People don’t change much. One of the things that is so interesting in reading the Bible is to see how people are pretty much the same in all periods of time. In the second chapter of Acts one of the most important events of history took place. It was the day Pentecost and Jews from all over came to Jerusalem to worship. It was fifty days from the Passover Feast at which Jesus was crucified and then early on the Sunday morning was raised from the dead. So it was exactly seven weeks from the morning of Jesus’ resurrection when the apostles and 108 other disciples were gathered in an upper room praying and waiting for the fulfillment of the promise to send the Holy Spirit upon them. “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues’ as the Spirit enabled them” (Verses 1-4).
Because of the noise and the sight of tongues of fire on their heads people were drawn to the place where they were and then they heard them all speaking and no matter what nation or language one spoke they were able to hear them speak in their own language. It was amazing! Can you imagine what you would have thought if you had been in that crowd that day? If it had been in our time there would have been thousands of pictures being taken immediately on phones and them sent to Facebook and other such places to let the rest of the world see what you were seeing. No wonder, some began to ask, “What does this mean?” Not surprising at all, some began to make fun of the whole thing and declare they had been drinking too much wine. Now if you thought for 30 seconds you would realize how totally insane that explanation was. How could drinking wine cause the sound of a wind storm or cause tongues of fire to come from the top of people’s heads? How could too much wine cause people to be able to speak in languages they had never studied, learned or understood? But, let’s face it, when something amazing happens, there are always people around that have an explanation even though it may be as ridiculous as anything imaginable.
The question and the crazy answer opened the door for Peter to give some explanation. “Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: ‘Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel”. If there was ever a crowd that should tune in fully when you declare that this is what the prophet Joel foretold, then this should have been the crowd. They were religious people, there on a religious festival and were there to fulfill obligations to God.
All through the previous centuries there had been prophesies of the day when the Messiah would come, be rejected by the people and would establish a kingdom that would never be destroyed. Both Isaiah and Micah told of the day when the word would go from Jerusalem and all nations would go out to say, “Come, let us go up to the house of God.” The word would go forth from Jerusalem and lives would be changed all over. Instead of a kingdom that would fight and destroy their enemies, this kingdom would be marked by people beating their swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks and not studying war anymore. It is from these prophesies of Micah four and Isaiah two that Peter got the phrase, “In these last days.” But the body of the prophesy he refers to came from Joel 2. Joel had told of the day when God would pour out of His Spirit on all people. It would bring a fresh start for God’s cause. It would turn the whole religious world upside down in that from this time forward God’s kingdom wouldn’t rely on national heritage, racial background or who our ancestors are.
Look at Joel’s prophesy as Peter quoted and applied it: “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heavens 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. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Can you imagine how you would have felt if you had been there and heard Peter shouting this message to the people? If you were a Jewish man who had heard all your life about how you were special and God’s chosen people, how would you have reacted to Peter’s words? If you were a Jewish man who believed that men were the ones through whom God worked and women were beneath you in some way, how would you have felt about Peter’s message? If you thought that salvation was just for the Jews as many did in the time, how would you have felt when Peter shouted “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved?” It wasn’t just about that single day that Joel was prophesying. He was foretelling a whole new era ushered in by Jesus the Christ that would offer the good news of salvation to all people everywhere from that day forward until Jesus returns to bring us into Judgment and eternity.
Notice a couple of things that should stand out in our minds from this amazing day. The Lines or walls of separation between people were to come down. Those walls had been national to separate Israel from other nations, now God’s Israel was to be the church or people that call upon the Lord from every nation or background in the world. Now there is no difference and God doesn’t respect persons anymore (Romans 10:13-17; Acts 10:34-35). Second, the separation that had been there between people sexually and socially were coming down. In this era, sons and daughters were to prophesy. Young and old would be involved in the Spirit’s work and slaves and free would be given the gifts of the Spirit. Instead of some groups of God’s people being special and set apart from the others, now we are all brothers and sisters in Christ and are all His Special people to proclaim his praises to the world (Matthew 23:8-12; I Peter 2:9-12).
The implications of these points are huge and require time and space to work out, but the massive point stands and must never be forgotten.