Acts 2:16–21—Did Peter make a mistake in quoting Joel?

Problem: In Acts 2, Pentecost arrives, and the disciples are filled with the Holy Spirit. In response to criticism, Peter says that what they hear and see was “spoken by the prophet Joel” (cf. Joel 2:28–32). Yet, in the passage that Peter quotes, there are events in it that did not happen at Pentecost, like the moon turning to blood. Does Peter err on this occasion?

Solution: First, Peter was simply showing that Pentecost involved a partial or initial fulfillment of Joel 2:28–32. This partial fulfillment was in regard to the indwelling Holy Spirit for believers. And this is exactly what happened on the day of Pentecost. Joel says that God “will pour out My spirit on all flesh ... I will pour out My Spirit in those days” (Joel 2:28–29). And God did pour forth His Spirit on the day of Pentecost.

Second, Peter’s reference was to indicate that the last days had been inaugurated (cf. Heb. 1:1–2; 2:4). The wonders of the sky above and the signs on the earth beneath (Acts 19–21) are to take place later on in earth’s history at the time of Christ’s second coming. Notice that these things will happen “before the ... great and notable day of the Lord” (v. 20) which is yet future (cf. Matt. 24:1ff).

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.