183. "THIS IS THAT" (Acts 2:16).
- "This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel."
there is nothing in the words to tell us what is "this" and what is "that".
The word "this" is emphatic and the word "But", with which Peter's argument
begins, sets what follows in contrast. This shows that the quotation
was used to rebut the charge of drunkenness (v. 13)
So far from these signs and wonders being a proof that "these men" were
drunken, "this", said the apostle is "that" (same kind of thing) which
Joel prophesied would take place "in the last days". Peter does not
say these were the last days, but this (that follows) is what Joel
says of those days. He 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.
Therefore to understand what Peter really meant by "this is that", we
must turn to the prophecy of Joel. And in order to understand that
prophecy, we must see exactly what it is about.
Is it about the Christian Dispensation? or
The Dispensation of judgment which
is to follow it? or
Is it about the Jew and the Gentile?
Is it about the church of God?
- The Structure on p. 1224 gives the scope of Joel as a whole,
while that on p. 1227 gives that of the last member B (p. 1224)
in which occur the "signs" to which Peter points in connection with "this
is that". From this it will be seen that the prophecy of Joel links
up with the last clause of the "song of Moses" in Deut. 32:43 (see Rev.
15:3), which ends
"And (He) will be merciful unto
His Land and to His People."
So Joel 2.18 begins:
"Then will Jehovah be jealous for His
Land, and pity His People."
"THIS", therefore is "THAT". It is the subject-matter
and remote context of Acts 2:16. It concerns Jehovah's Land and Jehovah's
People, and has consequently nothing to do with the church of this Dispensation.
Peter calls "the house of Israel" (v. 36) to the very repentance
spoken of in the call to repentance of Joel (1:14 - 2:17; see A,
Structure, p. 1224).
- But the key to the correct understanding of Peter's quotation lies
in the word "afterward" of Joel 2:28. The question is, after what?
This we can learn only from Joel himself. Peter does not explain
it, nor can we understand it from Peter's words alone.
The Structure (p. 1227) shows us that the whole subject of 2:18 - 3:21
is, --evil removed from the Land and the People, and blessing bestowed
on both; and these are set forth alternately. In 2:28, 29 we have
spiritual blessings connected with the temporal of the previous verses,
"And it shall come to pass
that I will pour out My spirit upon all flesh," &c.
After what? The answer is AFTER the temporal blessings of vv.
23-27. It is important to note that the temporal precede the spiritual
blessings. The holy spirit was not poured out on all flesh at Pentecost:
only on some of those present. None of the great signs in the heavens
and on the earth had been shown. No deliverance took place in Jerusalem:
both Land and People were still under the Roman yoke.
- Thus, from a careful study of the two passages, it will be seen
that there is a wide divergence between the statements of apostle and prophet
on the one hand, and the general belief of Christendom, which the majority
hold so tenaciously, not to say acrimoniously, that "the church" was formed
at Pentecost (see App. 181 and 186), on the other.
- There can be no mistake
about the meaning of Joel's word "afterward". It is not the simple
Heb. word 'ahar = after (cp. Gen. 5:4, &c.).
- It is therefore certain
that the word "this" in Acts 2:16 refers to what follows, and not to what
precedes; to the future events predicted by Joel, and not to those then
taking place in Jerusalem.
- As Joel speaks of no
gift of tongues, "this" cannot refer to these Pentecostal tongues, the
outstanding cause of all the wonder and excitement.
- None of the things detailed
in vv. 17, 19 came to pass. "This" therefore could not be
the fulfillment of Joel's prediction, as the "pouring out" was only on the
apostles and those associated with them.
- To sum up: As we have seen, there is in Acts 2:16 no fulfillment
of Joel's prophecy either expressed or implied, and Peter's argument narrows
down to this, viz. that a charge of drunkenness can no more be sustained
against "these" than it can be against those in the yet future scenes spoken
of by Joel, when the wondrous spiritual blessings will be poured out on
all flesh AFTER THAT, i.e. after all the temporal
spoken of have been bestowed upon Israel's Land and Israel's People.
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