THE COMING WORK OF THE HOLY GHOST
By D. M. PANTON, B. A.
It is an inexplicable omission over the whole range of prophetic study that there is an almost total unawareness of the colossal coming work of the Holy Ghost. Throughout the Prophets no prediction of the Spirit's action is more precise, more positive, more lucid, more comprehensive than Joel's forecast of a double Pentecost - the Christian dispensation clasped at both ends, like a jewel, in a bracelet of miracle. Like the imminent Advent, this coming downpour - whether after rapture or before - is a star ahead that never wanes; an electric flare in the blackest midnight that earth will ever see; a revival so sure that prayer for it is an ease and a delight; an output of the mercy of God second only to Calvary.
The first great fact that God Himself emphasizes is the universality of the effusion. '"And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out My Spirit " - not distil, but pour forth in great abundance (Calvin); not in driblets, but in floods; not in isolated prophets, but in miraculous assemblies: as Paul says, "the Holy Ghost which He poured out upon us abundantly" (Titus 3: 6) - "UPON ALL FLESH" (Joel 2: 28) that is, all without distinction, not all without exception. Since flesh, in Scripture, is the antithesis, not of race to race, but of mankind to God and to the spirit-world, what is foretold is a world-wide effusion: "all flesh" - all mankind, as the Hebrew expression denotes (Prof. J. J. Given, D.D.)* - is a description never used in any smaller application than to the whole of humanity (Campbell Morgan, D.D.). All races, Jew and Gentile; both sexes, sons and daughters; all ages, young and old; all classes, bond and free:- God exhausts Himself (I had almost said) by giving first His Son, and then His Spirit, to the whole human race.
[* " All flesh' is the name for all mankind. The words 'all flesh' are in the Pentateuch, and in one place in Daniel, used in a yet wider sense, of everything which has life; but, in no one case, in any narrower sense. It does not include every individual in the race, but it includes the whole race, and individuals throughout it" (Pusey).]
A FUTURE DOWNPOUR
we know, on the authority of the Spirit Himself, that at Pentecost, and in the
miracle-gifted assemblies of the Apostolic Church, this vast prophecy found an
initial fulfilment: "THIS,"
says Peter, "IS THAT" (Acts 2: 16):
and so it is applied both by Peter (here) and Paul (Rom. 10: 13) to the last
days in the sense (Heb.1: 2) of the
Gospel Age. But the context of Joel, as
well as Peter's own quotation, makes it certain that both ends of the Christian
Age receive the effusion. "It is not the first
coming of Christ," says Dean
Alford, "which interpretation would run
counter to the whole tenour of the Apostle's
application of the prophecy:-but clearly, His second coming." For (1) Joel's immediately succeeding verse (3: 1) fastens down the date to the Second Advent:- "for behold, in those
days, and in that time" - the
epoch of the effusion - "I shall bring again the
[* Verse 28 of Joel 2, in our Bible, is verse 1 of chapter 3. in the Hebrew Bible. The notice as to the time in 3: 1, 2, points back to the 'afterward' in 2: 28 'in those days,' namely, the days of the outpouring of the Spirit of God" (Keil and Delitzsch).]
[** "When Peter says, 'This is that', he indeed maintains that the prophecy is fulfilled on the present occasion; yet not that it has here exclusively and in all points completely received its fulfilment, or that the fulfilment is limited to the present time"(Lange)]
Now one feature of the effusion - namely miraculous inspiration - marks it off sharply from all other secret and age-long activities of the Spirit. "Your sons and your daughters [Jews] shall PROPHESY" - the word means, not simply to predict future events, but to announce the revelations of God (Lange): they had just heard the tongues that proved the Spirits illapse - "your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: and also" - as an unprecedented thing, for no instance throughout the Old Testament of the Spirit ever falling on a slave - "upon the servants and the handmaids [Gentiles]" - my servants and my handmaidens, Peter substitutes, to show that they are mainly, if not altogether, converted Gentiles - "in those days will I pour out my Spirit" - a repeated prediction, that the tremendous fact may soak into our minds. Jehovah Himself has given this triple definition of miraculous seizure:- "If there be a PROPHET among you, I, the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, I will speak with him in a dream " (Num. 12: 6). This is strictly cognate with other prophecies of restored miracle: - immediate inspiration, without forethought (Mark 13: 11); mracle-gifted overthrowers of demonic miracle (2Tim. 3: 9) gigantic judgment-miracles yet to be (Rev. 11: 6); together with a general in-break of a miraculous order.*
[* So Jas. 5: 7. The habitual failure of prophecies - except such trivial predictions as are based on supernatural knowledge of data on which to base inferences - is one of the many proofs, which it shares with Montanism and Irvingism, that the Tongues Movement is not what it claims to be - the Latter Rain. There has been no 'wonder' in these movements which is not a commonplace of the Spiritualistic sιance.]
THE OUTPOURING AND THE JUDGMENTS
Both the Prophet and the Apostle so intertwine and interlock the effusion and the Second Advent judgments as to put beyond all doubt that Pentecost did not exhaust the prediction,* and also to reveal, to a limit almost incredible, the mercy of God. "And I will show wonders in the heavens" - to challenge thought, and rouse fear - "and in the earth" - to sting into action - "blood and fire and pillars of smoke: the sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before" - therefore this is the series of violent convulsions that precede the Great Tribulation (Rev. 6: 12), not the series that close it (Matt. 24: 29) - "the great and terrible" - the Spirit here changes terrible into manifest, world-wide ; the visible epiphany of the Lord - "day of the Lord come"; "and whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord," Joel adds, "shall be delivered." Great terrors will mingle with mighty salvations: the terrors create the salvations: in the earlier phases of the last judgments, judgment and redemption go hand in hand: not until the last section of the fearful catastrophes does judgment abandon hope of salvation. "When thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness" (Isa. 26: 9). For it is to a world's wreck, shuddering and foundering, and as it actually takes its final plunge, that God's lifeboat draws its closest and picks up great masses of sinking humanity. In the old world's last hours, and up to the very brink of Hell, "mercy rejoiceth against judgment(Jas. 2: 13).**
[* "Peter includes in his quotation this element of the prophecy, because its realization, conditioned by the outpouring of the Spirit which necessarily preceded it, presented itself likewise as belonging to the allotted portion of the 'last days" (H. A. W. Meyer).]
** For two-thirds of the Apocalyptic judgments are meant to be remedial, for they are punctuated with the refrain - "and they repented not" (Rev. 9: 20, 16: 9): it is only during the final third, from which this refrain disappears, that the judgments, like hell, become purely punitive.]
Finally, the glorious results of this climax of salvation in the history of the universe is revealed in Joel's ultimate verse (3: 1), as expounded and expanded by our Lord. "Before Him shall be gathered all the nations: and He shall separate them" (masculine) as individuals, not as nations "as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats" (Matt. 25: 32); massed nations, in colossal multitudes, to right and to left. Behold the post-Church work of Holy Ghost! The whole world's population is gathered before the Lord: on his right, some hundreds of millions, if the separated masses are at all balanced and commensurate* saved for the judge pronounces them blest, and subject nations of Millennial rule, and regenerate, because our Lord's rebuke to Nicodemus (John 3: 10) implies that there has never been, and never will be, salvation without regeneration; but not saved by the Gospel, and therefore the fruit of the work of the Holy Ghost after rapture, for they are judged with a highly peculiar judgment of their own; multitudes, we know, enormous enough to stock the Millennial earth at the opening of the Kingdom ** : - it is a work of the Holy Ghost totally unparalleled for any single generation in the history of the world. ***
[* How the vast numbers survive Antichrist's reign of terror is one of the most difficult problems of the Apocalypse; but of the fact our Lord's statement is final proof.
** Besides these, (1), Israel's 144,000 in the Wilderness out of reach of Antichrist (Rev. 7: 4); (2) The Jewish least brethren throughout the all lands the criterion of Gentile judgment (Matt. 25: 40); (3) such martyrs under Antichrist as are not, as unrapt Christians, survivors from an earlier age (Rev. 20: 4):- all these further fruits of the outpoured Spirit, in His last and mightiest work of world-redemption.]
*** One point of surpassing interest - the exact date of the downpour - does not seem to be revealed. Since rain is used in an analogy, and the first shower fell at Pentecost, must not the second shower follow and not precede the reforming of the cloud in the heavenlies? Or (to drop the metaphor) the Holy Ghost is now on earth, and His descent was at Pentecost: must not His second advent follow and not precede His removal with the first rapt (2 Thess. 2: 7)? Can He be said to descend (as a downpour) while He is still on the earth? Certain is it that it is after the Judgment Throne is set (Rev. 4: 1), or the removal of the Throne of Grace, that the Holy Ghost is described as "the Seven Spirits sent forth into all the earth" (Rev. 5: 6). Yet it is also explicitly stated (Joel 2: 31) to be "before the great and terrible day of the Lord," or the Great Tribulation, which is the closing three and a half years of a judgment epoch of unknown duration.