Joel’s brief prophetic message portrays the entire process of the nation of Israel’s restoration from beginning to end. It begins with a complete devastation of the land (Joel 1) and concludes with eternal blessing for God’s people (Joel 3:18-21). In between, was a transformation that started with Israel’s invasion by an army that Joel said looked like “the morning spread upon the mountains” (Joel 2:2). Afterwards, there was a call to repentance. Joel instructed God’s people to, “blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly: gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth out of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet” (Joel 2:15-16).

Joel portrayed an instantaneous interruption of all activities. His call to repentance was one that could not be delayed, even for a moment. The reason for his urgency may have been an awareness of impending doom, such as a nuclear missile that was about to be launched. Joel’s incredible insight was no doubt the result of his prophetic gift. I’m sure the message he was given was very troubling and it caused him a great deal of distress. Even though Joel may not have understood all the details of what was about to happen, his urgent plea for repentance showed that he believed the end of Israel’s existence was near. Unlike the warnings given by Jeremiah and Ezekiel before the nation of Judah was taken into captivity, it appeared that the people would respond and were ready to repent. Joel stated, “Then will the LORD be jealous for his land, and pity his people” (Joel 2:18).

Joel’s incredible prediction seems to be associated with the transition from the great tribulation to the millennial reign of Christ. What is clear about his prophecy is that the events he described have not yet taken place. One of the most intriguing aspects of the transformation of God’s people that will occur is recorded in Joel 2:28-29 where the LORD says, “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.” Some scholars believe God will pour out his spirit before the great tribulation in a last ditch effort to expand his kingdom on earth. What seems to be more likely is that God’s people, the nation of Israel will finally acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah and will be restored to their place of prominence in God’s plan of salvation.

Complete devastation

The prophet Joel is probably the most mysterious and intriguing of all the Old Testament prophets. Little is known about the time period or background of his message, but it clearly fits in with others like Isaiah’s and Jeremiah’s that speak about the end times. Joel uses the phrase “day of the LORD” (Joel 1:15) to refer to the warning he has been commanded to give. What seems clear from the overall content of Joel’s message is that he was given a glimpse into the horrible scene that is portrayed in the book of Revelation. A key indicator of the connection between the two messages is that Joel uses language that fits with the complete devastation that will take place when God judges  the human race.

Joel opens his book with a description of the plague of insects that is similar to the one described in Revelation 9. Joel says:

Tell ye your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children another generation. That which the palmerworm hath left hath the locust eaten; and that which the locust hath left hath the cankerworm eaten; and that which the cankerworm hath left hath the caterpillar eaten. Awake ye drunkards, and weep; and howl, all ye drinkers of wine, because of the new wine, for it is cut off from your mouth. For a nation is come up upon my land, strong, and without number, whose teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he hath the cheek-teeth of a great lion. (Joel 1:3-6)

Revelation 9:1-3 introduces the plague of locusts with the suggestion that spiritual warfare is taking place. It says, “And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit. And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit. And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.”

The Greek word translated power in Revelation 9:3 is exousia. Exousia as a noun, denotes authority which is drawn from the meaning of “leave or permission” (1849). To a certain extent, the power that is being referred to is power that one has the right to exercise, the power of rule or government. Another way of looking at this type of power is freedom or mastery, the ability to take control. I believe Joel’s prophecy was meant to convey the idea of a total loss of control. All of the Israelites’ freedom would be taken away and they would become subject to another form of government, a satanic one that would prohibit their worship of God.

The good news hidden within Joel’s message was that God would not allow his people to become a part of Satan’s kingdom. Joel declared, “Alas for the day! for the day of the LORD is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come” (Joel 1:15). The Hebrew term Almighty or Shadday (shad – dah´ – ee) is a title that signifies ultimate power and authority, but in actuality, “the title Shadday really indicates the fullness and riches of God’s grace, and would remind the Hebrew reader that from God comes every good and perfect gift – that He is never weary of pouring forth His mercies on His people, and that He is more ready to give than they are to receive” (7706).