Dr. Couch, some argue that the rapture of the church will take place on Pentecost because that is when the Holy Spirit came upon the church in Acts 2. What is wrong with that position?
ANSWER: The pouring out of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 first of all has to do with the launching of the New Covenant, which will benefit the church, though the New Covenant is promised for Israel. The New Covenant replaces the dispensation of the Law of Moses. The Spirit of God is the sign that the New Covenant has come. He is the Activator of that Covenant.
That the New would replace the Covenant of Moses (the Law) is spelled out clearly in Jeremiah 31:31-37. "I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt [the Mosaic Covenant]." Peter then quotes all of Joel 2:28-32 to show that what was happening in Acts 2 had to do with the launching of that New Covenant. "I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind …" (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17).
It is important to note that Acts 2 is not a "fulfillment" of Joel 2 but a launching of the New Covenant. It will be fulfilled with Israel when God works again in the dispensation of the Kingdom, when the Jews come home to the Holy Land and believe in Jesus their Savior and their King.
The church presently benefits from the New Covenant. It is now in operation but not completed in the sense of being fulfilled and finalized. Note that all Peter says is "This is that." He does not say "This is a fulfillment of …" Neither does he say that what was happening was but "an illustration" of the New Covenant, as some of my theological buddies say.
That the church benefits from the New Covenant is alluded to in three places in the NT. Paul says that the circumcision of the heart is "by the Spirit, not by the letter [of the Mosaic Law] …" (Rom. 2:29). And he says again in 7:6 that "we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter [of the Mosaic Law]." Then in 2 Corinthians 3:4-8 he writes that we in the church dispensation now are "adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter [of the Mosaic Law], but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." Note he does not say "fulfillment" nor that it happened in Acts 2 as some kind of illustration! But he does show how presently the church is benefiting by it.
The problem has been that many older dispensational teachers confused what was happening in Acts 2 as first and foremost for the church. This is not true. Some went so far as to say there were two New Covenants, one for Israel and one for the church. They were extremely conscious about not mixing the church and Israel But, in my opinion, they went too far to make their point.
The New Covenant has been launched, the church presently benefits by it, but it will be finally fulfilled in the Kingdom when the nation of Israel accepts Christ as Savior and King. This will be the work of the Holy Spirit, and not (obviously) the work of the Law!
This is not a co-mingling of Israel and the church. The two entities are still distinct and separate.
To summarize: Acts 2 is about the launching (not fulfilling) of the New Covenant. It contrasts with and replaces the Mosaic Law. The church presently benefits from that New Covenant, and, it will have its ultimate fulfillment in the Kingdom.
Thanks for asking.
Dr. Mal Couch