Acts 2:17 "'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.

Was this written for today or how far into the future was this intended to apply? (Thanks Nihil Sine Deo for the comment.)

  • Change it to read, was this written for today or how far into the future was this intended to apply? Or define last days Dec 21, 2020 at 15:05
  • 1
    It's important that the question and answers be focused on this passage and not on other theological reasons for deciding whether it applies now. So I think this question needs to ask if there is anything in Peter's whole speech to indicate the intention of his words to apply to the church for all time.
    – curiousdannii
    Dec 21, 2020 at 23:27
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – Dottard
    Dec 25, 2020 at 9:40
  • Jesus's directive In considering the context of Peter's speech, we cannot overlook the Preface given by Jesus in Acts 1:8: ""You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you shall be my witnesses...TO THE END OF THE EARTH." It is with those words ringing in his ears that Peter speaks to the masses.
    – ray grant
    2 days ago

3 Answers 3


The answer to this question hinges on the meaning of "Last Days" (Acts 2:17). Was it Peter's time or our time or both or neither?

It comes as a rude shock to some that the New Testament calls the time after Jesus’ resurrection, the “last days”, or “last hour”, or similar. Note the following:

  • Acts 2:17 – Peter calls the day of Pentecost the “last day” in fulfilment of the prophecy of Joel. Compare v29-32.
  • 2 Tim 3:1 – perilous times in the “last day” which Paul discusses as already at his time.
  • Heb 1:2 – “These last days” God is revealed in Jesus.
  • James 5:3 – warning against rampant materialism and worship of money in the “last day”, that is, the time of James himself.
  • 1 Peter 1:5 – Christians reveal God and are miraculously preserved in the “last time”.
  • 1 Peter 1:20 – Jesus revealed in these “last times”.
  • 2 Peter 3:3 – Peter writes about his time as the fulfilment of that spoken by the ancient prophets about the “last days”.
  • 1 John 2:18 – Twice, John calls his time the “last hour”.
  • Jude 18 – Jude describes his time as the fulfilment of ancient prophecies about the “last time”.
  • Rev 2:16, 3:11, 22:7, 12, 20 – Jesus says, “I am coming soon/quickly”.
  • Even in a passage like John 6:39, 40, 54 where Jesus refers to the resurrection at the “last day” (see below) that time began with His death, Matt 27:50-53.

It should not be surprising that eschatology is defined in terms of Jesus – four times in the book of Revelation (1:11, 17, 2:8, 22:13) Jesus is called “the first and the last”. Thus, Bible eschatology, is the study of the time after Jesus inaugurated His Kingdom of Heaven (Matt 3:2, 4:17, 23, 5:3, 10, 19, etc).


Since, we, as with Peter, live in the "last days", then Joel's prophecy applies to the time period between Jesus first and second advents because that is what the Bible calls the "last days".

  • Agree strongly, it’s principally the reason why “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place.” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭21:32‬ ‭should be translated age and not generation. Generation doesn’t fit with the understanding of last days but age or church age does. Dec 22, 2020 at 21:42

Joel first prophesied it.

Joel 2:28 And afterward, I will pour out My Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.

Peter confirmed it alluding to Joel.

Acts 2:17 "'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.

Paul encouraged it.

1 Corinthians 14:1 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.

Is Acts 2:17 applicable today?

We have three witnesses that say yes.

There is a counterbalance from Paul.

1 Thessalonians 5:19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22reject every kind of evil.

Finally, if anyone claims to be a prophet, this is the warning from Moses.

Deuteronomy 18:20 But if any prophet dares to speak a message in My name that I have not commanded him to speak, or to speak in the name of other gods, that prophet must be put to death."


Holy spirit promised of Jesus realized in Peter's speech.

All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name ...

John 14:25-26 NIV

Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you ...

John 16:7 NIV

When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father ...

John 15:26 NIV

Peter refers to this promise in his initial proclamation after the ascent of the king as being manifest in the spirit gifts :

God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.

Acts 2:32-33 NIV

Further, there is a correlation between the elements of the promise provided by Jesus and their realization in Peter's speech :

When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment ...

John 16:8 NIV

... about sin, because people do not believe in me ...

Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.

... and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.

John 16:9, Acts 2:22,23 NIV

... about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer ...

For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.”’

John 16:10, Acts 2:34-35 NIV

... and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

... by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil ...

God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.

John 16:11, Hebrews 2:14, Acts 2:24 NIV

Spirit gifts introduced as generational.

Peter points to the generational span of the spirit gifts in this opening dialogue :

... ye shall receive the free–gift of the Holy Spirit; For, unto you, is the promise, and unto your children ...

Acts 2:38-39 Rotherham

This promise - ἐπαγγελία - of the spirit gifts being found earlier in his speech :

... this is that which hath been spoken through the prophet Joel–– And it shall be, in the last days saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and, your young men, visions shall see and, your elders, in dreams shall dream,–– And, even upon my men–servants and upon my maid–servants in those days, will I pour out of my Spirit, and they shall prophesy ...

Acts 2:16-18 Rotherham

This gift of prophecy and insight were to be generational, to you, and to your children.

Generational circumstance recorded.

Apart from the obvious - these gifts ceasing - we have abundant biblical testimony to this effect :

... when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.

When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands ...

Acts 8:12,14-17,18 NIV

In other words, although Philip was one of the seven (Acts 6:3-6, 21:8) and was baptizing, those baptized had not received the holy spirit gifts in that process, having to wait until Peter and John arrived for that purpose.
The spirit gifts were transferable through the Apostles, only, and once they died, that capacity would cease. Hence, to their compatriots and their immediate families to the next generation.

... we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.

Acts 21:8-9 NIV

Generational limitation foreshadowed in scripture.

There is a precursor to this in the OT :

Elijah is the archetypal prophet, and one of two, the other being Elisha, that had the spirit or power of the father given to them in a manner where they seemingly used it autonomously, but certainly they were the only two that had the capacity to raise the dead (Elijah at 1 Kings 17:17-24 and Elisha at 2 Kings 4:8-36 and 2 Kings 13:20-21).

Elisha receives the spirit - a transfer between prophets, but cannot transfer it himself. The spirit of Elijah ceases with Elisha.

In the case of Elijah and Elisha, there is a request for a reception of Elijah's power by Elisha and a resultant transfer depending on a condition :

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?” “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied. “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise, it will not.”

Elisha saw this ...

The company of the prophets from Jericho, who were watching, said, “The spirit of Elijah is resting on Elisha.”

2 Kings 2:9-10, 2:12,15 NIV

This transference and cessation paralleled in the account of Philip and those in Samaria and also his encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch.
The encounter with the Ethiopian paralleling not only Elijah and Elisha at the Jordan but also Elisha and the washing of Namaan the Syrian.

Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded ...

2 Kings 5:1 NIV

... on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”).

Acts 8:27 NIV

In both cases, the successors, Elisha and Philip convert their respective gentiles, but neither involve a transfer of spirit. Similarly Philip in Samaria and Elisha elsewhere.
There's a confluence of two "ceremonies" here. The baptism and operation of the spirit involving Elijah and Elisha being found in the interaction between the apostles and Philip. The type foreshadowing the spirit spoken of by Joel and referenced by Peter, being given to the gentiles, as a sheet lowered from heaven. This spirit not only of power but also grace, operating outside the law, and therefore beyond the bounds of Israel. These represented by both Moses and Elijah appearing together, the law and the prophets.
John the baptizer, the second Elijah signalling the close of the Mosaic covenant but the continuation of the spirit of prophecy and grace.

And everyone - כֹּ֧ל - who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved;
for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem
there will be deliverance ...

Joel 2:32 NIV

Paul explains partial vision and partial insight to be superceded.

Paul expands on this :

But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

1 Corinthians 13:8 NIV

Tongues of course could be stilled when the "good news" was sufficiently transferred to the surrounding communities that they could survive autonomously.
Now Paul hones in on the remaining two :

For we know in part and we prophesy in part ...

1 Corinthians 13:9 NIV

Glimpses of this partial insight into the scripture and future plan of deity can be seen throughout the NT writings.
Insights that unfold messiah in the OT and so on and point to the perilous future of "the church" and so on. In similar manner Peter and Paul foresaw the eventual disappearance of these gifts and obviously understood the reasoning behind that.
Paul continues :

For we know in part and we prophesy in part but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.

1 Corinthians 13:9-10 NIV

The expectation being that there would be a revelation of some variety, that would expand the prophetic vision and knowledge of deity to a degree of sufficiency, whereby the limited insights and vision exhibited in the early communities would no longer be required, they having served their intended function.
Preserved for our benefit but clarified and expanded by some mechanism to "hold the hand" of all believers until the return of the king.
There was therefore of necessity a further apocalypse or "revealing".

Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing
without revealing his plan
to his servants the prophets.

Amos 3:7 NIV

A difference between the Advocate and the Apocalypse.

... the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name ...

John 14:26 NIV

When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father ...

John 15:26 NIV

The spirit of the father, the holy spirit, that will be sent from the father at Jesus behest.
Clearly this power is from the father and emanating from him, but Jesus is not directly involved. As he restates it :

All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.

John 16:15 NIV

The Revelation on the other hand, is a different kettle of fish.

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to him, to point out unto his servants the things which must needs come to pass with speed,––and he shewed them by signs, sending through his messenger, unto his servant John ...

Revelation 1:1 Rotherham

There's a direct interaction between Jesus and John through his ἀγγέλου.
Moreover, whereas previously the father provided his spirit on Jesus behalf, in this instance, Θεός has given the revelation to Jesus who in turn passes it on to John and ultimately to all.

While this personal involvement was not precluded in the period between his ascension and the revelation ...

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied.

Acts 9:5-6 NIV

... in this instance we have the delivery of prophecy and knowledge by Jesus.

The apocalypse as the completeness.

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.

Revelation 22:18-19 NIV

Anything added, is further information, which would only be available, either by a further revelation, which of course there is none, or by the continuation of the previous partial prophecy and partial knowledge under the guidance of the spirit.
Ipso facto, as we are clearly warned of any further prophecy or knowledge, those earlier partial gifts have ceased by this time.

Span of the apocalypse.

Accordingly not only does the Revelation provide a detailed knowledge of the ultimate plan and purpose of deity with the creation into the millenial reign of Jesus, it also takes us further, addressing the outcome of the creation, informing us that as it was in the beginning, so will it be fulfilled in the end :

On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

Revelation 22:2

In other words, there is a complete idea of the creation, from beginning to end, and not co-incidentally, the end completes the beginning.

Paul had a partial experience of this :

I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. I ... was caught up to the third heaven ... was caught up to paradise - παράδεισον - and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.

2 Corinthians 12:2,4 NIV

As the revelation was still at that point sealed, anything he understood he was constrained from sharing.

Further, it is to be expected that given the partial prophetic vision prior to the Revelation, and the dire warning against additions, that the prophetic section would encompass the span of time between its reception by John and the return of the king.

And of course that's precisely how it is self described :

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to him, to point out unto his servants the things which must needs come to pass with speed,––and he shewed them by signs, sending through his messenger, unto his servant John ...

Revelation 1:1 Rotherham

Clearly prophetic, i.e. the future, and clearly the immediate future.
We are also clearly informed as to the culmination :

Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon - עָמַר - (gathered wheat), גַּיְא - (in a valley), דִּין - (for judgement).

The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and out of the temple came a loud voice from the throne, saying, “It is done!”

Revelation 16:16-17 NIV

This final battle, found throughout the OT prophets, precipitating the return of the king, and the delivery of the 7th bowl, of the 7th trumpet, of the 7th seal. It is done!
There follows the millenial reign and the future paradise on earth.
In other words the chronology of the Revelation is exactly as expected.
And of course a careful walking through the symbols presented follows a course of history leading from John's time, to the present day.


There are indicators that the spirit gifts passed within a short time after being granted. Some of these indicators are incidental but some are very direct.

  • At their inception, Peter introduces the spirit gifts as being generational.

  • There is a straightforward description of the necessity of the Apostles to the transfer of the gifts. Without their direct participation, there was no transfer.

  • Paul refers to them as partial and points to a completeness.

  • Paul also informs us they would cease.

  • The existence of the apocalypse and its function point to it being the completeness replacing the partial.

  • There is strong typology in the OT paralleling their generationally limited span.

It seems fairly clear that the continuance of such a capacity in the world would no doubt have resulted in a vastly different order of things. As Jesus put it :

For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?

Luke 23:31 NIV

Being drawn to the father is about much more than having salvation handed to us :

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

John 20:29 NIV

The written scripture has always been sufficient to salvation :

‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’

Luke 16:31 NIV

Besides, fulfilled and unfolding prophecy is the miraculous :

We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

2 Peter 1:19-21 NIV

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.

Proverbs 25:2 NIV