Acts 2:17
And it shall come to pass in the last days, said God, I will pour out of my Spirit on all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(17) It shall come to pass in the last days.—The prophecy of Joel takes its place, with the exception, perhaps, of Hosea, as the oldest of the prophetic books of the Old Testament. The people were suffering from one of the locust-plagues of the East and its consequent famine. The prophet calls them to repentance, and promises this gift of the Spirit as the great blessing of a far-off future. He had been taught that no true knowledge of God comes but through that Spirit. So Elisha prayed that a double portion (i.e., the eldest son’s inheritance) of the Spirit which God had given to Elijah might rest upon him (2Kings 2:9).

Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.—The Old Testament use of the word, in its wider generic sense, as, e.g., in the case of Saul, 1Samuel 10:10; 1Samuel 19:20-24, covered phenomena analogous to the gift of tongues as well as that of prophecy in the New Testament sense. The words imply that women as well as men had been filled with the Spirit, and had spoken with the “tongues.”

Your young men shall see visions.—The “visions,” implying the full activity of spiritual power, are thought of as belonging to the younger prophets. In the calmer state of more advanced age, wisdom came, as in the speech of Elihu, “in a dream, in visions of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men” (Job 33:15).

Acts

THE FOURFOLD SYMBOLS OF THE SPIRIT

Acts 2:2 - Acts 2:3
, Acts 2:17. - 1 John 2:20.

Wind, fire, water, oil,-these four are constant Scriptural symbols for the Spirit of God. We have them all in these fragments of verses which I have taken for my text now, and which I have isolated from their context for the purpose of bringing out simply these symbolical references. I think that perhaps we may get some force and freshness to the thoughts proper to this day [Footnote: Whit Sunday.] by looking at these rather than by treating the subject in some more abstract form. We have then the Breath of the Spirit, the Fire of the Spirit, the Water of the Spirit, and the Anointing Oil of the Spirit. And the consideration of these four will bring out a great many of the principal Scriptural ideas about the gift of the Spirit of God which belongs to all Christian souls.

I. First, ‘a rushing mighty wind.’

Of course, the symbol is but the putting into picturesque form of the idea that lies in the name. ‘Spirit’ is ‘breath.’ Wind is but air in motion. Breath is the synonym for life. ‘Spirit’ and ‘life’ are two words for one thing. So then, in the symbol, the ‘rushing mighty wind,’ we have set forth the highest work of the Spirit-the communication of a new and supernatural life.

We are carried hack to that grand vision of the prophet who saw the bones lying, very many and very dry, sapless and disintegrated, a heap dead and ready to rot. The question comes to him: ‘Son of man! Can these bones live?’ The only possible answer, if he consult experience, is, ‘O Lord God! Thou knowest.’ Then follows the great invocation: ‘Come from the four winds, O Breath! and breathe upon these slain that they may live.’ And the Breath comes and ‘they stand up, an exceeding great army.’ ‘It is the Spirit that quickeneth.’ The Scripture treats us all as dead, being separated from God, unless we are united to Him by faith in Jesus Christ. According to the saying of the Evangelist, ‘They which believe on Him receive’ the Spirit, and thereby receive the life which He gives, or, as our Lord Himself speaks, are ‘born of the Spirit.’ The highest and most characteristic office of the Spirit of God is to enkindle this new life, and hence His noblest name, among the many by which He is called, is the Spirit of life.

Again, remember, ‘that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.’ If there be life given it must be kindred with the life which is its source. Reflect upon those profound words of our Lord: ‘The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh nor whither it goeth. So is every one that is born of the Spirit.’ They describe first the operation of the life-giving Spirit, but they describe also the characteristics of the resulting life.

‘The wind bloweth where it listeth.’ That spiritual life, both in the divine source and in the human recipient, is its own law. Of course the wind has its laws, as every physical agent has; but these are so complicated and undiscovered that it has always been the very symbol of freedom, and poets have spoken of these ‘chartered libertines,’ the winds, and ‘free as the air’ has become a proverb. So that Divine Spirit is limited by no human conditions or laws, but dispenses His gifts in superb disregard of conventionalities and externalisms. Just as the lower gift of what we call ‘genius’ is above all limits of culture or education or position, and falls on a wool-stapler in Stratford-on-Avon, or on a ploughman in Ayrshire, so, in a similar manner, the altogether different gift of the divine, life-giving Spirit follows no lines that Churches or institutions draw. It falls upon an Augustinian monk in a convent, and he shakes Europe. It falls upon a tinker in Bedford gaol, and he writes Pilgrim’s Progress. It falls upon a cobbler in Kettering, and he founds modern Christian missions. It blows ‘where it listeth,’ sovereignly indifferent to the expectations and limitations and the externalisms, even of organised Christianity, and touching this man and that man, not arbitrarily but according to ‘the good pleasure’ that is a law to itself, because it is perfect in wisdom and in goodness.

And as thus the life-giving Spirit imparts Himself according to higher laws than we can grasp, so in like manner the life that is derived from it is a life which is its own law. The Christian conscience, touched by the Spirit of God, owes allegiance to no regulations or external commandments laid down by man. The Christian conscience, enlightened by the Spirit of God, at its peril will take its beliefs from any other than from that Divine Spirit. All authority over conduct, all authority over belief is burnt up and disappears in the presence of the grand democracy of the true Christian principle: ‘Ye are all the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ’; and every one of you possesses the Spirit which teaches, the Spirit which inspires, the Spirit which enlightens, the Spirit which is the guide to all truth. So ‘the wind bloweth where it listeth,’ and the voice of that Divine Quickener is,

‘Myself shall to My darling be

Both law and impulse.’

Under the impulse derived from the Divine Spirit, the human spirit ‘listeth’ what is right, and is bound to follow the promptings of its highest desires. Those men only are free as the air we breathe, who are vitalised by the Spirit of the Lord, for ‘where the Spirit of the Lord is, there,’ and there alone, ‘is liberty.’

In this symbol there lies not only the thought of a life derived, kindred with the life bestowed, and free like the life which is given, but there lies also the idea of power. The wind which filled the house was not only mighty but ‘borne onward’-fitting type of the strong impulse by which in olden times ‘holy men spake as they were “borne onward”‘ {the word is the same} ‘by the Holy Ghost.’ There are diversities of operations, but it is the same breath of God, which sometimes blows in the softest pianissimo that scarcely rustles the summer woods in the leafy month of June, and sometimes storms in wild tempest that dashes the seas against the rocks. So this mighty lif-giving Agent moves in gentleness and yet in power, and sometimes swells and rises almost to tempest, but is ever the impelling force of all that is strong and true and fair in Christian hearts and lives.

The history of the world, since that day of Pentecost, has been a commentary upon the words of my text. With viewless, impalpable energy, the mighty breath of God swept across the ancient world and ‘laid the lofty city’ of paganism ‘low; even to the ground, and brought it even to the dust.’ A breath passed over the whole civilised world, like the breath of the west wind upon the glaciers in the spring, melting the thick-ribbed ice, and wooing forth the flowers, and the world was made over again. In our own hearts and lives this is the one Power that will make us strong and good. The question is all-important for each of us, ‘Have I this life, and does it move me, as the ships are borne along by the wind?’ ‘As many as are impelled by the Spirit of God, they’-they-’are the sons of God.’ Is that the breath that swells all the sails of your lives, and drives you upon your course? If it be, you are Christians; if it be not, you are not.

II. And now a word as to the second of these symbols-’Cloven tongues as of fire’-the fire of the Spirit.

I need not do more than remind you how frequently that emblem is employed both in the Old and in the New Testament. John the Baptist contrasted the cold negative efficiency of his baptism, which at its best, was but a baptism of repentance, with the quickening power of the baptism of Him who was to follow him; when he said, ‘I indeed baptise you with water, but He that cometh after me is mightier than I. He shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.’ The two words mean but one thing, the fire being the emblem of the Spirit.

You will remember, too, how our Lord Himself employs the same metaphor when He speaks about His coming to bring fire on the earth, and His longing to see it kindled into a beneficent blaze. In this connection the fire is a symbol of a quick, triumphant energy, which will transform us into its own likeness. There are two sides to that emblem: one destructive, one creative; one wrathful, one loving. There are the fire of love, and the fire of anger. There is the fire of the sunshine which is the condition of life, as well as the fire of the lightning which burns and consumes. The emblem of fire is selected to express the work of the Spirit of God, by reason of its leaping, triumphant, transforming energy. See, for instance, how, when you kindle a pile of dead green-wood, the tongues of fire spring from point to point until they have conquered the whole mass, and turned it all into a ruddy likeness of the parent flame. And so here, this fire of God, if it fall upon you, will burn up all your coldness, and will make you glow with enthusiasm, working your intellectual convictions in fire not in frost, making your creed a living power in your lives, and kindling you into a flame of earnest consecration.

The same idea is expressed by the common phrases of every language. We speak of the fervour of love, the warmth of affection, the blaze of enthusiasm, the fire of emotion, the coldness of indifference. Christians are to be set on fire of God. If the Spirit dwell in us, He will make us fiery like Himself, even as fire turns the wettest green-wood into fire. We have more than enough of cold Christians who are afraid of nothing so much as of being betrayed into warm emotion.

I believe, dear brethren, and I am bound to express the belief, that one of the chief wants of the Christian Church of this generation, the Christian Church of this city, the Christian Church of this chapel, is more of the fire of God! We are all icebergs compared with what we ought to be. Look at yourselves; never mind about your brethren. Let each of us look at his own heart, and say whether there is any trace in his Christianity of the power of that Spirit who is fire. Is our religion flame or ice? Where among us are to be found lives blazing with enthusiastic devotion and earnest love? Do not such words sound like mockery when applied to us? Have we not to listen to that solemn old warning that never loses its power, and, alas! seems never to lose its appropriateness: ‘Because thou art neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of My mouth.’ We ought to be like the burning beings before God’s throne, the seraphim, the spirits that blaze and serve. We ought to be like God Himself, all aflame with love. Let us seek penitently for that Spirit of fire who will dwell in us all if we will.

The metaphor of fire suggests also-purifying. ‘The Spirit of burning’ will burn the filth out of us. That is the only way by which a man can ever be made clean. You may wash and wash and wash with the cold water of moral reformation, you will never get the dirt out with it. No washing and no rubbing will ever cleanse sin. The way to purge a soul is to do with it as they do with foul clay-thrust it into the fire and that will burn all the blackness out of it. Get the love of God into your hearts, and the fire of His Divine Spirit into your spirits to melt you down, as it were, and then the scum and the dross will come to the top, and you can skim them off. Two powers conquer my sin: the one is the blood of Jesus Christ, which washes me from all the guilt of the past; the other is the fiery influence of that Divine Spirit which makes me pure and clean for all the time to come. Pray to be kindled with the fire of God.

III. Then once more, take that other metaphor, ‘I will pour out of My Spirit.’

That implies an emblem which is very frequently used, both in the Old and in the New Testament, viz., the Spirit as water. As our Lord said to Nicodemus: ‘Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.’ The ‘water’ stands in the same relation to the ‘Spirit’ as the ‘fire’ does in the saying of John the Baptist already referred to-that is to say, it is simply a symbol or material emblem of the Spirit. I suppose nobody would say that there were two baptisms spoken of by John, one of the Holy Ghost and one of fire,-and I suppose that just in the same way, there are not two agents of regeneration pointed at in our Lord’s words, nor even two conditions, but that the Spirit is the sole agent, and ‘water’ is but a figure to express some aspect of His operations. So that there is no reference to the water of baptism in the words, and to see such a reference is to be led astray by sound, and out of a metaphor to manufacture a miracle.

There are other passages where, in like manner, the Spirit is compared to a flowing stream, such as, for instance, when our Lord said, ‘He that believeth on Me, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water,’ and when John saw a ‘river of water of life proceeding from the throne.’ The expressions, too, of ‘pouring out’ and ‘shedding forth’ the Spirit, point in the same direction, and are drawn from more than one passage of Old Testament prophecy. What, then, is the significance of comparing that Divine Spirit with a river of water? First, cleansing, of which I need not say any more, because I have dealt with It in the previous part of my sermon. Then, further, refreshing, and satisfying. Ah! dear brethren, there is only one thing that will slake the immortal thirst in your souls. The world will never do it; love or ambition gratified and wealth possessed, will never do it. You will be as thirsty after you have drunk of these streams as ever you were before. There is one spring ‘of which if a man drink, he shall never thirst’ with unsatisfied, painful longings, but shall never cease to thirst with the longing which is blessedness, because it is fruition. Our thirst can be slaked by the deep draught of ‘the river of the Water of Life, which proceeds from the Throne of God and the Lamb.’ The Spirit of God, drunk in by my spirit, will still and satisfy my whole nature, and with it I shall be glad. Drink of this. ‘Ho! every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters!’

The Spirit is not only refreshing and satisfying, but also productive and fertilising. In Eastern lands a rill of water is all that is needed to make the wilderness rejoice. Turn that stream on to the barrenness of your hearts, and fair flowers will grow that would never grow without it. The one means of lofty and fruitful Christian living is a deep, inward possession of the Spirit of God. The one way to fertilise barren souls is to let that stream flood them all over, and then the flush of green will soon come, and that which is else a desert will ‘rejoice and blossom as the rose.’

So this water will cleanse, it will satisfy and refresh, it will be productive and will fertilise, and ‘everything shall live whithersoever that river cometh.’

IV. Then, lastly, we have the oil of the Spirit.

‘Ye have an unction,’ says St. John in our last text, ‘from the Holy One.’ I need not remind you, I suppose, of how in the old system, prophets, priests, and kings were anointed with consecrating oil, as a symbol of their calling, and of their fitness for their special offices. The reason for the use of such a symbol, I presume, would lie in the invigorating and in the supposed, and possibly real, health-giving effect of the use of oil in those climates. Whatever may have been the reason for the use of oil in official anointings, the meaning of the act was plain. It was a preparation for a specific and distinct service. And so, when we read of the oil of the Spirit, we are to think that it is that which fits us for being prophets, priests, and kings, and which calls us to, because it fits us for, these functions.

You are anointed to be prophets that you may make known Him who has loved and saved you, and may go about the world evidently inspired to show forth His praise, and make His name glorious. That anointing calls and fits you to be priests, mediators between God and man, bringing God to men, and by pleading and persuasion, and the presentation of the truth, drawing men to God. That unction calls and fits you to be kings, exercising authority over the little monarchy of your own natures, and over the men round you, who will bow in submission whenever they come in contact with a man all evidently aflame with the love of Jesus Christ, and filled with His Spirit. The world is hard and rude; the world is blind and stupid; the world often fails to know its best friends and its truest benefactors; but there is no crust of stupidity so crass and dense but that through it there will pass the penetrating shafts of light that ray from the face of a man who walks in fellowship with Jesus. The whole nation of old was honoured with these sacred names. They were a kingdom of priests; and the divine Voice said of the nation, ‘Touch not Mine anointed, and do My prophets no harm!’ How much more are all Christian men, by the anointing of the Holy Spirit, made prophets, priests, and kings to God! Alas for the difference between what they ought to be and what they are!

And then, do not forget also that when the Scriptures speak of Christian men as being anointed, it really speaks of them as being Messiahs. ‘Christ’ means anointed, does it not? ‘Messiah’ means anointed. And when we read in such a passage as that of my text, ‘Ye have an unction from the Holy One,’ we cannot but feel that the words point in the same direction as the great words of our Master Himself, ‘As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you.’ By authority derived, no doubt, and in a subordinate and secondary sense, of course, we are Messiahs, anointed with that Spirit which was given to Him, not by measure, and which has passed from Him to us. ‘If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.’

So, dear brethren, all these things being certainly so, what are we to say about the present state of Christendom? What are we to say about the present state of English Christianity, Church and Dissent alike? Is Pentecost a vanished glory, then? Has that ‘rushing mighty wind’ blown itself out, and a dead calm followed? Has that leaping fire died down into grey ashes? Has the great river that burst out then, like the stream from the foot of the glaciers of Mont Blanc, full-grown in its birth, been all swallowed up in the sand, like some of those rivers in the East? Has the oil dried in the cruse? People tell us that Christianity is on its death-bed; and the aspect of a great many professing Christians seems to confirm the statement. But let us thankfully recognise that ‘we are not straitened in God, but in ourselves.’ To how many of us the question might be put: ‘Did you receive the Holy Ghost when you believed?’ And how many of us by our lives answer: ‘We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.’ Let us go where we can receive Him; and remember the blessed words: ‘If ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him’!2:14-21 Peter's sermon shows that he was thoroughly recovered from his fall, and thoroughly restored to the Divine favour; for he who had denied Christ, now boldly confessed him. His account of the miraculous pouring forth of the Spirit, was designed to awaken the hearers to embrace the faith of Christ, and to join themselves to his church. It was the fulfilling the Scripture, and the fruit of Christ's resurrection and ascension, and proof of both. Though Peter was filled with the Holy Ghost, and spake with tongues as the Spirit gave him utterance, yet he did not think to set aside the Scriptures. Christ's scholars never learn above their Bible; and the Spirit is given, not to do away the Scriptures, but to enable us to understand, approve, and obey them. Assuredly none will escape the condemnation of the great day, except those who call upon the name of the Lord, in and through his Son Jesus Christ, as the Saviour of sinners, and the Judge of all mankind.It shall come to pass - It shall happen, or shall occur.

In the last days - Hebrew, Chaldee, Syriac, and Arabic, after these things, or afterward. The expression the last days, however, occurs frequently in the Old Testament: Genesis 49:1, Jacob called his sons, that he might tell them what should happen to them in the last days, that is, in future times - Heb. in after times; Micah 4:1, "In the last days (Hebrew: in later times) the mountain of the Lord's house," etc.; Isaiah 2:2, "in the last days the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the tops of the mountains," etc. The expression then properly denoted "the future times" in general. But, as the coming of the Messiah was to the eye of a Jew the most important event in the coming ages - the great, glorious, and crowning scene in all the vast futurity, the phrase came to be regarded as properly expressive of that. It stood in opposition to the usual denomination of earlier times.

It was a phrase in contrast with the days of the patriarchs, the kings, the prophets, etc. The last days, or the closing period of the world, were the days of the Messiah. It does not appear from this, and it certainly is not implied in the expression, that they supposed the world would then come to an end. Their views were just the contrary. They anticipated a long and glorious time under the dominion of the Messiah, and to this expectation they were led by the promise that his kingdom should be forever; that of the increase of his government there should be no end, etc. This expression was understood by the writers of the New Testament as referring undoubtedly to the times of the gospel. And hence they often used it as denoting that the time of the expected Messiah had come, but not to imply that the world was drawing near to an end: Hebrews 1:2, "God hath spoken in these last days by his Son"; 1 Peter 1:20, "Was manifested in these last times for you"; 2 Peter 3:3; 1 Peter 1:5; 1 John 2:18, "Little children, it is the last time," etc.; Jde 1:18. The expression the last day is applied by our Saviour to the resurrection and the day of judgment, John 6:39-40, John 6:44-45; John 11:24; John 12:48. Here the expression means simply "in those future times, when the Messiah shall have come."

I will pour out of my Spirit - The expression in Hebrew is, "I will pour out my Spirit." The word "pour" is commonly applied to water or to blood, "to pour it out," or "to shed it," Isaiah 57:6; to tears, "to pour them out," that is," to weep, etc., Psalm 42:4; 1 Samuel 1:15. It is applied to water, to wine, or to blood, in the New Testament, Matthew 9:17; Revelation 16:1; Acts 22:20, "The blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed." It conveys also the idea of "communicating largely or freely," as water is poured freely from a fountain, Titus 3:5-6, "The renewing of the Holy Spirit, which he shed on us abundantly." Thus, Job 36:27, "They (the clouds) pour down rain according to the vapor thereof"; Isaiah 44:3, "I will pour water on him that is thirsty"; Isaiah 45:8, "Let the skies pour down righteousness"; Malachi 3:10, "I will pour you out a blessing." It is also applied to fury and anger, when God intends to say that he will not spare, but will signally punish, Psalm 69:24; Jeremiah 10:25. It is not infrequently applied to the Spirit, Proverbs 1:23; Isaiah 44:3; Zechariah 12:10. As thus used it means that he will bestow large measures of spiritual influences. As the Spirit renews and sanctifies people, so to pour out the Spirit is to grant freely his influences to renew and sanctify the soul.

My Spirit - The Spirit here denotes the Third Person of the Trinity, promised by the Saviour, and sent to finish his work, and apply it to people. The Holy Spirit is regarded as the source or conveyer of all the blessings which Christians experience. Hence, he renews the heart, John 3:5-6. He is the source of all proper feelings and principles in Christians, or he produces the Christian graces, Galatians 5:22-25; Titus 3:5-7. The spread and success of the gospel is attributed to him, Isaiah 32:15-16. Miraculous gifts are traced to him, especially the various gifts with which the early Christians were endowed, 1 Corinthians 12:4-10. The promise that he would pour out his Spirit means that he would, in the time of the Messiah, impart a large measure of those influences which it was his special province to communicate to people. 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 - The word "flesh" here means "persons," or "people." See the notes on Romans 1:3. The word "all" here does not mean every individual, but every class or rank of individuals. It is to be limited to the cases specified immediately. The influences were not to be confined to any one class, but were to be communicated to all kinds of persons - old men, youth, servants, etc. Compare 1 Timothy 2:1-4.

And your sons and your daughters - Your children. It would seem that females shared in the remarkable influences of the Holy Spirit. Philip the Evangelist had four daughters which did prophesy, Acts 21:9. It is probable also that the females of the church of Corinth partook of this gift, though they were forbidden to exercise it in public, 1 Corinthians 14:34. The office of prophesying, whatever was meant by that, was not confined to the people among the Jews: Exodus 15:20, "Miriam, the prophetess, took a timbrel," etc.; Judges 4:4, "Deborah, a prophetess, judged Israel"; 2 Kings 22:14. See also Luke 2:36, "There was one Anna, a prophetess," etc.

Shall prophesy - The word "prophesy" is used in a great variety of senses:

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

(2) to divine, to conjecture, to declare as a prophet might, Matthew 26:68, "Prophesy who smote thee."

(3) to celebrate the praises of God, being under a divine influence, Luke 1:67. This seems to have been a considerable part of the employment in the ancient schools of the prophet, 1 Samuel 10:5; 1 Samuel 19:20; 1 Samuel 30:15.

(4) to teach - as no small part of the office of the prophets was to teach the doctrines of religion, Matthew 7:22, "Have we not prophesied in thy name?"

(5) it denotes, then, in general, "to speak under a divine influence," whether in foretelling future events, in celebrating the praises of God, in instructing others in the duties of religion, or "in speaking foreign languages 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, Acts 19:6. The word is also used to denote "teaching, or speaking in intelligible language, in opposition to speaking a foreign tongue," 1 Corinthians 14:1-5. In this place it means that they would speak under a divine influence, and is specially applied to the power of speaking in a foreign tongue.

Your young men shall see visions - The will of God in former times was communicated to the prophets in various ways. One was by visions, and hence one of the most usual names of the prophets was seers. The name seer was first given to that class of men, and was superseded by the name prophet, 1 Samuel 9:9, "He that is now called a prophet was beforetime called a seer"; 1 Samuel 9:11, 1 Samuel 9:18-19; 2 Samuel 24:11; 1 Chronicles 29:29, etc. This name was given from the manner in which the divine will was communicated, which seems to have been by throwing the prophet into an ecstasy, and then by causing the vision, or the appearance of the objects or events to pass before the mind. The prophet looked upon the passing scene, the often splendid diorama as it actually occurred, and recorded it as it appeared to his mind. Hence, he recorded rather the succession of images than the times in which they would occur. These visions occurred sometimes when they were asleep, and sometimes during a prophetic ecstasy, Daniel 2:28; Daniel 7:1-2, Daniel 7:15; Daniel 8:2; Ezekiel 11:24; Genesis 15:1; Numbers 12:6; Job 4:13; Job 7:14; Ezekiel 1:1; Ezekiel 8:3.

continued...

17. in the last days—meaning, the days of the Messiah (Isa 2:2); as closing all preparatory arrangements, and constituting the final dispensation of God's kingdom on earth.

pour out of my Spirit—in contrast with the mere drops of all preceding time.

upon all flesh—hitherto confined to the seed of Abraham.

sons … daughters … young men … old men … servants … handmaidens—without distinction of sex, age, or rank.

see visions … dream dreams—This is a mere accommodation to the ways in which the Spirit operated under the ancient economy, when the prediction was delivered; for in the New Testament, visions and dreams are rather the exception than the rule.

In the last days; in the time of the Messiah, called the last days frequently, 2 Timothy 3:1 Hebrews 1:2 2 Peter 3:3; as also called the last time, 1 Peter 1:5 1Jo 2:18 Judges 1:18; because we are now under the last and most perfect dispensation of the things of God, and no other is to be looked for until the consummation of all things.

I will pour out of my Spirit; before the Spirit was given in lesser measures, and comparatively but by drops, here a little, and there a little; now more largely, even to overflow.

Upon all flesh; all sorts of men, as well Gentiles as Jews, contrary unto their proud conceit, that God dwelt in none out of the land of Israel.

Daughters shall prophesy; fulfilled in Anna the prophetess, Luke 2:36, and in the four daughters of Philip, Luke 21:9.

Visions; these were formerly either representations more inward to their mind, as Isaiah’s and Jeremiah’s were; or more outward, to their bodily eye, as Belshazzar’s was, Daniel 5:5, and such as Peter had, Acts 10:11.

Dreams; by dreams God sometimes manifested his will, as to Joseph; but this is by St. Peter accommodated to the gospel times. The prophets spake suitably to them unto whom they preached; and the apostle rightly understands by these expressions, the manifold and more clear revelation of the will of God in Christ. And it shall come to pass in the last days,.... In Joel it is, "afterwards"; instead of which Peter puts, "in the last days"; the sense is the same: and so R. David Kimchi, a celebrated commentator with the Jews, observes, that "afterwards" is the same "as in the last days", and which design the times of the Messiah; for according to a rule given by the same writer on Isaiah 2:2 wherever the last days are mentioned, the days of the Messiah are intended,

Saith God, or "the Lord", as the Vulgate Latin and Ethiopic versions read. This clause is added by Peter, and is not in Joel; and very rightly, since what follow are the words of God speaking in his own person:

I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; not "upon every animal", as the Ethiopic version renders it: this is extending the sense too far, as the interpretation the above named Jewish writer gives, limits it too much, restraining it to the people of Israel. It being a maxim with them, that the Shekinah does not dwell but in the land of Israel; and also that prophecy, or a spirit of prophecy, does not dwell on any but in the holy land (r). For though as it regards the first times of the Gospel, it may chiefly respect some persons among the Jews, yet not to the exclusion of the Gentiles; and it designs all sorts of persons of every age, sex, state, and condition, as the distribution afterwards shows. Jarchi's note upon it is,

"upon everyone whose heart is made as tender as flesh; as for example, "and I will give an heart of flesh", Ezekiel 36:26.

By the Spirit is meant the gifts of the Spirit, the spirit of wisdom and knowledge, of understanding the mysteries of the Gospel, of explaining the Scriptures, and of speaking with tongues; and by the pouring of it out, is intended the abundance and great plenty of the gifts and graces of the Spirit bestowed; but yet not all of him, or all his gifts and grace in the large extent of them: therefore it is said, not "my Spirit", but "of my Spirit", or "out of it"; as out of an unfathomable, immeasurable, and inexhaustible fountain and fulness:

and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy: or foretell things to come, as Agabus, and the four daughters of Philip the Evangelist, Acts 21:9.

and your young men shall see visions; as Ananias, Acts 9:10, and Peter, Acts 10:17 and Paul when a young man, Acts 22:17 and John, the youngest of the apostles, Revelation 1:10 though he was in years, when he saw the visions in the Revelations:

and your old men shall dream dreams; or shall have night visions, as Paul at Troas, Acts 16:9 and in his voyage when at sea, Acts 27:23. The order of the words is inverted, this last clause stands first in Joel; perhaps the change is made, because the apostles were young men, on whom the Spirit was poured; and the thing was the more wonderful that so it should be, than if they had been old men,

(r) Zohar in Gen. fol. 118. 4. & 128. 4.

{3} And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon {l} all {m} flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:

(3) Peter setting forth the truth of God against the false accusations of men, shows in himself and in his companions that the prophecy of Joel concerning the full giving of the Holy Spirit in the latter days has been fulfilled: and this grace is also offered to the whole Church, to the certain and undoubted destruction of those who condemn it.

(l) All without exception, both upon the Jews and Gentiles.

(m) That is, men.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 2:17. ἐν ταῖς ἐσχ. ἡμέρ., i.e., the time immediately preceding the Parousia of the Messiah (Weber, Jüdische Theologie, p. 372). The expression is introduced here instead of μετὰ ταῦτα, LXX, to show that St. Peter saw in the outpouring of the Spirit the fulfilment of Joel’s prophecy, Acts 2:28-31 (LXX), and the dawn of the period preceding the return of Christ in glory, Isaiah 2:2, Micah 4:1 (2 Timothy 3:1, Jam 5:3, Hebrews 1:1).—λέγει ὁ Θεός: introduced possibly from Joel 2:12, although wanting in LXX and Hebrew.—ἐκχεῶ: Hellenistic future, Blass, Grammatik des N. G., pp. 41, 42, 58, cf. Acts 10:45, Titus 3:6. In LXX the word is used as here, not only in Joel, but in Zach. Acts 12:10, Sir 18:11; Sir 24:33, but very often of pouring forth anger.—ἀπὸ τοῦ πνεύμ. μου, “I will pour forth of my Spirit,” R.V., so in LXX, but in Heb., “I will pour out my Spirit”. The partitive ἀπό may be accounted for by the thought that the Spirit of God considered in its entirety remains with God, and that men acquire only a certain portion of its energies (so Wendt, Holtzmann). Or the partitive force of the word may be taken as signifying the great diversity of the Spirit’s gifts and operations. See also Viteau, Le Grec du N. T., p. 151 (1893).—πᾶσαν σάρκα, i.e., all men; but this expression in itself suggests a contrast beween the weakness and imperfection of humanity and the all-powerful working of the divine Spirit. The expression is Hebraistic, cf. Luke 3:6, John 17:2, and Sir 45:4, and often in LXX. In Joel’s prophecy the expression only included the people of Israel, although the divine Spirit should be no longer limited to particular prophets or favoured individuals, but should be given to the whole nation. If we compare Acts 2:39, the expression would include at least the members of the Diaspora, wherever they might be, but it is doubtful whether we can take it as including the heathen as such in St. Peter’s thoughts, although Hilgenfeld is so convinced that the verse Acts 2:39 can only refer to the heathen that he refers all the words from καὶ πᾶσι to the end of the verse to his “author to Theophilus”. Spitta on the other hand regards the expression as referring only to the Jews of the Diaspora; if the Gentiles had been intended, he thinks that we should have had τοῖς εἰς μακρὰν ἔθνεσιν as in Acts 22:21. Undoubtedly we have an analogous expression to Acts 2:39 in Ephesians 2:13, οἳ ποτε ὄντες μακράν, where the words evidently refer to the heathen, but we must not expect the universalism of St. Paul in the first public address of St. Peter: for him it is still ὁ θεὸς ἡμῶν, “our God,” Acts 2:39, and even the expression, πρῶτον, Acts 3:26, in which Holtzmann sees a reference to the extension of the Messianic blessings to the Jew first and then to the Gentile, need only mean that in St. Peter’s view these blessings could only be secured by the Gentile through becoming a proselyte to the faith of Israel. It is thus only that St. Peter’s subsequent conduct becomes intelligible. The reading αὐτῶν instead of ὑμῶν in the next clause before both υἱοὶ and θυγατέρες if it is adopted (Blass [123]) would seem to extend the scope of the prophecy beyond the limits of Israel proper.—θυγατέρες: as Anna is called προφῆτις, Luke 2:36, so too in the Christian Church the daughters of Philip are spoken of as προφητεύουσαι, Acts 21:9.—νεανίσκοι: in LXX and Hebrew the order is reversed. It may be that Bengel is right in drawing the distinction thus: “Apud juvenes maximi vigent sensus externi, visionibus opportuni: apud senes sensus interni, somniis accommodati”. But he adds “Non tamen adolescentes a somniis, neque sensus a visionibus excluduntur” (see also Keil, in loco), and so Overbeck, Winer, Wendt see in the words simply an instance of the Hebrew love of parallelism.—καί γε (in LXX) = Hebrew וְגַם—only here in N.T. and in Acts 17:27 W.H[124] (and possibly in Luke 19:42) = “and even,” Blass, Grammatik des N. G., p. 255. The only good Attic instance of καί γε with an intervening word is to be found in Lysias, in Theomn., ii., 7, although not a strict parallel to the passage before us, Simcox, Language of the N. T., p. 168.

[123] R(omana), in Blass, a first rough copy of St. Luke.

[124] Westcott and Hort’s The New Testament in Greek: Critical Text and Notes.17. in the last days] These words are an interpretation of the afterwards of the Hebrew, and after these things of the LXX. The expression “the last days” is used in the Old Testament to signify the coming of the Messiah. (Cp. Isaiah 2:2; Micah 4:1.) The latter clauses of this verse are transposed in Joel.Acts 2:17-18. Καὶ ἔσται, κ.τ.λ.) Joel 3:1-5 [in Engl. Vers. Acts 2:28], LXX., καὶ ἔσται μετὰ ταῦτα καὶ ἐκχεῶκαὶ ἐπὶ τοὺς δούλους μουκαὶ δώσουσι τέρατα ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ, καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς αἷμαπρὶν ἐλθεῖνσωθήσεται.—ἐσχάταις, the last) All the days of the New Testament are last days: and these last days have now advanced far forward.—πνεύματος, of My Spirit) A sweet antithesis; of My Spirit, and, upon all flesh.[11]—ΠᾶΣΑΝ, all) The promise does not appertain to that Pentecost alone: see Acts 2:39. In Joel the expression is My Spirit; Peter’s expression is, “of My Spirit,” having special respect to that particular Pentecost.—καὶ, and) Men are described of every sex, age, and rank.—προφητεύσουσιν, shall prophesy) Prophecy is an extraordinary spiritual gift, an especial proof of God’s working in men.—ὁράσεις, Κ.Τ.Λ., visions, etc.) waking and sleeping. Among the young especially the external senses are in the fullest vigour, and are thus suited to visions: in the case of the old, the internal senses are most vigorous, and are therefore adapted to dreams. The apostles were young men: and Peter therefore appropriately places the young men first; whereas Joel places the old men first. A vision was vouchsafed to Peter, ch. Acts 10:17 : also to Paul, and that too in the night, ch. Acts 16:9. However young men are not excluded from dreams, nor old men from visions.—ἐνυπνίοις) So most MSS., and so Alex. also in Joel. Others read ἘΝΎΠΝΙΑ, and no doubt very often the LXX. have ἘΝΎΠΝΙΟΝ ἘΝΥΠΝΙΆΖΕΣΘΑΙ: but in this passage, with equal appropriateness, or even with a larger (grander) signification, the expression used is, ἘΝΥΠΝΊΟΙς ἙΝΥΠΝΙΑΣΘΉΣΟΝΤΑΙ. A similar phrase occurs in Acts 2:30, ὍΡΚῼ ὬΜΟΣΕΝ.[12]—καί γε) and truly.—δούλους μου, My servants) Servants according to the flesh are meant, as distinguished from the children in Acts 2:17; but at the same time, these, servants of GOD.

[11] Flesh is frequently opposed to Spirit: and the partitive ἀπὸ with Gen. is opposed to the universal ἐπὶ πᾶσαν.—E. and T.

[12] Therefore the Gnomon, abandoning the judgment pronounced by the larger Ed., follows the margin of the 2d Ed., which awards the preference to the reading ἐνυπνίοις.—E. B.

Ἐνύπνια is the reading of E and Rec. Text: so de, Vulg. ‘somnia.’ Ἐννπνίοις is that of must of the oldest authorities, ABC, and D corrected.—E. and T.Verse 17. - Be for come to pass, A.V.; pour forth for pour out, A.V. In the last days. This does not agree with either the Hebrew or the LXX. in the existing texts, where we read merely afterwards (אַהְרֵי כֵן μετὰ ταῦτα The phrase, "in the last days," which occurs in Isaiah 2:2 and elsewhere, denotes the days of Messiah. St. Peter is perhaps expounding the passage as relating to the days of Messiah; or בְ אַחְֲרִית הַיָמִים may have been another reading. Saith God is no part of Joel's prophecy, but Peter's words. Your young men shall see visions, etc. The order of this and the following clause is inverted. In the Hebrew and LXX. the old men are mentioned first. All flesh

Without distinction of age, sex, or condition.

Visions (ὁράσεις)

Waking visions.

Dream dreams (ἐνύπνια ἐνυπνιασθήσονται)

The best texts read ἐνυπνίοις, with dreams. The verb occurs only here and Jde 1:8. The reference is to visions in sleep.

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