THE DAY OF THE LORD: The Millennium Part EightJoel 3:18-21
Towering some fifty-eight feet high is the beige limestone Wailing Wall. Standing at the wall is the stooped, five foot figure of an Orthodox Jew. Daily he comes to pray: head covered, shoulders draped in a tallith, and prayer book in hand. In Hebrew he offers a mumbled prayer for Messiah to come, bring peace to Israel, and rebuild the Temple on its historical site. Hundreds of his fellow-countrymen come with the same request, written on a small piece of wadded paper, which they will stick into the crevices of the massive stone wall, hoping that the Lord will take action on their prayers.
The Jew, who has known nothing but war or the threat of it for three thousand years, longs for peace. Yet, deep in his heart, he senses that lasting peace will not come to Israel until Messiah, “The Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6), brings it.
With broad strokes, Joel pens an outline of the peace and blessing which Israel is to experience when Messiah sets up the Millennial Kingdom.
RESTORATION OF THE LAND (v. 18)
God gave the land of Canaan to Israel as an everlasting possession in an unconditional, eternal covenant, known as the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 17:7,13,19). The land promised to Israel during the Millennium will stretch from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates River (Gen. 15:18). When the Messiah returns He will redivide the land among the redeemed of Israel (Ezek. 48:1-7, 23-27), with a thirty-four square mile middle section set aside for the priests, Levites, Temple, and Prince (Ezek. 48:8-22).
Many topographical changes will take place in the land during this time. When the Lord sets His feet on the Mount of Olives, it will cleave apart forming a huge valley east of Jerusalem (Zech. 14:4-5). The land will be transformed like the “Arabah” (Zech. 14:10), which is a geographical name for the rift that reaches from the Sea of Galilee through the Jordan Valley to the Dead Sea, an area ranging from 650-1,300 feet below sea level. Zechariah uses the comparison to show how the land will be depressed into a great plain, stretching “from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem” (Zech. 14:10), the area originally given to Judah, Simeon, and Benjamin. Jerusalem will be elevated and enlarged to give it an exalted position, since it is to become the geographical center of God’s program. There Messiah will place the Millennial Temple and His throne (Jer. 3:17; Ezek. 43:7).
The “house of the Lord” (v. 18) has a perennial river flowing from it which will water the “Valley of Shittim” (v. 18), before emptying into the Mediterranean and Dead Seas (Zech. 14:8). The “Valley of Shittim” is a barren area of Jordan just above the Dead Sea. It is the last place Israel camped, east of Jordan, before entering into the land of Canaan (Num. 25:1; Josh. 3:1). The river will water the Judean wilderness (Isa. 35:6), with the help of heavy rainfall (Isa. 30:23; Ezek. 34:26), causing the desolate land and the solitary place to “blossom like the rose” (Isa. 35:1). The desert shall bloom forth in dense foliage like Lebanon, Mount Carmel, and the coastal plains of Sharon (Isa. 35:2).
Joel describes the land in figurative language as flowing with “new wine” and “milk” (v. 18), symbolic of tremendous growth and productivity during the Millennium. The climatic conditions will produce an abundance of food, so that the plowman will overtake the reaper (Dt. 30:9; Isa. 30:23-24; Amos 9:13).
The animal kingdom shall be at peace (Isa. 11:6-9) and every creature changed when the curse is lifted from the earth, except for the serpent who beguiled Eve in the garden (Gen. 3:14; Isa. 65:25).
REIGN OF THE LORD (v. 21)
The Lord will dwell in Zion upon His return to the earth (v. 21; cp. Ps. 2:6) and rule, seated upon David’s throne (2 Sam. 7:16; Isa. 9:7; Lk. 1:32-33). His reign will be characterized in a number of ways. First, it will be global, for the Father gives Him the nations for His inheritance and the “uttermost parts of the earth for [His] possession” (Ps. 2:8). Second, His rule will be absolute in authority and power, for He shall rule over the nations “with a rod of iron” (Rev. 12:5; 19:15); yet He shall show mercy (Isa. 54:7-10). Third, He will be a righteous and just ruler (Isa. 11:3-4), for He rules with truth (Isa. 25:1) and holiness (Ezek. 36:20-23). Fourth, universal peace will redound throughout the earth (Isa. 2:3-4), especially in Jerusalem (Isa. 65:18-19); for God pours out His peace in a double portion of joy (Isa. 63:7), giving the “oil of joy for mourning” and “the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” (Isa. 61:3).
RESIDENTS OF THE LAND (v. 20)
When the Lord reigns He will pour out His Spirit upon the house of David and Jerusalem, at which time all Israel will be saved (Zech. 12:10; Rom. 11:26). The curse of rejection, which has been on the lips of Israel through the centuries, is replaced with the cry of reception as they repent of their sins and are declared righteous in Christ (Ezek. 36:25-26; 37:23).
The Lord will bring about a spiritual reunion of the twelve tribes from among the nations of the world and forge them into one people in the land (Ezek. 37:15-22) for the first time in three thousand years.
There are four groups of people who enter into the Millennium, three in their glorified bodies, and one in their natural bodies. Those who enter in their glorified bodies are the Old Testament believers, the Church, and the Tribulation believers who have been martyred for their faith. The righteous who survive the Tribulation enter in with their natural bodies to procreate and repopulate the earth, especially the Jewish people (Jer. 30:19-20).
Only the righteous enter into the Kingdom at its inception, for the Lord will judge the nations putting the righteous (sheep) on His right hand and giving them the kingdom prepared before the foundation of the world (Mt. 25:33-34). The unrighteous (goats) are put on His left hand, done away with, and their destiny is sealed to the “everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mt. 25:33, 41).
Those entering the Kingdom in their natural bodies who are blind, deaf, lame, and dumb will be immediately healed (Isa. 35:5-6). Most will be blessed with longevity of life since they are free from illness (Isa. 33:24). If one dies at a hundred years of age, it will be as if he had died in childhood (Isa. 65:20).
The offspring of the righteous will have to accept the Lord as their parents did before them; many will, but some will not. Near the end of the Kingdom, Satan, who has been bound in the bottomless pit, is loosed for a little season and tries to overthrow the Lord’s rule through the unsaved, but God destroys them with fire out of Heaven (Rev. 20:8-9).
A new social order will emerge in Israel and throughout the world. Jew and Gentile will be able to build houses, plant fields, and reap the increase of their labor without fear of an aggressor taking it from them (Isa. 65:21-22).
RELIGION IN THE LAND
A fourth Temple will be erected in the Kingdom which is commonly called the Millennial Temple (Ezek. 40-42). The Shekinah glory, which departed in the day of Ezekiel (Ezek. 10:3-5, 18-19; 11:23), will again descend upon this Temple through the east gate (Ezek. 43:1-5) making it holy.
During the Millennium, worship will be reestablished on the Sabbath and animal sacrifice will be offered once again in the new Temple (Ezek. 46). Two questions arise concerning the animal sacrifices to be offered at this time. First, If the priesthood was destroyed in A.D. 70, from where do the priests come who will lead in worship and offer sacrifices? Israel will take men from the tribe of Levi by the name of Cohen and Levy to use in the Temple worship (Ezek. 44:9-31). The name Cohen (Heb., Kohen) means “priest,” and the name Levy (Heb., Levi) were those who served in the Temple along with the priests.
Many ask, Why will animal sacrifices be offered, since the Lord has once and for all entered into the holy place having obtained eternal redemption (Heb. 9:12) through His blood for mankind? The sacrifices cannot be efficacious, for the blood of bulls and goats could never take away sin but were only a covering for it (Heb. 10:4). It is reasonable to assume that these sacrifices are a memorial offering, similar to the Lord’s table, done in remembrance of Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross.
During this time the Jews are called “the Ministers of our God” (Isa. 61:6) and will function as spiritual leaders under the Lord’s direction. It will be their ministry to proclaim Messiah’s glory among the nations (Isa. 66:19-20). In that day, ten men out of every nation will grab hold of a Jew desiring to be taught about the Lord from him (Zech. 8:23).
The nations of the world are expected to make a yearly pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the purpose of worshipping the Lord and keeping the Feast of Tabernacles (Zech. 14:16). Those refusing to come will have rain withheld from them (Zech. 14:17). If the Egyptians come not up, they will suffer plagues (Zech. 14:18), since they depend on the annual overflow of the Nile River to water their crops, rather than rain.
Like Israel, the Church has been made a kingdom of priests (Rev. 1:6) and given authority to reign with the Lord, most likely serving Him among the nations (Rev. 2:26-27). Scripture seems to indicate that Christians who are given leadership in the Kingdom will rule and reign over Gentile cities (Lk. 19:17-19), while the apostles are to be seated on thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel (Mt. 19:28; Lk. 22:28-30).
In the Kingdom, God will answer the prayers of Jewish people and others, before they ask in some cases, and in other instances while the request is being made (Isa. 65:24).
REVENGE ON OTHER LANDS (vv. 19, 21)
God has promised to avenge Judah for the injustice suffered at the hands of the Egyptians and the Edomites (vv. 19, 21).
From the inception of Jacob’s descent into Goshen (Gen. 46:1-27) until the present day, Egypt has cast a long shadow over Israel’s history through entangled treaties and military ventures. Whenever Israel leaned on Egypt for help, she proved to be a cracked staff, providing little or no support (Ezek. 29:7).
The prophets of Judah continually predicted the fall of Egypt, because of her treatment of Israel (Isa. 19; Ezek. 29). Although she would rise from the dust of destruction, Egypt will remain a second-rate nation (Ezek. 29:14) until the Millennium.
Like an echo, history will be repeated, for Egypt will be downtrodden and subdued by the Antichrist during the Great Tribulation (Dan. 11:43). Egypt’s future looks bleak, but not all is doom and gloom, for she will experience restoration and great blessing in the Millennium. Five major Egyptian cities will speak the language of Canaan and be committed to the Lord of hosts (Isa. 19:18), which indicates that they have been converted.
An altar and pillar will be erected in Egypt (Isa. 19:19). The altar is for memorial sacrifices like the ones offered in the Millennial Temple; and the pillar will be a sign and witness that Egypt has put faith in the Lord.
A highway will extend from Assyria to Egypt, running through Israel. The highway will symbolize the new relationship that exists between these three nations. Egypt and Assyria, so often at war down through the centuries, will be forged into a spiritual alliance along with Israel (Isa. 19:23). Egypt will be called “my people,” a title limited to Israel until now, and Assyria is the “work” of God’s hands, while Israel is declared the “inheritance” of the Lord (Isa. 19:25). Even though desolation is predicted on Egypt, her resurrection and spiritual renewal are forthcoming.
Edom is the name of the land southeast of Judah where Esau and his descendants settled. It extends from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba, bordered on the west by the valley of Arabah, on the east by a large mountain range, and on the north by Moab. Edom is best known for the rose-colored city of Petra which was hewn from solid rock, tucked away for centuries in the center of the land. The city was situated in a direct line between Egypt and Babylon which became a major trade route called the King’s Highway. Petra was a natural stopping place for caravans traveling on the highway. Although Edom is a desolate, rugged, and almost inaccessible area, at one time it was a very cultivated area enjoying the “fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven” (Gen. 27:39; cp. Num. 20:17).
Esau’s bitter hatred for his brother Jacob was passed down through the centuries to the Edomites (Ex. 15:15; Num. 20:14ff; Ps. 83:6) who persecuted Israel.
Edom and Israel have been vicious enemies throughout the centuries. The conflict began when Edom would not allow Israel access to travel up the highway from Sinai to Kadesh-barnea (Num. 20:14-22). Later, Edom was defeated by Saul, David, and Joab who almost destroyed all the male population (1 Ki. 11:15-16). Jehoshaphat defeated them in the valley of Beracah (2 Chr. 20:22). Although Amaziah captured Petra (2 Ki. 14:7; 2 Chr. 25:11-12), Israel was never able to completely subdue Edom (2 Chr. 28:17).
When the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem, the Edomites took an aggressive part in plundering the city and killing the Jewish population (Ps. 137:7; Obad. 10-14). Because of Edom’s treatment toward Judah, the prophets pronounced horrible judgments which would befall her (Isa. 34:5-8; 63:1-4; Jer. 49:17; Lam. 4:21; Ezek. 25:13-14).
Today Edom is a desolate wilderness as Joel predicted. Once again Edom will face the hand of God’s wrath during the “day of the Lord” for their treatment of Israel (Obad. 15-21) and remain a “desolate wilderness” (v. 19) during the Millennium.
Joel has graphically portrayed that Israel has and will pay double (Jer. 16:18) for her sins during the “day of the Lord.” She will also become an astonishment, dumbfounding the nations who will stand in bewilderment at the unprecedented fall and calamities that come upon her after reaching such heights before God. Israel did become a byword, suffering from the most cutting sarcasm that could befall any nation down through the centuries, as nation after nation spewed out blasphemous verbiage about her. God allowed the Jew to become a proverb among the nations, using her as a public example and object lesson of how He will discipline those who continue to be disobedient toward His loving grace.
Yet, the “day of the Lord” is to be a time of blessing for Israel when God will answer the fervent prayers of so many who have wept at the Wailing Wall. The day will come when God says, ENOUGH! Once again He will speak tenderly to Jerusalem revealing that her warfare is accomplished, and her iniquity has been pardoned (Isa. 40:2). This will become a reality when the Lord comes the second time to set up the Kingdom.