The Outpouring of God’s Spirit
“It shall come to pass … that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit” (vv. 28–29).- Joel 2:28–29
Upon its repentance, the people of the old covenant community could count on a restoration from exile that would establish them in blessedness far greater than what they enjoyed before they were cast out of the Promised Land (Lev. 26:40–45; Deut. 30:1–10; Isa. 65:17–25; Zeph. 3:14–20). Joel 2:18–27 reiterates this point, explaining that Judah would enjoy a full recovery of everything lost to the covenant curses that were falling on the people in the sixth century BC (1:1–2:11). All the enemies of God’s people, no matter where they came from, would also be fully and finally defeated (2:20). Moreover, Joel indicated that these blessings would be fully realized on the great day of the Lord. Even though the children of Abraham had made themselves enemies of the Lord and as deserving of His judgment as the pagan Gentiles (vv. 1–11), the faithful remnant would repent and be rescued from the wrath of God that they deserved (vv. 18–27).
Joel also foresaw that a great outpouring of God’s Spirit would accompany those events (vv. 28–29). Moses longed for all the Israelites to enjoy the Holy Spirit to the degree that they could prophesy (Num. 11:16–29), and Joel 2:28–29 says his longing would finally become a reality. Matthew Henry comments on today’s passage, “We often read in the Old Testament of the Spirit of the Lord coming in drops, as it were, upon the judges and prophets whom God raised up for extraordinary services; but now the Spirit shall be poured out plentifully in a full stream.” The true Israel of God has always enjoyed the blessing of the Spirit’s regeneration, but under the old covenant, the Spirit came only upon certain people—mainly prophets, priests, and kings—with power and gifts for ministry (for example, Judg. 3:7–11; 1 Sam. 16:13). Joel prophesied a day when the Holy Spirit would gift all of the Lord’s children, no matter their age, social class, or gender.
Acts 2:1–21 reveals that this occurred when, at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit’s descent initiated the last days, the time just before the final day of the Lord. Having endured the day of the Lord’s wrath on behalf of His people, Christ ascended to heaven and poured out His Spirit on the church, gifting all believers for ministry (Eph. 4:8). We use these gifts to serve one another and spread the gospel until He returns to judge the living and the dead. All who have not passed into eternal life in Him through faith alone shall feel His just anger on the day of the Lord to come (John 5:19–29; Rom. 6:5–11).
We receive the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit by faith when we place our trust in Christ. Thus, no Christian should think that he is without the help of the Holy Spirit or that he needs to do something more to enjoy the Spirit’s fullness. Having received the Spirit, let us walk in the Spirit, listening to Him in His Word and using our gifts to serve others in the body of Christ. Are you exercising the spiritual gifts that the Lord has given to you?
Passages for Further Study