Peter’s Text at Pentecost
“And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, 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 dreadful day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the Lord has said, among the survivors whom the Lord calls.”
It is hard to handle prophecy. This is because the prophecies often seem obscure to us; and even if their meaning is clear, we cannot always be sure to what period of history the words apply. To confuse matters further, the Bible itself sometimes takes the prophecies in more than one way. They can be applied to a current event in Israel, for example; but they can also be referred to a future Day of the Lord.
While recognizing this, we know nevertheless that many Old Testament prophecies are interpreted to us by the New Testament, so that, whatever our problems may be with other passages, these at least are certain. Of these clear passages, none is more certain than Joel 2:28–32, a passage interpreted by the apostle Peter as applying to the events at Pentecost. After the ascension of Jesus the apostles waited in Jerusalem for the coming of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus had told them to do (Acts 1:4–5). On Pentecost, the second of the three chief Jewish festivals, these were gathered together in one place, when suddenly, as Acts says, “a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting” and “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” (Acts 2:2–4).
When the people of Jerusalem heard the sound, they came together, and Peter preached the first sermon of the Christian era. Briefly, he denied that the disciples were intoxicated, which is what some were saying, and instead interpreted the event as the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. “This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days, God says, 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. … And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’ ” (Acts 2:17, 21).
Quite clearly, we cannot interpret Joel 2:28–32 apart from Peter’s interpretation. We need to see: (1) the need for this particular outpouring of God’s Spirit, (2) Joel’s promise of it, (3) the fulfillment of the promise in Acts, and (4) the result of that fulfillment.
A Wistful Longing
The roots of the promise are in Numbers 11:29, in the midst of a story about Moses. It was a bad time for Moses. The people had been complaining of their wilderness diet of manna, and Moses, perhaps in sheer physical weariness, was overcome with the burden of leading the people and dealing with their complaints. God sympathized with him and told him to select seventy of the elders of Israel and bring them with him to the Tent of Meeting. God promised, “I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit that is on you and put the Spirit on them. They will help you carry the burden of the people so that you will not have to carry it alone” (Num. 11:17). That is what happened. These men received the Holy Spirit and began to prophesy. It was a sign to the people that they had received this gift and were therefore chosen by God to minister alongside Moses.
Two of these elders were not with the others at the Tent of Meeting, but the Spirit of God came on them as well, and they also prophesied. This bothered some who were closest to Moses. One young man ran up to him saying, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”
Joshua, who had been Moses’ close aide since youth, said, “Moses, my lord, stop them!”
Moses’ reply was the roots of the promise found in Joel. He answered wistfully, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” (vv. 27–29).
The incident shows that in this early period God’s Spirit was not given to all his people in the way he is now. God was with his people, but his Spirit did not come on them or dwell in them. Instead, he came on certain individuals for specific purposes. Sometimes he left them, as happened in the case of Saul (1 Sam. 16:14). The first reference in the Bible to any individual’s possession of the Holy Spirit is in Genesis 41:38, where Pharaoh asks concerning Joseph, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?” This was because of Joseph’s ability to interpret Pharaoh’s dream. The craftsmen who helped build the tabernacle are said to have been “filled … with the Spirit of God” (Exod. 31:3). Joshua is described as a man “in whom is the spirit” (Num. 27:18). The judges Othniel (Judg. 3:10), Gideon (Judg. 6:34), Jephthah (Judg. 11:29), and Samson (Judg. 13:5; 14:6, 19; 15:14) were also in this category. So probably was Deborah, who served as a judge and functioned in the name of the Lord, though it is not specifically said of her that she was filled with the Spirit (cf. Judg. 4:4–7). The Holy Spirit indwelt both Saul and David (1 Sam. 10:9–10; 16:13) and presumably all the prophets, though (like Deborah) this is not said specifically in every case.
In the Old Testament period the Holy Spirit was not the common gift of God to all his people. So when Moses intoned, “I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them,” he was expressing a very real need and longing. It was not until God had spoken to the people through Joel that there was even a promise of such universal blessing.
A Glorious Promise
God’s promise through Joel is striking because it is the book’s first mention of spiritual rather than mere physical blessing. It is understandable that material things are emphasized—material prosperity (v. 19), national security (v. 20), the restoration of lost years (v. 25)—because the locust plague was a material disaster and it formed the focal point and occasion of the prophecy. Still, we are glad to find spiritual blessings too, for we know, as our Lord taught, that it is folly for a man “to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul” (Mark 8:36).
Joel’s emphasis is on the universal nature of this gift, for he shows that it is for “all people” as opposed to being for some only as it had been previously. Lest we miss this, the point is spelled out in detail. It will be for the young (“your sons and daughters”) and the old (“your old men”), the strength of the nation (“your young men”) and servants (“even on my servants, both men and women”).
This is truly a momentous thing, for it is a way of saying that in the church age, which the coming of the Holy Spirit would inaugurate, all would be ministers of God, not merely a special corps of workers. Of course, there will be different tasks to do and different gifts given to enable God’s people to do them. Some will prophesy. Some will dream dreams. Still others will see visions. Men and women, young and old, slaves and free men will not necessarily do the same work. But all will have work to do and will be indwelt by God’s Spirit so that the work can be done effectively.
In the Reformation era this was termed the “priesthood of all believers,” and it was seen to establish a proper relationship between clergy and laity. John R. W. Stott points out in One People that there had developed within the church (as today) a division between “clergy” and “laity” in which the clergy were supposed to lead and do the work of Christian ministry while the people (which is what the word “laity” means) were to follow docily—and, of course, give money to support the clergy’s work. This is not what the church is to be, and where this view prevails the church and its ministry suffer. They suffer by the loss of the exercise of those gifts given to the laity. The Spirit is to help each serve others. The laity serve the church and the world. The clergy serve the laity, particularly in helping them to develop and use their gifts (Eph. 4:11–13).
Stott points out that three false answers have been given to the question of the relationship of clergy to other Christians. The first is clericalism. It is the view already referred to, namely, that the work of the church is to be done by those paid to do it and that the role of the layman is at best to support these works financially. How did this false picture arise? Historically it resulted from the development of the priesthood in the early Roman church. In those days the professional ministry was patterned after the Old Testament priestly system with the mass taking the place of the blood sacrifices. Only “priests” were authorized to perform the mass, and this meant that a false and debilitating distinction between clergy and laity was drawn. Those who favor this view say that it goes back to the days of the apostles. But this is demonstrably false. As reflected in the New Testament, the early church often used the word “minister” or “ministry” to refer to what all Christians are and must do and never used the word hiereus (“priest”) of the clergy. Elton Trueblood points out that “the conventional modern distinction between the clergy and laity simply does not occur in the New Testament at all.”
There are historical reasons for the development of clericalism then. But these in themselves are not the whole or even the most significant things. The real causes of clericalism lie in human failures. Sometimes the clergy want to run the show, to dominate those who attend church. This often leads to outright abuse or tyranny. If we need an example, we can find one in the New Testament in the person of Diotrephes “who loves to be first,” according to the apostle John who wrote about him (3 John 9). A warning against this pattern is found in 1 Peter in a passage conveying instruction to church elders: “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock” (5:2–3). The chief biblical example is the Lord Jesus Christ who, though Lord of creation, nevertheless put on a servant’s garment and performed a servant’s job in washing his disciples’ feet.
Again, there is the willingness of laymen to “sit back” and “let the pastor do it.” Stott quotes a remark of Sir John Lawrence to this effect: “What does the layman really want? He wants a building which looks like a church; a clergy dressed in the way he approves; services of the kind he’s been used to, and to be left alone.” This is not what Joel 2:28–32 envisions.
The second false answer to the relationship of clergy to laypersons is anti-clericalism. Since the clergy sometimes despise the laity or think them dispensable, it is no surprise that the laity sometimes return the compliment by rejecting the clergy.
This is not always bad. We can imagine situations in which the church has become so dominated by a corrupt or priestly clergy that a general housecleaning is called for. Again we can think of areas of the church’s work that are best done by laymen, for which the clergy is not at all necessary. But these are not grounds for anticlericalism as the normal stance of Christian people. On the contrary, where the church wishes to be biblical it must recognize not only that gifts of teaching and leadership are given to some for the church’s well-being but also that there is ample biblical teaching about the need for such leadership. Judging from Acts and the various Pauline epistles, it was the apostle Paul’s regular practice to appoint elders in every church and entrust to them the training of the flock for ministry (Acts 14:23; 20:17). In the pastoral epistles the appointment of such leaders is specifically commanded (Titus 1:5), and the qualifications are given (1 Tim. 3:1–13; Titus 1:5–9).
Some who have captured the idea of ministry as belonging to the whole church have begun to wonder on this basis whether there is room for clergy. But their insight, good as it is, does not lead to this conclusion. As Trueblood says, “The earliest Christians were far too realistic to fall into this trap, because they saw that, if the ideal of universal ministry is to be approximated at all, there must be some people who are working at the job of bringing this highly desirable result to pass.”
The final false model of the relationship between the professional clergy and laymen is what Stott calls dualism. Dualism says that clergy and laymen are each to be given their sphere, and neither is to trespass on the territory of the other. This describes the traditional Roman Catholic system in which a “lay status” and a “clerical status” are very carefully delineated. It is also true of certain forms of Protestantism. In such a system the sense of all being part of one body and serving together in one work evaporates and rivalry enters in instead.
What is the true pattern? Ephesians 4:11–13 describes it well, for in pointing out that apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers are to equip the saints for the work of ministry, it is saying that the proper relationship of clergy to laypersons is service. The clergy are to equip the saints, that is, assist them and train them to be what they should be and do the work they should do, which is the proclamation of the gospel to the world. In this pattern of service we have no lesser example than that of Jesus who, as noted above, “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
Joel’s prophecy was fulfilled at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came on all believers. All began to speak and witness to others. A new era was inaugurated. It is said of the church at this period that “all the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people” (Acts 2:44–47).
In each of nine cases in which it is said that the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit, the consequence of that filling was a witness to Jesus Christ. The first of these cases is Pentecost. We are told that “all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit” and that they at once began to witness (Acts 2:4–13). Peter did so officially and most effectively. The second case is Peter’s being “filled with the Holy Spirit” just before he addressed the Sanhedrin on the occasion of his first arrest (Acts 4:8). He preached Jesus. The third case is the description of a prayer meeting in which the believers “were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts 4:31). Acts 6:3, the fourth reference, says that deacons were chosen on the basis of their being “full of the Spirit.” At first glance this seems to be an exception, for nothing tells us that they then witnessed to Christ. But it is important to note that the verse does not describe them as being filled with the Spirit but only says that they gave evidence of having been filled with the Spirit (past tense). How was this known? The passage does not say how specifically, but it may well have been because they were already active as witnesses. Besides, the account of the choice of these deacons is immediately followed by the story of the death of the deacon Stephen, which certainly contains an effective witness to the grace of God in Christ’s ministry.
The fifth example of a person being filled with the Spirit is Stephen who, “full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” and testified of this fact: “Look, … I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55–56). Paul is twice said specifically to have been “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 9:17; 13:9). The first time was at his conversion when Ananias came and placed his hands on him. Paul recovered his sight, was baptized, and “at once … began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God” (Acts 9:20). The second time was when Paul confronted Elymas, the sorcerer, and pronounced a judgment on him in the name of Jesus. Barnabas is said to have been “full of the Holy Spirit.” He was a preacher. The ninth example is the company of disciples at Antioch who were “filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” and who doubtless revealed this by continuing to spread the gospel even after Paul and Barnabas had been expelled from their region (Acts 13:52).
This is the clear and distinguishing mark of a person being filled with the Holy Spirit, and it is the sense in which the words in Joel—“Your sons and daughters will prophesy”—must be taken. There may be prophecy in the sense of foretelling things to come. Paul, Peter, John, and some others did that. But in the sense that all will prophesy, what is involved is proclamation of God’s truth concerning the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.
Jesus said that this was to be the Spirit’s work. “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you” (John 16:12–15).
A Blessed Result
The result of the coming of the Holy Spirit and the consequent testimony to Jesus by those who were so filled was repentance. We are told that after Peter preached, “about three thousand” repented of their sin, were baptized, and were added to the number of the early Christians (Acts 2:37–41). Later we read, “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47).
Repentance brings us back to Joel and the purpose of Joel’s prophecy. Joel had been calling on the people to repent of specific sin, the sin of worshiping other gods and of failing to give the true God the worship and obedience he deserves. God had promised blessing if the people would repent. Would they? Could they? The answer to that question is perhaps unknown in the context of the prophecy itself. But it is important to note that at the same time that God calls for repentance he promises a day in which he will pour out his Spirit on all people, and when that happens, as it does at Pentecost, repentance is the first evidence in the lives of people generally. Thousands are convicted of sin, repent of it, and turn to Jesus.
It is the same today. Repentance is always the first visible evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence and activity. Where he is at work, repentance and a resulting belief in Jesus as Savior follow. We should pray for repentance first in our own hearts and then in those of our contemporaries.
The Outpoured Spirit (2:28–32 [3:1–5])
28–32 [3:1–5] The introductory formula with which this section begins clearly places the events that follow it after those detailed in 2:1–27. Since the previous section dealt with the near future, it may be safely presumed that the events prophesied here lie still further ahead. Indeed, these chapters disclose the Lord’s eschatological intentions (3, 4, MT). Two primary thoughts are included: the Lord’s promise of personal provision in the lives of his own (2:28–32) and the prediction of his final triumph on behalf of his own at the culmination of the history of humankind (ch. 3).
The Lord first promises that he will pour out his Spirit in full abundance and complete refreshment. Hosea prophesied that the Lord must pour out his fury on an idolatrous Israel (5:10). Joel sees beyond this chastisement to a time in the distant future (cf. Eze 36:16–38) when, in a measure far more abundant than the promised rain (cf. 2:22–26), God will pour out his Holy Spirit in power. In those days (cf. Jer 33:15) that power will rest on all (i.e., human) flesh (cf. Isa 40:5–6; 66:23; Zec 2:12–13).
God’s covenantal people are primarily in view. Joel goes on to point out that what the Lord intends is that his Holy Spirit will be poured out, not on selected individuals for a particular task but on all believers, young and old, male and female alike, regardless of their status. It will be a time of renewed spiritual activity: of prophesying, of dreams, and of visions (cf. Nu 12:6).
Accompanying the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in those days and as visible signs of his supernatural and overseeing intervention in human history, God will cause extraordinary phenomena to be seen in nature. Thus the totality of everyone’s experience will be affected. Although the heavens are mentioned first, the order that follows is one of ascending emphasis, beginning with events on earth (blood, fire, and smoke) and moving to signs in the sky (the sun and moon).
Joel’s depiction of the phenomenal events concerned with the day of the Lord is indebted to stock phraseology available since Israel’s redemption out of Egypt at the time of the exodus event. Miraculous occurrences in the heavens (Ex 10:21–23; 14:19–20; cf. Ps 105:28) and on earth (Ex 19:16, 18; cf. Jdg 5:4–5; Ps 114:3–5; Hab 3:6) during the movement from Egypt to the Promised Land were seen as part of God’s arsenal of weapons of judgment that will ultimately lead to the full blessing of his people.
Such occurrences were not only repeated in the course of Israel’s subsequent history (Jos 10:9–15; Jdg 5:20–21) but also became standard imagery for the prophetic oracles of judgment (e.g., Isa 13:10, 13; Eze 32:7–8; Am 5:18–20). From there they passed on naturally into the graphically intense and more universalistic outlook of the emerging apocalyptic prophecies dealing with the end times (e.g., Isa 24:1–3, 19–20; 60:19–20; Zep 1:14–18; Zec 14:3–7). These in turn developed into the full-blown apocalyptic literature of the intertestamental and NT eras (e.g., Apocalypse of Zephaniah 12:1–8; Rev 6:8–9; 11:15–19; 14:19–20). Similar conclusions can be reached concerning Joel’s use of blood, fire, and smoke—all well-known symbols of warfare and its attendant evils (e.g., Nu 21:28; Jdg 20:38–40; Isa 10:16; 28:11; Zec 11:1).
As I pointed out in the discussion at 1:15, the term “day of the Lord” deals with judgment. This is particularly true in the case of the enemies of Israel, whether Babylon (Isa 13:6, 9), Egypt (Jer 46:10; Eze 30:2–4), Edom (Ob 15), or all nations (Joel 3:14–15; Ob 15; Zep 1:14–18; Zec 14:3–15; Mal 4:5–6; cf. 1 Th 5:2; 2 Th 2:2; 2 Pe 3:10). It can also be true for Israel-Judah (Isa 2:12–22; Eze 13:5; Joel 1:15; 2:1, 11; Am 5:18–20; Zep 1:7; Zec 14:1–2).
As to the time of judgment, it can be present (Joel 1:15), lie in the near future (Isa 2:12–22; 13:6, 9; Jer 46:10; Eze 13:5; Joel 2:1, 11; Am 5:18–20), be future-eschatological (Eze 30:2–3; Zep 1:7, 14–18; Mal 4:1–6), or be purely eschatological (Joel 3:14–15; Zec 14:1–21; 1 Th 5:1–11; 2 Th 2:2; 2 Pe 3:10–13). So teachings concerning the judgment associated with that day can apply anywhere along the continuum that culminates in the final day of the Lord. With such an understanding believers are assured of God’s sovereign control of the flow of history and his ultimate good intentions for them. Such knowledge should bring a continuing realization of the necessity of trust and godly living.
Theologically, the scope of these passages makes it clear that the eschatological day of the Lord is the culmination of God’s judging and restoring process. It involves the time of great affliction for God’s people (Da 12:1; Mt 24:15–28) and of earth’s judgment (Isa 26:20–21; Rev 6; 8–11; 14:14–16:21), and it closes with the return of the Lord in glory (Rev 19:11–16) and the battle of Armageddon (Rev 16:16; 19:17–21; cf. Eze 38–39). Joel’s use of the term, then, is in harmony with the totality of Scripture. By “the day of the Lord” is meant that time when God, for his glory and humanity’s good, actively intervenes in human affairs in judgment against sinners and on behalf of his own people.
The day of the Lord also deals with deliverance for God’s people and the hope of a final blessed state (Joel 2:31–32; 3:16–21; Zep 3:9–20; Zec 14:3; Mal 4:5–6). The eschatological prophecies dealing with these two themes are characteristic of OT kingdom oracles.
Thus in v. 32 the second of the twin themes associated with kingdom oracles comes into full view. Along with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, there will be the outworking of salvation for those who truly trust God as their Redeemer. To “call on the name of the Lord” is to invoke his name in approaching him (cf. Ge 4:26; 12:8), but especially to call on him in believing faith (Pss 99:6; 145:18; Ro 10:13). For such a one there will be not only physical deliverance but also spiritual transformation and the blessedness of peace and prosperity. While salvation-deliverance will be the experience of the one who truly “calls on the name of the Lord” (cf. 2:26) in that day, it is God himself who will summon that remnant.
Before leaving this chapter, we must briefly examine the issue of the citation of these words by Peter in his famous address at Pentecost (Ac 2:17–21). While several theories have been advanced as to the relation between these two passages of Scripture, the position taken here attempts to strike a balance between the extreme views of a total fulfillment at Pentecost and the complete lack of any relationship.
Although the full context of Acts 2 does not exhaust the larger context of Joel 2:28–3:21, we can scarcely doubt that Peter viewed Joel’s prophecy as applicable to Pentecost, for he plainly said that such was the case (Ac 2:16). Moreover, both his sermon and subsequent remarks are intimately intertwined with Joel’s message (e.g., cf. Joel 2:30–31 with Ac 2:22–24; Joel 2:32 with Ac 2:38–40).
The precise applicability of Joel’s prophecy to Pentecost can be gleaned from some of the Petrine interpretive changes and additions to Joel’s text. Thus, under divine inspiration Peter added to Joel’s words relative to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit kai prohēteusousin (“and they will prophesy”; cf. Joel 2:29 with Ac 2:18). The intent of Joel’s prophecy was not only the restoration of prophecy but that such a gift was open to all classes of people. The Spirit-empowered words of the apostles on Pentecost were, therefore, evidence of the accuracy of Joel’s prediction. (They were also a direct fulfillment of Christ’s promise to send the Holy Spirit [see Lk 24:49; Jn 14:16–18; 15:26–27; 16:7–15; Ac 1:4–5, 8; 2:33].)
Again, Peter affirmed that Joel’s more general term ʾaḥarê-kēn (“afterward”) is to be understood as en tais eschatais hēmerais (“in the last days”; cf. Joel 2:28 with Ac 2:17). The NT writers made it clear that both Israel’s future age and the church age are designated by the same terms: “the last [latter] days [times]” (1 Ti 4:1; 2 Ti 3:1–8; Heb 1:1–2; Jas 5:3; 1 Pe 1:5, 20; 4:7; 2 Pe 3:1–9; 1 Jn 2:18; Jude 18). Accordingly, the point of Peter’s remark in Acts 2:16 must be that Pentecost, as the initial day of that period known as “the last [latter] days,” which will culminate in those events surrounding the return of Jesus the Messiah, partakes of the character of those final events and so is a herald and earnest of what surely must come. Pentecost, then, forms a corroborative pledge in the series of fulfillments that will culminate in the ultimate fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy in the eschatological complex.
It must also be noted that the outpouring of the Spirit is an accompanying feature of that underlying basic divine promise given to Abraham and the patriarchs, ratified through David, reaffirmed in the terms of the new covenant, and guaranteed in the person and work of Jesus the Messiah (cf. Ge 12:1–3; 15; 17; 2 Sa 7:11–29; Ps 89:3–4, 27–29; Jer 31:31–34; Ac 2:29–36; 26:6–7; Gal 3:5–14; Eph 1:10–14; Heb 6:13–20; 9:15).
Christ’s prophetic promise was directly fulfilled; Joel’s prophecy was fulfilled but not consummated. It awaits its ultimate fulfillment but was provisionally applicable to Pentecost and the age of the Spirit as the initial step in those last days that will culminate in the prophesied the day of the Lord.
A spiritual transformation
Everything would improve. In 2:25 God had promised to restore the lost years caused by the locust invasion. Now he assured the people of Judah of even greater blessings.
These greater blessings were things that would happen ‘afterwards’ (v. 28). The ‘before’ was full of disaster and the loss of basic essentials for life, but the gloom and despair of those days were going to give way—first to material blessings and then, ‘afterwards’, to an abundance of spiritual grace. These would be amazing wonders that could not have been envisaged while the people were in the midst of their trials.
When the people had repented wholeheartedly (vv. 12–17), there would follow an abundance of rain that would enable bumper crops to grow (vv. 23–24). Everything that the people of Judah had lost would be recovered (vv. 25–26). However, these things were only the beginning of God’s provision. Far, far greater blessings were to come.
God’s Spirit will be poured out on all people (vv. 28–29)
When Moses was feeling very discouraged because the work of leading the people was getting too onerous for him, he was advised to appoint seventy elders to help him. The Lord promised to take the Spirit that was in Moses (i.e. God’s Spirit) and put that same Spirit into these seventy elders (Num. 11:17). When Joshua raised concerns because two of them were prophesying, Moses said, ‘I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!’ (Num. 11:29).
Similarly, when David was anointed king over Israel, ‘the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power’ (1 Sam. 16:13). Saul, David’s predecessor, also had the Spirit of the Lord upon him, but later God’s Spirit left him (see 1 Sam. 16:14). It is only when we come to the written prophets that we read of the permanent promise of God’s Spirit. Ezekiel promised that God would put a new spirit within his people (Ezek. 11:19), and Jeremiah spoke of the coming days when God would make a new covenant with his people (Jer. 31:31). These same promises were detailed more clearly by Joel, through whom God said that ‘afterwards’ (or ‘the days are coming when’) ‘I will pour out my Spirit on all people’ (v. 28).
The ‘afterwards’ came hundreds of years later. Luke tells us that, on the Day of Pentecost, after the crucifixion of the Lord, a group of about 120 followers of Jesus ‘were all together in one place’ (see Acts 1:15; 2:1).
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.
The Holy Spirit did not descend and come into them; he was ‘poured out’ upon them, just as Joel had prophesied. The Spirit was given in such measure that each of the disciples was completely transformed. Before that incident, they were scared stiff and afraid to admit their adherence to Christ for fear of being arrested and hung on a cross as he had been; but then the Holy Spirit came upon them with such a mighty force that they were no longer afraid. Instead, they were filled with boldness and given an overwhelming desire to declare Christ to all the people. They now had no hesitation in reminding the Jews that it was they who had put Jesus to death, but that God had raised him up to life again.
After Pentecost, the abundant outpouring of God’s Spirit was no longer reserved for people like kings and prophets. The promise in Joel was that all people would be eligible to receive God’s Spirit. Some might argue that Peter’s quotation of Joel 2:28–32 in Acts 2:17–21 meant that only the Jews would receive the Spirit. Certainly the phrases ‘your sons and daughters … your old men … your young men … my servants, both men and women’ could be seen as applying exclusively to Judah, but verse 32 makes it abundantly clear that the message went much further afield. It was for ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord’, and the assurance given is that they ‘will be saved’.
But does this mean that everyone will be saved in the end? No, because this is not the teaching of Scripture. Writing about Mammoth Hot Springs in the Yellowstone National Park, USA, Theo Laetsch stated, ‘A thirsty man may stand at the brink of Mammoth Springs and die of thirst if he refuses to drink water. A man may be offered the full measure of the Holy Spirit and his sanctifying power; he will remain in spiritual death and die eternal death if he refuses, rejects, this gift.’ When the Bible states that ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’, it means that all those who call in faith, believing on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, will be delivered from hell. This does not mean that grace is only available for those who feel so frightened that they call on the Lord to have mercy on them. Throughout the Old Testament, we find that it was those who acknowledged that the Lord was their God who ‘called upon him’. During the days of Seth ‘men began to call on the name of the Lord’ (Gen. 4:26), and Abram ‘built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord’ (Gen. 12:8).
The diverse types of people to whom this blessing was promised must have been surprising for Joel’s original hearers. Not only sons would prophesy, but daughters too. It is true that most of the people who are named as prophets in the Bible were men, but Anna is described as a ‘prophetess’ in Luke 2:36, and Acts 21:9 tells us that ‘Philip … had four unmarried daughters who prophesied’. Paul takes up this teaching and tells us that there is no distinction of age, sex or social class when it comes to receiving the Spirit of God (Gal. 3:28).
Another way in which God would communicate was through dreams. Joel said, ‘you old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.’ ‘Throughout the Old Testament we find God communicating his word through dreams.’ The story of Joseph and Pharaoh is worth studying in this regard. Prophecy should not merely be thought of as telling the future; rather it is telling forth God’s message. In that sense, all preachers ought to be prophets as they declare the unsearchable riches of Christ.
Many of the prophets spoke of their writings as visions (see Isa. 1:1; Obad. 1). In Numbers 12:6 God had stated, ‘When a prophet of the Lord is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams.’ Luther tells us that ‘prophesying, visions and dreams are all one thing.’ Prophesy is making God known, so John Stott concludes that ‘in that sense all God’s people are now prophets, just as all are also priests and kings’.4The Messianic kingdom (vv. 30–32)
These are signs that the last days have commenced. In Acts 2, Peter interpreted Joel’s word ‘afterwards’ as ‘the last days’ (Acts 2:17). He was indicating to the crowds in Jerusalem that the Messianic age had finally arrived, and the pouring out of God’s Holy Spirit was the positive sign of it. O. Palmer Robertson put it like this: ‘The world does not have to wait any longer for the rule of Christ to begin. The outpouring of the Spirit by the Messianic king in fulfilment of Joel’s prophecy indicates that the kingdom has come. The Day of the Lord has arrived with the exaltation of the Messianic Lord to his kingly throne.’
The first of these signs to be mentioned are the great wonders that will be shown in the sky. During his earthly ministry Jesus spoke about the coming destruction of Jerusalem but he applied it to the day of the Lord. He spoke about this final day of punishment when ‘There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences … fearful events and great signs from heaven’ (Luke 21:11). The moon being turned to blood speaks of the trouble and bloodshed that will accompany the final judgement of this world. Zephaniah speaks of blood being ‘poured out like dust’ (Zeph. 1:17). There will be great destruction on that day, the aftermath of war and burning cities.
The world is in chaos today, just as it was at the beginning. Fighting and wars abound with regularity and men’s hearts are failing them for fear (see Luke 21:26). Yet the Lord has promised that there will be deliverance, but it is to be found only on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem (v. 32). The closing verses of Obadiah’s prophecy describe similar events and also state that those who flee to this holy mountain will be saved.
So what hope is there for those of us who are not Jews and who do not live in Jerusalem or Judah? There is much hope, because ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’, and it is on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem that salvation will be experienced. What does Joel mean by Mount Zion and Jerusalem? He is talking about God’s dwelling place. We know that ‘the Most High does not live in houses made by men’ (Acts 7:48), and in Galatians 4:25–26 Paul speaks about Jerusalem and says that it is ‘above’ and is ‘free’. This means that anyone can come to God (i.e. to Mount Zion and Jerusalem). None will be turned away, and if we sincerely call upon the name of the Lord, we will find that the Lord will call us and we will be delivered.
The Gift of the Spirit (Joel 2:28–32)
2:28–32 / The promise of abundant life and rescue from the judgment of the day of the Lord has been given out of the free grace of God (2:18–27). Joel now turns to tell of the signs that will precede the coming of the day. Thus, afterward in 2:28 refers not to events that will take place after the coming of the day, but before its imminent arrival (cf. before in v. 31).
As found also in nt tradition, the day will be preceded by both cosmic and earthly signs (cf. Mark 13:7–8, 24–25 and parallels; Luke 21:20, 25–26). Mark speaks of “wars and rumors of war” (Mark 13:7), and the blood, fire, and smoke of Joel 2:30 probably refer to the burning of cities and the slaughter of their populace. The darkening of the sun and the changing of the moon to blood in 2:31, on the other hand, are not natural disasters such as an eclipse or sandstorm, but supernatural signs of the approach of the day (cf. Amos 8:9). As in Malachi 4:5 and Luke 21:25–28, God will give warning of the approaching judgment.
Most important in this passage, however, is God’s promise that before the day comes, I will pour out my Spirit, literally in the Hebrew, “on all flesh.” By reading on all people, the niv has tended to emphasize a universal note in this promise, just as Acts 2:38–39 emphasizes that the gift of the Holy Spirit may be given to those of all nations. But the repeated use of your in verse 28, spoken to Judah, limits the promise in Joel to that covenant people. The Acts 2 account of the first Christian Pentecost takes the gift limited by Joel to Judah and extends it to all nations in a universal offering that is one of the glories of the Christian gospel.
The gift of the Spirit to Judah will enable its populace to prophesy, to dream the dreams and see the visions given to the earlier prophets (cf. Jer. 23:25; 24:1–3; Amos 7:1–9, etc.). It was characteristic of the early nonwriting prophets of Israel that their revelations were given to them by the Spirit (cf. 1 Sam. 10:6, 10; 19:20; 2 Sam. 23:2; 2 Kgs. 2:9, etc.). However, such a means of revelation was almost entirely replaced among the classical, writing prophets by revelation through the word, and it is not until the time of this passage in Joel that revelation by means of the Spirit is once again emphasized. Thus, when revelation by the Spirit once again occurs, according to Joel, it is a sign that the day of the Lord is very near.
The gift of the Spirit, throughout the Bible, was given to persons for the purpose of enabling them to accomplish a task for God. The Spirit lent them power to do God’s bidding (cf. Exod. 31:2–5; Judg. 6:34; Mic. 3:8; Hag. 1:14, etc.). Such is the understanding of the gift in Acts 2. The disciples are given the Holy Spirit in order that they may be witnesses to Christ “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8; 2:4). But that does not seem to be the emphasis of this passage in Joel. Rather, consonant with Joel’s entire concern, the Spirit here signifies a new relation with God. “All flesh” in Judah, including manservant and maidservant, will once again have that intimate relation to God characteristic of prophets (cf. Isa. 50:4; Jer. 15:16; 20:11). Surprisingly, therefore, the cult with its sacrifices, so often referred to by Joel, will no longer be necessary. No priest will be needed to mediate between the people and their God. All will be brought into intimate relation with the Lord.
When such a relation with God is established, the day of the Lord is near. Indeed, Acts 2 understands that with the gift of the Spirit to the disciples, the day has begun; the new age of the kingdom has broken into human history and will now exercise its influence until the kingdom comes in its fulness. According to the gospels, the kingdom was already present in the person of Jesus of Nazareth (cf. Mark 1:15; Luke 11:20). Participation in its power is now offered to all who repent and are baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. When that takes place, the gift of the Holy Spirit, promised here in Joel, will be given (Acts 2:38–39).
Judah will be given the free gift of the Spirit in a new relation with its God. But Judah must then respond to the gift—and so must we. We are given the Spirit apart from any deserving or working on our part. And it is the Spirit, then, which allows us to call on the name of the Lord (Joel 2:32): Throughout, the prophecies of Joel emphasize God’s prevenient grace; that is the meaning of whom the Lord calls in verse 32; it signifies “those to whom God has given the Spirit of God.”
It is quite possible to be given the Spirit of God, however, and to do nothing with it: thousands of persons in the Christian Church, who received the Holy Spirit at their baptisms, are evidence of that fact. We can stifle the Spirit, quench it (1 Thess. 5:19 rsv), do nothing with it. And if that is our response, we will not survive in the judgment on the day of the Lord. For the judgment still comes. We all will still have to stand before the bar of God. In verse 32, Joel reiterates the promise of Obadiah 17 that there will be a remnant saved in Judah on the day of the Lord. But that remnant will be those who have used the Spirit’s power to call on the name of the Lord.
According to other passages in the ot, to call on God’s name means to worship God (Gen. 12:8), to acknowledge that we belong to him alone (Isa. 12:2–4; 44:5; Ps. 105:1; Zech. 13:9), and to depend on him for all life and good (Prov. 18:10; Zech. 2:5). Thus, to call on the name of the Lord in the last judgment is not a desperate, last minute attempt to save one’s life from eternal destruction, but rather is the natural fruit of a heart-felt dependence on God that one has known throughout one’s life.
This salvation from the dark judgment of God’s day, when the kingdom is set up over all the earth, is now offered by the gospel to all persons (cf. John 3:16–17). But that gracious offer, recorded here in Joel, is now centered in Jesus Christ, and those who call on his name are the ones who will stand in the last day (Rom. 10:9–13).
That means, in our time and in every time, that we are therefore to worship only the God revealed to us in Jesus Christ through the Scriptures. Many false gods and goddesses claim our allegiance in our society. But “there is no other name under heaven given to men (and women) by which we must be saved” than the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12). To call on his name means to live by his will and not by our own, and to depend on his commandments for daily guidance (cf. John 14:15). “Apart from me you can do nothing,” he tells us (John 15:5); that is, we can do no good act that accords with the will of God except through Christ. And so we call on him constantly to guide and empower us, not only when we are in difficulty, but every day, consistently, in order that we may be obedient.
Finally, to call on the name of the Lord means, according to the Bible, to tell others what God has done (cf. Ps. 105:1; Isa. 12:4), to be witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). In that witness, we proclaim a total worldview that sees everything in terms of God’s working in this world; we announce that God’s alone are the kingdom and the power and the glory forever; we bear the glad news that out of free grace, God offers to all persons salvation in the day of the Lord. Paul uses Joel 2:32 in Romans 10:13. But then he goes on to ask how anyone can call on one in whom they have not believed. “And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” Faith comes from hearing the gospel message, says Paul, and that message is heard through our witness to and our preaching of what God has done in Jesus Christ. It is to these tasks that we are called by Joel’s Lord and our Lord.
The Lord Will Provide Spiritual Renewal (2:28–32)
2:28–32. After this indicates events in the distant future. This prophecy relates not to the return from the Babylonian captivity but to the eschatological day of the Lord (Ac 2:17 renders it “and it shall be in the last days …”). There are three characteristics of the eschatological renewal promised here. First, there will be an outpouring of God’s Spirit on Israel (vv. 28–29). This will come upon their sons, daughters, old and young men, and male and female servants so that they all will prophecy and have prophetic dreams. This will be a change from a limited office of prophet to a wide range of people who will have the Spirit of the Lord and will fulfill Moses’ hope for Israel (cf. Nm 11:29).
Second, there will be supernatural phenomena in the skies: These cosmic wonders will include wonders in the sky and on the earth, blood, fire, and smoke, the sun and the moon darkened at the time of the great and awesome day of the Lord (vv. 30–31). Such events are often associated with the future tribulation (cf. Is 13:9–10; 34:4; Mt 24:29; Rv 6:12; 8:8–9; 9:1–19; 14:4–20; 16:4, 8–9).
Third, there will be great deliverance at that time for whoever calls on the name of the Lord. This seems to be an invitation to escape the wrath of God spoken of at the start of the chapter (cf. Jl 2:1–11). The prophet promises escape for those on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem (cf. Rv 14:1–5) and seems to refer to the eschatological deliverance, both physical and spiritual, of Israel at the return of Christ (Zch 12:10; 14:3–5; Rm 11:26–27).
At question is why Peter used this passage when explaining the disciples’ supernatural gift of speaking in unlearned foreign languages (Ac 2:14–21). Some have maintained that Peter viewed the events at Pentecost as being fulfilled directly. Hence, Joel’s predictions, while originally about God’s promises to Israel, find their fulfillment in the Church. Others have maintained that Peter viewed Jl 2 as partially fulfilled at Pentecost (or perhaps inaugurated) but will indeed be completely fulfilled for Israel at the end of days. Both of these views seem problematic in that the events described in Acts do not match Joel’s prediction. In Acts, the disciples spoke in unlearned foreign languages (2:6), but Joel predicted visions and dreams. Further, Acts does not indicate that there were any cosmic wonders or signs in the sky. Therefore, it is more likely that Peter cited Joel as a form of applicational fulfillment. This refers to finding a principle in Joel and applying it to the situation at Pentecost. At Pentecost, it was thought that the disciples were drunk (Ac 2:13). Therefore, Peter cited the principle from Joel that when the Holy Spirit falls, remarkable signs would follow. Thus, the disciples’ supernatural gifts should not be attributed to drunkenness but to the Holy Spirit. For a full discussion of NT use of the OT and the principle of applicational fulfillment, see Michael Rydelnik, The Messianic Hope: Is the Hebrew Bible Really Messianic? (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2010), 95–111, esp. 104–08.
28–29 The oracle speaks of a new era of perfect relationship between God and his people. Jeremiah had described this era in terms of the law written on their hearts (Je. 31:31–34; cf. Ps. 40:8) and Ezekiel in terms of the gift of new hearts (Ezk. 36:26–27), in order to convey the notion of a people perfectly obedient to God’s will. The language of prophetic inspiration is used to the same end: the Spirit is here a medium of prophecy (cf. Nu. 12:6; 2 Ch. 20:14). The promise takes up Moses’ wish in Nu. 11:29, ‘that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!’ Earlier in the ministry of Joel the whole nation had been out of step with Yahweh. Only one person, the prophet Joel, had seen the situation through God’s eyes; with God’s voice he had spoken of both judgment and hope. Now a whole nation of Joels is envisaged. Every sector of its society, young and old, male and female, slave and free (cf. Gal. 3:28), would share a prophet’s understanding of God (cf. 1 Cor. 13:9–12).
All people, lit. ‘all flesh’, here means ‘every one in Israel’, as the explanation in terms of members of the community shows (cf. 3:1; for the relative use of ‘all flesh’ cf. Je. 12:12 av; compare the relative use of ‘everybody’ in English and ‘tout le monde’ in French). The message Joel brought to his contemporaries is that, as Calvin said, ‘the whole people would prophesy, or that the gift of prophecy would be common and prevail everywhere among the Jews.’ In v 29 my should be omitted (cf. nrsv): it is an attempt to harmonize with the quotation in Acts 2:18, which quotes the ancient Greek version rather than the Hebrew text.
30–32 Against Israel’s fortune is dramatically set the fate of the other nations. As v 32 will explain, God’s people would be safe in the eye of a raging storm. In response to Yahweh’s call through Joel they had called on his name in prayer (cf. 1:19; 2:17). So they would be saved or escape the danger of coming catastrophe. That would be reserved for others, as 3:2 will make clear. Israel had barely survived the destruction of the day of the Lord, but that destruction had still to materialize in the world outside. The signs of its coming in sky and earth are explained in reverse. First, blood, fire and smoke are grim tokens of the destructive war that Yahweh would wage on his enemies. Details of this display of judgment will be supplied in 3:1–14. Secondly, the language that Joel applied metaphorically to the locusts in v 10 concerning Israel’s experience of the great and dreadful day of the Lord (cf. v 11) is now reused in relation to the nations. It has its traditional sense of cosmic convulsions heralding a theophany of judgment (cf. Is. 13:9–13). These heavenly signs will be reaffirmed in 3:15.
The NT has an intense interest in this passage, in the light of the unfolding purposes of God in Christ. First of all it links the passage with the return of Christ (Mk. 13:24; Lk. 21:25; Rev. 6:12, 17; 9:2). But NT eschatology (teaching on the end times) is complex. Apart from the standard view inherited from the OT and Judaism, it holds that the last days have already begun in the first coming of Christ and in the establishment of the church, while the old age is still rolling on (cf. 2 Cor. 5:17). So, secondly, Joel 2:28–32 is interpreted in this light, especially in Peter’s speech at Pentecost (Acts 2:16–21, 33, 38–40). Peter was claiming that God’s final work had begun in the filling of the disciples with the Holy Spirit and in the opportunity of salvation for the penitent. Detailed explanation is not supplied in the abbreviated text of the speech, but the earthly and heavenly signs and wonders are linked with the miracles done by Jesus and evidently with the darkness at the crucifixion (Lk. 23:44–45). The relation of ‘all flesh’ to Israel is retained: ‘men of Israel’ are addressed, including Gentile converts to Judaism (Acts 2:11, 22).
Later, Paul argued in Rom. 10:12–13 that for Christian purposes ‘all flesh’ should be interpreted as both wider and narrower than the Jewish nation (cf. Acts 10:45). To this end he cross-referenced Joel 2:32 with Is. 28:16 and associated it with the doctrine of justification for all believers established in Rom. 4. Now the chosen people of God no longer takes the form of a nation, but of an international church, whose boundaries are drawn by faith and not by race (cf. Eph. 2:11–22). ‘All flesh’ is still Israel but a greater Israel. Both Jews and Gentiles who do not believe in Jesus stand outside the present people of God. One should think not of a new universalism imposed on the passage but of its particularism being defined in a new way.
Spiritual renewal and deliverance (2:28–32)
2:28–29. The Lord announced that His “day” (v. 31) would be accompanied by an outpouring of His Spirit on all people (lit., “all flesh”). The following context indicates that “all people” refers more specifically to all inhabitants of Judah (cf. the threefold use of your in v. 28, as well as the parallel passages in Ezek. 39:29; Zech. 12:10). This will be true regardless of age, gender, or social class (Joel 2:29 is better trans. “and even on the male and female servants”; cf. nasb).
At that time recipients of the divine Spirit will exercise prophetic gifts (will prophesy … will dream dreams, and will see visions) which in the past had been limited to a select few (cf. 1 Sam. 10:10–11; 19:20–24). This is probably an allusion to Numbers 11:29, where Moses, responding to Joshua’s misguided zeal after an outpouring of the divine Spirit on the 72 elders (cf. Num. 11:24–28), declared, “I wish that all the Lord‘s people were prophets and that the Lord would put His Spirit on them!” This extensive outpouring of the Spirit will signal the advent of divine blessing (contrast 1 Sam. 3:1, where the absence of prophetic visions characterized a period of sin and judgment).
2:30–31. The great and dreadful day of the Lord will be preceded by ominous signs (wonders) of impending judgment (cf. v. 10; see also Ezek. 32:6–8 for literary parallels). Blood and fire and billows of smoke suggest the effects of warfare. The turning of the moon to blood refers in a poetic way to its being darkened (cf. the parallel line, The sun will be turned to darkness, and Joel 2:10; 3:15). Though such phenomena will signal doom for God’s enemies, His people should interpret them as the precursors of their deliverance (cf. Matt. 24:29–31; Mark 13:24–27; Luke 21:25–28).
2:32. At this time of universal judgment, everyone who calls on (i.e., invokes) the name of the Lord will be saved (i.e., delivered from physical danger; cf. comments on Rom. 11:26). “Everyone” does not refer to all people, but the Spirit-empowered people of God mentioned in Joel 2:28–29. In Romans 10:13 Paul related this passage to Gentile (as well as Jewish) salvation, but he was suggesting a mere analogy, not a strict fulfillment of Joel 2:32, which pertains to Israel.
In the day of the Lord Jerusalem will be a place of refuge for the survivors whom the Lord calls. This remnant with whom the Lord initiates a special relationship (for the sense of “call” here, see Isa. 51:2) should probably be equated with the group described in Joel 2:28–29, 32a (cf. Wolff, Joel and Amos, pp. 68–9), though some (e.g., Driver, The Books of Joel and Amos, pp. 68–9) see this as referring to returning exiles.
On the day of Pentecost the Apostle Peter quoted Joel 2:28–32 in conjunction with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 2:17–21). His introductory words (cf. Acts 2:16, “this is what was spoken by the Prophet Joel”) may seem to indicate that he considered Joel’s prophecy as being completely fulfilled on that occasion. However, it is apparent that the events of that day, though extraordinary, did not fully correspond to those predicted by Joel.
In attempting to solve this problem one must recognize that in the early chapters of Acts the kingdom was being offered to Israel once more. Peter admonished the people to repent so that they might receive the promised Spirit (cf. Acts 2:38–39 where he alludes to Joel 2:32). Shortly thereafter Peter anticipated “times of refreshing” and the return of Christ in response to national repentance (cf. Acts 10:19–21). Not until later did Peter come to understand more fully God’s program for the Gentiles in the present age (cf. Acts 10:44–48). When he observed the outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost he rightly viewed it as the first stage in the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. Apparently he believed that the kingdom was then being offered to Israel and that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit signaled the coming of the Millennium. However, the complete fulfillment of the prophecy (with respect to both the extent of the Spirit’s work and the other details) was delayed because of Jewish unbelief (for further discussion see comments on Acts 2:16–21; 3:19–21).
 Boice, J. M. (2002). The Minor Prophets: an expositional commentary (pp. 143–149). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
 Patterson, R. D. (2008). Joel. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Daniel–Malachi (Revised Edition) (Vol. 8, pp. 335–338). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 Bentley, M. (2009). Opening Up Joel (pp. 69–74). Leominster: Day One Publications.
 Achtemeier, E. (2012). Minor Prophets I. (W. W. Gasque, R. L. Hubbard Jr., & R. K. Johnston, Eds.) (pp. 148–151). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
 Rydelnik, M. A. (2014). Joel. In M. A. Rydelnik & M. Vanlaningham (Eds.), The moody bible commentary (pp. 1336–1337). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.
 Allen, L. C. (1994). Joel. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 789). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.
 Chisholm, R. B., Jr. (1985). Joel. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, pp. 1420–1421). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.