The book of Joel describes the devastation of a vast horde of locusts as a marching army destroying everything in its path. How does this message apply today especially considering Joel’s prophecies about the Day of the Lord?
[Steve Myers] Good evening, everyone. Welcome to our bi-weekly “Beyond Today” Bible studies. We are live from the home office of the United Church of God. Glad that you’ve joined us this evening. Welcome to all of you here in the room as well. It’s good to see you all. Hope you’ve had a good Wednesday. We’re going to delve into the Minor Prophets once again tonight. So we want to begin by asking God’s blessing on our Bible study tonight. So if you’ll bow your heads.
Loving Father, thank you so much for your wonderful ways. We are so thrilled, Father, that you’ve opened our minds to your truth and that you continue to lead us and guide us through your word and your spirit. We’re so thankful for that, Father, and we turn to you tonight asking for your continued guidance and your continued blessing on us. Father, we’re going to be delving into your word and just we pray, God, that you’d open our minds to the things that you tell us and reveal through your holy Scripture. We’re thankful for it, Father. We’re thankful for your blessings, we’re thankful for your guidance and we just pray for your presence and blessing here and with all of your people everywhere. So we thank you now, we put it all into your hands and ask for your blessing and guidance in the name of our savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
We are continuing in our series with the Minor Prophets. This is our second in the series and we’re not taking them in any particular order. But tonight, we’re going to be looking at the book of Joel. Joel is our topic for tonight so if you begin to turn your Bible over to the book of Joel. Joel is a pretty short book, so it may be a little bit more difficult to find as it’s intermixed with the other Minor Prophets here just before the New Testament. An individual we don’t know a lot about. Joel, as a person, is a little bit of a mystery. We know he was a prophet. All we really know about him is his father’s name.
The beginning of the book of Joel says he was “the son of Pethuel”, but other than that, we don’t know a lot of personal history. So he’s not like an Elijah or an Elisha or some of the other prophets. We don’t have any detail about his personal history or his background, for that matter. Now, he lived a little bit after the time of Elisha.
So if you can imagine that time frame, during this time in history, both the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah were still there. Neither one had been taken into captivity yet. But Joel was basically prophesying to Judah. His focus was the house of Judah. And during this time period, he’s somewhere around 800 BC or so. Maybe as early as 850 BC, but somewhere in that time frame is where most of the scholars feel was the time that he was prophesying. If you’re into the kings of Israel, Joash would have been king of Judah at that time.
So as we begin to think about the prophecies in the book of Joel, we see a couple of interesting things that point right to that fact, that he was concerned about Judah, he was concerned about Jerusalem. If you look right away at the beginning of the book, we see chapter 1 verse 9. It says the house of the Lord is where he’s focusing on. He’s talking about this grain, but he goes down to that fact that these “have been cut off from the house of the Lord.” Where was the house of the Lord? Well, the temple was in Jerusalem. That’s where it was. He talks about the priests in verse 9. “The priests mourn, who minister to the Lord” but where would they have been? They, again, would have been in Jerusalem.
A little later, look at chapter 2 verse 1, it says, “Blow the trumpet in Zion.” But where is Zion? “In My holy mountain!” he says. So he’s focusing, once again, to Judah. That’s what’s on his mind. And so over and over and over again, throughout the prophecies in the book of Joel, he points that way. He talks about Mount Zion. He talks about Judah. He talks about Jerusalem. And so we’ll see that focus come up over and over and over again. But it wasn’t just limited to Judah. There were some things that applied to ancient Israel as well.
But when we look right even at the very beginning of the book, he says something that’s critical. Look at chapter 1 verse 2. In chapter 1 verse 2, he says, “Hear this, you elders. Give ear, all you inhabitants of the land! Has anything like this happened in your days,” then he goes on and talks about, “Well, does your father know anything about these things?” What about the things that have happened? And interestingly he points out, what about the things that are going to happen?
So he talks about many signs, many amazing circumstances that he pronounces against Zion, against Judah. And these things have never happened before. But he also indicates these things are just a foretaste. These things are also an indication of something even bigger to come. These prophecies that he gives were not just limited to ancient times. In fact, we’ll take a look at some of these passages tonight and we’ll see these couldn’t possibly have applied to that time. They can only apply to a future time. To a future time for us as well. And so this is critical and we begin to look at the prophecies in the book of Joel. They weren’t just for his day. They’re also prophecies for the end of the age, which is what we’re drawing closer and closer to all the time. And so we’ll see how that comes out.
Okay. As we begin, couple of things to think about. I thought, well, maybe it’d be helpful to give you an outline of the book and there’s all kinds of different information that you can look up where people have broken down the various chapters. I saw one listing that one commentator made. It probably had about 30 different lines of all the aspects of the outline to Joel. It’s hard for me to think in those terms. So I broke it down to two things. Two things. You look at the first two chapters in Joel and they’re about God’s judgment on Judah. Basically, that’s what it’s about. Judah itself had become a people, maybe a little bit like us.
They were a complacent people. They were a lethargic people. When it came to God, they had kind of put God out of their life. They didn’t need God because things were going pretty well. There weren’t any major issues until some of these things began to happen. And we’ll talk about the big issues as we get into the book, but they had become a people that didn’t look to God. That didn’t consider God. That took God either for granted or just totally discounted him. Does that sound a little familiar to our world today? And so those first two chapters deal with that; how God judges Judah.
Then we get to the third chapter because there are only three chapters in the book of Joel. God brings in the nations. It’s not just about Ancient Judah. He brings in the nations, which have that future focus for what these prophecies are all about. So if we broke it down in really the most simplistic fashion, we’d have God’s prophecies about Judah in the first two chapters and then prophecies about the nations, the nations even today. Not just ancient nations, but today. And that becomes important as we consider what Joel is prophesying about.
Now, the other thing that’s kind of easy about the book of Joel, it has a very strict focus overall. If you had to consider what the theme of the book of Joel is, it really can only come down to one thing. If you really try to boil it down and don’t list 25 different things like some of the writers have, you really kind of zero in on one thing. There’s really only one aspect that comes to mind when you consider the theme. And here it is, the Day of the Lord. The Day of the Lord is the theme throughout the book of Joel.
In a way, what happened to Judah at this time was a precursor to the ultimate Day of the Lord, to the Day of the Lord at the end of the age. And he makes these parallels between what was going on and then what will happen at the end time, at the end of the age. And, of course, when he points to this very thing as the theme, the Day of the Lord, he points to that time that God judges His people. There is going to be judgment on Judah. There is going to be judgment on Israel. There’s a coming judgment on God’s people. And not only that, but there’s a coming judgment on the rest of the world.
Chapter 3 focuses on the nations. And the nations today have to answer to God. And so Joel focuses on those things as he discusses this theme of the Day of the Lord. An indication comes right away at the very first chapter. If you look to verse 15. Here’s the first poignant reference to this Day of the Lord. Joel says, “Alas for the day! For the Day of the Lord is at hand; it shall come as destruction from the Almighty.” So we see this isn’t any old destruction. This isn’t Satan’s wrath. This is from God Himself. This is from the Almighty. It is the Day of the Lord.
So it’s that time of divine punishment for His people and for the nations. And Joel focuses on this and it’s not just another difficult circumstance that happened throughout human history. Joel’s going to show very clearly, this is unprecedented. This has never happened before and never will again. And so it’s a total upheaval of society and circumstances that lead to this Day of the Lord. So that is his focus, overall, the theme is the Day of the Lord.
Now, that in mind, I was trying to think of a way that we could deal with those aspects of Joel’s prophecy without having to go through every verse, go through every scripture. I was trying to think of how we can fit the picture together. Because when you talk about the Day of the Lord, there are all kinds of passages throughout the Bible that connect with that time, that time at the end when God will judge the nations.
If you had to think of a specific place that the Day of the Lord is often referred to, what place in the Bible might you think of? Revelation. Yes, I’ve heard about it from a number of places. Yes, the book of Revelation and that’s how I thought would be a good way to organize the study tonight is to recognize these intricate connections between Joel’s prophecies and the book of Revelation.
So here we have Joel’s prophecies, almost a thousand years before Christ. And we’re going to compare this to the Revelation of Jesus Christ revealed to John the apostle in the first century. So we’ve got about a thousand years between the times that these books were written. And yet, the similarities are undeniable. They’re undeniable. So as we begin to think about that, let’s notice a couple of these connections between Joel and Revelation and this overall theme of the end times, the Day of the Lord.
Where I’d like to start is not with chapter one, but I want to start in chapter two. Let’s notice verse 30. As we come to the end of the age, notice what Joel prophesies. In Joel 2:30 Joel 2:30And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.
American King James Version×, he says of God, “I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth; blood and fire and pillars of smoke.” He says, “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and the awesome Day of the Lord.”
And so people read these passages and they go, “Oh, all doom and gloom.” When you think about it, when a people are complacent to the almighty God of creation, we leave God no choice than judgment. And so this day is going to be a terrible day when God reigns judgment on the world for their lack of recognition of the Almighty. And that’s going to come and so Joel prophesies about that. Not just the Day of the Lord, but that great and awesome Day of the Lord because that’s leading right to that very time.
These things that he talked about, the sun being darkened and the moon turning into blood, these are very specific things that he talks about. These are heavenly signs. He talks about heavenly signs that will be happening. Now, one of the difficulties is that sometimes, people will read this and they try to equate these heavenly things happening. Like, he says the moon is turned into blood, some have tried to equate that to some of the eclipses, some of the things that have been happening right now in the last year or so, there were some, well, you could kind of say, unique occurrences in the movements of the moon and that sort of thing.
And so people try to connect that in order to predict when Christ will return. Well, is that what Joel is doing here? Is this something that we take and we compare to what’s going on with the movement of the sun and the moon right now and we can somehow predict when Christ will return? No. No, that’s not the point here. When we take a look at the context, we look at the setting of these passages, one of the things we’re going to realize and one of the reasons we’re going to deal with the book in this fashion tonight is sometimes throughout various prophecies, sometimes throughout Joel’s prophecies, like so many others, they’re not given in a chronological order. It’s not this happens, then this happens, then this happens, then this happens. Sometimes it’s all over the place. Sometimes he talks about something and then something that happens before that he talks about later.
And so sometimes they’re out of order so he jumps from one period to another period. And so when we read this in verse 30 and verse 31, clearly, when is this happening? When is the sun darken and when is the moon turned to blood? He says “before the coming” of Jesus Christ. Before that “great and awesome Day of the Lord.” But when you look at the other passages, they’re about a time after Christ’s return. So we recognize that they’re sometimes a little out of place, jumping from time to time. So I think that’s critical.
Now, the other thing that is critical is when we compare this to what’s going on in the book of Revelation and what we find as we go over to Revelation 6. Revelation 6, we find some familiar words when we compare them to what we just read in the book of Joel. And what Revelation 6 helps us to do, it helps us to get this time setting. So we’re going to compare this to Revelation 6, which is the sixth seal.
Before Christ returns, there are seven seals that have to be opened. We’re very familiar with the first four, where the four horsemen that are those first four seals. Here we see pretty clearly, Revelation 6:12 Revelation 6:12And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, see, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;
American King James Version×. This is referring to the same thing as Joel 2. Let’s recognize it here. He says, “I looked when He opened the sixth seal and behold, there was a great earthquake and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood.”
Now, what’s nice about Revelation 6 is that Revelation 6 goes in chronological order. We’re going from passage to passage. When does the sixth seal occur? Well, it occurs after the fifth, which was after the fourth. You see how hard this is to figure out, right? Which is after the second, which is after the…right. So we know it’s in order. And so when we look at that time order, the final fulfillment of the four horsemen, the final fulfillment of the fifth seal, they hadn’t been completed yet where we’re standing in this time. Neither has there been this unbelievable earthquake that Revelation talks about.
So when we talk about the moon turning to blood, that can’t happen, not the one that Joel is referring to, not the one that Revelation is referring to, until the culmination of false religion, until the culmination of war, the culmination of famine and pestilence, the abomination of desolation. Those things have to occur. The Great Tribulation has to be in full swing before we get to this moon that is blood and the sun that is darkened. So that begins to help us to recognize, well, you’re not going to be able to predict Christ’s return from that, right? You’re not going to be able to do that by trying to look at the eclipses and the things that are going on with the sun and the moon right now. That’s not going to be a real good indication of that. And so, Revelation certainly helps us to recognize, as we approach the Day of the Lord, there’s going to be heavenly signs.
And when we look at Joel, we look at Revelation, that becomes pretty evident. In fact, there’s also a little bit of a connection, maybe not as closely tied, but if we just turn the page here in Revelation and just go to chapter eight or, at least my Bible, I just turn the page here. And in 8:12, we see that there’s also this connection to the heavenly signs of the fourth trumpet plague. Revelation 8:12 Revelation 8:12And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise.
American King James Version×says, “The fourth angel sounded: a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, a third of the stars, so that a third of them were darkened. A third of the day did not shine and, likewise the night.”
So as we look a this, we can begin to see how interconnected the prophecies of Joel and Revelation begin to fit together and how they propel us to a deeper understanding of what the Day of the Lord is all about. And that becomes critical. Okay. If you hold your place here, we’re going to come back to Revelation in just a moment. I should have told you to hold your place back in Joel. If you go back to the book of Joel, let’s notice another step in the process. We’re going to take a look at how Joel prophesies about the beginning of the Day of the Lord. If we look right to chapter one. Remember I said sometimes things are a little out of order?
So we’re going to go to chapter 1 this time. Joel 1:19 Joel 1:19O LORD, to you will I cry: for the fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and the flame has burned all the trees of the field.
American King James Version×. Notice the prophecy here. He says, “O Lord, to You I cry out; for fire has devoured the open pastures,” he says, “a flame has burned all the trees of the field.” Does that sound vaguely familiar to any of the prophecies in the book of Revelation? Absolutely, they sure do. In fact, if you hold your place there and go back to Revelation once again, we left off in Revelation 8, let’s take another look back at Revelation 8:7 Revelation 8:7The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast on the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.
American King James Version×. Revelation 8:7 Revelation 8:7The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast on the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.
American King James Version×. In fact, maybe we should go to verse 6 to get a little bit more of the context here. Verse 6 says, “So the seven angels who had seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.”
So we move from the sixth seal into the seventh seal that is broken down into seven trumpet plagues. And so verse 7 says, “The first angel sounded.” The first angel sounded. What is the result of that? He says, “And hail and fire followed, mingled with blood, they were thrown to the earth. A third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.” So now we begin to see this interconnection between what we saw in Joel and the first trumpet. This first trumpet plague of the beginning of the Day of the Lord. So this is when the Day of the Lord begins at this first trumpet plague.
And what happens? Well, just like we read in the book of Joel with things, pastures, trees burnt up, that’s exactly the way that John recorded it for us in the book of Revelation. And so this interconnectedness begins to help us to recognize, all right, is this going to be obvious? Are we going to know when we reach the Day of the Lord? I think it’s going to be undeniable. It will be undeniable that we’re at this point.
We’ve already been through a series of heavenly signs. What brings about the burned up fields? What brings about the trees being burned up? Well, Joel definitely lets us know what was the reason behind these things. Go back to Joel for a moment and let’s notice the cause. The burnt up trees were the result, the pasture being burnt are a result of locusts. Look to Joel 1:4 Joel 1:4That which the palmerworm has left has the locust eaten; and that which the locust has left has the cankerworm eaten; and that which the cankerworm has left has the caterpillar eaten.
American King James Version×. And we’re going to see how that fits into the picture. What do little bugs have to do with the Day of the Lord? Well, let’s see it here. Joel 1:4 Joel 1:4That which the palmerworm has left has the locust eaten; and that which the locust has left has the cankerworm eaten; and that which the cankerworm has left has the caterpillar eaten.
American King James Version×. Joel says, “What the chewing locust left, the swarming locust has eaten; what the swarming locust left, the crawling locust has eaten; and what the crawling locust left, the consuming locust has eaten.”
And then he says, “Awake, you drunkards, and weep.” Why should they weep? Because he says of the new wine, “It’s been cut off from your mouth,” which ties back to these pastures being burned up. Well, what caused the devastation? Well, the locusts ate everything. And Joel takes this opportunity of a terrible locust plague that impacted Judah during his day and he uses this locust plague to show what will happen not only to Judah, to Israel, but also what’s going to happen at the end time. And so he points…Well, some people don’t think it’s actually four different kinds of locusts, some people think that’s talking about the process of locusts as they have the larva and then they molt and then they get into these different stages.
What’s most important here is what’s the result. The result of this massive plague of locusts is that they’ve wiped out everything. Of course, without any crops, the injury to the trees, what are they going to eat? Well, there’s not any new wine, but they’ve ruined everything. They’ve ruined everything. So it points to the fact that this is not only fact of something that actually happened during that day, but it’s also pointing to something symbolic.
We get a little taste of that when we go to verse 6. So talking about literal locusts that came and ate everything, now he turns that into symbolism. Verse 6 he says, “For a nation has come up against My land, strong, and without number; his teeth are as the teeth of a lion, he has the fangs of a fierce lion. He’s laid waste My vine.” Of course, Israel was His vine, the vine was one of the symbols on the temple. Israel, His people…And they’re laid waste. They’re laid waste. So even at this time, Joel is prophesying about a nation and we know the Assyrians came and they carted off Israel into captivity.
Later on, the Babylonians came and carted off Judah into captivity and destroyed the land. And so what we see here is this connectedness between the locusts and not just the nations, it’s by the means that these nations could do these things. What means? We have the armies. We have this connected sense to the armies of the nations. The armies of the nations. I read an interesting little synopsis of this in the “Expositor’s Bible Commentary.” And in that commentary, under the book of Joel, on page 327, here’s what they wrote, “The ancient world abounded with examples of likening armies to locusts or vice versa. Indeed, the locust was a common figure of the armies of the Assyrian kings.”
And when we think about that connection during that day, is there a future fulfillment on the horizon? The answer is yes, absolutely. When we turn to the book of Revelation, we see what lies ahead. Revelation 9:3 Revelation 9:3And there came out of the smoke locusts on the earth: and to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.
American King James Version×, we can see the connectedness to what Joel was talking about to the fifth trumpet. The fifth trumpet. Remember that seventh seal breaks down to seven trumpet plagues before the return of Christ. Now we fast-forward from the first trumpet to the fifth by taking a look at Revelation 9:3 Revelation 9:3And there came out of the smoke locusts on the earth: and to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.
American King James Version×. Does it sound like what we just read in the book of Joel? Says, “Then out of the smoke, locusts came upon the earth. And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.” And so we see this connectedness to the armies. The symbolism can’t be denied when you look at exactly what happens here.
When you read on, look at verse 7. “The shape of the locusts,” well, it wasn’t really like grasshoppers, says they were “like horses prepared for battle. On their heads were crowns of something like gold, their faces were like the faces of men, they had hair like women’s hair, their teeth,” did we read this in Joel? “Their teeth were like lion’s teeth.” And so we see this prophecy for the future fits perfectly with what Joel was prophesying about. So we see, this wasn’t just something for ancient Judah but this is something on the horizon for us today. And when we see that connection between the armies and the locusts, we can’t help but recognize, well, like it says at the beginning of this chapter, beginning of chapter nine, the fifth angel sounded.
We are getting close and closer to the return of Christ. That Day of the Lord that is made up of those seven trumpet plagues, that’s the Day of the Lord. We had an indication of that with the heavenly signs that it was coming, then it arrives with the first trumpet plague. Now we’re looking even closer, as we get to that fifth trumpet. And that’s not all there is to this fifth trumpet. Hold your place here in Revelation and go back to the book of Joel for just a minute and we see in chapter two. Once again, we see how certain things are a little bit out of chronological order in the book of Joel, but it becomes clear what it’s referencing.
Look at chapter 2 verse 4, chapter 2 verse 4 in the book of Joel gives us even more detailed information about what we were just reading. He says, “Their appearance is like the appearance of horses,” wow, that sounds like what we just read in Revelation. “And like swift steeds, so they run. With a noise like chariots over mountaintops they leap. Like the noise of a flaming fire that devours the stubble, like a strong people set in battle array.” What is Joel predicting? It’s not just the demise of Judah, he’s looking forward to things that it’s even hard to describe. What is like the noise of chariots over the mountaintops? Well, chariots of those days weren’t going to be flying over mountaintops right? When you talk about flaming fire, you could think of modern warfare, weaponry that begins to fit the descriptions here, and so he points to a time that probably was even difficult for him to understand and likewise for the apostle John as well.
And so it brings us to maybe a little bit more of a definition of what’s going on during this fifth trumpet. And that’s the fact that this is unprecedented. Unprecedented war. And as we look at this, we get an even bigger perspective when we go back to the book of Revelation for a minute. Revelation 9 where we were reading a moment ago, look at verse 9. Revelation 9:9 Revelation 9:9And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle.
American King James Version×, we can see a little bit more of a description of this fifth trumpet in a warfare that is unprecedented. And that becomes the critical part that something like this fits in with what Joel prophesied. Have you ever seen anything like this before?
No, you’re never going to see anything…Nothing like this has ever happened before. And, of course, that may even bring to mind some of the passages that Christ spoke of in Matthew 24 as well. But we’ll reading in Revelation chapter 9. Verse 9, it says, “They had breastplates like the breastplates of iron, the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots with many horses running into battle.” Sounds like Joel, doesn’t it? Verse 10, “They had tails like scorpions, and there were stings in their tails. Their power was to hurt men five months.” Five months. Verse 11, “And they had as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name” in Hebrew is Abaddon, “but in Greek, he’s called Apollyon.”
So here we begin to see him discussing war at the extreme, war at a level that has never been seen before. It’s unparalleled, unparalleled. So unprecedented war has never happened before. And when we think about those times, are we getting closer to those times? You know, more saber rattling going on now than there has been for such a long time. And when we consider the powers that are out here and what’s going to happen in the near future, you can read articles about what’s going on in China, what’s going on in Germany, what’s going on in the European Union, what’s going on in the Arab world, and it seems like we’re ever pressed closer and closer to the difficulties that come between us as nations. And you can’t help but think, “Aren’t we being pushed to that very brink in our human relationships?”
And Joel certainly prophesied about that. And John recorded the prophecies from Jesus Christ that pointed to this very fact that war is on the horizon. In fact, there is going to come a time that people are going to be fighting each other and the battles will ensue. And that’s representative of these locusts. And it’s going to be so destructive, it will be almost unimaginable. And yet, that’s exactly what Joel prophesied about, that’s exactly what’s revealed in the book of Revelation as well.
And there is no doubt this lies ahead for our world today. And so as the nations are fighting each other, the book of Revelation talks about the beast power. Talks about a 200 million man army. We have what seems to be an Asian, perhaps a coalition that will come, and they will fight each other and that pushes us toward even other trumpets that are going to sound.
And then Joel talks about this future push to conflagration. Let’s notice it back in the book of Joel, let’s look at chapter three. Joel 3 gives us some interesting information about the order of how things are going to happen as we’re drawing ever closer to the return of Christ. These are events that are happening during the Day of the Lord. Joel 3:10 Joel 3:10Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong.
American King James Version×. Does it sound a little odd? Joel says, “Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears.” That’s just the opposite of what Isaiah prophesied about right? He prophesied about a time of peace during the reign and rule of Christ that just the opposite was going to happen.
But here, we get to this point, he says just the opposite. Your plowshares should be swords, your pruning hooks should be spears. “Let the weak say, ‘I am strong.’” And in our world today, we have many weak people who, nonetheless, are strong. Can you think of any that are trying to exert their strength? Maybe in the Middle East today. You think of ISIL or ISIS. Well, they’re just a little group. How can they be exerting their strength? Well, the weak are saying they’re strong. Can you imagine the little guys getting a hold of nuclear weapons? Would be very easy for just a few to say, “I am strong.”
And so the prophecy says, then, verse 11, “Assemble and come, all you nations, and gather together all around. Cause your mighty ones to go down there, O Lord. ‘Let the nations be wakened, and come to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations’.” And so we see this is not just about Judah, it’s about the nations of our world, and it actually has a future focus when you really get down to it. The Valley of Jehoshaphat.
Well, what about this Valley of Jehoshaphat? What about the weak saying they’re strong? What about these nations that are coming together? Often times people will get this a little bit confused because they’ll have a sense that, well, the Valley of Jehoshaphat must be Armageddon. And sometimes they confuse this idea of what Armageddon really is and they think that that’s the battle that’ll end the world. But that’s not biblical. That’s a case of mistaken identity.
When we talk about the Valley of Jehoshaphat, the connection to Armageddon that makes it a little bit confusing is Armageddon, when you get to the Hebrew, just means the “Hill of Megiddo.” That’s really what it’s pointing to. It’s Har Megiddo, the Hill of Megiddo. And where is it located? Well, Megiddo, this little hill, is actually in the valley or the plane of Jezreel. And so there’s this little hill of Megiddo and it’s in the plane of Jezreel. That’s about 50 miles or so north of Jerusalem.
And so when we consider how this all fits together, what’s going to happen there? What’s going to happen at the Hill of Megiddo? What’s going to happen at the plane of Jezreel? We’ll get to Jehoshaphat here in just a minute, so hang on to that one. What’s going to happen there? Well, if you go back to the book of Revelation, we can see what’s going to happen there. It’s not a great battle that’s going to happen at Armageddon or the Hill of Megiddo, it’s something quite different. We’ll see what’s going to happen here when we go back to Revelation.
Take a look at Revelation chapter 16 at this time. Revelation 16:14 Revelation 16:14For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.
American King James Version×, we see the connection here to what Joel was prophesying about. Revelation 16:14 Revelation 16:14For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.
American King James Version×is probably a good place that we can begin. Here’s what he says. He says, “They are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world.” Well, does that sound like, “Gather all the nations?” Yes, all the nations. “The kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great Day of God almighty.”
And in fact, we look down to verse 16, it says, “And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon.” And so what’s happening at this place? What’s happening on the planes of Jezreel? You see what’s happening is there’s not a battle. What’s happening there is we’re talking about an assembly. Right? They’re gathering together there. They’re gathering on the planes of Megiddo. And so they’re assembling. Okay. I’ll abbreviate here a little bit so I don’t run out of space on the board. They’re assembling for not Armageddon, not the end of the world. The real name of the battle is given to us. The real name of the battle is at the end of verse 14.
“They’re gathered to the battle of that great Day of God Almighty.” The battle of that great Day of God almighty. That’s the name of the battle. It’s not the end of the world, but it is going to be the end of the age. That’s going to happen just before the return of Jesus Christ. And so Joel predicted that. Revelation predicts that as well. And so when we think about how that fits with what Joel wrote about, that Valley of Jehoshaphat? Well, we’ve got Megiddo, Armageddon in this plane of Jezreel where they’re going to gather for the battle.
But where is the battle going to be fought? It’s not in that valley. They’re going to gather on the planes of Jezreel and then they’re going to advance that 50 miles or so toward Jerusalem. And you’ll never guess what valley they have to go through in order to get to Jerusalem. The Valley of Jehoshaphat. That’s on the way. Sometimes people associate it with the Kidron Valley. Some people debate that back and forth, but I think it just points to a greater truth. Where’s the battle going to be fought? It’s not in Megiddo, it’s not in Jezreel, it’s in the environs of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the focus.
Jerusalem is the focal point for the armies of the end time. “The armies of the whole world,” as it says. Not just fighting each other anymore, but now they’re gathered for the battle of that great Day of God almighty. You see, that’s the whole point. And so when we see what it talks about, how is that going to be finally settled? You see, when we talk about the Day of the Lord, if you look over in Revelation 17, instead of fighting each other as Christ returns, it says, Revelation 17:14 Revelation 17:14These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.
American King James Version×, “These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.” And so we see pretty clearly here, all that oppose Jesus Christ will be overcome. They will be destroyed. All who oppose.
And so Jerusalem is the focal point, the return of Christ. And when we compare that to what’s going to happen, that becomes the real focus. So as we consider that, after this assembly and battle of that great Day of God almighty, we’re at the return of Christ. We’re at the return of Christ. Christ will wipe out those that oppose Him. In fact, Joel certainly points to the fact that Christ is going to return. It says in Revelation, He’s returning with the saints. 1 Thessalonians 4 talks about that very same thing. That at the Resurrection, the faithful will meet Christ in the air and they will return. They will return to earth, we’ll see that in just a moment.
Joel 3:17 Joel 3:17So shall you know that I am the LORD your God dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain: then shall Jerusalem be holy, and there shall no strangers pass through her any more.
American King James Version×, notice what he says in this prophecy, Joel 3:17 Joel 3:17So shall you know that I am the LORD your God dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain: then shall Jerusalem be holy, and there shall no strangers pass through her any more.
American King James Version×. Here we see another connection to Jerusalem itself as well. Joel 3:17 Joel 3:17So shall you know that I am the LORD your God dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain: then shall Jerusalem be holy, and there shall no strangers pass through her any more.
American King James Version×, he says, “So you shall know that I am the Lord your God, dwelling in Zion, My holy mountain.” How do we know that’s Jerusalem? Well, he tells us, “Then Jerusalem shall be holy, and no aliens shall ever pass through her again.” Nobody else is going to be able to overcome Christ. Jerusalem becomes the headquarters for the government of God that’ll be set up on earth. Jerusalem shall be holy and that interconnects with the prophecies that Revelation gives us as well, the return of Christ ultimately to Jerusalem. Let’s notice that in the book of Revelation.
Go back to Revelation 19. Revelation 19, we’ll pick it up in verse 11. Let’s see if we see the connection here between what Joel spoke of, of returning Christ ruling from Jerusalem, as to what Revelation speaks of. Here we get a little bit of the picture just as this battle begins to take place, which really ends up not to be much of a battle. When you battle God, you don’t have much of a chance. So when we look at Revelation 19:11 Revelation 19:11And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he does judge and make war.
American King James Version×. This is what John sees, “I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.”
Well, that certainly ties in with what Joel prophesied about judgment coming on the nations. So Christ is going to come and judge and make war. “His eyes were like a flame of fire, on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.” And so they show here in verse 15, “Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations.” And so as we recognize this, this is describing Christ’s return. And as He comes to the earth, He’s going to wipe out anyone who opposes Him.
And so this pushes us right to that time, the Day of the Lord leads to the return of Christ. And so Joel’s prophecy all point to this culmination of the ultimate event in human history, the return of Jesus Christ to reign and rule on earth. We see that talked about in Revelation 20 as well. Now, of course, with the return of Christ, a lot of the doom and gloom that we read about in the book of Joel, sometimes it seems like,” Oh boy, woe is me, there are so many bad things.” Joel doesn’t leave it there because once Christ returns, that changes everything. It changes everything.
So if you go back to the book of Joel, even though he prophesies about so many difficult, trying, unprecedented, really horrible times that are just on our horizon, and the captivity of Judah was just little, teeny, little foretaste, those locusts that wiped out the land were just a precursor to the ultimate fulfillment, even though he talks about all these difficult things, he doesn’t want us to dwell on just those things. Because you’ve got to think, “Well, what about us?” We’re striving to be there when Christ returns. Not to oppose Him, but to be with Him.
Well, Joel addresses that as well. And so in chapter 3, let’s notice. Not in chapter 3, chapter 2, chapter 2 verse 26, with the return of Christ, this begins to change everything. Joel 2:26 Joel 2:26And you shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, that has dealt wondrously with you: and my people shall never be ashamed.
American King James Version×. Look at the stark difference. He says at the return of Christ is the context here. He says, then, “You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied.” Well, that’s just the opposite of the locust plague, isn’t it? “You’ll praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you.”
You see, first is the Day of the Lord, God’s wrath being poured out. Now at the return of Christ and the establishment of the government of God, he says in verse 26 at the end, “My people shall never be put to shame. Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel: I am the Lord your God and there is no other. My people shall never be put to shame.” “Never,” He says, because those that are reigning and ruling with Him are now spirit. They’re now spirit. They are His people and those that remain alive will have that opportunity to choose to follow God.
And so what we begin to see here also connects with what we in Revelation. At the return of Christ, there are abundant blessings. Abundant blessings in store because now we have righteous rule. Now we have Godly government ruling the earth. And so when you find this in Revelation… Really, the culmination, just go to the extreme here for a moment. When you finally get to the end of the plan, God’s government on our earth is going to be great, there’s no doubt. We can turn to various passages that speak of that.
But if we go all the way to the end, even beyond that, you talk about the blessings that are in store for those that choose God’s way, here’s the ultimate blessing. Look at Revelation 21. Revelation 21, going beyond the reign of rule of Christ on earth, going beyond that, notice the abundant blessings that God has in store. He says, “I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also, there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God,’” or, the dwelling of God “is with men, and He’ll be with them, they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.’”
When you talk about abundant blessings, look at the description in verse 4, “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there will be no more death, no more sorrow, nor crying.” He says, “There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” You see, the precursor to the New Jerusalem is the return of Christ to establish His government on earth and that’s when those blessings just begin to flow as God pours out His Spirit upon all people. All people will have that opportunity in the plan of God to be different.
And I think that brings us to something that is so critical in the message of the book of Joel. Because there’s something interesting that kind of took me by surprise when I looked into the words of the book itself. Do you know throughout the whole Old Testament, do you know which book has the most imperative verbs? The biggest number of words that are instructions or commands or guides or exhortations or maybe a different way to say it, are action words. Okay, you guessed it. It’s the book of Joel. This small little book with just three little chapters has more imperatives than all, any other book in the Old Testament. Which is pretty phenomenal when you think about it.
And so, what is the focus of those imperatives? You know, what is the focus of those action words? That’s what becomes most critical for us as you consider what’s on the horizon. And those action words, it points to an action. It pointed to the same action during Joel’s time, as it does to us today. And that action is repent. The action is repent. God wants us to seek Him, to humbly come before Him, to honor Him, to worship Him. Joel prophesied about this. Joel 2:12 Joel 2:12Therefore also now, said the LORD, turn you even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:
American King James Version×. With the struggles and the difficulties and the challenges of warfare and all the horrible things on the horizon, all of this is not just to punish. It’s to turn people’s hearts. It’s to turn people’s hearts.
And so Joel 2:12 Joel 2:12Therefore also now, said the LORD, turn you even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:
American King James Version×points us to that direction. And so he says here, “‘Therefore,’ says the Lord, ‘Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.’ So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm.” That’s the kind of God that rules this universe. And when you think about the kind of Creator that we have, what an awesome, sovereign God He is. Joel just begins to tap into the amazing powers of God and how He will illustrate just a small amount of those powers as He brings this world to its knees to turn to Him, to recognize Him as almighty.
So when you think of God as Creator, maker of the tiniest little atoms to the giant galaxies, how ridiculous is it to try to live our lives without Him? How silly, how ridiculous to disobey a sovereign God. Joel points to that very thing. He says God wants people with a contrite heart, a humble attitude and it can’t just be an outward show of tearing our garments, you know, rending them, showing mourning over what’s going on. No, it’s more than that. He says, “Get beyond your clothes and get right down to what’s inside.” God is after a genuine change in our hearts and in our minds and that’s what Joel prophesied about. In fact, he prophesied about the way that it could happen.
How can true repentance really come about? Well, Joel 2 also talks about that. He says in verse 28, “I’m going to pour My Spirit on all flesh.” That’s the solution. By turning to God and receiving His Spirit. He says that all people, all nations will have that opportunity to receive God’s Spirit. And what an amazing time that will be when the earth finally will look to their Creator and recognize Him as God. What a different world that will be. And so there is a purpose behind the prophecies that show so many difficulties ahead.
In fact, if you take it to the next step, maybe the ultimate step, when we repent and change, what does God have in store for us? Ultimately, maybe to put it in a small little word, goes along with the three chapters of Joel, I think true repentance and turning to God can’t help but bring real joy. And you know, Joel prophesied about that too. Sometimes we overlook that because there are so many bad things that it seems like he’s prophesying about, but look at 2:23 here. He says pretty clearly, Christ’s return, yes there’s still going to be some physical human beings around, but what’s it going to be like? He says, “Rejoice in the Lord. He’s given you the former rain faithfully. He’ll cause rain to come down on you.” And so there’s going to the blessings of rain. What happens when there’s rain in due season? Well, then there are going to be crops.
So he says in verse 24, “The threshing floors will be full of wheat.” There will be agricultural blessings for the physical nations of that time as they turn to God. Those that are turning to God and call on Him, not just the physical blessings are limited to them, but when we look down a little bit farther, look at verse 32. Verse 32, “It will come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” And so the doom and gloom prophecies of Joel really aren’t doom and gloom, because they’re pointing to the time beyond this when all of those who turn to God are offered salvation. They’re offered the opportunity of eternal life in the family of God.
And we see at the heart and core of all of this is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is at the core of it. Verse 27, “You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel.” Not just the physical Israel, but a spiritual Israel. Jesus Christ will be at the heart and core of that as our savior, our Lord, our Master. And then ultimately, the Father will come down with a New Jerusalem. And what an awesome, fantastic time that lies beyond the difficulties. And that’s really what Joel points to. He points beyond the difficulties to the ultimate solution for humankind.
And so we know these things are going to happen. We know they happened to Israel, we know they happened to Judah. God says as sure as that happened and that’s historical fact, these prophecies will come about. And so it pushes us, then, to be sure that our spiritual life is in order. We’ve got to make sure that that’s fact. And that’s what Christ was concerned about as well. When Christ considered these times, Luke 21 is one of those sections that kind of mirror Matthew 24. If you look over at Luke 21:36 Luke 21:36Watch you therefore, and pray always, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
American King James Version×, it talks about this time of the end, the Day of the Lord, the return of Jesus Christ. What about us? Are we going to be there? We’re going to make sure our spiritual life is in order.
So Christ gave an admonition to all of us, with all of these things in mind in the prophecies of Joel, the prophecies of Revelation. Here’s what Christ said, Luke 21:36 Luke 21:36Watch you therefore, and pray always, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
American King James Version×. He said, “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.” And so He’s placed this amazing opportunity before us and when we consider all of these things, it should propel us to make the choices now. Don’t wait till these things are happening, that’s going to be too late. Christ is telling us, “Make those choices now.” And by making those choices now, then we can count on this promise. By making those choices today, it will determine if this promise of Christ actually becomes reality for us.
All right. That will do it for our study in the book of Joel. We zipped right along in a lot of things, so a lot of things to think about here. We hope you’ll join us next time. We will have another study that will be connected to the Minor Prophets in two weeks. So I believe that’s November 30th will be our next bi-weekly Bible study. So have a good evening, be safe driving home and we’ll look forward to seeing you next time.