In view of the fact that "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God," and that the Book of the prophet Joel is one of the Hebrew canon and, therefore, Joel is one of the "Holy men of God (who) spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit," and also, that no one would presume to deny that Peter, at Pentecost: was similarly moved (Acts 2:4), it is interesting to compare what is written in Joel 2:28-32 with Peter's quotation in Acts 2:17-21.
There are slight divergencies, certainly, which would appear to be of not much importance, but there is one big difference in the very first verse of the quotation, which should not be passed off with a shrug. As the Hebrew Scriptures and the Greek text of the New Testament are the wording of the Holy Spirit, the difference can only be one that has a special signification. That being so, it is the privilege and duty of the Christian to study it and, by the help of the same Holy Spirit, understand what is meant by the change.
From this, it can be seen that the translation we have in our A.V. Old and New Testaments, is correct.
In Vol. 27, No. 1, in the article "'Jacob's' Trouble and the 'Great Tribulation,'" the Hebrew word ACHARITH was traced through the O.T. and dealt with fairly fully. There it was pointed out that ACHARITH YAMIN had its counterpart in the LXX and the N.T. Greek in the use of the words—en tais eskatais hEmerais. Both are correctly translated into English by the expressions 'in the last days' or 'in the latter days,' whatever that may be found to mean. The latter days was shown there to be an 'aion,' which in its meanings comprehends a period of time during which mankind is in a certain relationship with God, which has not, does not, or will not prevail in other aions. The Hebrew equivalent to 'aion' is 'OLAM' Both of these have adjective uses, giving character to specific nouns. They are wrongly translated 'for ever,' 'eternal,' 'everlasting,' etc.
The words used in the Hebrew, translated by 'afterward' are ACHARE KEN. ACHARE or ACHAR (Young's Analytical Concordance) means 'after' and with KEN, 'after that' or 'afterward.' The Greek of the LXX. confirms this with the words 'meta tauta,' meaning exactly the same.
The fact that Peter, in Acts 2:17, changed the wording in his quotation should lead us to see that the Holy Spirit wanted to indicate some significant piece of information for us to understand, if we are ready to follow up the recognition of the change and respond to what God wishes to convey.
Before going any further it is necessary to consider similar passages that occur in other places in the N.T. Several texts speak of 'in the last day' or 'at the last day,' in the singular but as this particular day is not our subject, although connected the review will be confined to the four in the plural.
2 Timothy is the last of Paul's epistles and he is dealing here with matters that concern the church which is the body of Christ and, in chapter three, verses one to nine, he is foreteling some conditions that will prevail at the end of the administration of the grace of God. This takes place BEFORE the change to the new administration that is characterised by the restoration of Israel to be "My People" and the re-introduction of strict obedience, to the law and covenant relationship. This passage then, may be set aside. It will be noticed that there is no definite article as in Acts, Hebrews and 2 Peter.
Although James 5:3 is identical with 2 Timothy it can be translated 'with a view to' as if the preposition eis were used. In such cases here, it appears to point to the days of retiremet of the individuals referred to, for which they were saving up and storing away. On the other hand J. B. Phillips renders it as if days were past "You have made a fine pile in these last days haven't you?" Either way cuts out any reference to the distant future.
2 Peter 3:3. The context of this passage indicates that it looks forward to the end of the age and anticipates the personal presence or coming of the Lord. The definite article is used which points to a particular period that would be understood by his readers.
Hebrews 1:2 is different again from all the others, but like 2 Peter it does not use the preposition en (in), but epi, which of time carries the meaning of 'during,' where Robinson's Greek and English Lexicon uses this passage and that in 2 Peter 3. as the first examples. The next thing to note is that the expression is governed by the Greek word ‘toutOn'—these. 'These days' refers to the last days of the prophets, in which Christ's ministry was carried out. The last of the prophets was John the Baptist (Luke 16:16) and our Lord's ministry followed as soon as he was out of the way. So this passage does not look to the far distant future.
Having eliminated therefore, all except 2. Peter 3:3 let us put that one alongside Acts 2.
The prophet Joel has more references in his three chapters of seventy-three verses to the day of the Lord than any other prophet, or for that matter, any other book in the Bible. Although he was telling the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Judah the outcome of their profligate lives and rebellion against the Lord their God by parable and interpretation, warning them or invasion from the North of conquering hordes, which constituted, to them at that time, the Day of the Lord; yet God the Holy Spirit, in Joel's words, was speaking of a yet future retribution for apostasy and rebellion 'in the latter days.' Joel never uses this expression, but the Holy Spirit through Peter in altering the words of Joel's prophecy is placing the events in their right position after Israel's restoration. He carries the prophecy to its culmination, THE Day of the Lord.
The latter days, or the last days, is not another name for the Day of the Lord, but beginning with the terminating of this present administration of grace abounding to all mankind, Jew and Gentile alike, through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross, an era will commence of God's administration of the world through the medium of Israel restored to be My People. They will enter into full and unopposed possession of all the land that had been possessed by their fathers. The two sticks of Ezekiel 37:15-22 will be joined together and they will be brought again under bond to the Covenant of Sinai (Ezek. 20:37). This the law, embodying the covenant was administered by angels or rather, scripturally, "it was ordained (arranged throughout—Young's Analytical Concordance) by angels"; "who have received the law by the disposition (thorough arrangement—Y.A.C.) of angels"; "Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation." During this era or age termed ‘the latter days’ certain things are prognosticated in the Scriptures and, if one is prepared to approach the subject with an open mind in dependence upon the Spirit of truth one can perceive the unfolding of God's plan. It will terminate with the great upheavals before and during the Day of the Lord.
Jesus said in Matt. 28:18, "All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth." He ascended to the throne on high and is dispensing unlimited grace to mankind. He is not now ruling, though he may be found to overrule. When this administration ends, He will take up the sceptre there, as Jehovah, the Covenant God of Israel, and rule them as He did before by the law under which He again places them administered on His behalf by angels. Angels are heavenly beings, deputed to, rule. This is the basic meaning of the expression used only by Matthew and by him many times, ‘the kingdom of heaven.‘
The accepted understanding of this is fogged by two things, a wrong translation and a false conception. The word heaven is in the plural in Greek and the Greek word basileia translated kingdom, is an abstract word and not, as in English, a concrete one. It should be translated rule or government. Of course, the heavens themselves cannot rule, but this stands for heavenly beings who carry out that function. This is entirely in accord with the ministry of angels throughout the Scriptures, which is almost exclusive to Israel under the Abrahamic covenant Jehovah governed Israel in days gone by. Ezekiel 20:33 says,.. "As I live, saith the Lord God, surely with a mighty hand, and with a stretched our arm, and with fury poured out, will I (I will) rule over you." Jesus, as Jehovah, will rule from heaven. There will be those then who will know and acknowledge that Jesus is the Christ and these will recognise that it is Christ who is reigning from above. To them it will be the Day of Christ. During this period ‘the kingdom of the heavens’ and ‘the kingdom of God’ are the same, for although Christ Jesus as God puts forth the power and the authority to rule, He will do it through angels and through Israel over the Nations of the earth. There are many places that speak of Israel ruling over the Nations, and this is not millennial.
As Israel was brought out from Egypt so the united Israel will be brought out from all the Nations ofthe world. Not only will there be an EXODUS but there will be an EISODOS to the land. Just as the year began in the 1st Abib for Israel, but the Passover and Exodus did not take place until 14th ABIB, so will it be. The commencement of the new administration will be a short period of time before Israel is brought out from the Nations and again there will be a further period before they are back in the land of their fathers. The yearly cycle was given to Israel in the Feasts of the Lord of Leviticus 23. The passover begins it and the harvest ends it; Pentecost is in the middle. You cannot have Pentecost without a Passover. Acts 2 is not the fulfilment of this Feast. God intervened by filling his disciples with His Holy Spirit on a day of Pentecost after the crucifixion, but the Scriptures never claim that this was a FULFILMENT of either Joel or the Feasts. It was not. Peter pointed out that the men were not drunk as it was but the third hour (9.00 a.m., the hour at which the morning sacrifice was offered in the Temple, and until which it was the custom to fast). On Sabbaths and Festivals the fast was continued to Noon. If they had been drunk it could not have been by ‘new wine,’ for there was none. The grapes had not been harvested (Wordsworth). But this is something of which Joel spoke. He might have said, ‘have you never heard of what happened to Saul when the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them. This is the same thing.’ He was pointing out that what they saw was the effect of the work of the Holy Spirit doing what Joel spoke of. He does NOT say that this was the fulfilment of Joel's prophecy. By the change of words, however he makes a new, prophecy under the power of the Holy Spirit, establishing when the fulfilment will take place—in the last days and before the Day of the Lord.
Some indication may be adduced as to the duration of this period from the time between the Exodus and the dedication of Solomon's Temple, which was exactly 490 years leaving out the 93 years of servitudes in the book of Judges. 490 years is also ten Jubilees and seventy sevens of years. This was expounded more fully in an article in Vol. 26, No.4, in August, 1965. Details of the period are filled in in another article not yet published.
The position of the Day of the Lord has been put at the end of the yet future Jehovistic age, but its purport and character have not been discussed. The subject has already been expounded in articles by the Editor and everything seems to indicate that neither EXODUS nor HARVEST, nor yet Pentecost have anything to do with the church, the body of Christ, but are to be fulfilled alone in Israel in the future.
J.G.H.S. Last updated 25.3.2006