JOEL’S PROPHECY AND THE DAY OF PENTECOST
By Rodney W. Francis
In looking again at what happened on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2 ), I saw the impact of that day was not only that the 120 received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and spoke with tongues, but that it was a day of the outpouring of the Gift of Prophecy. Over 800 years before that day, the Prophet Joel had prophesied that the Holy Spirit would be poured out, and the phenomena would be that both sons and daughters would prophesy (see Joel 2:28-32 ). Joel had made no specific mention of speaking in tongues.
Yet, when the Day of Pentecost came, those 120 did speak in tongues. The Scripture declares, “When the day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1-4 ). The noise they were making was such that a very large crowd gathered to see what it was all about. When that crowd gathered, maybe they (the 120) came out of that upper room down on to the streets and began prophesying the words of the Lord Jesus? We are told that they were speaking in the languages of the different nationalities that were gathered there. The Holy Spirit so filled those disciples of Jesus that they were miraculously speaking in languages they had never learned – and those gathered could understand what they were saying. As the crowds were questioning what was happening, Peter stood up and declared, “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy. I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapour of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved’” (Acts 2:14-21 , NKJV).
I noticed that Joel’s original prophecy only spoke of prophesying once, but Peter interpreting its fulfilment, repeated it twice, as to emphasize the importance of what the sign of the Holy Spirit’s outpouring really is. What many have taken to be that the tongues were given to speak in the languages of the gathered people for preaching purposes, Peter actually interprets it as prophesying – prophesying that present-tense “now” “rhema” Word of God. Prophesying is different to preaching, although some preaching can be prophecy.
Many have preached that speaking in other tongues is the sign of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit (and I believe that those filled with the Holy Spirit should go on to speak in other tongues, if they have not already done so). Yes, speaking in other tongues is important, but we have far too often failed to emphasize the importance of the Holy Spirit-filled believers prophesying. Prophesying is for the “edification, exhortation and comfort of the Church”(1 Corinthians 14:3 ). It is the sign or evidence that Jesus is in the midst of His people. In Revelation 19:10 it states, “Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” When the presence of Jesus is felt in the gathering together of His people, there should be a free flowing of prophecy. It is God’s way of speaking to us through His body of Holy Spirit-filled believers. It is a gift that all Spirit-filled believers can exercise (1 Corinthians 14:31 ), and verse one of 1 Corinthians 14 teaches us to focus in especially on the Gift of Prophecy. Generally speaking, prophesying is misunderstood, and therefore under-valued in its operation amongst us.
So, briefly, Joel made no mention of speaking in tongues in his prophecy, but rather on prophesying as a major sign of that outpouring, and then Peter, interpreting the Day of Pentecost as being the fulfilment of that which Joel spoke, puts a double emphasis upon people prophesying. This, being the case, means that we should look again at the importance of the Gift of Prophecy as a “now” word for the Christian Church, and take this gift much more seriously than we have tended to in the past.
1 Corinthians 12:31 teaches us that the Gifts of the Holy Spirit function as a result of our“earnest desire” (“to be zealous towards, to be eager for” – Bullinger’s). These are powerful words in their Scriptural understanding. The subject matter is serious and very important, and therefore we should be giving ourselves to the exercising of them. Then in 1 Corinthians 13 we are given the reason – the motivation - why we should earnestly want to build up the body of Christ through the exercising of Spiritual Gifts. It is LOVE for God and for people! When we truly love one another, we will want to co-operate with the Holy Spirit and His wonderful gifts (1 Corinthians 12:7-11 ) and release them out of our lives to build up that body! When we come to 1 Corinthians 14:1 , Paul puts the two chapters together in a nutshell. He says, “Pursue love (1 Corinthians 13 ), and desire spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12),but especially that you may prophesy.” He clearly and definitely tells us to focus in on this Gift of Prophesying, and then spends the chapter telling us why. It is all to the building up of the Church (which is the people of God).
It was the Holy Spirit filled believers PROPHESYING that really impacted those watching and listening that day. Then, when Peter preached it as being the fulfilment of that which Joel prophesied all those years previously, we are told, “Then those who gladly received his(Peter’s) word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them” (Acts 2:41 ). That was some impact that the Holy Spirit – through those newly baptized in the Holy Spirit believers – made that day! The Holy Spirit spoke through those believers in prophecy! And the result of all that prophesying was a huge increase in those who turned to believe and follow Jesus Christ in a personal way!
WHY IS PROPHESYING SO IMPORTANT?
So, why is prophecy and prophesying so important?
1. It is God’s will and way to speak to people – both saved and unsaved (see 1 Corinthians 14:22-25 ). Unbelievers do not prophesy, only believers. But when believers are prophesying, any unbelievers within listening range can be powerfully impacted by the conviction, truth and life of the Holy Spirit flowing through us. I have personally seen unbelievers saved as a direct result of people prophesying!
2. Prophecy flows out of a love relationship with Jesus. The gift and spirit of prophecy in operation brings “love letters from Jesus” to those assembled together in His name. True prophecies bring a positive, present time “now” message from the heart of God to the people. They build us up, inspire us, comfort us, and encourage us to know that God is for us, and has great things He wants to do in and through us.
3. There are many benefits when we understand and apply ourselves to the prophetic words that come forth through the Spiritual Gifts. “For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn (“to learn, intellectually from others, or from study and observation, to be informed, to understand” – Bullinger’s) and all may be encouraged (“to call to one, call near, to call for; every kind of speaking to, which is meant to produce a particular effect, e.g., exhortation, encouragement, comfort, etc.” – Bullinger’s)” (1 Corinthians 14:31 ). The Gift of Prophecy produces “a learning,” and “an encouragement” to us. The more that prophecy comes forth, the more we will gain the benefits of that.
4. We are not “to quench (“dampen, hinder, repress, put out, extinguish” – Bullinger’s) the Spirit,” or “despise prophecies” (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 ). Some interesting words are used by some Bible translations: “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil” (NIV). “Do not smother the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at those who prophesy” (TLB).
5. Receiving prophecies in our lives enables us to 1. “Wage the good warfare” 2.“have faith” 3. and have a “a good conscience” (see 1 Timothy 1:18-20 ). 4. We are to“meditate (“to care for, take care for anything, so as to be able to perform it” – Bullinger’s) on these things (prophecies)” 5. “give ourselves entirely to them (the prophecies)” 6. “that our progress (“a going forward, advancement”) may be evident to all” 7. “continue in them (those prophecies)”. 8. We then “save ourselves” and 9. “those who hear us” (1 Timothy 4:12-16 ).
PROPHECY IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
Even in Old Testament times, the prophets prophesying inspired the people to fulfil the work of God: “Then the prophet Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophets, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem , in the name of the God of Israel , who was over them. So Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak(Jehozadak) rose up and began to build the house of God which is in Jerusalem; and the prophets of God were with them, helping them” (Ezra 5:1-2 ). Prophesying inspired and encouraged the people to do what God had called them to do. Without the inspiration of the prophets, the work had fallen into discouragement and disrepute. In Ezra 6:14 we read, “So the elders of the Jews built, and they prospered (“to accomplish successfully; to reach the goal” – Wilson ’s) through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they built and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel , and according to the command of Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia .” Prophecy inspired the people to finish the task God had given them to do.
In Numbers 11:25 , we read of the 70 elders prophesying after God had given them an impartation of Moses spirit: “And it happened when the Spirit rested upon them, that they prophesied, and they did not cease” (as some translations put it). When Moses was questioned about all that prophesying, his response was, “Oh, that all the Lord’s people were prophets . . .” (v.29).
Samuel’s prophetic words to Saul were: “And it will happen, when you have come there to the city, that you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place . . . and they will be prophesying. Then the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man . . . So it was, when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, that God gave him another heart; and all those signs came to pass that day. When they came there to the hill, there was a group of prophets to meet him; then the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them” (1 Samuel 10:1-13 ). The terminology is that of the Old Covenant when the Spirit of God came upon people. In this New Covenant the terminology is that the Holy Spirit has been sent to live within us forever (John 14:15-31 ).
In closing, let me quote from 1 Corinthians 14:39 – “Therefore, brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues.”
Let us never forget that the operation of Spiritual Gifts is God’s idea. He sent the Spiritual Gifts with and in the Holy Spirit Who now lives inside all Spirit-filled believers in Jesus Christ. Be encouraged to PROPHESY out of a heart of great love for the people! YOU can do it! In Jesus' Name, Amen!