ISRAEL, PROPHECY AND THE “DAY OF THE LORD”: Understanding the Book of Joel — Part One

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This week marks the 44th anniversary of the Six Day War, the historic reunification of Jerusalem under Jewish control, and the dramatic retaking of the Biblical heartland known as Judea and Samaria by the prophetically reborn Jewish State. It is a week of celebration for Israeli Jews, but a week of mourning and violent protests for Israel’s Arab neighbors. As I write this, Iranian leaders says the End of Days has come and the Twelfth Imam will emerge from occultation very soon. They are calling for the annihilation of Israel, sending an Iranian submarine to the Red Sea, and a new report says Iran could build nuclear weapons in just two months. Meanwhile, violence is spiking on the Syrian-Israeli border and the Egyptians have just legalized the Muslim Brotherhood as a political party.

A growing number of Muslims, Jews and Christians believe we are living in the last days of human history as we have known it. Are they right? 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. On 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. On 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 50,000 people from 113 countries around the world have watched videos of the messages on-line at no charge at 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.

PART ONE: THE DAY OF THE LORD IS COMING — An overview of the Book of Joel

  1. 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?
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?”
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Basic Background

  1. 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)
    • 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.
  2. 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 stars 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
  3. 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
  4. WHERE: The events described in these prophecies take place in Israel, Jerusalem, Judah and Zion
    • Israel is mentioned 3 times in the book
      • 2:27
      • 3:2
      • 3:16
    • Jerusalem is mentioned 4 times in the book
      • 3:1
      • 3:6
      • 3:17
      • 3:20
    • Judah is mentioned 6 times in the book
      • 3:1
      • 3:6
      • 3:8
      • 3:18
      • 3:19
      • 3:20
    • Zion is mentioned 7 times in the book
      • 2:1
      • 2:15
      • 2:23
      • 2:32
      • 3:16
      • 3:17
      • 3:21
    • 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.]
      • 1:7
      • 1:12
      • 2:22
  5. WHY: The Book of Joel was written for several reasons. Among them:
    1. 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.
    2. 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.”
    3. 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.
    4. 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.

Next time, I will post my notes for Joel chapter one.


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