Summary: Our life should be all about living in expectation for Christ's return. Praying for the end. Working for the kingdom. Making sure that we’re at peace with God, and at peace with each other.
If we ever have questions about the end of the world and about what will happen when King Jesus returns in glory, we turn to the book of Revelation. There in that last book of the Bible, there’s much about the end-times: signs and wonders, disasters and persecutions, and the Lord Jesus coming in all his glory to judge the living and the dead. It’s a good book for us to read in these last days.
But it’s not the only book to read. Much of Revelation, in fact, echoes and repeats what was said before—especially what was said in the Old Testament. Prophets like Daniel, Ezekiel, and Zechariah actually had a lot to say about the end of the world. God has been getting the church ready for a long time, telling us what to expect when He comes again.
And the prophecy of Joel hits some very similar notes. Someone once said that this small book includes almost every aspect of the Christian doctrine of eschatology, or the “last things.” The New Testament might give us more detail, but it’s all here in basic form.
About the author Joel very little is known. He’s the “son of Pethuel,” that’s about it (1:1). Unlike the other minor prophets that we’ll studying, Joel doesn’t tell us whom he brought this message to, or even when he brought it. There aren’t any hints either about who might’ve been king, or who the main enemy was, or what the prevailing sins were at that time. It’s all very general, like the LORD intended it to be an especially timeless message—a prophecy that stands until that final day of judgment.
But like in Revelation, here the Lord tells us that though He’s coming soon, there’s still a little time for repentance. There’s still a little time to get ready. As the apostle Peter says in his second letter: “With Christ coming again, what manner of people ought you to be?” For the tone of our life should be living in expectation. Praying for the end. Working for the kingdom. Making sure that we’re at peace with God, and at peace with each other. For God has promised that those who live by faith will be saved from destruction, and glorified for eternity.
Joel prophesies the great and awesome day of the LORD:
1) a day of wonders
2) a day of calling
3) a day of salvation
1) a day of wonders: You might want to read through Joel in between services today, or later this evening. When you do, you’ll notice that he often talks about “the day.” For instance in 2:31, “the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD.” Joel keeps pointing the people to it: Be ready for the day! Joel’s not the only prophet to do this. As just one example, we hear Isaiah when he says, “The day of the LORD of hosts shall come upon everything proud and lofty, upon everything lifted up” (2:12). And what is that day? It’s the day that God will come in power and judgment, in wrath and justice.
“The day” that we’re speaking of is more than just one square on the page of a calendar. It speaks of a general period of history, an era—like we might say when reminiscing, “Back in the day…” The prophet is warning Israel that there’s coming a time of judgment.
And it seems like the people of God felt good about that day. They looked forward to it, because it’d be the day when their enemies would be crushed, and Israel’s cause would be proven right. Come to think of it, we might look forward to Christ’s return for the same reason. When Jesus comes back, we say, then all the atheists in the world will be proven wrong, and all those blood-thirsty persecutors will finally meet with justice…
But the prophet Amos, another one who speaks about the day of the LORD, turns this kind of expectation on its head. Amos says, “Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! For what good is the day of the LORD to you? It will be darkness, and not light” (5:18). That’s a hard truth: the LORD’s coming isn’t something for Israel to look forward to. It isn’t, because their sin stands in the way. If you’re not living in obedience, Amos says, be careful what you wish for! If you’re not living in holiness right now, then you have to be pretty bold to sing “Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus!”
For the “day of the LORD” is one that cuts both ways. His day dawns bright and cheerful for God’s people, his true believers. But it’s day that dawns in thick darkness if you’re living apart from the LORD.
In this book Joel describes four separate scenes of that awesome day of God. The first scene is chapter 1. It’s the immediate disaster that befalls the land, when there’s a devastating plague of locusts. The locusts eat every green and living thing, and they turn the land of promise into a wasteland. “Alas for the day!” the people cry in 1:15. And locusts are only the beginning.