God Pours Out His Spirit: Chapter 2:28-32
• The Lord disciplined the people by sending a locust plague which destroyed the land.
• The locust invasion was a warning that the nation was about to experience God’s judgment by way of an invading army.
• Only national repentance would stop the coming discipline.
• The nation did repent, God did relent and brought rain and crops.
• God also promised future judgment on the nations and Israel, but He would save those who called on Him.
• After the final judgment, He would set up His kingdom and dwell in Jerusalem forever and there would be peace and prosperity.
• We don’t know what the sins of the people were. Joel does not elaborate. So we can’t really look at the book, and see their sins and evaluate our lives to see if we are doing the same things.
• We can see that God does not ignore sin - it always has consequences.
• We see that God is gracious and patient and may relent if we repent.
• We do know that the repentance that Joel called for was internal, heartfelt repentance, not just sociological reform. So we need to be sure our repentance is genuine.
• Joel also gives us an assurance that God does have a future for His people and the book reaffirms our concept of a literal future tribulation when God will judge the nations, and restore his people to the land.
• Finally, I think the book shows that God is in control - not this world or the men and women who occupy it.
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit. And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.
How could God reach and teach nation of people who had been so consistently defiant and rebellious? The answer is that He would change their heart by the outpouring of His Spirit. First, He would do this by bringing the fields back to normal with the rain - the rain represented the presence, favor, and power of His Spirit. As grace given Christians, we have some difficulty understanding this passage because we automatically read our New Testament (New Covenant) experience of the Holy Spirit into the Old Testament experience of the Jewish people. It is not the same - same God, same Spirit, different covenant. Remember the Old Testament is a pre-Pentecost old covenant book. These verses from Joel would become one of the main prophecies used to help the church of Jesus understand Pentecost, but they could use them only because they had experienced a fulfillment of His promise through the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:17–21). In the context of Joel's message and mission we have to see how Joel and his people (Jerusalem Jews) would have understood this word before we can truly place it into our present day Holy Spirit experience.
Let's start with how the Old Testament uses the term ruach. Ruach is used to refer to wind, breath, and empowerment, or in other words the Spirit of God in a person's life. In Joel's day ruach moved the people forward - raising up God's people to lead in the military, political, and prophetic roles, assignments and positions of authority. The out pouring of the Spirit of God leads people to obey the expectations of their covenant with Him, and moves them forward in repentance to change their heart and then to a new leadership and new obedience.
Joel used traditional language for the ruach of God (helping and empowering) his people to a new promise—a promise not confined to only leaders, but to include all of God's people (young and old - male and female). No longer would a person have to go to prophets or priests to determine God's message. Everyone would know God's revelation. No longer could an elder or older generation have control or monopoly on wisdom and the insight of God's Spirit. The younger generation had access to God's visions. No longer could men exclude women because sons and daughters alike would receive God's visions.
The economically advantaged no longer had reason to claim a spiritual advantage or control. Even the working class (servants) would receive God's Spirit of revelation and power. God long term plan through Joel's prophecy was for all people to have access to His will, to know His plan, and to have the choice to obey or disobey. Here is a central biblical text for God's mission for the world.
In this closing segment of Joel's prophecy from chapter two, God continues His response to the repentance of His people with the promises of deliverance. This reveals once again (not just to Joel's Jews) who God is - Repentance and humility will bring deliverance and salvation. Most scholars believe however that these verses (specifically 28) actually refer to a future deliverance - while others see it as time inclusive - age to age. Seven hundred years later on the Day of Pentecost after the death and resurrection of Jesus, Peter stands up to preach the gospel to unbelieving Jews from all over the world and he quotes this promise from Joel's prophecy in Acts.
Acts 2:21 27
But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
In Acts 2:17 the apostle Peter quotes Joel 2:28. There have been several views on what this means:
• Some have taught that the prophecy in Joel 2:28 was totally fulfilled at Pentecost, but that is not true because they did not have all the necessary ingredients. They were missing signs, wonders, dreams and visions. Some say the sun being darkened at crucifixion was the sign and wonder, but that happened almost two months before Pentecost. There really was nothing to equal the blood, fire and columns of smoke in Joel 2:30.
• Some spread the fulfillment over the church age and think that the early rains and latter rains in Joel 2:23 refer to the Holy Spirit being poured out at Pentecost and later visions, speaking in tongues, etc. being given in our time. I think that is a stretch - just trying to find scriptural justification for charismatic expressions of the gifts of the Spirit. The rain in Joel refers to precipitation that actually fell in Joel’s time. I do not believe this refers to the Holy Spirit.
• Others think that there was a 9th century fulfillment - in Joel’s day. Then there was an application/fulfillment in Peter’s day and there will still be a future fulfillment. But Peter didn’t say this is “like” what Joel said. He said this “is” what Joel said.
• Another view is what we might call the Potential View. It could have happened in Peter's day but it didn't. But Peter thought it would. The signs he mentioned by Jesus could have been seen as a precursor to the cataclysmic signs mentioned in Joel. All the disciples thought this. Compare Acts 1:6-7. Jesus did not tell them they were wrong to think that the kingdom would be set up, because it was going to be. He just told them it was not for them to know the time. They still didn't know there was going to be a church age.
I have some personal thoughts and convictions, I feel comfortable enough to share. If we look at Isaiah 61:1-2 and Luke 4:18-19.
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
Jesus shows that only the first part of Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled at the first advent. I think the same thing is happening in Joel 2:28-32. Verses 28-29 happened at Pentecost. Verses 30-32 will happen in the future during the tribulation. God promises in verse 32 that whoever calls on him during this terrible time (which I think is the Tribulation) will be saved.
Look back to Ezekiel 36:26-27.
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.
Notice also that the prophet says he will remove the heart of stone (Ten Commandments - law) from your flesh and give the Spirit to cause us to walk in those statutes instead.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
The statutes of the law are not gone, there is just a new way of following and fulfilling them. Now they are followed and fulfilled in and through Christ Jesus - the grace and forgiveness of sin through HIs service, His sacrifice, His resurrection, and His promise to return for all who believe in Him.
Based on those things, I believe that Joel 2:28-29 happened at Pentecost, but Joel 2:30-3:21 will happen in our future. Stay tuned!!!