We continue to receive questions on the subject of spiritual gifts. This one came in today. “If Spiritual Gifts Are Not For Today, Then How Do You Explain Acts 2:17-18? Let’s place the text before us before we delve into our comments.
“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. And on my menservants and on my maidservants I will pour out my Spirit in those days and they shall prophesy.”
The above verses represent only part of the context. The complete text quoted from Joel 2:28-32 ends in verse 21. Nevertheless, it seems that the point of the question is how do we explain cessation of the miraculous gifts if they were to be poured out upon all flesh.
What is assumed here is that the term “all flesh” means every believer or every individual. Such is not the case. First, observe that it is God who would pour out the Spirit upon all flesh. Only two occurrences of God pouring out the gifts of the Spirit are mentioned in scripture. One is found in Acts 2, concerning the apostles, all of whom were Jews. The other is found in Acts 10:45 at the house of Cornelius of whom were Gentiles. That is all flesh, i.e. Jew and Gentile.
Gifts of the Holy Spirit Only Continued For 40 Years
It is important to see that the new testament spiritual gifts actually belonged to the closing day of Jewish age. God prophesied through that He would only show wonders and miracles for forty years, according to the days of Israel’s coming out of Egypt. By what stretch can anyone extend the sojourn from Egypt beyond forty years? “Where you fathers tested Me, tried Me, and saw My works forty years.” Therefore I was angry with that generation…” (Heb. 3:9-10).
The “works” which Israel saw forty years are the miraculous or “marvelous works” of drawing water out of the rock, manna from heaven, parting the Red Sea and all the other awesome miracles God worked as they journeyed to Canaan. Micah records that God would repeat a similar time for miracles in Israel’s last days, i.e. the days leading up to A.D. 70 and the fall of Jerusalem.
As in the days when you came out of the land of Egypt I will show them wonders.” (Micah 7:15).
Compare Other Translations
The New American Standard Translation says, “…I will show you miracles.” The New Living Translation is even more direct and squarely aligns with the meaning of the text: “As in the days when you came out from the land of Egypt, I will show you miracles.”
So, not only was the “all flesh” limited to the Jews and Gentiles as expressed above, but the duration only covered 40 years. The spiritual gifts speaking in tongues, gifts of discerning of spirits, and other spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit were all subject to these time restrictions.
Thus, the great and notable day of the Lord is the end time destruction by the Romans upon the Jewish nation and also the time of the cessation of the gifts. It equates with the revelation of Christ’s coming in per 1 Cor. 1:7-8. There are no prophecy spiritual gifts such the gifts of Ephesians today.
If Spiritual Gifts Are For Today, Then How Do You Explain Acts 2:17-18?
I think an even better question would be, If spiritual gifts are for today, then why are we not “striking people with blindness” as Paul did to Elymas, the sorcerer (Acts 13:8-10) and “opening up the ground” for the rebellious to be swallowed up (as in the case of Korah in His rebellion). That would quickly shut up all the naysayers. Thank God we don’t have them today because there would probably be a lot of people walking around under the punishment and disciplinary use of those gifts, a fact which none of those who claim the gifts have very much to say.
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