THE DAY OF THE LORD: The Return of The Messiah Part FiveJoel 2:28-32
The cry of this age is peace, peace, peace! Men are looking for peace and security. They want job security, health security. and life security — a time when war will cease and universal peace will prevail forever.
God has promised a golden age of peace, a time when war, famine, flood, and disease will cease. This age is called the Millennium by theologians. The term Millennium is not found in the Bible, but comes from two Latin words, “mille” (thousand), and “annum” (year), having reference to the thousand-year reign of Christ. His reign is clearly taught in Scripture, “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection… they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years” (Rev. 20:6).
With a sweep of the pen Joel transports the reader to the time of Christ’s second coming, and enumerates many of the spiritual blessings to be experienced by all believers. But how does the reader know this passage projects him into the kingdom age? First, Joel indicates it with the words, “it shall come to pass afterward” (v. 28).
Afterward refers to the time of the Millennium. This is beautifully illustrated in Hosea 3:1-5. Hosea mentions Israel’s past (w. 1—2); her present (w. 3-4); and links the kingdom age to what has been mentioned before by using the word “afterward” (v. 5). Second, the spiritual events of this section transcend Joel’s day and will only be fulfilled during the second advent of Christ.
In the Hebrew Bible, verses 28-32 comprise a separate chapter (Joel 3) which describes three great spiritual experiences to be enjoyed by Israel: the coming of the Lord; salvation to the nation; and the permanent indwelling and filling of the Holy Spirit.
Signs Before Invasion (vv. 30-31)
Joel mentions that the Lord’s coming will be preceded by certain signs, “And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth” (v. 30). The wonders in the earth are blood, fire, and smoke (v. 30). How is one to interpret such an awesome sight painted by Joel?
The wonders in earth are a manifestation of God’s judgment on ungodly men at the pouring out of the seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments. First, blood is profusely poured out during the Tribulation. When the fourth seal judgment is opened, one fourth of the world’s population is killed (Rev. 6:8). The trumpet judgment will destroy a third of both sea and human life (Rev. 8:9; 9:15). During the bowl judgments the remaining sea will become like the blood of a dead man causing the demise of all sea creatures (Rev. 16:3). At the campaign of Armageddon blood will reach to the horse bridles for a distance of 200 miles in circumference (Rev. 14:20).
Second, fire will devastate the earth in the Tribulation. During the trumpet judgment a censer of fire is flung to earth burning a third of all vegetation (Rev. 8:5, 7; cp. 8:8, 10). The fourth bowl judgment produces an unbearable scorching of men with fire (Rev. 16:8).
Third, fire produces smoke which is mentioned in many of the judgments. The most graphic picture of smoke is described with the fifth trumpet judgment. When the bottomless pit was opened, out emerged smoke so dense that it darkened the atmosphere blotting out the light of day (Rev. 9:2). Emerging from the smoke came an unspeakable judgment of demonic spirits possessing a strange body which will be used to torment the unsaved on earth (Rev. 9:5-10).
The wonders in heaven will affect both the sun and moon (v. 31). Jesus predicted that there would be signs in the heavens just prior to His return; both sun and moon would be darkened and the stars will fall from Heaven (Mt 24:29).
Today there is much confusion over the second coming of Christ. Many call the Rapture of the Church the second coming, but it is not! The Rapture takes place seven years prior to the second coming, when the dead and alive in Christ rise to meet Him in the air (1 Th, 4:13-17).
The second coming may be defined as the visible return of Christ in brilliant glory (with angels and the Church) at the end of the Tribulation to reign on earth for a thousand years. There are 333 prophecies which speak of Christ’s coming; only 109 mention the first advent, but twice as many (224) tell of His second coming.
Christ’s second coming is a major theme, not only in the Old Testament, but in the New Testament as well. Four key words are used in the New Testament to describe His coming. The Lord’s return is called a coming (Gr., Erchomai). Although Christ had to leave His disciples, He promised to “come again and receive them unto Himself (Jn. 14:3). His coming would be sudden (Mt. 24:39, 42-44, 48, 50), with power and great glory at the end of the Tribulation (Mt. 24:29-30).
Christ’s return is called a revelation (Gr., Apokalupsis), or an unveiling. His presence will be suddenly unveiled as the clouds part and He descends from Heaven to take vengeance upon the enemies of Israel (2 Th. 1:7~8, 10).
Scripture presents Christ’s return as a manifestation or an appearing (Gr., Epiphaneia), more literally, a shining forth. The word was used in the Grecian-Roman period of the first century to describe the appearance of their gods to men, or the sudden appearance of an enemy arrayed in battle dress. It describes Chris’s coming (2 Tim. 1;10) as a sudden “appearing” (Ti. 2:13) with great power and “brightness” (2 Th. 2:8) to destroy His enemies.
Last, Christ’s coming is mentioned as a presence (Gr., parousia). The word is used in reference to the arrival of a king on his royal visit. Again, His presence (translated coming) will be a sudden, unexpected arrival (Mt. 24: 37-39), as the KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS (Rev. 19:16) to be the ruler of earth.
For what purpose does He return? He comes back to defeat Israel’s enemies (Zech. 14:12-13; Rev. 19:19-21); liberate the world from Satan’s control (2 Th. 2:&-9); bring salvation to the Jewish people (Rom. 11:26); judge the nations and give the kingdom to the redeemed of all ages (Mt. 25:31-46); set up a kingdom of peace on earth centered in Israel (Mic, 4:3-5); and deliver all of creation from the curse brought on through man’s sin (Rom. 8:19-22).
Salvation For Israel (v. 32)
Knowing the horrors of the Great Tribulation, will any escape the terrible day of the Lord? Yes, a “remnant whom the Lord shall call” (v. 32) will be saved to enter the kingdom. Notice, only a remnant out of the thousands shall be saved. Zechariah states that two thirds of the Jewish population will be killed during the Tribulation. The one third that survives is the remnant who call upon the Lord (Zech. 13:8-9). The spared remnant are Jewish people “who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 12:17). God will supernaturally provide a place of protection for them in the wilderness during the last three and one-half years of the Tribulation (Rev. 12:16). Before Israel went into the land of Canaan, Moses predicted that a remnant who called on the Lord would be saved during the Tribulation (Dt. 4:3031). So complete is every detail of God’s prophetic Word!
How will salvation come to this remnant? After the Lord destroys the armies who converge upon Jerusalem, He sets His feet upon the Mount of Olives which will immediately split apart forming a massive valley before the East Gate of Jerusalem (Zech. 14:4). Upon Christ’s arrival the Jewish people, who have had a veil over their eyes for centuries (2 Cor. 3:14—16), will have it lifted to see that He is the true Messiah. Repentance takes place as never before in Israel. Zechariah writes, “… and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn” (Zech. 12:10). This is a fulfillment of Paul’s prophecy, “ … all Israel shall be saved; as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (Rom. 11:26). Upon repentance, God takes away the sin of His people (Ezek. 36: 25; 37:23) by means of Jesus’ blood, which is the fountain for their cleansing (Zech. 13:1), and brings to fruition the provisions prophesied in the New Covenant centuries ago (Ezek. 36:2627; Jer. 31:31-34).
For centuries Jewish people have been buried on the Mount of Olives facing the Temple mount in hope that they would be resurrected to enter Jerusalem with the Messiah. Sad to say, this will not be their destiny unless they received Jesus as Messiah in this life.
The Spirit’s Indwelling (vv. 28-29)
Zechariah said that the Spirit of God will be poured out on the house of David and Jerusalem (Zech. 12:10) at Christ’s return. Joel, being more inclusive, states that the Holy Spirit will be poured out on “all flesh” (v. 28). The interpretation of these verses has been debated for centuries, since Peter used them during his first sermon to the Jewish people gathered for the Feast of Pentecost.
The question is asked, were these verses fulfilled completely, partly, or not at all on the day of Pentecost? Today the following positions are held by Bible scholars concerning the interpretation of Acts 2:16-21:
Historical View Joel’s prophecy was fulfilled during the writing of his book.
Fulfillment View Joel’s prophecy was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost.
Typical View Joel’s prophecy was fulfilled in type on the day of Pentecost, but awaits greater fulfillment during the Millennium.
Perpetual View Joel’s prophecy was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost and will continue to be fulfilled through the Church age and the Millennium.
Eschatological View Joel’s prophecy was not fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, nor in the Church age, but awaits fulfillment at the second coming of Christ.
Many believers teach view number four, the perpetual fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy from the day of Pentecost onward. They reason, did not Peter say, “But this is that which was spoken through the prophet Joel (Acts 2:16), thus a fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy! But is Peter saying that Joel’s prophecy was fulfilled at Pentecost? A closer examination of Peter’s exact words will indicate that he did not say Joel’s prophecy was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. In fact, he never used the word “fulfilled”’ or any other synonym to suggest fulfillment.
Then what is Peter saying? The context shows that some Jews were mocking the apostles (who had spoken to the people in their own languages),,supposing that they were drunk at nine o’clock in the morning (Acts 2:1-15). In order to counter the Jewish mockers, Peter says, “this is that” (Acts 2:16), or in essence, stop your mocking for this is similar to what Joel said would happen when God pours His Spirit on all flesh prior to the establishment of the kingdom age. If this were a fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy, Peter would have said, “this is a fulfillment.” Although many Christians believe Acts 2:16-21 is a fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy, Peter is cautious to omit the word fulfillment.
There is a second reason why Joel’s prophecy was not fulfilled at Pentecost. Joel said God would pour His Spirit out on “all flesh” (v, 28). At Pentecost God did not pour His Spirit on all flesh, but on a select group of people, and likewise today. God will not pour out His Spirit on all flesh until the kingdom age.
Another reason why Joel’s prophecy was not fulfilled on the day of Pentecost is clearly seen in Acts 2:17-21. Peter went on to quote, “And I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath: blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come” (Acts 2:19-20; cp. Joel 2:30-31). All who know what happened on the day of Pentecost will agree that these prophecies were not fulfilled. Scripture very distinctly presents that these prophecies are to be fulfilled in “the great and the terrible day of the Lord” (v. 31) at the end of the Tribulation period.
The Holy Spirit will be manifested in all His fullness during the Millennial Kingdom, much greater than during any period in history. It will be the Spirit’s ministry to restrain sin. There will be no spiritual conflict since demonic activity is nonexistent, for Satan is bound in the bottomless pit (Rev. 20:1-3), and Christ is suppressing evil by ruling with a rod of iron (Rev. 19:15). True, there will be people born during the kingdom age with a sinful nature, who will try to manifest their wickedness (Isa. 65:20), but the Holy Spirit will restrain them.
It will be the Spirit’s ministry to convict people of their need for salvation. Though freed from the oppressive domination of Satanic power, men will still need to receive Christ. Those born during the kingdom age will be led to Christ by the Holy Spirit like their parents before them (Ezek. 36:25-31; Jer. 31:31-34; Zech. 14:16; Isa. 60:3-12).
It will be the Spirit’s ministry to completely control every aspect of the saint’s life during the Millennium. The Lord says, “And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep mine ordinances, and do them” (Ezek. 36:27). No longer will the believer quench or grieve the Holy Spirit as in the Church age, but spiritual unity, as well as the fruit of the Spirit, will be perfectly manifested in every aspect of the believer’s life and fellowship. This will produce a righteous life, inner joy, and peace, which flows out in worship and praise to the Lord.
It will be the Spirit’s ministry to rest upon the Savior in His sevenfold fullness. The Spirit gives Christ quick understanding with which to righteously judge and rule upon the earth (Isa. 11:25).
John W. Peterson picked up the expectant joy that awaits every believer who is anticipating the soon return of the Lord when he wrote, “Maybe morning, maybe noon, maybe evening and maybe soon!… O what a wonderful day it will be — Jesus is coming again! Yes, Jesus is coming again for those who know Him, and what a day of rejoicing it will be. But He comes in judgment for those who are lost. The first phrase of this hymn, “Marvelous message we bring,” summons every Christian to a responsibility for heralding the warning to those who are lost, for the only guarantee man has for peace and security in this life and the one to come is salvation in Christ! “Coming again, coming again . . . maybe soon.” Let us be about the Father’s business.