There are some prophetic passages in the bible which have the power to stir faith and prayer, and the long lasting impact to touch every generation of God’s people. God speaks words of promise and challenge that resonate deeply and unveil visions of the future. Joel 2vv28-32 is one of those:
28 “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, even among the survivors
whom the Lord calls.
I believe the power of this prophecy lies in it being an eschatological passage – it refers to the end times. The terms ‘afterwards’, ‘in those days’, the ‘Day of the Lord’, refer to the day of Yahweh, the future time when God steps in with the power of his kingdom. Although christians all know this refers initially to the Day of Pentecost, many believe this passage has been only partially fulfilled – this prophecy also speaks of a future time. In fact, I believe the end of Joel 2 is a prophecy which bookends the life of the church age. It is most relevant for the early church and for the end time church.
This is not surprising for, as in much OT prophecy, there are different peaks of fulfilment. Like looking at distant hills – you have the foothills and much further off the mountain peaks. The early church was the initial foothills fulfilment (Acts 2 was quoted by Peter in his first sermon) but there remains a fuller mountain peak fulfilment just before Jesus comes back.
In fact a bible commentator says about this passage: ‘Pentecost triggers a series of powerful events which begin the the birth of the church, expand in its world-wide mission.. and move on step by step to God’s final judgment of his enemies and his vindication of those who truly trust him.’ (D.A.Hubbard, Tynedale commentary).
It is because of this ‘distant hills’ sense of Joel 2 that cause this to be a powerful future prophetic word for the end times, and very relevant for us as Jesus’ return draws closer. What is in this prophecy that helps us to see ahead?
Joel speaks about times of future glory (v28,29&32), and a longed for sign for his people Israel – the giving of his Spirit. Joel describes what he sees coming: global outpourings of the Spirit, a prophetic witnessing generation of church, his people experiencing great revelation and knowledge of the things of God, and living with great anointing, and about a great harvest of people coming to faith in turbulent times. The glory of God – his manifest presence – displayed through the early church will again mark the church in the end times as they live so vibrantly the exuberant life of the Spirit.
A measure of the anointing of the Spirit has always marked the life of the church in last 2000 years to a smaller degree; I believe this prophecy also refers to the last and greatest fulfilment of what the outpouring of the Spirit could be like. Is this beginning to happen? Do you know that in parts of Asia and Africa – China, India, Nigeria, are experiencing waves of revival, rapid church planting and turning to faith in midst of persecution right now? Do you know that across the Middle East the greatest ever turning of Moslems to Christ is happening right now? Do you know that in Israel and amongst the worldwide Jewish community, the number of Jews finding their Messiah is at an unprecedented level right now? Do you know that the various mission agencies are working towards completing the great commission of reaching every people group with the gospel in this generation right now? Do you know that in parts of Europe God is stirring student and young adult groups in an extraordinary hunger for and encounters with God right now?
Joel also speaks about shaking (v30-31). He describes wonders and signs of shaking – blood, fire and smoke. There is a shaking of things in heaven and on earth. As the giving of the Spirit was a sign for Israel, ‘wonders’ (like the plagues in Egypt at the time of Moses – Exodus 4:21; Exodus 7:9) are a warning sign to the nations. These are portents, extraordinary phenomena—natural, or supernatural, as the case might be— which arrest attention.
Joel prophesises a shaking of the natural world – wars (blood), disasters & troubles (fire), and devastation or shaking of aspects of society (billows of smoke of ruined cities). He foresees great anxiety about the constant things in which we trust – a darkening of the sun and moon in the midst of these tribulations – and an uncertainty of the times in which we live. All this precedes the coming of the day of the Lord.
Global shaking has been intensifying in recent years. Even as I write, the first month of 2020 has caused much concern in the news. The unprecedented fires in South East Australia, the confrontation between the USA and Iran, the outbreak of the coronavirus, the fresh rise in jihadist terror attacks, the doomsday clock turning the closest it ever has towards midnight – all in the first month of a new decade. These things will increase the close we get to Jesus’ return.
We don’t know why God will allow such shaking in future years. But Jesus told the parable of the wheat and weeds; that both would grow together until the harvest at the end of the age (Matthew 13v30). The light will get brighter and the darkness darker and when both are at their peak, during the great tribulation, then we will find ourselves in the time frame called the Day of the Lord as described by Joel. The stage is then set for the biblical climax long prophesied, a time for Jesus to return, come for his redeemed people, to restore devastated planet earth, and bring in the age to come.
Can you see why the end of Joel 2 is such a powerful prophetic passage of scripture? Hugely relevant, challenging and exciting in equal measure, I would encourage you to blow the dust of this Old Testament prophecy and pray it through. See what God shows you and helps prepare you for in the days we are coming into.
God bless you.