"In the Last Days . . ." Acts 2:14-17
14But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophecy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.
Acts 2 (NRSV)
“You’re on track to be just like me,” a mega-church pastor recently told me. He didn’t know me very well. In fact, here is the evidence he was basing his prophecy on: 1) I’m a young pastor. 2) I pastor a church under 100 people. 3) Our church is made up of a variety of ages. Apparently that’s the secret concoction behind mega-churches. Had I known, I would of mixed things up a bit. I’m not sure why he thought I was on his track or why he thought I would want to be just like him. For the record, I have no personal desire to pastor a large church. In any case, he struck me as someone who really thought that all the world needs is bigger churches. Unfortunately I was distracted by cookies before I could tenderly tell him that I don’t think the world needs more hims.
Here in Acts we find Peter quoting promises, promises from God to Israel. People had a concept of what these promises meant. They believed in two “ages,” the age of exile and the age to come. While the children of Israel had been allowed to return to Judea from the Babylonian exile some five hundred years earlier, they still felt like they were in spiritual and political exile. The land was not their own and they had to bow to the laws of Rome rather than living exclusively under the reign their own king whom God would appoint from the line of David. They longed for what the prophet Joel called “the last days.” Not the last days of time and space, the last days of the age of exile. They longed for the age to come, when God would restore David’s kingdom among his people and undo the unjust political turmoil of the past centuries. So here is Peter, quoting these promises and declaring that the last days are here; the age of exile is closing and the age to come is, well . . . coming.
|The Jews longed for an age when their old monarchy would be renewed. BTW, the King's throne would not have been in front of the temple, but you get the idea.|
Jews thought the age to come would be an age of God’s glory in Israel—that Israel would be bigger and better than ever. Peter seems to think that the age to come will be marked by people calling on the name of Jesus. Luke seems to be telling us in the way he writes the story that the fate of this age will rest on the decisions of Jesus’s newly formed, Spirit-living, and relatively tiny community (2:42-47, 4:32-37). The Jews were expecting a revival of the old time religion, lightning from the skies, and a king like David. I suppose this mega-church pastor has a similar vision in mind: bigger, flashier churches = better, shinier world.
Peter, on the other hand, agrees that God is about to establish a new age, but debunks the notion that it will be through a glorious new, mega-kingdom Israel:
“Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day” (Acts 2:29).
In other words, David ain’t comin’ back. It isn’t that the old way of doing things will be restored. Instead:
“This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you both see and hear . . . . Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:32-33, 36).
My paraphrase: The King you’ve been waiting for is the same guy you condemned to die a couple months ago. But his death was the end of the first age and his resurrection the beginning of the next. There’s no king on the throne, no worldly glory, no Roman overthrow, no revival of the monarchy, no revitalization of the Temple, just a wild Spirit breathing life into a tiny band of faith-givers, inspiring them to be bewildering agents of this new, long expected age.
If I could go back and undistract myself from those cookies I’d say: nope, not another you. We are not satisfied to duplicate another congregation. No settling in on what’s been done before. No dependence on the bigger=better philosophy. No longing for your gloriously big arena. No pinning our future on your expectations. Just a band of folks following the bewildering Spirit, pumping the world full of breath from the age where Jesus is King.