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Bible Commentaries

Arno Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
Joel 2

 

 


Verses 1-32

II. THE COMING DAY OF THE LORD: THE REPENTANCE AND RESTORATION OF ISRAEL

CHAPTER 2

1. The alarm sounded and the day at hand (Joel 2:1-2)

2. The invading army from the north (Joel 2:3-11)

3. The repentance of the people and cry for help (Joel 2:12-17)

4. “Then.” The great change (Joel 2:18)

5. Promises of restoration, and the early and latter rain (Joel 2:19-27)

6. The outpouring of the Spirit upon all flesh (Joel 2:28-31)

7. Deliverance in Mount Zion and Jerusalem (Joel 2:32)

Joel 2:1-2. With this chapter we reach the heart of the prophecy of Joel. The description of the literal locust plague is now no longer continued. As we have shown the literal locusts in their different stages were symbolical of nations laying waste the land as the locusts had done. Dispensationally the first chapter stands for the entire times of the Gentiles, which began with Nebuchadnezzar Daniel 2:36-49, and they continue till the time comes when the God of heaven sets up a kingdom that cannot be destroyed. The second chapter takes us at once to the end of the times of the Gentiles, when the day of the Lord is to be enacted. Before the Lord appears in that day, the greatest distress will be upon the land and the people; there will be a great time of trouble such as never was before Matthew 24:21. The remnant of His people will cry to the Lord for intervention and for deliverance, and the Lord will answer their cry and deliver them. Then their land becomes once more like the garden of Eden, there will be a great outpouring of the Spirit upon all flesh and from Jerusalem the great kingdom-center blessings will extend to all the nations.

This whole chapter as well as the next one is therefore unfulfilled. Nothing of it has been fulfilled. Before it can be fulfilled a part of the people Israel must be restored to the land of promise and the ancient ceremonies and institutions be at least partially restored.

The chapter begins with the sounding of the alarm for “the Day of Jehovah cometh, for it is near at hand.” The last prophetic week of Daniel is now in process of fulfillment and near its end. (See annotations on Daniel 9:1-27 A part of the people are back in the land, having returned there in unbelief, just as we see it today in the Zionistic movement. But in their midst will also be found a God-fearing remnant. The blowing of the trumpet shows that they have revived their ancient custom Numbers 10:1-22; Numbers 10:9. We also mention that trumpets are often connected with the appearing of the Lord and the restoration of Israel. In the second verse the day is described and may be compared with Zephaniah 1:15-16 and Isaiah 60:2. Then there is an invading army announced which is fully described in the verses which follow. The words, “As the dawn spread upon the mountains,” are a description of the day and not of the army, as some have taken it. On the one hand the day of the Lord is a day of darkness and gloom, on the other hand it is “like the dawn spread upon mountains.” After the darkness, the morning light will break “the morning without clouds” 2 Samuel 23:4.

Joel 2:3-11. Many armies in past history have occupied the land of Israel and wasted it, but here is the coming great invasion from the north. This invasion is mentioned in the prophet Isaiah also. The Assyrian who came in Isaiah’s day to take Jerusalem is the type of the final Assyrian who threatens the land and the people with destruction. He is also prefigured by Antiochus Epiphanes, who came into the land of Israel as the predicted little horn, rising from one of the divisions of the Graeco-Macedonian Empire Daniel 8:1-27.

This army of Israel’s enemies finds the land like the garden of Eden; it has been restored through political Zionism, irrigated and cultivated. The Jews are at it now, determined to make Palestine the garden-spot of the world, their Eden, as it has been said. Then comes the rude awakening. They thought themselves safe; they dreamed that their plans they had made without trusting in the Lord and without true repentance, had fully succeeded. But now the greatest trouble of their long history of blood and tears is at hand. The land is once more stripped of its beauty.

Before them the land is as the garden of Eden,

And behind them a desolate wilderness,

Yea, and nothing can escape them.

The Lord uses these destructive hosts to humble His people, to show them that He is their help, when this great calamity is upon them. The symbolical language here is characteristic of other prophecies.

The earth trembleth before them;

The heavens shake,

The sun and the moon are darkened,

And the stars withdraw their shining

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * ** * * * * * * * * * *

For the Day of the Lord is great and very terrible.

Compare this with the following passages: Isaiah 11:11; Habakkuk 1:6; Habakkuk 1:12; Zechariah 14:3-21.

Joel 2:12-17. Here is the Lord calling to His people to return unto Him with true repentance (compare with Hosea 5:15; Hosea 6:11. And during that great tribulation there will be a truly penitent portion of the people who turn to Him in the manner described in this chapter. It is this remnant which will be saved in that day, while the impenitent part will be cut off in judgment. Ezekiel 20:38 and Zechariah 13:8-9 speak of this. What Moses spoke long ago now takes place Deuteronomy 30:1-20). The many prophetic prayers recorded in the Psalms, as pointed out in the annotations of that book, will then be offered up by this godly waiting remnant Psalms 44:13-26; Psalms 115:2-18; Psalms 79:9-13, etc.). This mourning and prayer for deliverance precedes the visible manifestation of the Lord in the day of His coming. When at last deliverance has come there will be another lamentation. This is found in Zechariah 12:9-14 and in Revelation 1:7.

Joel 2:18. “Then Jehovah will be jealous for His land and will have pity on His people.” Here is the great change. Up to this point we have seen nothing but calamity and judgments. Literal locusts had devoured the land--the types of nations which would prey upon the land. They came, and Jerusalem was trodden down by the Gentiles. The times of the Gentiles terminated in Jacob’s trouble, out of which they are to be saved Jeremiah 30:7. We saw their great repentance. Here is the answer from above. When their power is completely gone Deuteronomy 32:36, then will the Lord be jealous for His land and pity His people. Often this little word “then” is found in the prophetic Word marking the great change, from Israel’s past judgments and rejection to deliverance and glory. The following passages should be carefully examined and compared with the 18th verse here:Isaiah 14:25; Isaiah 24:23; Isaiah 32:16; Isaiah 35:5-10; Isaiah 58:8; Isaiah 58:14; Isaiah 60:5; Isaiah 66:12; Ezekiel 28:25-26, etc.

The Lord’s personal manifestation is not mentioned here. The deliverance does not come apart from the second coming of our Lord. The entire prophetic Word bears witness to this. “Then shall the Lord go forth and fight against those nations as He fought in the day of battle. And His feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem” Zechariah 14:3-21. “When the Lord shall build up Zion, He shall appear in glory” Psalms 102:16. “The Lord shall go forth as a mighty man, He shall stir up jealousy like a man of war; He shall cry, yea, roar, He shall prevail against His enemies” Isaiah 42:13.

Joel 2:19-27. Here is His gracious answer. He will bless their land and make it fruitful once more, as it used to be, the land flowing with milk and honey. It is foolish to spiritualize the terms corn, new wine and oil. Yet it has been done. one of the older commentators of this book says on this verse about corn, wine and oil, that it has been fulfilled in the church. The corn he applies to the body of Christ, the wine to the blood of Christ, and the oil to the Spirit. Earthly blessings, such as belong to His earthly people are exclusively in view. Then they shall be no longer a reproach among the nations. Inasmuch as they are still a reproach we know that this promise is still future in its fulfillment. The one from the north will be overthrown and pass away forever. That all this cannot mean the Babylonian captivity and the small remnant which returned to the land may be learned from the statement “no longer” a reproach.

Because the Lord does all this they are commanded to rejoice, the children of Zion, which does not mean a spiritual Zion, but God’s only true Zion. The early and the latter rain is restored to the land. Of late this term, too, has been strangely misapplied. It has been claimed that the early and latter rain mean spiritual blessing. The early rain, it is said, means the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out, and the latter rain, these deluded people tell us, is another Pentecost, a greater manifestation of the Spirit. This latter rain, they teach, consists, according to their conception, in a restoration of “Pentecostal gifts” and is especially evidenced in making strange sounds, which, it is claimed, is the original gift of tongues. This unscriptural teaching has led to all kinds of fanaticism and worse things than that.

Nowhere in the Bible is there warrant for us to believe that “the early and latter rain” has a spiritual significance. To say that the early rain and the latter rain typify blessings and manifestations of the spirit of God, peculiar to the opening of this present age and to its close is extremely fanciful and cannot be verified by the Scriptures. It is strange that even men who seem to possess considerable light have endorsed this kind of exposition, which has worked such harm among so many Christian people. There is absolutely no prediction anywhere in the New Testament that the present age is to close with “a latter rain” experience, a time when the Holy Spirit is poured out and that in greater measure. This age, according to divine revelation, ends in apostasy and complete departure from God and His truth 2 Thessalonians 2:3-17. After the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost, for the formation of the Church, the body of Christ, there is nowhere to be found a promise in the Church Epistles that another outpouring is to take place, by which a part of the Church is to get into possession again of the different sign gifts. The enemy of souls has made good use of these distorted teachings to bring in his most subtle delusions.

The rain has altogether a literal meaning. Read carefully the following passages for a confirmation:Leviticus 26:44; Deuteronomy 11:14-32; 1 Kings 8:33-66 and Jeremiah 3:3.

Then all the harm done by the locusts, the army the Lord used in judging His people, will be restored. “And My people shall never be ashamed” (Joel 2:27). This again is sufficient proof that all this remains unfulfilled.

Joel 2:28-32. This interesting passage invites our closest attention. The almost general interpretation of this prophecy has been that it found its fulfillment on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured forth. Most expositors confine the fulfillment to that event while others claim that Pentecost was only the beginning of the fulfillment and that the event which occurred once continues to occur throughout this Christian age. We quote from one of the best commentaries. “But however certain it may be that the fulfillment took place at the first Christian feast of Pentecost, we must not stop at this one Pentecostal miracle. The address of the Apostle Peter by no means requires this limitation, but rather contains distinct indications that Peter himself saw nothing more therein than the commencement of the fulfillment, but a commencement indeed, which embraced the ultimate fulfillment, as the germ enfolds the tree; for if not only the children of the apostles’ contemporaries but also those that were afar off--i.e., not foreign Jews, but the far off heathen, were to participate in the gift of the Holy Spirit, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit which commenced on Pentecost must continue as long as the Lord shall receive into His kingdom those that are still standing afar, i.e., until the fullness of the Gentiles shall have entered the kingdom of God.”

There is, however, no Scriptural foundation for the statement that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit commenced on Pentecost must continue throughout this present age. The Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost. He was poured out once, and nowhere in the New Testament is there a continued or repeated outpouring of the Holy Spirit promised. The difficulty with interpreting this great prophecy of Joel of having been fulfilled on Pentecost and being fulfilled throughout this age is that which follows in the next two verses. Wonders in heaven and on earth, fire, pillars of smoke, a darkened sun and a blood-red moon are mentioned, and that in connection with the day of Jehovah, which, as we have seen is the great theme of Joel’s vision. These words have been generally applied to the destruction of Jerusalem, which followed the day of Pentecost. The spiritualizing method has been fully brought into play to overcome the difficulties the 30th and 31st verses raise. The terrible day of Jehovah, it is claimed, is the destruction of Jerusalem. Thus we read in the commentary of Patrick and Lowth: “This (Joel 2:30) and the following verse principally point out the destruction of the city and the temple of Jerusalem by the Romans, a judgment justly inflicted upon the Jewish nation for their resisting the Holy Spirit and contempt of the means of grace.” We quote another leading commentator on Joel 2:30, Dr. Clarke. He states: “This refers to the fearful sights, dreadful portents and destructive commotions by which the Jewish polity was finally overthrown and the Christian religion finally established in the Roman empire. See how our Lord applies this prophecy in Matthew 24:29 and the parallel texts.” And in Joel 2:31 (“the sun shall be turned into darkness”) Clarke says “it means the Jewish polity, civil and ecclesiastical, shall be entirely destroyed.” Others give these words the same spiritualized meaning. These learned doctors tell us that Joel 2:30-31 relate to the destruction of the nation, and the civil and ecclesiastical polity of the Jews! This is a fair example of the havoc which a Bible interpretation makes, which ignores the great dispensational facts revealed in the Word of God. But inasmuch as the 32nd verse, the last verse in this second chapter of Joel, reveals that there shall be deliverance in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem after these signs and wonders, and the continuation of the prophecy in the third chapter shows the judgment of the enemies of the people Israel, God’s ancient people, such interpretations appear at once as fundamentally wrong.

It is strange that all these expositors use the word “fulfillment” in connection with this prophecy, saying, that Peter said that the day of Pentecost was the fulfillment of what is written by Joel. But the Holy Spirit did not use the word “fulfillment” at all. He purposely avoided such a statement. In so many passages in the New Testament we find the phrase “that it might be fulfilled,” but in making use of the prophecy in Acts, chapter 2, this phrase is not used and instead of it we read that Peter said, “But this is that which was spoken by the Prophet Joel” Acts 2:16. There is a great difference between this word and an out and out declaration of the fulfillment of that passage. Peter’s words call the attention to the fact that something like that which took place on the day of Pentecost had been predicted by Joel, but his words do not claim that Joel’s prophecy was there and then fulfilled. Nor does he hint at a continued fulfillment or coming fulfillment during this present age. The chief purpose of the quotation of that prophecy on the day of Pentecost was to point out to the Jews, many of whom were scoffing, that the miraculous thing which had happened so suddenly in their midst was fully confirmed by what Joel had foretold would be the effect of the outpouring of the Spirit. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit had taken place, but not in the full sense as given in the prophecy of Joel. He came for a special purpose, which was the formation of the Church and for this purpose He is still on earth.

Without following the events on Pentecost and their meaning it is evident from the entire prophecy, which precedes this prediction of the outpouring of the Spirit, that these words have never been fulfilled. We might briefly ask, What is necessary according to the contents of this second chapter in Joel, before this prophecy can be accomplished? We just mention what we have already learned before in our exposition. The people Israel must be partly restored to their land, that great invasion from the north, bringing such trouble to the land must have taken place, then there must also have come the intervention of the Lord and He must be jealous for His land and pity His people, then at that time this great outpouring of the Spirit of God will take place. It stands in the closest connection with the restoration of Israel. The promises which are Israel’s Romans 9:4 may be grouped into two classes, those which pertain to the land, earthly blessings and supremacy over the nations, and spiritual blessings, such as knowing the Lord, walking in His ways, being a kingdom of priests and prophets. The earthly blessings are accomplished by the power of Jehovah when He is manifested as their deliverer and the spiritual blessings will be conferred upon them by the outpouring of the Spirit.

The word “afterwards” with which this prophecy is introduced refers to the same period of time as the phrase “in the latter days,” that is, the days when the Lord will redeem His earthly people and be merciful to His land.

Therefore when the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost it was not in fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. This prophecy has never been fulfilled nor will it be fulfilled during this present age, in which the Church is being formed, which is the body of the Lord Jesus Christ. After this is accomplished the Lord will begin His relationship with His earthly people, when He appears in His day then they will experience the fulfillment of this great prediction.

There are numerous passages in the Old Testament which shed interesting light upon this future outpouring of the Spirit (see Isaiah 32:15; Isaiah 44:3-28; Isaiah 59:19-21; Ezekiel 36:27-38; Ezekiel 37:14; Ezekiel 39:29).

Joel 2:32. The great coming outpouring of the Spirit upon all flesh will result in salvation. It is blessedly true now that “whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved,” but it will be also true in that day. The word our Lord spoke, “salvation is of the Jews” will find its largest fulfillment. The nations will then be joined to the Lord in the kingdom Zechariah 2:11.

 


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Bibliography Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Joel 2:4". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gab/joel-2.html. 1913-1922.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, October 30th, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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