The entire book of Joel comprises three short chapters. Our interest here lies within the second. But with that noted; a brief synopsis may be useful for clarity.
The prophet Joel probably wrote during the Persian period. Beyond this book and where these prophecies are mentioned in the NT, nothing further is known of Joel the son of Pethuel. Most scholars date the book to circa 400 BC. Israel had been dispersed and Judea was being warned of pending judgment against them, and there is a warning of things to take place beyond that time.
The Wycliffe Bible Commentary offered a single paragraph identifying the editor’s view of the main point of the book.
That the ‘Day of the Lord’ is coming is the central teaching of the book, the day when the Lord will manifest himself in the destruction of his enemies and the exaltation of his friends. This day will be accompanied by great convulsions of the earth and a display of extraordinary phenomena in nature. The attitude of a man’s heart and life will determine his reaction to the sinner. It will be a day of terror to the sinner and a day of blessing to the saint. Those who call upon the name of the lord will be delivered, but the enemies of the people will be annihilated.
I would agree with the first conclusion, but certainly not the second, neither with the third nor the pre-millennial driven conclusions found beyond it. I would suggest that if we only read the Bible, we would know that these events have already taken place.
The editors of this commentary, though learned men, evidenced an ignorance of scripture, the nature of prophecy and the use of prophetic language; and then they ignore given text, and install what was offered in explanation to fit a popular hypothesis.
All prophecies were provided to give direct details of God’s doings, or to paint visual pictures of pending events using the limited efficacy of common language. Further, they all follow a pattern whether prophesying of the death of King Ahab or when pointing to events heralding changes in the order God has given. We ought to be both smart enough and then careful enough to identify that and not to necessarily take the particulars down for literal details, events or incidents, unless we are compelled to by the text. And we should never presume that we can fit signs into a postulation which we or others have introduced and which cannot be substantiated within the text or elsewhere in God’s Word. This is especially true (once again) when we are plainly told exactly when the prophecy had been fulfilled. And we have already mentioned what the Word of God had to say about prophetic events that did not come to pass, or when the word from prophets turned out to be full of holes.
The earth did not actually convulse, and nature did not turn upside down when this was fulfilled. Certain judgment came directly from the throne of God and events would be noticed and things would be in transition. In this particular case we have rock solid proof this is true; and we can categorically state that this is the proper way to guide the interpretation of the passage mentioned.
Joel’s letter was provided to Judea several centuries before Christ was born warning the Jews of their spiritual condition and of judgment due to their deeds and that judgment would be coming and would be dramatic. The language must also be understood to incorporate signs to identify those events.
Here is that portion of the text from Joel two:
And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions; And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.
And I will show 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 coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, as the Lord has said, among the remnant who the Lord calls.
Peter told the assembled crowd gathered on that long ago Pentecost feast day, some fifty days beyond the resurrection of the Lord, that this prophecy was being fulfilled before their very eyes and ears. There were certain signs seen in heaven, though it nowhere stated that they would be visible by mortals (how absolutely arrogant to think they might). There would be signs on the earth too (and please re-read the last sentence for viewing information). So why would it not follow that the sky did not fall and the moon did not literally bleed? The language of the prophets is the language of pending judgment common to the prophets, it is the warning of the unseen power of God to work his will. It all had meaning to the schooled, and those who were familiar with the Word. And so the recounted reference to fire and pillars of smoke meant things to Jews schooled in the Books of the Law, as did the rest. We can see that reference but struggle with others.
The previous portion of the record had stated, when the multitude first came together in response to the noise of a storm, When this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and was confused because everyone heard them speak in his own language (Acts 2: 6). It nowhere says there was a storm. It nowhere says the multitude saw the Holy Spirit descend upon those twelve men that day. It nowhere indicated that they were observing a heavenly induced maelstrom, with stirrings in the sky and around them.
They saw and heard what was not there: the affects of the signs heralding that judgment had commenced – events they could neither explain nor even fully identify as coming from any visible or observable source. There was a great sound of a mighty wind only without the wind, and there was a multiplicity of languages being spoken and understood but with no interpreters required. The intent of the signs was to certify big changes were happening and that it was beginning right away; and the new order would affect everything from that point onward.
It was done to certify that God alone is in command, and that his set purpose would be accomplished. It was stated this way to indicate that certain events had been put in motion both in heaven and on the earth, events that would change everything for the Jews. The nation of Israel would soon cease to exist – they would be going out of business – left in darkness; but deliverance would be granted to the remnant of God’s people (those who call upon the name of the Lord). Things were from that day onward commencing to change for everyone, forevermore. Hence the language.
Read from Acts two what is recorded that Peter had said:
But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy. I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath: blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and notable day of the Lord. And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know Him, being delivered by the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.
For David says concerning Him: `I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad; moreover my flesh will also rest in hope, because You will not leave my soul in Hades, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of joy in Your presence.’
Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption.
This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.’ (Acts 2: 17 – 33)
In case you missed the intent of the emboldened text; if we remove all the explanatory clauses from this passage, only this remains: But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel. This Jesus, He poured out this which you now see and hear. Case closed.
Therefore this prophecy and its fulfillment fits nicely with what has been previously posted of chapter two in Isaiah and Daniel. Now we have a single line – a progression lifted out of four chapter two designated segments, from four different books, written by four prophets of different ages, who never met one another. Yet, like an arrow sent straight and sure, it was aimed and fired several hundred years prior to the events, and then recorded as having hit its target on a Holy Day just past the first quarter of the first century, nearly two millennia behind us now. The aim was true and the target was hit dead center, exactly as stated. Has this all missed your hearts, dear readers?
If this is true (and I suggest that it most certainly is), then we ought to make every effort to connect to those particulars as taught by those prophets and proven that day and throughout in the rest of the Old and New Testament writings. We need to locate this identified assembly. We need to bring ourselves into concert with the great purpose of God. Hear, believe, repent and be immersed, to rise in newness of life. Then we may each enter into that most holy assembly: the assembly of Christ, the body of Christ, the church of Christ, to seek and to serve Him who died that we might live, and to stand before Our Father, the Lord God Almighty evermore.
Now before faith came, we were held captive under the Law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, as Law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
(Galatians 3: 23 – 29)