Question:

How do I respond to someone who uses Acts 2:17 in support that prophesy and the gifts the the Holy Spirit may still be here today?


Answer:

"But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, "Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what 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 vapor 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).

Joel prophesied that in the time period called "the last days" that God would give gifts of the Holy Spirit to men and women. Peter said that the speaking in tongues by the apostles and heard by the crowds was evidence that Joel's prophecy was being fulfilled in their presence.

The "last days" is the Christian age. "God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds" (Hebrews 1:1-2). The phrasing means that there will be no other age after this one; what follows is the end of the world (II Peter 3:10-12).

While Joel said that the gifts would come in the last days, and Peter confirmed that they did come, note that neither stated that the gifts would remain for the entire age. They could remain for the entire age and fulfill the prophecy, but they also could come once or for a brief period of time and also make what Joel said true.

We take note also that what Joel predicted was a terrible judgment would also come in the last days. Does this mean the entire age would be "blood and fire and vapor 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?" No. What we realize is that Joel was also predicting the fall of Jerusalem as Jesus also discussed in Matthew 24:1-35. This doesn't prove that the gifts were a short term event, but it does establish that all of Joel's prophecy about the last days was continuous for the entire age.

Since, "The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever" (Psalms 119:160), we must look elsewhere to establish how long God intended for the gifts to last.

"Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away" (I Corinthians 13:8-10).

Paul stated that the gifts would end; therefore, Joel's prophecy is not to be construed to mean the entire age. Paul particularly states that the gifts would come to an end when that which is perfect has come. Since Paul did not say, "he who is perfect," we know that he is referring to something that is perfect and not someone. "But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does" (James 1:25). God's Word is perfect and at the time of Paul's writing the letter to Corinth, the Bible had not been delivered in full -- it had not fully come. Therefore, Paul's statement that the gifts only brought partial prophecy and partial knowledge makes sense.

The delivery of the Law of Christ was delivered in one period of time. "Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). The phrase "once for all" means for all times and for all people. There would not be a continuing revelation from God.

Yet, the miraculous gifts were not given for the gifts sake. They were given to confirm the Word. "How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?" (Hebrews 2:3-4). When the Law of Christ was delivered and confirmed, the need for the gifts would also end, which is why Paul said they would end.

The ending of the gifts does not mean Joel was wrong. The gifts did come in the last days. The prophecy was fulfilled.