Promise of Mercy.
B. C. 720.
28 And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: 29 And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. 30 And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. 31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come. 32 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call.
The promises of corn, and wine, and oil, in the foregoing verses, would be very acceptable to a wasted country; but here we are taught that we must not rest in those things. God has reserved some better things for us, and these verses have reference to those better things, both the kingdom of grace and the kingdom of glory, with the happiness of true believers in both. We are here told,
I. How the kingdom of grace shall be introduced by a plentiful effusion of the Spirit, (v. 28, 29). We are not at a loss about the meaning of this promise, nor in doubt what it refers to and wherein it had its accomplishment, for the apostle Peter has given us an infallible explication and application of it, assuring us that when the Spirit was poured out upon the apostles, on the day of Pentecost (Acts ii. 1, &c.), that was the very thing which was spoken of here by the prophet Joel, v. 16, 17. That was the gift of the Spirit, which, according to this prediction, was to come, and we are not to look for any other, any more than for another accomplishment of the promise of the Messiah. Now,
1. The blessing itself here promised is the pouring out of the Spirit of God, his gifts, graces, and comforts, which the blessed Spirit is the author of. We often read in the Old Testament of the Spirit of the Lord coming by 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, as was promised with an eye to gospel-times, Isa. xliv. 3. I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed.
2. The time fixed for this is afterwards; after the fulfilling of the foregoing promises this shall be fulfilled. St. Peter expounds this of the last days, the days of the Messiah, by whom the world was to have its last revelation of the divine will and grace in the last days of the Jewish church, a little before its dissolution.
3. The extent of this blessing, in respect of the persons on whom it shall be bestowed. The Spirit shall be poured out upon all flesh, not as hitherto upon Jews only, but upon Gentiles also; for in Christ there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, Rom. x. 11, 12. Hitherto divine revelation was confined to the seed of Abraham, none but those of the land of Israel had the Spirit of prophecy; but, in the last days, all flesh shall see the glory of God (Isa. xl. 5) and shall come to worship before him, Isa. lxvi. 23. The Jews understand it of all flesh in the land of Israel, and Peter himself did not fully understand it as speaking of the Gentiles till he saw it accomplished in the descent of the Holy Ghost upon Cornelius and his friends, who were Gentiles (Acts x. 44, 45), which was but a continuation of the same gift which was bestowed on the day of Pentecost. The Spirit shall be poured out upon all flesh, that is, upon all those whose hearts are made hearts of flesh, soft and tender, and so prepared to receive the impressions and influences of the Holy Ghost. Upon all flesh, that is, upon some of all sorts of men; the gifts of the Spirit shall not be so sparing, or so much confined, as they have been, but shall be more general and diffusive of themselves. (1.) The Spirit shall be poured out upon some of each sex. Not your sons only, but your daughters, shall prophesy; we read of four sisters in one family that were prophetesses, Acts xxi. 9. Not the parents only, but the children, shall be filled with the Spirit, which intimates the continuance of this gift for some ages successively in the church.
(2.) Upon some of each age: “Your old men, who are past their vigour and whose spirits begin to decay, your young men, who have yet but little acquaintance with and experience of divine things, shall yet dream dreams and see visions;” God will reveal himself by dreams and visions both to the young and old.
(3.) Upon those of the meanest rank and condition, even upon the servants and the handmaids. The Jewish doctors say, Prophecy does not reside on any but such as are wise, valiant, and rich, not upon the soul of a poor man, or a man in sorrow. But in Christ Jesus there is neither bond nor free, Gal. iii. 28. There were many that were called being servants (1 Cor. vii. 21), but that was no obstruction to their receiving the Holy Ghost.
(4.) The effect of this blessing: They shall prophesy; they shall receive new discoveries of divine things, and that not for their own use only, but for the benefit of the church. They shall interpret scripture, and speak of things secret, distant, and future, which by the utmost sagacities of reason, and their natural powers, they could not have any insight into nor foresight of. By these extraordinary gifts the Christian church was first founded and set up, and the scriptures were written, and the ministry settled, by which, with the ordinary operations and influences of the Spirit, it was to be afterwards maintained and kept up.
II. How the kingdom of glory shall be introduced by the universal change of nature, v. 30, 31. The pouring out of the Spirit will be very comfortable to the righteous; but let the unrighteous hear this, and tremble. There is a great and terrible day of the Lord coming, which shall be ushered in with wonders in heaven and earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke, the turning of the sun into darkness and the moon into blood. This is to have its full accomplishment (as the learned Dr. Pocock thinks) in the day of judgment, at the end of time, before which these signs will be performed in the letter of them, yet so that it was accomplished in part in the death of Christ (which is called the judgment of this world, when the earth quaked and the sun was darkened, and a great and terrible day it was), and more fully in the destruction of Jerusalem, which was a type and figure of the general judgment, and before which there were many amazing prodigies, besides the convulsions of states and kingdoms prophesied of under the figurative expressions of turning the sun into darkness and the moon into blood, and the wars and rumours of wars, and distress of nations, which our Saviour spoke of as the beginning of these sorrows, Matt. xxiv. 6, 7. But before the last judgment there will be wonders indeed in heaven and earth, the dissolution of both, without a metaphor. The judgments of God upon a sinful world, and the frequent destruction of wicked kingdoms by fire and sword, are prefaces to and presages of the judgment of the world in the last day. Those on whom the Spirit is poured out shall foresee and foretel that great and terrible day of the Lord, and expound the wonders in heaven and earth that go before it; for, as to his first coming, so to his second, all the prophets did and do bear witness, Rev. x. 7.
III. The safety and happiness of all true believers both in the first and second coming of Jesus Christ, v. 32. This speaks of particular persons, for to them the New Testament has more respect, and less to kingdoms and nations, than the Old. Now observe here,
1. That there is a salvation wrought out. Though the day of the Lord will be great and terrible, yet in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance from the terror of it. It is the day of the Lord, the day of his judgment, who knows how to separate between the precious and the vile. In the everlasting gospel, which went from Zion, in the church of the first-born typified by Mount Zion, and which is the Jerusalem that is from above, there is deliverance; a way of escaping the wrath to come is found out and laid open. Christ is himself not only the Saviour, but the salvation; he is so to the ends of the earth. This deliverance, laid up for us in the covenant of grace, is in performance of the promises made to the fathers. There shall be deliverance, as the Lord has said. See Luke i. 72. Note, This is ground of comfort and hope to sinners, that, whatever danger there is in their case, there is also deliverance, deliverance for them, if it be not their own fault. And, if we would share in this deliverance, we must ourselves apply to the gospel–Zion, to God’s Jerusalem.
2. That there is a remnant interested in this salvation, and for whom the deliverance is wrought. It is in that remnant (that is, among them) that the deliverance is, or in their souls and spirits; there are the earnests and evidences of it. Christ in you, the hope of glory. They are called a remnant, because they are but a few in comparison with the multitudes that are left to perish; a little remnant but a chosen one, a remnant according to the election of grace. And here we are told who they are that shall be delivered in the great day.
(1.) Those that sincerely call upon God: Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord, whether Jew or Gentile (for the apostle so expounds it, Rom. x. 13, where he lays this down as the great rule of the gospel by which we must all be judged), shall be delivered. This calling on God supposes knowledge of him, faith in him, desire towards him, dependence on him, and, as an evidence of the sincerity of all this, a conscientious obedience to him; for, without that, crying Lord, Lord, will not stand us in any stead. Note, It is the praying remnant that shall be the saved remnant. And it will aggravate the ruin of those who perish that they might have been saved on such easy terms.
(2.) Those that are effectually called to God. The deliverance is sure to the remnant whom the Lord shall call, not only with the common call of the gospel, with which many are called that are not chosen, but with a special call into the fellowship of Jesus Christ, whom the Lord predestinates, or prepares, so the Chaldee. St. Peter borrows this phrase, Acts ii. 39. Note, Those only shall be delivered in the great day that are now effectually called from sin to God, from self to Christ, from things below to things above.
– Matthew Henry Commentary