The Spirit Poured Out: A Messianic Promise

“And it shall come to pass afterward,
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.” Joel 2:28 (ESV)

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So, I am preparing for my hermeneutics class that I am taking this Summer (no rest for the weary) and I ran across this fabulous article on Joel 2:28.  Interestingly the article is not in a Christian journal but written by Jewish Rabbi Mordecai Schreiber in the Jewish Bible Quarterly.

What amazed me about this article is how much insight Rabbi Schreiber shed on my beliefs as a Christian minister.  I am not saying that Christians cannot learn lots from the Jewish spiritual leaders; especially when it concerns the Old Testament.  What struck me in Rabbi Schreiber’s article was how he linked the Joel 2:28 to the story of the Messiah.  No, he wasn’t talking about Jesus.  Well, not intentionally.

He writes:

“This passage (Joel 2:28) is paraphrased in the New Testament (Acts 2:17) and the words / will pour out my spirit have become well-known and commonly used among Christians, but less so among Jews. Most traditional Jewish commentators, notably Rashi, Radak, and Metzudot, relegate them to the messianic era and offer vague explanations as to what ‘pouring out My spirit’ and ‘your sons and daughters will prophesy’ mean. They base their view on the words ‘in those days,’ which they link to the words ‘the end of days,’ ergo, the messianic age.”[1]

What Rabbi Schreiber says here is profound to the Christian understanding, especially for Christians with Pentecostal roots, is how the pouring out of God’s Spirit is linked to the end of time.  And, further, Rabbi Schreiber links the end of age to the time of the Messiah’s rule.  For the Jewish mind this would be a time of peace when the Messiah has come and settled all accounts with mankind and destroyed the rule of sinfulness forever.  It would also be the reestablishment of the Jewish nation, the peace of Jerusalem, and the throne of David established forever.

As Christians when we read these claims by Rabbi Schreiber we see Jesus written all over this.  And we even wonder why he and other Jewish leaders can’t see what we see.  But what is even greater to me is that they see what we seem to have missed.  The pouring out of God’s Spirit was in fact the beginning of the Messianic age.  This is the heart of Kingdom Theology.

In Kingdom Theology Christians call this inaugurated eschatology; another way to say that in an easy way is “the beginning of the end.”  In other words, the coming of the Messiah marks the establishment of the Kingdom of God. To the Jewish mind looking at Jesus it would be hard to wrap their mind around him as the Messiah because there is no real indication of anything changing.  Let’s face it.  Since the coming of Jesus we have had horrific wars and catastrophes.  Nothing indicates in the natural a triumphant messiah with an everlasting Kingdom.

But Jesus didn’t come to establish that kind of Kingdom! At least not yet.  It is the not yet of the Kingdom that we now live in as Christians.  We live in this Messianic Age, in a time when the Spirit of God is being poured out on all flesh, every tribe and nation.  The battle that Jesus, the Messiah, came to win was not the temporal establishment of a earthly kingdom with a capitol in Jerusalem.  Instead he came to establish his eternal presence with mankind by conquering sin, death and the grave!

What this indicates for the Christian is that the Holy Spirit has been poured out in our individual lives in such a way that we get to experience the fulfillment of the Law in our hearts!  And his name is Jesus!  When we enter into relationship with the Messiah he is in fact entering into our earthen temples with his eternal presence.  We literally get to experience the now of his Kingdom by the very presence of the Holy Spirit living inside of us while simultaneously experiencing the not yet of an eternity with God in a hope for a glorious future.

So the implications of Joel 2:28 are far more extensive than just the Acts 2 account of the early church.  Instead God’s Spirit is constantly being poured out on all flesh. This Kingdom is still growing, expanding, and cannot be confined to just the walls of Jerusalem.  This Kingdom is what I experienced when I walked into a leaders’ gathering in China where I instantly felt that familiar Spirit and knew I was with family. The Kingdom is when I see an eternal peace come over someone as the approach their moment of death.  The Kingdom is what I experience when God miraculously shows up with healing for someone.  The Kingdom is not a rigid, boxed up place, but it is the place, the situation, the overwhelmingly impossible circumstances where God’s Spirit is poured out.

We move from this static view of an earthly Kingdom to one where the Spirit of God is actively moving and changing lives, communities and even nations.  Yours is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory, forever indicates a certain now in the middle of our not yet everyday life.  And this feeling of the now of God’s Kingdom comes as we open ourselves to the pouring out on our flesh.

So, with this we pray…

Come, Holy Spirit!

[1] Mordecai Schreiber, “‘I Will Pour out My Spirit on All Flesh’ (Joel 3:1),” Jewish Bible Quarterly 41, no. 2 (April 2013): 123–129.

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