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The Gifts Are For Today - Part II

The Last Days

"But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: 'And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.'" (Act 2:18-21).

In Part I of this topic, I demonstrated that the Apostle Paul wrote First Corinthians to us just as surely as he wrote it to the church in Corinth in his day. I then reviewed two entire chapters in that letter in which Paul taught that the gifts of the Spirit are vitally important to us. Finally, I quoted him commanding us - on three separate occasions - to exercise the gifts. On this page I want to further establish that the gifts are for today. We will see the gospel truth that, not only was one of Paul's letters addressed directly to us, more importantly, we live in the same days as the Apostles. What applied to them applies to us. What was available to them is available to us. What was required of them is required of us.

One of the most enervating pseudo-doctrines taught today is the notion that the first century church was special; that they were, in effect, supermen when compared to us. They partook of a feast, it is asserted, while we are left with mere crumbs. This is nonsense, and my opening quote of Peter addressing the crowd on Pentecost proves it.

We know the Holy Spirit had came upon the 120 disciples in the Upper Room as tongues of fire and the sound of wind. Filled with the Spirit, they began to ecstatically declare the great works of God in other tongues. The men of Judea were amazed and confused, though many scornfully laughed at them. Peter then stood up and addressed the crowd by extensively quoting the prophet Joel.

While it makes sense that Peter would use Joel to validate the outpouring of the Spirit, and their subsequent prophesying, why did he press on and continue the quote? Why did the Holy Spirit inspire Peter to repeat what Joel said about the Sun turning to darkness and the moon to blood? Such great signs did not occur on that day long ago, nor have they occurred even yet in our day. And, why did he press on with still one more verse from Joel, the verse that stated all who call upon the Lord will be saved?

Obviously, Peter began with Joel 2:28 because it applied directly to what was occurring that Pentecost morning - God had poured out His spirit and "sons and daughters" were prophesying. Yet, consider what Peter did: Under the influence of the Holy Spirit and in the office of Apostle, he modified the original prophesy by changing Joel's "afterward" into "In the last days". This is vital. Peter was using Joel to declare the bookends of the "Last Days"; the Church Age. The arrival of the Holy Spirit in power marked the beginning of the End; the return of Christ in power will mark the end of the End. The whole period in between would be categorized by this blessed feature - all who call upon the Lord will be saved.

Think how much the world has changed in the last 2,000 years. Culture, society, science, art; all of these have experienced massive changes many, many times. Yet, one thing has been a blessed constant throughout all the tumultuous centuries since Peter spoke: How lovely on the mountains have been the feet of those bringing good news! Over and over and over again, faith has come by hearing the word, hearts have believed the Gospel, mouths have confessed 'Jesus is Lord', and the lost have been saved - by the millions. The Church Age has been one cohesive whole - superintended by the Holy Spirit. Peter certainly spoke forcefully that day, but it was the Spirit that inspired him and anointed his words. And, it was the Spirit that anointed the ears that heard him, as well as the hearts that received what he said. The same has been true over the centuries and remains true to this day.

Like an ocean, the churning and shifting has only been on the surface; it has only taken place in the vain, superficial institutions of man. Really, only our trinkets have changed over the last two millennia. When it comes to the deep things, the things that really matter, such as life and love; family and friends; Heaven and Hell; these things have remained the same. So also, the brooding presence of the Holy Spirit has remained a fixture of the Church Age. Therefore, in a very real sense, nothing has changed for 2,000 years. The things that matter most will remain the same until our Lord descends with a shout and trumpet blast to wrap up this Age and usher in His Kingdom.

Therefore, Peter declared it all in quick summary at the beginning, using an Old Testament prophet to demonstrate the continuity of God's plan. This is why Jesus said "I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Mt 28:20) He was not called 'Emmanuel' (God with us) for nothing. Don't you remember? He promised those that love Him that "I will love him and manifest myself to him." (Jn 14:21). Well, how will He 'manifest' Himself to us? This Greek word is also translated to 'appear', to 'disclose'. Don't try to make up how He will do it; the Word has already told us:

"And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs." (Mar 16:20)

"And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus." (Act 4:29-30)

"For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power." (1Co 4:20)

"Our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction." (1Th 1:5a)

Jesus did not promise to be with the Church until "the end of the century", but until "the end of the age". I have already shown that the Church Age lasts until the awesome return of Christ. We know that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." (Heb 13:8) And, that "God shows no partiality" (Act 10:34), for "there is no partiality with Him" (Eph 6:9). Therefore, let's not be a people "having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power." (2Ti 3:5) Actually, that verse ends with this startling command: "Avoid such people."

I say let us avoid being such people.

© Matthew Schilling March 2006

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