Acts 2 is a time of victory for the church. Born on the day of Pentecost, the mystery institution which inaugurates the eschatological kingdom and is God’s appointed means for working with humanity in the current age is yet a triumphant and glorious place. Her promised Messiah rules over her in fulfillment of promises made to David. The sense of His resurrection power and victory is fresh in their experience. Their responsibility to take the message of God’s victoriously ruling and only Savior for the world to the world is filling their vision. And the magnificent outpouring of God’s own Spirit, that Third Person of the Trinity so closely identified with God’s omnipotent power in action, is quite literally fresh on their lips. Proclaiming in real human languages the glories of God to Jews whose ancestors suffered dispersion due to covenant violation, and are now in Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost, the 120 are experiencing both a massive fulfillment of prophecy and the greatest dispensational change in perhaps 1500 years. All of this will be unfolded in lavish detail in the rest of Acts as well as the NT. But what is key for them now, and should be for us, is that the Christ they proclaimed was in fact the Christ—the promised, anointed, God-appointed king who would save God’s people and God’s world, and rule over both for God to His glory. Peter’s message highlights five things which authenticate Jesus’ Messiahship.
A. Authenticity of Christ’s Preaching (vv. 14-22)
Jesus’ words certainly demonstrated He was the Messiah, but apart from His blameless character and omnipotent power, the words become mere claims alongside everyone else’s. The works of power Jesus did authenticated the words as true, and the words gave the divine understanding of what His works meant. Here, Jesus’ preaching is done by His works. His miraculous power is a key sign of His messiahship (Matthew 11:2-5, 12:28; John 10:37-38, 14:11). The word for “attested” means “accredited” or “to prove by argument.” The miracles Jesus did were an argument in themselves—how the power was exercised and what it did authenticated Him as the Messiah and God incarnate. Moreover, Peter declares this power is still at work; verse 33 says the outpouring of the Spirit is a present aspect of Christ’s Messianic ministry. This is important, because Peter says the tongues and the Spirit being given were (a) prophesied in Joel—in an explicitly Millennial passage that would have screamed nothing but kingdom and ruling Messiah to the average Jew—and (b) a clear indicator that the “last days” had arrived (Acts 2:17-19). Christ’s personal, authoritative power is preaching a message from heaven—the promised eschatological kingdom has broken into the fallen world in a fresh and unexpected way. Before the promised Millennial reign, Christ will inaugurate a previously-unrevealed, initial phase of that same promised eschatological kingdom. This is why Peter is so comfortable using a Millennial passage to describe events in the church age. He knew there would be a future earthly kingdom for Israel—his sermon in Acts 3, and the next chapter in Joel, make that clear. But Peter demonstrates the continuity of this era with what comes in the future.
Jesus is preaching about the “last days” from His throne in heaven (vv. 16-17). Most Christians believe the last days are strictly the few years immediately preceding the rapture of the church and the Tribulation. The Bible does not use such a narrow definition. The last days are instead the Messianic era, the time characterized by fulfillment of promised eschatological authority, judgment, and blessing (in contrast to the OT era, which is centered on promise and expectation). While much is yet future in God’s plan, the NT says we are now firmly in the time of fulfillment, making our future hope that much more certain. God has broken into His world and is progressively, but certainly and increasingly, reclaiming it for Himself. This will burst into uncontested fullness in the Millennial reign and to glorious perfection on the new earth. But church saints share in lavish and radical degrees of this hope and promise at this very moment. And it is because our Messiah-Savior has conquered death, ascended on high, and rules currently over a realm of people who have bowed their knees to the One whom God has chosen to rule.
B. Authenticity of Christ’s Death (v. 23)
This One, the powerful and omnipotent One, was yet a Man and by God’s predetermined plan the nation had put Him to death. Of course, this is the heart of the Gospel. Jesus really died—a real, human death, but it had a divine predestination and purpose. Though God foreordains all that comes to pass as He works all things according to His own will (Eph. 1:11), Jesus’ death was especially so. Why? Because Jesus had been foreknown from before the foundation of the world—God had a special, intimate relationship with Christ as not only the Second Person of the eternal triune God but the promised Savior and Messiah (1 Peter 1:20). Just as God intimately and personally foreknows (= foreloves) believers (Rom. 8:29; 1 Pet. 1:2), God from all eternity chose the Lord Jesus to be the fulfillment of His plan to save sinners and the world. Yet, God always works through means and so sinful men would reject the incarnate Messiah and execute Him. But God would be at work in, through, behind, and before it, planning the entire thing before the world was. This death, thought to be Satan’s and the world’s victory, would be the beginning of their decisive undoing (Col. 2:13-15, 1 Pet. 2:21-25, 3:18-22). It was not merely that Christ died, but why, that makes His death an authentication of His Messiahship (cf. Psalm 22; Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Daniel 9:24-26; Zech. 11:12-13).
C. Authenticity of Christ’s Resurrection (vv. 24-32)
This section and the next are closely tied in NT theology. Particularly in Acts and in Paul’s letters, Christ’s resurrection and His ascension to rule authoritatively are seen as two sides of the same coin. He could not rule (nor return) if He did not rise bodily from the dead, and His bodily resurrection was unto a specific purpose. Jesus prophesied and anticipated His resurrection (Matthew 12:39-41, 16:21, 27:62-64; Mark 10:34; Luke 9:22; John 2:18-22, 10:17-18; cf. Isaiah 53:10-12; Zechariah 12:8-10). Peter quotes extensively from Psalm 16 to demonstrate that a resurrected Messiah was inherently part of the OT teaching about Him, and that no less than King David—under verbal inspiration of the Holy Spirit (v. 30; cf. Acts 1:16, 13:35)—had prophesied this. Peter says David was a prophet and knew that God would “raise up” one of David’s descendants to sit on his throne (cf. Acts 13:33). Jesus has to live to rule. They are intimately tied together. Jesus will certainly rule bodily and visibly in Jerusalem for the Millennium and for eternity. But the next section shows He is ruling even now.
D. Authenticity of Christ’s Authority (vv. 33-35)
Many older dispensationalists refused to see any current fulfillment of Christ’s Davidic rule. Because of their (correct) commitment to a future for national Israel and a Millennial kingdom, they tended to see the Davidic reign as strictly future, visible, and political. The “throne of David” was the actual seat on which Jesus would sit, and any mention of Jesus’ current reign was simply attributed to His deity. Do a future kingdom and rule deny a present kingdom and rule? Must we bifurcate the plan of God into different kingdoms, or say that Jesus’ current reign (if it even exists) has nothing to do with fulfillment of promises made to David? Biblically, the answer is no. Jesus is currently ruling, and this rule is explicitly connected to Davidic fulfillment.
In 2 Samuel 7, God promises David an enduring line and dynasty, and One from that line will have His kingdom built by God, and will have a father-son relationship with Yahweh. The promise is to the Davidic line as a whole, which includes both sinners and the sinless Messiah. What mere human kings could only imperfectly model, the True King would enjoy in the depths of His being and unhindered fullness. The Davidic line was intended to model and reflect God’s rule over His people Israel, to rule for Him as the mediators of divine power and blessing. The Davidic throne and God’s heavenly throne are connected in many passages (e.g., 1 Chron. 29:22-23; 2 Chron. 9:8; cf. Rev. 3:21). There is a divine-human unity in the office of rulership meant to prefigure the real divine-human incarnation of God as the promised Ruler. Peter ties Davidic rulership explicitly to resurrection (vv. 30-32). He even says Jesus has begun to act on this kingly authority by pouring out the Holy Spirit—not that Jesus was raised merely to begin ruling at some future time—and that receipt of this authority to affect things on earth is directly tied to God’s exaltation of the incarnate Man after His resurrection (v. 33). Being seated at the right hand of God, which Jesus said was a Davidic role (Luke 20:41-44) begins at the ascension, not merely in the Millennium (Acts 2:34-35).
Peter quotes Psalm 110, which says Jesus’ rule would begin at Jerusalem, be extended by God the Father’s authority, and would result in people willingly offering themselves to His service as followers and subjects. The Davidic throne is an office whereby a God-appointed representative rules for God with His authority over God’s people. For God to be faithful to His promises, there must be a future for national Israel and the reign of Christ. But this does not limit this office to that future time. Christ has messianic authority now, rules as the Davidite from Heaven, and His authority is exercised in offering forgiveness.
E. Authenticity of Christ’s Forgiveness (v. 36)
Based on his exposition of Christ’s resurrection and ascension, Peter concludes “Therefore…know God has made Him both Lord and Christ” (v. 36). Jesus may have died, and they may have been responsible, but this death was the key to their forgiveness. Jesus’ present Davidic authority is primarily exercised in admitting people to the present form of His kingdom, the church, through forgiveness and Spirit baptism. Jesus died to take the penalty for sinners so they could be clean and willing subjects of the true God. For Jewish people, to know their actions contributed to the death of the victorious Messiah who would successfully judge God’s enemies would cause fear and desperation. Would He cut them off from any hope of forgiveness and kingdom promise? No; Peter proclaims a reconciled heaven! The king offers pardon, salvation and blessing.
God’s Man is ruling. He has died for sinners, inaugurated God’s kingdom, and will imminently return to complete His program. Have you yielded yourself to the One who has all authority? Repent of sin and surrender to the authority of the One who has power to perfectly save!