Joel’s Chronology of the End Times: Part 1

Norbert Lieth

What will the end of the world look like? The Scriptures reveal more about this than we may think. Israel is expected to play a key role. The prophet Joel reveals why.

Thousands of years ago, God announced something unheard of for the world—something that has not been fulfilled to this day. He told the people of Israel through his prophet Joel, “And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God, and none else: and my people shall never be ashamed” (Joel 2:27). This is God’s ultimate goal for Israel.

The prophet Zechariah declares that a day will come when Israel will recognize its Lord and Savior, and will see Him whom it has pierced. Israel will repent (Zech 12:10; cf. Rev 1:7). Jesus Christ revealed Himself as this pierced Lord and Savior, and He Himself makes it clear that the Jewish people will welcome Him again one day: “For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Matt 23:39).

It’s a long way off, as shown by the fact that we’re currently living in the 2019th year (presumably) after the birth of our Lord Jesus. Joel describes chronologically how this long way will go and end, right after the verse quoted earlier, in verses 28-31:

“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. 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 great and terrible day of the LORD come.”

God’s prophet basically describes two different events in one vision. He doesn’t see the length of time between these two events. The fact is, only when all prophesied events are perfectly in line with the statements of the Bible, can they be called the fulfillment of prophecy.

The Apostle Peter takes up Joel’s prophecy on the day of Pentecost, and says, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams” (Acts 2:17).

The “end of time” commenced at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the church. This end time moves on continously until the coming of the Lord in glory: “…before the great and notable day of the Lord come” (Acts 2:20). The era in which we have been living since Pentecost is thus the end time age, which concludes with the return of Christ.

Interestingly, Peter doesn’t say that Pentecost is the fulfillment of Joel’s statement; he merely points out, “But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel” (Acts 2:16). Whenever something is “fulfilled,” Scripture also emphasizes it (cf. Matt 1:22; 2:17, 23; 4:14; 8:17; 12:17; 13:14, 35; 26:54, 56; 27:9 et al.). The outpouring of the Holy Spirit was a foretaste for the church, but it wasn’t the complete fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy. Rather, this refers to what comes afterward. The fulfillment will occur “afterward.”

Peter makes it clear that the last days have dawned; namely, the last days focusing on Israel and the messianic kingdom. That’s what the prophets spoke of. Peter has the glorious return of the Lord Jesus and the events that accompany it in mind (cf. Acts 3:19-21). However, what Peter didn’t know at the time was that the Almighty would still add a secret: that of the church from Israel and the nations. This mystery began with the conversion of Cornelius (Acts 10), and was fully revealed to the Apostle Paul (Eph 3). Thus, at Pentecost, the church of Jesus Christ was established, but the Lord Himself didn’t appear in glory.

At the end of the so-called time of affliction (or Tribulation), the Spirit of God will be poured out “upon all flesh.” But only the Jews will prophesy, have dreams, and see visions, for they will be the people of salvation in the millennial kingdom. Pentecost was just the first step. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was not poured out on all flesh, but only on the Jews who were already believers.

If Acts 2 had been the perfect fulfillment of Joel 2, then later in his second sermon, Peter would not have said, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you” (Acts 3:19-20).

The prophecy of Joel 2 will not be completely fulfilled until the end of the Tribulation period. The miracles mentioned will occur before the second coming of Jesus in glory: blood, fire and smoke, the sun turned into darkness and the moon into blood. When the Lord finally appears on earth to establish His kingdom, the moment has come when the Spirit of God will be poured out “upon all flesh.” In Joel 3:1 it says, “For, behold, in those days, and in that time…” Only after the Lord has returned in the midst of Israel, Israel recognizes Him as the Messiah God, and the people are no longer ashamed (Joel 2:27), will the Holy Spirit be poured out on all flesh. But before this happens, heaven and earth must be moved through the judgment of the Great Tribulation (Joel 2:30-31).

“And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call” (Joel 2:32). At that time, when the Lord returns to dwell in the midst of His people, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. This is already fulfilled in the present salvific age of the church (Rom 10:13), but is still waiting for its complete fulfillment in the messianic kingdom. Therefore, we can only speak here of a “partial fulfillment.”

Bible commentator Arno C. Gaebelein notes, “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 also be true in that day. The word our Lord spoke, ‘salvation is of the Jews’ (John 4:22), will find its largest fulfillment. The nations will then be joined to the Lord in the kingdom (Zech 2:11).”

The first section of Joel 2:32 applies to our time, but the last part, “and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call,” probably points to the very last time God takes up the thread of Israel again. In that time, the “remnant” (remaining) of Israel will be saved. This redeemed remnant then represents all Israel: “The remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God” (Isa 10:21). “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (Rom 11:26).

According to Romans 11:5, Jews believing in Jesus today already constitute a remnant; these belong to the “election of grace” within the church. But when the church age is finished, the Lord turns to the Israelites, who then have to go through tribulation and later enter the messianic kingdom. In Revelation 14:1, we see the Lamb of God standing on Mount Zion, surrounded by the 144,000 sealed of Israel. They are described as “firstfruits” (v. 4), because they are supposed to be followed by other redeemed ones. The salvation of all nations will radiate from Mount Zion and Jerusalem.

Since we have had a Jewish state again for 71 years, the possibility has been created that the people can expect the Lord again in Zion (Jerusalem). God is in the process of preparing the people and the land for the last events. “For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem…” (Joel 3:1).

The restoration of the people of Israel takes place in three phases. First, they are gathered into their own country, in a state of unbelief (Ezek 36:24). Second, they receive forgiveness at the Second Coming of the Lord (verse 25). And third, God then pours out the Holy Spirit of regeneration over His people (verse 26). First comes the physical restoration, and then the spiritual. Therefore, we don’t wonder that Israel has not yet believed today and is predominantly a secular people. This circumstance seems to be entirely in God’s plan.

The fate of Judah was turned in 1948 with the War of Independence, and likewise the destiny of Jerusalem with the retaking of the city. From a chronological point of view, Joel shows us, in light of the New Testament: First, the events of Pentecost, though not yet as a complete fulfillment. Second, the church age still hidden from the prophet. Third, the renewal of the nation of Israel.

What is noteworthy in this context is what God then says through the prophet Joel: “I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land. And they have cast lots for my people; and have given a boy for an harlot, and sold a girl for wine, that they might drink. Yea, and what have ye to do with me, O Tyre, and Zidon, and all the coasts of Palestine? will ye render me a recompense? and if ye recompense me, swiftly and speedily will I return your recompense upon your own head” (Joel 3:2-4).

Notice the following emphases: My people, My heritage, My land. Joel writes about current events of his day, and about events related to the Second Coming and the Day of the Lord. Today, thanks to the perfect Word of God and our knowledge of history, we have the opportunity to distinguish these events.

Nearly 2,000 years ago (around 70 AD), the land of Israel was “de-Judaized”; notably, by the selling of young Israelites as slaves. Gaebelein reports, “Nearly a million and a half human beings perished in Jerusalem and the land in that awful warfare. Over 100,000 were taken prisoners. According to Josephus, these hundred thousand Jews were disposed of by Titus in the following manner: ‘Those under seventeen years of age were publicly sold; of the remainder, some were executed immediately, some sent away to work in the Egyptian mines (which was worse than death), some kept for public shows to fight with wild beasts in all the chief cities; only the tallest and most handsome were kept for the triumphal procession in Rome.’ Jews were sold for so small a price as a measure of barley; thousands were thus disposed of. And, what else could we add from the history of centuries, the cruel and terrible persecutions God’s heritage suffered, the thousands and tens of thousands massacred, tortured, mocked, and sold as slaves? Have we not beheld but recently similar horrors in Germany? And that history is not yet finished. Outbreaks of hatred against the heritage Israel are still to come, and the time of Jacob’s trouble on the horizon will eclipse all their former suffering. It will be a time of trouble such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall be (Matt 24:21). The day will come when the Lord will judge the nations for the evil they have done.”

News From Israel - 05/2019

ContactAbout UsPrivacy and Safety