The Day of the Lord Theme for the Book of Joel

For the day of the LORD is at hand; it shall come as destruction from the Almighty. (Joel 1:15) Blow the trumpet in Zion … for the day of the LORD is coming, for it is at hand. (Joel 2:1) For the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; who can endure it? (Joel 2:11)

The coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. (Joel 2:31) For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. (Joel 3:14)

1. The primary theme of the book of Joel is the “day of the Lord,” which is mentioned four times (Joel 1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14).

2. The Day of the Lord is a significant timing indicator in understanding the structure of the book of Revelation and the timeline of end-time activity.

Definition of the Day of the Lord

One of the prominent themes in the Old and New Testament prophets is the Day of the Lord. It is also referred to as “that day” or “the great day.” The phrase “Day of the Lord” or phrases that speak of it such as “the Day” or “the great Day” are found in Scripture nearly 100 times. These phrases are in the Old Testament approximately 80 times.

It is “His Day” because He displays His sovereign leadership for all to see. In showing His power and wisdom in this way, it is His day, and thus, “The Day of the Lord.” God’s normal mode of leadership over the earth is to patiently restrain His greater judgments against sin (2 Pet. 3:9; Eccl. 8:11). Rarely has God altered His usual mode of operation by breaking into the natural realm to confront rebellion openly on a large scale. These open demonstrations of His zeal are seen in both revival and the release of the judgments of God.

The Day of the Lord is a unique period of time in history when God’s blessing and judgments are openly manifest in an exceptional way. In other words, it is a unique time frame in history (Kairos hour). It speaks of a special time when God’s blessings or judgments are actively poured out in a heightened way. He displays His power and victory over that which persists in opposing Him. He manifests His zeal in the natural realm, calling nations to account for rebellion against Him, and He visits His people with unusual Holy Spirit power and blessing.

This day indicates a unique time frame when God acts with unusual manifestations of power for His people and against His enemies. His enemies are oppressors who persist in refusing His love and mercy and in rebelling against Him. This is the time when God manifests Himself as the Warrior-King going to war against sin as He decisively intervenes against His enemy. The Warrior-King openly battles against His oppressors as He delivers and vindicates His people.

For the primary passages in the Old and New Testaments see Isa. 2:10-22; 4:1-6; 11:1-15; 13:6-9; Ezek. 13:5; 30:3; Joel 1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14; Amos 5:18-20; Obad. 15; Zeph l:7, 12, 14-18, 20; Zech. 14:1-4; Mal. 4:5; 1 Thes. 5:2-3; 2 Thes. 2:2-3; 2 Pet. 3:10; Rev. 6:17.

The Twofold Nature of “God’s Day” – Great and Terrible

For the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; Who can endure it? (Joel 2:11)

Will send you Elijah … Before … the great and dreadful day of the LORD. (Mal. 4:5)

The twofold nature of the day of the Lord is that it is both great in power for the redeemed and terrible in judgment for those who persist in rebellion. These are two dimensions of God’s leadership in the day of the Lord as He manifests His greatness of blessing and the terribleness of judgment. Isaiah calls it the year of favor and the day of God’s vengeance (Is. 61:1-3).

Great Day – to the redeemed it will be the time of the greatest manifestation of the power of God ever seen in history. It will include supernatural provision, direction (Ps. 91; Jer. 31:9), and protection (Goshen principle of Ex. 8:22-23; 9:4, 6, 26), and miracles seen in the book of Acts and the book of Exodus will be combined and multiplied on a global scale. God’s blessing is more fully manifest in the millennial kingdom. The “great” dimension of that Day will include the outpouring of the Spirit with extraordinary signs and wonders (Joel 2:28-32).

Very Terrible Day – to the rebellious it will be the most severe time of God’s judgments ever seen in history (Rev. 6-20). It is a day of destruction of the Antichrist’s worldwide empire. The terrible dimension of the Day of the Lord speaks of God’s judgments against the Antichrist’s empire as He shakes all that can be shaken (Heb. 12:26). It will consist of the seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls judgments (Rev. 6; 8-9; 16-19). Different passages give us varying pictures into this terrible time. For example, Zechariah 13:8-9, emphasizes the destruction that will come to the nation of Israel in their end-time rebellion. Zechariah 14 focuses on the military invasion of rebellious Jerusalem in the end times.

Throughout Scripture, God uses two primary Old Testament events as central stories to illustrate the two aspects of the activities of the Day of the Lord. The story of Moses in Exodus is a picture of the “great” aspect with God’s miraculous deliverance for those who call on Him. The Babylonian military invasion in 586 BC portrays the “terrible” aspects of God’s judgments against persistent rebellion. What we see in these two examples is meant to teach us the primary principles related to the end-time judgment and blessing.

Positive – the book of Exodus gives insight into the miracles that will be released when God delivers end-time Israel who repents.

Negative – the Babylonian invasion pictures the judgment on end-time Israel who rebels

These two events teach us God’s principles related to both the end-time blessing and judgments of God. Repeatedly, Scripture speaks of them, as if to say, “Let the deliverance that God’s worked through Moses show you the quality of His delivering power and let the Babylonian invasion make known the manner of His zeal to confront persistent rebellion and oppression.” By understanding the issues of these two historical realities, we are more prepared to understand God’s deliverance and judgment related to the final Day of the Lord.

Israel in end-time prophecy is the focus of the day of the Lord by Old Testament prophets.

The principle is that God will use the least severe means to bring the greatest numbers to Himself at the deepest levels of love for Jesus without violating anyone’s free will.

Expressions of the Day of the Lord in History – Global & Local Scale

Global and ultimate Day – occurs once related to the second coming (Joel 2:18-3:21)

Local and lesser day – occurs various times through history (Joel 1:1-2:11)

Some Old Testament times of judgment are called the day of the Lord. These days point to a future Day at the end of the age when similar judgments will be released with greater intensity.

The positive aspects of the day of the Lord are seen in end-time revival and the millennial kingdom.

The Old Testament prophets teach us that the “day of the Lord” occasions in Israel’s history picture the final Day of the Lord. The ultimate Day of the Lord will be a global time of revival and judgment at the end of the age. It is called a great and awesome Day of which the lesser days, such as the locust plague and the Babylonian invasion, were prophetic pictures to foreshadow future evens (Joel 2:31).

Israel’s end-time crisis at the hand of the Antichrist will exceed the previous military conflicts in their history. This military invasion will far surpass the Babylonian devastation of Joel 2:1-9.
Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, and your spoil will be divided in your midst. 2 For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; the city shall be taken, the houses rifled, and the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity, but the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city. (Zech. 14:1-2)

In God’s divine strategy, a global conflict will mount alongside a tremendous outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The worst days and the best days for planet earth are yet ahead of us.

Three “Days of the Lord” in the Book of Joel

We see three “days of the Lord” in the book of Joel. First, in Joel 1, we see the agricultural crisis (Joel 1:15). Second, in Joel 2, we see the Babylonian military invasion of Israel (Joel 2:1, 11). Third, in Joel 3, we see God’s blessing on Israel and judgment on the Antichrist’s empire (Joel 2:31; 3:14).

There was a progression of judgment in the book of Joel involving three different time frames referred to as the “day of the Lord.” These 3 “days” are all associated with a catastrophe that affected Israel. The first “day of the Lord” involved an agricultural crisis caused by a locust plague (Joel 1:4-12), accompanied by a drought (Joel 1:16-20) and raging fires (Joel 1:19–20). The second was a military crisis. The Babylonian army invaded Israel (Joel 1:1-2:9). The third Day of the Lord referred to by Joel pointed to God’s activity at the end of the age (Joel 2:18-3:21). This Day of the Lord crisis is seen in the book of Revelation (Rev. 6:17). Thus, all three Day of the Lord descriptions must be studied together to get a complete picture.

The crisis in Joel’s day became progressively worse. The agricultural crisis (Joel 1:1-19) was followed by a military crisis (Joel 2:1-9). This agricultural devastation brought Israel to the brink of starvation as four waves of locusts destroyed Israel’s food. As the people and animals died, disease broke out. The entire population was threatened. The locust plague crisis probably lasted three to five years (Joel 1:15; 2:25a). As the negative impact of the agricultural locust plague was passing, the word of the Lord came again to Joel. This time God spoke about a coming Babylonian military invasion. This was far more severe than the agricultural conflict. The locust plague was still fresh in everyone’s mind because the negative effects were still felt in the land. It was at this time that Joel called the people to a solemn assembly of prayer with fasting (Joel 1:14). Why did it come in three stages? God wanted to give Israel time to repent before the next invasion came. Why? Because repentance could minimize some of the lingering fallout from the agricultural crisis, as well as stop the coming military invasion. Unfortunately, Israel did not repent. Joel may have prophesied about this for ten to twenty years before it began. God’s judgments sometimes gradually intensify, so as to give those who persist in rebellion the opportunity to repent before the next wave of judgment comes.

In Joel 1, the prophet gave an account of the three dimensions of natural disaster that had come upon Israel: the locust invasion (Joel 1:4), drought (Joel 1:17-20), and raging fires that followed the drought (Joel 1:19-20). All of Israel’s life resources were being threatened by this progressive crisis, and things were not looking better—the devastations were not letting up. They assumed their current disaster would soon pass. Yet Joel cries out, in essence, “No! It is going to get way worse! The locust plague turned into a drought! Then raging fires came! Our land is destroyed, yet the worst is not over! It’s only going to escalate!” God sent Joel into the midst of the confused people to bring understanding as to why the crisis was growing and not subsiding. After describing the great national crisis—the absence of wine and oil, the ruined grain, the withered land, the despondency of the people—Joel proclaims a horrifying thing; He tells the people that God was the author of the desolations (Joel 1:15). He goes on to tell them the calamity will get worse (Joel 2:1-9) because the Lord wants His people to turn to Him. The crisis would surely continue and even increase until God’s desired effect took place.

The second day of the Lord that Joel prophesied was the Babylonian invasion of Israel (Joel 2:1-9). The Babylonians deported almost the entire Jewish population to Babylon. They marched over 700 miles through the desert to Babylon (modern Iraq), to be put into work camps. The locust crisis lasted a few years, yet the Babylonian crisis lasted 70 years (Jer. 25:9-14; 29:10). The Babylonian military invasion came in three different waves (606, 597, 586 BC) over 20 years. After each invasion, Israel was in greater difficulty (economic, agricultural, social, etc.). That “day” was a twenty-year military crisis in which God judged Israel’s persistent rebellion.

We Study the Lesser Days of the Lord to Understand the Great Day

Each of these three distinct Days reaches a greater intensity of judgment and/or blessing and portrays different expressions of the final Day of the Lord. All three must be studied together to get the complete picture.

The many “local and lesser days of the Lord” teach us about the one “global and ultimate Day.”

The judgments in the “lesser days” are statements beneficial to teaching us about God’s mercy. With these lesser days, God documents in history His zeal against oppression and rebellion and His willingness to show mercy in releasing revival and blessing. The history of revivals is an inspiring record of God breaking in when His people respond in repentance and prayer.

As we study the lesser days of the Lord in Joel or in history (Nazi Germany), we can gain understanding of the final Day of the Lord. The lesser days of the Lord through history are a part of God’s historical preparation of His end-time Church. He has not left us unaware of His ways. He does not leave us to guess what response He wants in order to grant favor. History tells the story. What He has done in the past, He will do again.

During times of judgment, many are filled with fear and confusion asking, “What? Who? When? And, where? Where is God? What are we supposed to do? What is going on?” Many will be confused. However, we do not need to be confused because we have a record in Scripture of what God wants us to do in times of judgment.

God never changes. Therefore, His way of dealing with His people is made clear. We have clarity, knowing what God is doing and how He wants us to respond.

World War II is the Most Significant Lesser Day of the Lord in History

Israel has experienced other great crises that were orchestrated by God, thus constituting a day-of-the-Lord judgment. For example, in 70 AD the Roman army brutally invaded Israel. The result was the destruction of Jerusalem.

The trauma of World War II gives insight into some of the horrors of the final Day of the Lord.

Nazi Germany’s invasion of various European nations gives insight into the Antichrist’s military invasions. In January 1933 Adolf Hitler came to power. Most Germans were not alarmed as to the evil that Hitler was capable of. Few saw the implications of where this new government was going. Six years later, it led to the start of World War II (Sept. 1, 1939). At that time, no one imagined that within another six years 50 million human beings would die. It seemed inconceivable that Germany, one of the most cultured nations, would set into motion a military crisis that resulted in such an unprecedented death toll. It all happened so suddenly. What happened would have been unthinkable only a few short years before World War II started.

What suddenly happened in World War II serves as a warning of how quickly something of such magnitude can unfold. The horrors that drastically affected much of Europe and parts of Asia in the 1940s picture for us the crisis that will touch the entire globe before the second coming.

The Holocaust also proves that anti-Semitism can suddenly escalate and spread across nations.

The Church of our day is as disconnected with the reality that a great shaking is coming as the people of Europe were just before the horrors of Nazi Germany began. As part of my preparation to understand what is coming, I have sought to understand aspects of World War II.

The Two-Dimensional Day of the Lord – Narrow and Broad

The end-of-the-age Day of the Lord is both a one-time event when Jesus enters Jerusalem to be crowned King, and a series of events starting with the Great Tribulation and extending for the 1,000 years of the millennial kingdom.

Narrow Day of the Lord – refers to the 24-hour day when Jesus returns to Jerusalem

Broad Day of the Lord – refers to the period when God’s blessing and judgments are released in an exceptional way. It begins in the middle of Daniel’s 70th week at the first seal and includes the blessing and judgment events of the Great Tribulation. It includes the second coming, the judgment of the Gentile nations, and continues through the millennial reign of Jesus over all the earth for 1,000 years (Rev. 20). It also includes God’s judgment on the final revolt of the nations at the end of the Millennium (Rev. 20:7-9) and the cleansing of the present heavens and earth with fervent heat (Is. 65:17-19; 66:22; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1). The broad Day of the Lord continues for approximately 1,000 years, beginning with the Great Tribulation and continues until the end of the millennial kingdom.

The analogy of a natural day is helpful as it begins in the night, followed by the midnight hours of darkness before the morning light finally dawns. So½yearstheDayof of the Lord has 3

darkness before the “millennial light of day” breaks forth at the second coming.

The Second Coming: Winds Before, During and After a Great Hurricane

Daniel saw the activity of God shifting things in the nations as winds stirring on the sea.

Daniel spoke, saying, “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the Great Sea. And four great beasts came up from the sea.” (Dan. 7:2-3)

Many events surrounding Jesus’ second coming—before, during, and after—are involved in the Day of the Lord. Think of a great hurricane out at sea that is approaching the coastlands. Imagine that it has 200 mph winds surrounding the center of the storm. The winds will increase and affect the coastland long before the fullness of the eye of the storm reaches land. Think of the center of the storm as the second coming of Jesus.

The winds of judgment and blessing will increase greatly before Jesus’ return as the winds of a hurricane precede the center of the storm that is still out at sea.

There will be a progressive intensity of events, both good and bad. As the winds are on both sides of the center of the storm, so God’s winds of blessing and judgment will be on both sides of Jesus’ coming. The winds will be discernable before and after Jesus returns.

I believe we are at the beginning of the beginning. We still have time to seek God and to go deep in revelation. In my opinion, we are in the early days of the generation in which Jesus will return. I believe that there are people alive today who will see the return of Jesus. It may be the 20-year-olds or the 2-year-olds who see it. I do not know with certainty. No one knows this with absolute certainty. This is by God’s design because He wants us to move forward by faith as we search the Word and live in deep connection and relationship with Him through the Spirit.

The winds preceding the Lord’s appearing will cause a great shaking of all things. Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven. 27 Now this … indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken … that the things which cannot be shaken may remain … 28 We are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken… (Heb 12:26-28)

There will be a great disruption in the nations just before and immediately after Jesus’ appearing. Some nations will be eliminated as Jesus, the King of kings, puts the nations in order. Many geographic changes will occur before and after He returns. All the events surrounding the second coming—before, during, and after—are involved in the Day of the Lord.

Day of the Lord: Partial, Substantial, and Ultimate

1. Partial – in various times in history, like in Joel’s generation

2. Substantial – in the Great Tribulation which initiates the Day-of-the-Lord judgments

3. Ultimate – in the Great White Throne judgments which ends the Day of the Lord

The Foundational Principle: “Like Kind, but Lesser Degree”

Joel described the blessing and judgment of the day of the Lord for Israel. Understanding this is relevant for us because of the principle that I call “like kind, but lesser degree.” The glory and judgment that God releases to the nation of Israel in the millennial kingdom will be given in “like kind, but in lesser degree” to the Church and the Antichrist’s empire in this age. The same manifestations of God’s power that will manifest in Israel in the millennial kingdom will also be seen in the Church worldwide in this age, yet in a lesser degree. It is the same with the judgments of God. The judgments that Israel will endure will be manifest in Gentile nations that persist in rebelling against God, but in lesser degree. Israel will receive the most severe judgment for their rebellion and the greatest degree of blessing in their repentance. Jesus will set up His throne in Jerusalem and rule all the nations from there (Isa. 2:2-4; Zech. 6:12-13).

The remnant of Israel will have a spirit of glory resting upon them that will surpass the rest of the Church in the earth, especially after the second coming. Israel’s judgment will be more severe, but their glory will be greater.

When the Old Testament prophets, including the prophet Joel, prophesied the day of the Lord, their focus was nearly always on Israel. Occasionally, we find a few references in the Bible regarding the day of the Lord for the Gentile nations (Isa. 13; 24-27).

We study how the blessing and judgment of the Day of the Lord will touch Israel. We gain insight into the blessing and judgment that Gentile believers and unbelievers will experience. It will be in like kind, but in lesser degree.

The Day of the Lord crisis that is seen in the book of Joel is centered on Israel, but we need to apply it to our nation, knowing there is a parallel crisis coming to the Antichrist’s empire that involves military invasions and agricultural crisis (Rev. 6; 8-9; 16).

Some theologians have what I call “selective theology” in relation to Israel. They apply the scriptural promises of blessing given to Israel to the modern Church, yet leave the judgment prophecies to be fulfilled only in Israel. We study Joel knowing that what will happen to Israel, good and bad, will happen in part to the nations of the earth as well.

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  1. Lauren says:

    why hello there,

    I like your website. It looks like it has lots of information. If I wasn’t so exhausted I would read it all. I am looking for a timeline of the prophet of Joel, for a school assignment. If you could find me one, or get back to me I would really appreciate that! :)

  2. Mel Miller says:

    To the Author:
    How do you prove the “Day of God’s Wrath” includes 6 Trumpets and 6 Plagues?
    How do you prove the Signs of that Day precede these Trumpets and Plagues?
    What verses in the Book of Revelation will be fulfilled within six or seven Hours?

    In responding, please show WHY or IF the 7th Trumpet precedes the 6 Plagues
    during which the armies gather to Armageddon and the Saints are “blessed as
    they keep wearing their clothes while watching” for their ‘any-moment-rapture’!
    Mel Miller