God’s Word for You
Acts 2:18-21 This is that
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, August 28, 2019
18 Even on my servants and my servant-girls,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the sky above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and a column of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon will be turned to blood
before the coming of the day of the Lord,
great and glorious!
21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord
will be saved.’
“This is that.”
Peter began his quotation from Joel by saying, “This is that which was spoken.” Peter’s whole understanding and belief about the Joel prophecy is wrapped up in those words, “This is that.” Lots of people suddenly prophesying about God and about God’s plan for mankind? This is that. Wonders in the sky and signs on the earth? This is that. The sun dark and the moon turning red? This is that.
It was just seven weeks since the crucifixion, when the sky had gone dark for three hours without any eclipse, and right at high noon (Luke 23:44). “The sun was turned to darkness,” indeed. The other wonders of the sky are not recorded, but the signs on the earth were abundant, with an earthquake (Matthew 27:54, 28:2), the temple curtain tearing in two (Matthew 27:51), rocks were split open (Matthew 27:51) and many holy people raised to life (Matthew 27:52). The signs Joel prophesied? This is that.
In verse 19, “a column of smoke,” Joel uses the same phrase that we see in the Song of Solomon, “Who is this coming up from the desert like a column of smoke?” (Song 3:6). The Greek translation of the Song has stelechos, “tree stump,” probably a comparison with a tall, thin column like the trunk of a palm tree (Exodus 15:27) rather than a big wall of smoke. Just what this column of smoke refers to is not spelled out for us. But the signs and wonders were proclamations of law and gospel, proofs that what was taking place was from God. The blood, fire and smoke are not specified, but these are also common things. The blood of Jesus was there on the cross. The fire of the Holy Spirit was here on the heads of the apostles, of Peter himself as he spoke these words. And the smoke? The presence of the Father was there in the pillar of cloud for Israel, and in the smoke that filled the tabernacle and temple, and in the storm out of which he spoke to Job. There is no report of a pillar or column of smoke at the death of the Lord, nor at his resurrection, nor here at Pentecost. Is this yet to come? Or could it be a reminder of the prayers of the saints, ascending to heaven like the smoke of incense? “Each living creature had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (Revelation 5:8). These things are difficult to explain unless they are simply a reminder that the Triune God is at work, united, unified and one God, for our salvation. This, perhaps, is that.
The most important part of Joel’s prophecy and Peter’s quotation is the final sentence: “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Paul explains clearly and elegantly that calling on the name of the Lord is believing in Jesus: “How can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?” (Romans 10:14). Faith is a gift from God, and anyone with faith was given that faith as a gift. “What do you have,” Paul asks, “that you did not receive? And if you did receive it,” (that is, faith), “why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). Paul’s question there to the Corinthians should stab at the heart and sting everyone who thinks that they must make a decision to believe in Jesus. If you have faith, why would you boast that it wasn’t given to you, but that you decided about it for yourself? Peter and Joel add: “I will pour out my Spirit in those days.” Why, after the Spirit has been poured out, would anyone boast or claim that they have something on their own, apart from the work of the Spirit? That’s like a man stepping into the shower and saying, “I made myself clean. This water has done nothing to help me get clean. This soap is nothing to me.” A stubborn man would say that he chose to turn the water on. Does he choose to make the rain fall? The sun shine? The moon to draw the seas and lakes into and out of their tides? God tells us that faith is a gift. Stop contradicting the giver. Where the gospel is at work, there faith is created or strengthened. The outpouring of the Spirit on a lot of people all at once that Joel prophesied? This is most certainly that.
Pastor Timothy Smith