Book Review of O. Palmer Robertson “Christ of the Prophets”

Posted: April 17, 2009 by Rick Hogaboam in Book Reviews

Robertson, O. P. (2008). The Christ of the Prophets (Abridged ed.). Phillipsburg, N.J.: P&R Pub.

“Yet despite this image of a universal judgment of the nations, Joel cannot be perceived as narrowly nationalistic in his attitude toward the peoples of the world. For in connection with the promised restoration of Israel after its judgment, Joel declares that the supreme divine blessing will fall on all nations. God will ‘pour out [his] Spirit on all flesh’. Indiscriminately on men and women, young and old, Israelite and non-Israelite, God will abundantly pour out an effusion of his Spirit that will equip all peoples to bless others by their spiritual gifts…” (Robertson 2008:162-163).

Robertson shows no hesitancy whatsoever in asserting that Joel had universalistic concerns in mind even in the promise of the Spirit for ‘all flesh’. I concur that the universalistic judgment seen in Joel 3 is preceded by the means for salvation and escape in Joel 2:28-32. Calling upon the name of the Lord is the way of salvation and as such is enumerated by Paul and Peter in the NT Scriptures.

“…it is a universalistic text, as is well proven by its consummate fulfillment. When on the day of Pentecost the original apostles of Jesus Christ spoke all the languages of the world to all the peoples of the world, Joel’s universalism came to significant fruition….the multiple languages of the apostolic prophesying confirmed the universal significance of the Christian gospel” (Robertson 2008:163).

Robertson clearly sees fulfillment in the Pentecost events of the Joeline text. I would suggest that it is nearly impossible to understand the missional witness of the early church apart from acknowledging the fulfillment of Joel’s promise. Acts 1:8 states clearly that the intent for the outpoured Spirit was world-wide witness. To suggest that such fulfillment is postponed to some future age (as dispensationalists suggest) is to deny the global workings of God in the present through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

“…a more careful consideration of the connections between Pentecost and the outpouring of the Spirit may serve to further illuminate both Joel and Acts. For the original Pentecost was a time for consecration of the ‘bread of firstfruits’ of the harvest. On this festal occasion, the people were reminded of the renewal of the earth in its fertility by the goodness of their God. But both Joel and the apostle Peter take this renewal one step further. Man by divine redemption is also renewed through the gracious outpouring of God’s Spirit” (Robertson 2008:165-166).

The Holy Spirit is seen in Scripture as being present in creation of the earth, breathing life into man, and anointing God’s servants for their vocational tasks. As such, Joel’s promise of earthly blessings just preceding the promise of the Spirit is no accident. The Holy Spirit and life are connected as themes in Scripture. God’s restoration of the land is exceeded by His restoration of His people through the outpoured life-giving Spirit. The possible allusion in Joel 2:23 of a teacher of righteousness may very well serve as a messianic hinge upon which all such promises are brought about. If Pentecost was truly the fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32, then it would be safe to assert that the promises of blessing in the land is metaphorical of even greater favor in the land through Spiritual blessings.
Acts 3:19-21 (ESV)
19 Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out,
20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus,
21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.

The “times of refreshing” language would hearken the hearers back to the covenant blessings that were promised upon Israel for their covenant faithfulness (Dt. 28). The true Israel has come in Christ and these blessings are now made available to all who call upon Him, thus being engrafted “in Him”. He is the true vine (Jn. 15).

Though this period of restoration has arrived, all of creation still awaits its final and complete restoration, which will occur at the second advent of Christ, who will consummate all that He has already began through His first advent.


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