Joel 2:28–3:21 the Third Crisis in the Day of the Lord.
Key Notes: Pentecost. The Last Days. Portents. The Day of the Lord.
An outline of Joel describes a crescendo of three major crises: a plague of locusts, an army that behaves like a swarm of locusts, and a third, distant, and final invasion by many nations that God will overcome.
*A plague of locusts will ravage the land. (1:4–13). He calls for fasting and prayer.
*An invading army, much like locusts will follow. (2:1–11). Joel calls even more strongly for fasting and repentance. 2:12–17
In response to this petition, God pushes the enemy out, and the land is restored. 2:18–27
The Holy Spirit will come upon all people of the world (2:28–32), accompanied by signs in the heavens.
Israel will be regathered. 3:1–8
*The land will be attacked a third time by armies from many nations gathered by God’s command. These armies will also be defeated. 3:9–16
The land will be restored once more. 3:17–21
2:28–32 This passage on the promise of the Holy Spirit is the most famous passage in Joel, quoted by Peter in his sermon at Pentecost. (Acts 2:17–21). The Holy Spirit was released into the world at Jerusalem in a unique way, which depended on Jesus’ death and resurrection. (Jn.7:39). The 3000 new believers were the first fruits of the Church.
3:1–8 “When I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem” is translated “When I return Judah and Jerusalem from the captivity” in the Greek OT (LXX). This captures the idea that follows: Israelites were scattered, and their young bought and sold. Tyre and Sidon, and Philistia are singled out for these activities. Tyre was noted by Homer (Odyssey) to be involved in slave-trading. TheTyrean were sea peoples, traders, slave-traders. God promises to return their evil on their own heads.
3:9–16 God will summon the nations to battle in the Valley of Jehoshaphat. Jehoshaphat means “God judges”, so the place name may simply be a metaphor for judgment. However, elsewhere in Scripture, specific sites for future battles are mentioned. One famous battle ground is the valley extending south east from Mt. Carmel which includes Megiddo, Esdraelon and Jezreel.
Barak fought against Sisera here. Judg. 4:15
Gideon defeated the Midianites. Judg.6:33
Josiah was killed here. IIK. 23:29
Revelation describes the great battle of “Har-Megiddon” here. Rev.16:16
Another site, the battle against Gog and Magog in the last days, will be in the Valley of the Travelers, east of the sea of Galilee. Ezek.39:11
The battle for Jerusalem (Zech.14:2–4) mentions the Mount of Olives.
Jeremiah prophesies a slaughter in the valley of Hinnom, south of Jerusalem. Jer. 7:31–32
One conclusion is that there will be fighting at different times, in several places, perhaps all over the country.
Pentecost is Israel’s Festival of First Fruits of the grain harvest. (Ex.23:16; 34:22; Lev.23:15). The full harvest in the Fall is called the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev.23:39), when all the produce was brought in. So “Pentecost” nfow has a double meaning—a physical harvest of first-fruits, and the spiritual first-fruits of the beginning church.
The passage (2:26) was not completely fulfilled at Pentecost for two reasons:
1. The Holy Spirit did not “come upon all flesh”, but on Jews of the Empire. They spoke the languages of their home countries, but they were not Gentiles. So the prophecy is continuing to be fulfilled.
2. The occasion did not include blood, fire and columns of smoke. That sounds like a description of the devastation of cities, partly fulfilled at the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD and still to be fulfilled centuries —millennia---later, at the end of the Age.
That is to say that there is more trouble coming. But these exceptions do not take away from the importance of Pentecost. It started the Church and began to turn the world upside down. The very idea of including slaves as recipients of the Holy Spirit was revolutionary. The Pharisees did not think slaves should be permitted to know the Law, and for them to receive the Holy Spirit was unthinkable.
The Holy Spirit broke the chains of slavery. Many Americans taught the Gospel to their slaves. If the American slave-holders had understood, they could not have thought of slaves as less than human. These “less-than-humans” became “super humans” when they possessed the Holy Spirit. The slave who was filled with the Holy Spirit was greater than his master who was not a believer. Since all slaves have this potential, the idea of inferiority is blown away.
Another important issue is that Peter introduced the quotation with the words “in the last days”. That expression continues in the rest of the New Testament, (ITim.4:1–2; II Tim.3:1–8; Heb.1:1–2; I Pet.1:5; II Pet.3:1–9; I Jn.2:18; Jude‘) to cite a few. The Last Days began with Pentecost. That puts time after Pentecost on a different footing, but the implications are not clear to this day. Two thousand years have passed.
The use of the word “portents” (Joel 2:30) tells us that changes in the sun, moon and stars must be considered warnings of catastrophe. In the Middle Ages, because of much suffering, people began to find omens, or portents everywhere. The legacy of black cats, broken mirrors,the curse and the evil eye persists to this day. We look for Biblical omens in the prophecies of large-scale, cosmic events and must ignore minor superstitions. Our reaction to cosmic events should not be fear, but anticipation. Jesus said “Now when you see these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near”. (Lk.21:28).
Don’t duck. Look up.
Prediction of cosmic disturbances is made repeatedly, in Isa.13:9–10, Isa. 34:4, Jer.4:23, Amos 8:9, Matt. 24:29. These descriptions of a dark sky, changes in the constellations and wasting of the earth cannot be dismissed as metaphors for political disruption. II Pet. 3:10 says “the heavens will pass away with a loud noise and the elements will be dissolved with fire.”
The Day of the Lord is mentioned four times in Joel. From these texts, we can come to a tentative understanding of what The Day of the Lord is.
It is a plague of locusts. Joel.1:15
It is the assault of the Assyrians. Joel 2:1
[There is also The Day of the Lord for the Babylonians (Isa.13:6, 9), and Egypt. Jer.46:10]
It is the valley of decision for the nations of the world. Joel. 3:14
It is an end-times cosmic event. Joel. 2:31
Plainly, The Day of the Lord is not a single event, or even a single time period. A good working definition is " an historical visitation of God for judgment and deliverance.” These events occur with mounting intensity in Joel, as well as in other prophetic writing. It is not limited to Israel, but will eventually involve the whole world. We may not be stretching too much to say that WWI and WWII were also “the Day of the Lord.”
The Day of the Lord “....as destruction from the Almighty it comes” (1:15), “a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness.” (2:2). But that is not the end of the concept. The visitation of God is for judgment, but also for deliverance.
3:17–21 The final scene in Joel is holiness in Jerusalem, the mountains covered with vineyards, and the hillsides with cattle. Water will be abundant. Water will flow from the Temple. This unique source is also described in Ezek.47:1,12; Zech.14:8 and Rev.22:1. Egypt and Edom will fail but Judah and Jerusalem will prosper. God will dwell there.
So the final Day of the Lord is the birth-pain of a New Age (Matt:24:8), when righteousness and peace, prosperity and blessing will be the lot of God’s people. We must go through the agony to get to the ecstasy.
Even so, Come Lord Jesus.