14 But (weak negative) Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them, “Judean men and everyone living in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and you yourselves should give heed to my words.
15 Because these men are not drunk, as you suppose. After all, it is only the third hour of the day.
16 But rather (strong negative), this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel,
17 ‘And it shall be in the last days,’ the God says, ‘That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all flesh. And they, your sons and your daughters, will prophesy and your young men shall themselves see visions, and your older men shall dream dreams.
18 In those days I will pour forth of My Spirit—even on My male slaves and upon my female slaves—and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will cause wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, [I will cause] Blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke.
20 The sun will be changed to darkness and the moon with blood, before the coming great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 And it shall be that everyone who himself calls upon the name of the Lord, he will be saved/delivered.’”
Peter taking the opportunity to counter the mocking voices in the crowd, responds with Spirit inspired courage and, taking his stand with the Eleven, declares to the crowd what they are really seeing. They were not seeing drunk people so early in the morning. But rather, Peter proclaims, This, which they are seeing and hearing, is that which the prophet Joel prophesied.
What Joel prophesied was regarding the “Day of the Lord.” Joel’s prophecy promised both judgment and restoration in that day (Joel 2:1-32). In Acts, Joel’s descriptive, “after this” is rendered “in the Last Days,” a more precise, but unproblematic rendering (Bruce 1988, 61). The purpose of this rendering is to establish Pentecost as an event in God’s unfolding eschatological scenario (Johnson 1992, 49). In the “last days,” God would pour out his Spirit on all humanity, upon male and female, upon young and old, upon slave and free. When God pours out his Spirit on humanity, the outpoured Spirit will cause people to prophesy, see visions and dream. What the people are seeing is the result of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and thus a sign of the last days. The last days do not just touch humanity, but they encompass the heavens and the earth: the whole cosmos is now being prepared for the coming day of the Lord. Whoever acknowledges this reality and turns to the Lord will be delivered.
It is helpful to note that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is a partial answer to the disciples’ question following the resurrection of Christ, “Lord is it at this time You are restoring the Kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). Jesus refuses to open a timetable that reveals God’s final restoration. Instead, he promises the coming of the Holy Spirit, resulting in his followers becoming witnesses to Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth (1:7-8). The outpouring of the Holy Spirit is what the beginning of the restoration of the Kingdom of God looks like in this age.
If one is to understand the person and action of the Holy Spirit, it is necessary to have a biblical grasp and devotion to the triune God as revealed in Scripture and confessed by the Christian Church. This is the topic of chapter 2. It is also necessary to have a working picture of “what God is doing in all that God is doing” (Marshall 1991, 44f), which is the theme of this chapter. The choice of the theme, “The Spirit and the Last Days is a modest attempt to follow the example of the Apostle Paul. Most of Paul’s letters were written to specific churches, as required by specific occasions. The current global pandemic and the resulting economic and social upheaval should be seen as “meta-occasions” in need of clarity from God’s Word, spoken to and through God’s people.
This meta-occasion has pushed large numbers of Christians to seek answers that explain what is going on, and many have settled on one or more conspiracy theories. Much more needs to be said on this subject than would be appropriate for this topic. But a bit of examination of any of these theories exposes a critical error in each theory, at least as far as the People of God are concerned. That error is that every conspiracy theory is telling the wrong story. They are not telling God’s story. In light of this meta-occasion this chapter will begin by asking what God’s story really is, and how the person and work of the Holy Spirit is central to the unfolding of that story.
God’s story is the story of the “last days,” or the “Day of the Lord.” In our introductory Bible passage, Peter is inspired to see the words of the prophet Joel as being fulfilled in the Pentecost event. What Joel, Chapter 2 declares is that in the Day of the Lord, God will visit terrible judgment on his unfaithful people (2:1). However, God will graciously answer the repentance of Israel by delivering them from their enemies (2:20) and restoring them to their land and its abundance (2:23-27). In the midst of this restoration, God promises to pour out his Spirit on all humanity. Thus, this which the people of Jerusalem are witnessing is the inbreaking of the Last Days as prophesied by Joel.
But what is it that God is graciously restoring, with the inbreaking of the Last Days and especially the outpouring of the Holy Spirit? What God is graciously restoring is his presence among his people and his rule upon the earth in and through his people. This restoration is inaugurated by Jesus in the enactment of the “Christ event,” the incarnation, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. Through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the work of Jesus Christ is imparted to all who confess his Lordship.
The presence and rule of God that God is restoring is described as the “Kingdom of God” or the “Kingdom of Heaven.” The gospel that Jesus preached inaugurating his ministry was, “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mk 1:15). The proclamation that the Kingdom of God is at hand is immediately accompanied by Jesus calling the first disciples, by Jesus casting a demon out of a member of the synagogue, and by Jesus healing Simon Peter’s mother-in-law (1:21-31). The inauguration of the Kingdom involves proclamation of the Gospel, calling workers to the work of God, rescuing people in bondage to the ruler of darkness, and healing the sick. All of this demonstrates that by the Kingdom of God is meant that God has come at last to begin his rule over humanity and over all of his good, though fallen creation. This was promised repeatedly through the Old Testament prophets.
The coming of the Kingdom in and through Jesus Christ is an invasion of the Kingdom of Darkness. The authority of this invasion is clear especially in exorcisms, where Jesus acts with authority over the powers of darkness, and in healings. It should be noted that, when Jesus proclaimed the presence of the Kingdom of God, his Jewish hearers understood what he was talking about. As John Bright writes, “Jesus used the term as if assured it would be understood, and indeed it was. The Kingdom of God lay within the vocabulary of every Jew. It was something they understood and longed for desperately. (Bright 1981, 17-18).
The program of the Kingdom is further declared by Jesus in Nazareth, “where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written,
‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set free those who are oppressed,
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.’
And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’” (Luke 4:16-21 NASB).
The central place of the Holy Spirit as the agent of the inbreaking of the Kingdom of God can be seen here. In fact, the Gospel of Luke emphasizes that Jesus Christ carried out his ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit. Just as Jesus ministered in the power of the Holy Spirit, so also the Acts of the Apostles are also the “Acts of the Holy Spirit.” The Kingdom of God inaugurated in the midst of the Kingdom of Darkness is also very much part of the Apostle Paul’s teaching. As shall be seen in later chapters, the two-kingdom framework—expressed in contrasts such as Spirit versus flesh, or the “Age to Come” versus the “Present Evil Age”—is always at least implicitly present in Paul.
In summary, the “Last Days” have been inaugurated by Jesus Christ in the “Christ event.” They have been opened to the whole people of God through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. The revelation of the Last Days opens the window to God’s all-encompassing story—what “God is doing in all that God is doing.” What God is doing is establishing his Kingdom among humanity and ultimately throughout his entire creation. God is establishing his Kingdom through the agency, the presence, and the power of the Holy Spirit.
The decisive victory over the Kingdom of Darkness has been won through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thus, the Kingdom of God is already established. In these Last Days, however, the Kingdom of Darkness is not yet completely vanquished. The task of the people of God is to “plunder Hell,” calling as many people as possible out of darkness and into the Kingdom of our Lord. And so, until Jesus Christ returns in glory to complete his victory, the consummation of the Kingdom of God is not yet complete. But the Kingdom of God is a reality, and the presence and power of the Holy Spirit is at the center of that reality.
This excerpt is from Power Evangelism, by John Wimber with Kevin Springer (Wimber 1992, 128-131)
Though some variations in worldview assumptions exist in the Western world, it is possible to speak of a dominant or majority worldview that influences us all. What key elements of this worldview have the greatest impact on Western and Westernised Christians? There are at least four characteristics that inhibit our ability to practise power evangelism.
A philosophy of materialism directly contradicts a Christian perspective. Materialism warps our thinking, softening convictions about the supernatural world of angels and demons, heaven and hell, Christ and Antichrist. We often live as though the material world is more real than the spiritual, as though material cause and effect explains all of what happens to us.
But twentieth-century rationalism is not necessarily an attempt to be rigorously rational. We must differentiate twentieth-century rationalism from the rationalism of the eighteenth century Enlightenment. During the Enlightenment many rationalists thought it was possible to analyze all experience rationally and arrive at objective truth even in spiritual and moral areas. Modern men and women have given up the quest for objectivity in these areas.
Modern humanists—those who embrace secularism, self-reliance, materialism and rationalism—no longer believe it is possible to arrive rationally at objective moral and spiritual truth. Ironic ally, there are many rational inconsistencies in the way humanists think. For example, while believing in a consistent, closed material universe that may be understood only by scientific enquiry, at the same time they hold relativistic assumptions about religion and morality. Believing that ‘whatever you believe is okay for you’ assumes a plurality of moral systems. In this regard most secularists hold an internally inconsistent worldview. Lesslie Newbigin concludes that modern rationalism splits reality into ‘the public world of what our culture calls facts, in distinction from the private world of beliefs, opinions, and values’!
This accounts for the current growth in many Western societies of philosophies developed from aspects of Eastern and New Age thought, like EST and Transcendental Meditation. On the surface, interest in these philosophies seems to contradict what one would expect from a humanistic worldview, but most modern humanists are not rigorously rational. They frequently acknowledge there is a spiritual or moral world that lies outside the rational, which can only be known through personal experience. Even the most rationalistic, humanistic people seem to recognize intuitively that there is more to human existence than the material, the rational, the scientific. People everywhere – even Westerners conditioned to believe there is nothing beyond what scientists tell us – feel the need to reach out for something more, something beyond the rational, some thing spiritual. This gives rise to people getting involved in the New Age outside of Christianity, and in charismatic experiences within. This world cries for attention, but in the final analysis materialism and rationalism are incapable of satisfying it, of providing plausible explanations for meaning in life. Humanism fails to satisfy people’s need to understand the universe, so they look for meaning in philosophies and religions that concern themselves with what lies outside the rational.
Christian signs and wonders are beyond rationality (not irrational), but they serve a rational purpose: to authenticate the gospel. The gospel is opposed to the pluralistic lie that says all religious experience is equally valid. Signs and wonders validate Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and his lordship over every area of our lives, a relationship that can be described and understood.