Of Joel the son of Pethuel we know nothing, save what little we can glean from the three chapters forming his message to Israel. Jewish tradition places him in the days of Uzziah; but authoritative proof there is none. His name means, Jehovah is God; and his father’s name, Vision, or, Wisdom of God, according to some; or, Be ye enlarged (or persuaded), according to another.
The immediate circumstances of his testimony seem to be these. The land of Israel had been visited by a terrible plague of locusts, which had devoured every green thing, leaving barrenness and famine in their wake. Joel is inspired of God to press home upon the consciences of the nation of Judah (for it is in and to the southern kingdom he prophesies) the fact that this visitation was from the Lord, because of the sin of His people.
Then, by the Spirit, he is carried on to the last days, and he beholds in the dire calamity by which they were afflicted a picture of the time of Jacob’s trouble, to take place ere Messiah receives the kingdom. Thus the then present desolation becomes the text of a solemn prophetic discourse that is far-reaching in character. This emphasizes what has already been noticed in our study of Hosea, that while prophecy is in many parts, and may have many applications, it is never limited to local matters, but all has its end and complete fulfilment in “the day of the Lord” yet to come.
Another principle of grave moment is likewise brought to our attention by the manner in which the prophet seeks to use the calamity the people were suffering under at the time, to exercise them as to their own state of soul. God would ever have His children recognize His hand in all such visitations. For the believer, there are no second causes. The Lord has said, “I Jehovah create peace, and create evil.” And He asks the question, “Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?” (Isa. 45:7; Amos 3:6). Evil, in both these passages, is, of course, calamity—the opposite of a peaceful, quiet condition. If I am called to pass through such experiences, it is because God has seen a need in my soul for just such disciplinary dealings. He has my best interests at heart. Be it mine then to recognize His actings and to be exercised thereby. This is the lesson of Hebrews 12, and is emphasized in the use Joel makes of Judah’s afflictions in this brief but pungent prophecy.
Further remarks will be necessitated on this line as we pursue our study; so we turn at once to consider the teachings of the three stirring chapters of the book itself. May He who alone gives the eye-salve of the Spirit anoint our eyes that we may see wondrous things in His Word now before us!
The Locust Plague
The ancients of Judah are first addressed, and called upon to declare if, in all their recollection, or in all the days of which their fathers had told them, there had ever been so grievous a visitation as that which the land and the people were groaning under at the time when Joel was sent to press home upon their consciences the serious lessons God would have them to learn (vers. 1-3).
“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” (ver. 4). Thus the destruction of every green thing had been complete, so that famine and utter ruin stared them in the face. The various forms of insect-life here spoken of are not generally supposed to be diverse, unrelated creatures, but are probably the various stages assumed by the locust as it advances from the larvae form to that of maturity.17 This much-dreaded plague had therefore cut off all the sources of food-supply, and left an appalling scene of desolation behind. And what was so intensely solemn was the fact that it was God’s voice, and there was grave likelihood that the people might be occupied only with the rod, and fail to hear Him who had appointed it.
Nothing is more natural for us than this. In place of godly exercise, we may give way to self-pity, or hard, stony indifference; thus either fainting under the discipline of the Lord on the one hand, or despising it on the other. Blessing results from being “exercised thereby.” This was what Judah was in danger of missing, as with many others before and since.
The pleasure-loving drunkards, who delighted in their wine, were called upon to awake to the realization of their true condition—God’s stroke upon them; and to learn the lesson He intended for them. His great army, like a nation of foe-men, “strong and without number,” had blasted the vine and barked the fig tree, so that the source of their carnal enjoyment was gone (vers. 5-7).
Like a virgin girded with sackcloth, lamenting the untimely death of her betrothed husband, they were called upon to mourn over the sins that had drawn down the judgment of God upon them. His house too was affected; for there that judgment must begin. The meat, or meal-offering, and the drink-offering were cut off, and the priests were left to mourn. When God’s people are in a famished condition, there is no real appreciation of Christ; hence the oblations cease to be offered. The meal-offering sets forth the manhood of the Lord Jesus. The drink-offering portrays His pouring out His soul unto death. But a spiritual famine dulls the perception and sensibilities of those indebted to His one offering for all their blessing; so the gifts of a worshiping people cease (vers. 8, 9).
The desolate condition of the land is vividly described in verses 10 to 12. All the fruits of the field were gone, and the trees had withered away; even as joy had departed from the sons of men. Therefore the solemn admonition to those whose place it was to minister for them in things pertaining to God: “Gird yourselves, and lament, ye priests: howl, ye ministers of the altar: come, lie all night in sackcloth, ye ministers of my God: for the meat-offering and the drink-offering is withholden from the house of your God” (ver. 13). Insensibility at such a time!—how obnoxious to God, who wished to see a true appreciation of His dealings with His people.
So he calls upon the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to sanctify a fast, and call a solemn assembly, that they may unitedly cry unto the Lord, owning before His face their common failure, and judging their evil ways (ver. 14). The approaching day of the Lord is mentioned as an incentive to this. Not that the day of the Lord (which, in its full, prophetic sense, refers to the revelation of Jesus Christ to usher in the kingdom) was really to occur in their time; but as that day will be for the manifestation of all that has been in accordance with the mind of God, they were called upon to act then in the light of the day that was coming (ver. 15). In like manner are Christians exhorted to walk now in view of the day of Christ, when all our works shall be examined at His judgment-seat. The all-displaying light of that hour of manifestation should ever be shining upon our pathway, that all our steps may be ordered in accord therewith.
Throughout the book of Joel this is the standpoint of the prophet. The day of the Lord is coming. It will be the day of reality; when all shams and all hypocrisy will be manifested as what they are. Then, only what is of God will stand. Therefore the prime importance of ordering all their behavior so that it will bear the searching test of Him whose eyes are as a flame of fire.
In verses 16 to 18 the desolate condition of the land is again reverted to. All their hopes have been blasted. The blight is upon all for which they have labored. But serious as their temporal condition had become, it was as nothing compared to the spiritual dearth prevailing, of which their utter insensibility was the saddest feature.
Joel speaks as an exercised soul in the closing words of the chapter. He takes his place as one who feels the wretched conditions existing to the full: “O Lord, to Thee will I cry!” This alone can be his resource when “the rivers of waters are dried up, and the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness.”
The Promise Of The Outpouring Of The Spirit
As we turn to this second chapter we are ushered at once into the solemn and soul-stirring events of the coming day of the! Lord; a day which will only come when, the Church having been caught up to heaven, God takes up Israel again as a nation, fulfilling “all that the prophets have spoken.”
In so writing, I do not forget that it was the last part of this chapter which the apostle Peter quoted in explaining the wondrous manifestations of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, as foretold in Scripture. But we shall see, when taking up the passage in question, that it applies primarily to a far wider outpouring yet to come. That of Pentecost was like it in nature, and a measure of its fulfilment; therefore Peter could say, “This is that” But the prophecy was by no means exhausted then, as a careful reading of the whole book of Joel will make plain.
The figure of the trumpet, twice used in the chapter (vers. 1 and 15), connects intimately with Numbers, ch. 10. There we find the “two trumpets of silver” were used for a double purpose— to blow an alarm, and to summon the whole congregation to the presence of the Lord. The first was to arouse; the second, to instruct. We find the same thing here. In vers. 1 to 14 the trumpet of alarm is blown, and the people are warned of the dreadful events about to take place in the day of the Lord, which is declared to be nigh at hand, events so grave that the visitation of the locusts under which they had been suffering was but a feeble picture of what is yet in store for the land and the people of Judah. Then, in ver. 15 to the end of the book, at the sounding of the trumpet to call a solemn assembly, instruction is given in detail regarding the results in blessing which will follow the judgments already depicted. In the first part, the day of the Lord is described as “a day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains.” As the darkest hour precedes the dawn, so, before the break of the millennial morn, the world in general, and Judah in particular, will pass through the darkest period of tribulation that has ever been known.
For Judah, the chief agency in this is “a great people and a strong,” who are likened to the devouring locusts. It is the Assyrian of the last days, the dread northern power, who will overrun the land of Palestine just prior to the glorious appearing of the Sun of Righteousness. Like a devouring fire, they will sweep over the land, ravaging without mercy what was as the garden of delight before them, but which will be left as a desolate wilderness (vers. 2, 3). Like mighty-horses running to battle, and as chariots on the tops of the mountains, they shall seem to leap as from mount to mount, and from peak to peak, in their irresistible onslaught, as the devouring flames lick up all that is left in their path. Fleeing before them in terror and anguish, “all faces shall gather blackness” in the mad effort to escape the avenging hordes (vers. 4 to 6). Their orderly progress, as a disciplined army, knowing only the behests of their commanders, is strikingly depicted in vers. 7 to 9. Nothing avails to turn them aside. They enter wherever their prey may hide, and overcome all obstacles as they press on in the fury of their power.
The language of ver. 10 is undoubtedly apocalyptic. So tremendous will be the upheavals and overturnings in that day of Jehovah’s wrath, that it will be as the quaking of the earth and the trembling of the heavens. The sun will be darkened, and the moon likewise, while the stars will seem to be blotted out in the midnight sky. As in the convulsions of the sixth seal in Rev. 6, all that men have esteemed sure and stable will be overturned. It is the destruction, not of the material universe, but of the moral, spiritual and political economies.
An appeal to the conscience of Judah is based upon this. Jehovah calls upon them to turn to Him with all their hearts, bringing forth fruits meet for repentance. He wants reality instead of outward forms: so He says, “Rend your heart, and not your garments;” assuring them of His tender compassion, and His grace that cannot fail, if they thus turn to Him with purpose of heart. Even though the first droppings of the coming storm had already fallen, who could tell if He would not turn from His wrath, and leave a blessing behind Him? Though the hour was late, His loving-kindness might be yet toward them, in preserving them from further sorrow, and maintaining still His house and its services in their midst (vers. 12-14).
The second call is in verse 15. In place of the alarm-trumpet, the command is given to “blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly.” God would gather the people before Him that He might instruct them as to His ways, and direct their feet in a plain path, if they have but a heart to do His will. All classes are summoned, and the priests, the ministers of the Lord, are directed to weep between the porch and the altar, crying to Him before whose house they stand to spare His people, and not give His heritage to reproach.
The position of the priests—between the porch of the temple and the brazen altar outside—is significant: it speaks of approach to God on the ground of that of which the altar speaks—the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Only in His name, and because of His finished work, has the failing saint title to draw near. “If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous.” Thus the priests are directed to take their stand on the temple-side of the altar, as representing a people who, although in failure, are yet the redeemed of the Lord (vers. 16, 17).
Had there been a responsive heart to God’s call to contrition and self-judgment, the avenger would have been turned aside; Jehovah would have arisen in His might as their Deliverer, turning back the judgments, and bringing in blessing and gladness. In the last days, the remnant who are to be preserved for the kingdom will take the place here commanded. Then all that is promised upon their repentance will be gloriously fulfilled. The northern army will be destroyed, and his boasted power annihilated, when the Lord shall drive him into a land barren and desolate. Every enemy shall be overthrown, and the arm of Jehovah made bare (vers. 18-20).
It is manifestly in view of such an epoch of national repentance that the consolatory promises that follow (to the end of the chapter) are given. The land is called upon to rejoice because of the great things the Lord is to accomplish. Even the lower orders of creation shall share in the blessings of the earth’s rejuvenation. It will be the bringing-in of the liberty of the glory of the children of God for which the whole creation, groaning and travailing in pain, now waits (Rom. 8:19-23). In the present liberty of grace creation does not share. But the liberty of the glory will be all-embracing. Then “they shall not hurt nor destroy” in all the holy mountain; but the wolf and the lamb shall dwell together, “and a little child shall lead” the strongest and once-fiercest of beasts. From the vegetable kingdom as a whole the curse shall be lifted; the pastures of the wilderness shall spring into beauty and verdure; and the vine and the fig will yield abundantly—types of all food-producing plants (ver. 22).
In order that the fertility of the land of Canaan may be restored, and even marvelously surpass its ancient fecundity, the former and latter rains will be given in abundance. It is a well-known fact that already the God of Israel has given more than a hint of the literal fulfilment of this prophecy. For long centuries the latter rains had been withheld from Palestine, and the land that was once the garden of the East had become largely barren and desolate, scarcely able to sustain its scattered and meagre population. But, in our own times, the latter rains have returned in such measure that agriculture is once more in a flourishing condition, and vineyards, olive-yards and fig orchards abound. It is as though God were graciously giving to the world in general, and His ancient people in particular (even now returning to the home of their fathers in some measure), an evidence that His eye is ever on the land He chose for Himself, which He covenanted to Abraham’s seed forever; where His only begotten Son dwelt in His humiliation—yea, where He was crucified, and which once contained His tomb, but which shall soon be touched by His glorious feet, when He descends to take His great power and reign. Throughout the Millennium of Christ’s reign (Rev. 20:6) that country will again become the chief garden-spot of the whole world, blessed with the rain in its season, and so fertile that “the floors shall be full of wheat, and the vats shall overflow with wine and oil” (vers. 23, 24).
Then shall all the past ages of oppression and desolation be forgotten; for He has said, “I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpillar, and the palmerworm, My great army which I sent among you” (ver. 25). How striking the language, “My great army which I sent!” In the visitation referred to in chapter 1, they were in danger of beholding only the plague of locusts, and forgetting the One who sent it. He owns it as His army, which He had directed against the land for the discipline of His people. But in the coming day of the Lord, He will abundantly make up for all the loss of the past. Then they shall eat in plenty, knowing no want of any kind; while He who had been their Redeemer from of old will be the object of their praise and adoring gratitude. Dwelling in His love, they shall nevermore be put to shame, for He will dwell in their midst, receiving the homage of their hearts, never again to be displaced by the idols of the past (vers. 26, 27).
Then He says: “And it shall come to pass afterward” (that is, after the people of Judah have been restored to their land, and the nation as a whole brought into blessing) “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 the terrible day of the Lord come. 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” (vers. 28-32). I have quoted this interesting and important passage in full, in order that the least-instructed reader may have it all before him, noting carefully its connection. It is no isolated fragment interjected without connection with the balance of the book: on the contrary, the order is divinely perfect, and it occurs in its exact and proper place, in line with the events of the day of the Lord which the prophet has been unfolding. Manifestly all this can never be fulfilled till the people of Israel are restored to their land. Then God will cause His blessing to go far beyond them, pouring out His Spirit upon “all flesh;” thus bringing the spared nations into the glorious privileges of the millennial kingdom! Old and young shall be anointed with the Spirit’s unction, and shall be enlightened that they may dream dreams, see visions, and prophesy. Nor shall the males alone share in this, but the handmaidens likewise. But observe, the wonders of vers. 30 and 31 will all take place ere this day of the Lord is ushered in. Then salvation shall be extended to all the Gentiles who had never heard the gospel in this dispensation of grace: “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered.” But why? The answer is, “For in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance;” that is, restored Israel will be a centre of blessing for the whole earth. This is not the same thing as the preaching of the gospel of the grace of God today. Mount Zion and Jerusalem are not now the depositaries of blessing for the Gentiles. The very contrary is true. But when the Church, the Body of Christ, has been caught away to be forever with the Lord (in accordance with 1 Thess. 4:14-18), and God has once more taken up the Jews to make them a means of salvation to the heathen nations, Joel’s prophecy will be fulfilled to the letter.
I think it must be evident to every careful reader that this is the only unforced and natural explanation of the passage. But this at once raises the question as to the apostle Peter’s use of it on the day of Pentecost. Are we to entertain the wretched thought that he misapplied it? Or, on the other hand, can it be that readers generally have misapprehended his use of it? The latter alternative is, I am persuaded, the correct one.
Be it noted, Peter does not say that “this is the fulfilment” of the prophecy. He simply finds, the explanation of the remarkable events of that day of wonder in these words of Joel; and he declares, “This is that!” In other words, he did not identify the events. He did identify the power. That which had taken place on Pentecost was the very same thing that Joel said would take place when the day of the Lord had come. That the day spoken of had not come, Peter very well knew, and elsewhere has plainly declared it (2 Pet. 3:10). But the very same power of the Holy Spirit was operating in that day which shall operate when the kingdom is introduced by and by. There is here no contradiction therefore, and certainly no misapplication. Pentecost was a sample of what Joel foretold; and the apostle uses the passage illustratively, not as declaring its complete fulfilment at Pentecost. His own declaration in 2 Peter 1:20 should keep any from supposing Peter meant to take the last verses of Joel 2 from their connection and apply them specifically to the ushering in of the Christian dispensation.
Taken in its full connection, it will be seen the passage in Joel primarily refers to the bringing in of the kingdom—not the Church. But the same power that will operate in the coming day was manifested at Pentecost when Peter preached his memorable sermon.
The Valley Of Decision
Still having before his soul the events that are to transpire in the day of the Lord, the prophet goes on to set forth more detailed information as to that long-waited-for season of Jehovah’s power.
It should not be overlooked that the expression “the day,” or, “that day,” so often used in connection with the ushering in of the kingdom, does not refer to any one day of twenty-four hours. On the contrary, according to the passage in 2 Peter 3:10, already referred to, the day of the Lord covers the entire period from the great tribulation to the passing away of the heavens and earth, thus ushering in the day of God, or the day of eternity.
Four dispensational days are brought before us in Scripture. The present is called “man’s day” (1 Cor. 4:3, margin). The manifestation at the judgment-seat of Christ is in “the day of Christ” (Phil. 1:6, 10).18 Then follows “the day of the Lord,” which is the entire period during which the once-rejected Lord .asserts and makes good His title to the earth. “The day of God” is the eternal state, and is only mentioned in 2 Peter 3:12.
It is therefore to this third great “day” that the present chapter refers, and of which the opening verses treat.
“For, behold in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, 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” (vers. 1, 2). The scene depicted by our Lord Himself in Matt. 25:31-46 would seem to coalesce with this. He vividly describes the coming of the Son of Man in His glory to sit upon the throne of His glory, there to judge the living nations. It has long since been pointed out by others that this judgment-scene is something very different and distinct from the final judgment of the Great White Throne, as set forth in Rev. 20. There the wicked dead are judged and cast into the lake of fire, the righteous having been raised in glory a thousand years before. On the other hand, the judgment of the sheep and goats, as it may be called, is a tribunal before which appear the nations living on the earth when Christ descends to take the kingdom. It is pre-millennial. The Great White Throne is post-millennial. In Matt. 25 the sheep are rewarded because of their treatment of Christ’s brethren, that is, the Jewish remnant. The goats are condemned for their indifference, and even cruelty, to them. The same discriminative judgment is brought to our attention here by Joel.
The Son of Man will place His throne in the valley of Jehoshaphat. To positively locate this valley is an impossibility, as this is the only mention of it in Scripture. It is well known that there is a deep ravine now bearing this name just outside Jerusalem, separating the holy city from the mount of Olives. But it is likely that the name was given it only in view of this prophecy—not that it was so called when Joel spoke, nor yet for centuries afterward, as we have to come down to the fourth century of the Christian era before it is thus designated. If Jehoshaphat be understood as only an untranslated Hebrew expression, all is clear. Then it would read, “The valley of Jehovah’s judgment.”
There the Lord will sit to judge the nations who have oppressed and scattered His people, selling them into slavery and rejoicing in their degradation. No doubt it is God Himself who has permitted them thus to persecute Israel for their discipline; but that in no wise lessens the guilt of their oppressors. Therefore Tyre and Zidon, with all who have had a share in humiliating the Jew, will be recompensed according to their works (vers. 3-8).
Unquestionably what is especially brought out in Matthew 25 is the treatment of the remnant witnesses, fleeing from Antichrist’s bitter persecutions. Hence to minister to them is practically to own the claims of the true Anointed; while to be indifferent to them is to tacitly consent to the iniquitous sway of the false prophet. Therefore new birth is supposed in the case of those who “go into life eternal.” Of this, their works were the proof.
Thus we have detailed information in the New Testament account, which it was not God’s pleasure to reveal through Joel; but the identification of the judgment seems clear.
This, the call in vers. 9 to 17 makes abundantly plain. The mighty men of the Gentiles are caused to hear an alarm and to come up to Immanuel’s land. Turning the implements of peace into weapons of war, they come in great hordes to surround Jerusalem, as predicted in Zech. 14 and Rev. 19. The whole land will be overrun with them; and all human help for the remnant of Israel, who cleave to the Lord, will be gone. Therefore they cry in the hour of their deepest distress, “Thither cause Thy mighty ones to come down, O Lord.” Knowing that the hour has struck when the saints shall take the kingdom, they turn heavenward in their affliction, calling for the descent of their once-rejected Messiah and His glorious train. The answer to their prayer is given in the riding forth of the warrior on the white horse, with all the armies of heaven, as recorded in Rev. 19. He executes summary judgment upon the armed hosts of the nations.
But this is not all. A sessional judgment follows, to which all the heathen are bidden attend. “Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat; for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about” (ver. 12). This is identified with “the harvest of the earth” of Rev. 14:14-16. “Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe.” Nor will the Gentiles alone be judged and the wheat separated from the chaff; but the apostate portion of the nation of Israel, who had owned the blasphemous claims of Antichrist, will be cast as grapes fully ripe into the great wine-press of the wrath of God (Rev. 14:17-20). So we read, “Come, get you down; for the press is full, the vats overflow; for their wickedness is great” (ver. 13).
The fourteenth verse is a graphic depicting of the solemn scene—a verse which has often been utterly misconstrued. “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision [or threshing]: for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision!” It is the day of the Judge’s decisions; not a time when men are being called upon to decide for Christ. The valley of Jehoshaphat becomes as a great threshing-floor where the Divine Winnower sits to separate all that are to share His kingdom from those who are to go away into everlasting punishment. Then shall every created light fade away into darkness, before the presence of the glory of the Crucified (ver. 15)! He, who will be revealed as Jehovah of Hosts, “shall roar out of Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem,” overturning and shaking to pieces all the framework of the civil and political heavens and the earth, as also all religious pretension; for the Lord alone will be the hope of His people and the strength of Israel in that day (ver. 16).
Thus shall the long-looked-for kingdom of the Son of Man be ushered in, and all Israel shall know that Jehovah their God dwelleth in Zion, His holy mountain. Then shall Jerusalem’s long period of Gentile treading-down be over; and, her iniquity accomplished, she shall become in very deed “the Holy City;” never to be trodden under foot of strangers forevermore.
The final four verses apply to that glorious era; yet for Egypt the desolation spoken of will not be final, as we know from other scriptures. “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters, and a fountain shall come forth of the house of the Lord, and shall water the valley of Shittim” (ver. 18). It is a scene of plenty and refreshment which is presented, and concerning which Ezekiel adds fuller details in ch. 47 of his prophecy.
Then judgment will be meted out to Egypt and Edom for their past treatment of the people of Judah. Edom shall be blotted out forever as a nation. This the prophet Obadiah declares. Egypt on the other hand will be restored after having been punished for her sins. See Isaiah 19:18-25. Judah’s time of trouble shall bear precious fruit, leading to her full restoration and blessing; so she “shall dwell forever, and Jerusalem from generation to generation;” having been cleansed from all their defilements, and made clean in His sight who will dwell in their midst in the city of Zion, His chosen capital. “For I will cleanse their blood that I have not cleansed: for the Lord dwelleth in Zion” (ver. 21). It would hardly be necessary to seek to explain this verse somewhat fully, were it not that in our day a wretchedly grotesque interpretation has been put upon it by deluded advocates of a disgusting modern religious fad,19 whose emissaries frequently confuse the simple by using it as their proof-text. The ridiculous notion has been put forth that a certain spared remnant of this age, are to have their blood cleansed (!) from all impurities that would result in natural death, so that they shall obtain immortality in the flesh. The context makes plain the fact that the words refer to the cleansing of literal Judah from the defilement of the blood of their enemies, which they have contracted during the unparalleled horrors of the great tribulation. They shall be henceforth holiness to the Lord.
A reference to Isa. 4:4 will make this plain. There God speaks of the same glorious time: “When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning.” In Lam. 4:14 the prophets and priests of Judah are described as men who have wandered blindly through the streets, and “have polluted themselves with blood, so that men could not touch their garments.” Thus, by the part they took in slaying “the Righteous One,” all Israel have become polluted; but in that day the blood of defilement will be cleansed away and God will be able to dwell among them. Many other passages could be noticed; but these are sufficient to show what is really intended.
With this, Joel’s burden is concluded. He has carried his hearers, and readers, on to the full display of Messiah’s glory. Beyond that, prophecy, as connected with the earth, does not go. Only in the hitherto secret things of the New Testament do we have unfolded something of those things which God hath prepared for them that love Him, who are to share His eternal rest, after time has run its course and ceased to be.
17 Some scholars dissent from this view; but the position stated is that which commends itself to most.
18 “The day of Christ” in 2 Thess. 2:2 should be “the day of the Lord,” as a glance at any reputable critical version will show.
19 I refer to the so-called “Flying Roll;” the doctrines of which are advocated in the misnamed “Pioneer of Wisdom” which has been extensively promulgated in England and her colonies as also in America.