Acts 2:19
And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke:
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(19) And I will shew wonders in heaven above.—St. Peter quotes the words of terror that follow, apparently, for the sake of the promise with which they end in Acts 2:21. But as it was not given to him as yet to know the times and the seasons (Acts 1:7), it may well have been that he looked for the “great and notable day” as about to come in his own time. The imagery is drawn as from one of the great thunder-storms of Palestine. There is the lurid blood-red hue of clouds and sky; there are the fiery flashes, the columns or pillars of smoke-like clouds boiling from the abyss. These, in their turn, were probably thought of as symbols of bloodshed, and fire and smoke, such as are involved in the capture and destruction of a city like Jerusalem.

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.I will show wonders - Literally, "I will give signs" - δώσω τέρατα dōsō terata. The word in the Hebrew, מופתים mowpatiym, means properly "prodigies; wonderful occurrences; miracles performed by God or his messengers," Exodus 4:21; Exodus 7:3, Exodus 7:9; Exodus 11:9; Deuteronomy 4:34, etc. It is the common word to denote a miracle in the Old Testament. Here it means, however, a portentous appearance, a prodigy, a remarkable occurrence. It is commonly joined in the New Testament with the word "signs" - "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. Here it is used to mean 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." Peter has quoted it according to the sense, and not according to the letter. The Septuagint is here a literal translation of the Hebrew; and this is one of the instances where the New Testament writers did not quote from either.

Much of the difficulty of interpreting these verses consists in affixing the proper meaning to the expression "that great and notable day of the Lord." If it be limited to the day of Pentecost, it is certain that no such events occurred at that time. But there is, it is believed, no propriety in confining it to that time. The description here pertains to "the last days" Acts 2:17; that is, to the whole of that period of duration, 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 will manifest himself in a special manner; a day when he will so strikingly be seen in his wonders and his judgments that it may be called his day. Thus, it is applied to the day of judgment as the day of the Son of man; the day in which he will be the great attractive object, and will be signally glorified, Luke 17:24; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; Philippians 1:6; 2 Peter 3:12. If, as I suppose, "that notable day of the Lord" here refers to that future time when God will manifest himself in judgment, then we are not to suppose that Peter meant to say that these "wonders" would take place on the day of Pentecost, or had their fulfillment then, "but would occur under that indefinite period called "the last days," the days of the Messiah, and before that period Was closed by the great day of the Lord." The gift of tongues was a partial fulfillment of the general prophecy pertaining to those times. And as the prophecy was thus partially fulfilled, it was a pledge that it would be entirely; and thus there was laid a foundation for the necessity of repentance, and for calling on the Lord in order to be saved.

Blood - Blood is commonly used as an emblem of slaughter or of battle.

Fire - Fire is also an image of war, or the conflagration of towns and dwellings in time of war.

Vapour of smoke - The word "vapor," ἀτμίς atmis, means commonly an exhalation from the earth, etc., easily moved from one place to another. Here it means (Hebrew: Joel) rising columbus or pillars of smoke, and is another image of the calamities of war the smoke rising from burning towns. It has always been customary in war to burn the towns of an enemy, and to render him as helpless as possible. Hence, the calamities denoted here are those represented by such scenes. To what particular scenes there is reference here it is 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. See the notes on Matthew 24:21-24. Dr. Thomson (Land and the Book, vol. 2, p. 311) supposes that the reference in Joel may have been to the usual appearances of the sirocco, or that they may have suggested the image used here. He says: "We have two kinds of sirocco, one accompanied with vehement wind, which fills the air with dust and fine sand. I have often seen the whole heavens veiled in gloom with this sort of sandcloud, through which the sun, shorn of his beams, looked like a globe of dull smouldering fire. It may have been this phenomenon which suggested that strong prophetic figure of Joel, quoted by Peter on the day of Pentecost. Wonders in the heaven and in the earth; blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke; the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood. The pillars of smoke are probably those columns of sand and dust raised high in the air by local whirlwinds, which often accompany the sirocco. On the great desert of the Hauran I have seen a score of them marching with great rapidity over the plain, and they closely resemble 'pillars of smoke.'"

19. I will show wonders, &c.—referring to the signs which were to precede the destruction of Jerusalem (see on [1937]Lu 21:25-28). As St Peter had declared the promises unto such as would be drawn by the cords of love; so here, on the other side, he useth threatenings, and declares the terrors of the Lord, if so that they will be persuaded. These wonders were such as did precede the destruction of Jerusalem, or shall forerun the destruction of the whole world.

And I will show wonders in heaven above,.... The word above is not in Joel, nor in the Syriac version here, as neither the word "beneath", in the next clause. This may refer either to the appearance of angels, and of an extraordinary star at the birth of Christ; or rather to comets and blazing stars, and particularly to that comet which, in the form of a flaming sword, hung over Jerusalem, and the forms of armies in the heavens engaged together, which were seen before, and portended the destruction of that city (t):

and signs in the earth beneath; meaning either the miracles done by Christ, and his apostles, on earth; or those surprising events in Judea and in Jerusalem, a flame was seen in the temple, the doors of it opened of themselves, and a voice was heard in it, saying, let us go hence; and an idiot went about several years together, saying, woe to the people, woe to the city, &c,

blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: by blood is meant not the blood of Christ, either his bloody sweat in the garden, or what he shed on the cross, but the blood of the Jews, shed in war, and in internal seditions and murders: and by "fire" is designed not the Holy Ghost, who now appeared in cloven tongues, as of fire, but the conflagration of the city and temple of Jerusalem, and of many other towns and villages. And by "vapours of smoke"; or, as in the Hebrew text, "pillars of smoke", ascending in upright columns, like palm trees, are intended literally, the vast quantities of smoke that would arise from such burnings; so that the very heavens would be clouded and darkened with them, and sun and moon appear in the following form,

(t) Joseph. de Bello Jud. l. 6. c. 5. sect. 3.

And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke:
Acts 2:19-20. After this effusion of the Spirit I shall bring about (δώσω, as at Matthew 24:24) catastrophes in heaven and on earth (the latter are mentioned at once in Acts 2:19, the former in Acts 2:20) as immediate heralds of the Messianic day. Peter includes in his quotation this element of the prophecy, because its realization (Acts 2:16), conditioned by the outpouring of the Spirit which necessarily preceded it, presented itself likewise essentially as belonging to the allotted portion of the ἔσχαται ἡμέραι. The dreadful events could not but now—seeing that the effusion of the Spirit preceding them had already commenced—be conceived as inevitable and very imminent; and this circumstance could not but mightily contribute to the alarming of souls and their being won to Christ. As to τέρατα and σημεῖα, see on Matthew 24:24; Romans 15:19.

αἷμακαπνοῦ contains the σημεῖα ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, namely, bloodshed (war, revolt, murder) and conflagration. Similar devastations belonged, according to the later Jewish Christology also, to the dolores Messiae. See on Matthew 24:6-7. “Cum videris regna se invicem turbantia, tunc expectes vestigia Messiae;” Beresh. rabb. sec. 41. The reference to blood-rain, fiery meteors, and pillars of smoke arising from the earth (de Wette, comp. Kuinoel), is neither certainly in keeping with the original text of the prophecy, nor does it satisfy the analogy of Matthew 24

ἀτμίδα καπνοῦ] vapour of smoke (ἀτμίς, Plat. Tim. p. 87 E, yet in classical writers more usually ἀτμός, is the more general idea). Comp. on such combinations, Lobeck, Paral. p. 534.

Acts 2:20. Meaning: the sun will become dark, and the moon appear bloody. Comp. on Matthew 24:29; also Isaiah 13:10; Ezekiel 32:7.

πρὶν ἐλθεῖν] ere there shall have come. See Klotz, ad Devar. p. 728 f.

τὴν ἡμέραν κυρίου] i.e. according to the sense of the prophetic fulfilment of the words: the day of Christ, namely of His Parousia. Comp. on Romans 10:13. But this is not, with Grotius, Lightfoot, and Kuinoel, following the Fathers, to be considered as identical with the destruction of Jerusalem (which belongs to the σημεία of the Parousia, to the dolores Messiae). See on Matthew 24:29.

τὴν μεγάλην κ. ἐπιφανῆ] the great (κατʼ ἐξοχήν, fraught with decision, comp. Revelation 16:14) and manifest, i.e. which makes itself manifest before all the world as that which it is. Comp. the frequent use of ἐπιφάνεια for the Parousia (2 Thessalonians 2:8, al.). The Vulgate aptly renders: manifestus. Instead of ἐπιφανῆ, the Hebrew has הַנּו̇רָא, terribilis, which the LXX., deriving from ראה, has incorrectly translated by ἐπιφανῆ, as also elsewhere; see Biel and Schleusn. Thes. s.v. But on this account the literal signification of ἐπιφαν. need not be altered here, where the text follows the LXX.

Acts 2:19. The word σημεῖα is wanting in the Hebrew and the LXX, but the co-ordination of the two words τέρας and σημεῖον is frequent in the N.T. (John 4:48, Acts 4:30, Romans 15:19, 2 Corinthians 12:12), and even more so in the LXX (Exodus 7:3; Exodus 7:9, Deuteronomy 4:34, Nehemiah 9:10, Daniel 6:27), so also in Josephus, Philo, Plutarch, Polybius. For the distinction between the words in the N.T., see below on Acts 2:22. τέρας is often used of some startling portent, or of some strange appearance in the heavens, so here fitly used of the sun being turned into darkness, etc. But God’s τέρατα are always σημεῖα to those who have eyes to see, and significantly in the N.T. the former word is never found without the latter. It is no doubt true to say that St. Peter had already received a sign from heaven above in the ἦχος ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ, and a sign upon the earth below in the λαλεῖν ἑτέραις γλώσσαις (Nösgen), but the whole context, Acts 2:19-21, shows that St. Peter’s thoughts had passed from the day of Pentecost to a period of grace and warning which should precede the Parousia. No explanation, therefore, of the words which limits their fulfilment to the Pentecostal Feast (see Keil, in loco, and also his reference to the interpretation of the Rabbis) is satisfactory.—σημεῖα is probably introduced into the text to emphasise the antithesis, as also are ἄνω and κάτω.—αἷμα καὶ πῦρ: if we see in these words σημεῖα ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς κάτω, there is no need to refer them to such startling phenomena as rain of blood, or fiery meteors, or pillars of smoke rising from the earth (so De Wette, Overbeck), but rather to the bloodshed and devastation of war (so Holtzmann, Wendt, Felten); cf. our Lord’s words, Matthew 24:6; Matthew 24:29. Dean Plumptre thinks of the imagery as drawn from one of the great thunderstorms of Palestine, and cf. Weber, Jüdische Theologie, pp. 350, 351 (1897).

19. and I will shew wonders, &c.] By the figurative language of this verse the prophet teaches that even when the kingdom of Christ shall have come into the world, mighty troubles shall still prevail. Cp. Christ’s own words of like import (Matthew 24:21-30).

Acts 2:19. Τέρατα, prodigies [‘wonders’]) Judgments on the wicked accompany great revelations of grace: Numbers 14:20, etc. [Caleb and the unbelieving Israelites]; Jude Acts 2:5, “The Lord having saved the people out of—Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not:” and the sure and immediate recompense of the wicked admonishes men to receive the proffered grace. [There is a continued effusion of the Holy Spirit, though it be accomplished in different ways.—V. g.]—ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ, in the heaven) Concerning the prodigies in heaven, see Acts 2:20.—ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, upon the earth) Concerning the prodigies on the earth, there follows immediately the account in this verse, by Chiasmus. Such signs were exhibited before the passion of Christ, which are mentioned in Acts 2:22 : but they are so described as that there are included with them those signs which were shown at the actual time of His passion and resurrection, as also at the destruction of Jerusalem; but especially those signs which shall precede the last day: Matthew 24:29, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light,” etc. Prophecy, however remote from the last times, comprises all things summarily and in one comprehensive glance. So altogether (evidently) the clause of Malachi (with which comp. Matthew 11:13-14, note; Acts 17:11-12, note) looks directly to the coming of John the Baptist, and the mention of the terrible day of the Lord, the last day, is incidentally subjoined and connected with that clause.—αἷμα, blood) slaughter and wars.—πῦρ, fire) Conflagrations.—ἀτμίδα καπνοῦ, vapour of smoke) Thick smoke ends in a subtle vapour.

Verse 19. - The heaven for heaven, A.V.; on for in, A.V. I will show (δώσω, as in Matthew 24:24). This follows the Hebrew and the Codex Alexandrinus. The Vatican Codex has, They will show or give (δώσωσι). In the heavens above... on the earth beneath. Above and beneath are not in the Hebrew or the LXX. With these exceptions, the text of the LXX. is followed. Acts 2:19I will shew (δώσω)

Lit., I will give.

Wonders (τέρατα)

Or portents. See on Matthew 11:20.


See on Matthew 11:20.

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