After the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on that Day of Pentecost immediately following Christ’s ascension, Christians were speaking in languages that they had not learned. As they did so, they were “declaring the wonders of God” in all the languages of the world. Some people mocked, saying they were merely babbling drunks, but everyone in Jerusalem was “amazed and perplexed” at this remarkable event, which prompted Peter to preach a powerful sermon (Acts 2:8-21).
Peter began his sermon by quoting words “spoken by the prophet Joel” (Joel 2:28-32). It’s unlikely that Peter had a copy of Joel with him, so this quotation was delivered from memory and Peter’s sermon was given spontaneously as the Holy Spirit empowered him. In looking at the passages in both Joel and Acts, I see three notable differences.
- Joel begins by saying, “And afterward I will pour out My Spirit,” but Peter begins with the words, “In the last days…I will pour out My Spirit.” I’ll address this point further in just a moment.
- Peter inserts “and they will prophesy” at the end of verse 18, a phrase that Joel didn’t say at the end of Joel 2:29. I think this is the Holy Spirit emphasizing that what the crowd heard was indeed prophecy, not mindless babbling.
- Joel concludes with “before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord,” but Peter says, “before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.” The word Joel uses for “dreadful,” meaning an awesome day worthy of reverence, was a day of sorrow for those about to be judged guilty, and a day of supreme rejoicing for those about to be judged innocent in God’s sight. The word Peter uses for “glorious” is the only time this Greek word is used in the New Testament. The word is epiphanes: where we get our English word “epiphany”—a light has dawned and the truth is finally realized!
Let’s go back to the difference between “afterward” in Joel and “in the last days” in Acts. In a sense, the “afterward” for Peter was what everyone was experiencing right then—after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, and after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that Jesus had promised (John 16:7; Acts 1:4-5).
Let’s also consider the “afterward” in Joel’s day. What came before was a disaster of locusts consuming the land, which prompted Joel to call for the solemn response of prayer and fasting. This heartfelt response from godly people trigged God’s outpouring of His Spirit—the afterward—that led to a blessing “before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (Joel 2:1-3, 10-13).
Both Joel and Peter conclude that it is God’s desire that “everyone…be saved”! The outpouring of the Holy Spirit was to help people have an epiphany of both their sin and the salvation that Jesus purchased on His Cross.
The word “disaster” comes from the Latin word disastros. The root word astros pertains to the heavenly lights (star, sun, moon), and the prefix “dis-” is a pejorative (something that has a belittling effect). So disaster really means no guiding lights, or hopeless darkness.
Jesus was prophesied to step into this hopeless darkness and bring light and hope—“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2). Zechariah prophesied that Jesus was the fulfillment of this: “Because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace” (Luke 1:78-79).
Jesus is THE Epiphany, THE Ultimate Light, but He also tells us, “You are the light of the world (John 8:12; Matthew 5:14).
In a world of hopeless darkness, Christians are to be Christ’s Light-bearers.
We cannot do this on our own.
The Holy Spirit’s empowerment ignites and then alines our light-bearing to a disaster-prone world.
When Joel saw disaster coming, he called for a fast. This fast led to the outpouring of God’s empowerment on godly people, so they could take the Light to those lost in deep darkness. I think the same response is needed from Christians today.
When it appears this world is plunging deeper into darkness—when we hear of disasters (remember that disastros means people are without Light)—we need to pray and fast so that the Holy Spirit can be reignited in us, so that we can then be realigned to best shine the light of Jesus brightly.
Our lives can and should be the epiphany of Christ’s love for the world to see! Let’s all pray: “Holy Spirit, make us Your epiphany to a dark world!”
If you’d like to check out the other messages in our series We Are: Pentecostal, please click here.
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