Actually Peter’s remarks continue all the way through verse 41, but I want to be respectful of your time, so I’m breaking them into multiple parts for our discussion.
Peter begins by speaking to the silly notion that they are all drunk, reminding the crowd that it was still only nine in the morning. By tradition, the ninth hour was the time for morning prayer after which the first meal of the day would be eaten; silly notion indeed. Then Peter gives an explanation of what was going on that morning, by telling the people that “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. (2:17a). The prophet Joel, who is being quoted here (see Joel 2:28-32) spoke in a time of trial when the people were feeling the weight of their sin during a time of plague, when God had spoken of a future when Messiah would bring about the fulfillment of God’s purpose with His people, pouring out His Spirit upon all people. This was the longed for age of the Messiah for which they had been yearning such a long time now. In addition to Joel, Isaiah, Hosea and Micah had called this time “the last days”, as would New Testaments writers such as Peter himself, John and the author of Hebrews. Those in the crowd that day would have had no difficulty in understanding the reference, since it was a rich part of their heritage.
Joel made it quite clear that these wonders of God would be for all of the people. Notice that he said things like “all people”, “sons and daughters”, and “both men and women” that mark a great contrast with the restricted activity of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. Now, the Holy Spirit was to be “poured out” on all who believed; God was expecting universal acceptance. In 2:19-20 we see a number of apocalyptic elements that add to this the sense that God is doing a work of staggering proportion, and finally in verse 21 we see that what is coming about is a new age of salvation for all of those who will accept it:
And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved
From our point of view, this passage is somewhat more difficult to grasp then it would have been to those who heard it first, for most of us are not well versed in the Messianic understanding of the first century; some today even suggest that Peter might have been mistaken in citing this passage from Joel as what was happening at that time, preferring instead to place its fulfillment at some point that is still in the future. Of course you are welcome to your view on the subject, but as for me, I must respectfully reject such thinking, and here’s why: In 2:1-12, we are told that the Apostles received the Holy Spirit. Their having been filled with the Spirit was so much in evidence that they began to speak in other languages (tongues), and while this was still going on, Peter applied the Joel text to that moment in time. Thus, we have in this very highly documented point in time, as we understand time, an Apostle who is under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit making an assertion that Joel’s prophecy was being fulfilled at that moment, nearly 2,000 years ago.
This event is being recorded by Luke, who although not an Apostle himself, is under the oversight of an Apostle while also being inspired by the Holy Spirit. Our whole understanding of inspired Scripture is that each author, either Old Testament prophet, New Testament Apostle, or a New Testament believer under the direction of an Apostle, is accurate and reliable precisely because of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, if either Peter or Luke got this wrong, then none of the 66 books of the Bible are reliable as the Word of God. As a consequence, any time I think the Scriptures might be mistaken, I recheck my work, for it is I who am mistaken.
At any rate, we can all be assured that Pentecost was the day the Church began as had been foretold long before. As we will see next time, Peter moves on from explaining to the people what they had witnessed, to telling them about the Messiah, and in doing so, he will pull no punches.