The Fulfillment Of Joel 2:28–32: A Multiple-Lens Approach -- By: Daniel J. Treier

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 40:1 (Mar 1997)
Article: The Fulfillment Of Joel 2:28–32: A Multiple-Lens Approach
Author: Daniel J. Treier


The Fulfillment Of Joel 2:28–32:
A Multiple-Lens Approach

Daniel J. Treier*

Peter’s citation of Joel 2:28–32 in Acts 2:16–21 is a significant text for our attempts to define the relationship between Israel and the Church and to understand God’s eschatological program. Pivotal questions concerning the Joel text include how wide its application is, how to interpret its apocalyptic imagery, and whether it was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost when Peter cited it.

Three major positions have emerged in response to these questions. Typical of a dispensational approach is A. C. Gaebelein:

Careless and superficial expositors have often stated that Peter said that all this happened in fulfillment of what was spoken by Joel. He did not use the word fulfilled at all. Had he spoken of a fulfillment then of Joel’s prophecy, he would have uttered something which was not true, for the great prophecy of Joel was not fulfilled on that day. 1

In this understanding, Peter uses Joel 2 as an analogy or rhetorical device but as nothing more.

Alternatively, John Stott presents a more covenantal approach: “We must be careful not to requote Joel’s prophecy as if we are still awaiting its ful-filment, or even as if its fulfilment has been only partial, and we await some future and complete fulfilment.” 2 While Stott has recognized the reality of a Pentecost fulfillment, this position typically extends the fulfillment to include the apocalyptic imagery as well. Further, it neglects any future aspect of the Spirit’s renewal of ethnic Israel.

Therefore a third position has emerged. Characteristic of the multiple-fulfillment 3 approach is Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.:

All interpreters know that Pentecost took care of only the first two verses in that prophecy, and that only to an initial degree. Where were the “wonders

* Daniel Treier teaches at Cornerstone College and lives at 1084 Leffingwell NE, Apt. 106, Grand Rapids, MI 49505.

in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke”? “The sun will be turned to darkness,” promised Joel, “and the moon to blood.” These events yet await the consummation of history. 4

Here the difficulty is that overemphasis on the future as ultimate tends...

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