Introduction to Joel – Scholars agree that a man named Joel, which means “Yahweh is God,” wrote this Book. His father, Pethuel, was not a famous person. The date of its writing has been difficult to determine. The range is from 800 B.C.- 500 B.C. It had the same purpose as several other prophets, namely, Israel’s formal, ritualistic form of religion and deep sin must be repented from or severe judgment would come. Great blessings awaited them if they did as God said. Perhaps the highlight was a wonderful glimpse into the days of the Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended upon mankind for the first time in history as a result of Jesus’ victory on the Cross and His Ascension into Heaven.

Joel 1 – He laments after a devastating attack by swarming locusts. It was so bad that no one in Joel’s time nor in their recent ancestor’s time experienced this. He calls upon all, great and small, to fast and cry out to God for help. In verse 5, he even appeals to “drunkards.” I think this also may be symbolic of people who just are not aware of their surroundings or situations because their thoughts are far from God.

Applications for Today:

1) With all our wealth and technology for farming, it is difficult for us to imagine how devastating a locust attack was in those days. We complain about brief power outages! If we suddenly had no access to food, I wonder how America would respond?
2) Alcohol, in any form, is a depressant drug. It deadens physical sensation as well as muddling the conscience. Our logical reasoning goes out the window. For these reasons it is difficult to argue with or fight against a drunk person. Police hate to deal with them. The abuse of alcohol may reflect the extreme hiding from God’s Spirit that always desires to keep us right and safe.

Joel 2 When Do the “Last Days” Start?

This sounded an alarm to Israel that “the day of the Lord is coming.” This phrase is often used in the Old Testament and it does not always refer to Christ’s Second Coming, but rather some kind of judgment or invasion. Later in verse 10 he mentions earthquakes, the sun and moon growing dark, and stars losing brightness. These too are often mentioned in the same manner throughout the Bible. I can’t think of any time all those things occurred literally in spite of some of their contexts were definitely speaking about contemporary events, not Second Coming events. So I also think that when the Book of Revelation mentions these same things, they refer to judgment or major change on earth rather than anomalies we will literally see in the sky. God has a symbolic language that He uses consistently throughout Scripture. I believe the best approach to interpretation is to have the Bible interpret the Bible as much as we can.

In this chapter, views differ as to when the attacking army would strike. The army is described as being strong, mobile, and disciplined. Some think it refers to Babylon destroying Jerusalem, which has received much notice in the other prophetic Books. Others believe it is a general allegorical account of the traditional enemies dealing with Israel over many years. Still others feel it describes God’s army in the End-Times attacking evil on earth.

Verses 28-32 shed some light on this because Peter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, said those words were fulfilled at Pentecost, when many people suddenly spoke in tongues and prophesied (Acts 2:14-21). According to Joel 2:28, Peter’s situation would occur AFTER what Joel described in the previous verses. To me, this destroys the idea that Joel 2:1-27 refers to anything in New Covenant times. Peter also proclaimed that the Last Days started at Pentecost some 2,000 years ago, not recently. When I shared this with a dispensationalist friend of mine, he said, “no way.” Yes way, according to Scripture interpreting itself. Hebrews 1:2 also confirms when the Last Days began, and that is with Christ’s first coming.

How could Peter suddenly go from denying Jesus and weeping bitterly to proclaiming that Pentecost was literally fulfilling something the OT Prophet Joel wrote about? One answer is that he was baptized in the Holy Spirit. This makes a huge difference! Another answer is found in Luke 24:45. After Jesus rose from the dead, but before He ascended, He met with Peter and others and “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” For the first time in history, God’s “Plan A” had a “burning fire” behind it! It most likely was the fire that Jesus had longed for before He was crucified (Luke 12:49). Now God’s Spirit could be in many people at the same time, teaching them Truth and glorifying Jesus (John 16:13-14). He would anchor and protect the church. It was like a booster rocket exploding, sending the good part away from gravitational pull (earthly influence).

Application for Today: The exciting thing about this prophecy and the Pentecost event is that it is for us today. The view that it was just for the original disciples in order to get things going contradicts the Word of God in Acts 2:38-39, which states that it is also for the disciples’ “CHILDREN, AND ALL THOSE WHO ARE CALLED TO THE LORD.” That means you and me! 🙂 If you have not been baptized in the Holy Spirit, seek and ask for it (Luke 11:13). This is usually not given at salvation as others have asserted. It usually is a separate experience (see Acts 8:14-17 and Acts 19:1-6). My advice to you is go somewhere where Christians believe this and seek it with a humble heart. 🙂

Joel 3 – Over many years, different nations have persecuted the Jews of Israel and scattered them among many nations, and God says those nations will be judged for this. Later in the chapter, however, there seems to be a shift from history to the future. Verse 15 contains the oft used phrase of the sun, moon, and stars losing their brightness which always is figurative language for upcoming judgment from God. But then in verse 17 He proclaims that Jerusalem will be holy, and strangers will not pass through it any more. Well, Jerusalem has never been holy, in fact, quite the opposite throughout history and even today. Strangers have and continue to pass through it. Therefore, I believe this is referring to the Church and the New Jerusalem described in Revelation. Then, and only then, is “Jerusalem” holy and no unsaved soul will be able to pass through it. In verse 19, it says Egypt will become a waste land as well as Edom. These countries have always represented evil worldliness in Scripture, so I think it is a general statement saying that all evil and former worldliness will be obliterated. Verse 20 further supports this contextual, futuristic view by revealing that “Judah” and “Jerusalem” will be inhabited forever for all generations.  This may mean that these physical places will be remade for eternity.  “All generations” may be referring to all people from all the past generations rather than future generations (I don’t think there will be future generations in the afterlife).