This is That

This is that which was spoken of through the prophet Joel:  “And it shall be in the last days,’ God says, ‘that I will pour forth of My Spirit upon all mankind; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even upon my bondslaves, both men and women, I will pour forth of My Spirit and they shall prophesy.  And I will grant wonders in the sky above and signs on the earth beneath, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke.  The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the Great and Glorious Day of the Lord shall come.  And it shall be, that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  (Joel 2:28-32)

The awareness of the truth of Peter’s assertion would have been instantaneous among these listening Jews and proselytes who knew the Scriptures so devoutly.  And Peter’s conclusion would have hit them like a 300 pound linebacker sacking a quarterback — the long-awaited Day of the Lord, Daniel’s seventieth week, is beginning.  Rome will soon be overthrown.  David’s Throne will soon be restored.    You can almost hear the excited murmurs passing through the crowd echoing through history down to our very day.  As we read further into Peter’s remarks, please keep in mind the impact of his assertion in their minds!

But there is a problem — a stumbling block in the minds of many listeners:

“Men of Israel, listen to these words:  Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know — this Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.  And God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.” (Acts 2:22-24)… “Therefore, let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ — this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:36)

Yes, I know I skipped over vv25-35 — they are a scriptural proof of what Peter was asserting.  We’ll consider them in a moment.  But as a parenthetical expression in Peter’s logical presentation, the weight of the conclusion of his presentation is better understood without it for the moment.  So consider the effect the premise and conclusion would have had on a crowd that was already abuzz with the excitement of the coming of the Day of the Lord.  What a devastating bombshell!  What effect do you think this had on the crowd?

“Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brethren, what shall we DO?” (Acts 2:37)

I hope the Scriptures have conveyed to you the strength of the emotions these listeners were experiencing, and that it brings a fresh vitality to your reading of this passage.  They were on a high one moment, and in the depths of despair the next.  What a roller-coaster ride God was taking them on through the words of Peter!

Why did they not just choose to disagree with Peter and ignore his remarks?  Why did they say OH NO instead of just saying NO?  Well, that’s what the parenthetical verses (vv25-35) accomplished in the middle of Peter’s logical presentation.  Like any good geometry proof, his argument had facts in the middle that led irrefutably to the conclusion.

“For David says of Him, ‘I was always beholding the Lord in my presence, for He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken.  Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue exulted; morover my flesh also will abide in hope; because thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades, nor allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay.  Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou wilt make me full of gladness with Thy presence.’” (Acts 2:25-28, quoted from Psalm 16:8-11)

Look carefully now at what Peter has to say about David’s words, uttered centuries before.  Remember that talking to a crowd of people today in New York City on a streetcorner in terms of David would be meaningless — it would only be factual proof of Peter’s assertion to devout Jews and proselytes who were expecting the restoration of David’s kingdom.  We must hear Peter’s words now as if we were one of them!  Read vv29-33 for yourself right now.  Here’s the gist of what Peter told them:

  • v29: David is dead and buried.  His tomb is right over there.  You can check it out for yourself if you don’t believe me (duh!)
  • v30: David new that one of his descendents would occupy his throne because God had promised it to him
  • v31: So David “looked ahead” and said of that descendent that God would not abandon Him to Hades or allow his flesh to decay in death
  • v32: This exact thing happened to Jesus, and we all are eye-witnesses of it
  • v33: Therefore, since we also are eye-witnesses to his glorified ascencion, and having received the Holy Spirit ourselves, God has taken the next step just as He said he would in Joel

Then Peter drives the final nail into the coffin of their objections:

  • David isn’t the one who ascended into Heaven  (Jesus did)
  • But David did say, “The Lord said to My Lord ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet.”

Now this last quote is a bit tricky to understand, but it should be familiar.  Turn back in your Bible to Matthew 22:23-46 and read it now.  I’ll wait while you do it — I promise!

Welcome back!  Wasn’t that fun?  The Saducees, who don’t believe resurrection is possible started it, and when they left with their tails between their legs the Pharisees decided to try a similar tactic.  Their approach was a little more subtle, but their outcome was the same shame.  Don’t we love to gloat over the way Jesus cornered both groups with their own arguments?  According to Matthew, none of them ever dared ask Him such a question again.  I believe the expression is that they were all “hoist on their own petard.”  Foolish gloating aside, focus on vv42-45:

“‘What do you think about the Christ, whose son is He?’  They said to Him, ‘The son of David.’  He said to them, ‘Then how does David in the Spirit call Him Lord, saying ‘The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand, until I put Thine enemies beneath Thy feet’?  If David calls Him Lord, how is He his son?’”

It’s profitable at this point to turn back and read the context of David’s statement to help us understand who is being referred to as Lord here.  Turn back in your Bible to Psalm 110 and read it in its entirety.  As before, I’ll wait right here until you get back.

Welcome back again!  Here are a couple of questions about what you just read.

  • How long will the rule and priesthood of the kingdom described in this Psalm last?  (see v4)
  • Who will be at this ruler’s right hand? (see v5)
  • When will the Lord “shatter kings”? (see v5)

The confusion in this quote used by Jesus and by Peter stems from two sources, (1) the time juxtaposition always present in prophecy, and (2) the names “The Lord” and “My Lord”.  As far as time juxtaposition goes, we (in the present) are studying Peter (in the day of Acts 2) who is quoting David (in the day’s of David’s reign) about the Day of the Lord (a date sometime in the future for all of us)!  It’s enough to make your head swim, unless you step out of the flow of time in which we are imprisoned and see it as God sees it.  God is not trapped in the flow of human time, but sees all of human past, present, and future as a great panorama before Him.  It’s like a great time line that is already filled in to the end of time.  David (and Jesus and Peter) were all talking about events at the end of the time line, and David knew that the one who would reign in that future day would be a descendent of his.  On this basis we can see that “The Lord” is God eternal, known to Israel as Jehovah and that “My Lord” is not David himself, but is David’s promised descendent.  David, by the time he penned Psalm 110, had come to understand that not only would a descendent of his rule forever like Melchizedek, but even during David’s own lifetime he was at work in his life from a position at God’s right hand, awaiting the day when His enemies would be made a footstool for His feet.  In essence, IMHO David’s prophecy says,

Jehovah says to David’s descendent, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet in the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord.”

Put back into the context of Peter’s argument, Peter is saying, “David wasn’t the one who ascended to sit at the right hand of Jehovah — Jesus did, and He is there now!  He is the ‘My Lord’ that David referred to!”

Put this back into the context of the entire parenthetical passage (vv25-36) and surround it with the rest of his presentation, and the logic looks like this:

  • God proved to you over and over that Jesus from Nazareth was His son and David’s son.
  • According to God’s plan you killed Him unjustly.
  • God has resurrected this Jesus just as David predicted.
  • It wasn’t David that came back to life — his decayed body is still right over there in his grave.
  • David predicted a descendent of his would not be held prisoner by death as David was, and His body would not decay.
  • David predicted this same descendent would sit at Jehovah’s right hand until His enemies were made into a footstool for Him.
  • David called this descendent his Lord even during his own lifetime.
  • David’s descendent is this very Jesus, who we saw come back to life and watched as He ascended to Jehovah’s right hand.
  • This same Jesus is seated at God’s right hand now, waiting and ready to conquer His enemies, just as David prophesied.
  • But you had Him crucified!

Imagine then the terrors and desperation that must have come to the minds of Peter’s audience.  It’s worth noting that what the most learned men in Israel for centuries had not been able to explain, this unlearned fisherman named Peter had just revealed in clear, simple terms — connected to the reality of the moment.  Peter’s listeners came to the sudden realization that they had “fallen into the hands” of a very powerful and potentially very angry God, the very God they held in such high esteem!  No doubt visions of the earth opening under their feet and swallowing them into Sheol alive passed before the eyes of some, for they would have known of Korah’s rebellion in the days of Moses.  This speech of Peter’s certainly wasn’t a boring presentation at an annual stockholders’ meeting.  It’s no wonder that their response was to cry out to the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we DO?”

Throughout human history great speakers have swayed the hearts and minds of men, inciting them to go to war and to cease from war, to accomplish great things, even at risk of death.  In the last century alone we hear the echos of Winston Churchill (“We shall fight in the trenches…”), Franklin D. Roosevelt (“The only thing we have to fear…”), John F. Kennedy (“…put a man on the moon…”) and Martin Luther King (“I have a dream…”).  But I doubt if ever the hearts of men were pierced as were the hearts of these devout Jews and proselytes on the day Peter explained to them what they had just seen.  In the next post — Peter answers their desperate question.

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