Bible Studies in the Book of Joel
Book of Joel Chapter 2 Lesson: The Day of the Lord
by I Gordon
Chapter 1 showed the devastation that was coming to Israel through an unprecedented locust invasion. There would be nothing that they didn't touch and no one that would be unaffected. Near the end of chapter 1 we also were introduced to this concept of 'the day of the Lord'. Joel was the first to mention this and as we continue through this book we'll see this theme expanded and elaborated upon. Joel chapter 2 moves forward however to the end of the age where the day of the Lord plays out, leading to the return of Jesus Christ and the judgment of the nations. As in the previous study, I'll also add some personal/practical thoughts from this book. Let's start chapter 2!
Calling all trumpeters - it's time to start blowing.
Joel 2:1-2 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-- (2) 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.
Chapter 2 begins with a prophetic scene where the day of the Lord  is at hand and a great and mighty army is coming. This army is described as one so great that there never has been one like it before or ever will be again. We know from this alone that the prophetic view we are given is of the end of the age. So when the day of the Lord is close, the command goes out: Blow the trumpet and sound the alarm! So what's with blowing the trumpet? What does that mean? 
As we saw in the footnote, the blowing of the trumpet was also to signal that it is time to depart. While for Israel and the nations the trumpet gives the sound of battle, for the church it is different. Before the day of the Lord arrives there will also be the sound of the trumpet for the assembling and departure of the bride of Christ (1 Thess. 4:13-17). And, as mentioned in the first study, before that day arrives we should use our time to sound the alarm of what is coming.
Joel 2:3-9 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. (4) They have the appearance of horses; they gallop along like cavalry. (5) 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. (6) At the sight of them, nations are in anguish; every face turns pale. (7) They charge like warriors; they scale walls like soldiers. They all march in line, not swerving from their course. (8) They do not jostle each other; each marches straight ahead. They plunge through defenses without breaking ranks. (9) They rush upon the city; they run along the wall. They climb into the houses; like thieves they enter through the windows.
These verses describe the great devastation caused by the mighty army in the day of the Lord. There is disagreement over the fulfillment of this great army in the last days. Some believe it is pointing to the demonic locust like creatures that ascend out of the Abyss as mentioned in Rev 9. This judgment certainly displays all the same type of language as Joel chapter 2 and describes a very frightening time of darkness and pain for unbelievers:
Rev 9:1-7 the fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss. (2) When he opened the Abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace. The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss. (3) And out of the smoke locusts came down upon the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth. (4) They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads. (5) They were not given power to kill them, but only to torture them for five months. And the agony they suffered was like that of the sting of a scorpion when it strikes a man. (6) During those days men will seek death, but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them. (7) The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle. On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces.
Others believe the great army of Joel 2 is fulfilled in the final battle where all nations will come against Israel leading to the return of their Messiah. The summoning of the kings of the earth is seen in Rev 16 (as well as later in Joel 3:9-14):
Rev 16:12-14 the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East. (13) Then I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. (14) They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty.
Which do I go along with? Well, kind of both, but primarily that latter. Not trying to be a fence sitter all my life, but remember in chapter 1 we talked about the Jewish method of Bible interpretation called 'Midrash'? In short this means that there can be repeated patterns of a given prophecy/event leading up to its final fulfillment. I think that is what we have here with Joel 2. There is a partial fulfillment with the demonic locusts of Rev 9 but it isn't the final fulfillment. (In fact there are some differences as well because Joel 2 and 3 show this great army coming against the nation of Israel and devastating the land (turning what was like the Garden of Eden into wasteland), where as in Rev 9 the demonic 'locusts' come against the unbelievers of the world and aren't allowed to touch or destroy the land/grass/trees etc). So I believe the ultimate fulfillment is with the army of the entire world that comes against Israel 'on the great day of God Almighty.' That is what I will be focusing on as we go through this study  .
The coming army of the Lord
Joel 2:10-11 Before them the earth shakes, the sky trembles, the sun and moon are darkened, and the stars no longer shine. (11) 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?
Verse 10 gives the familiar description of the sun and moon being darkened, and the stars no longer shining. Isaiah also spoke of this event happening during the day of the Lord's wrath saying:
Isa 13:9-13 See, the day of the LORD is coming --a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger-- to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it. (10) The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light. (11) I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless. (12) I will make man scarcer than pure gold, rarer than the gold of Ophir. (13) Therefore I will make the heavens tremble; and the earth will shake from its place at the wrath of the LORD Almighty, in the day of his burning anger.
Jesus spoke of the same celestial events in association with His return saying:
Mat 24:29-30 "But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. (30) "And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory.
In like manner (tying the timing of the celestial signs in with the return of the Lord), the passage from Joel above shows the Lord thundering at the head of His army straight after the heavenly signs are given. Most commentators believe that this verse in Joel is saying that the Lord is the commander of the army that attacks Israel (showing that it, like others He has used in the past to judge Israel i.e. Babylon and Assyria, are in His control and plan  ). This could be true though I lean towards another army being in view in verse 11. I believe that Joel is giving a brief glimpse of God's response to this earthly army that has assembled to destroy His people Israel and that is of the Lord with His heavenly saints coming to defend His people Israel!  I believe this 'thundering of the Lord' in Joel 2:11 is elaborated later in Joel 3 where He is shown to go forth to protect His people Israel:
Joel 3:15-17 'The sun and moon will be darkened, and the stars no longer shine. (16) The LORD will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem; the earth and the sky will tremble. But the LORD will be a refuge for his people, a stronghold for the people of Israel. (17) Then you will know that I, the LORD your God, dwell in Zion, my holy hill. Jerusalem will be holy; never again will foreigners invade her.'
The absolute need for repentance
Joel 2:12-17 Even now, declares the LORD, "return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning." (13) 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. (14) Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing-- grain offerings and drink offerings for the LORD your God. (15) Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. (16) 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. (17) 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?' "
We see here what the Lord is after from His people Israel. We see here the purpose of this 'day of the Lord' for Israel. What's coming is too great for Israel. We need to be crystal clear on that. It would be too great for any one nation. But it is not too big for Israel and God. Yet that cannot come without repentance. Israel today is a powerful self-sufficient nation. They have to be for they are surrounded by nations that hate them. Yet this proud self-sufficient attitude will be dealt with. Daniel spoke about it when he said that the purpose of this time was to 'break the power of the holy people'  (Dan 12:7) and so it will be. God will not rescue His people Israel until they repent and acknowledge their sin in rejecting their Messiah. (This is clear from verses such as Matt 23:37-39, Hosea 5:15-6:3 and Zech 12:19-10). The need of repentance that is in this passage in Joel again touches all in Israel. It is a command to the priests, the elders, the children, the newly weds... none are exempt. And nor shall the mourning that occurs in Israel once they 'look on the one they have pierced' find any exempt. For each family and each individual shall mourn separately. (Zech 12:10-14) There will have been nothing like it.
The two parts to 'that day'
Joel 2:18-27 Then the LORD will be jealous for his land and take pity on his people. (19) 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. (20) 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 sea and those in the rear into the western sea. And its stench will go up; its smell will rise. Surely he has done great things. (21) Be not afraid, O land; be glad and rejoice. Surely the LORD has done great things. (22) 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. (23) 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. (24) The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil. (25) 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. (26) 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. (27) 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.
Here we have the blessings of repentance that will come upon Israel in 'that day'. The army that has assembled in the north of Israel will be defeated and driven into the sea. J. Vernon McGee writes on this that
'The description given here fits the description of the Battle of Armageddon... The Sea of Galilee is on one side and the Mediterranean Sea is on the other side of the Valley of Esdraelon where Armageddon will take place. God will intervene as we have seen in Ezekiel (38 & 39). He will destroy this enemy that comes from the north, and He does it to glorify His name.'
The passage then pictures the abundance that the land will produce when it (and its people) dwells again under the blessing of God with 'abundant showers' resulting in the threshing floors 'filled with grain' and 'the vats will overflow with new wine and oil'. This blessing 'in that day' is consistent and typical of the prophetic revelation across the Bible  .
Notice also that repeated promise in verse 26 and 27 that 'never again will my people be shamed'. That is not seen today. Today the nation of Israel is, in many circles, maligned and despised. Antisemitism is on the rise and Jews are made to feel guilt, shame and disgrace. For Christians living in areas of persecution the feeling and resentment is the same. But it won't always be that way. The day is coming when God's people will rule and reign with Christ and shall never again be shamed.
God is a God of redemption and restoration. He can redeem and make use of any situation. We see it here with His promise to the nation of Israel and we see it in His faithfulness to believers today. Look at this wonderful promise of God: 'I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten.' You may have had years of devastation... But He can redeem it! He can repay you for the years that the locusts have eaten. Can you think of a situation that devastated your life? Always trust and believe that God can turn a situation around and make something good come out of that which is bad.
The outpouring of the Spirit!
Joel 2:28-32 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. (29) Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. (30) I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. (31) The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. (32) 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.
In the Hebrew text this passage forms its own chapter. It is certainly a well known passage of scripture for Christians as well because it is quoted by Peter on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:16-20). In quoting this text Peter did not say it was the fulfilled on that day however, but just that 'this is that spoken by the prophet Joel'. In other words, Pentecost saw the same outpouring of the Holy Spirit that Joel had spoken about. But obviously the ultimate fulfillment of this verse comes in the day of the Lord and the return of Jesus Christ. It is at that stage the complete passage will be fulfilled with the earthly and heavenly signs (sun turned to darkness and the moon to blood  ) as well as the deliverance for those in Jerusalem.
If we take note of the timing of this outpouring it says 'And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.' So the question is: after what exactly? Well, the preceding verses had just spoken of the need for Israel to repent and the blessing that would come upon them once they had done this during the Messianic Kingdom on earth. The final preceding verse shows the Lord dwelling in Israel for it says: ' 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.' So the timing of the outpouring of God's Spirit upon all people seems to come in the Messianic Kingdom when Jesus rules and reigns. This is consistent with other scriptures concerning that time. 
In contrast to how things often work in this world, it is good to remember that God doesn't discriminate in pouring out His Holy Spirit. Our text says He gives His Spirit to the sons and daughters, young and the old, male and female. We all need His Spirit working through our life. We should also be encouraged that God is still working through dreams and visions. Yes, there is definitely the false 'fleshly' type that many have rightfully become weary of (Col 2:18) but I have been encouraged recently of what seems to be genuine reports of God using dreams and visions in the Muslim world especially to bring those in darkness to the truth. Chapter 2 of Joel has shown that God will use the nations to bring judgement upon Israel in the last days. But Joel chapter 3 shows that God will also use Israel as a means of judgement upon those nations! If that is so, and the day of this judgement is approaching, then it would be like God to give every opportunity for the people in these nations that have very little light to acknowledge the truth and repent before this judgement takes place.
Great days, and terrible days, lie ahead... but not in that order. The Bible is clear that a day of darkness is coming and only when it is complete will the day of light begin. But what amazing insight into all of this the book of Joel gives us! We have seen a general description of the coming great army against Israel in the last days in chapter 2. Joel chapter 3 will elaborate upon God's method and basis for judging those nations and again the detail is very specific and bodes a warning for all who would seek to divide up the land of Israel today!
 ↩ Other titles for the day of the Lord are given in William Frederick's book 'The coming Epiphany':
'This time of God's special intervention known primarily as The Day of the Lord has been referred to by other terms in scripture, such as the Time of Jacob's Trouble (Jer. 30:7); His Strange Work/Act (Isa. 28:21); the Day of Israel's Calamity (Deut. 32:35); the Indignation (Isa. 26:20; Dan. 11:36); the Overflowing Scourge (Isa. 28:15, 18); the Day of Vengeance (Isa. 34:8; 35:4; 61:2); the Day of Wrath/Distress/Wasting/ Desolation.( Zeph. 1:15);the day of darkness/thick darkness//Gloominess (Zeph. 1:15, Joel 2:2); the Day of Trumpet and Alarm (Zeph. 1:16); the hour of trial (Rev. 3:10); the Wrath to Come (1 Thess. 1:10); the Wrath (1 Thess. 5:9), and the Hour of His Judgment (Rev. 14:7). In some instances, the Day of the Lord, due to its unique nature and importance, has been referred to as simply 'that day' (Isa. 2:11, 17; 2:20; 4:2; Joel 3:18; Mark 13:32; Luke 21:34; 2 Tim. 1:12, 18; 4:8).'
 ↩ The blowing of the trumpet was very common in Israel's history. There were three main times when a trumpet was blown:
1) In assembling the nation in preparation to move/depart (especially as they moved through the wilderness).
2) In preparation for battle/war.
3) In times of rejoicing on their feasts and festival days. (Please read Num 10:1-10 for all three times)
So which was this? This is to prepare for battle. This, as Joel says, is to sound the alarm! An army is coming the likes of which has never been seen before. The literal locusts have been left behind and the final future fulfillment is in view.
 ↩ The Scofield study Bible has a useful outline of Joel 2 and 3 in comparison with the Armageddon battle. He writes:
'It is remarkable that Joel, coming at the very beginning of written prophecy (B.C. 836), gives the fullest view of the consummation of all written prophecy. The order of events is:
(1) The invasion of Palestine from the north by Gentile world-powers headed up under the Beast and false prophet (Joel 2:1-10) "Armageddon,"
(2) The Lord's army and destruction of the invaders (Joe 2:11); (Rev 19:11-21).
(3) The repentance of Judah in the land (Joe 2:12-17).
(4) The answer of Jehovah (Joel 2:18-27).
(5) The effusion of the Spirit in the (Jewish) "last days" (Joel 2:28); (Joel 2:29).
(6) The return of the Lord in glory and the setting up of the kingdom (Joel 2:30-32); (Act 15:15-17) by the regathering of the nation and judgment of the nations (Joel 3:1-16).
(7) The full and permanent kingdom blessing (Joel 3:17-21); (Zec.14:1-21).
 ↩ This invading army is of course under God's control. In fact, in the Isaiah 13 passage about the day of the Lord, it does specifically refer to the amassing of the armies of the nations at this time saying that He (the Lord) is mustering this army and that they are the weapons of His wrath! So I could well be wrong and verse 11 could still be talking about the invading army. Hard to know!
Isa 13:4-6 Listen, a noise on the mountains, like that of a great multitude! Listen, an uproar among the kingdoms, like nations massing together! The LORD Almighty is mustering an army for war. (5) They come from faraway lands, from the ends of the heavens-- the LORD and the weapons of his wrath-- to destroy the whole country. (6) Wail, for the day of the LORD is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty.
What I will say is that Joel chapter 2 has been a favorite source for some whacky false teachings over the last 60 years or so, based around 'The latter rain' and 'Joel's army' themes. BEWARE of anyone who talks about these in the context of an elite group of Christians taking dominion on this earth before Jesus returns. This is a big topic and there is too much for a little footnote! But have a look at the links on the following page: http://www.letusreason.org/latradir.htm
 ↩ This is the same picture given in Rev 19 where the heavens are opened and the rider on the white horse (the Lord Jesus) descends to make war against the Antichrist and the armies of this world. And following him is pictured the Church, His bride, riding on white horses also. (Rev 19:11-21) Also Enoch spoke of this event as recorded in the book of Jude:
Jud 1:14-15 Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: "See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones (15) to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him."
 ↩ I recently had an email from a man who asked the question - 'If the modern day state of Israel is a fulfilment of Bible prophecy, why is it that there has been no peace in the Middle East?' Behind his question is the assumption that if God is behind this re-gathering of Israel then there should also be His blessing and peace. I pointed out to him that the prophets who spoke of the re-gathering of Israel back into the land also spoke of them coming back in unbelief and also of the difficulty that would then come upon that nation (before their eventual salvation). Their re-gathering is for eventual blessing but there is the time of Jacob's trouble before that.
For example: Jer. 30:3-7 'for behold, days are coming,' declares the LORD, 'when I will restore the fortunes of My people Israel and Judah.' The LORD says, 'I will also bring them back to the land that I gave to their forefathers and they shall possess it. '" (4) Now these are the words which the LORD spoke concerning Israel and concerning Judah: (5) "For thus says the LORD, 'I have heard a sound of terror; of dread, and there is no peace. (6) 'Ask now, and see if a male can give birth. Why do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in childbirth? And why have all faces turned pale? (7) 'Alas! For that day is great, there is none like it; and it is the time of Jacob's distress, but he will be saved from it.
 ↩ We should remember the definition of a 'day'. The Bible says this period will be the 'day of the Lord'. The Biblical day, as recorded in Genesis 1 started with the evening and then morning - 'And there was evening and there was morning, one day.' (Gen 1:5) In other words it starts with darkness and ends in light. So shall it be with the day of the Lord. The prophets declared the darkness that would start the day of the Lord but they also spoke of the 'light' and 'blessing' that would come afterwards 'in that day'. Renald Showers writes in his book 'Maranatha: Our Lord, Come' concerning this:
'The future Day of the Lord will have at least a twofold nature. First, it will be characterized by darkness and a tremendous outpouring of divine wrath upon the world (Joel 2:1-2; Amos 5:18-20; Zeph 1:14-15; 1Thes 5:1-11). Amos 5:18-20 emphasizes that this will be the total nature of the Day of the Lord for God's enemies. It will bring no divine light or blessing to them. This will be the nature of the Day of the Lord during the 70th week of Daniel. Second, the Day of the Lord will also be characterized by light, an outpouring of divine blessing, and the administration of God's rule. The Prophet Joel, after talking about the darkening of the sun, moon, and stars and God's Day of the Lord judgment of the armies of the nations gathered in Israel (Joel 3:9-16), foretold great divine blessing 'in that day' (Joel 3:17-21). In addition, the Prophet Zechariah, after discussing the future Day of the Lord, when all nations will war against Jerusalem and the Messiah will come to the earth to fight against the nations (Zech 14:1-5), indicated that although the earlier part of 'that day' will be characterized by darkness, the latter part will be characterized by light (Zech 14:6-7), great blessing (Zech 14:8), and God's rule over the earth (Zech 14:9). this will be the nature of the Day of the Lord in the Millennium. . . . Just as each day of creation and the Jewish day consisted of two phases - a time of darkness ('evening') followed by a time of light ('day') [Gen 1:4-6] - so the future Day of the Lord will consist of two phases, a period of darkness (judgment) followed by a period of light (divine rule and blessing). . . . First, during the 70th week of Daniel it will be characterized by darkness and a tremendous outpouring of divine wrath upon the world. Second, during the Millennium it will be characterized by light, an outpouring of divine blessing, and the administration of God's rule over the whole world.'
 ↩ There is a lot of talk in the Jewish/Christian world about the coming 'blood moons' (lunar eclipse) that are due to fall on the feast days of Passover and Sukkot in 2014/15. The last two times that 4 blood moons have fallen on the feasts in consecutive years was in 1949/50 and 1967/68. With Israel becoming a nation again in 1948 (and still fighting the War of Independence on 1949) and fighting the 6-day war to regain Jerusalem in 1967 then these are significant dates. Certainly as I write (Jan 14) there is A LOT of pressure being placed upon Israel and the Palestinians for a peace deal by the US and the EU. Large parts of the Middle East (Egypt, Syria, Iraq esp.) are in or near civil war. Whether the blood moons come to be significant time will tell. Certainly 'blood moons' in the last days are significant, biblically speaking (as we have seen in Joel) but whether those in 2014/15 are, we shall wait and see. We aren't to set dates but we are to watch for signs... and there are plenty of signs for those with eyes to see!
 ↩ In a comment on Isa 44:3-5, the Bible Knowledge Commentary contrasts the physical blessing of the land in that time and the spiritual blessing of the people with the Holy Spirit saying: ' The Lord will revive Israel physically and spiritually. He will pour water on the... land, making it well watered (cf. Isa 35:6-7; Isa 41:18; Isa 43:19-20) and He will pour His Holy Spirit (cf. Isa 32:15) on their descendants. This outpouring of the Spirit will occur when the people have returned in belief to the land (cf. Ezek. 36:24, Ezek. 36:27; Joel 2:25-29) just after the Messiah's second coming to establish the Millennium. Redeemed Israel will prosper numerically like grass and poplar trees, and they will want to be known as righteous individuals (Isa 44:5), unashamed of Him and their nation.'