Acts 2:16-18 says, “… but this is that which hath been spoken through the prophet Joel: and it shall be in the last days, saith God that I will pour forth 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: yea and on my servants and on my handmaidens in those days will I pour forth of my Spirit and they shall prophesy”.
Before Jesus ascended back to His Father, He blessed His disciples and charged them to return to Jerusalem and remain there until they were endued with power from on high. The apostles were careful to heed their Lord’s instructions, and so they returned to the city and joined with other disciples to await the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise. They did not have long to wait (Jesus had said they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit “not many days hence”, Acts 1:5) — it was about ten days from the time of the Lord’s ascension to the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost.
The apostles were the ones who were baptized with the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. A careful reading of the context from Acts 1:24-2:14 shows that they were speaking and testifying to the assembled multitude that day. The scriptures had said, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit give them utterance” (Acts 2:4). Through miracles or natural means the Holy Spirit continued to bless all nations in that age we call the “apostolic age”.
Even today the world is greatly blessed by the spiritual blessings of the Spirit. The word by which we are begotten as new creatures was inspired by Him (1 Peter 1:23). The influence in our lives to bear the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22f) is a blessing from His Hand. His promises and encouragement enables us to lay hold on the hope set before us (Hebrews 6:17-19). The Spirit’s coming was not something which was “hidden in a corner”. When Pentecost came the apostles were all together in one place. Suddenly there came from heaven the sound as of a mighty rushing wind which filled all the house where they were sitting; tongues “like as of fire”, parting asunder, 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). These things attracted the attention of a massive multitude who were astonished by what they heard and saw.
The phenomena of men speaking in languages they had not learned to people who both spoke those languages and understood what the apostles were saying was so startling that the people asked, “What meaneth this?” but mockers among them said, “They are filled with new wine” or drunken (Acts 2:2, 8, 11, 13). It was at this juncture that Peter said “… these are not drunken as ye suppose … but this is that which was spoken through the prophet Joel” (Acts 2:15-16).
Joel is the second book of the twelve minor prophets. Joel was an obscure man; nothing is known of him except what he recorded. All he recorded of himself was that his father’s name was “Pethuel” (Joel 1:1). We know nothing about when the book was written, so naturally different dates have been proposed by different scholars. Conservative scholars put the date about 850 B.C., although this is at best conjecture. Yet, although very little is known about personal details of the prophet’s life, the prophecy he uttered was incredibly important.
His prophecy says that the Spirit of God, which would be poured out on all nations, would come in the last days, a term which identifies and links that pouring out with other things also to occur in the “last days”. The prophecy tells that the pouring out of God’s Spirit would not be limited to the nation of Israel, but that all flesh would be recipients of it. The prophecy tells of wondrous events which were to take place when the Spirit came — young men and women prophesying; old men dreaming dreams; young men seeing visions; and, concluding with this marvelous thought: “And it shall be that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Joel 2:30; Acts 2:21). This was a promise of the universal blessing which would be available to every creature under heaven.
Prophecy may be either forthtelling or foretelling, the latter drawing back the curtain of time so that men might look into the future and see things that would transpire then. This predictive nature is not always specifically identified as being fulfilled when it was, but when one reads the words of an inspirited speaker say, “This is that” there can be no uncertainty that the specific prophecy was being fulfilled at that moment. The events at Pentecost are identified as the fulfillment of Joel’s words written centuries before: “God shall pour forth His Spirit upon all flesh”. In addition, the words were a clear affirmation that those who then lived were living “in the last days”.
While Joel was the first prophet to tell of the “pouring forth of the Spirit”, he was not the only one who spoke of the Holy Spirit’s coming. John had promised, “I indeed baptize you with water, but he that cometh after me is mightier than I whose shoes I am not worthy to bear. He shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11). Jesus was He of whom John was speaking and Jesus likewise promised the coming baptism in the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5).