This week we’re continuing our series on Joel with a survey of Chapter 2, the heart of Joel’s prophecy. (By the way, the Jewish Feast of Hanukkah began on December 11th. For our study on this eight day Festival go to http://gracethrufaith.com/selah/holidays-and-holy-days/the-feast-of-hanukkah-history-and-prophecy/ ) Now let’s turn to Joel 2.
Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming. It is close at hand- a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness. Like dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty army comes, such as never was of old nor ever will be in ages to come. (Joel 2:1-2)
The End of the Age is finally arriving. The phrase “Blow the Trumpet in Zion” indicates there’s an Old Covenant keeping remnant of Jews in the promised land. The sound of a trumpet can mean either great news or terrible news in Israel. In this case, the phrase “the Day of the Lord is coming” means it’s the most terrible news imaginable. Any more references to locusts are now symbolic of the judgment that’s coming upon the whole world, to test those who who live on the Earth. The Lord has promised to keep the Church out of both the time and place of this event (1 Thes. 1:10 & Rev. 3:10) but no such promise has been made to Israel, and certainly not to the unbelieving world, which is about to be totally destroyed.
Before them fire devours, behind them a flame blazes. Before them the land is like the garden of Eden, behind them, a desert waste— nothing escapes them. They have the appearance of horses; they gallop along like cavalry. With a noise like that of chariots they leap over the mountaintops, like a crackling fire consuming stubble, like a mighty army drawn up for battle. At the sight of them, nations are in anguish; every face turns pale. (Joel 2:3-6)
In Rev. 8-9 we read of the Trumpet judgments and encounter wording so similar it might have been lifted from the pages of Joel 2. All the grass of the land is burned up (Rev. 8:7) The locusts have the appearance of horses (Rev. 9:7) and make a noise like that of chariots (Rev. 9:9) as they leap over the mountain tops. Men are in anguish and every face turns pale (Rev. 9:6).
They charge like warriors; they scale walls like soldiers. They all march in line, not swerving from their course. They do not jostle each other; each marches straight ahead. They plunge through defenses without breaking ranks. They rush upon the city; they run along the wall. They climb into the houses; like thieves they enter through the windows. Before them the earth shakes, the sky trembles, the sun and moon are darkened, and the stars no longer shine. The LORD thunders at the head of his army; his forces are beyond number, and mighty are those who obey his command. The day of the LORD is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it? (Joel 2:7-11)
In his book “The Late Great Planet Earth” Hal Lindsey saw Rev. 9 as John’s attempt to describe fleets of attack helicopters filling the skies above the battle ground. Our exposure to war movies makes this easy to imagine, and we can almost hear their unique ground thumping sound as they swoop in to release another barrage of rockets. Their number is so great that just the sound of them makes the Earth tremble, and they blot out the sun and moon (Rev. 9:2). John gave the number of mounted troops they support as 200 million (Rev. 9:16) an incredible force. Before they’re finished 1/3 of mankind will die (Rev. 9:18). And this is just the beginning. The full fury of God’s wrath will be released in His final effort, the Bowl Judgments.
Some incorrectly interpret the Bowl judgments as the only time of God’s wrath, but that’s not how John described it. He said that the wrath will begin with the Seal Judgments (Rev. 6:17) and will be completed with the Bowl Judgments (Rev. 15:1), not begun there. By the time He’s finished the nations to which His people have been dispersed will have been completely destroyed (Jere.30:11) all the cities of the world will have been reduced to rubble (Rev. 16:19) and every island and mountain will have disappeared (Rev. 16:20)
I believe that one purpose of the Tribulation judgments will be to return Earth to the condition it was in when God created it, in preparation for the Millennium. The elimination of the mountains and islands may point to the reversal of changes brought about in the Great Flood. Psalm 104:8 says the flood waters flowed over the mountains and down into the valleys God prepared for them. Some scholars interpret this to mean that at the time of the Great Flood, the mountains were raised up and the valley floors depressed to make room for all the water generated in the flood. Those deep valleys are now the floors of the sea.
Perhaps this act will be reversed, eliminating the high mountains and raising up valley floors. And if the continents are brought back together into one land mass, as some scholars speculate they once were, there will be no islands, either. Looking at a map of the continents, you can see how they’re shaped in such a way as to hint that they may have all been joined together in the distant past. Scholars have named this single land mass Pangea, which means All-Earth, or One World. Some believe that Genesis 1:9 describes Pangea and that Genesis 11:25 says it was divided into the seven continents we know after the flood.
Isaiah 65:20 hints at the return of long life spans, such as was the case in the earliest days. This was made possible by a water vapor canopy that surrounded the Earth until the Flood. (Genesis 1:6-8) Since Rev. 21:1 says there’ll be no more sea, this water could likely be used to restore the canopy.
If all this is true, then passages like this one from Habakkuk are not just poetic license but are describing very scary times ahead.
He stood, and shook the earth; he looked, and made the nations tremble. The ancient mountains crumbled and the age-old hills collapsed. His ways are eternal. (Habakkuk 3:6)
Rend Your Heart
“Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing— grain offerings and drink offerings for the LORD your God. (Joel 2:12-14)
Even in wrath God remembers mercy (Habakkuk 3:2). In the midst of judgment, all we have to do is admit our sin and seek His forgiveness. Some form of the phrase “slow to anger and abounding in love” appears eight times in the Old Testament. Eight is the number of new beginnings, meaning the Lord is always ready to start over with us. His mercies are new every morning. (Lament. 3:22-23)
Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber. Let the priests, who minister before the LORD, weep between the temple porch and the altar. Let them say, “Spare your people, O LORD. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’ ” (Joel 2:15-17)
This will be a time for every man, woman, and child to petition the Lord for mercy. From the elders to the nursing babies, and every one in between. Not even the bride and bridegroom sequestered in their bridal chamber will be exempt. The priests ministering in the Temple will stop what they’re doing and beg the Lord to spare them.
“Come, let us return to the LORD,” they’ll say. “He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.” (Hosea 6:1-3)
The LORD’s Answer
Then the LORD will be jealous for his land and take pity on his people. The LORD will reply to them: “I am sending you grain, new wine and oil, enough to satisfy you fully; never again will I make you an object of scorn to the nations. I will drive the northern army far from you, pushing it into a parched and barren land, with its front columns going into the eastern (Dead) sea and those in the rear into the western (Mediterranean) sea. And its stench will go up; its smell will rise.”
Surely he has done great things. (Joel 2:18-20)
If this judgment were left to run to its logical concllusion, not a single soul would survive, but for the sake of His elect, the Lord will bring it to an end (Matt. 24:22) Locust plagues move in the direction and at the speed of the wind. They typically end when the swarms are blown into the desert or out to sea. It’s an act of God, and that’s how Joel characterizes the end of the Great Tribulation.
Be not afraid, O land; be glad and rejoice. Surely the LORD has done great things. Be not afraid, O wild animals, for the open pastures are becoming green. The trees are bearing their fruit; the fig tree and the vine yield their riches. Be glad, O people of Zion, rejoice in the LORD your God, for he has given you the autumn rains in righteousness. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before. The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil. (Joel 2:18-24)
In the Kingdom Age the land will once again be plentiful. And though He has shaken the mountains and removed the hills, the Lord’s unfailing love for them will never be shaken, nor His peace removed. (Isaiah 54:10)
“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten— the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm — my great army that I sent among you. You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the LORD your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed. Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the LORD your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed. (Joel 2:25-27)
The Lord will restore Israel to its former glory as the pre-imminent nation on Earth. Instead of disgrace His people will rejoice in their inheritance. They will inherit a double portion in their land and everlasting joy will be theirs. (Isaiah 59:7)
The Day of the LORD
“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. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the LORD has said, among the survivors whom the LORD calls. (Joel 2:28-32)
This prophecy achieved only a partial fulfillment on the day of Pentecost when the Church was born (Acts 2:17-21) and the Holy Spirit was given. Its ultimate fulfillment awaits the time when the Sun turns to darkness again and the Moon becomes blood red before the coming of the great and dreadful Day of the Lord (Rev. 6:12). Once more the Lord will pour out His Spirit and everyone who calls upon the His name will be saved.
We’ll conclude this study next week. See you then.