This is the third installment of a series on Joel.
The world has been in a near-constant state of war for thousands of years —really, since Satan became the god of this world. Europe, especially, has experienced one war after the other, going back to the Hundred Years War between England and France. And as the heart of the realm of Christendom, Europe hosted two world wars over the past century.
But there is another war coming. It will be unlike any war before. Thus, the second chapter of Joel opens with this chilling battle cry by God Almighty: “Blow a horn in Zion! Shout a war cry in my holy mountain. Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of Jehovah is coming! It is near!”
In ancient times Mount Zion was the highest outcropping on the mound where the city of Jerusalem was located. It was considered God’s holy mountain by reason of the fact King David first brought the holy ark of the covenant to the mountain. The ark represented God’s presence. Later David’s son, Solomon, built a temple to Jehovah on Mount Zion. At times the entire city of Jerusalem was referred to as Zion. But, alas, because of their unfaithfulness God caused both the temple on Zion and the entire city of Jerusalem to be destroyed by Babylon.
But the prophecy of Joel is not really about the siege of the literal city of Jerusalem or Mount Zion in ancient times. That is evident from the fact that the things foretold in Joel have to do with the day of Jehovah. And the day of Jehovah is the same thing as the day of Jesus Christ. For example, Joel 2:11 poses the question: “For the day of Jehovah is great and very awe-inspiring. Who can endure it?” Echoing that, the prophecy of Malachi asks the same question, only in connection with the Second Coming of Christ, where it states: “But who will endure the day of his coming, and who will be able to stand when he appears?”
Jerusalem and Zion are merely representative. What do they symbolize, Christendom? No. Jerusalem and Zion symbolize Christ’s congregation. That is because Christianity began in Jerusalem. That is where Christ was hailed as the King of Israel. It is where Jesus was sacrificed and subsequently resurrected. And it is where the first disciples of Jesus were anointed with holy spirit. The temple on Zion was also where the apostles focused their ministry. Jerusalem was the unofficial headquarters for all of Christ’s congregations —at least up until the disgusting thing made its appearance.
The desolation of Jerusalem and the holy place is also the central feature of Christ’s extensive prophecy about the conclusion of the system. That is what the prophecy of Joel is about —the desolation of the holy place and its impact upon Christians.
It is noteworthy that the disastrous events betokened in Joel are spoken of in the same way as the great tribulation. For example, the opening passage of the prophecy indicates that nothing like this has ever happened before. It reads: “Has anything like this happened in your days or in the days of your forefathers? Tell about it to your sons, and let your sons tell about it to their sons, and their sons to the next generation.”
Similarly, Joel 2:2 states: “It is a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick gloom, like light of dawn spreading out on the mountains. There is a people numerous and mighty; never before has there been one like it, and never again will there be another through the years of all generations.”
And of course, Jesus described the great tribulation in the same terms, saying of it: “for then there will be great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.”
Indeed, the great tribulation will be unlike any war that has ever occurred before or will ever occur again. And it is brought on by the attack of the symbolic locusts —Jehovah’s great military force. God uses them to destroy the present system —the stable, democratic system that enshrines freedom of religion and all that. It will be a time unlike any other when the nations launch their nuclear ICBM’s, at least a limited number. The passage in Joel referring to blood and fire and columns of smoke must be in reference to the signature mushroom clouds. No wonder Jesus said if God did not cut it short no flesh would survive.
That the Mount Zion that comes under attack represents the collective of anointed persons on earth is evident from the fact Jehovah intervenes against the “northerner” in behalf of the sons of Zion. Joel 2:23 states: “You sons of Zion, be joyful and rejoice in Jehovah your God; for he will give you the autumn rain in the right amount, and he will send upon you a downpour, the autumn rain and the spring rain, as before.”
The “sons of Zion,” as Paul explained in his letter to the Hebrews, have approached a heavenly Mount Zion. They are the ones spoken of in the 12th chapter of Revelation as the remaining ones of the offspring of the woman “who observe the commandments of God and have the work of bearing witness concerning Jesus.”
What does it mean that God will give the land a downpour of autumn and spring rain? That is explained further down in verses 27-29, which say: “And you will have to know that I am in the midst of Israel and that I am Jehovah your God—there is no other! My people will never again be put to shame. After that I will pour out my spirit on every sort of flesh, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions. And even on my male slaves and female slaves I will pour out my spirit in those days.”
Jesus spoke of giving living water to those asking. In other words, the “rain in the right amount” refers to the full measure of God’s spirit being poured out upon those who are blessed by Jehovah after the tribulation is cut short; and not just the anointed sons and daughters receive it, but even Jehovah’s slaves. That is an extraordinary thing. Whereas, Christians have always had access to God’s spirit –provided they do their utmost to obey him as ruler –the outpouring that accompanies the awe-inspiring day of Jehovah is something miraculous, stupendous! Given the fact that Peter cited this very passage from Joel on the day of Pentecost, when visible tongues of fire hovered over each of the 120 original anointees, we may expect the ultimate fulfillment during the last days to be no less miraculous.
The pouring out of the spirit will have a revitalizing and rejuvenating effect upon those receiving it. That miraculous revival coincides with the revealing of the sons of God —when “the chosen ones will shine as brightly as the sun in the Kingdom of their Father.” In other words, the sons of Zion will all have been sealed. Christianity will have accomplished its intended purpose. And the final message of doom will be delivered to the world.
Just as when God authorized Babylon to serve as his punishing agent, the northerner, God’s great military force, also metes out discipline in behalf of Jehovah. However, God then turned the tables and had Babylon overthrown as their punishment for mistreating his people. That is what the third chapter of Joel conveys. It is a declaration of war. Not a war between nations —God’s war. “Proclaim this among the nations: ‘Prepare for war! Stir up the mighty men! Let all the soldiers draw near, let them advance! Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning shears into spears. Let the weak one say: “I am powerful.” Come and help, all you surrounding nations, assemble together! To that place, O Jehovah, bring down your powerful ones. Let the nations be roused and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit in order to judge all the surrounding nations. Thrust in a sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come down and tread, for the winepress is full. The vats overflow, for their badness is abundant. Crowds, crowds are in the valley of the decision, for the day of Jehovah is near in the valley of the decision.”
The Valley of Jehoshaphat is merely another designation for the place called Armageddon. Those powerful ones whom Jehovah brings down from heaven are the warrior angels, along with Christ and his 144,000. The harvest of the wicked nations and symbolic winepress are echoed in Revelation too; namely the 14th chapter, where the angel with a sharp sickle harvests the vine of the earth and treads upon it in the winepress of God.
The prophecy of Joel concludes, saying: “I will consider innocent their blood that I had not considered innocent; and Jehovah will reside in Zion.”