But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy. I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath: blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:16-21)
The Prophet Joel And The Beginning Of The Church
Little is known about the prophet Joel who prophesied approximately eight hundred years before Christ. As a contemporary of Hosea and Amos, Joel faced a nation a century removed from the division of the land following the death of Solomon. The northern tribes would never recover from the onslaught of idol worship and be destroyed in less than eighty years. Judah would remain for another two hundred years but fall to the Babylonians. The prophets of Joel’s day saw the hearts of the people waxing worse in following the nations around them. Sin would destroy the people of God. The central message of the book of Joel was an invading locust swarm devastating the land. Some have suggested the locusts were an allegory of an invading army, but it seems more likely Joel is using an actual event of locusts that stripped the land, bringing drought and fires and utter destruction. Natural catastrophes were used by the messengers of God to remind the people of the wrath of the Lord with a call to repentance. Using the locust invasion as a backdrop, Joel proclaimed the coming of the day of the Lord.
For the people of Joel’s time, the message was very stern yet clear. There was no doubt the judgment of the Lord was coming upon a rebellious people. The day of the Lord is great and very terrible. Repentance is called for to return to a gracious and merciful God slow to anger and of great kindness. Great blessings will come upon the people if they turn to the Lord. Joel tells the people that afterward, the Lord will pour out His Spirit on all flesh. Their sons and daughters will prophesy, the old men dream dreams, and young men see visions. This was the prophetic language of the coming of the kingdom of God spoken about in Psalm 2, Isaiah 2, Daniel 2, and fulfilled in Acts 2 and Ephesians 2. Peter would use Joel 2 to explain the events of the coming of the church of Christ on the day of Pentecost.
Following the resurrection of Jesus, the apostles were commanded to tarry in Jerusalem until they had been endued with power from on high. When the Day of Pentecost had come, the twelve apostles received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. A sound from heaven, as of a mighty rushing wind filled the house where the apostles were sitting. When the sound occurred, a multitude came together and was confused by what they saw. They saw twelve Galileans speaking in multiple languages. Some thought the men were drunk. Standing up with the eleven, Peter raised his voice and began to explain the meaning of the events. He declared what was occurring was the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy eight hundred years earlier. This is an example of “divine commentary” when Peter, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, declared the words of Joel were fulfilled that day in the city of Jerusalem. Homer Hailey writes, “It is concluded, therefore, that what took place on Pentecost marked the beginning of the complete fulfillment of Joel’s word.”
The New Testament church was not an afterthought of God to fill a space of time until Christ comes and establishes some earthly kingdom. Joel prophesied the day of the Lord would come with great signs, and Peter confirmed the prophet’s words pointed to the beginning of the church. The words of Joel looked beyond the condition of Israel in rebellion to a time God would bring Jew and Gentile together in the church of Christ where there was neither male nor female, slave or free, for all were one in Christ. Joel would not see the coming of the kingdom of Christ, but he prepared the faithful to accept the fulfillment of his words as the day of the Lord when God established His divine family, the church. The bridge of God’s grace reached eight hundred years to show the eternal purpose He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.