Today’s reading: Joel 1-3.
“When is the Day of the LORD?”
It’s a tragic flaw that men and women keep trying to set a date for Jesus’ return. Jesus himself said that no man knows that hour but the Father. As in the ancient Jewish custom, in which the groom depended on his father to tell him when to go and get his bride for the wedding, Jesus waits on his Father for the command to go and claim his bride.
But the Bible has a lot to say about the events that occur before Jesus returns. We don’t know the hour of his second coming, but we can know the season. One of the biggest signals is the Day of the LORD. Isaiah described it this way:
- The day of the LORD is a day of wrath. God punishes the wicked and evil with anger and destruction.
- It is a day of cosmic upheaval. The heavens are darkened; sun, moon, and stars all fail to give their light.
- It is a day of terror. The people flee and become scarce. Their hearts melt and anguish overwhelms them.
- It is a day when the proud are humbled. All those who exalted themselves and sought to ignore God will instead find they cannot escape God’s judgment.
Joel has a lot to say about this day. For him it was a present event as well as a future occurrence. In his day a terrible swarm of locusts ate up every green thing in the land, causing complete devastation that was like an outpouring of God’s wrath. He also foresaw a time when an even greater calamity would fall upon the world as God judged the nations for their wickedness. Rather than being the end of all things, this devastating Day of the LORD would introduce a new day with many blessings.
“And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.” Joel 2:28-29
When the Holy Spirit fell down on believers at Pentecost, Peter said it was the work of the Spirit which Joel had foreseen. It may have been the start of that outpouring, but it wasn’t the end of it. The Holy Spirit continues to work in believers today, and many believe that in the last days before Jesus returns there will be an even greater work of the Spirit in the Jews as they all come to faith in the Lord.
Joel sees the Day of the LORD preparing Judah and Jerusalem for full restoration. In contrast to the desolation of the locusts, the land will drip with wine, water will flow out of the temple (just as Ezekiel saw), their guilt will be pardoned, everyone who calls on the LORD will be saved, and “the LORD will dwell there.” The Day of the LORD heralds the return of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Look at the connection of our text in Joel, and you will find that it is preceded by terrible warnings: “I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come.” Nor is this all; this broad gospel statement is followed by words of equal dread. “Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about. Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great. The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining.” It was true of the prophets as of the apostles that, knowing the terrors of the Lord, they persuaded men. They were not ashamed to use fear as a powerful motive with mankind. By the prophet Joel the diamond of our text is placed in a black setting, and its brilliance is thereby enhanced. As a lamp is all the more valued when the night is dark, so is the gospel all the more precious when men see their misery without it. To remove from men’s minds the salutary fear of punishment for sin is to draw up the flood-gates of iniquity. He who does this is a traitor to society. If men are not warned of the anger of God against iniquity, they will take license to riot in evil. Charles Spurgeon
Image by NASA Goddard on Flickr, CC by 2.0