By Joel C. Rosenberg / June 2011
Land of Israel
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Part Five: A Message of Warning to the Nations: Do not Divide the Land of Israel
The Bible is crystal clear: the Lord Almighty will judge all nations who divide the Land of Israel.
In Joel 3:2, the Lord says: “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.” (3:2)
Nevertheless, international pressure on Israel to carve up the Holy Land like a Thanksgiving turkey continues to build following President Obama’s May 2011 speech calling for Israel to withdraw to the 1967 borders. Nearly every world leader — and certainly every American president since the Six Day War — has demanded Israel give up significant amounts of territory within Judea, Samaria, and the Golan Heights in order to create a sovereign Palestinian state and make peace with Syria, but never this much territory. The Obama plan would force Israel to give it all up, to divide Jerusalem, and return to indefensible borders. This would be a grave error. It would severely jeopardize Israeli national security. It would do so in direct defiance of the Holy Scriptures. And it would draw the judgment of the Lord Almighty against the United States and all other countries involved in the process.
Historically, we know that the nations have repeated divided the Land of Israel. Prophetically, we know they will continue to do so until the Day of the Lord comes. We cannot necessarily stop our countries from making foolish errors of Biblical proportions. But we can loving, gently, but firmly and clearly warn them. And we must. That’s why at the 2011 Epicenter Conference, I taught the last chapter of the Book of Joel, focusing specifically on the implications of this passage warning the nations. You can watch that message and the others at www.epicenterconference.com. Today, I am also posting the notes from my message at the conference. I hope you find them helpful.
A MESSAGE OF WARNING TO THE NATIONS: Book of Joel, Chapter Three
The Book of Joel is a wake up call and a trumpet call to Israel and the Church. It is also a message of warning to the nations – and a very sobering message at that.
Joel 3:1 – “in those days and at that time” – what time?
- The last of the last days
- The time of the physical, literal, actual Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ
- The end of human history as we have known it and the dawn of the Millennial Kingdom, the 1,000 year reign of Christ on the throne of David in Jerusalem
- The time when God is going to fully and completely and graciously “restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem”
- The time of the end of the nations crushing Israel and the Jewish people
Joel 3:2 – the Lord is going to gather all the nations – not some of the nations….not a few of the nations….the text says “all” of the nations….true, the Lord singles out a few specific nations with whom He is angry…..among them:
- Tyre and Sidon (Lebanon) Joel 3:4
- Philistia (Gaza) 3:4
- Greece 3:6
- Egypt 3:19
- Edom 3:19
But let there be no doubt – He is going to judge “all” the nations…He will gather them to the Valley of Jehoshaphat….the valley of judgment…what we know today as the Kidron Valley right here in Jerusalem….“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.” (3:2)
The Lord is going to judge the nations for at least six reasons:
For scattering Israel and the Jewish people among the nations (Joel 3:2)
For dividing up the land of Israel, which the Lord describes as “My land” (3:2)
For selling the Jewish people into slavery (3:3,5)
For engaging in sex trafficking (3:3)
For stealing treasures from the Lord (perhaps from the Temple), and from Israel (3:5)
For murdering Jews and shedding Jewish blood (3:19, 21)
Some of these are atrocities that various nations and empires have committed against Israel and the Jewish people over the centuries. Yet some of these are atrocities that will be committed against Israel and the Jewish people during the “time of Jacob’s troubles” (30:7), also known as the Tribulation.
- The Bible teaches us, for example, from the Book of Daniel that the Antichrist will invade the Beautiful Land and set up his reign of power here in Israel. (Daniel 11:41-45)
- The Hebrew Prophet Zechariah tells us that under the reign of the Antichrist and his global, one-world, tyrannical government that two-thirds of the Jewish people will be murdered. (Zechariah 12:8-9)
- As horrifying as this is, Jews will not be the only ones to suffer terribly during under the Antichrist’s global reign of terror. Anyone who resists the Antichrist will suffer. Many will perish. Indeed, the Bible reveals that this includes people who have become followers of Jesus Christ during the Tribulation and refuse to bow to the Antichrist. They will be beheaded. They will be martyred. En masse. [Read Revelation 6:9-11 – how long, O Lord, until you avenge….]
The good news is that Joel tells us a day of reckoning is coming….the Day of the Lord is coming….surely it is near.
- “I will avenge their blood which I have not avenged, for the Lord dwells in Zion.” (Joel 3:21)
- Psalm 9:11-12 – “Sing praises to the Lord, who dwells in Zion; declare among the peoples His deeds. For He who requires (or avenges) blood remembers them; He does not forget the cry of the afflicted.”
And then comes more good news – the Millennial Kingdom….during this time:
- The Lord will make Jerusalem holy and pure…..there will be no “strangers” there, Joel tells us in 3:17….only those who have been born again and made righteous by the blood of Jesus, shed on the cross for the remission of sins….only those who have been adopted into His family by receiving Jesus as the Messiah
- The mountains of Israel will drip with sweet wine (3:18)
- The mountains of Israel will nourish cattle who flow with milk (3:18)
- The land of Judah will always flow with springs of water (3:18)
- A spring will actually burst forth underneath the Temple and flow into a river down to the Dead Sea, which will be resurrected (3:18 – see also Ezekiel 47)
- Israel/Judah/Jerusalem will be inhabited forever (3:20)
- The Lord Jesus Christ Himself will dwell in Zion (3:21)
The Hebrew Prophet Joel gives us a great hope…that God is sovereign and He will reign from this city and make all things new and beautiful by His grace and power.
There is so much richness to each and every verse of chapter three. I’ve taken most of the last year to study it and I’m still finding treasures I didn’t see before. But given the moment that we are in I want to focus on verse two.
“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.” (3:2)
Consider these words carefully and completely….and let the United Nations be warned….let the United States be warned….let the European Union be warned….let the Arab League be warned….let the Palestinian Authority be warned….let Hamas be warned….let the Government of Israel, too, be warned.
It may look like a brilliant idea to divide the City of Jerusalem….to divide Judea and Samaria – a.k.a., the West Bank – away from the State of Israel….to give away the Golan Heights….as it seemed brilliant to some to give away the Gaza Strip in 2005….but let there be no mistake: the Word of God warns us in no uncertain terms that judgment is coming for all who divide Israel….and divide Jerusalem….and scatter, oppress and mistreat the Jewish people.
As I say this, the United Nations is preparing to hold a vote in the next few months to divide Jerusalem and the rest of Jerusalem and unilaterally declare a sovereign Palestinian state. For many, this seems wise and fair and just…..but willfully disobeying the Word of God is never wise….never fair….never just….and it comes with consequences.
I recognize that these Scriptures can be difficult for many Palestinian Arabs and many Israeli Arabs to read and accept, especially if they are Muslims and nominal Christians without a personal relationship with Christ….but even if they are born again brothers and sisters in the Lord. Most Palestinians long for a sovereign state of their own…many have been deeply hurt during the rebirth of the State of Israel and throughout the past 63 years….I am sympathetic with this pain and this longing.
The Bible indicates that Jews would be a sinful people when they return to the Land in the last days. Only after they return, the Bible teaches, will the Holy Spirit be poured out upon the Jewish people in an increasingly significant way (Ezekiel 39:29 and Joel 2:28-32 — or Joel chapter 3 in Hebrew Bibles). Only then will a growing number of Jewish people will repent and return to a personal relationship with the Lord. Jesus said in Matthew 24 and Luke 21 that there would be “wars and rumors of wars” and “revolutions” and “lawlessness” in the last days. Certainly, the rebirth of Israel — while prophetic and God-ordained — has come with wars, rumors of war, revolutions, sins, and even crimes committed by some Arabs as well as some Jews.
The Bible doesn’t teach this period of the last days will be easy, and the Bible is right…..that said, while these are painful facts, they are facts nonetheless…..and each one of us must be true to the revealed Word of God….we do not please the Lord — or do our Arab brothers any favors, or do the nations any favors — if we ignore, deny or try to explain away the plain meaning of these verses, that Israel would be prophetically reborn and the Jews would come back to the Land that the Lord promised Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their descendents.
Genesis 12:1-3 tells us that the Lord will bless those who bless the children of Abraham, and He will curse those who curse the children of Abraham. Those who have cursed Israel have, sadly, found themselves facing great pain and suffering. Those who have tried to divide the Land again and again have found themselves both causing but also experiencing great pain and suffering.
For many, these are not easy truths to hear or to hold…..but God in His love and fairness puts us on notice that there are consequences to rejecting these truths.
At the same time, we who accept by faith what the Bible teaches about God’s divine love, plan, purpose and Land for Israel and the Jewish people must remind ourselves and each other of two other truths:
- First, how we communicate Biblical truth – how we say what we say in light of the Word of God – matters to God.
- Second, how we live out Biblical truth – how we do what we do in light of the Word of God – also matters to God.
What do I mean? Allow me to explain.
First, our communication — consider John 12:49 (NIV), where Jesus said, “the Father commands Me what to say and how to say it.” What we say matters to God….but so does how we say it. It’s not enough just to communicate what is Biblically true….we must also examine how we communicate it….are we speaking the truth in love?….are we being gentle?….are we being humble?
- Proverbs 12:18 – “There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
- Proverbs 15:1 – “A gentle turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
- Proverbs 15:28 – “The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer”
- Proverbs 21:23 – “He who guards his mouth and his tongue guards his soul from troubles.”
- Proverbs 25:11 – “Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances.”
Yes, the Day of the Lord is coming….Yes, God is going to bless and save the nation of Israel….Yes, the nations are going to be judged for dividing the Land and shedding Jewish blood and for committing atrocities against the Jewish people….These are truths….they are from the Lord….they are just and true….But we must be careful in how we communicate these truths because they are so difficult for so many to hear…..especially our Arab brothers and sisters….Let us be wise and humble and respectful in how we teach what we teach lest we inadvertently sin with our callousness or insensitivity….lest we cause additional pain or even create a new stumbling block to our listeners being able to hear and truly receive the truth.
Second, our actions – Are we living out the fullness of the implications of Biblical truth, especially when it comes to the Book of Joel? Today, those of us who believe in the Abrahamic Covenant that God gave the Land of Israel to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their descendants as an “everlasting possession” and who agree with the Apostle Paul that “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29) are at risk.
At risk of what?
At risk of being outflanked on the justice issue….at risk of being – and/or being perceived around the world as being – insensitive to the charges that we are blind to or callous towards injustice suffered by the Palestinian people….“Justice” can be a politically loaded word…..and it can be wielded for unscriptural ends. But it is a Biblical word….it is an important word….and we must embrace it and passionately pursue its true Biblical meaning.
As the Hebrew Prophet Micah taught us, “He has told you, O man, what is good and what the Lord requires of you, but to do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8)
You and I are passionate advocates of justice for Israel because of what the Bible teaches. We must also be passionate advocates of justice from Israel because of what the Bible teaches. This does not mean Israel should divide the Land. This does not mean Israel should ignore her real and serious security needs. But too often, Christians who love Israel are not aware of — or sufficiently concerned about and responsive to — the plight of the Palestinian people, and particularly the struggles of the Palestinian believers.
- Are some of the political, moral and historical charges of the Palestinians against Israel overblown? Yes.
- Is some of the rhetoric of the Palestinians against Israel, Jews and Christians who love Israel hyperbolic and unfair? Yes.
- But are the Palestinian people struggling in real and very painful ways? Yes – the truth is they are. And we should care because Jesus cared.
- Much of this struggle has been caused by the unwise and ungodly choices of their leaders….and their Arab and Islamic allies in the region….and by the terror groups in their midst.
- But is some of this pain sometime caused by – or exacerbated by — Israeli mistakes….excesses….and even sins? Unfortunately, the answer is yes.
Again, this does not mean the Land should be divided…That does not mean a sovereign Palestinian state should be created….It does mean that followers of Jesus Christ should care about justice and mercy – for the Jews and for the Palestinians, and for all of Israel’s neighbors who are suffering in this fallen world….After all, while the Bible clearly explains that the Lord will bring the Jewish people back to the Land of Israel and allow them to reclaim their God-given ownership of the Land, nowhere in the Bible are Jews (or any group of people) given a license to commit injustice.
- To the contrary, the Bible teaches Israel to love her neighbors (Leviticus 19:18 and Matthew 19:19).
- The Bible also teaches Israel to love her neighbors and pray for those who persecute them (Matthew 5:44).
The Jewish people do have rights to the ownership of the Land, but they also have responsibilities to govern justly and compassionately, in accordance with the Scriptures.
- In Leviticus 19:13, for example, the Lord says: “You shall not oppress your neighbor, nor rob him, so as to profane the name of your God; I am the Lord.”
- Leviticus 19:15 — “You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly.”
- Leviticus 19:33-34 — “When a stranger [non-Jew] resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.”
- Exodus 22:21-24 – “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry and My anger will be kindled….”
Those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ need to not just preach but also to practice sound Bible doctrine regarding Israel and the Palestinians….We need to love both….bless both….pray for both….We need to stand with and encourage our brothers and sisters in the Messiah whether they are Jewish or Arab….The Bible gives us no freedom to ignore, deny, or oppose our brothers and sisters on either side….Jesus said “blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).
We need to be pro-actively building relationships with Israelis and Palestinians….we need to be faithful ambassadors of Christ….we need to be true agents of reconciliation whenever and wherever possible….We do not have to agree with everything that our brothers and sisters believe — especially if those beliefs are unscriptural — but we are commanded to love them unconditionally and sacrificially….We are commanded to see struggle and suffering and respond in love and compassion, whether it’s a Jewish person in pain or an Arab.
Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
Jesus loves the Jews….Jesus loves the Arabs….Jesus loves the Iranians….Jesus loves the Druze, the Bedouins, and all who live in the epicenter….Jesus died for all….Jesus rose again for all….Jesus is coming back again to this city for all…The Day of the Lord is coming….surely it is near….Joel teaches us that the Day of the Lord is a day of great sadness and judgment for those who reject the Lord and disobey His Word….But Joel also teaches us that “whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”
Which leads me to my final point.
In addition to praying for Jews and for the Palestinians….
In addition to seeking real and practical ways to bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus….
In addition to providing food, clothing, medical supplies and other humanitarian relief to the poor and needy on both sides of the security fence….of caring for widows and orphans….of caring for Holocaust Survivors and victims of war and terrorism….We need to make sure everyone from Tel Aviv to Tehran hears the good news of God’s amazing love and grace as revealed through Jesus Christ.
Let those of us who love Israel also love Israel’s neighbors and enemies enough to make sure they hear the gospel….to strengthen the Church in the Arab and Iranian world….to help them train pastors and plant churches and fulfill the Great Commission.
Precisely because the Day of the Lord is coming….surely it is near.
As the Apostle Peter taught us, “the Day of the Lord will come like a thief” and “the Lord is not slow about keeping His promise , as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:10,9)
Joel: A Call to Action
Part Four: A Call to Action
The Hebrew Prophet Joel indicates a day of severe and unprecendented judgment is coming upon the world. The question is: How should mankind in general – and the people of Israel in particular – prepare for such judgments before they come? Beginning in Joel 2:12, the Lord is very clear and specific. His people are to:
- Blow a trumpet in Zion and sound an alarm on His holy mountain in Jerusalem
- Consecrate a fast
- Proclaim a solemn assembly
- Gather the people
- Sanctify the congregation
- Assemble the elders
- Gather the children and the nursing infants
- Gather brides and bridegrooms
- Urge the priests, the Lord’s ministers, to weep and ask the Lord to spare His people and not let them be a byword among the nations
- Return to the Lord with all our heart
- Return to the Lord with fasting
- Return to the Lord with weeping
- Return to the Lord with mourning
- Rend our hearts and not our garments
- Return to the Lord because we believe He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and relenting of evil
- This is not just a call to a generic, run-of-the-mill prayer meeting — this is a call to get on our faces and beg and plead with the Lord to have mercy on us as individuals, as families and as nations
- It’s interesting to me that the specific sins of the people are not enumerated — the Lord is concerned about all sin, not just a few certain types
- It’s also intriguing to say that nowhere in the text is there a call to take up arms and fight against the enemy invaders — this isn’t to say Israel or America or other countries shouldn’t defend themselves against enemy nations or terrorist organizations; but when it comes to sin and judgment, there is no political or military solution; our only hope is to turn away from our sins and seek the Lord’s forgiveness; He will save us when we ask with humble, repentant hearts, and He’s the only One who can
Clearly, chapter two of the Book of Joel is a trumpet call — a call to action
- To Israel – a national call to turn back to the Lord
- To the Church – a global call to turn back to the Lord
- To all of mankind — a personal call to repent, to get right with the Lord, before it’s too late, before judgment comes
The bad news: the Scriptures are clear that a terrible time of judgment and devastation is coming, worse than at any other time in human history.
The good news: The Scriptures are also clear that when individuals repent and return to the Lord – and by God’s grace when the nation of Israel repents and turns back to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – then…..
- “the Lord will be zealous for His land” (2:18)
- The Lord “will have pity on His people” (2:18)
- The Lord will send His people “grain, new wine, and oil” (2:19)
- The Lord will defeat the enemies ofIsrael, notably attacks from the North (2:20)
- The Lord will do “great things” (2:21)
- Israel will turn green again (2:22)
- The fig tree and the vine will yield its fruit again in full (2:22)
- The Lord will send “the teacher of righteousness” (the Hebrew translation in 2:23)
- The Lord will make up to those who have repented for the years the locusts have eaten (2:25)
- Those who have repented (“My people”) “will never be put to shame” and they will know that the Lord is in the midst ofIsrael, that “I am the Lord your God, and there is no other” (2:26)
- The Lord will pour out His Holy Spirit “on all mankind,” Jews and Gentiles alike (2:28)
- Sons and daughters will prophesy
- Old men will dream dreams
- Young men will see visions
- Men and women of all classes and stations will be able to receive the Holy Spirit
- “And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be delivered” (2:32) – Jew or Gentile.
- NOTE: this another critical point in the text: in the last days (beginning with Pentecost/Acts 2 but accelerating as we get closer to the Day of the Lord), we’ll see the Holy Spirit moving more powerfully and publicly and personally and persistently than ever before in human history…..this requires us to develop a much better, deeper, richer Biblical understanding of the Holy Spirit’s role, how He works, how to be filled with the Spirit, how to walk in the Spirit, how to be careful not to grieve the Spirit, how to be more discerning of spiritual deception, etc.
- The Lord will display wonders in the sky and on the earth (2:30)
- The sun will turn to darkness (2:30)
- The moon will turn to blood (2:31)
- All these things will happen “before” the “great and terrible Day of the Lord comes” – that is, before the final of the judgments of the Great Tribulation (2:31)
- This judgment is sure and certain – it is coming, it cannot be stopped, and many will suffer horrifically if they are not followers of Jesus Christ with the seal of the Lord on their foreheads
That said, the Lord will use these terrible judgments to shake people all over the world – and particularly in Israel – and cause Jews and Gentiles to deeply reconsider what they believe and what they are following.
This is how God works at key moments in history – He literally and figuratively shakes the world
- Haggai 2:6-7 – “….in a little while I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land. I will shake all the nations….”
- See also Haggai 2:21-22 – “….I am going to shake the heavens and the earth. I will overthrow the thrones of kingdoms and destroy the power of the kingdoms of the nations….”
- Many will come to faith in Jesus during these times. Whoever will repent, whoever will return to the Lord, whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.
- Why not make that decision today, before these traumas come?
- Yes, Jews are the Chosen People. But according to the Scriptures, it is not enough that the Lord chose the Jews — Jews must also choose the Lord.
- Yes, God loves the Gentiles. But according to the Scriptures, it is not enough that the Lord loves Gentiles — Gentiles must also love the Lord with all the heart, soul, mind and strength, and love their neighbors as themselves.
- The Lord said through Moses said in Deuteronomy 30:19, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants.”
- Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, and no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
- Now is the time to call on the name of the Lord and be saved.
Part Three: A Trumpet Call for Israel and the Church
Both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament teach that in the “last days,” severe military threats will mount against the State of Israel, yet the Jewish state will become more and more isolated internationally. Ultimately, the Bible indicates that no country will come to the defense of the Jewish people when the major prophetic battles unfold and Israel’s enemies attack. Rather, Israel will find herself all alone in the world. This makes recent headlines all the more troubling, for international pressure against — and isolation of — the modern State of Israel seems to be intensifying this year. Consider the latest key stories from the epicenter from just the past few days and weeks:
In light of such disturbing trends, I am posting some of my notes covering chapter two of the “Book of Joel.” In his second chapter, the Hebrew prophet gives us so much vital information about the future of Israel and how to live in the last days that I won’t be able to cover it all in one posting. But I hope you will find these notes helpful as you study the writings of this important minor prophet and teach them to others. I would also encourage you to watch the message delivered at The Joshua Fund’s 2011 Epicenter Conference by Pastor Ray Bentley, who taught on Joel 2:1-17. In a few days, Lord willing, I will post my notes covering the rest of chapter two.
Note: In case you missed the previous postings, here are the links:
Now, let’s begin….
Chapter Two: “A Trumpet Call for Israel and the Church”
- As the “Day of the Lord” approaches in the last days, those who know the Lord, follow the Lord, listen to the Lord, study the Word of the Lord, and teach the Word of the Lord are supposed to do a series of things:
- Understand that danger is coming and thus “blow a trumpet in Zion” and “sound an alarm” on God’s holy mountain — that is, call people to action (2:1)
- We are to alert “all” the inhabitants of the land of Israel that the “Day of the Lord is coming; surely it is near” (2:1)
- We are to let Israel know that the “Day of the Lord” will be a day of judgment, “a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness”
- We are to let Israel know that that the Day of the Lord will be historic….”there has never been anything like it” – even the previous apocalyptic plagues of locusts described in Joel chapter one – “nor will there ever be again after it” (2:2)
- We are to explain that the Day of the Lord will come with devastating fire that consumes everything in its path (2:3)
- We are to explain that the run up to the Day of the Lord will be traumatic — the land of Israel will suffer an invasion unlike anything in its history….the text indicates that the land of Israel will be completely overrun and will suffer serious devastation, far beyond the locust invasion that described in chapter one.
- What’s interesting is that in the first 24 verses of chapter two, the word “locust” is never mentioned. Rather, we have images that are similar to a classic locust invasion, but far more devastating.
- The appearance of the invaders is “like” the appearance of horses (2:4)
- And “like” war horses (2:4)
- They run “like” mighty men (2:5)
- They climb the wall “like” soldiers (2:7)
- So the invaders aren’t exactly locusts – they’re “like” locusts
- The invaders aren’t human soldiers – they’re “like” human soldiers
- Over the years, some Bible expositors have suggested that what we are seeing play out in the Book of Joel is the “War of Gog and Magog,” as prophesied in Ezekiel 38 and 39. There are several reasons for teachers to suggest this:
- The Hebrew Prophet Joel describes events that will happen in the last days, as does Ezekiel
- Joel seems to describe a land of Israel that is fertile and fruitful, like a Garden of Eden (Joel 2:3), and Ezekiel describes a land that has essentially recovered from devastating wars and is secure and prosperous (Ezekiel 38:8, 12)
- Joel describes a threat to Israel that is unprecedented in her history, as does Ezekiel
- Joel describes the Lord saying, “I will remove the northern army far from you” (Joel 2:20), and Ezekiel 38-39 describes the main threat to Israel coming from the north but destroyed by the Lord
- Joel describes the Lord pouring out His Spirit after defeat of the enemy (Joel 2:28-29), as does Ezekiel (Ezekiel 39:29)
- I certainly believe that the”War of Gog and Magog” described in Ezekiel 38-39 is real, serious, and coming sooner that many people think. That said, despite some similarities, I do not see the primary prophetic events described in the Book of Joel as being focused on Ezekiel’s “War of Gog and Magog.” I say this for several reasons:
- The Hebrew Prophet Joel describes Israel as being fully invaded and completely overrun by enemy forces, like a locust invasion; this is not, however, what is described in Ezekiel 38-39 where the enemy comes against the mountains of Israel but is then supernaturally destroyed, unable to completely invade and overrun the land.
- Joel describes the land of Israel being devastated by fire (from the enemies), whereas Ezekiel describes the enemies of Israel being devastated by fire (from heaven)
- Joel describes the judgment of “all the nations” (3:2) occurring after the enemy is defeated, whereas Ezekiel describes a limited coalition of nations being judged during their defeat.
- Joel singles out Egypt for such severe judgment that the text says “Egypt will become a waste” (3:19), whereas mention of Egypt is noticeably absent from Ezekiel 38-39.
- Joel also singles out Edom for such severe judgment that the text says “Edom will become a desolate wilderness because of the violence done to the sons of Judah in whose land they have shed innocent blood” (3:19), whereas mention of Edom is noticeably absent from Ezekiel 38-39.
- To understand the End Times events that the Hebrew Prophet Joel is foretelling, we need to study the prophecies of Revelation 9:1-12 and the events that occur after the 5th of 7 trumpets are blown during the Great Tribulation. Consider the following points:
- In the Book of Revelation,we read that out of Hell (“a bottomless pit filled with the smoke of a great furnace”) “came locusts upon the earth” (9:2)
- But the Bible indicates that these are not ordinary locusts — they have power like scorpions to injure with their tails (9:2, 5,6,10)
- These creatures are “told not to hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree” (9:4)
- These creatures are designed to attack mankind “who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads,” that is, those who are not born again followers of the Lord Jesus Christ (9:4)
- These creatures cannot kill but rather torment men for five months (9:5)
- Their appearance is “like” horses (9:7)
- They have faces “like” men (9:7)
- They have hair “like” the hair of women (9:8)
- They have teeth “like” the teeth of lions (9:8)
- They have armor “like” soldiers who have breastplates of iron (9:9)
- They sound “like” many horses rushing to battle (9:9)
- They have a king over them, “the angel of the abyss” whose name in Hebrew is “Abaddon,” and in Greek is “Apollyon”
- These are not really locusts, or human soldiers, though they are like both — these are demonic creatures ruled by a Satanic king
- They will come “upon the earth” with “power” (9:3)
- The Book of Revelation does not say these creatures will exclusively attack those in Israel – their attack will be global
- But the Book of Joel does indicate that such creatures will specifically invade Israel and bring great trauma and devastation — as Joel 2:11 says: “the Day of the Lord is indeed great and very terrible; who can endure it?”
Again, in a few days I will post the rest of my notes on Joel chapter two which gives us hope for the future and specific, practical suggestions for Israel and the Church on how to live in the last days.
Part Two: A Wake Up Call for Israel and the Church
Record breaking natural disasters keep happening around the world. The global economy remains in serious trouble. Millions are sinking into poverty. Islam is spreading around the world. Rumors of new wars in the Middle East are mounting. New threats to Israel are metastasizing. Yet as the world is being shaken and serious new threats and challenges are rising, so much of the world seems to be asleep. Alarm bells are going off, yet so much of the Church seems to be asleep as well, intoxicated by the pleasures of the world and unable or unwilling to respond to the call of God to pray, fast, and repent despite the fact that, as the Hebrew Prophet Joel wrote in the Bible, “the day of the Lord is coming; surely it is near.”
“It is time to wake up.” That was the message Anne Graham Lotz — the internationally renowned Bible teacher and daughter of evangelist Billy Graham — brought to the 700 people who attended the 2011 Epicenter Conference in Jerusalem in May and the more than 37,000 people from 113 countries around the world who have now watched part or all of the messages online at www.epicenterconference.com since the event ended. Anne taught chapter one of the Old Testament Book of Joel in a message entitled, “A Wake Up Call For Israel and the Church.” It was a powerful and challenging message and I would encourage you to watch it for free on-line or purchase the DVD package to watch with family, friends, and your church.
As a follow up, I am pleased to announce that Anne Graham Lotz and I will host a special worldwide simulcast on Sunday, September 11th, 2011 called, “A Wake Up Call For God’s People.” I will teach on Bible prophecies and current events that indicate that we are getting closer and closer to the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. Anne will teach from the Scriptures on how we are to get our hearts ready to know God personally, have our sins forgiven, be living lives of purpose and impact, and to truly be ready for “the Day of the Lord.” If you are a pastor, please visit our special webpage, learn more the event, and sign up to show the simulcast to your congregation at 7pm eastern this 9/11, or 6pm mountain and pacific time. If you are a lay person, please ask your pastor to show the simulcast to your congregation as a way of remembering the events of September 11th to turn our hearts back to the Lord.
As we read in Joel 1:14-15,“Consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly; gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD. Alas for the day! For the day of the LORD is near.”
That said, the other day I posted my notes of an overview of the Book of Joel. Today I am posting my notes of my own personal study of Joel chapter one. I hope you will find them helpful as you study the writings of this important minor prophet and teach them to others.
Joel Chapter One: “A Wake Up Call”
- The first 13 verses of chapter one reference an actual, historic disaster, a literal plague of locusts that has just so devastated the “inhabitants of the land” of Israel that it will be remembered for generations to come. (1:2)
- The Hebrew Prophet Joel does not begin by describing a prophetic or metaphoric event. He is referring to an actual historic event. The Lord is saying to all the current inhabitants of the land of Israel, “Has anything (else) like this happened in your days or in your fathers’ days?” (1:2)
- The Lord is saying through Joel that the devastation that has been wrought foreshadows a future apocalyptic disaster coming to Israel in the End Times.
- Locust plagues are classic forms of God’s judgment in Scripture, both in times past and in End Times prophecies yet to be fulfilled.
- The Lord used Moses and Aaron to bring a plague of locusts as the 8th plague against the Pharoah and the Egyptian people during the events of the Exodus (Exodus 10:1-20)
- The Lord used Moses to warn the children of Israel to obey Him fully when they enter the Promised Land or one of the judgments they will suffer will be plagues of locusts who will consume their fields (Deuteronomy 28:15,25,38)
- King Solomon prayed to the Lord, asking if a plague of locusts ever came upon the children of Israel as a judgment and they should repent and pray and come back to the house of the Lord — the Temple that they were dedicating that day — that the Lord would hear from heaven and forgive them and heal their land (1 Kings 8:37-40)
- The Lord responded to Solomon’s prayer and said that if there were a plague of locusts due to judgment and the children of Israel repented of their sins and turned back to the Lord and truly prayed and sought His face that He would hear from heaven and forgive their sins and heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:13-14)
- The Lord used the Apostle John in the Book of Revelation to warn Israel and the world that during the terrible events of the “Great Tribulation” when the 5th of 7 trumpets of judgment sounds, He will unleash a plague of demonic locusts and bring about a terrible devastation. (Revelation 9:1-12)
- In the Book of Joel, chapter one, the Lord speaks through the prophet to various groups of people in Israel who have been devastated by the actual, historic locust plagues: “Elders,” who are supposed to hear God’s Word (1:2); “All inhabitants” of Israel, who are supposed to listen to God’s Word (1:2); “Drunkards,” who are supposed to wake up (1:5); “Wine drinkers,” who are supposed to wail (1:5); “Virgins,” who are supposed to wail (1:8); “Bridegrooms,” who are supposed to wail (1:8); “Priests,” who are supposed to mourn/wail/lament (1:9, 13); “Ministers of the Lord,” who are supposed to mourn/wail (1:9, 13); “Farmers,” who are supposed to “be ashamed” (1:11); and “Vinedressers,” who are supposed to wail (1:11)
- Interesting are some of those not mentioned: No mention of a king (the words king/kings/kingdom/etc are used 2,597 times in the New American Standard Bible, but not here); No mention of government leaders of any kind; No mention of prophets (the word prophet is used 461 times in the NASB, but not here)
- Perhaps the most important verse of chapter one is verse 5 is “Awake!”
- This chapter is a wake up call for Israel, who should know better than to live in such sin because they have been given the Holy Scriptures and the prophets….and for the Church — people who say they are followers of the Lord Jesus Christ — who should know better than to live in such sin because they have the Holy Scriptures to teach and guide them
- The question is: Will we wake up?
- Do we see how far we are from the God who made us and loves us and is jealous for our love and affection?
- Do we realize how drunk we are — with alcohol, with illegal drugs, with legal drugs, with entertainment, with the “things of this world”?
- Do we realize how blind, deaf and dumb we are to what the Lord is trying to say to us through His Word?
- Do we realize that if we don’t turn around quickly, the Lord is going to come and rock our world, shake our world, devastate our world, until we choose to curse Him, or until we choose to fall at His feet and give Him the worship He so richly deserves?
- The good news is that the Lord tells the people through the Hebrew prophet what to do:
- First, we must wake up from our drunken, intoxicated stupor (1:5)
- Second, we are to consecrate a fast (1:14)
- Third, we are to proclaim a solemn assembly (1:14)
- Fourth, we are to gather the elders (1:14)
- Fifth, we are to gather all the inhabitants of the land (1:14)
- Sixth, we are to cry out to the Lord (1:14)
- What should we say when we cry out to the Lord? The rest of the Bible teaches us to cry out in repentance and ask the Lord Jesus Christ to forgive us, to help us, to heal us, to save us, to cleanse us, to adopt us into His family, to fill us with His Holy Spirit, and to teach us to walk in His ways. In John 1:12, we read, “But as many as received Him [Jesus, the Messiah], to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” In John 3:16, Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”
- The Hebrew Prophet describes the urgency of getting right with the Lord — because the “Day of the Lord” is coming (1:15)
- It is near and will come as destruction from the Almighty
- There will be a horrific famine (1:17)
- There will be a horrific fire (1:19-20)
- Animals will suffer (1:18)
- People will suffer (1:19)
- Therefore, we should turn to the Lord now, before all these End Times judgments are unleashed
I hope this is helpful.
Part One: What is the “Day Of The Lord” and why does it matter?
Are we living in the last days of human history as we have known it? Are the tumultuous events and trends underway in the Middle East and around the world signs that the Messiah is coming to Earth soon to judge and to rule and reign from Jerusalem? What is the “Day of the Lord”? What are the “last days”? What does Bible prophecy teach about such things? And how should we live in light of such prophecies?
Answering these questions was the focus of the 2011 Epicenter Conference, which took place in Jerusalem on May 15-16. One Day One, a group of internationally renowned Bible teachers and I taught through the Old Testament “Book of Joel” verse by verse, chapter by chapter. We then had a panel discussion on lessons for Israel and the Church drawn from the Book of Joel. One Day Two, we had a series of panels where highly-regarded Israeli, Palestinian, American, Iranian and Indian pastors and Bible teachers explored the implications of these Bible prophecies for Israel and the Church in more depth in light of current events.
By God’s grace and to our great encouragement, some 700 evangelical Christians — including those from as far away as Uganda, Ghana, Germany, South Korea and South Africa — attended the The Joshua Fund’s annual conference in person. Since then, more than 31,500 people around the world have watched videos of the messages on-line at no charge at www.epicenterconference.com. Many have also pre-ordered a complete set of the messages on DVD so they can watch them with — or give them to — family members, friends, their small group Bible studies, home fellowship groups, or their whole church congregations.
I believe God wants all of Israel and all of the Church to turn our attention to the Book of Joel in the weeks and months ahead. There is a critically important message there that is on the Lord’s heart and it is deeply relevant for our time. Over the next few days, I’m going to share with you my own personal study and message notes from the Book of Joel. I hope you will find them helpful as you study the writings of this important minor prophet and teach them to others.
Let’s begin today with an overview. What follows are the notes I used to deliver the first message of the 2011 Epicenter Conference.
THE DAY OF THE LORD IS COMING: An overview of the Book of Joel
- The focus of this year’s Epicenter Conference is the Book of Joel. Today, we will go through the Book of Joel verse by verse, chapter by chapter. We’ll observe, interpret and begin to apply. What does this fascinating ancient text say? What does it mean? And what does it mean to you and I today whether we live in Israel or anywhere else around the world?
- Tomorrow, we will take the next step. We’ll explore a range of threats facing Israel and her neighbors and consider these threats – and how to respond to them – in light of what we learn from the Book of Joel and the rest of the Holy Scriptures.
- The question that might reasonably be asked is, “Why?” Joel is not a particularly popular book of the Bible. Some pastors refer to it. Some teach through it. But most don’t. Why, then, should we? It’s a good question and one I’d like to address before we dive in with our blessed line up of internationally renowned Bible teachers.
- Let me start by saying it’s not because it’s my favorite book of the book, though it is and it has been since I was in high school — and yet I have never taught the Book of Joel before today or ever attended a church or conference where I heard it taught cover to cover.
- And it’s not because my life verse comes from the Book of Joel, though it does, again since high school – Joel 2:11….“The Lord thunders at the head of His army; unlimited are His forces, and mighty are those who obey His command. The Day of the Lord is great and dreadful. Who can endure it?”
- And it’s not because my friend, Pastor Ray Bentley, called me one day a few years ago and said we really need to have an Epicenter Conference that teaches through the Book of Joel, though he did, and I thought He was right, and have been praying about it ever since.
- All these are contributing factors. But the reason is more simple and far more profound: the Lord told us to proclaim in 2011 in the message He proclaimed through the Prophet Joel thousands of years ago, and we are being obedient to that heavenly command. There is a message here that is relevant for our time. There are warnings here that we dare not ignore. There is a sense of urgency in the heavenlies we need to share. This is a book that is near and dear to the heart of the Father…there is a fallen world that is not listening…and a Church that by and large is not proclaiming. May we purpose in our hearts today to change course while we still can.
- WHO:The author is the Hebrew Prophet Joel (1:1)
- “Joel” means “Jehovah is God” or the “Lord is God”
- Joel was the “son of Pethuel” (1:1), which means: “vision of God”
- We don’t learn much about the life and ministry of the Prophet Joel in this book or anywhere else in the Bible. Why? Because the Book of Joel isn’t about Joel – it’s about the coming of the Day of the Lord and God’s call on Israel and all men and women everywhere to repent, turn away from their sins, and get ready to meet the Lord face to face, before it is too late.
- WHAT:This small book of the Bible (three chapters in English; four chapters in Hebrew) is a book of End Times prophecy.
- The Lord speaks to Israel, to the Church, and to all the nations through the Hebrew Prophet Joel, telling us details about the future and sharing His heart that all men and women everywhere would choose to turn to the Lord and let Him change and restore our lives.
- The Book of Joel is referred or alluded to numerous times in the New Testament. A few notable examples:
- The Apostle Peter quotes “the prophet Joel” directly in Acts 2:16-21
- The Lord Jesus refers to Joel 2:10, “the sun and the moon [will] grow dark and the starts lose their brightness” before the Day of the Lord, when He describes the signs of the last days in Matthew 24:29
- The Apostle Paul cites Joel 2:32, “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved,” in Romans 10:13
- The Apostle John alludes to Joel 2:10 when he describes events of the Tribulation in Revelation 8:12
- The Apostle John alludes to the Book of Joel and language of the locust invasion in Revelation chapter 9
- WHEN:Unlike many other books in the Bible, the Book of Joel provides us with no clear, definitive time references regarding when it was written.
- Some scholars say around in the 9th century B.C.
- Some say 6th or 7th century B.C.
- Some say in the 5th century, B.C.
- The fact is, we simply don’t know for certain
- Why doesn’t the Lord want us to know precisely when the book was written? Because the Book of Joel wasn’t written to get us focused on the past. It was written to get us focused on the future and the coming of the “Day of the Lord” and to get our hearts ready for that Day
- WHERE: The events described in these prophecies take place in Israel, Jerusalem, Judah and Zion
- Israel is mentioned 3 times in the book
- Jerusalem is mentioned 4 times in the book
- Judah is mentioned 6 times in the book
- Zion is mentioned 7 times in the book
- The “fig trees” of Israel are referred to 3 times in the book. [NOTE: Figs and fig trees are often used throughout the Bible as symbols of the nation or state of Israel. In Matthew 24:32-33, the Lord Jesus referred to the “parable of the fig tree” to tell us that the State of Israel would be prophetically reborn in the last days and that in the last days the Jewish people would prophetically return to the Holy Land after centuries of exile. Other examples of Israel connected to fig trees can be found in Jeremiah 24....1 Kings 4:21-26 (“So Judah and Israel lived in safety, every man under his vine and his fig tree, from Dan even to Beersheba, all the days of Solomon”)....and in Habakkuk 3:16-17, to name a few.]
5. WHY: The Book of Joel was written for several reasons. Among them:
- To serve as a “wake up call” to the people of Israel, Judah and Jerusalem to prepare for and repent ahead of the coming “Day of the Lord,” judgments that would be similar to but far worse than the devastating plague of locusts Israel once experienced.
- To serve as a “trumpet call” to all those who love the Lord and His Word and profess to be the Lord’s followers to prepare for and repent ahead of the coming “Day of the Lord.”
- To serve as a warning to the nations that in the Day of the Lord they will face judgment for sins they have committed against Israel and the Jewish people.
- To highlight the importance of the “Day of the Lord.” Joel mentions the “Day of the Lord” in each chapter and five times in total (1:15, 2:1, 2:11, 2:30, 3:14). The “Day of the Lord” – and similar/related Biblical references such as “the day” and “that day” and others – are mentioned more than 70 times in the New American Standard translation of the Bible
- What is the “Day of the Lord” and is it different from the “last days”?
- The “last days” is the Biblical term describing the period of time filled with prophetic events of signs and wonders that lead up to the Rapture of the Church, the period between the Rapture and the Tribulation, and the Tribulation itself, all of which build towards the Second Coming. The last days – characterized by wars, rumors of wars, revolutions, natural disasters, the rise of false messiahs/prophets/teachers, apostasy, lawlessness, persecution of the believers, the spread of the gospel to all nations, the rebirth of Israel, and similar signs described in the Bible – are a time of great trauma for the world as well as God’s mercy, for the Bible indicates that many will come to faith in Jesus Christ during the last days.
- The “Day of the Lord” is the Biblical term describing the culmination of the last days of world history as we have known it — specifically, it refers to the actual, physical, literal Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the time when Jesus Christ wins the Battle of Armageddon and the Battle of Jerusalem and then His feet literally touch down on the Mount of Olives, splitting the mountain into two, as foretold by the Prophet Zechariah. The Day of the Lord is described throughout the Scriptures as a day of darkness, gloom, distress and judgment for the nations. The Day of the Lord sets into motion the setting up of the MillennialKingdomin which Jesus Christ will reign from a new Temple in Jerusalemfor a literal 1,000 year period, as described in the Book of Revelation.