards” in Joel to read “in the last days.” Peter saw this event as the inauguration of the last days, and the Messianic age. Peter applied Joel’s prophetic prediction to his contemporary situation as a message of repentance in light of the looming last days. This message of repentance is quite similar to Joel’s message of repentance in light of the Day of the Lord. Peter is “proclaiming that this is the time for the fulfillment of prophecy and that these are the long-awaited last days of the divine redemptive program . . .”


The Conclusion of Test Case
The question that remains concerning this passage is whether or not Peter viewed this event as the ultimate fulfillment of Joel’s prophetic prediction, or if Peter saw a future ultimate fulfillment. There are several internal factors within Acts 2:14-21, and Joel 2:28-32 that can help answer this question. First of all, it seems unlikely that this is the ultimate fulfillment of Joel’s prediction because “the outpouring of the Spirit on 120 Jews could not in itself fulfil the prediction of such outpouring ‘on all flesh’; but it was the beginning of the fulfillment” whose greater end is yet to come. In Acts, Joel’s prophecy is fulfilled in that it has begun. The scope of Joel’s words concerning men, women, children, and every nation has at that time not yet been realized. However, on that day in Jerusalem the process of fulfilling Joel’s prophecy was initiated, and awaits its final completion at the second coming of Christ. Another internal factor that sheds light on this passage is the reference to the Day of the Lord. In both Joel and Acts the message is one of repentance because of the looming Day of the Lord. In Acts we see the initiation of the Messianic age which is a step toward the final and ultimate Day of the Lord, but we do not see all the characteristics of the Day of the Lord. In Acts we see the work of the Lord preparing His people for the coming judgement of the Day of the Lord. Peter’s apology of the Gospel presents Christ as the Messianic redeemer, through whom one can avoid the coming judgement of the Day of the Lord. Just as there are many Days of the Lord that will culminate with Christ’s second coming, so too the day of Pentecost was a fulfillment of Joel’s prophetic prediction that as of yet has not been finally fulfilled.
The Bible is the Word of God that reveals the living God who intervenes in the lives of men. In both the Old Testament and the New Testament we see the redemptive history of God who is working out his plan for His salvation. Just as redemptive history is progressive, so too is God’s Word. Every principle builds on the one before. It is in Genesis that man is first introduced to the covenant God of Israel, and in Exodus man for the first time witnesses God as a warrior fighting to keep His end of the covenant, and it is not until the Gospel that man finally sees the exact means by which God will ultimately keep his covenant. Joel 2:28-32, and Acts 2:14-21 relate to each other in the same way. Joel predicted the Day of the Lord in which God would pour out His spirit on “all mankind.” The day of Pentecost fulfills this prediction in that it is the inauguration of the “last days.”

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