The Feast Days in the Book of Joel
The prophecy in the book of Joel follows the basic sequence of events in the autumn feasts of Israel. The important point we wish to make here, relative to the Day of Atonement, is Joel's declaration that the day of vintage--where the grapes are trodden--is called "the valley of decision" (Joel 3:12-14). This term is applicable to the day of Jacob's wrestling the angel, as well as the day Israel had to decide whether or not to enter the Promised Land. Recall that the twelve spies had brought home the first ripe of the grapes, which identifies the Day of Atonement with the day of vintage and judgment.
Blowing the Trumpet
The sequence of the feast days begins with Joel 2:1, which says,
1 Blow a trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm on My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming; surely it is near,
This begins the prophecy of the Feast of Trumpets. Joel then describes a great army of God being raised up, which reminds us of the angelic host that Jacob saw at Mahanaim. Joel says it is "the day of the Lord" (2:2). From the world's point of view, it is a day of darkness and gloominess. They see this army like locusts, consuming all things in their paths like a fire. Yet in reality, this is the army of God, raised from the dead, which comes with the fiery law of God as a sharp sword in their mouths, for when He comes with many thousands of His holy ones, they are the manifestation of His law. Deuteronomy 33:2 and 3 says,
2 And he said, "The LORD came from Sinai, and dawned on them from Seir; He shone forth from Mount Paran, and He came from the midst of ten thousand holy ones; at His right hand there was flashing lightning [Hebrew: esh-dath, "fire-law"] for them. 3 "Indeed, He loves the people; all Thy holy ones are in Thy hand, and they followed in Thy steps; everyone receives of Thy words. 4 "Moses charged us with a law, a possession for the assembly of Jacob.
Here we see that God came to Sinai with a fiery law in His right hand, and "all Thy holy ones are in Thy hand." In other words, the holy ones are pictured as God's fiery law, because they are the ones called to administrate the divine law and bring righteous judgment to the earth. These are God's judges. These are God's hosts, Joel's army. "A fire consumes before them, and behind them a flame burns" (Joel 2:3). Like locusts, they will penetrate every house (Joel 2:9).
One might also interpret this great army in a negative manner. Joel's army is pictured as locusts, and Revelation 9 pictures another army as locusts, led by the angel of the bottomless pit (Rev. 9:11). His name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek it is Apollyon. In Revelation 9:7 and in Joel 2:4 these armies are each described as horses and horsemen doing battle. For this reason, it seems that we can interpret Joel's army in either a positive or a negative light. This is appropriate for a passage that depicts the events surrounding the Feast of Trumpets, for as we have already seen in the pattern of Jacob, Esau came with his army, but God sent His own army to stop them.
Hence, we have the presence of BOTH sides in a conflict in the Feast of Trumpets. Both are seen as being raised up, but in different ways. In the resurrection of the dead, God raises up His army, while the opposing forces are inspired by spirits from the abyss, or the bottomless pit.
The Call to Repentance
Joel 2:12-20 is the prophet's section dealing with the Day of Atonement. It is a call to repentance, and, as we said earlier, a day of decision and judgment. Verses12-17 say,
12 "Yet even now," declares the LORD, "return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping, and mourning; 13 and rend your heart and not your garments. "Now return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness, and relenting of evil. 14 Who knows whether He will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him, even a grain offering and a libation for the LORD your God? 15 Blow a trumpet [Heb. shofar] in Zion, consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly, 16 gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children and the nursing infants. Let the bridegroom come out of his room and the bride out of her bridal chamber. 17 Let the priests, the LORD's ministers, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, "Spare Thy people, O LORD, And do not make Thine inheritance a reproach, a byword among the nations. Why should they among the peoples say, 'Where is their God?' "
In all the feast days of Israel, the Day of Atonement was the only day where they called for a fast. It was a day of repentance. Joel's commentary on this feast day shows that after the resurrection of the dead on the Feast of Trumpets, the Church will repent and pray for mercy. The ministers and priests themselves will issue this call to repentance. They will ask God to spare His people so that the heathen would not rule over them. In other words, they will want to be ruled by the overcomers who are truly filled with His Spirit and know how to judge with the wisdom and love of God.
In verse 15 the prophet also says they will "blow a trumpet in Zion." The trumpet in verse 1 signifies the Feast of Trumpets. The trumpet in verse 15 is the Jubilee trumpet. Joel is telling us that they will make the decision to enter the Tabernacles Age, i.e., the Promised Land. They will call for the Bridegroom (Jesus) to come out of His room to claim His bride. Precisely what this means is not discussed here in the book of Joel, but we do know it has reference to the second coming of Christ.
We have already shown previously that the first resurrection includes only the overcomers and not the Church as a whole. The same division would hold true with those believers who are alive on earth when He comes. Only the overcomers will be transfigured, or "changed" (1 Cor. 15:51). The rest of the believers (the Church in general) will genuinely repent on this Day of Atonement, and they will even call for a Jubilee on earth. They will certainly get their wish and will benefit from the change in administration during the Age of Tabernacles. Life spans will increase to the point where "the youth will die at the age of one hundred, and the one who does not reach the age of one hundred shall be thought accursed" (Isaiah 65:20). Even so, they will still continue to die as we do today, for these Christians will not have immortality. They will have missed the first resurrection.
The Former and Latter Rains
As a result of the Church's repentance and prayer, God will answer and will remove the "northern army" that had come against them (Joel 2:20). This is the equivalent of God saving Jacob from Esau's army. Then Joel speaks of the outpouring of the Spirit that shall come like the rain upon the earth. This is a prophecy first of Pentecost and ultimately of the Feast of Tabernacles. Joel 2:21-23 read,
21 Do not fear, O land, rejoice and be glad, for the LORD has done great things. 22 Do not fear, beasts of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness have turned green, for the tree has borne its fruit, the fig tree and the vine have yielded in full. 23 So rejoice, O sons of Zion, and be glad in the LORD your God; for He has given you the early rain [moreh, "an archer; or teacher] for your vindication [zedekaw, "righteousness"]. And He has poured down for you the rain [geshem, "a shower"], the early [moreh, "teacher"] and latter rain [malkoshe, "rain"] as before.
The NASB translation above is not very literal. I prefer the Young's Literal Translation of this verse, which reads as follows:
23 And ye sons of Zion, joy and rejoice in Jehovah your God, for He hath given to you the Teacher for righteousness, and causeth to come down to you a shower, sprinkling and gathered in the beginning.
Who is this "Teacher for righteousness" that Joel mentions? We believe it is Jesus Christ on the primary level, but also the overcomers on a secondary level. Jesus is the Head; the overcomers are the body in the sense that they will be the perfected ones who will be fully joined to the Head at His coming.
In ancient times some people felt that their own founders or leaders fulfilled this prophecy as "Teacher of Righteousness." The Essenes in Jesus' day referred to their founder by this title. They believed that their founder was the one called to bring forth all the right teachings, and that they (the Essenes) were the final remnant who would rule in the kingdom of God. Because their historical knowledge in the second century B.C. was incomplete, they thought that they were living in the time of the end of Daniel's 70 weeks. Hence, they were of the view that they were living in the time when the Messiah was about to be manifested. They were wrong by at least 150 years.
The Essenes were one of the three main sects in the land of Judea. The sect was established between 165 and 168 B.C. during the tumultuous years when Antiochus Epiphanes of Syria took over Jerusalem and transformed Ezra's temple into a shrine for their god, Jupiter (168 B.C.). The people of Judea then revolted against Antiochus and overthrew him, rededicating the Temple in 165 B.C on the same day that it had been desecrated three years earlier. This was primarily through the leadership of the Hasmoni family of Judah. After gaining their independence, they set up the Hasmonean dynasty, more commonly known as the Maccabees. The full story can be found in the apocryphal book of 1 Maccabees or in Josephus' book, Antiquities of the Jews, [See www.biblestudytools.net/History/BC/FlaviusJosephus/] written at the end of the first century. We, too, will share more about this event in Chapter 14.
As Christians, we believe that the Teacher of Righteousness prophesied in the book of Joel is none other than Jesus Christ Himself. He is also the King of Righteousness, that is, "Melchisedec." Jesus came and taught us by His words and by His perfect life how to fulfill all righteousness. He obeyed the Law perfectly and had a perfect understanding of it--unlike the lawyers and priests of His day. Jesus Himself fulfilled this role as Teacher of Righteousness in His first coming; but in His second coming the role will also be assumed by the overcomers, who are His body. They, too, will be called to bring righteousness to the earth and the Church by manifesting the full character and work of Christ to all men.
The coming of this Teacher of Righteousness is what brings the rain of the Holy Spirit to the earth. Christ comes to pour out the fullness of His Spirit upon the overcomers who fulfill the Feast of Tabernacles. They, in turn, will manifest Christ to the rest of the world and bring this rain to the entire earth.
Pouring Out His Spirit
After Joel speaks of the Day of Atonement, he prophesies of the outpouring of the Spirit upon all flesh. He says in Joel 2:28-32,
28 And it will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. 29 And even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. 30 And I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth, blood, fire, and columns of smoke. 31 The sun will be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. 32 And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the LORD will be delivered.
In Peter's first sermon on the day of Pentecost, he quoted this passage, applying it to the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost. (See Acts 2:17-21.) We certainly do not dispute this application, but we do recognize that the fulfillment of this prophecy is not complete under Pentecost. Pentecost is only the beginning, an earnest of our inheritance. It is the downpayment of something far greater that is to come under the Feast of Tabernacles.
Under Pentecost, the Spirit of God has come upon a portion of mankind--not "all mankind," as Joel said in verse 28. As for the signs and wonders that were to accompany this outpouring of the Spirit, a portion of these signs did occur in the days leading to Pentecost. There was the "blood" of Jesus when He died on the cross. There was a manifestation of "tongues of fire" on the heads of the people in the upper room. However, the account in the book of Acts says nothing of any "columns of smoke," so one might question the fulfillment of the fire as a reference to Pentecost.
The sun was definitely "turned into darkness" for three hours when Jesus was crucified (Luke 23:44), and later that same afternoon there was a lunar eclipse, which probably made the moon look blood-red. Since Joel also speaks of this as occurring "before the great and awesome day of the Lord," it seems apparent that these signs occurred at Passover before the day of Pentecost. This would make Pentecost the partial fulfillment of "the day of the Lord."
We might then look to the events surrounding the Feast of Tabernacles to fulfill this prophecy in a more complete manner. If it is to be understood in this way, then it is obvious that the Day of Atonement is to Tabernacles what Passover was to Pentecost. In other words, the signs listed above ought to occur on the Day of Atonement just prior to the outpouring of the Spirit on the Feast of Tabernacles.
Of course, the manner of fulfillment is another issue. Some see this fulfilled in a very literal manner, with fire and columns of smoke rising up from cities that have been struck by nuclear missiles or bombs. Others might view it more as the signs that were fulfilled on the Passover of Jesus' crucifixion. It may be both. In our view, since Pentecost occurs on the 50th day and the Jubilee occurs on the 50th year, Pentecost is a small foretaste of the Jubilee leading to the Feast of Tabernacles. Therefore, we must view the events surrounding Jesus' crucifixion as a foretaste of the fulfillment of the Day of Atonement, wherein also is the Jubilee.
We have already seen how the Day of Atonement is a day of decision, both for Israel when the twelve spies gave their report, and in Jacob's wrestling the angel. We also mentioned Joel 3:12-16, where the prophet gives us an addendum regarding the fulfillment of the Day of Atonement:
12 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. 13 Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great. 14 Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. 15 The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining. 16 The LORD also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the LORD will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel.
Joel links "the valley of decision" to the time when "the day of the Lord is near." Under Moses the day of decision was limited to Israel. This time it is extended to "multitudes" in a worldwide setting. It seems probable that this will be caused by the events nine days earlier on the Feast of Trumpets. That is, the resurrection of the dead will be a significant enough event for the Church to repent, but this could also spark a worldwide repentance and genuine revival. Yet even so, their repentance will not mean that they can qualify as overcomers, either to be raised from the dead in the first resurrection, or to receive the Tabernacles outpouring of the fullness of the Spirit. Like the five foolish virgins in Matthew 25, they will not have time to obtain the oil needed to enter the wedding.
In our view, the Church as a whole (like Israel) will need to go back to Sinai and learn the purpose of Pentecost. They will then come into their reward at the general resurrection at the end of the thousand years.