16 But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
Verses 16-21 are a quotation by Peter from Joel’s prophecy, which explains the phenomenon of the coming of the Spirit. It was an issue of God’s Word, not the frenzy of drunken people.
16 But this is what was spoken
Peter appealed to Scripture to establish the credibility of his sermon. His intent was not to parlay everything in Joel chapter 2 to what happened at Pentecost, such as his reference to celestial events (Joel 2:30,31; Acts 2:19,20).
Peter here applied the Joel passage to the issue of salvation (Acts 2:38, 40). The phrase “this is what” indicates that Peter was using Joel 2 as an illustration because none of the events of Joel 2:28, 30, 31 took place at Pentecost. There are no offers of the Messianic kingdom, the promise of Christ’s return, or the national salvation of Israel. All Peter meant was that the events of Pentecost were like that of Joel’s prophecy.
Since the events of Pentecost did not deal with all that Joel predicted, there is no terminology such as “fulfillment” or “fulfilled” in the passage as in other passages dealing with a precise fulfillment. Nothing in Acts 2 was predicted in Joel 2. Joel did not mention speaking in languages without learning them. The one point of similarity was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, which resulted in dramatic manifestations. The point is similarity, not fulfillment.
The neuter word “this” (touto) does not refer to a specific event. The context leading to this statement deals with the strange spectacle of speaking foreign languages without studying for them. Therefore, “this” in this context refers to the event of the coming of the Spirit upon the church indicated by the phenomenon of unlearned Galileans speaking in different foreign languages.
Note Peter used the words “was spoken” rather than “fulfilled” in this verse. Joel’s words were only “spoken.” Neither is the phrase “this is what” a pesher, as some scholars suggest. (A pesher is a method of interpretation, taken from the Dead Sea Scrolls, where there is no attempt to give the details of what it interprets). Again, Peter did not intend to draw fulfillment from Joel but only similarity. Peter as a fisherman would not have used a sophisticated linguistic device such as a pesher. His intent was an analogy to what would happen in the Tribulation and Millennium, the last days. There were only similarities between Joel 2 and Acts 2.
by the prophet Joel:
Peter quoted Joel 2:28-32 from the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament). The prophecy of Joel explains some of the events of the Day of Pentecost. Peter’s main point in quoting Joel was to show that Pentecost fulfilled what Joel prophesied if the nation Israel would repent.
Peter did not claim that the prophecy of Joel was completely fulfilled or even partially fulfilled at Pentecost. His thrust simply related the idea that the pouring out of the Spirit in the last days was similar to what happened at Pentecost. He aimed to bring Israel to God (Acts 2:21). He drew an analogy with the last days. Also, there is no indication of continual fulfillment during the economy of the church.
Joel did not predict what actually happened at Pentecost—speaking in tongues. The events of Joel, such as the sun’s darkening and the moon’s turning into blood, did not happen on the Day of Pentecost. Neither were there dreams and visions in Acts. Joel had spoken of the coming of the Spirit upon the nation Israel in the last days. The only similarity was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Peter did not deny the Joel 2 prophecy still not fulfilled in his day; God will fulfill it in the “last days.” He pointed only to the one similarity of the coming of the Spirit.
The pouring out of the Spirit is the inauguration of the church.
Peter’s point was not that Pentecost was the fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32, because the phenomena depicted did not occur in Acts 2. Joel’s prophecy had to do with the nation Israel in the “last days.” However, it was the beginning of a new era launched by the death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Christ. It was a foretaste of what would happen in the last days prior to the Day of the Lord. There is a dual fulfillment here: God would pour out the Holy Spirit upon the church, and then at a later date He will cause wonders on earth during the Tribulation to bring Israel back to God (Mt 24:29, 30). Christ will come a second time to establish His kingdom on earth.
Jeremiah’s prophecy in Jeremiah 31:31-34 says nothing about the coming of the Spirit. We must distinguish Joel’s prophecy from Jeremiah’s. Jeremiah predicts the salvation of the entire nation of Israel (Ro 11:26-27), which will not happen until the Second Coming of Christ—” for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them” (Jer 31:34).
Acts 1:6-8 distinguishes the establishment of the kingdom and the coming of the Holy Spirit. The strong adversative “but,” alla, contrasts the two events. The focus is on the arrival of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:45; 11:15-17). The outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost was to form the church, which is distinct from the outpouring upon Israel in Joel. The outpouring on the church was equivalent to the baptism of the Spirit (Acts 1:5; 11:15-17).
Pentecost was not a fulfillment of Joel 2, but it was similar to the outpouring Jesus mentioned in John 14:16-17, 36; 15:26; 16:7.
God did not initially fulfill Joel’s prophecy on Pentecost as progressive dispensationalists claim. The church is not the first phase of the kingdom (Joel 2:28). This group claims that the first phase of Christ’s reign began at His Ascension, fulfilling in part the Davidic Covenant (2 Sa 7), but the final fulfillment of Joel will occur when Jesus reigns on earth in His kingdom. However, the nature of the economy of the church is entirely distinct from the Millennial age, where God will primarily fulfill His promises to Israel, which is very different from the church economy.