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THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 2 - Verse 17

Verse 17. It shall come to pass. It shall happen, or shall occur.

In the last days. Hebrew, Chaldee, Syriac, and Arabic, after these things, or afterwards. The expression the last days, however, occurs frequently in the Old Testament. Ge 49:1, Jacob called his sons, that he might tell them what should happen to them in the last days; that is, in future times. Hebrew, in after times. Mi 4:1, "In the last days, (Heb. in after times,) the mountain of the house of the Lord," etc. Isa 2:2, "In the last days, the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains," etc. The expression then properly denoted the future times in general; but, as the coming of the Messiah was to the eye of a Jew the most important event in the coming ages, the great, glorious, and crowning scene in all that vast futurity, the phrase came to be regarded as properly expressive of that. And they spoke of future times, and of the last times, as the glad period which should be crowned and honoured with the presence and triumphs of the Messiah. It stood in opposition to the usual denomination of earlier times. It was a phrase in contrast with the days of the patriarchs, the kings, the prophets, etc. The last days, or the closing period of the world, were the days of the Messiah. It does not appear from this, and it certainly is not implied in the expression, that they supposed the world would then come to an end. Their views were just the contrary. They anticipated a long and glorious time, under the dominion of the Messiah, and to this expectation they were led by the promise that his kingdom should be for ever; that of the increase of his government there should be no end, etc. This expression was understood by the writers of the New Testament as referring undoubtedly to the times of the gospel. And hence they often used it as denoting that the time of the expected Messiah had come, but not to imply that the world was drawing near to an end. Heb 1:2, God "hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son." 1 Pe 1:20, "Was manifest in these last times for you." 2 Pe 3:3; 1 Pe 1:5; 1 Jo 2:18, "Little children, it is the last time," etc. Jude 1:18. The expression, the last day, is applied by our Saviour to the resurrection and the day of judgment, Joh 6:39,40,44,54; 11:24; 12:48.

Here the expression means simply in those future times, when the Messiah shall have come.

I will pour out of my Spirit. The expression in Hebrew is, "I will pour out my Spirit." The word pour is commonly applied to water, or to blood, to pour it out, or to shed it, Isa 57:6; to tears, to pour them out, that is, to weep, etc., Ps 42:4; 1 Sa 1:15. It is applied to water, to wine, or to blood, in the New Testament, Mt 9:17; Re 16:1; Ac 22:20, "The blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed." It conveys also the idea of communicating largely, or freely, as water is poured freely from a fountain. Tit 3:5,6, "The renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly." Thus Job 36:27, "They (the clouds) pour down rain according to the vapour thereof." Isa 44:3, "I will pour water upon him that is thirsty." Isa 45:8, "Let the skies pour down righteousness." Mal 3:10, "Will I pour you out a blessing." It is also applied to fury and anger, when God intends to say that he will not spare, but will signally punish. Ps 69:24; Jer 10:2,5.

It is not unfrequently applied to the Spirit, Pr 1:23; Isa 44:3 Zec 12:10. And then it means that he will bestow large measures of spiritual influences. As the Spirit renews and sanctifies men, so to pour out the Spirit is to grant freely his influences to renew and sanctify the soul.

My Spirit. The Spirit here denotes the Third Person of the Trinity, promised by the Saviour, and sent to finish his work, and apply it to men. The Holy Spirit is regarded as the source, or conveyer of all the blessings which Christians experience. Hence he renews the heart, Joh 3:5,6. He is the Source of all proper feelings and principles in Christians, or he produces the Christian graces, Ga 5:22-25; Tit 3:5-7. The spread and success of the gospel are attributed to him, Isa 32:15,16. Miraculous gifts are traced to him; especially the various gifts with which the early Christians were endowed, 1 Co 12:4-10. The promise that he would pour out his Spirit, means that he would, in the time of the Messiah, impart a large measure of those influences, which it was his peculiar province to communicate to men. A part of them were communicated on the day of Pentecost, in the miraculous endowment of the power of speaking foreign languages, in the wisdom of the apostles, and in the conversion of the three thousand.

Upon all flesh. The word flesh here means persons, or men. See Barnes "Ro 1:3".

The word all, here, does not mean every individual, but every class or rank of men. It is to be limited to the cases specified immediately. The influences were not to be confined to any class, but to be communicated to all kinds of persons, old men, youth, servants, etc. Comp. 1 Ti 2:1-4.

And your sons and your daughters. Your children. It would seem, however, that females shared in the remarkable influences of the Holy Spirit. Philip, the evangelist, had four daughters which did prophesy, Ac 21:9. It is probable also that the females of the church of Corinth partook of this gift, though they were forbidden to exercise it in public, 1 Co 14:34. The office of prophesying, whatever was meant by that, was not confined to the men among the Jews. Ex 15:20, "Miriam, the prophetess, took a timbrel," etc. Jud 4:4, "Deborah, a prophetess, judged Israel." 2 Ki 22:14. See also Lu 2:36, "There was one Anna, a prophetess," etc.

Shall prophesy. The word prophesy is used in a great variety of senses.

(1.) It means to predict, or foretell future events, Mt 11:13; 15:7.

(2.) To divine, to conjecture, to declare as a prophet might. Mt 26:68, "Prophesy, Who is he that smote thee."

(3.) To celebrate the praises of God, being under a Divine influence, Lu 1:67. This seems to have been a considerable part of the employment in the ancient schools of the prophets, 1 Sa 10:5; 19:20 1 Sa 30:15.

(4.) To teach—as no small part of the office of the prophets was to teach the doctrines of religion. Mt 7:22, "Have we not prophesied in thy name?"

(5.) It denotes then, in general, to speak under a Divine influence, whether in foretelling future events; in celebrating the praises of God; in instructing others in the duties of religion; or in speaking foreign languages under that influence. In this last sense, the word is used in the New Testament to denote those who were miraculously endowed with the power of speaking foreign languages, Ac 19:6. The word is also used to denote teaching, or speaking in intelligible language, in opposition to speaking a foreign tongue, 1 Co 14:1-5. In this place it means that they should speak under a Divine influence, and is specially applied to the power of speaking in a foreign tongue.

Your young men shall see visions. The will of God in former times was communicated to the prophets in various ways. One was by visions; and hence one of the most usual names of the prophets was seers. The name seer was first given to that class of men, and was superseded by the name prophet. 1 Sa 9:9, "He that is now called a Prophet was beforetime called a Seer. 1 Sa 9:11,18,19; 2 Sa 24:11; 1 Ch 29:29, etc. This name was given from the manner in which the Divine will was communicated, which seems to have been by throwing the prophet into an ecstacy, and then by causing the vision, or the appearance of the objects or events to pass before the mind. The prophet looked upon the passing scene, the often splendid diorama as it actually occurred, and recorded it as it appeared to his mind. Hence he recorded rather the succession of images than the times in which they would occur. These visions occurred sometimes when they were asleep, and sometimes during a prophetic ecstacy, Da 2:28; 7:1,2,15; 7:2; Eze 11:24; Ge 15:1; Nu 12:6; Job 4:13; 7:14; Eze 1:1; 8:3.

Often the prophet seemed to be transferred, or translated to another place from where he was; and the scene in a distant land or age passed before the mind, Eze 8:3; 40:2; 11:24; Da 8:2.

In this case, the distant scene or time passed before the prophet, and he recollected it as it appeared to him. That this did not cease before the times of the gospel is evident. Ac 9:10, "To Ananias said the Lord in a vision," Ac 9:12, "And hath seen (i.e. Paul) in a vision a man named Ananias," etc., i.e. Paul hath seen Ananias represented to him, though absent; he has had an image of him coming in to him. Ac 10:3, Cornelius "saw in a vision evidently an angel of God coming in to him," etc. This was one of the modes by which in former times God made known his will; and the language of the Jews came to express a revelation in this manner. Though there were strictly no visions on the day of Pentecost, yet that was one scene under the great economy of the Messiah, under which God would make known his will in a manner as clear as he did to the ancient Jews.

Your old men shall dream dreams. The will of God, in former times, was made known often in this manner; and there are several instances recorded in which it was done under the gospel. God informed Abimelech in a dream that Sarah was the wife of Abraham, Ge 20:3. He spoke to Jacob in a dream, Ge 31:11; to Laban, Ge 31:24; to Joseph, Ge 37:5; to the butler and baker, Ge 40:5; to Pharaoh, Ge 41:1-7; to Solomon, 1 Ki 3:5; to Daniel, Da 2:3; 7:1. It was prophesied by Moses that in this way God would make known his will, Nu 12:6. It occurred even in the times of the gospel, Mt 1:20. Joseph was warned in a dream, Mt 2:12,13,19,22.

Pilate's wife was also troubled in this manner about the conduct of the Jews to Christ, Mt 27:19. As this was one way in which the will of God was made known formerly to men, so the expression here denotes simply that his will should be made known; that it should be one characteristic of the times of the gospel that God would reveal himself to man. The ancients probably had some mode of determining whether their dreams were Divine communications, or whether they were, as they are now, the mere erratic wanderings of the mind when unrestrained and unchecked by the will. At present no confidence is to be put in dreams.

{a} "pour out my Spirit" Isa 44:3; Eze 36:27

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