A Question I Was Asked:



Can You Better Explain Peter's Use of Joel In His Acts 2 Sermon?







The Question:

Can you clarify the Joel/Acts connection for me? In Acts 2, Peter seemed to say that at least a chunk of Joel is fulfilled in the preaching of the gospel, yet to look at Joel it would not be obvious.


UK Apologetics Reply:

Okay, let's look at Joel 2:28-32:

28. "And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.
29. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
30 I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke.
31. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
32. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the Lord has said, even among the survivors whom the Lord calls. (Joel 2:28-32).

In Acts 2, Peter states that this was/is/will be fulfilled in the first Christian Pentecost, the preaching of the Gospel, and possibly certain events just prior to the Second Coming:

14. Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: "Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.
15. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning!
16. No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17. "'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.
18. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.
19. I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. (Acts 2:14-21).

Peter is saying that in the coming of Christ and in the preaching of the gospel, the prophecy of Joel starts to be fulfilled, but not necessarily, I think, that everything in Joel is fulfilled - all at once. We must understand that the Old Testament never separates the two comings of Christ (as we tend to do in our day), rather, the teaching is that the Messiah has come so human history can now move forward to completion. It is only as we move forward to observe the actual ministry of Jesus and of the Apostles and note the things which Jesus said, and the Apostles wrote, that we learn of the need of a Second Coming:

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:3).

"Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven." (Acts 1:11).

At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. (Matthew 24:30).

Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen. (Revelation 1:7).

Okay, to return to Joel; the Book of Joel may be divided into two overall sections:

a. Chapter 1-2:27: The Plague of Locusts.

Describing an appalling famine caused by a locust plague which devastated the land of Israel. God hears the cry of those affected and removes this plague. Henry Halley thought that this plague, and these locusts, could be typical of Revelation 9:1-11 (section three of the Seven Parallel Sections of Revelation. Section meaning - 'Though the world will be punished for its rejection of God, God's people can expect protection').

b. Chapter 2:28-3:21: The Coming Day of God.

Since Peter quotes part of this, it seems pretty clear that Joel 2:28-32 speaks of 'the Day' he was inaugurating on that first Christian Pentecost. Therefore God intended the passage to be a forecast for the Gospel/Church era. This would be a day of judgment for the nations (3:1-12). To Joel himself, that could only refer to the enemy nations of his own time, the Sidonians, Philistines, Egyptians and so on, but, prophetically, it looks beyond that. Henry Halley writes,

"The great battle in the valley of Jehoshaphat (valley of Kidron on the east side of Jordan, 3:9-12), is spoken of in connection with "harvest," (13), the "valley of decision" (14), God "uttering His voice from Jerusalem" (16), the "heavens and earth being shaken" (16), and the "fountain flowing from the house of God" (18) - all of which is a continuation of the thought about the Holy Spirit era of 2:28-32. So, as a whole, the passage seems to be picture of the Christian age, in which God's Word, embodied in the Gospel of Christ...would be the sickle, in a great harvest of souls." (p 357, Halley's Bible Handbook).

So Peter's comments on that first Christian Pentecost show that the prophecy of Joel looks well beyond what Joel himself possibly ever realised during his lifetime. It looks forward to the day when God would start intervening in world affairs on a grander scale; the 'time of the end' began with the ministry of Christ in Judea in the first century AD and still continues, culminating (possibly even in your lifetime or mine), with the Second Coming, resurrection of the dead and 'the restoration of all things.'

This should warn us about expecting strict literalism when looking at the Old Testament prophecies. The Apostle Peter - filled with the Holy Spirit - obviously didn't.

Robin A. Brace. November 18th, 2012.

THE SEVEN PARALLEL SECTIONS OF THE BOOK OF REVELATION




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