18/03/2013 07:00
By John Aldworth

Published Nov. 16 2012

Acts 2:15-20:

  • For these are not drunken, as ye suppose. But this is that spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:

And I will shew wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood before that great and notable Day of the Lord come.

Joel 2:28-32:

And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my Spirit.

And I will shew wonders in the heaven and in the earth, blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood before the great and the terrible Day of the Lord come.

If there was a competition for the most misunderstood and misinterpreted verse in the Bible Acts 2:16 would probably win the prize. Here is what it doesn’t say:

  • That “tongues” are directly described as “this” or “that”, for that matter.
  • That God poured out his Spirit on all flesh at this time.
  • That the Holy Spirit outpouring then continued for generations to come.
  • That sons and daughters prophesied, young men saw visions, or that old men dreamed dreams at that time.
  • That servants and handmaids got a special anointing at that time.
  • Nor does this verse, or any other in Acts 2, say any church began at that time.

Yet, in defiance of what scripture actually says a huge slice of Christendom believes the church of the present dispensation began here in Acts 2. They also believe that Peter and Joel (Joel 2:28-32) were referring directly to tongues when in fact neither do. Peter, in saying “this is that”, was not referring to tongues (which were a sign to unbelieving Jews of impending judgement) as such, but to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to witness of Jesus’s Messiah-ship, resurrection and exaltation. Thus in Acts 2:32-33 he states:

“This Jesus hath God raised up whereof we are all witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted … He hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.”

 It is also believed, quite wrongly, that there was a general outpouring of the Spirit on this day of Pentecost. Actually it was confined to the apostles and a perhaps a few close associates. The rest of the Jews present (there were no Gentiles there by the way) didn’t “get it”, just as today’s professing church doesn’t get it either - instead getting a counterfeit spirit. The Pentecostal outpouring was unique – the sign of “cloven tongues of fire” was never seen again, for example. Granted, it is recorded in Acts 10:46 that believing Jews did hear Gentiles speak in tongues, as proof they had been saved into Israel’s hope. But they certainly didn’t see tongues of fire on that or any other occasion after Acts 2.

False beliefs based on Acts 2 abound because of a refusal to “rightly divide the word of truth” and note carefully what God actually says. In Acts 2:17, for example, He states:

“It shall come to pass in the last days, saith God that I will pour out my Spirit ….

Was the Acts period Israel’s “last days”? If it was, then the chosen nation’s ouster in Acts 28 and the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70 would have been the end of her, the "last days" meaning just what it says ... last days.  However, according to Dr E. W. Bullinger’s notes in the Companion Bible, Old Testament, prophecies of Israel’s “last days”, or “latter days” - as the Hebrew word is elsewhere translated - “extend to and embrace the Day of Messiah and his first and second advents”. (See Gen. 49:1, Nu. 24:14, Deut. 4:30, 31:29, Isa. 2:2, Jer. 23:20, 30:24, 48:47, 49:39, Ezek. 38:16, Dan. 2:28, 10:14, Hos. 3:5, Mic. 4:1).

Israel’s “last days” therefore are largely yet to come and with them will come full realisation of the promised universal outpouring of the Spirit with a vast array of miraculous gifts and happenings, particularly prophecy, happening to “all flesh” – meaning everyone on earth. So then, what happened on the day of Pentecost in 33AD was but a foretaste of the full outpouring in the age to come that is yet to happen. Heb. 6:4-5 clearly states of the Pentecostal believers that they had:

tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come.

In the future Day of Christ it won’t be just a “taste” but a full, multi-course banquet, and, if Joel’s prophecy be our guide, then tongues won’t be a part of it, since the prophet doesn’t mention them. In the Day of Christ the Spirit will be poured out on all flesh and tongues will be excluded. Why? Because that Day is also the Day of Judgement. Both the “quick and the dead” will be judged (2. Tim. 4:1). Every single person alive will face a stark choice: Either “bow the knee” (Phil. 3:10-11) and believe or promptly perish in fiery judgement.

The result of this cleansing will be that no unbelievers remain for tongues to be spoken to. And, indisputably, tongues are a sign only to unbelievers. 1 Cor. 14:22 teaches: “Tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them believe not, but prophesying serveth … for them that believe”. That is why in the “last days”, which occur in the Day of Christ (Phil. 1:6, 10, 2:16), many, if not all, will “prophesy”; but none will speak in tongues. Again this makes the Day of Pentecost in AD33 a unique occasion, when tongues were spoken as a clear prophetic sign to unbelieving Israel.

In Bible study an important principle is to learn meaning from the “words the Holy Ghost teacheth, comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Cor. 2:13). Comparing Acts 2:16 with Joel 2:28 we note how Joel 2:28 speaks of an outpouring afterward, while Peter uses the term the last days instead. This is no mistake or translation error; rather the Holy Spirit is revealing further truth about the timing of this great event by using the two terms alternately.

Afterward begs the question, “After what?” The answer, set out in Joel 2: 12-17, is, that the outpouring will take place after Israel receives blessing for her end time repentance and turning to the Lord, but before the great and terrible day of the Lord come”. This would position the outpouring in the Day of Christ, which precedes the day of the Lord. Joel 2:18 declares:

Then (after Israel’s repentance that is) will the Lord be jealous for his land and his people.

This wording is drawn from Deut. 32:43 where Moses, in his great prophecy of Israel’s fall, punishment and eventual repentance, states that eventually “(God) … will be merciful to his land and his people”. Israel’s turning to the Lord is also prophesied in Deut. 4:30 and in Jer. 23:20 and 30:24 where we are twice told that after their thousands of years of suffering, the end time Israelites will finally understand the “anger of the Lord”. “In the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly”. Hosea 3:5 then foretells that: Afterward … Israel shall return and seek the Lord and David their king in the latter days”.

Thus we see from Joel that after, afterwards, in those days, and the last days all relate to the same time period in the Day of Christ when God will punish the rebel nations and Israel will turn to the Lord.

In response to Israel’s end time repentance God will send physical blessings of “corn and wine and oil” (Joel 2:19) and “it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.”

Note that both in Joel 2:31 and Acts 2:20 the outpouring of the Spirit “upon all flesh” is “before the great and terrible Day of the Lord come”. Proof that that day did not come at the day of Pentecost is that none of accompanying signs and wonders, such as the sun turning to darkness, the moon to blood, with fire and pillars of smoke, were seen. They will be seen, however, during the Day of Christ.

Not one of things mentioned in Acts 2:19 came to pass in Jerusalem in AD33. Nor was there widespread prophesying or seeing of visions. This is because the outpouring then was limited to the 12 apostles and their close associates. Therefore Peter’s “this” was only a brief foretaste of the blessings in Joel’s prophecy; it was not the fulfilment of it.

Actually Peter’s argument is that these tongues speakers should no more be charged with drunkenness than should those who will receive the prophesied greater universal Spirit outpouring which is still to come. I believe that his Jewish audience, well schooled as they were in the prophetic scriptures, fully understood exactly what he meant. Sadly, by contrast, 99 per cent of Christendom today does not. Furthermore, since Joel’s prophecy was conditional upon Israel’s obedience, then surely Peter’s Jewish audience would have recognised the appearance of “cloven tongues like as of fire” and the speaking “with other tongues” as prophetic signs of impending judgement but also of blessing upon repentance.

You see, had Israel fully repented at Peter’s words the “last days” would have come there and then and the blessed outpouring of the Spirit “on all flesh” with them. However, apart from a few thousand saved, the nation as a whole rejected the witness; in fact the leaders and the mob fought against it. Consequently the Pentecostal tongues were a sign of judgement (as prophesied in Isaiah 28:11-13) and the great outpouring was put on hold.

So once again Israel missed out on her blessing. Earlier she forfeited the promised “restitution of all things” (Acts 3:21, Matt. 19:28) when she rejected the call to national repentance by John the Baptist who came “in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17). Had his message been heeded then, as Jesus said, “truly” Elijah would have come then and there to “restore all things” (Matt. 17:11-12). Sadly instead he had to say of John’s ministry that “Elias is come already and they knew him not”.

To sum up:

  1. In seeking to recapture blessings poured out on only a chosen handful of Jewish witnesses as a prophetic sign, the professing church of today effects to rob Israel of its future truth and glory in this matter. Thus it is seen that the so-called “Pentecostal spirit” so rife today is really a devil in disguise, and that the belief that the true church of today began at Pentecost is a lie. In fact all miraculous gifts and manifestations ceased at the end of Acts. Therefore any that occur today in the current Dispensation of Grace and of the Mystery are counterfeit.
  1.  Worse still, this error blinds believers to the truth that the great outpouring of the Spirit “on all flesh” is yet to come. It will come in the Day of Christ when, in the face of renewed rebellion, the Lord not only judges but also “pulls out all the spiritual stops” to persuade mankind to turn to Him. Everybody from the mightiest leader to the humblest servant will prophesy; all young men see visions; all old men will dream dreams. And such wonders will be needed because at that time, as God’s great day of judgement prepares to break loose, it will it be case of:

Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be delivered (or saved)”, as Joel 2:32 and Acts 2:21 state. (And, as pointed out earlier, whosoever won’t will perish).

  1. All the above is testimony to the amazing truth and accuracy of God’s word. Joel, directed by the Spirit, pens a prophecy that was truth when he wrote it, truth on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, and today is still truth about what will happen in the future Day of Christ.

Dispensational note: Bear in mind that Acts is the record of the third and final offer to Israel of national restoration and blessing on condition of repentance. It was administered by the Holy Spirit, so miraculous signs and wonders accompanied it and thus it can rightly be called the Pentecostal Dispensation. It ended when the Apostle Paul in Acts 28:26-28 pronounced the setting aside of Israel as the penalty for her rejection of this third and last offer to repent and receive forgiveness and restoration.

Earlier in the Old Testament Israel had rejected God the Father’s offer of restoration through the prophets. In the Gospels the offer was made again by the Son (Rom. 15:8) only to have it rejected by Israel. In Acts it the gracious offer is spurned again for the third and last time.

It is apparent that only God could have caused Joel to write a prophecy that, despite these three rejections and the intervention of the un-prophesied dispensation of Grace and the Mystery, remains true into the future.

Author’s emphasis: In phrases such as the “Day of Christ” and the Dispensation of the Mystery initial letters are capitalised to draw attention to the important dispensational truth they contain.