Review of C.C. Ryrie’s “The Holy Spirit” in Relation to Peter’s Quotation of Joel on Pentecost…Do Dispensationalists Wish That Peter Never Quoted Joel? It seems that way

Posted: January 22, 2009 by Rick Hogaboam in Uncategorized

Ryrie C.C. 1997 The Holy Spirit. Chicago: Moody Press

Apparently the Spirit’s work in believers during the Tribulation period will follow the pattern of His work in the Old Testament. He will be present and active in the world; He will indwell and empower His people; He will use believers in witnessing. Specific proof texts are scarce, for the Bible says very little about the Spirit’s ministry during that time. One text that can be used is the quotation of Joel 2:28-32 in Acts 2:17-21, because for whatever purpose it was quoted on the day of Pentecost, it obviously did not have a complete fulfillment on that day. Full fulfillment awaits the Tribulation days, since the passage expressly links the pouring out of the Spirit with the time when the sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood (Ryrie, 1997:186-187).

Ryrie, firmly in the Dispensational camp, believes that God will actually retrograde His ministry through the Holy Spirit during a “Tribulation period”. Ryrie says that the Spirit’s work “will follow the pattern of His work in the Old Testament” (1997:186). Ryrie goes on to sound almost astonished or unconvenienced at Peter’s quotation of Joel, “…because for whatever purpose it was quoted on the day of Pentecost, it obviously did not have complete fulfillment…” (1997:187). It really sounds like faint praise of Peter’s usage of Joel.

To answer Ryrie’s quip, “for whatever purpose it was quoted”, it appears clear to me that Peter’s quotation of Joel was in direct response to the physical demonstration of the Spirit. Peter’s “This is what” formula strongly expresses a fulfillment theme in the present and one can hardly suggest that Peter had in find a fulfillment in some 3 ½ years tribulational period. Even Covenantal theologians grant that Pentecost was a fulfillment of Joel within a redemptive-historical framework, but Ryrie sees no fulfillment whatsoever of Joel in Pentecost. Granted there are various nuances within Dispensational theology regarding Peter’s quotation of Joel, but Ryrie’s view is weighty in that he is a spokesperson of sorts for Dispensational theology.

Ryrie necessarily sees Joel as something to be fulfilled in the future because of its connection with the cataclysmic events of the sun being darkened and the moon turning to blood. It is wholly feasible to suggest that the “signs and wonders” that accompanied Jesus’ ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension, which included some cataclysmic signs, were the initiation of the “last days”. The “last days” were ushered in on Pentecost and Peter sees Joel as being fulfilled in that day and the days leading up to the second coming of Christ. Covenant theology emphasizes a completeness of Joel’s prophecy in the Pentecost events itself; while, conversely, Dispensational theology has emphasized that Joel has yet to be fulfilled. It is Pentecostal/Charismatic theology that rightly views Pentecost within its redemptive-historical significance, but also sees the prophecy of Joel being fulfilled in the whole of the “last days”, which occupy the interim period between Christ’s two comings. Joel’s prophecy, then, is being fulfilled. The cataclysmic signs were ushered in by Christ, accompanied the early church, and will continue to accompany the “last days” community of the Church, eventually manifesting itself in greater intensity just preceding the second coming of Christ. While Covenant theology sees Joel’s prophecy as thing in the past, already having been fulfilled; and Dispensationalists view it entirely in the future, reserved only for ethnic Israel, it is the Pentecostal/Charismatics who have, rightly (in my estimation), viewed it as a work of the past that was unique, as ongoing fulfillment in the present, and unfolding more and more as we near that “last day”. Again, there are varying nuances in each camp, but these are general descriptions of how they understand Joel’s fulfillment within an eschatological framework.

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