July 1, 2013

Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles

By: Tom Lowe

Topic #II: The Church in Jerusalem, Acts 2.1-8.3

Subtopic A: The Church is Born (Acts 2.1-2.41)                    

        Secondary Topic 2: Peter’s Explanation in a Sermon (Acts 2.14-2.36)                      

Lesson II.A.2.a: Pentecost: The Fulfillment of Joel 2

Acts 2.14-21 (KJV)

14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: 

15 For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. 

16 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; 

17 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: 

18 And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: 

19 And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: 

20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: 

21 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. 


The Spirit also filled the believers and empowered them for witness. He gave Peter insight into the Word and the ability to show men Christ in the Word. The Spirit used the witness of the church to convict the lost, just as Jesus said He would do—“But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me. Righteousness is available because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more” (John 16:7-10; NLT).



14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: 

But Peter, 

We have here the beginning of the sermon which Peter preached on the day of Pentecost. He did not speak to those from other nations in a strange language (and we are not told how he replied to those that were amazed, and said, What meaneth this?), but to the Jews in the language of the ordinary people, even to those that mocked them and claimed the apostles were drunk with wine. Peter was bold, rash, and passionate; and he rose now to defend the apostles of Jesus Christ, and Christ himself, from an injurious charge. He was not intimidated by ridicule or opposition; he felt that now was the right time for preaching the gospel to the crowd that had been assembled by curiosity. No ridicule should deter Christians from an honest declaration of their opinions, and a defense of the operations of the Holy Spirit.

He begins the sermon by dealing with this accusation (v. 15), and so he addresses his sermon to the men of Judea and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. During Peter’s discourse, we have good reason to think that the other disciples continued to speak to those who understood them (and therefore flocked about them) in the languages of their respective countries, and their topic was the wonderful works of God. For that reason, we know that the three thousand souls converted, and added to the church on that day were not responding to Peter’s preaching only, but rather to the preaching of all, or most, of the hundred and twenty. But the Holy Spirit chose to record only Peter’s sermon as evidence for him that he was completely recovered from his fall, and thoroughly restored to the divine favor and fellowship. The man that had cowardly denied Christ now has courageously confessed him to be Lord and Messiah!”

The theme of Peter's sermon at Pentecost is stated in verse 36—“So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!” His emphasis is that Jesus is the Messiah. No message could have been more unwelcome to the Jews who had rejected His Messianic claims, and crucified Him. Peter, therefore, does not announce his theme until he has covered every possible Jewish objection. The point of difficulty with the Jews was the apparent failure of the clear and repeated prophetic promise of a regathered Israel established in their own land under their covenanted King; such as given in these verses—“the days are coming," says the LORD, "That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely; Now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. "Therefore, behold, the days are coming," says the LORD, "that they shall no longer say, 'As the LORD lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of Egypt,' but, 'As the LORD lives who brought up and led the descendants of the house of Israel from the north country and from all the countries where I had driven them.' And they shall dwell in their own land." (Jer 23:5-8; NKJV). (Also see Isa 11:1-12). Instead of explaining, that the covenant and promises were to be fulfilled in the church in a so-called "spiritual" sense, Peter shows Acts 2:25-32 (which quotes from Ps 16) that David himself understood that the risen Christ would fulfill the covenant and sit on his throne—“He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:32-33; KJV). 

Peter was the most famous of Jesus’ twelve apostles. The New Testament gives a more complete picture of Peter than of any other disciple, with the exception of Paul. Peter is often considered to be a big, blundering fisherman. But this is a one-dimensional depiction. The picture of his personality portrayed in the New Testament is rich and many-sided. A more fitting appraisal of Peter is that he was a pioneer among the twelve apostles and the early church, breaking ground that the church would follow later. Jesus had said in Matthew 16:19 that Peter should receive the keys of the kingdom, and they are now to be used to open its doors.

standing up with the eleven, 

Having been a disciple and a follower of the Lord, Peter is now ready to assume a role of leadership. Even though he is the principal preacher of Christianity after the ascension, nevertheless, we must notice that the Eleven stand behind him giving their full support to his message.

“Peter, standing up with the eleven,” means either that all twelve stood together or that Peter stood in the name of all the apostles, as their representative. Matthias was now one of the apostles, and now he appeared as one of the witnesses for the truth. They probably all arose, and took part in the oration. Possibly Peter began to discourse, and either all spoke together in different languages, or one succeeded another.

lifted up his voice, 

“Peter lifted up his voice,” like one that believed in his message and was confident in his ability to deliver it, and He was neither afraid nor ashamed to preach it. 

and said unto them, 

The apostle has an introduction or preface, with which he begs the attention of the crowd, or rather demands it. Peter stood up, to show that he was not drunk. The eleven, who agreed with the message he would shortly present stood with him to show their support.  All twelve may have spoken that day, continuing with the theme established by Peter, but Peter definitely spoke first; those with the greatest authority stood up to speak to the scoffing Jews, and to confront those who contradicted them and blasphemed. While this was going on, the seventy disciples spoke to the willing proselytes from other nations in their own language. Peter now begins the first gospel sermon. 

Ye men of Judaea, 

“Ye men of Judea” signifies men who are Jews; that is, Jews by birth. This does not mean that they were permanent residents in Judea, but that they were Jews, from Jewish families; who were accessories to the death of Jesus. 

Now I think that we need to recognize who the congregation was on this day. They were Judeans and all those that lived in Jerusalem. At that time Jerusalem was entirely a Jewish city. Pilate and his people had their headquarters in Caesarea, not in Jerusalem. This early church was 100 percent Jewish. It was made up of Israelites. We need to recognize that. The church began in Jerusalem, then moved out to Judea, then Samaria, and then to the uttermost parts of the earth. This has been the movement of the church from that day to this. In the Old Testament it was supposed to go to Jerusalem so that the world would go there to worship. Now they are commanded to leave Jerusalem and to take this message, the gospel of Jesus Christ, to the ends of the earth.

and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, 

“All ye that dwell at Jerusalem” may have a better translation if the word “dwell” is replaced with sojourn, visit or stopover, because these were not inhabitants of Judea, but the strangers mentioned in Acts 2:9-11, who had gone there for the feast. This would include, besides native-born Jews, all others, whether proselytes or strangers, who were housed temporarily at Jerusalem. This encompassed, of course, the whole assembly, and was a respectful, conciliatory, and proper introduction to his sermon. Though they had mocked the apostles by accusing them of being drunk, still he treated them with respect, and did not render railing for railing—“Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it” (1 Peter 3:9; NLT); but sought instead to convince them of their blunder. 


be this known unto you, 

“Be this known unto you;” that which you did not know before, and about which you are now going to be instructed. 

Peter did not insinuate that this was an ambiguous matter, or one that could not be explained. His dissertation was respectful, but firm. He went about showing them their error in a calm manner. When the enemies of the gospel scoff at us or the gospel, we should answer them kindly and respectfully, yet firmly. We should reason with them coolly, and convince them of their mistake—“A mild answer calms wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1); NABWRNT). The power for good and evil that lies in the human tongue is awesome. A soft word will often disarm a man whose heart is bent upon great harm, whereas harsh words serve only to stir up great anger. In this case Peter acted on the principle which he afterwards imposed on all—"Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear." 1 Peter 3:15; KJV). Peter’s intention was to vindicate the conduct of the apostles from the accusation of intoxication, by showing that this could be nothing other than the work of God; and to make an application of the truth which his hearers would understand and accept. He did this in several ways: 

1. By showing that this could not reasonably be thought to be the effect of new wine—“For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day” (Acts 2:15; KJV). 

2. By showing that it had been explicitly predicted in the writings of the Jewish prophets, (see Acts 2:16-21). 

3. By a calm argument, proving the resurrection and ascension of Christ, and showing that this also was in accordance with the Jewish Scriptures, (see Acts 2:22-35). We are not to think that this was the entirety of Peter's preaching on that day, but that these were the matters on which he insisted, and the main points of his message. 

and hearken to my words:

“And hearken to my words,” because I desire to draw you to Christ, and do not listen to the words of the scribes and Pharisees, since they would draw you away from him. My Master is gone, whose words you have often heard in vain; but though you cannot hear him directly any longer, yet He speaks to you still through us; hearken now to our words.’’

15 For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. 

Peter warns the onlookers that the one hundred and twenty are not drunk as everyone thought, but what they are viewing is in actuality a fulfillment of prophecy. 

“Then Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice and said to them, Men of Judea, and all you who dwell in Jerusalem, be this known to you, and hearken to my words: for these men are not drunk as you suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day.” Even though the great apostle has made this his defense against the charge of drunkenness, it must be admitted that it is not decisive; because men might be drunk, as they were in Paul’s day as well as ours, at any hour of the day or night. But still, the fact of the matter is that men are NOT often found drunk so early in the day, and that made his defense sufficiently plausible to ward off the effect of a charge which may have been made in lighthearted levity, while Peter relies upon the speech he is about to make to completely refute the charge, and to make an impression upon the crowd, the likes of which they little dreamed. He goes on to speak in a way that only a sober man could speak, and this is the best way to counter a charge of drunkenness

This is how he answered their offensive slander: "These men are not drunken, as you suppose.” These disciples of Christ that now speak with other tongues make good sense, and know what they are saying, and so do those who listen to them, who are led by their speaking to know about the wonderful works of God. You cannot believe they are drunk, because “it is but the third hour of the day,” nine o’clock in the morning; and before this time, on the Sabbaths and solemn feasts, the Jews did not eat or drink. Typically, those that are drunk are drunk in the night, and not in the morning; those who are incorrigible drunkards, when they awake, immediately seek it yet again—“They have struck me, but I was not hurt; they have beaten me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake, that I may seek another drink?" (Prov 23:35; NKJV). Note the definition of drunkenness—“DRUNKENNESS is a drugged or deranged condition that results from drinking intoxicating beverages (1 Cor. 5:11; 6:10; Eph. 5:18). Drunkenness regularly appears in lists of vices in the New Testament (Luke 21:34; Rom. 13:13; Gal. 5:21).”

“But the third hour of the day” refers to nine o'clock in the morning. The Jews hardly ever ate or drank prior to this for the reason that the hour of prayer began at nine o’clock. This custom appears to have been so common among the Jews and they were so committed to it that even the most addicted to drink were not known to transgress it. Peter therefore spoke with confidence when he said, “these are not drunk—seeing it is but the third hour of the day,” because prior to that hour, even the addicted did not use wine. “Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may follow intoxicating drink; who continue until night, till wine inflames them!” (Isaiah 5:11; NKJV). The reasons why it was so improbable that they should be drunk at that time were the following: 

1. As we have already mentioned it was the hour of morning worship, or sacrifice. It was highly improbable, that at that early hour they would be intoxicated. 

2. It would be unusual for even drunkards to become drunk in the daytime—"They that be drunken are drunken in the night" (1 Thessalonians 5:7).

3. The accusation was that they had become drunk with wine. Intoxicating spirits, or alcohol, which is the curse of our times, was unknown in Peter’s day. It was very unlikely that so much of the weak wine commonly used in Judea could have been drunk at that early hour to produce intoxication. 

4. It was a customary practice among the Jews, to avoid eating or drinking anything until after the third hour of the day, especially on the Sabbath, and on all festival occasions. Sometimes this abstinence was continued until noon. This custom, was so universally followed that the apostle could appeal to it with confidence and expect it to completely refute the allegation of drunkenness at that hour. Even those addicted to alcohol were not accustomed to drink before that hour. 

16 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; 

They should not be surprised at what they see, because it was predicted hundreds of years before by the prophet Joel. In other words, the prophecy which he declared so long ago is just now fulfilled; and this is another proof that Jesus whom you have crucified is the Messiah.

Here we have the first great sermon of the New Testament in which Peter gives his explanation of the miraculous outpouring of the Holy Spirit, which is intended to encourage all those present to embrace the faith of Christ, and to join His church. His sermon has only two points:

1. That what was happening before their eyes was the fulfillment of scripture. 

2. That it was also the fruit of Christ’s resurrection and ascension, and consequently the proof of both.

The following explanation is offered on these points of view:

1. That what was happening before their eyes was the fulfillment of scripture. It was the accomplishment of the prophecies of the Old Testament which related to the kingdom of the Messiah, and therefore evidence that this kingdom had arrived, and that the other predictions of it are fulfilled. The prophesy he has in mind is Joel 2.28-32, from which he will quote during his sermon—“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 heavens 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. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call” This will not quoted literally either from the Hebrew or from the Septuagint. The substance, however, is preserved. It is worth mentioning that though Peter was filled with the Holy Ghost, and spoke with tongues as the Spirit gave him utterance, he did not set aside the scriptures, or think he was above them. Much of his sermon is quoted from the book of Joel (he lived around 800 B.C.), and with the aid of these verses he proves what he says. Christ’s scholars never outgrow their Bible; and the Spirit is not given to them in order to enable them to take the place of the scriptures, but to enable us to understand and share the scriptures with others. 

He uses this prophecy as a response to the pessimist, the unbeliever, and the mocker. This is his purpose for quoting it. Though some say this was fulfilled prophesy, as I have noted, there is also the opinion that He is saying, “This is similar to or this is like that “which was spoken by the prophet Joel.”  He does not say that this is the fulfillment of that which was spoken by the prophet Joel. He is saying, “Why do you think this is something odd or something strange? We have prophecy that says these things are going to come to pass.” Peter goes on to quote the prophecy from Joel. I’m glad Simon Peter quoted as much scripture as he did because he makes it obvious that he was not attempting to say this was fulfilled, but rather, that this was in accordance with the predictions in their own Scriptures.  

JOEL, BOOK OF—a brief prophetic book of the Old Testament that predicted the outpouring of the spirit of God on all people—a prophecy fulfilled several centuries later on the Day of Pentecost (Joel 2:28–32; Acts 2:14–21). The title of the book comes from its author, the prophet Joel, who identifies himself in the introduction as “the son of Pethuel” (1:1). This is all we know about this spokesman for the Lord. From evidence in the book itself, we can assume that he knew a great deal about Jerusalem, Judah’s capital city, and the rituals associated with temple worship (2:15). But he probably was not a priest, since he called upon the priests to go into mourning because of the sins of the nation (1:13). Indeed, Joel’s many references to agriculture (1:7, 10–12) may indicate he was a farmer or a herdsman, although this is not certain.

2. That it was also the fruit of Christ’s resurrection and ascension, and consequently the proof of both. Peter shows how this prophecy is germane to the present event: This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; it is the accomplishments of that prophesy. This is that outpouring of the Spirit upon all flesh which was predicted, and we do not need to look for another, no more than we are to look for another Messiah. Even as our Messiah lives eternally in heaven, reigning and interceding for his church on earth, so this Spirit of grace, the Advocate, or Comforter, that is given now, according to the promise, will, according to the same promise, continue to be with the church on earth until the end.  This Holy Spirit will do all of its wonderful works in the church and for the church, and for every member of it, both ordinary and extraordinary, by means of the scriptures and the ministry.

Now what is it that is to come?

17 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 it shall come to pass in the last days, 

Again, these verses are a quotation of Joel 2:28–32 in which the prophet announces the coming day of the Lord. Joel’s prophecy was given in the midst of a call for repentance from the nation of Israel—“Yet even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God. For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment. Perhaps he will again relent and leave behind him a blessing, Offerings and libations for the LORD, your God” (Joel 2:12–14; NABWRNT). Peter quotes that prophecy in the same context.

“It shall come to pass” means it will happen, or shall occur; because God said it, it is a certainty. 

 “The last days” are the times in which we are living, the current gospel dispensation, which are called the last days because it is the dispensation of God’s kingdom among men, which began with the advent of Christ—“has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds” (Heb 1:2; NKJV); and is the last dispensation of divine grace, and there will be no other because this one will last until the end of time. There are many other things which can be said about “the last days,” such as:

1. They began a great while after the ceasing of prophecy in the Old Testament church. 

2. They shall end in the days immediately preceding the destruction of the Jewish nation, in the last days of that people, just before that great and notable day of the Lord spoken of in verse 20. 

3. It was prophesied and promised, and therefore you should expect it, and not be surprised when it happens. You should desire it, and welcome it, and not debate it, or ignore it like a thing that is not worth taking notice of.

4. It is the time of the Messiah according to the Jews—“It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it” (Isa. 2.2; RSV). This verse refers to the messianic age when the Holy City shall be the center of the earth and all nations shall come to it to learn the ways of God. It should be noted that this universal emphasis will not be fulfilled in the days of Israel’s earthly kingdom, or in the days of the church, but in the last days. This points our attention to the millennial future when Israel’s kingdom shall become a reality, and that will occur only during the time when the Messiah shall rule after the church age. The mountain of the LORD’s house refers to Mount Zion, formerly known as Mount Moriah, on which the various temples of Israel were built. In Isaiah’s day, the Temple of Solomon was still standing. The implication of this passage is that in the millennial kingdom there will once again be a Temple in Jerusalem which shall serve as the focal point of the worship of Jesus Christ during His kingdom rule on earth. God’s kingdom is pictured as being exalted above the hills, i.e., the kingdoms of this world. All nations refer to the gentile nations.

In order to avoid confusion, a distinction must be observed between "the last days" when the prediction relates to Israel, and the "last days" when the prediction relates to the church (1Ti 4:1-3; 2Ti 3:1-8; Heb 1:1, 2; 1Pe 1:4, 5; 2Pe 3:1-9; 1Jn 2:18, 19; Jude 1:17-19). Also the expression the "last days" (plural) must be distinguished from "the last day" (singular); the latter expression referring to the resurrections and last judgment (John 6:39, 40, 44, 54; John 11:24; John 12:48). The "last days" as related to the church began with the advent of Christ (Heb 1:2), but have special reference to the time of decline and apostasy at the end of this age (2Ti 3:1; 2Ti 4:4). The "last days" as related to Israel are the days of Israel's exaltation and blessing, and are synonymous with the kingdom-age (Isa 2:2-4; Mic 4:1-7). They are "last" not with reference to this dispensation, but with reference to the entirety of Israel's history. 

saith God, 

These are not Peter’s words, but God is speaking through His servant.

I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: 

“I will pour out of my Spirit” is a figurative expression that indicates the abundant gifts of the Spirit; it is in contrast with the mere drops of the Spirit that were sprinkled on a few of the Old Testament saints, such as Samson and Saul. Consider these verses—

“…I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, And My blessing on your offspring” (Isaiah 44:3; NKJV).

“I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them” (Ezek 36:27; NKJV).

The expression in Hebrew is, "I will pour out my Spirit." The word “pour” is commonly applied: 

To water, or to blood, in the Old Testament; the general idea being to pour it out, or to shed it (Isaiah 57:6).

to tears, to pour them out, that is, to weep, in the Old Testament (Psalms 42:4, 1 Samuel 1:15). 

To water, to wine, or to blood, in the New Testament—"The blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed" (Acts 22:20) (Also see Matthew 9:17, Revelation 16:1). 

It also conveys the idea of communicating a large amount, or freely, similar to how water pours freely and abundantly from a fountain—"The renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly" (Titus 3:5, 6). "They (the clouds) pour down rain according to the vapour thereof" (Job 36:27). "I will pour water upon him that is thirsty" (Isaiah 44:3). "Let the skies pour down righteousness" (Isaiah 45:8). "Will I pour you out a blessing" (Malachi 3:10). 

To fury and anger, when God intends to say that he will not spare, but will greatly punish (Psalms 69:24, Jeremiah 10:2, 5). 

To the Spirit (Proverbs 1:23, Isaiah 44:3 Zech 12:10), and in that case it means that He will bestow large amounts of spiritual influences, as the Spirit does when He renews and sanctifies men; so to pour out the Spirit is to grant freely His influences, and to renew and sanctify the soul. 


“My Spirit” denotes the Third Person of the Trinity, who was promised by the Saviour, and sent to finish His work, and apply it to men. The Holy Spirit is regarded as the source, or conveyer of all the blessings which Christians experience. In that role He renews the heart—“Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:5, 6; KJV). He is the Source of all proper feelings and principles in Christians, or He produces the Christian graces—“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives” (Gal 5:22-25; NLT). The spread and success of the gospel are attributed to Him—“Until the spirit be poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest. Then judgment shall dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness remain in the fruitful field” (Isaiah 32:15-16; KJV). Miraculous gifts are traced to Him; especially the various gifts with which the early Christians were endowed—“Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;  To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;  To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues” (1 Cor 12:4-10 KJV). The promise that He would pour out his Spirit, means that he would, in the time of the Messiah, impart a large amount of those influences, which it was His peculiar prerogative to communicate to men. A part of them were communicated on the day of Pentecost, in the miraculous endowment of the power of speaking foreign languages, in the wisdom of the apostles, and in the conversion of the three thousand. 

 “Upon all flesh” denotes all races, not the Jews alone (Although, prior to this it had been confined only to the seed of Abraham), and here the word “flesh” means persons, or men—“Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh” (Romans 1:3; KJV). The word “all,” does not mean every individual, but every class or category of men. It is to be limited to the cases specified in that which immediately follows. The influences were not to be confined to any class, but to be communicated to all kinds of persons, old men, youth, servants, etc—“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:1-4; KJV).

and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, 

“Your sons and your daughters” or our children. From this it appears that females shared in the extraordinary influences of the Holy Spirit. Philip, the evangelist, had four daughters that prophesied—“And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy” (Acts 21:9; KJV). It is also likely that the females in the church of Corinth received this gift even though they were forbidden to exercise it in public—“Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak…” (1 Cor 14:34; KJV). The gift of prophesying was not confined to the men among the Jews—“AND MIRIAM THE PROPHETESS, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand…” (Ex 15:20; KJV).  “AND DEBORAH, A PROPHETESS, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time” (Judges 4:4; KJV). “And there was one ANNA, A PROPHETESS, the daughter of Phanuel…” (Luke 2:36; KJV).

“Prophesy” in the New Testament means to communicate religious truth which has been gained by divine revelation, as well as to foretell the future. Prophecy was fulfilled in the inspired speaking on Pentecost and afterwards, as well as by the daughters of Philip (Acts 21:9). God may, by means of prophesy, give special messages to men, often uttered through human spokesmen, which indicate the divine will for mankind on earth and in heaven. The word prophesy, as it is used here does not imply the knowledge of future events; but means to teach and proclaim the great truths of God, especially those which concerned redemption by Jesus Christ. The word prophesy is used in a variety of ways. 

1. It means to predict, or foretell future events (Matthew 11:13, 15:7). 

2. To divine, to conjecture, to declare as a prophet might—“Saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?” (Matt 26:68; KJV).

3. To praise God, while being under a Divine influence—“And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying” (Luke 1:67; KJV). This seems to have been a considerable part of the rituals in the ancient schools of the prophets—“…thou shalt meet a company of prophets coming down from the high place with a psaltery, and a tabret, and a pipe, and a harp, before them; and they shall prophesy” (1 Sam 10:5; KJV).

4. To teach—The prophets were to teach the doctrines of religion—“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name?...(Matt 7:22; KJV). It denotes then, in general, the ability to speak under a Divine influence, whether in foretelling future events; praising God; instructing others in the doctrines of religion; or speaking foreign languages while under that influence. In this last sense, the word is used in the New Testament to denote those who were miraculously endowed with the power of speaking foreign languages—“And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied” (Acts 19:6; KJV). 

5. The word is also used to denote teaching, or speaking in intelligible language, in opposition to speaking a foreign tongue (see 1 Corinthians 14:1-5). In this regard it means that they speak the truths of God while under a Divine influence.

and your young men shall see visions, 

Prophesy, dreams, symbols, angels, and visions were a few of the various ways in which God revealed himself in the Old Testament era. Sometimes he revealed himself by a symbol, which was an adequate proof of the Divine presence: fire was the most ordinary means, as well as the most expressive symbol. In this manner He appeared to Moses on Mount Horeb, and afterwards at Sinai; to Abraham (Genesis 15:1-21); to Elijah (1 Kings 19:11, 12). At other times God revealed himself by the ministry of angels: He did it frequently, especially in the days of the patriarchs, of which there are many instances in the book of Genesis. In the New Testament, visions and dreams are rare.

VISIONS are experiences similar to dreams through which supernatural insight or awareness is given by revelation. But the difference between a dream and a vision is that dreams occur only during sleep, while visions can happen while a person is awake—“And I Daniel alone saw the vision: for the men that were with me saw not the vision; but a great quaking fell upon them, so that they fled to hide themselves” (Dan 10:7; KJV). The purpose of visions was to give guidance and direction to God’s servants and to foretell the future. Daniel’s vision, for example, told of the coming of the Messiah (Dan. 8:1, 17). In the New Testament there is the vision that Peter had at Joppa. 

and your old men shall dream dreams:

A “dream” is a state of mind in which images, thoughts, and impressions pass through the mind of a person who is sleeping. Dreams have had a prominent place in the religious literature of ancient peoples. In ancient times, dreams—especially those of kings and priests—were thought to convey messages from God—“And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream” (Num 12:6; KJV). In the Bible these were sometimes prophetic in nature. Elihu stated clearly his belief that God speaks through dreams—“For God speaks again and again, though people do not recognize it. He speaks in dreams, in visions of the night, when deep sleep falls on people.” (Job 33:14-15; NLT).

The will of God, in Old Testament times, was made known often in dreams; and there are several instances recorded in which it was done under the gospel. God informed Abimelech in a dream that Sarah was the wife of Abraham (Genesis 20:3). He spoke to Jacob in a dream (Genesis 31:11); to Laban (Genesis 31:24); to Joseph (Genesis 37:5); to the butler and baker (Genesis 40:5); to Pharaoh (Genesis 41:1-7); to Solomon (1 Kings 3:5); to Daniel (Daniel 2:3, 7:1). It was prophesied by Moses that God would make known his will in this way—“And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream” (Num 12:6; KJV). It occurred even in gospel times—“But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost” (Matt 1:20; KJV).

 Dreams were one way in which the will of God was made known to men in the past. The ancients probably had some method of determining whether their dreams were Divine communications, or whether they were, as they are now, the mere erratic wanderings of the mind—At present no confidence is to be put in dreams. 

18 And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: 

One interpretation of “On my servants and on my handmaidens” is that it means people of the lowest station in society, such as male and female slaves would have been in Peter’s time. The Jews said that the spirit of prophecy never rested upon a poor man, so Peter used their own words to show that, under the Gospel dispensation, neither bond nor free, male nor female, is excluded from sharing in the gifts and graces of the Divine Spirit. There is also the opinion which says, “my servants” means “the servants of God;” which the worshippers of God are often called in the Scriptures—“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ…” (Romans 1:1; KJV). I believe this is the true meaning, because it conveys the same idea expressed by this passage, besides, the Holy Spirit does not reside with unbelievers, and the Lord only calls believers“my servants” and “my handmaidens.”  If the meaning was to pour the Spirit out on servants and handmaids in general it would read "upon your servants," 

“And on my handmaidens” means female servants of God. The name is given several times to pious women (Psalms 86:16, 116:16, Luke 1:38, 48). Here pious women are called handmaids. In the times of the gospel, those who were brought under its influence would be remarkably endowed with the ability to declare the will of God. 

It is made clear from this that there would be a more abundant and extensive outpouring of the Spirit of grace than had ever happened before. The prophets of the Old Testament had been filled with the Holy Ghost, and it was said of the people of Israel “that God gave them his good Spirit to instruct them,” (Neb. 9:20). But now the Spirit shall be poured out, not only upon the Jews, but upon all flesh, Gentiles as well as Jews, although it is clear from this verse that at this time Peter himself did not understand it that way. The meaning remains as before that is, the Spirit will be poured out upon some men from all social classes and circumstances. The Jewish doctors taught that the Spirit came only upon wise and rich men, and such as were of the seed of Israel; but God will not tie himself to their rules.

The type of Spirit will be a Spirit of prophecy; therefore, by the Spirit they should be enabled to foretell things to come, and to preach the gospel to every creature. This power shall be given without regard to sex, and not only your sons, but your daughters shall prophesy; without taking into account age, since both your young men and your old men shall see visions, and dream dreams, and by them receive divine revelations, to be communicated to the church; and without considering outward condition-even the servants and handmaids shall receive the Spirit, and shall prophesy; or, in general, the men and women, whom God calls his servants and his handmaids. In the beginning of the age of prophecy in the Old Testament there were schools of the prophets, and, before that, the Spirit of prophecy came upon the elders of Israel that were appointed to rule or judge the nation; but now the Spirit shall be poured out upon persons of inferior rank, because the kingdom of the Messiah is to be purely spiritual. The mention of the daughters and the handmaidens would make one think that women were singled out to receive the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost, as well as men. Philip, the evangelist, had four daughters who did prophesize (Ac. 21:9), and Paul, finding an abundance of the gifts both of tongues and prophecy in the church of Corinth, saw the need to prohibit women’s use of those gifts in public (1 Co. 14:26, 34).

 19 And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: 

And I will shew wonders in heaven above, 

Peter not only quotes that part of the prophecy of Joel which was applicable to the events currently taking place in Jerusalem on Pentecost, but he quotes that part which pertains to the disaster approaching the Jewish nation, and to the final judgment (see Joel 2.1-11). I believe verse 19 applies directly to the overthrow of Judea and Jerusalem. It is likely that both the prophet and the apostle refer to the great tragedy that descend upon the Jews at the destruction of Jerusalem, and the fearful signs and wonders that preceded those calamities. Jesus’ description of the Second Coming sounds somewhat the same. This is how He portrayed it when replying to a question asked by His disciples: “What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? He replied, “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places” (Matthew 24:5-7; NKJV). 

“Wonders” refers to the signs which were to precede the destruction of Jerusalem. “I will shew wonders” is literally, "I will give signs." The word in Hebrew from which it is interpreted means, phenomenon; wonderful occurrences; miracles fashioned by God or his messengers (Exodus 4:21, 7:3,9, 11:9, Deuteronomy 4:34) etc. It is the common word to denote a miracle, in the Old Testament. Here it means, however, a significant appearance, a wonder, a remarkable occurrence. It is commonly joined in the New Testament with the word signs, and we often read “signs and wonders” (Matthew 24:24, Mark 13:22, John 4:48). In these places it does not of necessity mean miracles, but unusual and remarkable appearances or manifestations. Here it means great and striking changes in the sky, the sun, moon, etc. The Hebrew is, "I will give signs in the heaven, and upon the earth." 

and signs in the earth beneath; 

It is evident from Peter's application that that which is contemplated is still in the future. Though I believe he is talking about the destruction of Jerusalem, there is a case that can be made for applying it to the day of final judgment. That theory rests in the opinion that the words “all flesh” cannot be applied to the dangers awaiting the Jews alone, which would occur at the destruction of Jerusalem. But the parties contemplated in the prophesy are “all flesh;” therefore, all classes of men are embraced in the prophetic view, and the “day of the Lord” must, according to Old Testament usage, be a day of terror in which all are included. But in the destruction of Jerusalem the Jews alone faced the terror; therefore this cannot be the meaning. It must, then, be the Day of Judgment; because this is the only day of unsurpassed terror still awaiting all mankind.

blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke:

“Blood, fire, and vapour of smoke” refers to the skirmishes and assassinations that will happen all over Judea, and wasting the country with fire and sword.

“Blood” is commonly used as an emblem of slaughter, or of battle. 

 “Fire” is also an image of war or the burning down of towns and dwellings in time of war. 


“Vapor of smoke” means rising columns or pillars of smoke; and is another image of the tragedy of war; the smoke rising from burning towns. It has almost always been customary in war to burn the towns of an enemy, and to render him as helpless as possible, and so the tragedies denoted here are those represented by such scenes. To what particular scenes there is reference to here, it may be impossible now to say. It may be remarked, however, that scenes of this kind occurred before the destruction of Jerusalem; and there is a striking resemblance between the description in Joel, and that by which our Saviour foretells the destruction of Jerusalem—“For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened. Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect” (Matt 24:21-24; KJV).

20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: 

The sun shall be turned into darkness, 

The prediction of the terrible destruction of Jerusalem is foretold here: “There shall be wonders in heaven above, the sun turned into darkness and the moon into blood; and signs too in the earth beneath, blood and fire.” Josephus, in his preface to his history of the wars of the Jews, speaks of the signs and phenomenon that preceded them, terrible thunders, lightning, and earthquakes; there was a fiery comet that hung over the city for a year, and a flaming sword was seen pointing down upon it; a light shone upon the temple and the altar at midnight, as if it had been noon-day. 

“The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood” are figurative representations of eclipses, intended most probably to point out the fall of the civil and ecclesiastical state in Judea. Every person knows that the SUN is darkened when a total eclipse takes place, and that the MOON looks like a bloody hue during an eclipse. This is very similar to the description Christ gave of the last days that will precede His Second Coming—"Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Matt 24:29; NKJV). The same images used here by Peter with reference to the sun and moon were used by Christ. They occur several places in scripture, such as:

"But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light” (Mark 13:24; NKJV).

“But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men…But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10; NKJV).

The shining of the sun is an emblem of prosperity; the withdrawing, or eclipse, or setting of the sun is an emblem of calamity, and both are often used in the Scriptures (See Isaiah 60:20, Jeremiah 15:9, Ezekiel 32:7, Amos 8:9, Revelation 6:12, 8:12, 9:2, 16:8). To say that the sun is darkened, or turned into darkness, is an image of calamity and especially of the calamities of war; when the smoke of burning cities rises to heaven, and obscures its light. This is not, therefore, to be taken literally, and it is not necessarily any indication of what will occur in regards to the sun at the end of the world. 


and the moon into blood, 

 The word “blood” as it is used here means that obscure, crimson color which the moon has when the atmosphere is filled with smoke and vapor; and especially the gaudy and disturbing appearance which it assumes when smoke and flames are thrown up by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions—“I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood” (Rev 6:12; NKJV). Here, Peter uses the word to denote great calamities. The images used are indicative of wars, and large fires, and unusual natural disasters such as earthquakes. Since these things actually occurred prior to the destruction of Jerusalem predicted in Matthew 24, it may be supposed that the prophecy in Joel 2:28–32 had a direct reference to that. Therefore, the meaning of this quotation by Peter is that what occurred on the day of Pentecost was the beginning of the series of wonders that were to take place during the times of the Messiah (the Gospel dispensation). It is not implied that those scenes of destruction were to conclude, or to be exhausted in that age. They may herald that great day of the Lord which is still in the future, a date that only God knows. There are some who say that the reference here is to the smoky vapor that accompanied Christ’s ascension. Others say that it refers to the sun darkened, and the moon made blood, at the time of Christ’s crucifixion. Still others believe this is a description of the struggles of the Jewish people; the burning of their cities, and towns, and synagogues, and lastly their temple. There is yet another opinion which says this turning of the sun into darkness, and the moon into blood, speaks of the dissolution of their government, both civil and sacred, and the extinguishing of all their lights as a nation.

before that great and notable day of the Lord come:

Much of the difficulty with interpreting these verses consists in fixing the proper meaning to the expression, "that great and notable day of the Lord." If it is limited to the day of Pentecost, it is certain that no such events occurred at that time. It would be wrong to confine it to that time. The description here pertains to "the last days" (Acts 2:17), that is, to that entire period of time, however long, which was known by the prophets as the last times. That period might be extended through many centuries; and during that period all these events would take place. The day of the Lord is the day when God shall manifest himself in a peculiar manner; a day when He shall so strikingly be seen through His wonders and His judgments, that it may be called His day. Thus it is applied to the day of judgment; the day of the Son of man; the day in which He will be the great engaging object, and will be expressly glorified (See Luke 17:24, 1 Thessalonians 5:2, Philippians 1:6; 2 Peter 3:12). 

It is quite evident that there was nothing transpiring at the time of Peter's speech to which the multitude could perceive as the fulfillment of these words; therefore the remark with which he introduces the quotation, “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel” is to be understood only as referring to the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. The remainder of the prediction must have looked to the future for its fulfillment. How far in the future is not indicated, except that the events mentioned were to take place, “before that great and notable day of the Lord.”  This day of the Lord is certainly spoken of as a day of terror and danger; and no doubt the salvation contemplated in the words, “every one who will call on the name of the Lord shall be saved (v. 21),” is salvation from the dangers of “that great and notable day.” The interpretation of the whole passage, therefore, depends upon determining what is meant by that day. Is it the day of destruction of Jerusalem, or of the final judgment? The best way to settle this question is to examine the use of the phrase, “day of the Lord.”

The great and illustrious day must not be confused with the “signs and wonders” mentioned by the prophet; for these are to occur before that day. Whatever may be the exact symbolic meaning of the “blood and fire, and smoky vapor,” and the darkening of the sun and moon, they represent events which are to take place before the Day of Judgment.

Having now determined the day in question, we can at once decide what salvation is contemplated in the declaration, “Every one who will call on the name of the Lord shall be saved (v. 21).” The only salvation connected with the Day of Judgment is the salvation from sin and death. The reference, therefore, is to this, and not to salvation from the destruction of Jerusalem.

It had been little more than seven weeks since the people in Jerusalem had actually seen the sun turned into darkness, during the early afternoon of the day of our Lord’s crucifixion. And on the same afternoon, the moon may have appeared blood-red in the sky due to that mysterious, ghostly gloom. These signs were to be understood as being symbolic of the arrival of the day of the Lord, “that great and notable day,” a day of judgment, for sure. This conclusion is confirmed by the consistent usage of this phrase by the New Testament writers. The apostolic writings afford little ground indeed for the prominence that has been given to commentators who offer a different opinion, such as the destruction of Jerusalem. There was another and far different day, in their future, to which they gave the title, “the day of the Lord.” Paul says, “Deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. “ “We are your rejoicing, even as ye also are ours, in the day of the Lord Jesus.” “Yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.” “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night.”  These are all the times that this expression occurs in the New Testament, and they show conclusively that “the day of the Lord,” according to the apostles, was the Day of Judgment. However, this phrase can be applied to any day in which God manifests himself; but particularly to a day when he shall come forth to punish men, such as at the destruction of Jerusalem, or at the Day of Judgment. The meaning is that those wonders would take place before that distinguished day should arrive when God would come in judgment. 

21 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. 

Here we have the one and only means of preservation for the Lord’s people, and it comes as a promise: “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord Jesus (which is the description of a true Christian according to 1 Co. 1:2, where it says: “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place CALL ON THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST our Lord, both theirs and ours”) shall be saved.”  The name of the Lord is the same as the Lord himself. Notice that the saved are described as praying people: they call on the name of the Lord, which implies that they are not saved by any merit or righteousness of their own, but purely by the grace of God, which must be solicited by prayer. Those that distinguish themselves by outstanding holiness shall be distinguished by receiving special preservation. One example of this occurred during the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans; there was a remnant sealed to be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger; and when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans not one Christian perished. 

“Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord” entails turning to the Lord for salvation in His appointed way. It means far more than simply prayer. The person who calls on the name of the Lord for salvation must do more than say, “Lord, Lord, please save me.” He must hear and obey, because Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matt 7:21; NKJV). Not everyone professing Christ is genuinely saved. Even the outward verbal acknowledgment of His lordship is in itself not enough to save the unbeliever apart from true repentance and faith. A genuinely saved person is one that doeth the will of my Father; he is continually living in obedience to the will of God as the normal course of his life. He may fail at times, but in the general course of his life he consistently obeys the will of the Father. It is tragic to note that many who will proclaim in that day, Lord, Lord will be lost. On what do they base their profession? Their many wonderful works cause them to think that they have attained salvation and yet the response of Christ will be I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Those who are continually living in sin, as the normal course of their lives, have no assurance of salvation whatsoever. This does not mean that one must experience basic and initial changes in one’s life to validate his claim to conversion. 

My friend, Joel 2:28–32 has not been fulfilled to this day. I don’t think that anyone would claim that on the Day of Pentecost the moon was turned to blood or that the sun was turned to darkness. When Christ was crucified, there was darkness for three hours, but not on the Day of Pentecost. Nor were there wonders in the heavens above and signs in the earth beneath. Nor was there blood and fire and a vapor of smoke. Simon Peter quotes this passage to show these mockers that the pouring out of the Spirit of God should not be strange to them. Joel had predicted it, and it is going to come to pass.

If we turn back to the Book of Joel, we will find that he had a great deal to say about the Day of the Lord. The Day of the Lord will begin with the Great Tribulation period. It will go on through the Millennium. In three chapters of the Book of Joel the Day of the Lord is mentioned five times. Joel talks about the fact that it is a time of war, a time of judgment upon the earth. That has not yet been fulfilled. It was not fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost.


This verse teaches us:

1. That in view of the judgments of God which are to come, we should make sure we are prepared; that we are saved. 

2. It is easy to be saved. All that God requires of us is to call upon him, to pray to him, to ask him, and he will answer and save. If men will not do such an easy thing it is appropriate for them to be cast off. The terms of salvation could not be made clearer or easier. The offer is open to all, free, universal, and there is no obstacle but what exists in the heart of the sinner.