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Acts 2:12-21 – The significance of the event

The people gathered from many nations in Jerusalem are amazed and perplexed as the followers of Jesus speak in different languages about the mighty works that God has achieved. Amid this confusion Peter stands up and address is the people. In Greek it says that when the Holy Spirit came upon the believers, he gave them utterance in different languages. Now in verse 14 Peter utters words and therefore is to be understood as speaking by the Holy Spirit.

Peter identifies what is happening as being what was spoken by the prophet Joel. He identifies the current moment in history as the beginning of the last days. The last days are characterized by two events.

The first is God pouring out his Spirit on all flesh enabling the believers prophesy. To prophesy is to speak God’s words concerning his deeds. In other words, the mighty works of God. What is particularly notable is the recipients of the pouring out of God’s Spirit. It is not an elect few but rather all believers – sons, daughters, young, old, and even slaves. All of God’s people have become prophets. This recalls Numbers 11 in which God had poured out his Spirit on the 70 elders of Israel enabling them to prophesy. Joshua had felt jealous that Moses’ gift of prophecy was being shared by the 70 elders. Moses’ response was to wish that all of God’s people had the Spirit and would prophesy. What happens on the Day of Pentecost is the fulfilment of Moses’ desire.

The other thing that Peter points to from Joel’s prophecy is God working wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below. The signs in the heavens are the sun being turned to darkness and the moon to blood – both of which occurred at the crucifixion. What of the blood, fire, and smoke? In the Old Testament, God would at times judge a city or a nation through the instrument of a foreign army. First, they would put people to the sword (blood), then put the city on fire to destroy it and a column of smoke would ascend – this is the classic expression of warfare. Where is the blood, fire, and smoke in the story of the Cross? These things are not literally present but at the Cross God takes the judgement that is equivalent to the sacking and destruction of a city and visits it on one man the Lord Jesus through the instrumentality of the Roman army. As we might describe the judgment of the cross as Jesus drinking the cup of the wrath of God so we might also speak of it in terms of the imagery of divine warfare – the two being interrelated in the Old Testament prophets.

The good news for believers is that Jesus took on the Day of the LORD on our behalf. If Jesus did not take the Day of the Lord on our behalf, then we are yet to take that day upon ourselves. The final line in Joel’s prophecy is that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. The evidence that those who call on the Lord are saved is that they become prophets speaking of the mighty acts of God.

The last days began at the cross, resurrection, ascension and pouring out of the Spirit. Is the Day of the LORD in the past for you (taken by the Lord Jesus) or is it in your future? Are you a genuine believer? If so, do you prophesy i.e. declare the mighty works of God?