You cannot grasp the theology of the New Testament unless you appreciate the fact that its writers had a strong sense that the end of the age was upon them. These people were not just reading in a book about something that God had done, or might do in the future—they believed they were living within the great story itself, and they believed the ancient prophecies were being fulfilled before their eyes.
For some context about the great story of the Bible, read my blog, “Where does a Christian worldview come from?”
Peter in the first Christian sermon
Peter referenced this on the day of Pentecost when he preached the first Christian sermon in Acts 2. The Holy Spirit had given the disciples the ability to speak in many different languages, and the crowd attracted by the noise was bewildered. Peter explained to them what was happening:
For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel… (Acts 2:15-16)
Peter referenced the Prophet Joel
Peter then recited Joel 2:28-32:
‘And it shall be in the last days,’ God says,
‘That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind;
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 bondslaves, both men and women,
I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit
And they shall prophesy.
‘And I will grant wonders in the sky above
And signs on the earth below,
Blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke.
‘The sun will be turned into darkness
And the moon into blood,
Before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come.
‘And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ (Acts 2:17-21)
Peter told the crowd that was gathered about the great, cataclysmic set of events that constitute the end, and he explained that they were witnessing the fulfillment of that prophecy:
Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know—this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power. (Acts 2:22-24)
Peter mentioned Psalm 110
Peter went on to explain that Jesus’ very death was in fulfillment of what David said in Psalm 110:
The Lord says to my Lord:
Sit at My right hand
Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.
Here is a blog explaining the mystery of Psalm 110.
Further, according to Peter, David the prophet was looking ahead when he composed those lines. He knew that it was the Christ, the son of David, who would neither suffer decay, nor his flesh rot (Acts 2:31). Peter continued:
This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear. For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says:
‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand,
Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”’
Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:32-36)
The very first Christian sermon reminded people that they were living in the last days. The events these people had witnessed were the fulfillment of the long awaited history, the promises of God.
I’ll say more about this in future blog posts, when I’ll take a look at Paul’s view of the last days in the book of Romans and beyond.
The previous was adapted from a class lecture Dr. Sloan gave on the book of Romans at Houston Baptist University.