Beginning in Joel 2:28, the  prophet transitions to a description of events in the distant future (from his  vantage point). Verse 28 says, “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will  pour out my Spirit on all flesh.” What did he mean? Has this been  fulfilled?

A New Testament reference to this verse provides help in  understanding this statement. In Acts 2:15-17  Peter is preaching on the Day of Pentecost:  “For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour  of the day. 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.’”

In this sermon, Peter connects Joel’s prophecy with the Holy  Spirit’s coming and the commencement of the church. Not every detail of Joel’s  prophecy is yet fulfilled, but the “pouring out of the Spirit” began on the Day  of Pentecost. From that time, the Holy Spirit indwells all those who come to  faith in Jesus Christ.

This event marked a notable difference in the  Spirit’s role from Old Testament times. The Spirit had previously only empowered  certain individuals and sometimes only for a particular period of time. On the  Day of Pentecost, the 120 followers of Jesus in the Upper Room not only  experienced the Holy Spirit’s power but His abiding presence (cf. John 14:16). Three thousand people believed and were  baptized that day. These converts all received the Holy Spirit into their lives  that same day (Acts  2:38).

One of the surprising outcomes of Joel’s prophecy was that  even non-Jews were filled with the Spirit. In Acts 10:45 we  read, “The believers from among the circumcised . . . were amazed, because the  gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles.” God was lavishing  His Spirit on everyone who believed in Jesus, regardless of their culture,  nationality, or ethnicity. “All people,” as Joel had said, were offered this  gift.

In the future, the Holy Spirit will play an active role in  end-time events, bringing to pass the other aspects of Joel’s prophecies in Joel  chapters 2 and 3 (Revelation  1:4, 10; 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:1, 6, 13, 22; 4:2, 5, 6; 14:13; 17:3; 21:10; 22:17). However, the  initial fulfillment of this prophecy has already begun, as noted by the apostle  Peter, allowing all who follow Christ today to experience the blessing of the  Holy Spirit living within them and empowering them for Christian  service.