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Acts 2:17

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

It shall come to pass - It shall happen, or shall occur.

In the last days - Hebrew, Chaldee, Syriac, and Arabic, after these things, or afterward. The expression the last days, however, occurs frequently in the Old Testament: Genesis 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 - Heb. in after times; Micah 4:1, “In the last days (Hebrew: in later times) the mountain of the Lord‘s house,” etc.; Isaiah 2:2, “in the last days the mountain of the Lord‘s house shall be established in the tops 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 the vast futurity, the phrase came to be regarded as properly expressive of that. 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 forever; 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: Hebrews 1:2, “God hath spoken in these last days by his Son”; 1 Peter 1:20, “Was manifested in these last times for you”; 2 Peter 3:3; 1 Peter 1:5; 1 John 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, John 6:39-40, John 6:44-45; John 11:24; John 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,” Isaiah 57:6; to tears, “to pour them out,” that is,” to weep, etc., Psalm 42:4; 1 Samuel 1:15. It is applied to water, to wine, or to blood, in the New Testament, Matthew 9:17; Revelation 16:1; Acts 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, Titus 3:5-6, “The renewing of the Holy Spirit, which he shed on us abundantly.” Thus, Job 36:27, “They (the clouds) pour down rain according to the vapor thereof”; Isaiah 44:3, “I will pour water on him that is thirsty”; Isaiah 45:8, “Let the skies pour down righteousness”; Malachi 3:10, “I will 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, Psalm 69:24; Jeremiah 10:25. It is not infrequently applied to the Spirit, Proverbs 1:23; Isaiah 44:3; Zechariah 12:10. As thus used it means that he will bestow large measures of spiritual influences. As the Spirit renews and sanctifies people, 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 people. The Holy Spirit is regarded as the source or conveyer of all the blessings which Christians experience. Hence, he renews the heart, John 3:5-6. He is the source of all proper feelings and principles in Christians, or he produces the Christian graces, Galatians 5:22-25; Titus 3:5-7. The spread and success of the gospel is attributed to him, Isaiah 32:15-16. Miraculous gifts are traced to him, especially the various gifts with which the early Christians were endowed, 1 Corinthians 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 special province to communicate to people. 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 “people.” See the notes on Romans 1:3. The word “all” here does not mean every individual, but every class or rank of individuals. It is to be limited to the cases specified immediately. The influences were not to be confined to any one class, but were to be communicated to all kinds of persons - old men, youth, servants, etc. Compare 1 Timothy 2:1-4.

And your sons and your daughters - Your children. It would seem that females shared in the remarkable influences of the Holy Spirit. Philip the Evangelist had four daughters which did prophesy, Acts 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 Corinthians 14:34. The office of prophesying, whatever was meant by that, was not confined to the people among the Jews: Exodus 15:20, “Miriam, the prophetess, took a timbrel,” etc.; Judges 4:4, “Deborah, a prophetess, judged Israel”; 2 Kings 22:14. See also Luke 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, Matthew 11:13; Matthew 15:7.

(2) to divine, to conjecture, to declare as a prophet might, Matthew 26:68, “Prophesy who smote thee.”

(3) to celebrate the praises of God, being under a divine influence, Luke 1:67. This seems to have been a considerable part of the employment in the ancient schools of the prophet, 1 Samuel 10:5; 1 Samuel 19:20; 1 Samuel 30:15.

(4) to teach - as no small part of the office of the prophets was to teach the doctrines of religion, Matthew 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, Acts 19:6. The word is also used to denote “teaching, or speaking in intelligible language, in opposition to speaking a foreign tongue,” 1 Corinthians 14:1-5. In this place it means that they would 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 Samuel 9:9, “He that is now called a prophet was beforetime called a seer”; 1 Samuel 9:11, 1 Samuel 9:18-19; 2 Samuel 24:11; 1 Chronicles 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 ecstasy, 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 ecstasy, Daniel 2:28; Daniel 7:1-2, Daniel 7:15; Daniel 8:2; Ezekiel 11:24; Genesis 15:1; Numbers 12:6; Job 4:13; Job 7:14; Ezekiel 1:1; Ezekiel 8:3.

Often the prophet seemed to be transferred or transported to another place from where he was, and the scene in a distant land or age passed before the mind, Ezekiel 8:3; Ezekiel 40:2; Ezekiel 11:24; Daniel 8:2. In this case the distant scene or time passed before the prophet, and he recorded it as it appeared to him. That this did not cease before the times of the gospel is evident: Acts 9:10, “To Ananias said the Lord in a vision,” etc.; Acts 9:12, “and hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias,” etc.; that is, Paul hath seen Ananias represented to him, though absent; he has had an image of him coming in to him; Acts 10:3, Cornelius “saw in a vision evidently an angel of God coming 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, Genesis 20:3. He spoke to Jacob in a dream, Genesis 31:11; to Laban, Genesis 31:24; to Joseph, Genesis 37:5; to the butler and baker, Genesis 40:5; to Pharaoh, Genesis 41:1-7; to Solomon, 1 Kings 3:5; to Daniel, Daniel 2:3; Daniel 7:1. It was prophesied by Moses that in this way God would make known his will, Numbers 12:6. It occurred even in the times of the gospel. Joseph was warned in a dream, Matthew 1:20; Matthew 2:12-13, Matthew 2:19, Matthew 2:22. Pilate‘s wife was also troubled in this manner about the conduct of the Jews to Christ, Matthew 27:19. As this was one way in which the will of God was made known formerly to people, so the expression here denotes simply that His will would be made known; that it would be one characteristic of the times of the gospel that God would reveal Himself to mankind. 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. Compare the introduction to Isaiah, section 7,12.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Peter's sermon shows that he was thoroughly recovered from his fall, and thoroughly restored to the Divine favour; for he who had denied Christ, now boldly confessed him. His account of the miraculous pouring forth of the Spirit, was designed to awaken the hearers to embrace the faith of Christ, and to join themselves to his church. It was the fulfilling the Scripture, and the fruit of Christ's resurrection and ascension, and proof of both. Though Peter was filled with the Holy Ghost, and spake with tongues as the Spirit gave him utterance, yet he did not think to set aside the Scriptures. Christ's scholars never learn above their Bible; and the Spirit is given, not to do away the Scriptures, but to enable us to understand, approve, and obey them. Assuredly none will escape the condemnation of the great day, except those who call upon the name of the Lord, in and through his Son Jesus Christ, as the Saviour of sinners, and the Judge of all mankind.
Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

In the last days - The time of the Messiah; and so the phrase was understood among the Jews.

I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh - Rabbi Tanchum says, "When Moses laid his hands upon Joshua, the holy blessed God said, In the time of the old text, each individual prophet prophesied; but, in the times of the Messiah, all the Israelites shall be prophets." And this they build on the prophecy quoted in this place by Peter.

Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy - The word prophesy is not to be understood here as implying the knowledge and discovery of future events; but signifies to teach and proclaim the great truths of God, especially those which concerned redemption by Jesus Christ.

Your young men shall see visions, etc. - These were two of the various ways in which God revealed himself under the Old Testament. Sometimes he revealed himself by a symbol, which was a sufficient proof of the Divine presence: fire was the most ordinary, as it was the most expressive, symbol. Thus he appeared to Moses on Mount Horeb, and afterwards at Sinai; to Abraham, Genesis 15:1-21; to Elijah, 1 Kings 19:11, 1 Kings 19:12. At other times he revealed himself by angelic ministry: this was frequent, especially in the days of the patriarchs, of which we find many instances in the book of Genesis.

By dreams he discovered his will in numerous instances: see the remarkable case of Joseph, Genesis 37:5, Genesis 37:9; of Jacob, Genesis 28:1, etc.; Genesis 46:2, etc.; of Pharaoh, Genesis 41:1-7; of Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel 4:10-17. For the different ways in which God communicated the knowledge of his will to mankind, see the note on Genesis 15:1.

Ellen G. White
This Day With God, 242.5

The life of a church depends on the interest which its members manifest in those outside the fold. Let the church of God remember that Christ gave Himself as a sacrifice to save a world from destruction. For our sake He became poor, that we through His poverty might come into possession of eternal riches. Shall those whom God has blessed with a knowledge of the truth become narrow in their plans? Let them arouse to a sense of their vast obligations, cutting away every thread of selfishness, that the Lord may pour upon them His Holy Spirit. TDG 242.5

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Ellen G. White
The Acts of the Apostles, 221

This chapter is based on Acts 17:1-10.

After leaving Philippi, Paul and Silas made their way to Thessalonica. Here they were given the privilege of addressing large congregations in the Jewish synagogue. Their appearance bore evidence of the shameful treatment they had recently received, and necessitated an explanation of what had taken place. This they made without exalting themselves, but magnified the One who had wrought their deliverance. AA 221.1

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Ellen G. White
The Desire of Ages, 194

The Saviour is still carrying forward the same work as when He proffered the water of life to the woman of Samaria. Those who call themselves His followers may despise and shun the outcast ones; but no circumstance of birth or nationality, no condition of life, can turn away His love from the children of men. To every soul, however sinful, Jesus says, If thou hadst asked of Me, I would have given thee living water. DA 194.1

The gospel invitation is not to be narrowed down, and presented only to a select few, who, we suppose, will do us honor if they accept it. The message is to be given to all. Wherever hearts are open to receive the truth, Christ is ready to instruct them. He reveals to them the Father, and the worship acceptable to Him who reads the heart. For such He uses no parables. To them, as to the woman at the well, He says, “I that speak unto thee am He.” DA 194.2

When Jesus sat down to rest at Jacob's well, He had come from Judea, where His ministry had produced little fruit. He had been rejected by the priests and rabbis, and even the people who professed to be His disciples had failed of perceiving His divine character. He was faint and weary; yet He did not neglect the opportunity of speaking to one woman, though she was a stranger, an alien from Israel, and living in open sin. DA 194.3

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Ellen G. White
The Story of Redemption, 244-5

Peter showed them that this manifestation was the direct fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel, wherein he foretold that such power would come upon men of God to fit them for a special work. SR 244.1

Peter traced back the lineage of Christ in a direct line to the honorable house of David. He did not use any of the teachings of Jesus to prove His true position, because he knew their prejudices were so great that it would be of no effect. But he referred them to David, whom the Jews regarded as a venerable patriarch of their nation. Said Peter: SR 244.2

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