Use of the Prophet Joel’s Words to Justify Pentecost in (Acts 2: 16-21) - Part 21
In the New International Version of this passage, Peter refers to the words spoken by the prophet Joel (2: 28-32) that indicated the way in which the Lord intended to infuse his people with his spirit. This reference to the prophets of old serves to explain the strangeness of the occurrences that had their venue in the upper room at Pentecost. It also serves add authenticity to the interpretation of the events as something that had been ordained by God.
The use of almost the exact words of the respected prophet Joel aids Peter in defining the events of Pentecost, predicting future actions, and emphasizing the importance of these to the believers who would attempt to come to God at that and any future time. This use of the book of the law as a reference to denote the fulfillment of a promise had once been used by Christ in Luke 4, where he declared that the Spirit of the Lord was upon him.
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This is particularly relevant because this is precisely what Peter is in this passage declaring: that the Spirit of the Lord had fallen upon the 120 believers who had gathered in the upper room. This method of calling upon words used by former prophets had been initiated by Christ and adopted by Peter as a follower of Christ. Through this, Peter is able to convince that the anomalous actions of apparent drunkenness are really evidence of the grace and faithfulness of God and a herald of future things that God would perform for the benefit of believers and his church.
The passage declares that people will see visions and have dreams. This declaration prepares the believers gathered at Pentecost for subsequent dreams that would be given to Peter (concerning the edibility of all God’s creatures) and to other apostles, such as Paul—whose vision of Christ led to his conversion on the Damascus road. The reference to this passage, therefore, comes at an opportune time—just after the resurrection of Christ and before the explosive evangelical period in which such strange things would occur.
It prepares the people for these occurrences (signs and wonders) and makes it more likely that they will accept them when they happen. The passage also has an ominous quality, in which predictions are made about transformations of the phenomena in the heavens which will cause them to be even more wondrous than they are. Furthermore, the transformations of these heavenly bodies will take place in a way that makes them seem dangerous.
The passage reads, “I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord” (v. 19-20). This serves to remind believers about the greatness of God’s power and his ability to affect things that are far beyond the control of man. In the Authorized King James Version of the Bible, the day is described as “great and terrible. This demonstrates that though God loves man and this great day can be favorable (through pouring out His spirit upon man), it can also be a day of fury in which he might pour out his wrath upon the earth. It therefore increases fear and reverence of the Lord, urging men to continue to keep their hearts and lives pure before the Him. In addition to this, the fact that such a great and terrible God would condescend to come down and infuse man with his spirit not only humbles those who hear, but convinces them of their worth on the planet and of God’s love for them.