Signs and Wonders

The prophecy from Joel sets the tone for the book of Acts, including the “signs and wonders” that accompanied the gospelActs 2:17-21

Comet - Photo by Frank Zinsli on Unsplash
Jesus commanded the disciples to “
tarry in Jerusalemuntil they received the gift of the Spirit, and only then were they to proclaim the “kingdom of God,” starting at Jerusalem, then going on to Judea, Samaria, and to the “uttermost parts of the earth.” The book of Acts records how the early church, under the guidance of the Spirit, did this very thing - [Photo by Frank Zinsli on Unsplash].

In Acts, the story begins in Jerusalem and ends in the city of Rome with the Apostle Paul proclaiming the “kingdom of God” to Jews and Gentiles alike - (“Whoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved”) - (Acts 1:6-8, 28:23-31).

After the Spirit fell on the disciples, Peter preached to the confused crowd in Jerusalem that had “seen and heard” the things that accompanied the arrival of the Spirit. The Apostle began by citing the prophecy from Joel concerning the outpouring of the Spirit “in the last days.” What his audience witnessed was in fulfillment of that promise.

The prophecy provides several themes that are developed further in the Book of Acts, ones that stress how the Hebrew scriptures were being fulfilled as the Spirit empowered the church to take the gospel throughout the Roman world, including Joel’s prediction of “signs and wonders.”
  • (Acts 2:17-21) – “And it shall be in the last days, I will pour forth of my Spirit upon all flesh… And I will show wonders in the heaven above, and signs on the earth beneath, blood and fire and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the day of the Lord comes, that great and manifest day. And it shall be, that whoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
In Joel, the Hebrew text reads, “I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth.” However, in his citation, Peter added the term “signs.” This was not a slip of the tongue. In Acts, “wonders” and “signs” are paired, and frequently so, when the text describes what God was doing in the church. For example,
  • (Acts 2:22) – “Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God unto you by mighty works and wonders and signs which God did by him.”
  • (Acts 2:43) – “And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.”
  • (Acts 4:30) – “While you stretch forth your hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of thy holy Servant Jesus.”
  • (Acts 5:12) – “And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people.”
  • (Acts 6:8) – “And Stephen, full of grace and power, wrought great wonders and signs among the people.”
  • (Acts 8:6, 13) – “And the multitudes gave heed with one accord unto the things that were spoken by Philip, when they heard, and saw the signs which he did… And Simon also himself believed: and being baptized, he continued with Philip; and beholding signs and great miracles wrought, he was amazed.”
  • (Acts 14:3) – “Long time, therefore, they tarried there speaking boldly in the Lord, who attested to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.”
  • (Acts 15:12) – “And all the multitude kept silence, and they hearkened unto Barnabas and Paul rehearsing what signs and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles through them.”
Thus, according to Acts, the “wonders” predicted by Joel that would precede the “day of the LORD” found their fulfillment in the “signs and wonders” generated by the Spirit as the church began to take the good news about the “kingdom of God” around the Mediterranean basin. The acts of healing and exorcisms, among other things, constituted “signs and wonders,” miracles that confirmed the activity and presence of the Spirit of God among the early believers.

This is not to say that the miracles recorded in Acts exhausted the prophecy from Joel. There may yet be cosmic and terrestrial upheavals as described, “before the great and terrible day of Yahweh.” Nevertheless, the prophecy’s fulfillment began with the initial outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, a process that will continue until the gospel has been proclaimed to the “uttermost parts of the earth.”

In Acts, the Spirit leads, inspires, and empowers the church to proclaim the kingdom of God in boldness, to perform “signs and wonders,” and to bring wholeness and the “remission of sins” to all who will “call on the name of the Lord.”

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