The Significance of The Outpouring of The New Testament
Don K. Preston
“This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel…”
John the Immerser came preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has drawn near”, and then immediately promised that the coming one “will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Matthew 3:2-11). Much of the time, in commentaries the focus of discussion is on John’s declaration of the imminence of the kingdom. Our dispensational friends admit that John and Jesus did indeed offer the Davidic kingdom to Israel, but due to Israel’s unbelief that kingdom offer was withdrawn until sometime in the distant, from them, future. However, what is too often ignored is that the offer of the kingdom was given in conjunction with the promise of the Holy Spirit. This promise is ever bit as eschatological as the promise of the kingdom. Furthermore, John’s promise that the Spirit would be poured out by Messiah was fulfilled! This has incredible eschatological implications for then, and for now. We want to establish several key points.
☛There was in Israel of the first century the acknowledgment that the gift of prophecy, the presence of the Holy Spirit, had ceased in Israel.
It is a well documented fact that the Jews believed that the prophetic office had ceased to exist with the prophet Malachi. Sommer effectively shows that while some scholars have denied this, the evidence is conclusively against them. The prophetic office was believed to have ceased in Israel. D. S. Russell says the Jews believed that the spirit of prophecy had ceased during the inter-testamental period. Ladd, likewise adds that Israel had a sense that the Spirit had departed after Malachi. There were no prophets from that time. Even Aune, who claims that there was a belief that the Spirit was somehow present at times for interpretation of the scriptures, nonetheless admits that the Rabbis believed that, “when the last prophets died,–(Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi)–the holy spirit ceased in Israel”
So, the evidence is that the Jews believed that the Spirit had withdrawn from Israel, and we might add, first of all from Israel (Hosea 5), and then from Judah from Malachi onward.
☛ While the Jews believed that the prophetic Spirit had ceased, there was the belief that the Spirit was to be poured out again, the prophetic office would be revived in Israel’s last days. Beginning with Moses (Deuteronomy 18) there was the promise that another great prophet would arise in Israel. Deuteronomy 18 is no help in determining when that prophet would arise however, and in actuality, gives no indication of the cessation of the prophetic office prior to the arrival of that greater prophet. It is in the prophetic books that we find not only the promise of the return of the prophetic office, but, we likewise find the final cessation of the prophetic office. I am currently working on a book detailing this latter reality, but, for the purpose of this article, I want to focus on the significance of the outpouring of the Spirit and the prophetic office in the first century. But now, let’s take a look at some of the more significant prophecies of the last days out pouring of the Spirit.
Isaiah 11– This Messianic text predicted that the branch of the root of Jesse would possess the Spirit. While this may not seem all that significant, in light of the fact that the Spirit would abandon Israel and then return in the last days, with a revival of the prophetic office, it shows that Jesus was to be the prophet par excellence, for the Father would give the Spirit without measure to him (John 3:34)!
Isaiah 32:14-17– “Because the palaces will be forsaken, The bustling city will be deserted. The forts and towers will become lairs forever, A joy of wild donkeys, a pasture of flocks Until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, And the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, And the fruitful field is counted as a forest. Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, And righteousness remain in the fruitful field. The work of righteousness will be peace, And the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.”
This passage is one of the more ignored texts when it comes to the promise of the Spirit, and the establishment of the kingdom. Note that there would be “desolation” until the outpouring of the Spirit. When the Spirit was poured out, the Messianic King who would “reign in righteousness”and peace (cf. 1f).
Micah 7:15— Written during the eighth century B. C.. Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah and Hosea. Like those prophets, he foretold the departure of YHVH from the nation, “He will give them up until the time that she who is in labor has given birth” (Micah 5:3). At the anticipated time of the “birth” the Lord promised, “As in the days when you came out of the land of Egypt, I will show marvelous things” (Micah 7:15) Note a couple of things.
The result of the “birth” here is the Messiah (Micah 5:2), and his New Creation. According to Isaiah 66 this is the time when the Lord would no longer dwell in temples made with hands.
The prophet says that in that day, the Lord would once again perform marvelous works, as He had when He delivered Israel from Egypt. This is the concept of the Second Exodus (Cf. Isaiah 11:10f), and this concept permeates the New Testament gospels and epistles.
Significantly, Israel was “born” by water and the Spirit when the Lord delivered them from Egypt (Isaiah 63:10f), and now, the Lord promises another time of birth, when He would pour out His Spirit once again. This language is incredibly pregnant (pun intended), with significance but we cannot develop these concepts in depth here.
Ezekiel 37:12-14– “Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken it and performed it, says the LORD.’”
This incredibly significant text promised that YHWH would pour out the Spirit. The out pouring of the Spirit would result in raising Israel from the dead, out of her graves! At the time of this resurrection, they would serve their Messiah under a New Covenant, with YHWH’s presence among them in the Messianic Temple.
Joel 2:28-32– “And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. And I will show 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 coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, As the LORD has said, Among the remnant whom the LORD calls.”
Needless to say, this is considered by many to be the foundational text for the promise of the out pouring of the Spirit in the last days to establish the Messianic kingdom and bring salvation.
The out pouring of the Spirit would occur in the last days.
When the Spirit was given, just as Micah promised, He would manifest marvelous works.
Those miracles would be a sign of the impending Day of the Lord.
As a result of the out pouring of the Spirit, the remnant would be saved.
As a result of the out pouring of the Spirit, and the salvation of the remnant, salvation would be offered to all men, “Whosoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Daniel 9:24– “Seventy weeks are determined For your people and for your holy city, To finish the transgression, To make an end of sins, To make reconciliation for iniquity, To bring in everlasting righteousness, To seal up vision and prophecy, And to anoint the Most Holy.”
This great prophecy does not contain an explicit promise of the out pouring of the Spirit, in fact, it foretold the consummative cessation of prophecy and the prophetic office. However, implicit in that promise is that the prophetic office would be revived. The revival of the prophetic office would be confined to the seventy week period, and finished at the time of the full end, the time of the overwhelming flood of the destruction of the “people and the holy city.”
While there are other Old Covenant promises of the last days out pouring of the Spirit, we want to focus on these particular ones, and see how they relate to what the New Testament has to say– if anything, about their fulfillment. And the fact is that the New Testament clearly contains the belief that the O.T. promises of the out pouring of the Spirit in the last days was present, and that God’s work of salvation was fully underway, awaiting its imminent consummation.
Here is a summary of what we have seen:
The Spirit had departed from Israel, and then Judah.
The Old Covenant prophets foretold that in Israel’s last days, the Spirit would once again be given. The prophetic office would be revived. The Spirit would raise Israel from the dead, bring in the New Covenant, and establish the Davidic kingdom.
When the work of the Spirit was accomplished, the prophetic office would cease, once again. This time, not due to sin, but because His work was perfected.
Behold, I Send Elijah Before My Face
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. 6 And he will turn The hearts of the fathers to the children, And the hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” (Malachi 4:5-6)
We do not know if the people of Israel knew that no other prophet would appear after Malachi until the last days and the time of the birth of Messiah. However, the prediction that Elijah would come before the Great Day of the Lord had to be, in and of itself, both an exciting and frightening thing to contemplate. The appearance of Elijah would mean that the time of restoration had arrived, but of course, it meant that the awesome Day of the Lord was near as well.
While we do not know if Israel knew that Malachi was to be the last prophet to appear until the coming of Elijah, what we do know is that following Malachi the knowledge that no other prophets did appear became dominant. Thus, there came to be the sense of anticipation, the expectation that one day YHVH would once again send His prophets, and, He would send Elijah to usher in the last days and the glorious kingdom! In the meantime, Israel was waiting, wondering, longing,
The rabbis knew that Daniel had foretold the establishment of the kingdom during the days of the “fourth kingdom” (Daniel 2; 7), and that the critical seventy week countdown of Daniel 9 would therefore consummate within the confines of that fourth empire. They knew that Jerusalem had been rebuilt as Daniel 9 foretold, and they knew they were in the days of the fourth empire. Thus, it is in the context of the “fulness of time” that there was a strong sense of expectation among the people. They knew that they were living at the critical time foretold by the prophets. But, where were the prophets? Where was the prophet like unto Moses? Where was Elijah? Where was Messiah? Then, along came John!
THE APPEARANCE OF JOHN THE BAPTIST
Volumes could, and should, be written about the importance of John. The angel informed Zechariah, John’s father, “For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. (Luke 1:15). Nothing could have been more exciting for John’s parents to hear! In their son, the Spirit was to return to Israel!
John was, according to Jesus, the promised Elijah who was to come (Matthew 11:14; 17:10f). Lamentably, the modern millennialists are in open denial of Jesus’ affirmation of John as Elijah, because if it be admitted for one moment that John was the fulfillment of the promise of Elijah, then the millennial paradigm is falsified.
But, in regard to John, the Spirit, and the prophetic office, notice what Jesus said: “But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written: ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.’ Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. …. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come.” (Matthew 11:9-14). Mark says, “for all men counted John, that he was a prophet indeed.” (Mark 11:32).
Certain facts emerge from these texts..
First, John was a prophet.
Second, since the prophetic office was absent before John, but was to be revived in the last days, this suggests that the last days began with the appearance of John.
Third, the long absence of the Spirit from Israel had ended! While the outpouring of the Spirit promised by Joel had not yet occurred, nonetheless, the presence of the Spirit was now revived in the prophetic office. And, John promised that Joel’s promise was about to be fulfilled (Matthew 3:11).
Fourth, seventy weeks were determined to seal vision and prophecy. This means that the appearance of the prophetic office was limited in duration.
Since the prophetic office was revived in John as Elijah, in the last days, it meant that the Great Day of the Lord was near!
What excitement there must have been in Judea as the news spread that a prophet, a great prophet, had appeared! It is no surprise that the leaders in Jerusalem sent an ambassage to John asking, “Are you Elijah? Are you the prophet? Are you the one we look for?” (Matthew 11:2f; John 1:21f). John’s appearance was an undeniable sign that the kingdom and the Day of the Lord was near.
And so, John, prophetic herald of the end, proclaimed, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has drawn near.” (Matthew 3:2). Just as Malachi had predicted that Elijah would do, John sought to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and turn Israel to faithfulness, before the coming of the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord: “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:11f). What powerful, significant words John uttered! The one coming after him, indeed, the one already present among them, would pour out the Spirit as promised by the prophets of Old. We fast forward now to Acts 1.
ACTS 1, THE SPIRIT, THE KINGDOM
After Jesus’ resurrection he spent 40 days instructing his disciples in the nature of the kingdom. Three times were are told that he opened their eyes to understand the scriptures (Luke 24: 27, 32,45). The fact that Jesus miraculously opened their eyes to understand the scriptures as he expounded to them about the kingdom (Acts 1:4), effectively falsifies the all to common view among both amillennialists and postmillennialists that the disciples were still confused about the nature of the kingdom when they asked “will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel.” If the disciples still did not “get it” after having Jesus miraculously open their eyes, and instruct them for 40 days, perhaps it was time for him to get some new disciples! It was in full view of that miraculous enlightenment and instruction that the disciples asked about the restoration of the kingdom!
Notice that Jesus did not, as many commentators say, rebuke the disciples. In fact, he actually gave them a strong answer to their question: “It is not for you to know the times or the season that the Father has put in his own authority. But, you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:7f). Luke tells us that on this same occasion, he also told them, “Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). Please follow.
• It was the Spirit, in the last days, that would raise Israel from the dead.
• It was the Spirit that would bring in the New Covenant.
• It is the Spirit that would empower and anoint the Messiah.
• It is the Spirit that would bring in the kingdom, leading to salvation for the nations.
• It is the Spirit that would anoint the New Covenant Temple.
• It is the Spirit that would empower God’s people, miraculously, in the last days.
In other words, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit would be proof positive that the last days had arrived, that God was fulfilling His promises to Israel, that all of her promises were about to be realized!
In light of all of the above, when Jesus told the disciples, in direct response to their question about the restoration of the kingdom, that they were about to receive the promised gift of the Holy Spirit, just exactly how would this indicate that God’s plans had failed, that the kingdom had been postponed, and that Israel had to wait who knows how long to receive her promises? The promise that the Spirit was about to be poured out was a definitive declaration of the nearness of the kingdom! After all, if you are told to go into the city and wait until you receive the Spirit, in fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel, isn’t that a pretty positive declaration that fulfillment was to occur in your generation?
The disciples went into the city. There, they wait. But, they don’t wait long: “ When the Day of Pentecost had 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 the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:1-4).
So, John, as Elijah, symbol of the revived prophetic office, said Messiah would pour out the Spirit. Jesus, who came to confirm the promises made to the fathers (Romans 15:8), promised the disciples that they would receive the promised Spirit in Jerusalem. The disciples went to Jerusalem and there, the promised last days outpouring of the Spirit to raise Israel from the dead, was poured out on them!
Lamentably, many in that audience, like so many today, failed to initially recognize the incredible significance of those events. They even accused the apostles of being drunk. However, “Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy. I will show wonders in heaven above And signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved.”
One can hardly over-emphasize the importance of Peter’s inspired declaration: “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel…” Lamentably, our dispensational friends seek to discount what Peter said.
In a radio debate with dispensationalist Thomas Ice, I quoted from a book he co-authored. On page 137, it says that Joel 2, “was partially fulfilled on the day of Pentecost.” When I gave that quote, Ice vehemently claimed that I had grossly misrepresented him and dispensationalism. I told the audience, and Thomas Ice, that I did not misquote nor misrepresent the book. Ice called me later demanding the citation. I gave it, and he had to admit that my citation was correct. He then stated that he did not believe what the book said. He does not believe that Joel was even partially fulfilled on Pentecost.
Ice claims that his position is that of Arnold Fruchtenbaum, who says, “Virtually nothing that happened on Pentecost was predicted in Joel 2.” I have repeatedly stated that the millennial view demands that what Peter actually meant was, “this is not that,” or, this is like what Joel said,” or,“this is nothing that Joel said,” or something similar. But, Ice continues to say that this is a misrepresentation the millennial view. So, in an email exchange in July, 2005, I asked Thomas Ice to clarify for me what he truly believes about Acts 2. I asked: “Did Peter mean 1.) ‘This is that’; 2.) Did he mean ‘this is like that’; 3.) Did he mean,‘This is not that.?” I asked Mr. Ice to please give me a specific, clear cut answer. He refused. He has likewise refused to debate me again, although repeated invitations have been extended to him.
The bottom line is that you cannot make Peter’s words to mean, “ this is not that” or, “this is something like that,” or, “Virtually nothing here is that which was spoken by the prophet,” without distorting and perverting Peter’s words. “This is that” does not mean, “This is not that!”
Furthermore, it is undeniable that the Spirit was being poured out that day.
It is undeniable that Peter cited one of the fundamental prophecies of the outpouring of the Spirit for the establishing of the kingdom, and said, “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel.”
It is undeniable that if, as millennialism claims, the kingdom had been postponed then the outpouring of the Spirit should likewise have been postponed!
Yet, keep in mind that in Luke 24 and in Acts 1, the promise of the Holy Spirit was made in direct response to the question about the restoration of the kingdom! Why didn’t Jesus tell the disciples that the kingdom could not now be restored, but instead the Spirit would be given to establish the church? It is because Jesus knew the prophets had foretold that the outpouring of the Spirit was an essential element for the establishment of the kingdom. The events of Pentecost were not part of “Plan B” in light of a postponed kingdom, a postponed outpouring of the Spirit. Peter’s declaration: “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel” is irrefutable proof that God’s plan was right on schedule. The presence of the Spirit on Pentecost, with the restoration of the prophetic office, is prime facie proof of the presence of Israel’s last days, of the establishment of the kingdom, the imminent consummation of Daniel 9, the restoration of Israel, and the climax of her covenantal aeon. Let me illustrate and drive this point home by calling attention to Psalms 110.
Sit At My Right Hand…
Not only did Peter say, “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel,” he likewise affirmed “David is not ascended into the heavens, but he says himself, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.’” (Acts 2:34-35). Let me take note of a few critical facts:
1.) Dispensationalism claims that the church was not predicted anywhere in the Old Testament.
2.) While Christ came to establish the Davidic kingdom, due to the Jewish unbelief the kingdom was postponed.
3.) Thus, the events of Pentecost have nothing whatsoever to do with the establishment of the Davidic kingdom. This demands, whether the millennialists agree or not, that nothing on Pentecost can be seen as the fulfillment of God’s Old Covenant promises made to Israel. See Fruchtenbaum’s assertion above again. After all, God’s dealings with Israel were ostensibly suspended, and He then established the church, the unseen, un-predicted mystery. Yet, this flies in the face of what the millennialists believe about Psalms 110:1.
Here is something astounding, dispensationalists are virtually unanimously agreed– and you must catch the power of this– that Pentecost was in fact the fulfillment of Psalms 110:1! Ice and Demy say, “At the present time he is in heaven awaiting his time of triumph over his enemies (Psalms 110:1,2)” In fact, I have yet to find a millennial writer that denies that Psalms 110, at least v. 1, was fulfilled on Pentecost!
To be brief, here is what this means:
1.) Peter patently affirms the fulfillment of Psalms 110:1 in Christ’s ascension and the events of Pentecost.
2.) Since Psalms 110 was a promise made to Old Covenant Israel. It is therefore clearly wrong to affirm that God’s Old Covenant promises to Israel– her prophetic countdown– was suspended at the Cross.
3.) Since the events of Pentecost– i.e. the establishment of the church– were foretold by Psalms 110:1, it therefore follows as prima facie proof that the church was indeed predicted in the O. T.. This falsifies one of the foundational pillars of dispensationalism! You cannot affirm that the establishment of the church on Pentecost was in fulfillment of Psalms 110, and then say that the church was not foretold by the Old Covenant prophets.
4.) If the events of Christ’s ascension and Pentecost were the fulfillment of Psalms 110:1, then it is irrefutably true that God’s prophetic schema was not, in any way whatsoever, postponed, delayed, or in any other manner off schedule! God’s kingdom plan was not delayed. The seventy weeks were not interrupted!
You cannot affirm that God’s prophetic plan had been postponed, and yet affirm that Pentecost was the fulfillment of Psalms 110. To say that Pentecost was the fulfillment of Psalms is to affirm that God’s plan was proceeding precisely as it was predicted to do!
In sum, the admission that Pentecost was the fulfillment of Psalms 110 is fatal to the millennial paradigm.
Since Pentecost was, by the millennial admission, the fulfillment of Psalms 110, then consider that Peter’s statement: “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel” must likewise carry the force of fulfillment. After all, “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel” is, verbally, grammatically, and in every way, every bit as graphic, specific and emphatic as Peter’s statement that Christ had ascended on high. Peter did not say, “This is that which was spoken by the prophet David.” Yet, our millennial friends admit that this is what is meant. How then can we say that his emphatic declaration, “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel,” is supposed to mean that, “virtually nothing that happened on Pentecost was foretold by Joel”?
Peter said that as a result of the outpouring of the Spirit, the audience was to know that Joel was being fulfilled, that Psalms was being fulfilled. And all of this meant that the consummative time anticipated by the prophets had arrived.
Old Testament Israel- New Testament Gospel
One of the most crucial points to consider in seeking to understand Acts and the references to the work of the Spirit in the epistles is that all of the New Testament writers affirm in the most emphatic terms that the gospel message that they proclaimed was nothing but the hope of Israel, the message foretold by the Old Covenant prophets. For brevity, we will focus only on Peter, however.
☛ The Source of Peter’s Gospel and Eschatology
“Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, 20 and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, 21 whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. 22 For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ 24 Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days.” (Acts 3:19f)
Peter leaves us with no room for controversy. The source of his eschatological expectation, his hope of the “restoration of all things” at the parousia of Christ was the Old Testament. This means that Peter’s doctrine of the work of the Spirit for the last days was also taken from the Old Covenant. Peter was not proclaiming a postponed hope of Israel. He was not preaching an eschatological hope different from that promised to Israel. And this is not the only place where Peter appeals to the Old Covenant prophets for his theology and hope.
Note in 1 Peter 1 (of many passages that could be adduced), Peter was looking for the “ready to be revealed” salvation at Christ’s coming. He specifically tells us that the Old Testament prophets foretold that salvation at the parousia (1 Peter 1:9-12). While it is a bit lengthy, we think it profitable to provide the entire quote:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith–– the salvation of your souls. Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.” (All emphasis mine)
The one thing that comes through loud and clear is that Peter was anticipating the soon coming fulfillment of what the Old Covenant prophets foretold. Those prophets predicted the coming of salvation at Christ’s parousia. Thus, Peter’s eschatology– his gospel – was the proclamation of the soon coming fulfillment of God’s Old Covenant promises made to Israel. And, he reiterates this in what is considered his key eschatological promise, 2 Peter 3.
“Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts…. Nevertheless, according to his promise, we look for a New Heavens and a New Earth, wherein dwells righteousness.” (2 Peter 3:1-3, 13– my emphasis).
When one reads the literature there is virtually no disagreement that Peter is citing, even quoting, Isaiah’s prediction of the New Creation in Isaiah 65-66. (Other O.T. texts lie behind 2 Peter 3, such as Daniel 9, Isaiah 50f, but, Isaiah 65-66 are the ones that come most easily to mind).
So, from these three texts from the pen of Peter, it is easily established that his eschatological hope, his gospel, was nothing but the reiteration of the Old Testament promises made to Israel.
It needs to be stated very clearly at this juncture that the New Testament writers not only proclaimed that their eschatological hope was the hope of Israel, but never, and we emphasize this, they never say that the fulfilment of God’s promises to Israel had been postponed, delayed, or altered.
Modern dispensationalism insists that although Christ came to establish the kingdom, because of Jewish unbelief, “it became impossible to establish the kingdom.” It is further insisted that Christ postponed the kingdom, and established the church instead. The church, per millennialism, is a direct result of the failure of Israel to enter into her promises. The church, however, was never predicted by the Old Testament prophets. Dispensationalist John F. Walvoord has written: “The present age (of the gathering of the church by the blood and Spirit of Jesus Christ) is a parenthesis or a time period not predicted by the Old Testament and therefore not fulfilling or advancing the program of events revealed in the Old Testament fore view. Likewise, LaHaye and Ice claim that, “The church was an unforeseen mystery in the Old Testament.”
The problem for the millennial view is that, as we have just seen, all of the New Testament writers tell us that they were experiencing, what they were writing about, was directly from and based on God’s Old Covenant promises made to Israel! Paul tells us that his proclamation of the mystery of God– Jew and Gentile equality in the church, the body of Christ– was directly from the Old Testament prophets:
“Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began 26 but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith–– 27 to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.”
Ask yourself this question: If the mystery of God, Jew and Gentile equality in the church, was not foretold by any of the Old Testament prophets as affirmed by the dispensationalists, how did Paul preach the mystery of God from the Old Testament prophets?
So, the indisputable fact is that the apostles tell us that they preached nothing but the hope of Israel. They tell us that what was happening in their day was the fulfillment of the promises made to Israel.
They tell us that what they were expecting to be fulfilled very soon was the consummation of God’s promises to Israel.
And this means that the presence of the Holy Spirit and the presence of the prophetic office in the church in the first century was the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel!
Now, let’s look at some concluding remarks.
At the beginning of this article, we took note of several of the key Old Testament prophecies that promised the outpouring of the Spirit in Israel’s last days, resulting in the establishment of the kingdom, the New Covenant, the Messianic Temple, the arrival of righteousness and peace, and as herald of the Great Day of the Lord. Let’s catalog now what the New Testament writers have to say about those passages, keeping in mind what we have established: The New Testament writers preached and anticipated the imminent fulfillment of the hope of Israel as found in the Old Covenant promises made to Israel.
Isaiah 11– Remember that King Messiah would be anointed with the Spirit and rule in righteousness. In his ministry, Jesus possessed the Spirit without measure, and on Pentecost, having been made Lord and Christ (Messiah!), he sent the Spirit in fulfillment of Joel 2.
Isaiah 32:14-17– Isaiah said that the King would rule in righteousness and the result of the outpouring of the Spirit would be peace and righteousness. Paul taught that Christ was ruling in the first century “rule though in the midst of thine enemies”.. He must reign until all enemies are put under him…” (1 Corinthians 15:21f).
Furthermore, this apostle spoke of the “fruit of the Spirit” being righteousness and peace! (Galatians 5:21f), just as Isaiah foretold!
Micah 7:15— Micah foretold that Israel would be forsaken until the birth of Messiah. In his days the Spirit would be poured out just as it was in the days of the days of Moses. Beginning with the ministry of Jesus and until A.D. 70– a period of 40 years just as in Moses day– the charismata was operative.
Ezekiel 37:12-14– Ezekiel foretold the resurrection of Israel, the enthronement of Messiah, the New Covenant and the Messianic Temple, all through the work of the Spirit. In 2 Corinthians 3-6 Paul gives his inspired commentary on Ezekiel’s prophecy. He mentions every constituent element mentioned by Ezekiel and says that it was through the work of the Spirit that the transformation from death to life, from the Old Covenant to the New, from the Old Temple to the New, was being accomplished through the Spirit in his ministry (2 Corinthians 3:16-4:1-3).He even cites Ezekiel’s promise of the Messianic Temple and tells the church, “you are the temple of the living God, as it is written.”
Joel 2:28ff– We have already chronicled Peter’s emphatic declaration that Joel was beginning to be fulfilled on that momentous Pentecost. Paul likewise quotes verbatim from Joel’s promise to speak of the blessedness that comes through faith (Romans 10:13). He did not say this would be true one day, by and by. He said it was and is a present reality. Joel was being fulfilled! This is unassailable.
Daniel 9:24– The fact that the New Testament writers actually anticipated the cessation of the prophetic office and the end of the charismata is prima facie demonstration that the Old Covenant promises of the restoration of the Spirit (and prophetic office), had been fulfilled! If the promises of the outpouring of the Spirit were not fulfilled, then it is hardly logical to cite the Old Testament hope of the cessation of the prophetic office! The cessation of the prophetic office would only come after the restoration of the prophetic office and establishment of the kingdom.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
This article could become massive, but let me bring it to a conclusion.
A.) The Old Testament chronicles that the Spirit and YHVH would remove from Judah and Israel.
B.) There was in Israel of Jesus’ day the firm understanding that the Spirit and office of prophet had been inactive since Malachi.
C.) The Old Testament prophets foretold that in the last days, God would pour out His Spirit once again, and the office of prophet would be revived.
D.) John the Baptizer came as a prophet of God, indicating that the promised last days had arrived!
E.) On Pentecost, Peter affirmed in the most unequivocal manner possible that the Old Covenant promise of the outpouring of the Spirit was being fulfilled.
F.) The New Testament authors tell us that their gospel message was nothing but the hope of Israel found in the Old Testament.
G.) The New Testament writers tell us that the work of the Spirit in their day was what was foretold by the prophets. Everything that was to accomplished through the work of the Spirit was being done in the first century and the work of the apostles (2 Corinthians 3-4:1-3).
H.) The New Testament is replete with references to the prophetic office and the work of the Spirit.
I. ) In the midst of that exciting fulfillment of the Old Testament promises of the work of the Spirit, the New Testament writers likewise allude to the Old Testament promises of the final end of the prophetic office and the charismata. And that day of cessation, the Day of the Lord and the full establishment of the kingdom, was near.
The multitudinous New Testament references to the work of the Spirit is proof positive that God was being faithful to Israel. Israel’s promises were not postponed. They did not fail. It shows that the promises of the Old Testament were fulfilled, not replaced, but fulfilled in Christ and the church.