John the Baptizer, As Elijah, foretold the out pouring of the Spirit. As a prophet himself, his presence indicated that the long anticipated last days had arrived, and the kingdom was near. Lamentably, far too many Bible students all but forget John when we get to Acts and the NT epistles. It is almost as if his message of the kingdom, the wrath about to come, and the outpouring of the Spirit is no longer relevant in the rest of the NT books! This is a gross misunderstanding and leads to total confusion in regard to the Spirit and eschatology. This is our final installment in this short series but be sure to go back and read the previous articles to get “up to speed.” #1, #2, #3, #4. In addition, be sure to get my audio series on the Holy Spirit and Eschatology,(Contact me by email for this) as well as my special study on John The Baptizer.
ACTS 1, THE SPIRIT, THE KINGDOM
After Jesus’ resurrection he spent 40 days instructing them in the nature of the kingdom. Three times were are told that he opened their eyes to understand the scriptures (Luke 24: 27, 32,45). The fact that Jesus miraculously opened their eyes to understand the scriptures, as he expounded to them about the kingdom (Acts 1:4), effectively falsifies the all to common view among both amillennialists and postmillennialists that the disciples were still confused about the nature of the kingdom when they asked “will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel.” If the disciples still did not “get it” after having Jesus miraculously open their eyes, and instruct them for 40 days, perhaps it was time for him to get some new disciples! It was in full view of that miraculous enlightenment and instruction that the disciples asked about the restoration of the kingdom!
Notice that Jesus did not, as so many commentators say, rebuke the disciples. In fact, he actually gave them a very strong answer to their question: “It is not for you to know the times or the season that the Father has put in his own authority. But, you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:7f). Luke tells us that on this same occasion, he also told them, “Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). Please follow.
It was the Spirit, in the last days, that would raise Israel from the dead.
It was the Spirit that would bring in the New Covenant.
It is the Spirit that would empower and anoint the Messiah.
It is the Spirit that would bring in the kingdom, leading to salvation for the nations.
It is the Spirit that would anoint the New Covenant Temple.
It is the Spirit that would empower God’s people, miraculous, in the last days.
In other words, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit would be proof positive that the last days had arrived, that God was fulfilling His promises to Israel, that all of her promises were about to be realized!
In light of all of the above, when Jesus told the disciples, in direct response to their question about the restoration of the kingdom, that they were about to receive the promised gift of the Holy Spirit, just how, exactly, would this indicate that God’s plans had failed, that the kingdom had been postponed, and that Israel had to wait who knows how long to receive her promises? The promise that the Spirit was about to be poured out was a positive, definitive declaration of the nearness of the kingdom! After all, if you are told to go into the city and wait until you receive the Spirit, in fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel, isn’t that a pretty positive declaration that fulfillment was to occur in your generation?
The disciples go into the city. There, they appoint a replacement for Judas, and… they wait. But, they don’t wait long: “ When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:1-4).
So, John, as Elijah, symbol of the revived prophetic office, said Messiah would pour out the Spirit. Jesus, who came to confirm the promises made to the fathers (Romans 15:8), promised the disciples that they would receive the promised Spirit in Jerusalem. The disciples went to Jerusalem and there, the Spirit, the promised last days outpouring of the Spirit to raise Israel from the dead, was poured out on them!
Lamentably, many in that audience, like so many today, failed to initially recognize the incredible significance of those events. They even accused the apostles of being drunk. However, “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: ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young 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 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 coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved.”
One can hardly over-emphasize the importance of Peter’s inspired declaration: “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel…” Lamentably, our Dispensational friends seek to totally discount what Peter said.
In a radio debate with Dispensationalist Thomas Ice, I quoted from a book he co-authored. (Prophecy Watch, Thomas Ice and Timothy Demy, (Eugene, Ore., Harvest House, 1998)137). On page 137, it says that Joel 2, “was partially fulfilled on the day of Pentecost.” When I gave that quote, Ice vehemently claimed I had grossly misrepresented him, and Dispensationalism. I told the audience, and Thomas Ice, that I did not misquote, nor misrepresent the book, and that I would be glad to provide a photographic copy of the page to anyone that wanted one. Ice called me later demanding the citation. I gave it, and he had to admit that my citation was correct, but then stated that he did not believe what the book said. He does not believe that Joel was even partially fulfilled on Pentecost. And he said that he often puts his name on books that contain doctrines he does not agree with.
Ice claims that his position is that of Arnold Fruchtenbaum, who says, “virtually nothing that happened on Pentecost was predicted in Joel 2.” (Thomas Ice sent me a three page article, “How the New Testament Uses the Old Testament” by Fruchtenbaum).
I have repeatedly stated that the millennial view demands that what Peter actually meant was, “this is not that,” or, this is like what Joel said,” or,“this is nothing that Joel said,” or something similar. Dispensationalists do not explicitly say that Peter said, “This is not that spoken by the prophet Joel,” and I have never said that they do. However, when they say, “virtually nothing that occurred on Pentecost was predicted by Joel,” this is a blatant rejection of what Peter did say. But, Ice continues to say that this is a misrepresentation of his and the millennial view. So, in an email exchange in July, 2005, I asked Thomas Ice to clarify for me what he truly believes about Joel 2 and Acts 2. I asked: “Did Peter mean 1.) ‘This is that’; 2.) He meant ‘this is like that’; 3.) ‘This is not that.?” I asked Mr. to please give me a specific, clear cut answer. He refused.
The bottom line is that you cannot make Peter’s words to mean, “ this is not that” or, “this is something like that,” or, “Virtually nothing here is that which was spoken by the prophet,” without distorting and perverting Peter’s words. “This is that” does not mean, “This is not that!”
Furthermore, it is undeniable that the Spirit was being poured out that day.
It is undeniable that Peter cited one of the fundamental prophecies of the outpouring of the Spirit for the establishing of the kingdom, and said, “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel.”
It is undeniable that if, as millennialism claims, the kingdom had been postponed, then the outpouring of the Spirit should likewise have been postponed!
Yet, keep in mind that in Luke 24 and in Acts 1, the promise of the Holy Spirit was made in direct response to the question about the restoration of the kingdom! Why didn’t Jesus tell the disciples the kingdom could not be restored at that time, but, instead the Spirit would be given to establish the church as a substitute? It is because Jesus knew, as the prophets had foretold, that the outpouring of the Spirit would be part and parcel of the establishment of the kingdom. The events of Pentecost were not part of “Plan B” in light of a postponed kingdom, a postponed outpouring of the Spirit. Peter’s declaration: “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel” is irrefutable proof that God’s plan was right on schedule. The presence of the Spirit on Pentecost onward, with the restoration of the prophetic office, is prime facie proof of the presence of Israel’s last days, of the establishment of the kingdom, the imminent consummation of Daniel 9, the restoration of Israel, and yet, the climax of her covenantal aeon.
The promise of Joel and the other O.T. prophets was that the miraculous work of the Spirit would be for the last days. The Spirit would desert Israel until those last days, when YHVH would restore Israel, raise her from the dead, and call all men to salvation in the kingdom. The record of Acts 2 and Peter’s divinely inspired interpretation and application of Joel: “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel” is an overt refutation of the Dispensational view of the last days, and of all futurist eschatology as a whole.
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