I do not really understand Acts 2:19-20. What does it mean?
What does Acts 2:19-20 mean? Joel 2:30-31, which is a prophetic passage about the future, will help us understand the meaning of Acts 2:19-20. In order to discover the meaning of both passages, we must remember that Jesus Christ had already left this earth and returned to heaven (Acts 1:8). Some days after Jesus had left, the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost and indwelt the apostles in a very unusual way.
When the day of Pentecost had come . . . suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting . . . And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. Acts 2:1-4 (NASB)
This event had been predicted by Jesus on several occasions (Luke 24:49; John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7; Acts 1:7-8). When the Holy Spirit did come, the result was that the apostles spoke in “tongues” or known languages (Acts 2:4). The Greek word for “tongues” in verse 4 is glossa and it refers to human languages. Acts 2:5-12 tells us that people from different countries and cultures were present and heard the apostles speak in his or her own language. It appears that the apostles spoke as a group. Yet each person heard them in their own language. All of these people were amazed that they could simultaneously hear the apostles speaking in each person’s own language. Some individuals have attempted to explain what happened by accusing the apostles of being drunk. It is obvious that this accusation does not explain how each individual could hear the apostles speak in his or her own language at the same time.
Peter’s Sermon – Acts 2:15-46
Peter used the opportunity to tell them about Jesus Christ. He began his message by quoting the prophecy of Joel 2:28-32 and added a few words. His first words were a quote from the opening verse of Joel 2:28.
“‘AND IT SHALL BE IN THE LAST DAYS,’ God says, ‘THAT I WILL POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT ON ALL MANKIND; AND YOUR SONS AND YOUR DAUGHTERS SHALL PROPHESY, AND YOUR YOUNG MEN SHALL SEE VISIONS, AND YOUR OLD MEN SHALL DREAM DREAMS . . .'” Acts 2:17 (NASB)
It is important to note that Peter told the crowd that they were in the last days. In Acts 2:18 he quotes Joel 2:29 which says that the Holy Spirit would come. Then two verses later in Acts 2:19-20, Peter quoted Joel 2:30-31. Here are both passages.
AND I WILL GRANT WONDERS IN THE SKY ABOVE AND SIGNS ON THE EARTH BELOW, BLOOD, AND FIRE, AND VAPOR OF SMOKE. THE SUN WILL BE TURNED INTO DARKNESS AND THE MOON INTO BLOOD, BEFORE THE GREAT AND GLORIOUS DAY OF THE LORD SHALL COME. Acts 2:19-20 (NASB)
“I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth,
Blood, fire and columns of smoke.
The sun will be turned into darkness
And the moon into blood
Before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.
Joel 2:30-31 (NASB)
The Last Days
Since the greater context of Acts 2:19-20 is from Joel 2:28-3:16, it is important to understand that the Joel passage describes events that will occur immediately before the second coming of the Messiah (Joel 2:31). This period of time is the “last days,” according to Joel and according to Peter. The phrase “last days” started when Jesus came to earth (Hebrews 1:1-2; 1 Peter 1:20).
. . . in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. Hebrews 1:2 (NASB)
For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you . . . 1 Peter 1:20 (NASB)
The last days also include the end times, including the millennial kingdom (Isaiah 2:2; Hosea 3:5). From a biblical perspective, we are in the last part of world history now or the “final days of the world” (Hebrews 9:26; 1 John 2:18).
Dreams and Visions
The prophecy in Joel said that people would have dreams and visions and the Holy Spirit would be poured out during these last days. Some individuals believe that this means that dreams and visions should be occurring in our life time. But it is important to remember that dreams and visions have already been occurring since the book of Genesis (Genesis 37:1-8; 46:2). A previous question and answer discusses dreams and visions in the Bible. You might want to read it before proceeding further. Dreams and visions are not new. They also occurred during the times of the apostle
Glorious Day of the Lord Shall Come
Joel 2:31-32, which is Acts 2:19-20, also predicted that the sun would be darkened, the moon would turn red, and wonders would appear in the sky before the great and glorious day of the Lord. This statement refers to the events that will come immediately after the great tribulation referred to by Daniel the prophet (Daniel 7; Matthew 24:15, 21, 29) and before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Jesus made the same statement during His ministry. Here is a portion of Jesus’ comment,
But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory. Matthew 24:29-30 (NASB)
These events have not yet occurred. These are future events according to Joel 2:28-3:18. Joel’s prophecy covers a long period of time starting at the time of Jesus Christ. It includes the tribulation and the Second Coming of Jesus (Joel 2:31-3:2, 9-16), and concludes at the end of the kingdom (Joel 3:17-18). Joel’s prophecy covers the time from the tribulation through the kingdom.
What does Acts 2:19-20 mean?
What is the point of Peter’s message? Peter wanted to tell the crowd that they should not be surprised that the Holy Spirit had been poured out in such a spectacular way. Even the prophet Joel had predicted an unusual outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the last days. The Holy Spirit has been active among us since Genesis (Genesis 6:3). The ministry of the Holy Spirit continues today, but not in the same way as that experienced by the apostles. Since Pentecost the Holy Spirit indwells and empowers believers. Today the Holy Spirit now lives inside each believer and empowers one to live a godly life and perform spiritual ministry (Galatians 5:16-23; Ephesians 3:16; 5:17-25). When the kingdom comes, Joel’s prophecy will be fulfilled. Here is a great summary quote from Dr. J. Vernon McGee,
If we could only see that all Simon Peter is saying in his introduction is, “Now look, this is not strange or contrary. The day is coming when this will be fulfilled. And today we are seeing something similar to it.”
Today, young men do not see visions and old men do not dream spiritual dreams of the type that Joel predicted would occur in the kingdom. Joel 2:28-32 was a prefigurement or a foretaste of what would come. Notice that Peter did not say that the Joel prophecy was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. He simply said that Joel had spoken of what would come.
Acts 2:19-20 is a quote of Joel’s prophecy which stretches from the time of Jesus into the kingdom. Yet, the primary emphasis of Joel 2:28-32 is the future tribulation and future kingdom, and not the time of the apostles or the New Testament era. The ministry of the Holy Spirit started in a new way at Pentecost as a partial fulfillment, but we have not seen anything yet. Wait for the kingdom!
Suggested Links:Prophecy of The Future
Will the Jews be given a chance to repent in the last days?
What is the dispensational premillennial view of the events of the last days?
What are the signs of Jesus’ Second Coming?
Book of Joel
Book of Revelation