“In the last days,” Acts 2:17 – past, present, or future?

Acts 2:17 – “In the last days, God says, I will pour my Spirit on all people.” It sounds like something in the future, because where is the evidence today that God’s Spirit has been poured out on everyone, especially with so much evil in the world still? But if it’s talking about the future, it’s totally out of context with the main theme of the chapter, which is what the Jews had just done to Jesus, and Jesus’ resurrection (verses 22-36).

So if Acts 2:17 in context doesn’t mean the future, and in obvious evidence it doesn’t mean the present either, we’re only left with Acts 2:17 being in the past. And the context certainly supports that, because Peter did say in verse 16 that what was happening at that very moment in Acts 2 was a fulfillment of “what was spoken by the prophet Joel.” It wasn’t waiting to be fulfilled at some later date, it was being fulfilled in their day right then.

It was also being fulfilled in the eyes of the only people on earth at the time who understood its relevance. That’s why Peter aimed his quote from Joel to “My fellow Jews” in verse 14. It was meant for them, and meant for them right then too, because why quote Joel as an explanation to his fellow Jews for what was happening right then, if it wasn’t meant for them and it wasn’t happening right then?

And right after Peter finishes the prophecy from Joel 2:28-32, he says, “Men of Israel,” so at both ends of the quote from Joel Peter aims it at the Jews or Israel back then, because for the Jews back then Joel’s prophecy had enormous significance.

The significance was obvious, because the book of Joel was all about the Jews facing a terrible “day of the Lord” involving massive destruction, (Joel 1:15), but also God’s promise that he will “take pity on his people” (2:18), and “afterward” (2:28) he will pour out his Spirit on them, etc, in 2:28-32.

But God never did pour out his Spirit on the Jews back then, and he hadn’t up to Acts 2 either. But suddenly, here’s Peter saying Joel’s prophecy and the promise of the Spirit was happening right then. And the reason it was happening right then was because Jesus had been raised from the dead and “Exalted to the right hand of God,” Acts 2:33, and “he (Jesus) has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.”

Because Christ had been resurrected, Joel’s prophecy of the Holy Spirit being poured out on the Jews was now happening. It was all happening in their day back then.