The Outpouring of the Spirit
October 10th, 1965 @ 10:50 AM
THE OUTPOURING OF THE SPIRIT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Acts 2: 18-33
10-10-65 10:50 a.m.
Now we are preaching these days on the Holy Spirit of God. We are talking about the Lord here, the Lord in our souls. We are talking about what God is doing now, and then in prophecy and in promise what the ultimate shall be.
On the radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Outpouring of the Spirit, The Outpouring of the Spirit. You can read the passage either in Joel or in Acts. This morning at the earlier service, I read the passage in Joel, chapter 2 verses 28 to 32 [Joel 2:28-32]. This hour I shall read it out of the Book of Acts, chapter 2, verses 16 to 21; the Book of Acts, chapter 2, verses 16 to 21 [Acts 2:16-21]. Or, if you would like to turn to Joel chapter 2, verses 28 to 32. Now this is Pentecost:
Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice… and said,
This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel;
And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:
And on My servants and on My handmaidens I will pour out in those days of My Spirit; and they shall prophesy:
And I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke:
The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord [come]:
And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Now in Joel’s prophecy there is a double reference all the way through. First, there is a double reference in that term, “the last days” [Acts 2:17]. That is a special kind of a nomenclature in the Bible, “the last days.” When the term is used referring to Israel, the chosen family of God, when the term is used referring to Israel, it always refers to their millennial peace, the great consummation of the age when they are dwelling in prosperity in their own land. For example, in the second chapter of the Book of Isaiah, “The word that Isaiah the son of Amos saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall come to pass in the last days,” there is that phrase, “the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it” [Isaiah 2:1-2]. Then as he continues, he comes to that so oft quoted and famous prophecy, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” [Isaiah 2:4]. In the last days when Israel shall dwell in millennial peace and prosperity, so the prophecy of Joel, it shall come to pass in the last days [Acts 2:17]. It refers, the last days, to the great marvelous consummation of the age [Matthew 13:39-40].
But when the phrase is used with regard to the church, it refers to the age in which we now live. Isn’t that a strange thing in the Bible? As the Lord looked through all the ages, the millenniums through all of time and eternity, He describes us as living in the last days. And that phrase “the last days,” when applied to the church, refers to the time beginning with Jesus and until the end of the age. For example, in the first chapter of Hebrews,
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
Hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds;
Who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, upholding all things by the word of His power.
Oh, glory! The last days refer to the church in this age now. Beyond this there are no other ages and dispensations except those that close the sovereign purpose of God in human history. Thus, when Joel says, “It shall come to pass in the last days” [Acts 2:16-17], when the prophecy applies to Israel, it’s in their final home. When the prophecy applies to us, it is now, it is today, beginning with our blessed Lord Jesus.
Now it has a double purpose in its fulfillment and I’ve referred to that. When the prophecy is so fulfilled in regard to Israel, it comes to pass in that final visitation and intervention from heaven. When the prophecy is fulfilled regarding us, it’s in this age of grace and the pouring out of the Spirit at Pentecost [Acts 2:1-4]. And we live in that day, and this is our hour when God is poured out upon His sons and daughters, old men and young men, even upon His slaves, His servants, the Holy Spirit, abounding, of God [Acts 2:17-18, Joel 2:28-29]. It refers to us in its fulfillment.
Now there’s a double purpose also in its results. As the Holy Spirit of the Lord is poured out, how gracious a benediction upon our sons and daughters, upon all of God’s children, even the old men, dreaming dreams; the young men, seeing visions; and upon the servants. The Greek word, doulos, the masculine, the male slave; then doulas, feminine; isn’t that a strange thing? Then upon My “menservants and upon My maidservants” [Acts 2:17-18]; what the prophecy is doing is emphasizing the abounding pouring out of the Spirit of God from the humblest to the greatest. How marvelous, how wonderful this visitation from glory, but there is a twofold result here.
Also the prophet speaks in the rejection of the Spirit of God. How awesome and how terrible wonders in heavens in the judgments of God and in the earth, blood, fire, pillars of smoke; the sun turned into darkness, the moon into blood, at that great and terrible day of the Lord [Joel 2: 30-31, Acts 2:19-20]. How full, and abounding, and gracious, and generous the pouring out of the Holy Spirit of God! But how awesome and how terrible in the day of judgment for those who reject the overtures of mercy and the witness of the Holy Spirit! This is what you call the unpardonable sin. If you’ve been to church all your life, you have sat in congregations, and once in a while the preacher will refer to the sin that is never forgiven. In the rejection of the testimony and witness of the Spirit of God, there is no other hope and no other recourse [Matthew 12:31-32]. That ends it. That is the final sin, and there is never a forgiveness [Mark 3:29].
You know, this double prophecy reminds me of the whole fabric of this life, all of it, all of it, all of it. These beautiful new airplanes, oh, they are unbelievable. I don’t think there is a marvel of modern science comparable to the airplane, air conditioned, serving dinner, all of its marvelous abilities flying above the weather. And this is just the start of what we yet shall see. And when these airlines offer these schedules, it is for the blessing and the help of mankind. But that same carrier can be unto a terrible death. Any one of them, any time, any hour it has the possibility; a carrier of life, a carrier of death.
I suppose the most astonishing thing that has happened in our day has been the ushering in of the atomic age and the infinite, vast possibilities of atomic fission. Dig a Panama Canal with it. Find ultimately an answer to cancer with it. Make it useful in a thousand ministries to mankind, atomic fission. But that same marvelous thing can be turned into a bomb to destroy, horribly, awesomely. That’s life, that’s here. The outpouring of the Spirit of God, how gracious, how aboundingly generous, and benign, and beneficial, and blessed, how much so! But how awesome in the day when God shall judge us according to our reception of Him: blood, fire, smoke, the sun into darkness, the moon into blood, and the presence of the great terrible Judge of all the earth [Genesis 18:25, Joel 2:30-31].
Now the Lord intends it, and the Lord prophesied of it, and the Lord fulfilled it in its glory at Pentecost [Acts 2:1-40]. The Lord does it for good, for our blessing. And isn’t that true of the whole message of the Word of God? All of it; it shall come to pass. And the prophet lifts up his voice, “It shall come to pass” [Joel 2:28]; and the apostle lifts up his voice, “It shall come to pass” [Acts 2:17, 21]; and the sacred writers lift up their voices and say, “And it shall come to pass.” What shall come to pass?
There is one unvarying theme of the Word of God, and it is this: there is a great day coming. There is a glorious day coming, and it shall come to pass. That’s the theme of the first page of the Bible, and the second page. That’s the theme of the middle page of the Bible, and the last page. There’s a great day coming. That’s the theme of the first book of the Bible and the second book. That’s the theme of the middle book of the Bible, and the last book. There’s a great day coming. For you see there is extension, and there is development, and there is ongoing in the kingdom of God, always, always. The Lord never recedes; He inexorably advances! His creation is followed by redemption, and redemption is followed by sanctification, and sanctification is followed by glorification and heaven; always outward, and onward, and upward! This is the presence of God in the world.
That’s why the saints of the Lord are never to be discouraged. That’s why the great apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, in 2 Thessalonians 1:7, “You who are troubled, you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord shall be revealed from heaven with His holy angels.” It is the will and purpose of God that His saints shall inherit the earth [Matthew 5:5], and the convulsions of nature, and the disasters in the social order, and the darknesses that cover some pages of human history are nothing in the sight of the purposes of God. There is a great day coming, says Joel [Joel 2:28-32], and says all the prophets, and says all of the apostles, and says the Lord Himself [Matthew 5:3-12], and says the whole Word of God.
Now we are deeply interested. For this prophecy refers to us, in our day, and in our time, in the dispensation, in the age in which we live. Our lives are in this prophecy. So let’s look at it. The date of the coming of the Holy Spirit into this world was set by the Lord in heaven, as God sets all of these great dates that pertain to us and to Him [Mark 13:32]. You know it’s so easy to fall into the persuasion that these things are adventitious, they just happen, it was just by coincidence. Oh, don’t you ever think so! That’s because finite, we see things come around the corner one at a time, and things happen one at a time. And to us they are in succession. But to the great Lord God in glory who presides over all eternity, to whom there’s no such thing as time, all of this history is as one open book from the beginning to the end, from the alpha to the omega, from the creation to the consummation. And He sees it all at one time.
This is human history to God. And the Lord in His sovereign will sets this date, and He sets this date, and He sets this date, and He sets this date, and He makes all things work toward the great fulfilling of those dates that the Lord hath chosen in glory. The date of the coming of Christ incarnation, the date was set in heaven at an exact time according to Daniel 9:25. At an exact time, did Messiah come, was the Lord God incarnate. Micah 5:2 pointed out the town, the little place in which God should come down into human flesh. And Isaiah 7:14 described the manner by which God would do it, “a virgin shall be with child,” an exact time set by the Lord God in glory.
The day of His crucifixion was set by God in heaven. He was the Passover lamb [1 Corinthians 5:7], and at Passover the Lord God was sacrificed, our Passover [John 19: 14-30]. And how He should be sacrificed was described in the twenty-second Psalm [Psalm 22:1-18] and the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah [Isaiah 53:1-12]. And the very emblems of that sacrifice were foretold in Genesis; bread and the fruit of the vine [Genesis 14:18]. And when He should be raised from the dead, the exact time was set by God in heaven. In the twenty third chapter of the Book of Leviticus, “The first day after the Sabbath, after the Passover” [Leviticus 23:10-12], that should be the day. At the wave offering of the first fruits, He should be raised from the dead [1 Corinthians 15:20].
And there is a day set by God when He shall come again. The Lord said “The angels do not know, it is known but to God” [Matthew 24:36]. But there is an exact time, there is an exact day when God shall end history, and when the intervention from heaven shall be seen with the sound of the trumpet, with the voice of the archangel, when the heavens shall be rolled back like a scroll, and God in visible sight shall descend [Isaiah 34:4, 2 Peter 3:5-13]. There is a day set by the Lord God.
And this is a day set by the Lord God, “And it shall come to pass, I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh” [Joel 2:28], a set day. And that day was the fiftieth day after the Passover, called “Fiftieth, the Feast of the Fiftieth” [Leviticus 23:15-16], or in our—when we take the word and put it in English, not translated but just transliterated, “Pentecost,” the fiftieth day” [Acts 2:1]. God counted those days; one, two, three, four, five, thirty-five, thirty-six, thirty-seven, forty-eight, forty-nine, and fifty. And when the fiftieth day came, God poured out His Holy Spirit into the earth [Acts 2:17-18]. What a marvelous, remarkable thing God hath done here in fulfilling this prophecy of Joel [Joel 2:28-32]. The Holy Spirit came to abide in a new house [1 Corinthians 6:19], in a new tabernacle [1 Corinthians 3:16], in a new home.
In the second chapter of Ephesians, the apostle Paul says, “The home of the Holy Spirit now is in the living stones that make up the living temple of God [1 Peter 2:5], in the congregation of the Lord” [Ephesians 2:19-22]. The Holy Spirit of God now has His home in the church, here in the church, in the assembly of the great congregation [1 Corinthians 3:16]. This is the tabernacle now and the temple now of the Holy Spirit of God [1 Corinthians 3:17]. In the sixth chapter of 1 Corinthians, the same apostle Paul says that the Holy Spirit of God now makes His home in our hearts and in our souls [1 Corinthians 6:19]. He has a new habitation. In the days of the tabernacle, in the fortieth chapter of the Book of Exodus, the Holy Spirit came down and made His home in the Shekinah glory, burning lambent above the tabernacle [Exodus 40:34-38]. In the eighth chapter of 1 Kings the Holy Spirit came down and the priests could not minister in the temple because the glory of the Holy Spirit of God filled the place, and His home was the temple in Jerusalem [1 Kings 8:10-11]. But now, the Holy Spirit of God has a new house. He has a new home. He has a new tabernacle. He has a new temple [1 Corinthians 3:16]. He dwells in our souls and He dwells in the great congregation [1 Corinthians 6:19].
When the Lord was incarnate [Matthew 1:20-25], when Jesus God Jehovah came down from heaven, He assumed a human body [Hebrews 10: 5-14, John 1:14]. And when our Lord went back into heaven, He went back in a body [Acts 1:9-10]. Thus the great God of the universe has a human body. He is a Man, the Man, Christ Jesus. From the day of the incarnation and forever, the second Person of the Godhead has a human body [Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 10:12]. He dwells in a house of bone and of flesh. When He was raised from the dead He said that, “Handle Me, and see: for a spirit hath not flesh and blood, flesh and bones, such as you see Me have” [Luke 24:39]. And the great God of this universe is a man; the Man Christ Jesus. And from the days of His incarnation, He has been in a body. And He is in a body in heaven today. And when He comes, He will come in that glorified body [1 Corinthians 15:47-49].
So with the Holy Spirit: from the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit is incarnate in His church [1 Corinthians 3:16] and in His people [1 Corinthians 6:19]. And when we die and our bodies fall into the dust of the ground, the same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead shall raise our dead bodies from the dust of the ground [Romans 8:11] and shall present us someday without blemish, without spot or wrinkle, in the presence of His great glory [Ephesians 5:27]. The Holy Spirit has a home now, and that home since the days of Pentecost is in His church [1 Corinthians 3:16] and in the heart of the individual believer [1 Corinthians 6:19]. Jesus though omnipresent, is at the right hand of God [Colossians 3:1]. The Holy Spirit, though omnipresent, is in us, in our souls [1 Corinthians 6:19], and in the congregation of His people [1 Corinthians 3:16]. These are glorious things. Oh, that the pastor had eloquence to speak of them!
The fulfillment of the prophecy was the quickening power of the people of the Lord. The quickening power [Ephesians 2:1] and the Lord God made the man out of the dust of the ground [Genesis 2:7]. And there he is, out of the dust of the ground and the Lord fashioned him and made him. “And the Lord breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living soul” [Genesis 2:7]. That’s what the Holy Spirit of God did in Adam and Adam became a living soul [Genesis 2:7]. So of the Holy Spirit of God fulfilling this prophecy of Joel came at Pentecost and breathed life into that church [Acts 2:1-4]. It became a living organism. John the Baptist the greatest born of woman [Matthew 11:11], John the Baptist gathered the material together, and they were baptized in the Jordan, confessing their sins [Matthew 3:5-6]; a purification, a cleansing, a sign of their expectancy waiting for the kingdom and the King. John the Baptist gathered the material,l and the Lord Jesus Christ built the structure. He gave it the ordinances [Matthew 28:19-20, Matthew 26:26-28]. He gave it the discipline. He gave it the Great Commission [Matthew 28:19] and the Lord God built His church.
But it was like Ezekiel 37, the great valley of dry bones [Ezekiel 37:1-14] composed of men like Peter who cowered before little maid [Mark 14:66-72], composed of men like Thomas who denied the Lord, “Why unless I put my…” [John 20:25]; but at Pentecost, but at Pentecost, they became a living organism, alive, quickened; the Spirit of God empowered them [Acts 2:17-18]. And that’s the church of God to this present day. Quickened, alive, and the possibility, the possibility of a breaking out of glory, and of salvation, and of evangelism, and of revival is possible in every day, in every year, in every season, in every nation, in every tribe and every language under the sun. There is no limit to the ableness of the Holy Spirit to break out in glory and in power. “I will pour out My Spirit” [Joel 2:28].
I picked up a book this week, just happened to look at it. I turned to the chapters in it. Look at these chapters: “Revival in Los Angeles”; “Revival Spreads in Canada”; “Miracles in France”; “Latter Rain Falling in India and Ceylon”; “The Outpouring in China”; “A Great Work in Egypt”; “God’s Visitation in Venezuela”; “The Isles of the Sea”; chapter headings! The possibility of change in a man’s life, in a city, in a nation, in the world, in a church is always possible because God’s Spirit has been poured out into the earth.
Will you notice another marvelous thing in this prophecy? “Pour out My Spirit,” says God, “upon all flesh, upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, upon the servants, doulos men slaves, “and upon the handmaids.” doulas, -feminine, women slaves, “upon them will I pour out My Spirit, saith the Lord” [Joel 2:28- 29]. In the Old Testament, in the old dispensation, in the old covenant, the Spirit of God came upon selected persons at selected times in selected places. For example, of Samson: “And the Spirit of God began to move him at times in the camp of Dan” [Judges 13:25]. And the Spirit of God fell upon Samuel, and upon Saul, and upon David, and upon Isaiah; selected people in selected seasons in selected places.
But in this day that Joel prophesies, in this day God says, “I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh, even upon the slaves” [Joel 2:28-29]. What an amazing and astonishing thing. The humblest servant of God now is as exalted in his place, and can find as glorious a reception of the revelations of God, and the moving, quickening presence of the Lord, as a Samson, as a Samuel or a Saul, as a David or an Isaiah, upon all of us. The pulpit is no more inspired than the pew. And the pew is as inspired as the pulpit. The preacher standing in the pulpit can open the Bible, and read, and pray God for divine enlightenment and wisdom. And the man out there in the pew, and the humblest church member who looks to Jesus in the pew, can open the Bible and pray for wisdom and enlightenment. “My Spirit upon all flesh” [Joel 2:28]. What an astonishing thing!
Did you ever hear of John Jasper? John Jasper has been described as the most eloquent man the North American continent ever produced. He was a black slave in Richmond, working at a table, sorting tobacco. And the Holy Spirit of God came upon him, and his master gave him his freedom. Upon a day I went to Richmond, and to the Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church, and stayed there several hours looking at the things of John Jasper, and living again the life of that glorious preacher of Jesus. “Upon My slaves, pour out My Spirit upon all flesh” [Joel 2:28-29].
Preaching at Tuskegee in Oklahoma under a big tabernacle, the great central meeting place of the Choctaw tribe, after I’d done my best and poured out my heart, and sang, and sang, and made appeal, nobody came. And I turned to the Choctaw Indian who was leading the singing, and I said, “The service is yours.” I meant I was done. I was finished. I couldn’t do any more, and I meant for him to quit. Then I had the benediction. I said, “The service is yours”; I didn’t know he was an exhorter, an old-time exhorter. And when I turned to that Choctaw and I said, “The service is yours,” he thought I meant for him to begin exhorting on the basis of the Book that I had preached.
And that Choctaw Indian went up and down the tribe, every one of them, down the aisles in that tabernacle, pleading with those Choctaw Indians to turn to Jesus. And we had a Pentecost. We had a Pentecost. I don’t know how I felt about that, being a PhD out of the seminary and that unlearned Choctaw. I don’t know how I felt about that. I haven’t quite decided yet how I feel about that. Bless your heart, the pew is inspired as the pulpit, says God, “And My humblest, filled with the Spirit of the Lord, as My greatest” [Joel 2:28-29]. What a glorious day. What an incomparable day.
Then we close. Our time is gone. “In that day,” says the Lord, “pouring out My Spirit on all flesh, your sons and your daughters shall prophesy” [Joel 2:28]. Isn’t it a tragedy how that word has been taken away from its biblical meaning? Once in a while a prophecy will foretell an event, once in a while, like He is foretelling an event here. But practically always, the basic meaning of propheteuō, prophesy, propheteuō, the basic meaning is, and the word is compounded, pro-out, pro in front, pro; propheteuō, prophēmi, “speak out.” That’s all the word means. It’s a very simple plain word and it means to forth tell, to speak out. And what the prophecy is saying here is that your sons and your daughters shall witness to the divine grace of God with divine power and unction. All of us, all of us, all flesh, your sons and your daughters shall propheteuō, speak up, speak out, testify of the divine grace of Jesus [Joel 2:28].
“And your old men shall dream dreams” [Joel 2:28]. Victor Hugo said, “Winter may be on my head but springtime is in my heart.” We may get old in years but never in soul and in spirit. Age is a matter of perception and attitude. Lord Byron wrote on his thirty-sixth birthday:
My days are in the yellow leaf,
The flower and fruits of love are gone,
The worm, the canker and the grief
Are mine alone.
[“On This Day I Complete My Thirty-Sixth Year,” by Lord Byron, January 22, 1824]
Thirty-six years of age, and died.
Robert Browning, incomparable Christian poet, wrote,
Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our lives are in His hand,
Who saith “A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid”
[“Rabbi Ben Ezra,” Robert Browning, 1864]
“Your old men shall dream dreams,” young in our souls; “and your young men shall see visions” [Joel 2:28].
Woe to the church when the old men dream no dreams and the young men see no visions. God said, “My people perish because there is no vision” [Proverbs 29:18]. Why, my brother, the best poem is yet to be written. The best song is yet to be sung. The best picture is yet to be painted. The best Sunday School is yet to be built. The best sermon is yet to be preached. “And your young men shall see visions” [Joel 2:28].
When I came to be pastor of the church twenty-one years ago, an executive of our Southern Baptist Convention from Nashville, Tennessee, wrote me this letter. I quote from him. God bless him.
Never yet has there been a downtown church that really has done the job. Reach the people commensurate with the great business houses, the skyscrapers, the movements of the masses. We are watching your church, your program, your staff, your organization. Maybe you will do it.
“And your young men shall see visions” [Joel 2:28].
Does it glorify God, an empty chair? Does it glorify God, a vacant pew? Does it glorify God with thousands up and down the streets unsought, unprayed for, untaught? Does it glorify God for our children to grow up pagan and heathen? Doesn’t it glorify God when I turn to the outpouring of the Spirit? Here is the fulfillment. There is the result in the same chapter; “And the Lord God added unto them that day about three thousand souls” [Acts 2:41]. And I turn the page again, “And the number of the aner, the men who believed was about five thousand” [Acts 4:4]. Think of it. That is the kingdom of God in its outreach, in its growth, in its expansion, in its ultimate victory and conquest. These are great days in which God hath cast our lives and our lot. Bless us in His name and in His power as we enter in, God leading the way.
And while we sing our song of appeal, on the first note of the first stanza, somebody you, you, you, come. Make it now. Make it this morning. In the balcony round, on the lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front, “Here I am, pastor, and here I come. I give you my hand. I have given my heart in trust to God [Romans 10:18-19]. I look in faith to Jesus and here I come” [Ephesians 2:8]. Or a family, or a couple, or one somebody you, when we stand up in a moment, stand up coming. Out of your seat, into the aisle, down a stairway, here to the front, “I make it now, pastor. Here I come. Here I am.” Do it. Do it on the first note of the stanza. Do it, while we stand and while we sing.