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Links to OT prophecies in Peter’s sermon in Acts 2

August 11, 2013

At Post Tenebras Lux Andrew G discussed Acts 2:17, where the apostle Peter, while addressing the Jews at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, quoted from a prophecy of Joel, beginning his quotation using the words of Isaiah rather than those of Joel.

Andrew wrote:

In vv. 17-21, Peter quotes Joel 2:28-32, though in vs. 17 he interestingly substitutes the phrase “in the last days” in place of Joel’s “after these things.” This substitution is taken from Isaiah 2:2, which is the only place in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament and the translation that Peter and Luke would have used) where the exact phrasing is used. This phrase is the beginning of a prophecy of Isaiah which describes the renewed and eschatological (i.e. end-times) Mountain of Zion and temple of Yahweh. …

Concerning this substitution of the phrase “in the last days” and the prophecy to which it alludes, G.K. Beale writes, “Thus, Peter appears to interpret the Spirit’s coming at Pentecost upon the Christian community in fulfillment of Joel also to be the beginning fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy of the end-time temple, under the influence of which the nations would come.” The outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost therefore is seen to be the official inauguration of the end-times temple-building project. The Apostle Paul comments on this end-times temple building project in Ephesians 2:19-22.

Andrew comments, “The end-times temple is therefore the church, the place in which the Spirit of God dwells and whose stones are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Luke probably included this subtle link to Isaiah 2:2 in his account of Peter’s message on Pentecost to suggest that Isaiah 2:1-3 was fulfilled, when Jesus ascended to heaven, where he was exalted and “made Christ” by God. [Acts 2:36] Being “made Christ” implied that Jesus was given a perpetual throne, in Jerusalem, reigning over all Israel, like David, and that Jerusalem and mount Zion were raised up, and “established in the top of the mountains, above the hills,” (in heaven, and in a spiritual sense) according to Isaiah’s prophecy. After Pentecost, the Jerusalem to which OT prophecy applies is the heavenly city. This is confirmed in other New Testament scriptures. [Galatians 4:26, Hebrews 12:22] Paul taught that believers are “raised up together” and “sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” [Ephesians 2:6]

Alan J. Thompson has discussed Peter’s use of Isaiah 2:2 in Acts 2:17. [Alan J. Thompson. The Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus: Luke’s Account of God’s Unfolding Plan (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2011), 128.] Referring to Joel’s prophecy of the outpouring of the Spirit Thompson wrote:

That Peter understands this promise as related to the wider eschatological hope of the OT is indicated by his change of wording from ‘afterwards’ to ‘in the last days’ (Acts 2:17) at the beginning of his quotation of Joel. This additional phrase seems to come from Isaiah 2:2, a passage that looks forward to the day when the nations will come to the Lord’s house and the ‘word of the Lord’ will go out from Jerusalem.

Scholars have also noted that the phrase “all the house of Israel” in Acts 2:36 links to Ezekiel’s prophecies about the Messiah and his kingdom. Thompson wrote:

As Bauckham has noted, the phrase ‘the whole house of Israel’ (pas oikos Israēl) is associated with the regathering of Israel’s exiles (37:21), the reunification of the southern and northern kingdoms (37:15-22), the ‘resurrection’ of Israel and the giving of God’s Spirit (37:14, 39-29), the reign of a Davidic King as one king over one united kingdom (37:24-25), and the dwelling of God with his people in fulfilment of the covenantal promises for the instruction of the nations (37:26-28). In Acts 2 Israelites from ‘every nation under heaven’ are present and in one day about three thousand return to God (‘repent’, 2:38) and receive from the resurrected and enthroned Davidic Messiah the ‘promise of the Spirit’ (2:33, 38-39).

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