WAS JOEL’S PROPHECY FULFILLED AT ACTS 2?
Many believe that Joel’s prophecy as recorded in chapter two was “partially fulfilled at Pentecost. This paper concerns primarily that question. We will discuss the following topics in our search for the truth:
A Look At The Old Testament Teachings Of The Feast Of Weeks, i.e. Pentecost
A Comparison of Joel’s Prophecy With The Events Of Acts 2
A Look At Joel’s Prophecy
The Promise Of The Holy Spirit
Some Intermediate Conclusions
What Does The Feast Of Weeks Typify?
A Look At The Old Testament Teachings Of The Feast Of Weeks, I.E. Pentecost
Lev. 23:15-21, “And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the Sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven Sabbaths shall be complete: Even unto the morrow after the seventh Sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the Lord. Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth meals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the Lord. And ye shall offer with the bread seven lambs without blemish of the first year, and one bullock, and two rams: they shall be for a burnt offering unto the Lord, with their meat offering, and their drink offerings, even an offering made by fire, of sweet savour unto the Lord. Then ye shall sacrifice one kid of the goats for a sin offering and two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace offerings. And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits for a wave offering before the Lord, with the two lambs: they shall be holy to the Lord for the priest. And ye shall proclaim on the selfsame day, that it may be an holy convocation unto you: ye shall do not servile work therein; it shall be a statute for ever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.”.
What we have learned from this passage, which is the most comprehensive passage in the Bible about the feast of weeks, is that 1) it is fifty days from the feast of firstfruits, 2) sacrifices are to be offered, and 3) there is to be a holy convocation.
A Comparison of Joel’s Prophecy With The Events Of Acts 2
We will begin the comparison of Joel’s prophecy with the events of Acts 2 by examining just what the events were that occurred at the convocation as recorded in Acts 2 to celebrate the feast of weeks.
Acts 2:1-4, “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting and there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the holy ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance”.
I think it would be helpful to list these events in order to felicitate a comparison with Joel 2.
1) “a rushing mighty wind”
2) “cloven tongues, like as of fire”
3) “filled with the holy ghost”
4) “began to speak in other tongues”
Now let us examine the prophecy of Joel which Peter quoted that day.
Acts 2:17-18 is a record of Peter quoting the prophecy from Joel 2 that is said by many to have been “partially fulfilled” at the celebration of the feast of weeks. “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 on My servants and on My handmaidens I will pour out in those days of My spirit and they shall prophecy‘”.
Below is the list of things prophesied in the passage quoted from Joel.
1) “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh”
2) “Your sons and daughters will prophesy”
3) “your young men will see visions”
4) “your old men shall dream dreams”
5) “My servants and on My handmaidens I will pour out in those days of My spirit and they shall prophecy“.
Even the most cursory comparison of the events of Acts 2 with the prophecy of Joel 2 will reveal that there is only one thing in common, i.e. the spirit of the Lord was poured out. But, as we look in the Old and New Testaments, we shall see that even that is not really a commonality. I say that because the Bible makes it clear that the holy spirit was poured out on individuals for a very specific purpose. So, when we read, for example that Samson was filled with the spirit in order to defend himself from an attacking lion, it is not the same as when Bezalel was filled with the spirit to make artistic designs for the tent of meetings. But let us look at just some of the occurrences of when individuals were filled with the holy spirit to prove the point from Scripture.
Exodus 31:3, “and I have filled him (Bezalel) with the Spirit of God, with the skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts- to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze.”
Numbers 11:17, “I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit that is on you and put the Spirit on them. They will help you carry the burden of the people so that you will not have to carry it alone”.
Judges 3:10, “The Spirit of the Lord came upon him so he became a judge of Israel and went to war“.
Judges 11:29, “Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah. He crossed Gilead ….he advanced against the Ammonites”.
Judges 14:6, “The Spirit of the Lord came upon him with power so that he tore the lion apart with his bare hands”.
Judges 15:14,”…. The Spirit of the Lord come upon him in power. The ropes on his arms became like charred flax and the bindings dropped from his hands”.
I Sam. 11:6, “When Saul heard their words the Spirit of God came upon him and he burned with anger“. This verse also shows that the spirit enabled Saul to accomplish God’s will. In this case it was to save His people, Israel from being disgraced.
II Chron.20:14, “Then the Spirit of God came upon Jahaziel …. . He said … .” This is an example of the many, many times where the spirit of God came upon an individual giving him the power to prophesy.
The New Testament is no different. That is to say, in the New Testament when one is filled with the holy spirit, it is also for the purpose of completing a specific work that God has for him or her. Let us consider a few events recorded in the New Testament of one being filled with the holy spirit.
Luke 1:67, “His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied“.
Acts 2:4, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them”.
Acts 4:8, “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit said,…”.
The point I am trying to make in presenting these passages is that, just as we cannot say that the empowering of Samson, who fought a lion, was the same as the empowering of Jephthah, who led Israel to war, so too we cannot say that the empowering by the Holy Spirit to speak in tongues (Acts 2) is the same as the empowering to dream dreams and see visions (Joel 2). Therefore, we are left to conclude that the prophecy of Joel 2 had absolutely nothing in common with the events of Acts 2. That being the case, I see no reason to conclude that Joel 2 was “partially fulfilled” at Acts 2.
But some might object that Peter began his quote of Joel 2 by saying, “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel”. How can we account for that statement considering that it was certainly not what had been prophesied in Joel 2? E.W. Bullinger, in his Appendix number183 in the Companion Bible has written the following: “The word ‘this’ is emphatic and the word ‘But’, with which Peter’s argument begins, sets what follows in contrast”. Dr. Bullinger goes on in the next paragraph to suggest: “He (Peter) does not say ‘then was fulfilled’, nor ‘as it is written’, but merely calls attention to what the prophet said of similar scenes yet future”. Dr. Bullinger suggests that Peter was saying in effect “that the same kind of thing as what Joel speaks of is happening now“.
In other words, the reason Peter quoted Joel was not because Joel’s prophecy was then being fulfilled or even “partially fulfilled”. The reason was to say that these men are not drunk and the men of Israel should know that because the same kind of things are spoken of by Joel.
But let us go to the next section of this paper for further evidence of the veracity of this suggestion.
A LOOK AT JOEL’S PROPHECY
When Peter quoted Joel chapter 2, he began with the words, “And it shall come to pass in the last days“. Joel was a bit more specific. In Joel 2:28, which is the beginning of the prophecy Peter quoted, we read, “And afterward I will pour out my spirit….”. Peter’s phrase, “the last days” is correct, of course. But Joel is more specific as to when in the last days they might see the things quoted, i.e. dreams and visions. Let us therefore, examine Joel two to see if we might learn more about when to expect these signs.
Joel 2:1 begins with a prophecy concerning the “day of the Lord”. “…….for the day of the Lord cometh, it is nigh at hand”. The prophecy concerning the day of the Lord continues through verse 11, But with verse 12 there is a break in the prophecy about the day of the Lord, and we read in verse 12, “Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye even to Me, with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping and with mourning”. This plea for repentance continues through verse 17. In verses 18-27 we read what will be the consequence of Israel’s repentance. We read in verse 26, “….never again will My people be ashamed”. This tells us that these verses speak of the millennium.
To recap what has been presented thus far: verses 1-11 are about the day of the Lord. Verses 12 through 17 are a plea to Israel to repent. Verses 18 through 27 speak of the millennium.
We come now to verse 28 which begins the passage that Peter quotes in Acts 2. “And afterward“. After what? Certainly not after the millennium which is the subject of the preceding 10 verses. We must go all the way back to verse 11 in order to determine the “afterward” of verse 28. Verse 11 speaks of the day of the Lord. So then, after the day of the Lord, the signs of which Joel writes will be seen.
So the signs of which Joel writes are to be seen after the day of the Lord. Therefore, when Peter quoted this passage it could not possibly have been fulfilled that day in Acts 2, because that day was obviously not after the day of the Lord.
To make this point more clearly: The signs of which Joel writes are to be seen after the day of the Lord. When Peter quoted Joel the day of the Lord had not yet occurred. Therefore, Acts 2 can not be the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy.
Some might object that the interpretation given above jumps from one time period to another. But this is often done in prophetic passages. Consider for example Ezek. chapters 38 and 39. From 38:1 through 39:8 is a post millennial prophecy (note for example 38:11which speaks of attacking “unwalled villages”). From 39:9 through verse 16 is a millennial prophecy (note for example verse 12 which speaks of cleansing the land after the battle fought at Christ’s return). Verses 17-20 is a pre-millennial prophecy (note for example verses 18-19 which speak of the battle of Christ’s return) . And from verse 21 to verse 29 is a millennial prophecy (note for example verse 25 which speaks of God bringing Israel into the Land).
Zech. 14 is another excellent example of how prophecy often skips from one period to another and back again. In the space of eight verses (1-8) it goes back and forth from the day of the Lord to the tribulation, to the second coming of Christ, back to the tribulation, and then the second coming, and then the day of the Lord and then finally to the millennium.
The point of this section is that Joel 2, like many other prophecies, is not written in strict chronological order. And the “afterward” of verse 28 refers to after the day of the Lord. That being the case, Peter could not possibly have meant that Joel’s prophecy was being fulfilled, or even partially fulfilled, because the first part of it will be fulfilled after the day of the Lord.
The Promise Of The Holy Spirit
In Acts 2:33 we read, “Therefore, being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear“. Surely the phrase “this which ye now see and hear” refers to the speaking in tongues. This tells us that the speaking in tongues was a fulfillment of the promise of the holy ghost.
We read of this promise in Luke 24:49, “And behold, I send the promise of My Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high“. I believe that it is clear that this promise was fulfilled at Acts 2. The question is then: were the events of Acts 2 a fulfillment of this promise and the partial fulfillment of Joel? Or was it a fulfillment of the promise only?
In my opinion, the events of Acts 2 cannot be the fulfillment of both the promise of Luke 24 and the prophecy of Joel. Why? Because the prophecy of Joel specifically says that “I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh“. And we are specifically told that “all flesh” includes “young women”. But Acts 2:5 tells us who was there in Jerusalem to receive this out-pouring. “And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devote men, out of every nation”. To fully understand who was there we should go back to the Old Testament where we read in Deut. 16:16, “Three times a year shall all the males appear before the Lord….”. There are times, of course when we can assume that women were present at a given event in spite of the fact that they may not have been mentioned. But this is not one of them. We are specifically told that men were to gather at Jerusalem for the feast of weeks. And we are specifically told that there were men who were filled with the holy spirit.
One might argue that Joel’s prophecy was only partially fulfilled and that is why women were not also filled with the holy spirit. But prophecies were given in order to prove that the fulfillment of an event was of the Lord. There is no prophecy in the entire Bible that was “partially fulfilled”. Therefore, the view that Joel 2 was fulfilled only partially, is without Scriptural basis.
Some Intermediate Conclusions
What I have tried to show in the sections above is that there are no similarities between the events of Acts 2 and the prophecy of Joel 2. That being the case, I find it curious that so many have concluded that Joel’s prophecy was fulfilled at that time.
Because there are no similarities between the prophecy and the actual events, the phrase, “this is that” cannot possibly have meant that Joel’s prophecy was being fulfilled. Given the context of those speaking in tongues being accused of drunkenness, and the fact that Peter begins his discourse with “But”, I believe that Peter’s reason for quoting Joel was to point out that Joel speaks of the same kind of thing as was happening, which proved that these men were indeed not drunk, but filled with the holy spirit.
Also, given that Joel 2 will be fulfilled after the day of the Lord, and that the day of the Lord had certainly not come by the time Peter quoted Joel, there is no Scriptural evidence that Acts 2 was a fulfillment of Joel two. In fact, to say that Joel 2 was fulfilled at Acts 2 contradicts the scriptures that tells us when it will be fulfilled, i.e. after the day of the Lord.
What was fulfilled at Acts 2 was the promise of the holy spirit given by Christ in Luke 24. But that promise and the prophecy of Joel 2 are different enough, that one cannot be included with the other.
WHAT DOES THE FEAST OF WEEKS A TYPE?
Let us go back to Lev. 23 to see if we may glean something from that chapter as to what the feast of weeks typifies.
Lev. 23:15:22 explains the feast of weeks, the fifth feast, called in the New Testament Greek, “Pentecost”. There are two things of significance to note in the explanation of this feast. 1) The feast of weeks is the only feast that is counted off from the previous feast day (see verse 15). In my opinion that connects the feast of weeks to the preceding feast, i.e. the feast of first fruits.2) the two wave loaves were to be baked with leaven (verse 17). This is very significant because leaven represents sin and it is one of the very few offerings to the Lord that were to be baked with leaven.
“From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks.” (Lev. 23:15). This verse connects the feast of firstfruits to the feast of weeks. That being the case, let us consider briefly what the feast of firstfruits typifies. We read in I Cor. 15, :20, But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep“. I believe that we may conclude with some degree of confidence, that the feast of firstfruits typifies the resurrection of Christ. (For the Scriptural evidence of what the feasts typify, please see the paper on this web-site The Eight Feasts Of The Mosaic Law And What They Typify.)
Now we must ask ourselves, what is the most obvious thing that is typified by the feast of weeks? If the feast of firstfruits typifies the resurrection of Christ, and the feast of weeks is connected to it, it seems to me that the most obvious conclusion is that the feast of weeks typifies the resurrection of believers. Let us consider that possibility.
The feast of firstfruits is a celebration of the firstfruits of the harvest, “……bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain of your harvest” (Lev. 23:10). . The feast of weeks is connected to the feast of firstfruits by the fact that it is counted from that feast, and also from the fact that for both feasts, they were to bring “two loaves……as a wave offering of first fruits” (Lev. 23:17).
There is one more consideration. For the feast of firstfruits they were to bring two loaves, but we are not told that they were to have yeast. But for the feast of weeks, they were specifically told that the loaves were to be baked with yeast, “…..bring two loaves baked with yeast….” (verse 17). Yeast, of course is often used in the Bible as a symbol for unrighteousness. If it is correct that the feast of firstfruits typifies the resurrection of Christ, and I believe it is, that offering would have no symbol of unrighteousness in it. And if it were also correct that the feast of weeks typifies the resurrection of believers, and I believe it is, the symbol of unrighteousness (yeast) would represent the resurrection of sinful man, who will put on incorruption at the resurrection.
Many will object that because there was no resurrection at Acts 2 the feast of weeks could not typify the resurrection of believers. But that objection comes from the assumption that the Pentecost of Acts 2 was a fulfillment of what the feast typifies. We are so used to hearing arguments of what Pentecost fulfilled that it seems inconceivable to most that the Pentecost of Acts2 fulfilled only (as if that was insufficient) the promise of Christ given in Luke 23.
As discussed above, I do not believe there is any Scriptural evidence to suggest that Acts 2 was a fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. What did happen at Acts 2? Men were filled with the holy spirit and spoke in tongues. That was never a matter of prophecy. Certainly the feasts said nothing of speaking in tongues, or of being filled with the holy spirit. There is nothing in Scripture that points to Acts 2 as a fulfillment of anything in prophecy or type.
Joel’s prophecy had nothing in common with the events of Acts 2, except that in both, men were filled with the holy spirit. But the signs of that filling were totally different and therefore even that similarity is nullified.
Acts 2 was the fulfillment of the promise our Lord made in Luke 24. That is clear because Peter says exactly that in Acts 2:33.
Pentecost does, in no way, typify the events of Acts 2. That is to say, there is nothing in the feast of weeks that has anything to do with the filling of the holy spirit.
For further evidence that the feast of Pentecost typifies the resurrection of man please see the paper on this web-site The Eight Feasts Of The Mosaic Law And What They Typify
This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. If you would like to respond to the thoughts expressed in this paper you may write to: email@example.com