At youth group the other night I made a comment about jumping way ahead (in the Bible, from last week). “To the scary stuff?” came back as one girl in particular decided to jump to Revelation, the last book of the Bible. When I looked at her confused and somewhat amused, she backpedaled…a little.
Poll the members of any church in America and I’m confident that the overwhelming notion among church-goers is that someday, off in the future, we will enter the so-called “last days.” You know what they mean – those days when the return of Jesus seems imminent, when believers will be raptured from the earth and taken to heaven so that we don’t have to deal with all of the “scary stuff” that we read about in the book of Revelation.
What if, and hear me out, what if I told you I don’t believe that at all? What if, stay with me, but what if I told you that the apostle Peter didn’t believe it either? Are you dubious?
I want to show you something in Acts 2 that I didn’t really point out this past Sunday. Look at Acts 2:17. That’s where Peter begins quoting from Joel 2. In Peter’s understanding of the Old Testament, that passage in Joel looked forward to a day when the Spirit would be poured out on God’s people, a day when all who called on the name of the Lord would be saved. And, right there on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was sent from the Father and the Son onto the disciples.
Well, Acts 2:17 corresponds to Joel 2:28, so turn there and read that. Pay attention to what Joel wrote. I’ll compare the verses for you below:
Joel 2:28 – “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out…”
Acts 2:17 – “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out…”
Did you notice that Peter made a change to Joel’s words? Joel looked ahead to a day “after[ward].” But Peter changed that to “in the last days” and then claimed to be living the fulfillment of the promise of Joel 2. In other words, what was a future event and “afterward” for Joel was a present reality for Peter and “in the last days.”
Now, let me remind you who wrote the Bible. Every book, every sentence, every word, every poem, every historical account – they all have 2 authors: the human and the Holy Spirit. That means that we can’t wave off Joel or Peter as being, somehow, wrong or confused.
Ultimately, Peter understands (and, I would contend, so do the rest of the New Testament writers) that he was living in the last days. You and I are living, already, in the last days. There’s no rapture. There’s no still future millennium. And, I might add, there’s no scary stuff. Why not? Because Jesus wins.