A Pledge and a Promise

The day of Pentecost had come. A rushing wind filled the place where the people had gathered, and tongues of fire descended.

Simon Peter addressed the crowd that gathered ‘round and explained what had happened as the fulfillment of a prophecy from the book of Joel:

“It shall be in the last days,” God says, “that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind … and I will display wonders in the sky above and signs on the earth below, blood, fire, and vapor of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before the great and glorious day of the LORD comes.” (Acts 2:17-20 NASB)

There you have it. Acts 2. Another Old Testament prophecy fulfilled!

Or is it?

Did the marvelous Pentecost experience described in Acts 2 fulfill Joel’s prophecy? God poured out his Spirit, sure. But did he pour it out on all mankind? That’s a hard no. Wonders in the sky and on the earth? Sun turning dark? Moon turning to blood? Those things didn’t happen either, and we don’t expect them until the second coming.

A close look at Bible prophecy reveals that whatever happened on Pentecost in Acts 2 didn’t fulfill the prophecies. For example, consider Jeremiah and Ezekiel:

I will put My law within them and write it on their heart; … for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. (Jeremiah 31:33-34 NASB)

I will put My Spirit within you and bring it about that you walk in My statutes, and are careful and follow My ordinances. (Ezekiel 36:27 NASB)

These are prophecies about the final redemption and the Messianic Era. They describe things that are going to happen after Yeshua returns. According to these prophecies, God will put his Spirit within his people, which looks like him putting his law within us. It’s pretty clear that we aren’t there yet. Plenty of God’s people live in ignorance of his law and disobedience to his commandments—some notoriously so. The more prophecies we look at about the Spirit’s role in the Messianic Era, the lower Peter’s batting average gets. Most of this stuff just didn’t happen at Pentecost in Acts 2.

Did Peter jump the gun a little bit? Or have we not picked up what Peter laid down?

Frustrated theologians have spent millennia trying to explain what’s going on here. Many of them have concluded that the Old Testament prophecies of a future Messianic Era should not be taken literally. They explain that the “birth of the church” in Acts 2 “replaced” or constituted a “spiritual fulfillment” of end-times prophecy. This view damages the integrity of the Old Testament prophets. We can do better than that.


First Fruits of Zion