The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit
February 4th, 1968 @ 8:15 AM
THE OUTPOURING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-04-68 8:15 a.m.
In your Bible for the message this morning, you may turn to one of two places: you may turn to Joel, chapter 2, or to the Book of Acts, chapter 2, either place. If you turn to Joel chapter 2, the reading begins at verse  to the end of the chapter. If you begin in Acts, you turn to Acts; we begin at verse  to verse 21. If you will turn to one of those two places, you can follow the message easily.
On the radio, you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit. I shall read the passage in Joel, beginning at verse 28, “And it shall come to pass afterward,” in the Book of Acts, “the last days”:
And it shall come to pass afterward in the last days, that I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:
And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out My Spirit.
And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.
The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come.
And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered:
in the Book of Acts, “shall be saved” [Acts 2:21]—
for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call.
This prophecy in Joel has a twofold reference, a twofold meaning. In regard to “the last days,” that is a special designation used in the Word of God, “the last days.” With reference to Israel, it means one thing; and with reference to the church, to us, it means another thing. With reference to Israel, it refers to their millennial peace, the word that Isaiah the son of Amos saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem [Isaiah 1:1].
And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains—
then the prophecy continues, and you’re familiar with it—
He shall judge among many nations . . . 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 2:2, 4]
“In the last days” [Isaiah 2:2], so the prophecy with regard to Israel concerns the ultimate and final consummation of the age when God again will visit Israel and when they shall dwell in their own land in peace and in prosperity.
Then it has another reference, this prophecy of Joel; the outpouring of the Spirit. With regard to the church, it figures Pentecost [Acts 2]; the last days with regard to the church refers to our days beginning with Christ. 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 . . .
In these last days, God had spoken to us by His Son.
So when the passage, when the prophecy refers to the church, to us, we are in the last days; God is working out His final consummation through us. There is nothing beyond us except the great and terrible day of the Lord. There are no more dispensations; there are no more eras except those that conclude the will of God and the sovereign purpose of the Lord in the earth.
So the last days with regard to Israel refers to the consummation of the age, to their millennial glory. And the last days with regard to us begins with Christ. “God, who spoke in many ways and at many times in the past, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son” [Hebrews 1:1-2].
Now, not only does the prophecy have a reference twofold with regard to the latter days, but it has a twofold reference with regard to their fulfillment, and I have spoken of that. The fulfillment of this whole prophecy with regards to Israel will be when they come to that day of visitation and intervention from God. The fulfillment of the prophecy with regard to us begins at Pentecost, after the life of Christ [Acts 2:1-47].
Now it also has a twofold application with regard to the results of the outpouring of the Spirit prophesied here. One result will be gracious and benign and blessed. “Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, yea even upon My servants, doulos, and upon My handmaids, doulas, upon My slaves will I pour out My Holy Spirit” [Joel 2:28-29], a gracious gift and bestowment from heaven.
But the other part of that result is terrible to behold. “I will show wonders in heaven and in earth, blood, and fire, and smoke. The sun turned into darkness, the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord” [Joel 2:30-31]. That speaks of the judgments of God at the final day, the end time in those last days of visitation. For in the rejection of the outpouring of the Spirit, there is nothing remaining but judgment, the terrible visitation from heaven. This is the unpardonable sin [Mark 3:28-30].
If you’ve been in church at all, all the days of your life, you have heard ministers refer to the sin that is never forgiven. The sin that is never forgiven is the sin of rejecting the testimony and witness of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has been poured out into this world, and He speaks to the human heart. He speaks to you. You have heard His voice.
And when we reject the testimony of the Spirit of God, there is no forgiveness, neither in this world, nor in the world that is to come [Matthew 12:31-32; Mark 3:28-30]. And the gracious blessing that God intended for the filling of our souls with His presence [Joel 2:28], is turned into awful and awesome and terrible condemnation. Everything in life is like that.
When the American Airlines or Braniff Airlines, under the aegis of the American government, proceeds to give us airplanes to fly quickly from place to place, it is a new age. It is a great blessing. It is something startlingly wonderful, but that same carrier can be not only a carrier of life, but it can be in disaster a carrier of death! This marvelous scientific breakthrough of atomic fission can be a marvelous thing for health. Maybe we’ll find in it the cure for cancer. It can be used to dig a new Panama Canal. There are a thousand multitudinous peace time uses for atomic fission, but it also can be a carrier of death, the awesome explosion of a bomb. So it is with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit of God into the world. It can be gracious and blessed and filled with the Spirit of the Lord, but it also can be a great and terrible judgment in its rejection.
Now, the Lord intends it—as we fulfill the prophecy in the second chapter of Acts—the Lord intends it for a gracious and holy and marvelous blessing. The Lord in His goodness poured out the Holy Spirit of Pentecost in order that we might be marvelously and gloriously blessed [Acts 2:1-4]. This is in keeping with the spirit of the whole revelation of God, for the Word of God ever announces some glorious and coming day.
This is the first page in the Bible: there is a marvelous day coming. This is the second page in the Bible: there is a glorious day coming. This is the middle page of the Bible: the announcement of a glorious day coming. This is the last page in the Bible: the announcement of a glorious day coming; for this is the character and purpose and presence of God in the earth.
There is ever outreach and development and expansion in the kingdom of God. God never retreats. God always advances. God always proceeds. His creation is followed by salvation, and His salvation is followed by sanctification, and His sanctification is followed by glorification and heaven [Romans 8:28-30]. That is why the saints of God are ever and always to be encouraged. As Paul wrote to the Thessalonian church in 2 Thessalonians 1:7, “Ye who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels.”
However these social revolutions and however these wars of destruction and however the convulsions of nature, it is the will of God that these saints inherit the earth [Matthew 5:5]. And that is everlastingly and unwearyingly and unfailingly true. The development of the kingdom of God is ever upward and onward, reaching toward that consummation when the Lord Himself shall come to visit the earth in glory and in millennial power [Matthew 24:30].
Now, the prophecy itself: first of all, we are deeply interested in it because this is the day and this is the age in which our lives are cast. We live in this day of grace, in the administration of the Holy Spirit of God. So the prophecy concerns us, our times and our days. The day came according to a date set by the Lord God in heaven. It was as the date set for the incarnation of Christ. That date was set by the Lord in heaven, when Jesus should come into the world, and in Daniel 9:25, the exact date is set and determined. The exact year is told. How the Lord should come into this world was something God planned in heaven [1 Peter 1:20]. Where He should be born was signified by Micah the prophet [Micah 5:2]. How He should be born was told by Isaiah: He shall be born of a virgin [Isaiah 7:14]. The incarnation, the date of it, was set in every detail by the Lord God in heaven [Hebrews 9:26; 1 Peter 1:20]. The date of the sacrifice of our Lord, the date of the crucifixion of Christ, was set by our Lord in heaven [Romans 5:6].
That was the meaning of Passover, the “pass over” time [Exodus 12:27]. How He should suffer was described by our Lord from heaven, written in detail in Psalm 22 and in Isaiah 53. Even the elements of the emblems of the remembrance of that sacrifice were in Genesis, when Melchizedek laid before Abraham bread and the fruit of the vine [Genesis 14:18-19]. So our Lord’s glorious ministration in heaven, His resurrection from the dead, was set in heaven, the exact time, the exact day [Revelation 5:6-9].
In the twenty-third chapter of Leviticus, on the first day after the Sabbath, on Sunday after the Saturday, there was the wave offering, the firstfruits [Leviticus 23:10-12]. These are pictures of the resurrection of our Lord from the dead, the firstfruits of the harvest. These that shall rise from the dead, the first is the Lord Jesus. On the first day after the Sabbath, on the first day after the Sabbath of the Passover, the exact day was set by the Lord God when Christ should be raised from the dead [1 Corinthians 15:20].
The Bible does not reveal to us one other date, and that is the date of the coming of Christ. The Lord said it is known but to God in heaven [Matthew 24:36], but there is a date known but to God when the Lord Jesus Christ shall descend from the glory above us, when the heavens shall split and the whole chalice above us rolled back like a scroll, and we see the glorious Lord coming in power [Revelation 6:14-16, 14:14]. That date also is set by the Lord God in heaven and known to Him [Matthew 24:36]. So this date of the coming of the Holy Spirit, “This is that, said Simon Peter, which was spoken of by the prophet Joel” [Acts 2:16], the pouring out of the Holy Spirit of God into the earth:
And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh: your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams:
And on My slaves even, My servants and My handmaids, I will pour out in those days of My Spirit; and they shall prophesy.
What an amazing thing God hath done, for the Holy Spirit now has come into a new home, a new house, a new tabernacle. In the second chapter of the Book of Ephesians, the apostle says that tabernacle is the church, the living stones that are built up into the temple of God, the household of faith [Ephesians 2:20-22]. In the sixth chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul says that that tabernacle is the individual Christian [1 Corinthians 6:19]. Not only is the Holy Spirit abiding as a home in the church, in the household of faith [1 Corinthians 3:16], but He also lives in the tabernacle of the individual Christian [1 Corinthians 6:19].
Just as the Holy Spirit came in the fortieth chapter of the Book of Exodus upon the tabernacle, and there the shekinah glory burned with the presence of the Spirit of God [Exodus 40:34-35]; just as in the eighth chapter of 1 Kings, the Holy Spirit came upon the temple of Solomon, and the priest could not minister because of His glory [1 Kings 8:11]; so in this new day in which we live, the Holy Spirit of God has been poured out into a new home, into a new temple, into a new tabernacle [2 Corinthians 5:2].
And the abiding place of the Spirit of God now is in His church [1 Corinthians 3:16]—here in this great congregation and in our individual hearts [1 Corinthians 6:19-20]. As the Lord Jesus when He was incarnate [Matthew 1:20-25], as the Lord Jesus forever thereafter is a man—and the second Person of the Trinity lives in a human body [Philippians 2:5-7], though glorified now—as the Lord Jesus became incarnate in human flesh [John 1:14] and when He ascended into glory, He ascended with a body [Acts 1:9-10]. And the great Savior, and Prince of mankind, and Ruler of heaven is a man, and He is in glory at the right hand of God with a human body [Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 10:12].
As in the incarnation, the Lord Jesus Christ became a man and thereafter has a body [Matthew 1:20-25], so at Pentecost the Holy Spirit of God found a new home, found a new abiding place in the church [1 Corinthians 3:16], and in the individual hearts of each believer [1 Corinthians 6:19-20], and thereafter this is His home. And He shall take us to glory someday [John 14:3].
I’ve often said the only God there is is Jehovah God; that’s right. The only God you will ever see is the Lord Jesus Christ; and that’s right, in a human body. And the only God you shall ever feel that moves and quickens is the Holy Spirit of God who lives in your heart [1 Corinthians 6:19-20], who shall raise you from the dead [Romans 8:11], even as He raised Jesus Christ from the dead [Romans 1:4], and shall present you without fault, without blemish in the presence of His glory some incomparable day [Ephesians 5:27]. The Holy Spirit of God now lives in a new house, in a new home [1 Corinthians 6:19-20].
Another thing from the outpouring of the Holy Spirit of God which came to pass for us in the days of Pentecost [Acts 2:1-4], He is a quickening Spirit, making alive Spirit [Romans 8:11], and the Lord God breathed into the nostrils of the man He had made the breath of life; and Adam became a living soul [Genesis 2:7].
So the Holy Spirit of God falling upon His people, coming into our individual hearts [1 Corinthians 6:19-20], quickens us, and our church becomes a living organism [Ephesians 1:23]. And we individually become quickened and alive in the presence of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ [Ephesians 2:5]. No longer dead in trespasses and in sins, no longer cold-like but quickened, spiritually sensitized by the coming of the Holy Spirit into our hearts [Ephesians 2:1-5]. What a marvelous thing did God do here!
John the Baptist gathered the material together [Luke 1:76-79]. Ah! The forerunner of Jesus Christ the Messiah [Matthew 3:3], the greatest man born of woman [Matthew 11:11] gathered the material together and baptized them in the Jordan River as they confessed their sins [Matthew 3:1-6], getting ready for the announcement of the coming Messiah [Matthew 3]. And the Lord Jesus Christ built them into the great congregation, the church and the household of faith. He gave them the commission [Matthew 28:18-20], He gave them the ordinances [Matthew 28:19-20; Luke 22:19], and He built His church [Matthew 16:18].
Then as at Pentecost, then as Ezekiel in the thirty-seventh chapter of the book of his prophecy, “Come Spirit of God upon these dead bones, this valley of dead bones that they might be quickened into life” [Ezekiel 37:4-10], so the Holy Spirit of God poured out at Pentecost, quickened the body, and it became a living soul [Acts 2:1-47]. So the Holy Spirit at Pentecost quickened each individual heart and made him a flame of fire for God [Acts 2:3].
And that Holy Spirit of God is with us today, and there is possibility of quickening, and of revival, and of change, and of the burning Spirit of God in any church, in any life, in any community, in any city, and in any nation, anywhere, anytime! This is the incomparable encouragement to my own soul, no matter the darkness of the hour or the despair of the day; the possibility of the Spirit of God quickening His people.
For example, I picked up a book this week, just happened to pick it up. Look at the chapter headings; look at them. “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” Anywhere, everywhere, the possibility of a visitation from God; revival, change, conquest, the fire burning upward furiously, gloriously.
“In those days I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh” [Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17]. now may I speak of that, “all flesh”? Heretofore the Spirit had been given to select individuals in select seasons and times, as in the story of Samson. “And the Spirit of God began to move him at times in the camp of Dan” [Judges 13:24-25]. That was the way the Holy Spirit came in the olden days, or the Holy Spirit would fall upon a prophet, as Isaiah [Isaiah 61:1], or come upon a great man of God, as David [1 Samuel 16:13].
“But in this day,” said the prophet—the day in which we live—”in this day I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh” [Joel 2:28]. All flesh, your sons, your daughters, your old, your young, even the servants and the handmaids. All of us have that opportunity, an open door and possibility of being as inspired as Samuel, or Isaiah, or David, or Samson, or any of the prophets.
And the pew is an inspired as the pulpit. And the humblest among us fill with the Spirit ofGod as the most famous among us. And there’s not any time and not any season for it; any hour, any day, every hour, every day, God’s Holy Spirit in power, moving among us. That’s the most marvelous thing in this earth, the most wonderful thing in this earth, any child of God, anywhere, any season, any hour, blessed with a visitation from heaven.
Did you ever read the story of John Jasper? John Jasper, he was a slave sitting at a table where he sorted tobacco. And the Holy Spirit of God came upon him, and because of the marvelous power of God in his testimony, his master set him free. And upon a day I went to Richmond, and upon a day I spent many hours in the Faith Mount Zion Baptist Church, just recalling the life and the sermons and the ministry of that wonderful preacher: John Jasper, who has been described as the most eloquent man the continent of North America ever produced. Think of it, the Spirit of God falling upon My slaves! [Joel 2:29; Acts 2:18].
Preaching up there at Tuskegee in Oklahoma at the Choctaw Tabernacle, after I’d done my best and my utmost and nobody moved, and we sang and sang, and I pled and pled, and nobody responded, I turned to the singer, and I said to that Choctaw Indian, I said, “The service is yours.”
I did not know he was an exhorter. I meant the service was done. I had finished, and I turned the service to that Choctaw Indian. He thought I meant, “Now you take the service and exhort.” And he went up and down those aisles exhorting those people to come to God, and we had a Pentecost! We had a Pentecost.
“Upon all flesh,” down there in Ecuador in the Amazon jungle, visiting those terrible, murderous Aucas; who presided over the table? Who presided over the Lord’s house? Who presided over the service? Bikimo, one of the most murderous, bloodthirsty savages, whose hand all his life dipped in blood and had helped kill five white missionaries; why, that’s the most marvelous thing in the world, the outpouring of the Spirit of God upon all flesh [Joel 2:28].
And the preacher up here in the pulpit, he can study God’s Word, and he can listen to the Spirit of the Lord, and those who listen to him out there in the [pews], they can study God’s Word and listen to the Spirit of the Lord. All of us, all of us, visited from heaven. And just according to the capacity of our souls does God pour out His Spirit into our lives.
Now I must conclude, our time’s gone. “And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy” [Joel 2:28]. Now to us, prophecy means telling events, you know, foretelling. It doesn’t mean that in the Bible. Once in a while there’ll be an overtone, a foretelling, prophecy, you know, foretelling an event once in awhile, but that was incidental, incidental, very incidental.
What the word propheteuō means is to forth-tell, bold witnessing in the power of the Holy Spirit. “And your sons and your daughters shall be My witnesses” [Joel 2:28], not just an Isaiah, not just a Micah, not just a Sampson or a Samuel, but even your sons and daughters shall be witnesses of the divine grace. “Your sons and your daughters shall “propheteuō, forth-tell, witnesses of the great goodness of God. “And your old men shall dream dreams [Joel 2:28]. And your old men shall dream dreams.”
“Winter is on my head,” said Victor Hugo, “but springtime is in my heart” [1802-1885]. Age is a matter of attitude and perception. 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, 1824 ]
Yet Browning, the great Christian poet wrote as the years multiplied:
Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith, “A whole I planned
Trust God: see all, nor be afraid.
[“Grow Old Along With Me,” 1812-1889]
We may get old in our years but not in our hearts and in our spirits. “And your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions” [Joel 2:28b]. Woe the church when the old men don’t dream dreams, and woe to the church when the young men no longer see visions! “For lack of vision,” God said, “the people perish” [Proverbs 29:18a].
Oh! What the Spirit does when He moves in the quickening souls of His people. The things they dream and the things they see. The best poem has yet to be written. The best song has yet to be sung. The best picture is yet to be painted. The greatest Sunday school is yet to be built. The finest sermon has yet to be preached; dreaming dreams.
When I came here to the church, twenty-one years ago, I received a letter from one of the great executive leaders, a God-inspired man. I received a letter from one of the executive leaders of our Southern Baptist Convention from Nashville, Tennessee and listen to what he wrote the young pastor: “Never yet has there been a downtown church that really has done the job. Reach the people; commiserate with the great business houses, skyscrapers, movements of the masses. We are watching your church, your program, staff, organization. Maybe you will do it.”
Dreaming dreams, seeing visions, quickened by the Holy Spirit of God; “And it shall come to pass that I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh” [Joel 2:28a]. Not just the preacher, all flesh. “And your sons and your daughters shall be witnesses, propheteuō. And your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.” And when I turn to the prophecy of the fulfillment, and the Lord added unto them that day about three thousand souls [Acts 2:41].
And I turn the page again and the number of the andrōn, the men who believed, was about five thousand [Acts 4:4]. Do we magnify God with our empty chairs and vacant pews? Do we magnify God with our streets filled with the unsought and the lost? We magnify God, we glorify the Lord in bringing to His blessed feet much fruit, many souls, many trophies of grace, as the Lord in heaven shall inspire us and lead us and open our eyes to the greater vision that lies ahead. O bless His name that we can live in an hour and in a time like this.
Now, on the first note of the first stanza, come, come. Listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit. Come, come. “Today, pastor, I take the Lord as my Savior, and here I am.” Come. “Today, pastor, we’re putting our lives into the fellowship of the church.” Come. In the throng in this balcony round, what an amazing sight! This church is practically as full as it can be. Oh! What a glorious sight!
In the throng in this balcony round, if the Holy Spirit bid you, come. And on this lower floor into the aisle and down to the front, “Here I am, pastor. I have heard the Spirit of God, and here I am. Here I come.” And when you stand up in a moment, stand up coming. Do it. Do it. Do it. Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.