THE DAY OF THE LORD: Judgment of The Nations Part Six
The struggles and sufferings of Israel are well documented from Egyptian slavery to the Roman destruction of Jerusalem. Like an echo, the Diaspora Jew would face nineteen more centuries of anguish as the shadow of persecution dogged their every footstep throughout the world. They would experience the fire of the Spanish Inquisition, the stench of Vienna’s ghetto, the poverty of Poland’s peasantry, the sword of Russian Pogroms, and the horrible heel of Nazi annihilation.
Arising from the ashes of despair comes the cry, Where was God in defense of His people? He was there, not taken by surprise at the cruelty perpetrated against His chosen, but silently waiting for the fulfillment of His Word predicted centuries earlier, for Moses had predicted in the Law that Israel’s disobedience would produce God’s discipline (Lev. 26; Dt. 4:25-31; 28:15-68).
Sad to say, the discipline is not finished. Israel is yet to face her greatest holocaust known as “Jacob’s trouble,” (Jer. 30:7), a time of unprecedented persecution when, once again the nations of the world will converge upon Israel (Zech. 14:2).
Is there any justice? Will the Jew be vindicated for the many centuries of suffering? Yes, Scripture is clear, the nations will pay for their dastardly deeds against this downtrodden people!
In chapter three the reader is ushered into Messiah’s courtroom to witness the execution of His judgment upon the Gentiles for their treatment of Israel. Joel, like many prophets, does not always follow the chronological order of prophetic events, but presents the judgment of the nations (w. 1-8) before the battle of Armageddon (w. 9-17). Why? Because the Gentiles’ horrible treatment of Israel through the centuries is the purpose for His judgment on them.
PLACE OF JUDGMENT (vv. 1-2)
Joel introduces chapter three with the words, “For, behold” (v. 1), drawing the reader’s attention to what is about to unfold as he explains in detail the action taken by the Lord at His return to set up the Kingdom. First, God will “. . . bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem” (v. 1), or, more literally, “cause their captivity and persecution to cease.” Not only does He cause their captivity to cease, but He will regather the Diaspora Jew back to the land so the twelve tribes can be one people in the land (Jer. 23:1-8; Ezek. 37:15-22).
God will not only gather Israel to the land, but He will “,… gather all nations.. .into the Valley of Jehoshaphat” (v. 2) for the purpose of judgment.
Where is the Valley of Jehoshaphat? Some say it is the “Beracah Valley,” so named because Jehoshaphat defeated the Moabites and Ammonites in this area, gaming a great victory (2 Chr. 20:20-28). But this valley is not in the proper location for the judgment of the Lord. Others believe Jehoshaphat’s valley is located between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives which has been called the Kidron Valley since the fourth century (named after a small river which runs through it during the rainy season). Since the Mount of Olives will be split forming a massive valley before Jerusalem (Zech, 14:4), this is probably the place where Christ will judge the nations. Because Jehoshaphat means “Jehovah judges,”’ the valley has taken on this name; thus, a play on words, God’s judgment takes place in the valley of God, the Judge.
What judgment is this? This is when God judges the Gentile nations who have survived the Great Tribulation (Mt 25:31-46) and takes place on earth after the Second Coming of the Lord. One should not confuse this with the Great White Throne Judgment which takes place after the Millennial Kingdom.
What is meant by judgment of the nations? The word nation (Gr., ethnos) refers to the judgment of individual Gentiles within the country, not the judgment of whole nations. The following reasons bear this out. First, the message of salvation presented in the Tribulation calls for an individual acceptance, not a national one. Second, there is no record in Scripture that whole Gentile nations accept the preaching of 144,000 Jewish witnesses. Third, in all the judgments presented in Scripture it is the individual, not the nation, who is judged. Fourth, the parables on judgment presented by Christ (Mt. 13:30, 47-50) are on individuals. Fifth, the term nation is used in other portions of the New Testament with reference to individuals (Mfc 6:31-32; 12:21; 20:19; 28:19; Acts 11:18; 15:3; 26:20).
PEOPLE TO BE JUDGED (vv. 4-6)
Although God judges all nations equally, the Phoenicians (Tyre and Sidon) and Philistines (v. 4) are set forth as examples because of their harsh treatment against Israel.
Lands belonging to the Phoenicians and Philistines were given to Israel as an inheritance by God (Josh. 13:1-7). Israel was to drive these people from the land but failed to do so in obedience to God’s command (Jud. 1:21-36). Thus, both peoples became a thorn in Israel’s side for centuries (Jud. 2:1-6). The Philistines were fierce enemies of Israel from Samson’s day until the middle of David’s reign and still warred against Israel until the days of Joel.
The last recorded invasion by the Philistines was against King Jehoram and his family resulting in their plunder and destruction; only Jehoahaz, the youngest son of Jehoram, survived (2 Chr. 21:16-17).
The Philistines deserve strong judgment not only for destroying King Jehoram and his family but for taking their treasures. Notice, God says they did not take Jehoram’s treasures, but”… ye have taken my silver and my gold, and . . , my precious things” (v. 5; cp. Hos. 2:8; Hag, 2:8).
What Judah owns, God owns! They have doubly insulted God. Not only did they carry away His possessions, but they had dedicated these treasures to their lifeless idols in worship (v. 5).
Next, God judges the Phoenicians and Philistines for selling the children of Judah into slavery (v. 6). The Phoenicians were noted men stealers who trafficked heavily in the slave trade with Greece, Tubal, and Meshech (Ezek. 27:13). Such acts were forbidden by a “brotherly covenant” (Amos 1:6, 9) made between Solomon and Tyre’s King Hiram.
Greeks sold young men and women from their country to Egypt and Persia. At its zenith, Greece had acquired some 1,330,000 slaves. It has been said that 10,000 slaves per day were sold at Delos.
By removing Jews “far from their border” (v. 6), the Philistines weakened Judah which eventually resulted in their victory over the land.
God’s attitude toward Phoenicia and the Philistines is harsh. He asked them two questions in verse four. First, ,”.. . what have ye to do with me .,. ?” (literally, What are ye to me?) . He is saying, What have we in common? The answer is, Nothing! Second, “Will ye render me a recompense?” That is, do they not realize that by injuring His people they injure Him. God will retaliate “swiftly and speedily” (v. 4) with the same treatment poured out upon the heads of Judah’s enemies. History is replete with incidents of how swiftly God will judge those who touch the Jew. After the Tribulation God will bring swift judgment upon Israel’s enemies.
PURPOSE FOR JUDGMENT (VV. 2-3)
God will judge the Gentile nations for the way they have treated the Jew, His “people and . . . heritage” (v. 2). First, they “scattered [them] among the nations” (v. 2) . Although the Assyrians and Babylonians did not scatter the nation of Israel, they devastated the people. Assyria destroyed the ten tribes of Israel in 722 B.C. and the Babylonians leveled Judah in 586 B.C. It was not until the Romans destroyed Jerusalem (A.D. 70) that the Jew was scattered across the earth to suffer as no other people in human history.
Second, not only did the nations scatter the people, but God says, they “parted my land” (v. 2). For nineteen centuries the land was downtrodden, divided, and desolate, being occupied during this period by some fourteen various powers at one time or another.
BY WHAT STANDARD WILL THE GENTILES BE JUDGED?.
Third, the Gentiles will be judged for selling the sons and daughters of Judah into slavery (vv. 3, 6). A boy was given into slavery as payment for one night with a prostitute, and a girl turned over for a meager bottle of wine (v. 3). After destroying Jerusalem the Romans disposed of Jews in the following way. The tallest and most beautiful were chosen out, marched back to Rome, and then paraded before the people in triumph. Those above seventeen years of age were sold into Egyptian slavery to work in the mines. Those under seventeen were simply sold among the nations to the highest bidder. The slave markets were so glutted with Jewish slaves that enough buyers were not found.
Israel will once again feel the iron heel of Gentile hatred and persecution during the Tribulation, The Antichrist will turn on the Jew, break the covenant of peace made with him (Dan. 9:27), and kill all who will not worship him as God (Mt. 24:15-22; Rev. 12:13-17; 13:15). With the Tribulation drawing to a close, the nations of the world converge upon Israel to do battle, resulting in two-thirds of the Jewish population being killed (Zech. 13:8) and one-half of Jerusalem taken captive (Zech. 14:2).
Christ will judge the nations at His return on the basis of how they treated “his brethren” (Mt. 25:40). Who are the brethren mentioned in Matthew 25? It cannot be the Church, for it was raptured before the Tribulation began. It must be on how they treated “his brethren,” the Jew.
By what standard will the Gentiles be judged? It seems as if they are judged according to their works (Mt. 25:42-45), and not on whether they have salvation. But this is not the case. Man is never saved by works but on his acceptance of Jesus Christ. The ones judged are described as being cursed, having their destiny sealed to the lake of fire (Mt. 25:41, 46). A second group described as “righteous” (Mt. 25:27) helped the suffering Jewish remnant during the Tribulation by feeding, clothing, housing, and visiting imprisoned Jewish brethren (Mt. 25:35-40).
The Gentiles are considered righteous or cursed on the basis of whether they received or rejected the gospel of the Kingdom (Mt. 24:14). In accepting the message they would have received the messengers as well. Thus, they show their faith by feeding, clothing, housing, and visiting the Jewish brethren imprisoned for their faith. Rahab is a classic illustration of how one shows faith in the God of Israel by helping the Jewish spies escape from Jericho (Josh. 2; Heb. 11:31). When God judges the Gentiles, all He need examine is the person’s treatment of Jewish believers to know whether the individual has accepted Christ.
PROCLAMATION OF JUDGMENT (vv. 7-8)
Joel declares that God will bring retribution on Phoenicia and the Philistines for their harsh treatment toward the Jews.
Tyre’s destruction is graphically predicted by Ezekiel (Ezek. 26-28). Although it would take Nebuchadnezzar thirteen years (585-572) to besiege Tyre, he completely destroyed and enslaved this people (Ezek. 26:7-14).
A remnant of Tyre escaped to a small island off shore and there they rebuilt their city. For two hundred and forty years they thrived until Alexander the Great laid siege to the island city. He tried for seven months to conquer the impregnable city and finally succeeded after building a causeway to it from ruins off the mainland in 332 B.C. Although Ezekiel’s prophecy was literally fulfilled (Ezek. 27:32), Tyre was rebuilt (Mt. 15:21-28; Acts 21:3-6) only to be destroyed by the Moslems in A.D. 1291. Today the area is inhabited by a few thousand people, but the city remains in ruins as prophesied (Ezek. 26:14). Sidon, the sister city (Ezek. 28:21-28), and the Philistines (Isa. 14:28-31; Ezek. 25:15-17) suffered the same fate at Tyre.
Joel prophesied that these people would be sold to Israel, who in turn sold them to the Sabeans (w. 7-8), a people in southwest Arabia (Jer. 6:20; Ezek. 27:22; 38:13). God used the Greek (Alexander the Great), to whom Tyre sold Jewish slaves, to destroy and sell them into slavery.
The same fate that befell the Phoenicians and Philistines will come upon all nations when God judges them in Jehoshaphat’s Valley, Two destinies are described in Matthew 25 for those who survive the Tribulation. The “righteous,” designated as sheep, are put on the Lord’s right hand to enter into the Kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world (Mt 25:33-34). But the “unrighteous,” those designated as goats, are put on the left hand, judged, and consigned to the “… everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mt. 25:33, 41).
God said about Judah, “. .. for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye” (Zech. 2:8). The term apple of his eye is used to speak of the aperture (literally, the gate) of the eye, known as the pupil. When an individual looks into the eye of another, he sees a reflected image of himself from the person’s pupil. Israel is the little man reflected from the pupil of God’s eye. The Jew is so precious to God that He protects him as He would His own eye. When the Jew is afflicted, God feels it as if it happened to Him.
America has experienced unprecedented peace, power, and prosperity because it has allowed the Jew to coexist on its shores in peace. Pray that this nation continues to have a heartbeat for Israel as she struggles against the suppressing aggressors who desire to snuff out her life. If the nation’s attitude is less toward the Jew, it will see reflected back from God’s eye the ugly image of its own prejudice and God’s divine displeasure.
Let us all purpose to treat Israel, “the apple of God’s eye,” with respect and love. Remember the eternal principle given in an unconditional covenant to Abraham, “And I will bless them that bless thee [the Jew], and curse him that curseth thee [the Jew]: and in thee [the Jew] shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:3). Both secular and biblical history have proven this to be true for some 4,000 years.