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Joel 1-3 by Robert Dean
Series:Revelation (2004)
Duration:59 mins 17 secs

Day of the Lord. Part 2. Joel chapters 1-3


We are taking a somewhat parenthetical break in our study of Revelation chapter nineteen. We have reached the point where the Lord Jesus Christ returns to the earth and He is going to defeat His enemies. After that we see the judgments begin to occur at the time of His arrival but first we are doing an introductory study on the concept of the day of the Lord. That is the Old Testament terminology and structure within which the second coming takes place and the immediate events leading up to the return of the Lord and what happens after that all come together within this Old Testament terminology, the day of the Lord.


The phrase "the day of the Lord" refers to God's special interventions into human history in order to judge His enemies and accomplish His purposes in history, thereby demonstrating that He is the sovereign God of the universe. That is directly connected to the return of the Lord Jesus Christ in Revelation 19:16 where He is revealed as the King of kings and Lord of lords. Some passages relate to a historical fulfillment, such as Lamentations 1:12; 2:1, 21, 22 and a few other passages which seem to relate only to the historical judgment that occurred in 586 BC. What becomes challenging in our study of the Scriptures is to discern which other passages are historical and which ones are eschatological. A lot comes to bear on that. Most of the time the "day of the Lord" refers to an eschatological event that is associated with the return of the Lord Jesus Christ and the establishment of the kingdom. Joel chapter one is the first mention of the day of the Lord in Joel—Joel 1:15. Is that talking about a historical judgment or about a future judgment?    


The title of the book of Joel is named after the prophet to whom God revealed it. Joel is the Hebrew for Yahweh is God. We don't know anything about Joel. There are some eleven other individuals in the Old Testament who had the name Joel and he wasn't one of those. He is identified as the son of "Pethuel" which means "persuaded by God," and we don't know when he lived. There are four suggested dates for Joel. The first are those who take an early pre-exilic date, probably during the reign of Jehoshaphat (872-848), or of his grandson Joash (835-796). This would be very close to the same time as Obadiah. The argument for the early pre-exilic date is the position of the book in the Hebrew canon, the beginning of the collection of the twelve and, secondly, because the enemies of Israel that are mentioned by Joel—Tyre, Sidon, Philistia, Egypt and Edom—were enemies of Israel during that early stage. There is no mention of a king but there is a prominent role of the priests and elders which would be true of the time when Joash was young. Also in the book is mention of the Valley of Jehoshaphat, which would fit within a pre-exilic date related top Jehoshaphat, or because he was the last good king in the southern kingdom before the reign of Joash, and this all seems to add up to the fact of a superior date. The second option is that it is a little bit later, during the time of Isaiah, king Uzziah who reigned from 792-740, but there is no reference to Assyria or Babylon or Persia which played a prominent role in the prophecies of Isaiah, and so that would make it a little less likely. A number of these hold to a late pre-exilic date which would put it around 597, the time of the second invasion of Nebuchadnezzar, and 587 just before his third invasion when he destroyed Jerusalem and the temple. If that were true then Joel would be a contemporary of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Habakkuk, Zephaniah and Daniel. The problem is that Joel 2:18, 19 seems to indicate that there is a repentance toward God. This never happened historically to this degree and so it is not likely that there was a time of partial repentance early on, which is what they put their emphasis on. Fourth, there is a post-exilic date but that is usually not taken by conservatives because that has an impact on how you view the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture.


Joel is a prophet in the southern kingdom, his focus is on Jerusalem and he is calling the southern kingdom to turn back to the Lord. He is using the occasion of a contemporary judgment, a contemporary disaster. This is an interesting way to look at the Scripture and to learn something in terms of application. The description in Joel chapter one focuses on a locust attack that has devastated the agriculture in the southern kingdom and wiped out the economy. It is clearly a part of an act of divine judgment upon the nation in line with the five stages of divine discipline. Joel takes this disaster that occurs and uses it as a microcosm illustration of the macro disasters that are going to occur during the day of the Lord at the end times. That has application because as a pastor or preacher we can look at a disaster like Katrina or the earthquake in Haiti and use that as an occasion to see how horrible this is; it is nothing compared to the kind of earthquakes and disasters that God is going to bring upon the world because of their rejection of Him. We need to be prepared because the Tribulation is going to see earthquakes of that magnitude and ten times greater on a consistent basis and millions and billions are going to be killed. If we think this [in Haiti] is bad we haven't seen anything. And this is what Joel is saying. He is saying this locust attack is terrible but when the end times come and the armies of the invaders come they are going to be much worse than this army of locusts, and they will destroy every person and every city and wipe out everything in the land. He uses this army of locusts to give a picture of the future devastation that will occur at the time of the day of the Lord.

But even in his announcement of judgment there is a focus on grace. Grace always comes before judgment and grace often comes with judgment. In Joel 2:13, 14 we see the grace offer. NASB "And rend your heart and not your garments…." In other words, if you are going to get emotionally upset about the reality of coming judgment don't make it superficial and just do it in an overt way, but it should impact your soul and change your volition. "… Now return [shub, turn back to the Lord] to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness And relenting of evil. Who knows whether He will {not} turn and relent And leave a blessing behind Him, {Even} a grain offering and a drink offering For the LORD your God?" This is the grace offer to turn to the Lord and He will perhaps relent of the punishment, so there is the grace offering with the announcement of judgment.

There are four basic divisions in Joel

1:1, Introduction, identifying the author.

1:2-30 focuses on the current catastrophe as a type or picture of the future day of the Lord.

Chapter two, the future day of the Lord is a human invasion of the land.

2:28-3:21, The deliverance that occurs in Israel in the future day of the Lord.

In the first chapter there is the occasion which this locust invasion. Joel 1:2 NASB "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." In other words, learn from the past; don't make the same mistakes that your forefathers made. (Alas, we never learn from history) In verse four there are four different kinds of locusts mentioned and there is a lot of debate over this. Many today think that these are all talking about the same locusts. However there are differences in the Hebrew and we believe those are not there just for stylistic reasons but indicate, as many have believed over the centuries, that these are four different stages in the development of the locust. Joel 1:4 NASB "What the gnawing locust has left [caterpillar], 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." They indicate four different stages in the growth of the locust and the end result is that everything is wiped out. The nation is left in an economic catastrophe because their crops have been completely destroyed.

Joel 1:15 NASB "Alas for the day! For the day of the LORD is near, And it will come as destruction from the Almighty." A lot of commentaries will say that this is a reference to that historical event but in the Hebrew the statement is "the day of the Lord is near." Verses 1-14 have already occurred; it is past. So the statement "the day of the Lord is near" is where he starts to make the transition using the current crisis to warn of the future day of the Lord—"it will come," future tense, "as destruction from the Almighty." The Hebrew imperfect indicates a future orientation.

In chapter two we have the shift to the future day of the Lord. Joel 2:1 NASB "Blow 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." Historically we have this phrase "day of the Lord" used in Obadiah as being an earlier book so there is a precedent there. The day of the Lord in Obadiah clearly refers to a future worldwide judgment of the nations. So historically the first historical use of the phrase "day of the Lord" is eschatological, so if that is our frame of reference then this would have to be eschatological as well which fits when we compare this to other descriptions that we see in Isaiah (who wrote after Joel).

In verse 2 we see that when this day of the Lord it is accompanied by these things that occur in the heavens, in the atmosphere. NASB "A 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." This is why this has to be taken to be eschatological. The descriptions that are given here indicate the historical uniqueness of this event. When Jesus is talking in Matthew 24 He says, relating to events in the Tribulation, nothing like this has ever happened before. Daniel says the same thing. The point is that this is a one of a kind event on this day of the Lord, and it clearly removes it from being a reference to the 586 judgment under Nebuchadnezzar.

Joel 2:10 NASB "Before them the earth quakes, The heavens tremble, The sun and the moon grow dark And the stars lose their brightness. [11] 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?" Then verse 12 is the call back to God and the call for grace…[18] "Then the LORD will be zealous for His land And will have pity on His people." This is when the people have turned and is what happens at the end of the Tribulation when the remnant of Israel turns back to the Lord. The land is the land of Israel, the people are the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, specifically the remnant. [19] "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." In contrast to the destruction from the locusts God is now going to supply an abundance of food. The promise "I will never again make you a reproach among the nations" is connected to this day of the Lord. The only time in history that God fulfills that promise is at the second coming. This passage has to be a second coming passage, it cannot refer to any historical judgment. [20] "But I will remove the northern {army} far from you…" This is one of the armies of the Antichrist that is coming to Israel. "… 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." That is the destruction of the armies of the Antichrist which occurs at the end of the Armageddon campaign at the second coming.        

Joel 2:21 NASB "Do not fear, O land, rejoice and be glad, For the LORD has done great things. [22] Do 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." This is the new life that will come as the Lord restores the land, restores the planet, at the beginning of the Millennial kingdom. [23] "So 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." In other words, this is what will bring prosperity. Then there is the promise of restoration, verse 25 NASB "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] You will 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." This is all future when Israel is restored as a regenerate nation. [28] "It will come about after this [After the day of the Lord] 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." This is what happens after the Lord returns when He is establishing the New covenant with Israel. This is the new promise of the Spirit that we see in Jeremiah 31:31ff. This is describing the ministry the Holy Spirit will have in the Millennial kingdom within Israel. The nation Israel at that time will finally function as God intended them out back in Exodus 19 and said they would be a kingdom of priests to Him. They have never functioned as a priest nation in the midst of all the Gentile nations. But that will come to pass in the Millennial kingdom and so God pours out His Spirit on the whole nation—they are all saved.

Peter quotes this on the day of Pentecost but notice what Peter is responding to is the question about the apostles speaking in languages. There is no mention of speaking in tongues in Joel chapter two. Peter says this is what the prophet Joel referred to. But what does he mean? He means this is like what the prophet Joel described. Nothing that happened in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost is described here. Peter was saying that this, what happened on the day of Pentecost, is like the pouring out of the Spirit. It would have been the day for the pouring out of the Spirit upon Israel if they had accepted the kingdom offer that Jesus made when He came at the first advent, but because they rejected it there was a postponement of the kingdom and there is a different manifestation of the Spirit that came on the birth of the church on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. Peter is making that comparison, that what happened on the day of Pentecost was like, similar to, what was promised by Joel. 

Joel 2:30 NASB "I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth, Blood, fire and columns of smoke." This isn't what happened before the judgment, this happens after the pouring out of the Spirit. So this is what we will see as the 75-day interval between the second coming and the establishment of the Millennial kingdom. [31] "The sun will be turned into darkness And the moon into blood Before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes." Again there seems to be a distinction here between the day of the Lord events of chapter two and this final event that takes place here, and there are several different manifestations of the heavenly events. [32] "And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the LORD Will be delivered [Quoted in Roman 10:13]; 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." This is a reference to when Israel as a nation is about to be destroyed by the Antichrist and turns to the Lord and calls on Him to deliver them. It is not salvation in terms of justification but salvation in terms of physical deliverance from the armies of the Antichrist.

In chapter three we have the deliverance that occurs. Joel 3:1 NASB "For behold, in those days and at that time, When I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem…" This is when the Lord sends the angels to gather the Jews from the four corners of the earth after the second coming. [2] "I 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." Most people believe that the Valley of Jehoshaphat is another term for the Kidron Valley that runs between the temple mount and the Mount of Olives. Others think that it might be the Valley of Berachah which is south of Jerusalem, down towards Bethlehem where Jehoshaphat had victory over his enemies there. So there is a certain uncertainty as to where this valley is, but what goes on there is the judgment of the nations. This is the judgment of the sheep and the goats referred to in Matthew chapter twenty-five. [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 {Gaza Strip]? Are you rendering Me a recompense? But if you do recompense Me, swiftly and speedily I will return your recompense on your head." There is a direct confrontation there with those who immediately surrounding enemies to the nation Israel.

Then reading to the end of the chapter there is the blessing of God upon the nation as he establishes His rule on Zion. Joel 3:16 NASB "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. [17] Then 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. [18] And in that day 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. [18] Egypt 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. [20] But Judah will be inhabited forever And Jerusalem for all generations. [21] And I will avenge their blood which I have not avenged, For the LORD dwells in Zion."

We have learned that in Joel the day of the Lord is eschatological, it will be accompanied by these signs in the heavens which occur roughly at the same time as the turning of the nation to God, and after it God will pour out His Spirit upon all of the nation. This is when He establishes the New covenant.