When you look into the eyes of that special “someone” and say, “I love you;” no doubt, you mean it with all your heart. Your past understanding of love gives you the present confidence to utter words that you believe will hold true in the future. In that moment, you can’t imagine the changes your love will endure over the next twenty, thirty or fifty years. The first time I uttered those words to Roy Andrews, he was a sophomore at Ball State University, pursuing a poli-sci degree and planning to attend law school.When you look into the eyes of that special “someone” and say, “I love you;” no doubt, you mean it with all your heart. Your past understanding of love gives you the present confidence to utter words that you believe will hold true in the future. In that moment, you can’t imagine the changes your love will endure over the next twenty, thirty or fifty years. The first time I uttered those words to Roy Andrews, he was a sophomore at Ball State University, pursuing a poli-sci degree and planning to attend law school. I was a sophomore at IUPUI, planning to finish an Associate’s Degree in business and get on with my life. Hmmm. My plan worked. His plans changed—drastically. He graduated from BSU, but with a teaching degree. Five years later, he attended seminary and entered pastoral ministry. Seven years later, he began a PhD program and now teaches at Multnomah Bible College. Why talk about my husband’s career when we’re talking about love? Because I’ve loved a student, a teacher, a tool/die maker, a pastor and a professor—all one man but growing and changing in our relationship through each stage of life. I still love him, but when I say it now—it holds all the meaning of our past memories, our present reality and our future plans and dreams. When we read prophecy in Scripture, it’s very similar. Prophecy is simply God’s message spoken through a human vessel, and it often contains truths fulfilled in all three phases of time—past, present, and future.
Acts 2:14-15 – “Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: ‘Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel…’”
Peter did something very familiar among the disciples: he spoke loud, first and for the group. How many times had he employed the “open-mouth-insert-foot” principle during Jesus’ 3-yr. ministry? But this time he began to prophesy. Do you think when he started this grand speech that Peter remembered some of his past “failures,” saying the wrong thing at the wrong time in the wrong way? Those times he’d received Jesus’ rebuke? I bet he did! But Peter determined to be formed by his past, not limited by it. He seized his present to let God mold his future. He’d failed and been rebuked repeatedly by God—and was forgiven and accepted repeatedly as well. Men’s criticism seemed rather insignificant by now.
Acts 2:16-21 – “No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” (emphasis added)
When our Western-thinking minds read Eastern-pondering prophecy, we sometimes have difficulty understanding. Our Western brains check-off each element of Joel’s prophecy to determine if it happened (or will happen) exactly as written, while the Eastern mind wrote the Scriptures to be read aloud, spoken to create an atmosphere of fulfillment. This is Western thinking: During Joel’s day, commentators believe the locust infestation of which he writes caused the sky to darken. Past fulfillment. During the days of Peter’s speech, the observers would have seen the women among the disciples speaking in the foreign tongues and the sun darken during the crucifixion. For them a present fulfillment. And in about 35 years, the Romans would completely destroy Jerusalem, leaving blood, fire and billows of smoke. Their soon-coming future fulfillment. What I’ve just done is a Western approach to prophecy. Under the direct influence of the Holy Spirit, Peter DIDN’T pick apart Joel’s prophecy word-for-word, searching for an A-B-C, 1-2-3 list of fulfillments. Rather, he spoke the words to create an atmosphere in which the Spirit would enable listeners to recognize the past, present and future of God’s fulfillment. It’s an overall awe of the spectacular, not a binding to the specific.
Acts 2:22-24 – “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” (emphasis added)
Peter’s prophecy explained their present reality: Jesus was a man; God worked His preordained plan and purpose through Jesus; Jews and Gentiles worked together to kill Jesus; God raised Jesus from the dead; Death couldn’t hold Him. Nutshell: The Messiah for whom the Jews had been waiting for centuries had come—and they killed Him. Hindsight is 20/20.
Acts 2:25-33 – “David said about him: ‘I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.”
For Peter and his hearers, David spoke in the past to their present; and this was an “Aha!” moment! How many times do you think these Jews had read David’s psalm and wondered what he meant by “…nor will you let your Holy One see decay.” They knew David died and his body was in a tomb, decayed like all men. How many times have you read a Scripture and been puzzled, and then later heard an anointed sermon or a Bible teaching on that verse and thought, “Aha!” Now I get it! The Truth of God’s Word is always in front of us, but it’s revealed by the Holy Spirit at the moment we need to know it, need to hear it, need to understand it. It’s revealed at the moment when the past needs to come alive in our present.
Acts. 2:34-37 – “‘For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, “The Lord said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’” Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.’ When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’” (emphasis added)
When David said, “Sit at my right hand until…,” he was speaking of an event future to him, future to Peter and future to us. Jesus still waits at the LORD’s right hand until his enemies are a footstool at His feet. The reality of God’s immense plan at work—for me, in me and through me—could paralyze me. Instead, faced with the same reality of Jesus’ death, resurrection, and coming kingdom; my present question must be the same as the question Peter’s audience asked: “What shall I do?”
- Lord, let my past never limit my present or my future, but may it form me for Your service. Help me to seize the present and be open to Your leading in the future. Make me sensitive to an atmosphere of fulfillment, when Your Spirit is at work, so that I will recognize Your mighty power and be quick to give You the glory.