Acts 2:19

Tuesday, 9 November 2021

I will show wonders in heaven above
And signs in the earth beneath:
Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. Acts 2:19

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Luke continues with Peter’s citation of Joel 2 now. This is from Joel 2:30 –

“And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth:
Blood and fire and pillars of smoke.”

As can be seen, Peter’s words are not an exact quote. As the Greek translation of the OT reflects the Hebrew, Peter’s words are more of a paraphrase. He begins with, “I will show wonders in heaven above.”

The Greek literally means, “I will give.” The idea of a wonder is something that is miraculous and awesome. Further, it is the thing itself. In other words, if the Lord opens up the Red Sea, it is a wonder. If the Lord stills the storm-tossed sea, it is a wonder. Peter continues with, “And signs in the earth beneath.”

A sign is something that represents something else. In Genesis 1, it says –

“Then God said, ‘Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; 15 and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth’; and it was so.” Genesis 1:14, 15

The lights in the heavens are given for light and for dividing the day and the night. That is a purpose that they serve. They are also given for markers of the seasons. People know when to plant and when to reap because of them, and so on. However, it also says that they are for “signs.”

Throughout the Bible, this is then confirmed as the Lord uses them to represent other things, or of the coming of certain events. The sun or the moon turning to blood, such as during an eclipse (Revelation 6:12), is shown to portend catastrophe at times. Stars are seen at times to indicate special events, such as the coming of Messiah (Matthew 2:2). The constellations are set in the sky as markers (see Job 9:9 and Job 38:32). With this understood, Peter continues with, “Blood and fire and vapor of smoke.”

The blood is stated explicitly to be the life in Deuteronomy 12:23. Therefore, when blood is brought forth, it signifies the shedding of life, such as a slaughter in battle or in the unsanctioned killing of others. For the shedding of blood in battle, Ezekiel 38:22 gives the proper sense –

“And I will bring him to judgment with pestilence and bloodshed; I will rain down on him, on his troops, and on the many peoples who are with him, flooding rain, great hailstones, fire, and brimstone.”

As can be seen, this same verse mentions “fire,” as does Peter. It is reflective of war and the calamity that comes with it. There is destruction with fire and by fire –

“Now in the fifth month, on the tenth day of the month (which was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon), Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, who served the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. 13 He burned the house of the Lord and the king’s house; all the houses of Jerusalem, that is, all the houses of the great, he burned with fire.” Jeremiah 52:12, 13

The “vapors of smoke” that Peter refers to comes from the effects of the fire and from other catastrophes, such as during the destruction of Sodom. Thus, the vapors (or in the Hebrew “pillars”) are columns of smoke rising up like a palm tree into the sky.

What is surely the case is that Peter has gone from the immediate events of Joel’s prophecy to events in the distant future, maybe without realizing it. The Spirit was poured out on the believers, and he described that in verses 17 & 18. Verses 19 & 20 then refer again to events that will come upon Israel during the tribulation period.

Joel’s prophesy seems to say that these things will come upon Israel “after” the great battles of the tribulation period (Joel 2:28 says, “And it shall come to pass afterward”). However, Joel is looking into the future and describing events as they come before him. As such, there is nothing to negate that the giving of the Spirit to the believers is not intimately connected with the future pouring out upon the whole nation. As such, the events bracket the time between Christ’s advents. This is seen in Jesus’ words concerning the tribulation period –

“For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22 And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.
23 “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand.” Matthew 24:21-25

The New Covenant was established with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. They are now (at the time of Acts 2) being given opportunity to accept it and come into all that the covenant promises to them. However, as Acts continues on, it will be seen that this will not occur. Israel (the nation collectively) will reject Christ, and the banner of leadership will go from the tent of Shem to the tent of Japheth (Genesis 9:27). It will go from Jew to Gentile.

This does not, however, mean that the Jews (Israel) are rejected. It means that God, in His advanced knowledge of what would occur, has had His gospel go out to the nations while Israel lives under the Mosaic Covenant curses for rejecting Him. The fact that they are under those curses means that they are still God’s people. If they were not, there would be no covenant to punish them with. But the Lord is faithful to His unfaithful people.

And so, while Israel awaits being brought into the New Covenant, the gospel has gone forth to the Gentiles. It is the same covenant and the same gospel to both. But Israel, as a nation, must accept their Messiah before they – as a people – find restoration.

Life application: Peter’s words, which cite Joel, show that Israel still has a purpose in God’s redemptive narrative. Joel’s words were spoken to Israel. The words pertain to Israel, and the events have (and will) come upon Israel. For now, the redemptive narrative continues through the tent of Japheth, and the spiritual banner is held by the Gentile people. This will end at some point, and the spiritual banner will be picked up again by the tent of Shem. Until that happens, we can know that none of this was out of God’s plans –

“Indeed He says,
‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant
To raise up the tribes of Jacob,
And to restore the preserved ones of Israel;
I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles,
That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’” Isaiah 49:6

There is one Messiah, there is one New Covenant, there is one gospel, and there is one plan of redemption that began at the fall and that will continue until all things are accomplished. Let each of us be a part of that plan by going forth and sharing this good news of salvation!

Heavenly Father, how good it is to know that all we need to do is to simply receive what You have already done. As humans, we always want to do things our own way, and we want to work for what You have already offered freely. Help us to understand that nothing will satisfy You except trusting in the completed work of Christ. He has done the work. May the eyes of all people see this and place their trust in Him. Amen.