In the Last Days

The outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost signaled the arrival of the “last days,” just as prophesied by Joel – Acts 2:17-21. 

Beach Twilight - Photo by Anthony DELANOIX on Unsplash
The application of Joel’s prophecy by Peter on the Day of Pentecost links the gift of the Spirit to the onset of the messianic age, the era of fulfillment following Christ’s ascension and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and the latter signals the arrival of the “last days” and the now impending “day of the Lord” - [Photo by Anthony DELANOIX on Unsplash].

The activity of the Spirit in the church is essential for the entire period it is on the earth, from the Day of Pentecost until the return of Jesus. And the gift of the Spirit is the “promise of Father” and an integral part of the New Covenant.
  • (Joel 2:28-32) “And it shall come to pass afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. Moreover, also, upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. And I will set forth wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood before the coming of the great and awful day of Yahweh. And it shall come to pass, whosoever shall call on the name of Yahweh shall be delivered, for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be a delivered remnant, just as Yahweh said, and among the remnant whom Yahweh calls.

ACTS AND LUKE

In the gospel of Luke, the gift of the Spirit is called the “promise of the Father,” and it is necessary for the disciples to receive it before they can become effective “witnesses” for Jesus and his gospel - (Luke 1:17, 1:35, 1:41, 2:27, 11:13, Luke 24:45-49).

And in Acts, the Spirit marks out individuals as disciples and demonstrates God’s acceptance of men and women into His covenant community, both Jews and Gentiles. The “wonders and signs” performed by the Spirit are in fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy - (e.g., Acts 2:43, 4:16, 4:30, 5:12, 10:44-48).

Prior to his ascension, Jesus opened the understanding of the disciples so they might understand the scriptures.” What is written in the Hebrew Bible foreshadows the Messiah and his reign.

With Christ’s enthronement at the “right hand of God,” the disciples received the Spirit and began to proclaim the gospel to all nations, “beginning at Jerusalem,” then in Judea, Samaria, and then in the “uttermost parts of the earth” - (Luke 1:1-4, 24:45-49, Acts 1:1-9).

They were commanded to wait in Jerusalem until “I send the promise of my Father upon you,” thus equipping them to be his “witnesses” to the ends of the earth - (Luke 24:45-49, Acts 1:6-11, 2:1-4).

When the gift of the Spirit fell on the Day of Pentecost, it produced a sound like a “rushing of a mighty wind,” and what looked like “tongues of fire that sat on each of them.

Hearing the commotion, Jewish pilgrims around the Temple were confounded. Peter stood up and declared, “This is that spoken through the prophet Joel.” In Luke’s account, the Greek emphatic pronoun for “this” is used. THIS event was the very thing predicted by Joel for the “last days” - (Acts 2:14-21).

Peter deviated from the original passage in several places. First, “afterward” became the “last days.” Second, he added “they shall prophesy” after the promise concerning “servants and handmaidens.” Third, the term “signs” was added and paired with “wonders.” Fourth, the “great and awful day of Yahweh” became the “great and manifest day of the Lord.” And fifth, the last half of Joel 2:32 was omitted - (“For in mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those that escape, and among the remnant those whom Yahweh calls”).

God raised Jesus from the dead and seated him at His “right hand,” where he “received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, that which you see and hear.” The last clause refers to what they “saw” - “Tongues of fire that sat on each of them” - And what they “heard” - Speaking in tongues and the sound like a rushing mighty wind.

Peter concluded his sermon by summoning his audience to “repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” The gift was the promise from God “for you, your children, and for all that are afar off.”

The last phrase repeats the clause from the final command of Jesus to the disciples to become his “witnesses, both in Jerusalem and [in] all Judaea and Samaria and as far as the uttermost part of the earth.”

The reference to “those who are afar off” has in view not only geographic distance but also the passage of time from the commencement of the “last days” until the “day of the Lord.”

On the Day of Pentecost, about three thousand men were added to the church. From that point, the book of Acts documents the progress of the church from Jerusalem to Rome, and the activity of the Spirit during the process. And the Spirit’s presence was attested by “wonders and signs.” Thus, as far as Peter was concerned, the presence of the Spirit marked the start of the “last days.”

Wheat Harvest - Photo by Tom Hauk on Unsplash
[Photo by Tom Hauk on Unsplash]


And Peter's application of Joel's prophecy presents key themes of the book, including the Spirit's manifestation in signs and wonders,” the universal call of the gospel, and the commencement of the last days,” the time of fulfillment.

PAUL’S LETTERS

Paul writes to the churches in Rome that there is “no difference between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord is over all and rich to all that call upon him; for whoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” His words allude to the prophecy from Joel - (Joel 2:32, Romans 10:12-18).

Like Peter, Paul cites only the first half of the verse, also omitting the promise of deliverance for the remnant of Israel. The promised salvation was for all men regardless of national origin.

The Apostle to the Gentiles links the call for salvation to the proclamation of the gospel. How can anyone exercise faith in Christ if he or she does not hear the message? (“As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace and bring glad tidings of good things”).

He also alludes to the prophecy in his first letter to the Corinthians and applies it to the church. The congregation in Corinth includes many Gentiles, and he reaffirms that all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.

Not coincidentally, the same context also declares that God will confirm the Corinthian believers on the “day of our Lord Jesus.” Elsewhere, Paul connects the “day of Jesus” to the Old Testament “day of the Lord,” the day when Jesus will return from heaven in glory and power to gather his saints and judge his enemies - (1 Corinthians 1:2-7, 5:5,2 Corinthians 1:14, Philippians 1:10, 2:16, 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 2 Thessalonians 2:2).

An echo of Joel’s prophecy is heard in Ephesians when Paul describes Gentile believers as persons who were separated from Christ and the covenants of Israel, but now, in this new “season,” those who once were “afar off are made nigh by the blood of Christ” - (Ephesians 2:11-13).

Thus, Paul sounds a universal note and indicates the change of eras by his use of the prophecy. The way of salvation is now open to all, and the final phase of history has begun - the “last days.”

Thus, according to the apostolic tradition, the outpouring of the Spirit marked the start of the “last days.” The presence of the Spirit among believers evidenced by “signs and wonders” is incontrovertible proof that the final era has commenced.

Likewise, the arrival of the Spirit means the gospel is open to all men and women regardless of their ethnicity, nationality, or gender.



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