Would That All God’s People Would Prophesy!

A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New, 2011

G. K. Beale, from location 12001


Pentecost as a Fulfillment of Joel’s Prophecy of the Spirit

In the Mosaic era, only prophets, priests, and kings were bestowed with the gifting function of the Spirit to serve, often in the temple (e.g., priests) or sometimes in conjunction with the temple (i.e., kings and prophets). Joel and Acts have in mind not primarily the regenerating function of the Spirit but rather the function that would enable people to serve in various capacities. Joel foresaw a time, however, when everyone in Israel would be given this gift. That Joel 2 and Acts 2 may have in mind gifting for service in connection in some way with the new temple [which in the New Covenant is the Church – P.G.] is apparent in that Joel’s prophecy develops the earlier text of Numbers 11.

In Numbers 11 Moses desires that God give him help to bear the burden of the people whom he was leading (vv.11, 17 [cf. Exod. 18:13-27]). God responds by telling Moses to gather “seventy men from the elders” and “bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you. Then I will come down and . . . will take of the Spirit who is upon you, and will put Him upon them” {vv. 16-17). Moses obeys God: “He gatheredseventy men of the elders . . . and stationed them around the tent. Then the LORD came down in the cloud . . . and took of the Spirit who was upon Him [Moses] and placed Him upon the seventy elders. And when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied” (vv. 24-25). They then stopped prophesying, but two elders at another location continued to prophesy. When Joshua hears about this, he asks Moses to stop them. Moses declines, replying, “Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put His Spirit upon them” (vv.26-29).

Accordingly, Joel 2 transforms Moses’s prophetic wish into a formal prophecy. Peter quotes Joel’s prophecy to show that in his day it was finally beginning fulfillment in Pentecost. The Spirit’s gifting, formerly limited to leaders helping Moses and imparted to them at the tabernacle, is universalized to all of God’s people from every race, young and old, male and female. That the Spirit’s gifting in Acts 2 was connected in some way to the temple is apparent from Num. 11, which notes twice that the “seventy elders” received the Spirit as they were gathered around the “tent” (i.e., tabernacle). In fact, that in Acts 2 “tongues as of fire . . . rested [lit., ‘sat’] on each one” and “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues” (vv. 3-4 [explained to be “prophesying” in vv. 17-18]) appears to be a specific allusion to Num. 11:25: “When the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied.”

Interestingly, later Judaism compares the Num. 11 text about the Spirit from Moses resting on the elders “to a candle that was burning and at which many candles were kindled.” Furthermore, Num. 11:25 says that God “took of the Spirit who was upon him [Moses] and placed Him upon the seventy elders.” Likewise, Acts 2:33 refers to Jesus as first “having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit” and then having “poured forth” the Spirit upon those at Pentecost. In this respect, Jesus may be a second Moses figure.

Yes, the purpose of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the early Church at Pentecost was to empower the saints to prophesy and to become prophets. The Holy Spirit continues to work upon willing believers in the very same way today.  I don’t know a lot of prophets that I can vouch for, but I know a few, and my wife and I, and our church family, has been significantly blessed and encouraged through prophetic ministry over the years.

For a good overview on the role of prophets and prophetic ministry in the New Testament please go to the list of Bible verses compiled by Roger Sapp here.

For a good message on this subject (and one very personal to me and my family) go here to listen to Papa Boyd Dennis as he shared his heart a few nights ago here in Kaneohe, Hawaii.  Thirty-six years ago Boyd Dennis was a drunk and a thief who had never known his father, but then in a flash he experienced a supernatural life-transforming personal encounter with the risen Jesus Christ. Today he is a missionary and father over seventeen churches in Kenya. God has taken a “fatherless one” and transformed him into a father of many. Listen to Papa Boyd as he shares what it means in Ephesians 2:20 where it says that the Church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus as the chief cornerstone.

1 Corinthians 14:1 – “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.”

1 Peter 4:11 – “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”

Peter Goodgame


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