Military Invasions in God’s End-Time Plan

Blow the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; for the day of the LORD is coming, for it is at hand: 2 a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, like the morning clouds spread over the mountains. A people come, great and strong, the like of whom has never been; nor will there ever be any such after them, even for many successive generations. 3 A fire devours before them, and behind them a flame burns; the land is like the Garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; surely nothing shall escape them. 4 Their appearance is like the appearance of horses; and like swift steeds, so they run. 5 With a noise like chariots over mountaintops they leap, like the noise of a flaming fire that devours the stubble, like a strong people set in battle array. 6 Before them the people writhe in pain; all faces are drained of color. 7 They run like mighty men, they climb the wall like men of war; every one marches in formation, and they do not break ranks. 8 They do not push one another; every one marches in his own column. Though they lunge between the weapons, they are not cut down. 9 They run to and fro in the city, they run on the wall; they climb into the houses, they enter at the windows like a thief. (Joel 2:1-9)

Moses’ Predictions of Trouble in Israel

Just before Israel entered the promised land, Moses prophesied about horrifying things to come. He spoke of locust plagues that would be sent by God to devour their land (Deut. 28:28-42). This occurred in Joel’s day. When it came upon Israel they would not believe it was sent from God. Even though Moses warned them of this, they refused to believe that God sent the plague. After prophesying the locust invasion, Moses also foretold of something far greater in severity. He told them about a coming military invasion by a nation from afar (the Babylonians) that the Lord would bring against Israel (Deut. 28:47-52). They would take ownership of all of Israel’s gates and devastate the land. Israel would give way to cannibalism during the sieges (Deut. 28:52-53). Then the Lord would scatter them across the nations, from one end of the earth to the other (Deut. 28:64).

The Babylonian invasion occurred (606-586 BC) in three stages just a few decades after Joel’s ministry. After the siege, the Lord promised that He would scatter Israel across the nations, from one end of the earth to the other (Deut. 28:64). This was fulfilled in part on several occasions as Gentile nations invaded Israel then deported their people as prisoners to foreign lands. The three primary examples of this in Israel’s history were seen in the Assyrian invasion (722 BC), the Babylonian invasion (606-586 BC), and the invasion by the army of the Roman Empire (70 AD).

The LORD will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other … there you shall serve other gods, which neither you nor your fathers have known… (Deut. 28:64)

Moses’ prophecy of Israel being scattered and in captivity will see its ultimate fulfillment in the end times (Ps. 102:20; Isa. 11:11-12, 16; 27:13; 42:7, 22; 49:9, 21, 24-26; 61:1; Jer. 30:3, 8, 10, 17; 31:16, 23; Ezek. 39:23-29; Joel 3:1-2; Hos. 11:11; Amos 9:14; Mic. 4:6; 5:6; Zeph. 3:19-20; Zech. 9:11-12; 13:8; 14:2; Mt. 25:43; Lk. 21:24).

Specifically in our study of Joel, God would have us understand the divine picture of the Babylonian invasion. In understanding some basic principles about this event, with the spirit of prayer as our aid, the Holy Spirit will give us understanding for the hour ahead.

Prophetic Voices Declaring Military Invasion

Jesus prophesied that military invasions would be a part of God’s purpose in judging nations. Jesus prophesied a future military invasion of Israel by the Romans in 70 AD, with a double fulfillment at the end of the age. When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, know that its desolation is near… (Lk. 21:20).

This prophecy serves a double purpose because He was describing two events in one passage. Jesus was describing the Roman invasion of Israel that would happen in 70 AD. Thus, He was describing a near invasion that would happen within one generation.

At the same time, He was describing a far-off invasion occurring in the end times (Lk. 21:20-24). Matthew gives details of an end-time military invasion in Israel (Mt. 24:15-22).

John prophesied military invasions in God’s end-time plan. He saw Jesus open the seals. With the breaking of the second seal, John saw a red horse whose rider that was granted to take peace from the earth so that people would kill one another in war. It escalated in the fourth seal resulting in people being killed by the sword (Rev. 6:8). One-fourth of the population of the entire planet will die in the wake of these military crises and the results of them.

Another horse, fiery red, went out. It was granted … take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another; and there was given to him a great sword. (Rev. 6:4)

Behold, a pale horse. The name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth. (Rev. 6:8)

Paul warns us of end-time military conflicts: “For when they say, “Peace and safety, then sudden destruction…” (1 Thes. 5:3). In other words, when everyone thinks that it is an hour of peace, the peace will suddenly be disrupted by war. Military invasions will take peace from the earth.

The Old Testament prophets, Jesus, Paul, and John all prophesied end-time military conflicts.

The End-Time Military Invasion

The Babylonian invasion was the most terrible military crisis for Israel in the Old Testament. At that time, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon (modern-day Iraq) attacked Israel with three massive invasions over a 20-year period, leaving the nation utterly decimated. The three waves of invasion were 606 BC, 597 BC, and 586 BC. The timing factor of the three waves of conflict occurring over a 20-year period helps us to have a right mindset about the future. It may well take twenty years for the military conflicts to come to pass. Joel may possibly have prophesied this ten or more years before the first wave occurred. We know this because it had to be within the lifetime of those who were called to pray and fast in order to ask God to stop them.

One principle of biblical prophecy is that God often intends two fulfillments in one prophecy—a near fulfillment and an end-time fulfillment. We see this in Matthew 24, in which Jesus links the desolation of 70 AD to the global desolations which precede His coming.

The military invasion against Israel prophesied in Joel 2:1-9 will find its complete fulfillment in the end times. It is also prophesied in Zech. 12-14. The intensity and magnitude of this conflict will surpass the devastation caused by Babylon in 586 BC and by Rome in 70 AD. It will be the most severe shaking in Israel’s history.

Blow the Trumpet! Let All the Inhabitants Tremble

Blow the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; for the day of the LORD is coming, for it is at hand: A day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, like the morning clouds spread over the mountains. (Joel 2:1-2)

The Lord introduced a terrifying military invasion with a cry to sound the alarm and blow the trumpet. Joel is commanding them to blow the trumpet on Mt. Zion. It is a call to wake up the people of God to repent and then to cry out to God to intervene with mercy (Joel 2:12-14).

Zion is the city of Jerusalem. Yet it also represents the people of God. The trumpet is blown to call the people of God.

This command to sound the alarm has application today in God’s servants raising their voice, so that all the inhabitants in the land hear and tremble.

If there is calamity in a city, will not the LORD have done it? 7 Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets. (Amos 3:6-7)

The trumpet sound is the alarming noise that declares the severity of the time at hand. In His mercy, God has His messengers sound this alarm so His people can respond.

We need preaching that produces trembling. It has never been popular, as all the prophets know. The call to blow the trumpet is a prophetic call that requires boldness and courage.

If He gives the message to the watchman and the watchman does not blow the trumpet, the blood of the people is on the hands of the watchman.

If the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand. (Ezek. 33:6)

God’s end-time trumpet messengers are forerunners. They announce Jesus’ second coming even as John the Baptist announced His first coming.

The desired result of this trumpet sound is that the people—all the inhabitants of the earth, believers and unbelievers—would tremble. There is a message that is so alarming in nature, that when it is understood, the inevitable result is trembling in the hearts of both the hearers and the proclaimers.

What this “trembling” means is that people are driven to decision: they either harden their hearts, or they humble themselves with fasting and prayer (Joel 2:12-17). The trumpet blast was an act of mercy to all who would tremble at God’s word.

A Day of Darkness

Day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness… (Joel 2:2)

Joel describes this day in frightening language, using four different words: darkness, gloominess, clouds, and thick darkness. These convey how ominous and overwhelming the coming judgment is. It will be a day of gloom to those who continue to rebel against God.

The darkness is related to a military invasion at the hands of an evil empire.

I hear people say, “I don’t like that doom and gloom.” They only want to hear the positive dimensions, and they feel that the doom and gloom message contradicts God’s love. “Doom and gloom” is God’s own language for that day. When we mockingly say, “I do not like doom and gloom,” we are telling the Lord that we do not like the description He chose for His day.

The Coming Army: Like Morning Clouds

Like the morning clouds spread over the mountains. A people come, great and strong… (Joel 2:2)

Joel compares the looming army to morning clouds over the mountains. Joel likens the day of gloom to the dawning of a sunrise. There are several characteristics of a dawning sunrise. First, its onset is inevitable; no man can alter its rising. Just as the sun coming up over the mountains, an army of gloom will break upon the nations. It will come like a sunrise; no eye will miss it and no man will evade it!

In some translations, this phrase like the morning clouds qualifies the first description of Joel 2:2—the day of darkness and gloominess.

In other translations it describes the latter part of Joel 2:2—the militant people growing great and strong, like the morning clouds.

I believe this phrase qualifies both the day of gloom and the army. For either way, the overarching principle remains the same. A day of darkness is going to encompass Israel and the whole earth like morning clouds encompass the mountains.

Another part of this sunrise analogy is that the morning’s intensity increases gradually. As the hours go by, it grows until it fills the horizon, ultimately shining brightly and intensely as the noon-day sun. Just as God brings forth the morning progressively rather than all at once, so the day of gloom will grow stronger and stronger. This progressive nature was seen in Joel’s day by the three waves of the Babylonian invasion. It broke out suddenly, but then it gradually increased in intensity for several years. But the point we cannot miss is that it will be all-consuming by the time it comes into fullness. As the morning clouds spread over the mountains and as the sun arises, the imminent army is irrepressible and vast.

A People Great and Strong

Like the morning clouds … a people come, great and strong, the like of whom has never been; nor will there ever be any such after them, even for many successive generations. (Joel 2:2)

Joel continues to describe this approaching army. They will be unsurpassed in size, might, and in fierceness. David prophesied that all the nations would gather together against God and against His Christ (Ps. 2:1-3). That will be the largest military upsurge in all of human history.

The army will be great—greatness is due to vast numbers or numerical strength.

The army will be strong—strong in military sophistication, advanced technology, and the highest levels of biological and chemical warfare. It is mighty in economics and with demonic miracles.

They will have economic strength (Rev. 13:17).

That no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. (Rev. 13:17)

Their strength will also be in occult power. Some historians say people followed Hitler because of his demonic ability to deceive the masses.

He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. 14 And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do… (Rev. 13:13-14)

The leadership of the Antichrist’s empire will be far stronger in persuasion and deception than Hitler was. The Antichrist will use demonic signs and wonders.

Joel describes this force as the northern army coming from Babylon (Joel 2:20). Jeremiah prophesied that an army would come from the north (Jer. 3:18; 16:15; 23:8; 31:8). A coalition of evil nations led by the Antichrist will come against Israel from the north (Ezek. 38-39).

This will be a people the like of whom the world has never seen (Joel 2:2). This army will be unprecedented in its fierceness, in its size, and in its strength. Its demonic powers will be beyond anything yet manifest. Even as the Lord Himself allowed Babylon, an evil army, to advance in knowledge and strength, so He will allow an end-time northern army to come forth.

This end-of-the-age invasion will not be seen again for many successive generations, not until the millennial rebellion (Rev. 20:7-9).

A Fire Devours Before Them

A fire devours before them, and behind them a flame burns; the land is like the Garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; surely nothing shall escape them. (Joel 2:3)

Unprecedented desolations by raging fires will precede and follow this great army. This happened in the Babylonian invasion and in the Roman invasion, and it will happen again at the end of the age. Before they show up, fire precedes them. The land that was like the “Garden of Eden,” plush and fruitful, will become as a desolate wilderness. They will make the cities desolate and this will be the state of the earth when the Lord returns.

When Joel prophesies that fires surround the fierce army, it speaks of tremendous bombardment before and after the invasion. When the Nazis retreated from the eastern front in the Ukraine and Russia, they had a “scorched earth” policy. They burned everything for many, many miles so their enemy could not use the resources from that land.

The Lord will rebuild the desolate cities and the desolate places when He returns (Isa. 49; 61). These desolate places will be the result of the end-time global conflict. The carnage after WWII is a graphic picture of what will happen before the Lord’s return. The desolate cities of Europe and Asia after the war was over give us a frame of reference for this. Nothing escaped, not the buildings, the animals, the plants, the architecture, or the agriculture.

Their Appearance Like Horses

Their appearance is like … horses; and like swift steeds, so they run. With a noise like chariots over mountaintops they leap, like the noise of a flaming fire that devours the stubble, like a strong people set in battle array. Before them the people writhe in pain; all faces are drained of color. (Joel 2:4-6)

Their speed and appearance is like horses that run like swift steeds; Joel expressed their advance using the language of his own day. He was painting a most petrifying scene. Joel is speaking about a literal military invasion of an army unmatched in swiftness and speed.

In WWII, the Nazis’ swiftness was called the “blitzkrieg,” which means “lighting wars.” It was a military advance that conquered nations very quickly. Hitler conquered Poland in three weeks. He conquered France in four weeks. He conquered the Netherlands in less than two weeks!

This same swiftness will characterize the Antichrist’s army. In a time when men say, “Peace! Peace!” suddenly this evil empire will arise in fierceness (1 Thes. 5:3)!

The sounds of this army are like chariots leaping on mountain tops and like raging fire. Imagine the deafening noise of ten thousand chariots charging through the land. Then imagine the sound of raging forest fires and bonfires in the grass. These sounds of war were terrifying.

The devastation on the residents of Jerusalem – the faces of those who behold this coming military force show forth their fear. Their faces are drained of color, becoming ghostly white in fear at the very sight of this warring onslaught. They writhe in pain even before a hand is laid upon them. Their bodies are gripped with terror.

The sheer sight and sound of their enemy sends them into utter dread. In this passage, Joel is primarily describing Jewish victims in the city of Jerusalem. Their faces will be drained of color as their bodies are gripped with terror. Jesus said “People will faint for fear when this happens.”

Men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. (Luke 21:26)

Men of War

They run like mighty men, they climb the wall like men of war; every one marches in formation, and they do not break ranks. They do not push one another; every one marches in his own column. Though they lunge between the weapons, they are not cut down. They run to and fro in the city, they run on the wall; they climb into the houses, they enter at the windows like a thief. (Joel 2:7-9)

The day of the Lord is coming, and your spoil will be divided in your midst. For I will gather all 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… (Zech. 14:1, 2)

This prophecy of a total assault on Jerusalem by Babylon had a “near” fulfillment in Joel’s day. The Antichrist’s armies will do this again in Jerusalem as a “far” fulfillment in the end times.

They are a zealous and fierce army – they run like mighty men of war and overcome the walls.

They are a disciplined army that marches in formation without breaking ranks! They are trained, disciplined, and seasoned, not chaotic or in any way disordered. They do not push one another; every one marches in his own column. They are restrained and not out of control with emotion in battle.

They are a courageous army – in the heat of battle, they lunge courageously between the weapons instead of retreating in fear!

They are an invincible or unstoppable army – they run to and fro in the city, they run on the wall; No obstacle will stop them as they leave no stone unturned in their assault. No resistance except divine intervention will stop them. The Babylonian army climbed the walls of Jerusalem and the Antichrist’s army will do the same. This army will be overpowering. Zech. 14:1-3 describes this terrifying assault upon Jerusalem in the end times. This army will be irresistible; it will be the force God raises up to awaken Israel and the nations to Jesus’ salvation.

They are an invasive army – they climb into the houses, they enter at the windows like a thief.

All Creation Will be Impacted by the Terrors of this Day

The earth quakes before them, the heavens tremble; the sun and moon grow dark, and the stars diminish their brightness. 11 The LORD gives voice before His army, for His camp is very great; for strong is the One who executes His word. For the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; who can endure it? (Joel 2:10-11)

Supernatural demonstrations will precede and follow the Antichrist’s army. The earth and the heavens will shake, the sun and moon will grow dark, and the stars will fade in brightness. The entire atmosphere will tremble, including the sky and the solar system! This is not figurative—it is literal and it will come to pass.

Why does God introduce the subject of these dramatic, cosmic signs in the same passage that He speaks of the evil army in Joel 2:1-9? The message God is giving through these wonders is that He is in full control. He has power over the Antichrist’s army to accomplish His purposes. God gives a heavenly power display in the hour that a wicked army is trampling the globe in order to reveal that the earthly armies are nothing to Him. Effortlessly, He causes the sun to lose its light! (Acts 2:19-20, Rev. 6:12; Mt. 24:29; Mk. 13:24; Lk. 21:25).

The military crisis results in the demonstration of God’s power in the heavens. The theme of the Babylonian invasion in Joel’s day and the Antichrist’s assault on rebellious nations flows into the theme of God’s cosmic judgments, which are the most severe judgments in the book of Revelation. God is saying, “I have power over all the armies on earth and over the sun and stars. I have all power on earth and in heaven.”

The Lord gives voice or direction as the One leading His armies. His army was the nation Babylon in Joel’s day. They were His army in the sense that they fulfilled His purpose. They were His instrument to discipline rebellious Israel. The Lord Himself brings this vile army into power and provides direction before them to fulfill His purposes. He is responsible for using them to make an impact upon His people.

Evil nations can be used as a rod in His hand to discipline other evil nations (Isa. 10:5)! God does not cause them to be evil, yet He employs them to discipline other nations. God will raise up the Antichrist to discipline Israel and the Gentile nations who are in disobedience to Him. The Babylonian invasion did not surprise God, nor will the Antichrist. He is the God who is executing His Word and fulfilling His eternal plan as foretold by the prophets.

Why does God use these cosmic signs? With these extraordinary manifestations, God will declare to those who love Him, “Do not fear, I am in total control!” (Lk. 21:25-28).

There will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; 26 men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. 27 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near. (Lk. 21:25-28)

Through these cosmic signs, God demonstrates His total control and full awareness of everything going on. Every detail has been orchestrated. He has authority over the stars in the heavens.

The Church will be assured of His power on their behalf. He has the power to move the stars in the heavens and He can keep His own through this strategic hour of history.

The nations are as a drop in a bucket, and are counted as the small dust on the scales …17 All nations before Him are as nothing …25 “To whom then will you liken Me?” says the Holy One. 26 Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things, who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, by the greatness of His might and the strength of His power… (Isa. 40:15, 17, 25-26)

If God can administrate the heavenly realm with such power and wisdom, we can rest assured that He can also direct the earthly realm, which takes less power to administrate. How much easier is it to move an army around, or to defeat an army, than it is to move the stars around and turn the light of the sun and moon on and off?

No one but God can move the stars, the moon, and the sun. God’s statement through the shifting of these solar powers is that He is in control.

God is Working out His Great Plan on Earth

The LORD gives voice before His army, for His camp is very great; for strong is the One who executes His word. For the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; who can endure it? (Joel 2:11)

Joel describes this evil camp as very strong because when the Lord puts his hand upon any vessel, whether righteous or unrighteous, and says, “I have need of you,” they are unstoppable for that season! His purpose is inescapable, for strong is the One who executes His word. In other words, mighty is the God who fulfills His plan.

The One who gave the prophetic Scriptures will reveal His might by fulfilling the word of prophecy. The Lord declares that His camp is very great and He is the strong God who is executing His Word. He is the One fulfilling His eternal plan as declared by the prophets. His plan will be fulfilled precisely!

Babylon did not disrupt God’s plans and the Antichrist will not thwart it.

“For the day of the Lord is great and very terrible” (Joel 2:11). The end-time drama will be intense and dreadful. The great and terrible Day of the Lord is His Day. He is orchestrating this Day and fulfilling His Word. The two sides of the coming Day are the glory and the terror.

Joel asks, “Who can endure this intense drama?” or “Who can survive this Day in God’s favor?” The answer is, we can! Joel proclaimed that the only solution in that Day is to find the favor of God. There will be no escape without His favor.

This Day will be almost impossible to endure for those who do not experience the mercy of God. This question is asked in the context of the military crisis brought on the nations by the Antichrist’s reign of terror, by God’s cosmic judgments, and then by Jesus’ second coming. First, we need God’s favor in forgiving us; then we will need God’s favor in provision, prophetic direction, and protection to survive the crisis without dying.




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