“In the last days, God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.’”
Explanation and Commentary of Acts 2:17
Peter quotes the prophet Joel (Joel 2:28) in an explanation of the great outpouring of the Holy Spirit, promised by Christ (Acts 1:8), claiming that they are witnessing the fulfillment of that prophecy. Indeed this is what transpired, and the Church was empowered to continue the ministry of Jesus.
There is much debate concerning the extent to which this applies to the present day, but the reality is that the Bible gives no indication that the empowerment of the Holy Spirit for miraculous ministry was meant to end with the completion of the canon, as some suppose.
It is important that when it comes to anything that Scripture plainly teaches, the Bible and what it says is the standard of belief, rather than one’s own particular experience. This is true for any spiritual phenomena that seem extra-biblical, as some have been guilty of practicing fantastical unbiblical “signs” when the Spirit seems to be moving.
But it is equally true that even though one hasn’t experienced the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit for signs and wonders (such as healing, prophecy, and tongues/interpretation), or one has seen them performed in a suspect manner, that the Bible must be the last word on the subject, and we must not be found guilty of “despising” any work of the Spirit (1 Thes 5:20).
Breaking Down the Key Parts of Acts 2:17
#1 “In the last days,”
The last days began with the ascension of Jesus into Heaven and will remain until the final return of Christ. The Book of Acts was chapter one of “the last days.” Let us hope that we are living in the final chapter today.
#2 “God says,”
God spoke and continues to speak clearly in his Word, the Bible, infallible, inerrant, and inspired by the Holy Spirit through forty different authors. While we still need the Holy Spirit to illuminate exact interpretations, there is no clearer way to hear God speak.
#3 “I will pour out my Spirit on all people.”
The Holy Spirit was active from the very beginning of creation and often appears in the Old Testament to empower prophets, judges, kings, and warriors to do the work of God. Jesus promised the disciples that the Spirit would come to counsel, convict, empower, and comfort the Church after he had descended to the Father. This began at Pentecost and continued whenever anyone was born again.
Believers are filled with the Spirit upon conversion and should seek subsequent “filling” for empowerment for the rest of their lives. Because sometimes these fillings can manifest in powerful ways that can be felt, it has led some to the erroneous belief that we do not get all “filled” upon conversion, but must seek a “second baptism” that will be proven by receiving the gift of tongues.
#4 “Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.”
While the Bible is infallible, the revelation that comes through prophetic words, visions, and dreams are fallible and must not be held in the same regard as the Bible. They must rather be tested against the Bible and then weighed for discernment by faithful and gifted Christians. Even then, they must be treated as subjective and approached with care.
Bible Study on Acts 2:14-21
Expert Overview of Acts
Biblical Translations of Acts 2:17
In the last days, God says, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.”
In the last days, God says, “I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams.”
And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.”
And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, “I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.”
And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, “That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams.”
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