A NEW OUTPOURING
Joel 2:28-32 NET
28 After all of this I will pour out my Spirit on all kinds of people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your elderly will have revelatory dreams; your young men will see prophetic visions. 29 Even on male and female servants I will pour out my Spirit in those days. 30 I will produce portents both in the sky and on the earth – blood, fire, and columns of smoke. 31 The sunlight will be turned to darkness and the moon to the color of blood, before the day of the LORD comes – that great and terrible day! 32 It will so happen that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be delivered. For on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be those who survive, just as the LORD has promised; the remnant will be those whom the LORD will call.
In last week’s message we saw how Ezekiel predicted that God would no longer hide his face from his people, but would pour out his Spirit on the house of Israel (Ezekiel 39:29).
This passage by the prophet Joel explains what God would do for them in more detail. It also explains how the outpouring of the Holy Spirit would work out God’s plan not only for Israel, but also his plan for the nations.
Joel predicted that before the outpouring, there would be a series of divine miracles (30-31).
Joel said “I will produce portents both in the sky and on the earth – blood, fire, and columns of smoke. The sunlight will be turned to darkness and the moon to the color of blood, before the day of the LORD comes – that great and terrible day!”
These portents consist of a series of miracles that let people know something significant is happening. Now, if the outpouring of the Holy Spirit happened at Pentecost, does history show a period of significant divine miracles for a period of time before that? Of course it does. We have four Gospels that record those significant miracles performed by our Lord himself.
The Gospels record 34 specific miracles performed by Jesus, but John tells us that “There are many other things that Jesus did. If every one of them were written down, I suppose the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:25). So Jesus’ earthly ministry before his ascension qualifies as a part of the fulfillment of Joel 2:30-31.
But those verses also talk about something else. They talk about a specific event in which there will be a portent in the sky and a portent on the earth. In the sky, the sun will turn to darkness and the moon to the color of blood. On the earth, there will be “blood, fire and columns of smoke.”
Was there such an event prior to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost? Yes, there was. The crucifixion of our Lord himself took place at the same time the temple sacrifices were being prepared. So, on the earth, there was “blood, fire and columns of smoke.” But Three Gospels tell us that during the crucifixion for a three hour period starting at noon, “darkness came over the whole land … because the sun’s light failed” (Luke 23:44-45). There is also some evidence that a lunar eclipse took place on that date, which would account for the appearance of a blood red moon. When Peter preached on Pentecost, he said:
“Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man clearly attested to you by God with powerful deeds, wonders, and miraculous signs (portents) that God performed among you through him, just as you yourselves know” (Acts 2:22). Peter quoted the text in Joel to explain the miraculous ministry of Jesus, the portents at the crucifixion and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
Now, if you watched this week’s video, one of my questions I asked you to research is “What is the “day of the LORD” mentioned in verse 31? The day of the LORD is often used in scripture to describe the day when Christ comes in judgment. What Joel says here is that this portent will happen before that. It has been 2000 years, and so far the day of the LORD has not happened. But the portent signs at Christ’s crucifixion did happen. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit also came at Pentecost. So, Joel is 2 for 3. The day of the LORD is next.
Joel predicted that the outpouring would result in the removal of barriers to proclaiming the gospel (28-29).
About 120 people had gathered at the temple and were waiting for the power that Jesus had promised.
• First, there was the sound of a violent wind blowing. • Then, there were visible tongues of fire that rested on each of the 120 believers. • Then thousands of Jews visiting from every nation under heaven – there to participate in the Jewish holiday – heard and watched the display of power, and heard the gospel being proclaimed in the languages of the places where they lived. • 3000 of those Jewish visitors responded to the gospel message that day and became believers in Jesus Christ. Within a few days, the number had grown to 5000. • In fact, the book of Acts shows that the outpouring continued, and the Holy Spirit’s empowerment did not stop with the Jews at Pentecost.
First, the Gospel was proclaimed in Jerusalem.
Next, after the death of Stephen “a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were forced to scatter throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria” (Acts 8:1).
A few verses later, we learn that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit went with these evangelists:
Two chapters after that, Peter is sent to preach the gospel to Cornelius – a Gentile Roman centurion.
• “Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. These two went down and prayed for them so that they would receive the Holy Spirit. Then Peter and John placed their hands on the Samaritans, and they received the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:14-15, 17).
• “While Peter was still speaking ... the Holy Spirit fell on all those who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter were greatly astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles” (Acts 10:44-45).
Consequently, we learn that there will be no racial or geographical barrier to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
But Joel predicted that when the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, it would come upon all kinds of people (28-29).
“After all of this I will pour out my Spirit on all kinds of people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your elderly will have revelatory dreams; your young men will see prophetic visions. Even on male and female servants I will pour out my Spirit in those days.”
In Joel’s day, God had poured out his Spirit only on a few select prophets. If you wanted to know what God thinks, you would have to search out one of the prophets. But Joel predicts that when God strikes, EVERY believer will have his message. The Holy Spirit will gift and empower all believers regardless of gender, age, or social status.
Joel predicted that the outpouring would enable the survivors in Israel to reach the world with the gospel (32).
“It will so happen that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be delivered. For on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be those who survive, just as the LORD has promised; the remnant will be those whom the LORD will call.”
To understand what Joel is saying here, we need to have a better knowledge of all of Joel’s prophecy.
Judah had been hit by a major natural disaster: a series of locust plagues that wiped out the nation’s economy and led to system-wide depression and famine. It was hard to imagine things getting any worse. But Joel does not ride into town with his white horse and tell everybody “there, there, everything is going to get better now.” No, Joel’s message is more like “You ain’t seen nothing yet.” The plague of locusts which came from the north is going to be followed by swarms of armies coming from the same direction. We know from history that those armies came from Assyria, then Babylon, the Persia, then Greece, then Rome.
So, Joel preached that things are bad for his people, and they are going to get worse. But he tells the Jews to hang on, because there are going to be survivors, and some of the descendants of these survivors will be on hand in Jerusalem when God pours out his Holy Spirit.
There will be a remnant left, and “the remnant will be those whom the LORD will call.” He will call on them to proclaim his glorious gospel to the nations. He will use them to reach the nations for Christ. He will use them to tell the people of the world that “everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be delivered.”
This week’s Facebook video listed three questions from this verse:
- First, “What does it mean to call on the name of the LORD?” It means to respond to the gospel, and it was the gospel that the Pentecost believers preached.
- Second, “What is the promise of the LORD mentioned in this verse?” The promise is that even though Judah will go through many disasters and tragedies, there will still be some survivors who will experience the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
- Third, “Who are the remnant who will be called by the LORD in verse 32?” The answer is the Jews in Jerusalem who responded to the gospel and received the outpouring at Pentecost.
Joel spoke to a generation who had faced disaster, and they were looking for hope. Joel could speak a word of hope for his generation. But that word of hope was not that everything was going to get better in their lifetime. No, his message to them was to stay faithful even in the midst of the coming disasters because God is going to do something new with the ones who survive – the remnant. The new birth was coming, and along with it, a new outpouring.
In the same way, when his disciples asked Jesus about the future, he did not give them a rosy picture. He told them…
• “Nation will rise up in arms against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and famines and plagues (like COVID-19) in various places, and there will be terrifying sights and great signs from heaven. But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you, handing you over to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will have some of you put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of my name” (Luke 21:10-12,16-17).
It is during this age of betrayal, disaster and death that God’s people, empowered by his Holy Spirit will serve as his witnesses.
• “This will be a time for you to serve as witnesses. Therefore be resolved not to rehearse ahead of time how to make your defense. For I will give you the words along with the wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict” (Luke 21:13-15).
Christ taught his disciples that this age will not come to an end until we reach the nations with his gospel.
• “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole inhabited earth as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).
The new birth has come. The outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit has come, and his Spirit is still pouring out upon everyone who believes in his gospel. The end of this age of disease, disaster and death is coming. But before the end comes, we have a job to do. Jesus told us the purpose of the outpouring.
• “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
What is the purpose for the power? It is not to make us feel good, excited or happy. The purpose of the power is to remove the barriers that are keeping our neighbors from understanding and responding to the gospel. That is why God continues to pour out his Holy Spirit on us.