The prophecy book written by Joel in the Old Testament is difficult to understand because it superimposes symbolic imagery of a locust swarm with an ancient army, and also with future prophecy about the end time—the Day of the LORD. The locust swarm probably symbolized the ancient Assyrian conquest which covered the land, reaching to Jerusalem before God miraculously intervened. The end time prophecies throughout the Bible show a similar chain of events, called the time of Jacob’s trouble, in which God will miraculously rescue Jerusalem by sending Messiah to reign as King. The rescue of Jerusalem in the end time will be as miraculous as the rescue of Jerusalem from the Assyrians.
The end-time prophecies as a whole reveal two “locust swarms” of battle in Israel. One corresponds to Ezekiel 38 and 39 on the mountains, and one corresponds to Revelation 16:13 and Armageddon. The valley of Jehoshaphat is the location where the armies have an opportunity to decide for or against evil, and where Messiah will judge them after the battle.
The Day of the LORD refers to the entire end time sequence of events, from approximately Seal 6 of Revelation 6:12-17 to the end of the book, where God brings a new heavens and earth into the picture. Joel 2:11 sets the stage for Seal 6 as the approximate beginning of The Day of the Lord, and Second Peter chapter 3 reveals that the Day of the LORD reaches to the new heaven’s and earth, Revelation 20:7-21:1. This means The Day of the LORD is a term for the end times, not a specific twenty-four hour day. The Day of the LORD covers most of the book of Revelation.
The first chapter of Joel describes the locust swarm. These swarms would often come in waves as new broods of locusts hatched from the previous swarm, and then would cover the land. The army of ancient times would be like a series of locust swarms, devouring everything in their path, swarming into houses, destroying crops. The Assyrian army was like that, with a scorched earth policy and the use of terrorism to force any survivors into submission. The history of ancient locust swarms gives us a sense of urgency about future prophecy applications.
Ezekiel 38 and 39 tell us that the future holds a similar threat for the mountains of Israel. The timeframe is similar to Seal 6 of Revelation, as seen in Ezekiel 38:18-23. This means that Joel and Ezekiel 35 through 39 are companion passages. Ezekiel 47 is a companion passage to Joel 3:18. Using these points of matching imagery, it is possible to place Joel’s prophecy into the end-time sequence of events.
The theme of Joel is “decide to seek God, because the Day of the LORD is near.” The theme applies to multitudes of individuals, this call toward a proper decision. It applies to everyone, elders, priests, adults, children, brides and bridegrooms, multitudes of warriors. It is of such important priority, it takes precedence over one’s wedding day! It is the most important decision of all.
We are all supposed to make these matters clear to our children, and our children to make them clear to our grandchildren, and our grandchildren to make them clear to our great grandchildren. We are supposed to make these concepts so clear that others can pass them on to each next generation.
Every generation has an appointment with The Day of the LORD. The back of the Bible applies to every one of us. Whether we live to see the end-time prophecies come true, or whether we die early, we will still meet the back of the Book. We have a rendezvous with eternity.
Hard times are coming. Be prepared. An invasion will eventually take place. Make the right decisions. The invasion is specific to Israel as a divided land, but the hard times apply to the whole world during The Day of the LORD. This book is for each of us, back then and there, and here and now. The invasion of Israel’s mountains means The Day of the LORD is near.
Ezekiel chapters 35 through 39 give more detail about the invasion. The nation of Israel will have been resurrected, as took place after World War 2. Joel 3:2 tells us the land has been divided, which is a likely treaty outcome, and which is quasi-true at present. Ezekiel 36 tells us the mountains have been taken over by people who bereave the nation of children, and God is filled with wrath over this issue of the death of innocents—and that is before the multi-national army even gets there. That is the setting for the first locust swarm.
Joel 1:1-20 (NASB77)
1 The word of the LORD that came to Joel, the son of Pethuel.
2 Hear this, O elders,
And listen, all inhabitants of the land.
Has anything like this happened in your days
Or in your fathers’ days? 3 Tell your sons about it,
And let your sons tell their sons,
And their sons the next generation.
4 What the gnawing locust has left, the swarming locust has eaten;
And what the swarming locust has left, the creeping locust has eaten;
And what the creeping locust has left, the stripping locust has eaten.
5 Awake, drunkards, and weep;
And wail, all you wine drinkers,
On account of the sweet wine
That is cut off from your mouth.
6 For a nation has invaded my land,
Mighty and without number;
Its teeth are the teeth of a lion,
And it has the fangs of a lioness.
7 It has made my vine a waste,
And my fig tree splinters.
It has stripped them bare and cast them away;
Their branches have become white.
8 Wail like a virgin girded with sackcloth
For the bridegroom of her youth.
9 The grain offering and the libation are cut off
From the house of the LORD.
The priests mourn,
The ministers of the LORD.
10 The field is ruined,
The land mourns,
For the grain is ruined,
The new wine dries up,
Fresh oil fails.
11Be ashamed, O farmers,
Wail, O vinedressers,
For the wheat and the barley;
Because the harvest of the field is destroyed.
12 The vine dries up,
And the fig tree fails;
The pomegranate, the palm also, and the apple tree,
All the trees of the field dry up.
Indeed, rejoicing dries up
From the sons of men.
13 Gird yourselves with sackcloth,
And lament, O priests;
Wail, O ministers of the altar!
Come, spend the night in sackcloth,
O ministers of my God,
For the grain offering and the libation
Are withheld from the house of your God.
14 Consecrate a fast,
Proclaim a solemn assembly;
Gather the elders
And all the inhabitants of the land
To the house of the LORD your God,
And cry out to the LORD.
15 Alas for the day!
For the day of the LORD is near,
And it will come as destruction from the Almighty.
16 Has not food been cut off before our eyes?
Gladness and joy from the house of our God?
17 The seeds shrivel under their clods;
The storehouses are desolate,
The barns are torn down,
For the grain is dried up. 1
8 How the beasts groan!
The herds of cattle wander aimlessly
Because there is no pasture for them;
Even the flocks of sheep suffer.
19 To Thee, O LORD, I cry;
For fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness,
And the flame has burned up all the trees of the field.
20 Even the beasts of the field pant for Thee;
For the water brooks are dried up,
And fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness.
Joel tells us the end-time temple has been built, probably also part of a treaty outcome. Revelation 11 gives us more information about that, with the understanding that the area around the temple is quite restricted. Joel 2:17 tells us the Israelis will have the area between the porch and the altar for prayer.
God calls all His people to prayer, for fasting and weeping and seeking His help, for repentance of sins and becoming people of prayer. Everyone who calls on His Name will be saved. Salvation in the end time is directly connected to prayer. Eternal salvation is always connected to prayer. See Psalm 21.
Just as in ancient times, the invasion will scorch earth. Ezekiel 38 and 39 show how terribly far the damage extends, starting with the multinational army fighting among themselves. Ezekiel 38 and 39 carry this scorching from Seal 6 of Revelation to Trumpets 1, 2, 3 and 4 of Revelation 8. Joel’s prophecy is significant for the entire world.
Modern weaponry such as drones and helicopters may be implied in the imagery of Joel’s prophecy. Modern weaponry such as nuclear weapons may be implied in some of the “fire from heaven” sections of Ezekiel and Revelation. This should hold our attention.
What does God command people to do? He commands us to pray for His help, and He promises to act with zeal to protect and restore His land. He will restore productivity to the land as well, so famine will not destroy His people.
Joel 2:1-32 (NASB77)
1Blow a trumpet in Zion,
And sound an alarm on My holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
For the day of the LORD is coming;
Surely it is near,
2A day of darkness and gloom,
A day of clouds and thick darkness.
As the dawn is spread over the mountains,
So there is a great and mighty people;
There has never been anything like it,
Nor will there be again after it
To the years of many generations.
3A fire consumes before them,
And behind them a flame burns.
The land is like the Garden of Eden before them,
But a desolate wilderness behind them,
And nothing at all escapes them.
4Their appearance is like the appearance of horses;
And like war horses, so they run.
5With a noise as of chariots
They leap on the tops of the mountains,
Like the crackling of a flame of fire consuming the stubble,
Like a mighty people arranged for battle.
6Before them the people are in anguish;
All faces turn pale.
7They run like mighty men;
They climb the wall like soldiers;
And they each march in line,
Nor do they deviate from their paths.
8They do not crowd each other;
They march everyone in his path.
When they burst through the defenses,
They do not break ranks.
9They rush on the city,
They run on the wall;
They climb into the houses,
They enter through the windows like a thief.
10Before them the earth quakes,
The heavens tremble,
The sun and the moon grow dark,
And the stars lose their brightness.
11And the LORD utters His voice before His army;
Surely His camp is very great,
For strong is he who carries out His word.
The day of the LORD is indeed great and very awesome,
And who can endure it?
12“Yet even now,” declares the LORD,
“Return to Me with all your heart,
And with fasting, weeping, and mourning;
13And rend your heart and not your garments.
“Now return to the LORD your God,
For He is gracious and compassionate,
Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness,
And relenting of evil. 1
4Who knows whether He will not turn and relent,
And leave a blessing behind Him,
Even a grain offering and a libation For the LORD your God? 1
5Blow a trumpet in Zion,
Consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly,
16Gather the people, sanctify the congregation,
Assemble the elders,
Gather the children and the nursing infants.
Let the bridegroom come out of his room
And the bride out of her bridal chamber.
17Let the priests, the LORD’S ministers,
Weep between the porch and the altar,
And let them say,
“Spare Thy people, O LORD,
And do not make Thine inheritance a reproach,
A byword among the nations.
Why should they among the peoples say,
‘Where is their God?'”
18Then the LORD will be zealous for His land,
And will have pity on His people.
19And the LORD will answer and say to His people,
“Behold, I am going to send you grain, new wine, and oil,
And you will be satisfied in full with them;
And I will never again make you a reproach among the nations.
20“But I will remove the northern army far from you,
And I will drive it into a parched and desolate land,
And its vanguard into the eastern sea,
And its rear guard into the western sea.
And its stench will arise and its foul smell will come up,
For it has done great things.”
2Do not fear, O land, rejoice and be glad,
For the LORD has done great things.
22Do not fear, beasts of the field,
For the pastures of the wilderness have turned green,
For the tree has borne its fruit,
The fig tree and the vine have yielded in full. 2
3So rejoice, O sons of Zion,
And be glad in the LORD your God;
For He has given you the early rain for your vindication.
And He has poured down for you the rain,
The early and latter rain as before.
24And the threshing floors will be full of grain,
And the vats will overflow with the new wine and oil.
25“Then I will make up to you for the years
That the swarming locust has eaten,
The creeping locust, the stripping locust, and the gnawing locust,
My great army which I sent among you.
26“And you shall have plenty to eat and be satisfied,
And praise the name of the LORD your God,
Who has dealt wondrously with you;
Then My people will never be put to shame.
27“Thus you will know that I am in the midst of Israel,
And that I am the LORD your God
And there is no other;
And My people will never be put to shame.
28“And it will come about after this
That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind;
And your sons and daughters will prophesy,
Your old men will dream dreams,
Your young men will see visions.
29“And even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.
30“And I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth,
Blood, fire, and columns of smoke.
31“The sun will be turned into darkness,
And the moon into blood,
Before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.
32“And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the LORD
Will be delivered;
For on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem
There will be those who escape,
As the LORD has said,
Even among the survivors whom the LORD calls.
God promises to pour out His Spirit on His people, who seek Him with all their hearts and call on His Name in prayer at this time. There will be survivors, and the overwhelming army will be driven away from Israel. God will reveal His love for Israel by answering prayer. God will be zealous for His land. Ezekiel 39:27-19 affirms these promises.
The next chapter tells us that when surrounding nations “pile on” against Israel, God will fight back. God also encourages self-defense for Israel. Preparation includes military strength and courage.
Everyone is called to repentance. Everyone is in the valley of decision. Repentance matters for survival. Repentance is possible and necessary, both now and during the end time. Anti-Semitism requires repentance, too. The surrounding nations need to respect God’s love for Israel. The valley of Jehoshaphat is the location of the second locust swarm.
Joel 3:1-21 (NASB77)
1“For behold, in those days and at that time,
When I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem,
2I will gather all the nations,
And bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat.
Then I will enter into judgment with them there
On behalf of My people and My inheritance, Israel,
Whom they have scattered among the nations;
And they have divided up My land.
3“They have also cast lots for My people,
Traded a boy for a harlot,
And sold a girl for wine that they may drink.
4“Moreover, what are you to Me,
O Tyre, Sidon, and all the regions of Philistia?
Are you rendering
Me a recompense?
But if you do recompense Me, swiftly and speedily
I will return your recompense on your head.
5“Since you have taken
My silver and
My gold, brought
My precious treasures to your temples,
6and sold the sons of Judah and
Jerusalem to the
Greeks in order to remove them far from their territory,
7behold, I am going to arouse them from the place where you have sold them,
And return your recompense on your head.
8“Also I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the sons of Judah, and they will sell them to the Sabeans, to a distant nation,
“For the LORD has spoken.
9Proclaim this among the nations:
Prepare a war; rouse the mighty men!
Let all the soldiers draw near, let them come up!
10 Beat your plowshares into swords,
And your pruning hooks into spears;
Let the weak say, “I am a mighty man.”
11Hasten and come, all you surrounding nations,
And gather yourselves there.
Bring down, O LORD,
Thy mighty ones. 1
2Let the nations be aroused
And come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat,
For there I will sit to judge
All the surrounding nations.
13Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe.
Come, tread, for the wine press is full;
The vats overflow, for their wickedness is great. 1
4Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision!
For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.
15The sun and moon grow dark,
And the stars lose their brightness.
16And the LORD roars from Zion
And utters His voice from Jerusalem,
And the heavens and the earth tremble.
But the LORD is a refuge for His people
And a stronghold to the sons of Israel.
17Then you will know that I am the LORD your God,
Dwelling in Zion My holy mountain.
So Jerusalem will be holy,
And strangers will pass through it no more.
18And it will come about in that day
That the mountains will drip with sweet wine,
And the hills will flow with milk,
And all the brooks of Judah will flow with water;
And a spring will go out from the house of the LORD,
To water the valley of Shittim.
19Egypt will become a waste,
And Edom will become a desolate wilderness,
Because of the violence done to the sons of Judah,
In whose land they have shed innocent blood.
20But Judah will be inhabited forever,
And Jerusalem for all generations.
21And I will avenge their blood which I have not avenged,
For the LORD dwells in Zion.
Joel 3:11 extends to the Battle of Armageddon, detailed in Zechariah 14. This corresponds to the latter part of Revelation, when armies from around the globe gather into Israel and surround Jerusalem. This is a different wave of battle from the Seal 6 time of a northern multi-national army. The valley of Jehoshaphat is a different location from the mountains of Israel. The earlier mountain battle will be near the beginning of the seven years of trouble, because the weaponry will be used for fuel for seven years, according to Ezekiel 38 and 39.
The approximately 7 years of trouble will be divided into two sections of approximately three and one half years each. Revelation 12 through 14 tells us Israel will have a place of refuge in the mountains during the latter approximately three and one half years, and the many-nations of armies will cover much of Israel at the end of that time.
When that terrible battle reaches Jerusalem, God will send Messiah and all the Holy Ones, angels and righteous resurrected people—Zechariah 14:5, 1 Thessalonians 4:14, 2 Thessalonians 1:7, Revelation 19:14. “Bring down, O LORD, Your mighty ones!”—Joel 3:11. He will rescue Jerusalem and will mop up the Armageddon scenario, reaching all the way to Bozrah from Jerusalem—Isaiah 63.
God gives specific directions for Israel about numbers of days of waiting, found in Daniel 12 and Revelation 12. From Daniel 12, it will be important to wait the entire number of days.
Messiah will judge the nations after His return to Israel, according to Joel 3:12. His basis for judgment of the nations is found in Matthew 25:31-46. Those people who mistreated or failed to help persecuted people will be condemned. Those who helped the persecuted will have entrance into the kingdom of Messiah on earth. This is a specific judgment described for survivors of the time of tribulation. It gives us an understanding of how God judges individuals.
(Each individual will face a judgment for eternal destiny as well as eternal rewards or punishments. “It is appointed to humans to die, and after that, the judgment.”—Hebrews 9:27. Avoiding Armageddon and Relieving Disasters: A Devotional Guide to the Prophecy Puzzle collects information about the various judgments described in the Bible. Too much extra information is involved for one blog post. It is an important topic.)
Jerusalem will become Messiah’s headquarters, and the restoration described in the latter chapters of Ezekiel will take place. A temple for 1000 years of peace will be built and will have a spring of water flowing from it. It will be a healing stream. Joel 3:18 matches Revelation’s and Ezekiel’s descriptions.
The details of these prophecies fit together precisely. The details enable us to set the prophecies into their portions of the sequence of end-time events. Joel’s ancient predictions related to the Assyrian conquest came true. His future predictions mesh perfectly with many locations in the rest of the Bible. We need to take this book seriously. It comes true.
We must become people of prayer. Survival depends upon it. Eternal survival depends upon it. If we seek God with all our hearts, He will help us find Him. His eyes move to and fro throughout the entire earth, seeking those whose hearts are completely His, so that He can act strongly on their behalf—2 Chronicles 16:9. Give Him your heart.