When we look at the first Pentecost the disciples or apostles celebrated after Jesus’ death, we can read part of the message that Peter proclaimed, which includes a section from a prophecy in Joel 2:
“But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, ‘Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel’” (Acts 2:14-16).
Peter tells the people that heard the rushing wind that what they have witnessed is the fulfillment of a prophecy that he is going to tell them, a prophecy that Joel spoke and the Jews of that time would have known. Peter tells them what they are witnessing is not drunkenness, but a fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32.
This is the prophecy that Peter said was fulfilled:
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your you men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy. I will show signs in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath: blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and notable day of the Lord. And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:17-21).
Peter quotes a section of prophecy from Joel, not just a couple of verses. Peter is saying that the whole prophecy was fulfilled, not just part of it. Peter does not imply that only part was fulfilled, but he says “But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel” (Acts 2:16). Many people feel that Peter could not be saying that all this was fulfilled because the signs and such “are not to come until the great day of the Lord.” But is that what Peter meant?
We have many examples of prophecies of Jesus being fulfilled that were only one verse quoted of the prophecy that Jesus fulfilled. The gospel writer did not quote more of the prophecy that did not have to do with what Jesus did at that moment. Peter did not just quote the beginning of the prophecy, but the whole of it and said that it, the whole of it, was what they were seeing fulfilled before their eyes. Is it possible?
First, we have to see that Peter understood that the last days started when Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected. He understood that he was now living in the last days.
“God who at various times and in different ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds” (Heb 1:1-2).
“For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another. He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb 9:24-26).
The writer of Hebrews shows that we are now in the last days and that Christ offered the sacrifice of Himself for us at the end of the ages—the start of a new time referred to as the last days.
“He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you” (1 Pet 1:20).
We can see that Peter did understand that he was in the last days and the prophecy of Joel was being fulfilled. So, we see from other scriptures that the last days Joel mentioned were starting and that this prophecy was now taking place.
The prophecy was about the coming of the Holy Spirit upon all men, not just select men of Israel. God promised He would pour out His Spirit on all flesh, your sons and daughters would prophesy (tell people about God and Christ), young men would see visions, old men would dream dreams. So children would receive the Holy Spirit as well as old people.
God did not want to allow people to misunderstand the word all, so he even includes the servants that people had, not just men, but women also. God literally meant all people, men, women and children. All people would prophesy and tell of God and Jesus. All men would be saved that called upon the name of the Lord. We see here the gospel of faith in Jesus Christ would save people, not their works.
But what about the seeming switch to the future, the ‘day of the Lord’, in verses 19 and 20? Is there really a switch? Was Peter mistaken and only part of the prophecy fulfilled? The answer is definitely not! Peter knew that it was all fulfilled, it had happened and the things they had seen were the witness that it was happening right then at that time. The prophecy was fulfilled and from that time on the Holy Spirit was to be available to all mankind that would put their faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior.
“I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath: blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord.” (Acts 2:19-20)
Joel in the prophecy explains that all these things that he was told, the coming of the Holy Spirit on all flesh, and yes, these signs, would come before that day. Mankind would have the Holy Spirit before that awful time. We, today, know that it has been available for almost 2,000 years and the day of the Lord has not come yet, but the signs did. The signs all happened before Peter gave the message on Pentecost. Let’s look at the signs that Joel said would show that the Holy Spirit was going to be given.
Because it is possible to show more fulfillments of these signs, I will separate the “wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath” as different from the “blood, fire, vapor of smoke, sun darkness and moon to blood” even though the text indicates that they are really speaking of the same things.
“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.’… When they heard the king, they departed; and behold the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was” (Matt 2:1-2, 9).
“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, and angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find the Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’” (Luke 2:8-14).
“Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven’” (Acts 1:9-11).
“Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.
And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.”’ And they remembered His words” (Luke 24:1-8).
b.) At the end of the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus Jesus walked with them and taught them:
“But they constrained Him, saying, ‘Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.’ And He went in to stay with them. Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight” (Luke 24:29-31).
“Now as they said these things Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, ‘Peace to you.’ But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they has seen a spirit. And He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have’” (Luke 24:36-39)
“Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.” (Matt 27:51-53).
And there are additional miracles that Jesus did that I have not the space to mention.
The blood is pretty self-explanatory, it is Jesus Christ’s blood shed on the cross for our sins. The blood that today covers our guiltiness for the sins that we have committed. The blood that makes it possible for us to have the very righteousness of Jesus given on our account, that we can be children of God.
“Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them” (Acts 2:3).
“And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting” (Acts 2:2).
In Joel 2:30 it is translated “pillars of smoke”. Pillars comes from the Hebrew word, Strong’s #8490, timarah, which means “a column, cloud, or pillar”. In Acts 2:19 the word “vapor” comes from Strong’s #822, atmis, which comes from #109 and is translated “mist or vapor”. Strong’s #109, aer, means “to breathe unconsciously, to blow air”. Thus the mighty wind would be blowing air.
When you have dusty streets and dirt floors and there is a wind mighty enough that the multitude of people there in Jerusalem could hear it from wherever they were, there would be much dust, like smoke in the air.
We see from the words that God chose to be used that it could be a cloud or a blowing that formed a cloud. The rushing mighty wind was the “vapor of smoke” or the blowing of air to make a smoke-like appearance. There had to be some noticeable sign that the Jews knew where to run.
“And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language” Acts 2:6).
Another sign on the earth.
“Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land” (Matt 27:45). The sun was darkened over all the land, not just in Jerusalem at the place of Jesus’ crucifixion.
This had to do with the timing of the crucifixion. Jesus would have died for mankind at the time of the Passover lamb, as our Passover Lamb, and there would have been a full moon. If you want to see this happen, the next full moon go out and if it is clear as the sun goes down and the full moon comes up, the moon is red like blood from the sun shining on it.
We can see from the Bible that all of the signs that Joel was told to prophesy were there for all of the people who knew them to see. The people there listening to Peter speak did not question what Peter was saying, they were cut to the heart.
“Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call’” (Acts 2:37-39).
Peter ends with what they should do and then states the very things that he had quoted from Joel. They would receive the Holy Spirit, they and their children and all that were afar off, that being even us today.
What a wonderful message God inspired Peter to tell that day, and it is the message that we should be proclaiming even yet today to all that will listen. That they too can call upon the name of the Lord and they, like us, can be saved. They can receive the Holy Spirit just as the people there that day did, they and their children, we and our children.
If we do not proclaim the message of the coming of the Holy Spirit like Peter, people may not know they can have a relationship themselves with Jesus and God. The veil was torn in two and you, me and every human being has access to God. If we will put our faith in our Savior and call on His name, we shall be saved.
— Ron Wilson