The Lord has been speaking through Joel about the last days. The locust-like, demonic creatures which shall come upon the land. The army from the north that will be miraculously driven back. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the house of Israel. The day of the Lord. These have been some of the last days topics we have covered as we read Joel's writings. Now, the Lord says...
It is important to understand that signs similar to these have happened and will happen at various times. For example, the sun grew dark the afternoon Jesus was crucified, but that was not the event of which Joel was prophesying. The moon will become like blood at the breaking of the sixth seal (Rev. 6:12), but again, this is not the specific event written of by Joel.
Jesus Himself reveals to us the details of Joel's prophecy. In Matthew 24, Jesus told the Jews that the antichrist will commit the Abomination of Desolation - defiling the temple by standing in the holy place and claiming to be God. When they see this happen, they are to flee, for a terrible tribulation, a time of persecution will break out immediately. He spoke of their flight into the wilderness, and the deception of people saying, "Come on out of hiding, here is the Christ," even displaying signs and wonders to deceive. Then He quotes Joel's words, saying,
Matt. 24:29-30 "But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory."
And so the timing of Joel's prophecy falls towards the end of the final 3 1/2 years of the Tribulation, right before Christ's return. Isaiah's words also describe this:
Is. 13:9-13 Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, cruel, with fury and burning anger, to make the land a desolation; And He will exterminate its sinners from it. For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not flash forth their light; The sun will be dark when it rises and the moon will not shed its light. Thus I will punish the world for its evil and the wicked for their iniquity; I will also put an end to the arrogance of the proud and abase the haughtiness of the ruthless. I will make mortal man scarcer than pure gold and mankind than the gold of Ophir. Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken from its place at the fury of the LORD of hosts in the day of His burning anger.
The judgment of God is coming upon a world that has rejected Him, and yet still He says that deliverance is available to all who will call on His name. This is an amazing attribute of God. The fact is, most of us, once we have determined judgment and vengeance, nothing will stop us. But God is merciful, even to the day of judgment. Peter reminded us that...
2Pet. 3:9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
Again, Joel is quoted in the New Testament, this time by both Peter (Acts 2:21) and Paul (Romans 10:13). The great thing about Paul's quote in Romans is that he tells us it won't be the Jews only.
Rom. 10:12-13 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same [Lord] is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; "WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED."
Even during the tribulation period, a time of God's judgment, people will be given the opportunity to turn to the Lord. John writes of his vision of the future, saying...
Rev. 14:6-7 And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; and he said with a loud voice, "Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters."
Everyone in every nation, not just Israel, will be given the opportunity to reject the antichrist and embrace Jesus Christ. And whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
In these verses, the Lord discusses His plan for the future, a plan with which many people are not familiar. We tend to think of the second coming as the return of Christ, with Him delivering Israel, stomping out the armies of the enemy, and establishing the Millennial Kingdom all in an instant, or maybe a day at the most. But in reality, there is a period of time allotted for several things to take place. There are thirty days alloted for the Judgment of the Nations, and another 45 days to get things established in the kingdom.
We learn this from the book of Daniel, chapter 12, where the statement is made by the angel,
Dan. 12:11-12 "From the time that the regular sacrifice is abolished and the abomination of desolation is set up, [there will be] 1,290 days. How blessed is he who keeps waiting and attains to the 1,335 days!
As we saw earlier, the antichrist is going to commit the Abomination of Desolation. From the time that happens until Christ's return will be...
Rev. 12:6 ... one thousand two hundred and sixty days.
But in Daniel, the first number quoted is 1,290 days, or 30 days longer. This seems to be set aside for what I can only call a court of inquiry, or a judicial proceeding. It is called the judgment of the nations, when Jesus shall give the nation of Israel what they have been promised for so many years, while He judges the nations for their treatment of Israel for so many years. This is also known as the separation of the sheep and the goats, which Jesus spoke of in Matthew 25.
Matt. 25:31-33 "But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left."
This separation will be based on the nations' treatment of His people. The nations that treated them well will be allowed to enter the kingdom. But the nations that did not will be sent into the eternal fire.
We read here that this gathering of the nations will take place in the Valley of Yeh-ho-shaw-FAWT. There is no place called this, so it is a symbolic name. There was a Yeh-ho-shaw-FAWT, the son of Asa, who was king of Judah about a hundred years after David. But I don't believe the valley is referring to any place that he is particularly identified with. I believe that the symbolism is more obvious than that.
The word "Yeh-ho-shaw-FAWT" means, "Yahweh will judge." I believe we should be interpreting "the Valley of Yeh-ho-shaw-FAWT" as, "the valley where God will judge."
The Reason For The Judgment
Why is God going to judge the nations to eternal fire? He says here that it is because they have scattered Israel among the nations (verses 2 and 6), they have divided up His land (verse 2), they have enslaved the Jews (verses 3 and 6), and have stolen the temple treasures (verse 5).
3:9-13 Prepare A War
The Lord has committed Himself to judge the nations. And yet, they will try to fight against Him. John wrote in Revelation that he saw...
Rev. 16:14 ... spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty.
Rev. 16:16 And they gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon.
Armageddon is what the Lord is speaking of here, challenging the nations to assemble for war. In Psalm 2, the Lord actually laughs at the nations trying to take their stand against Him.
Their overconfidence is amazing. Even the weak will think themselves mighty on that day.
The imagery used here of the wine press and vat is very graphic.
Rev. 14:18-20 Then another angel, the one who has power over fire, came out from the altar; and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, "Put in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, because her grapes are ripe." So the angel swung his sickle to the earth and gathered [the clusters from] the vine of the earth, and threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of God. And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood came out from the wine press, up to the horses' bridles, for a distance of two hundred miles.
Jesus is described on the day of Armageddon as being...
Rev. 19:13-15 [He is] clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white [and] clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.
The wine press of the fierce wrath of God will be full and overflowing on that day, because of their wickedness.
The Valley of Yeh-ho-shaw-FAWT is now called "The Valley of Decision." When most people hear the expression, "The Valley of Decision" they think it describes the place where people decide whether or not to follow God. But as we see here, the nations have already made their decision. Now, as God sits in the seat of judgment, He is about to render His judicial decree. It is in reality, the valley of His decision.
The word "decision" is "khaw-ROOTS," which refers to the final decision made by the cutting or maiming of something or someone with a sharp threshing instrument. Thus, some have translated this "The Valley of Threshing."
Most people are also not aware of God's plans for Egypt in the Millennial Kingdom. But there are actually a handful of details from which we can hypothesize what the future holds for them in Christ's kingdom.
First of all, we know that Egypt will survive the judgment of the nations. They will be allowed to enter as a nation into the Millennial Kingdom. But we also know, according to Zechariah 10 that Egypt will have the right to inflict the death penalty taken away from them.
Zech. 10:11 "And He will pass through the sea [of] distress And strike the waves in the sea, So that all the depths of the Nile will dry up; And the pride of Assyria will be brought down And the scepter of Egypt will depart."
In the Millennial Kingdom, Egypt is named specifically as a nation whose right to exercise capital punishment against its citizens is taken away. This is fascinating to me, because just this year, Amnesty International reported that, in spite of the fact that "the use of the death penalty is decreasing worldwide," Egypt has been "increasing use of the death penalty," many of which are imposed in courts "which grossly violate international standards for fair trial." These court proceedings "are grossly unfair and in flagrant violation of Egypt's obligations under international treaties..." (Amnesty International, June 13, 2002)
It seems that God, knowing that Egypt would become infamous in these last days for the death penalty, mentions them specifically.
But that is not the end of their dealings. We are also given details of two more major events.
You may also recall from our study in the book of Zechariah that when the Lord is king over all the earth in the Millennium, that,
Zech. 14:16-19 Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths. And it will be that whichever of the families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, there will be no rain on them. If the family of Egypt does not go up or enter, then no [rain will fall] on them; it will be the plague with which the LORD smites the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths. This will be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths. And so we see that their disobedience will bring about a judgment from the Lord in the form a a plague of no rain.
Thirdly, the Lord said to Ezekiel,
Ezek. 29:10-15 ...I will make the land of Egypt an utter waste and desolation, from Migdol [to] Syene and even to the border of Ethiopia. A man's foot will not pass through it, and the foot of a beast will not pass through it, and it will not be inhabited for forty years. So I will make the land of Egypt a desolation in the midst of desolated lands. And her cities, in the midst of cities that are laid waste, will be desolate forty years; and I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations and disperse them among the lands." For thus says the Lord GOD, "At the end of forty years I will gather the Egyptians from the peoples among whom they were scattered. I will turn the fortunes of Egypt and make them return to the land of Pathros, to the land of their origin, and there they will be a lowly kingdom. It will be the lowest of the kingdoms, and it will never again lift itself up above the nations. And I will make them so small that they will not rule over the nations.
Now, I do not know how these three events tie together through cause and effect over the course of the thousand-year reign of Christ. But I do know that the Lord already knows their future, and it includes much disobedience.