Joel, Micah, & Zephaniah Lesson 2
Joel – The Historical Message
- Who is the spokesman for these verses?
- Is the day of the Lord to be looked forward to or feared?
- Who controls the day of the Lord according to verse 11?
- What is the answer to the question asked in verse 11, who can endure the day of the Lord?
- Who is the spokesman for these verses?
- What is the function of these verses?
- What is the message of verse 14?
- What is the function of these verses?
- Between verses 17 and 18 something can properly be added. What is that message?
- What message is heard here for the first time?
- What is the message of these verses?
- What does verse 23 contribute to the message of verses 21 and 22?
- Why does verse 24 follow verse 23?
- State in your own words the message of this verse.
- What is the message of this verse?
- What is the message of this verse in light of the blessings listed just prior to it
(Joel 2:28-32 – these verses in the Hebrew Bible are chapter 3.)
Joel 2:28, 29
- When is “after this” in verse 28a?
- Who is “I” in verse 28b?
Joel 2:30, 31
- Who is “I” in verse 30a?
- When do the events described in verses 30 and 31 occur?
- Who is delivered (saved) in verse 32a?
- From what is he saved?
- What is among the survivors in verse 32c?
- Who received salvation in verse 32c?
- Is anyone saved who does not call on the name of the Lord in this verse?
Joel the Spirit of Prophecy Application
- God; notice the phrase “My holy mountain” in verse 1.
- The Lord
- Those who respond to the invitation of verses 12-14 and make the preparation described in verses 12-17.
- They are God’s invitation to those on whom He has threatened to bring the day of the Lord described in 2:1-10. Apparently the response of the people (1:13c) to the events described in Joel chapter 1 was not offset by whatever reaction there was to the invitation of 1:13-15; in fact, no reaction of any kind is recorded. The people may have refused to present to God an offering before He replaced their loses.
This is apparently why 2:1 reads in part – blow a trumpet, let the inhabitants tremble, the day of the Lord is coming.
- That God provides us with that which He requires that we give to Him.
- They are Joel’s instructions to the people who wish to respond to the invitation of God presented in verses 12-14.
- Between verses 17 and 18 one can properly add, “If you do verses 15-17 then verses 18-20 will be fulfilled.”
- “I will never again make you a reproach among the nations.” A new era in Israel’s relation with the Lord will begin.
Joel 2:21, 22
- The surety of God’s promises is to be seen in the portions of the promise of verses 18-20 that are already fulfilled in verses 21, 22.
- The acts of verse 23, which are partially fulfilled promises themselves, foretell that greater blessings, the results of God’s already-done acts, are on the way. Blessings bestowed testify to greater blessings to be received – as the rain foretells the harvest.
- This verse describes the blessings to result from the acts of verse 23.
- Verse 25 describes the greatness of the blessing being sent – all loses that God caused are restored when the people respond properly.
- The message of this verse is that when people learn through experience to serve God (Joel 1:1-2, 17), then God can always provide for all their needs (2:18-25), and the people praise Him for His wonderfulness – then His people will never be put to shame (2:26).
Joel 2:28, 29
- After the ‘healing’ of God’s people described in verses 26 and 27.
- The “I” of verses 25-27, “the Lord your God,”
Joel 2:30, 31
- The people’s Lord
- Before the day of the Lord.
- Whoever calls on the name of the Lord.
- Salvation here is from the destructions of the day of the Lord.
- Deliverance (salvation) from the destructions of the day of the Lord.
- Whoever the Lord calls.
- Yes; those whom the Lord calls.
There is a parable in the New Testament, told by Jesus, that tells the story of workers who worked various amounts of time, but who in the end of the day all received the same pay. The story is so told as to necessitate our having Jesus Himself explain to us its message.
The message is a question – will you be evil because God is good?
The message implies what the story explicitly portrayed – that there are people who are going to receive a reward from God that includes works people have not seen them do. Their reward comes from the goodness of God, and is not commensurate with their obvious works, as is generally understood to be the teaching of the scriptures; My reward is with me to give to every man as his work is. By the parable the reward is shown to cover the intent of the worker, even if it did not produce. These workers had stood all day in line hoping for work. The last hour of the day they were still there; that was when they were hired. But the rewarder sees them as working all day.
One of the fascinating messages of Joel 2:32 is found in the assurance of salvation to all who call on the name of the Lord in verse 32a being followed by the assurance of salvation in verse 32c to all whom the Lord calls. This implies the Lord may save some people who have never called upon him!
Ellen White has an interesting account of some events in which this theological principle is applied. Her story is of particular interest to this writer in this place in our study of Joel, because it amplifies the verse we are considering, while the verse before us presents us with the Old Testament Biblical support of both Jesus’ New Testament parable referred to above and Ellen White’s story.
Mrs. White writes as follows:
“’The hour is coming,’ Christ said, ‘in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth.’ That voice is to resound through all the habitations of the dead; and every saint who sleeps in Jesus will awake and leave his prison house. Then the virtue of character we have received from Christ’s righteousness will ally us to true greatness of the highest order. Every action of ours in befriending God’s people will be rewarded as done unto himself.
“In the day of final reckoning, Christ does not present before men the great work he has done for them in giving his life for their redemption. He presents before them the faithful work they have done for him. What surpassing love is this! He even mentions the work of the heathen, who have no intelligent knowledge of the law of the Lord, but who have done the very things the law required, because they have heeded the voice speaking to them in the things of nature. When the Holy Spirit implants Christ’s spirit in the heart of the savage, and he befriends God’s servants, the quickening of the heart’s sympathy is contrary to his nature, contrary to his education. The grace of God working upon the darkened mind, has softened the savage nature untaught by the wisdom of men. And these uneducated heathen, in all their cruelty, are regarded in a more favorable light than are those who have had great light and evidence, but who have rejected the mercy and reproof of God.
“Christ implants His grace in the heart of the savage, and ministers to the necessity of the missionary, even before he has heard or comprehended the words of truth and life. Behold that crowd collected above God’s servant to harm him! But the Lord is working upon the heart and mind of perhaps one man to plead in behalf of His servant; and when the war council has determined the destruction of the Christian’s life, the intercession of that savage turns the decision, and his life is spared. O, the love that goes forth to the savage for this one act! To such Christ says, in the judgment; . . . ‘come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.'” Ellen White in Present Truth and Review and Herald Articles, vol. 3, p. 608 (Sept. 20, 1898).
Joel the Spirit of Prophecy Application
Section I Assignment
List the eschatological events Mrs. White presents as being the subject or subjects of Joel’s chapter two in the material quoted below. Note: Listing of subjects dealt with in material not quoted in this booklet, but relevant to the Biblical material being studied, is proper and encouraged!
Spirit of Prophecy Quotations
“It was needful that men should be awakened to their danger; that they should be roused to prepare for the solemn events connected with the close of probation. The prophet of God declares; ‘The day of the Lord is great and very terrible; and who can abide it’ . . . Joel 2:11 . . .” The Great Controversy, p. 310.
“November 20, 1857, I was shown the people of God, and saw them mightily shaken. Some, with strong faith and agonizing cries, were pleading with God. Their countenances were pale, and marked with deep anxiety, expressive of their internal struggle. Firmness and great earnestness were expressed in their countenances, while large drops of perspiration fell from their foreheads. Now and then their faces would light up with the marks of God’s approbation, and again the same solemn, earnest, anxious look would settle upon them.*” (*“Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly: gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders. . . . Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the alter, and let them say, spare Thy people, O Lord, and give not Thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: Wherefore should they say among the people, where is their God?” Joel 2:15-17. . . . )
“Evil angels crowded around them, pressing their darkness upon them, to shut out Jesus from their view, that their eyes might be drawn to the darkness that surrounded them. And they distrust God and next murmur against Him. Their only safety was in keeping their eyes directed upward. Angels of God had charge over His people, and as the poisonous atmosphere from the evil angels was pressed around these anxious ones, the heavenly angels were continually wafting their wings over them, to scatter the thick darkness.
“Some, I saw, did not participate in their work of agonizing and pleading. They seemed indifferent and careless. They were not resisting the darkness around them, and it shut them in like a thick cloud. The angels of God left. . . those who made no effort to help themselves, and I lost sight of them. . . .
“I asked the meaning of the shaking I had seen, and was shown that it was be caused by the straight testimony called forth by the counsel of the True Witness to the Laodiceans. This will have its effect upon the heart of the receiver, and will lead him to exalt the standard and pour forth the straight truth. Some will not bear this straight testimony. They will rise up against it, and this will cause a shaking among God’s people.” Testimonies For the Church, vol. 1, pp. 179-181.
Author’s note: Joel 2:23 speaks of a Biblical concept famous among Seventh-day Adventists around the world. This concept, the early and latter rain, is often preached about and written on, as something very significant in the outworking of God’s plan of redemption. But the question that is often overlooked is the question, “what is it?”
That this question is generally left unanswered is not because Mrs. White has not written clearly about the early and latter rain; she has written much about this concept. Probably the material that deals in one place with the concept most clearly is found in Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 506-509. But Mrs. White has written much other material dealing with many aspects of this symbol.
Because of the multitude of relevant questions and the numerous passages in Ellen White treating of these issues, our methodology here is going to be to quote from a thesis titled American Seventh-day Adventist Latter Rain, by Bernard Spencer. This thesis is available at the Andrews University Library. Because of space limitations the footnote references identifying the sources on which the various statements are based have been omitted from this review.
Ellen White and the Latter Rain
The Terminology Employed; The Agricultural Heritage
In Palestine during agricultural times such as the times of the Bible prophets, the farmer would prepare the field for the sowing of the seed, plant the seed, and wait for a rain to cause the seed to sprout. During the course of time during which the sprouted seeds were growing into a mature state, rain continued to fall periodically, but just before the actual harvesting could begin a special rain fell which served to bring the crop to the final degree of maturity required for the farmer to realize a successful reward for his work.
The first rain, which sprouted the sown seeds, was known as the former rain or the early rain; the rain which fell just prior to the harvesting was known as the latter rain. These two rains were used by the Hebrew prophets as a figure to foretell “the bestowal of spiritual grace in extraordinary measure upon God’s church,” Ellen White writes. She also says that “the Lord employs those operations of nature to represent the work of the Holy Spirit.”
This means that for Ellen White, the rain symbol for the work of the Holy Spirit as He bestows spiritual grace in extraordinary measure upon God’s people has its roots in the agricultural phenomena of rains which come in their season and which produce a particular result – which symbol comes to us by the way of the Hebrew prophets.
The Historical Application of the Agricultural Figures
Mrs. White writes that the Pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Spirit recorded in Acts 2 marked the beginning of the early, or former, rain phase of the work of the Holy Spirit – the bestowal of spiritual grace in extraordinary measure upon God’s church that the early rain of Palestine as a symbol represented.
However, she also writes that the Acts 2 Pentecostal experience was only a partial fulfillment of the key “rain” prophecy – Joel 2; which scripture is nevertheless applicable to those events. The latter rain portion of the Palestinian rain symbol of Joel 2 will only be experienced when the events of Pentecost are repeated, with greater power. This “manifestation of divine grace” which will “attend the closing work of the gospel” is to occur just prior to the second coming of Jesus as the Great Harvester, in connection with specific eschatological developments, and fulfills completely Joel’s prophecy.
This means that it is the event of a Pentecost-repeated, only with greater power, which fulfills for Ellen White Joel’s latter rain prophecy.
The existential, or, in my life, early rain is an awakening process that occurs repeatedly in the soul bringing progressively increasing insights as the Christian lives daily life. It is complemented by the anointing of the Holy Spirit, which anointing gives victories in character development, while the baptism of the Holy Spirit makes the awakening and overcoming Christian useful in service for God.
The latter rain is distinguished from these other works of the Holy Spirit by the fact that whereas the early rain is a continuing process of awakenings, and the anointing is repeated whenever a seeker for victory finds another victory is needed; and while the baptism of the Holy Spirit is available as a repeated experience every new morning, the latter rain comes at a historical point that is eschatologically timed, and brings final and complete results to the above processes. This is possible because the anointing of the Holy Spirit, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and the early and latter rain works of the Holy Spirit are all aspects of the work of grace in the soul realized through the agency of the Holy Spirit.
The anointing gives grace to the soul that produces an atmosphere and character, the baptism gives grace that one imparts in appropriate service, the early rain grace causes a progressive spiritual awakening, while the latter rain grace brings the growth in grace to completion.
These works of the Holy Spirit did not begin at Pentecost, rather, they have existed through the times of the Old Testament. Isaiah speaks of the anointing of the Holy Spirit and Mrs. White says Christ was baptized of the Holy Spirit daily. What is new at Pentecost is (1) the amount of the blessing bestowed and the miraculous signs that accompanied the bestowal; (2) the function of the timing of the bestowal; it showed Christ’s inauguration was complete and it gave heaven’s approval to the disciples teaching that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah, in whom salvation was to be realized. Finally, the Pentecost experience was new in that it came on the church bringing about the rapid and power-filled proclamation of the Gospel to the world, while the repetition of the granting of the grace, that causes spiritual life to spring up, through the years since Pentecost shows the constancy of God’s concern and His closeness to those who seek to be effective representatives of the Gospel story- when the blessing is sought it comes, until the whole process culminates in the bestowal of the grace represented by the latter rain figure.
This means that in the works of Mrs. White the rain work of the Holy Spirit is always a gift given progressively by God to a cooperating individual that enables him to do the work God gives him to do, today, and that makes him able to be ready for the events to transpire as the conflict between good and evil closes.
Summary. The “rain” work described by Ellen White that God does through the Holy Spirit is a process that is accomplished by the bestowal of spiritual grace in extraordinary measure upon the soul. It has three effects; it brings conviction to the heart of one who hears the gospel story, it prepares people for useful service, and it brings to completion the transformation of character and soul the redemptive process includes.
It occurs over a period of time, having both historical and experiential expects, and is divisible into two separate, but not disconnected phases- the early and the latter rain. It is also coordinated with both subjective and objective developments. The subjective are the elements of personal preparedness and cooperation with God, while the objective are the developments in the conflict between God and Satan which God makes transitional in brining the great conflict between sin and righteousness to a close.
The reliability and validity of anyone’s personal experience of those dynamic works of God through the Holy Spirit must be checked by the doctrines of Sacred Scripture and obedience to the Ten Commandments of God because Satan seeks to produce a counterfeit “rain” work. Emotion and miracles, however, are not to be criteria by which anyone tests the genuineness of a rain experience.
The early rain relates to the latter rain as that which goes before to prepare for increased amounts of the same, for Mrs. White writes that the blessings received by the apostles at Pentecost are still available to earnest seekers today. This early rain experience, which brings with it power to work for God against the forces of evil, changes to a greater outpouring of grace, with a greater demonstration of God’s power, when the historical aspect of the rain experience symbolized by the latter rain figure occurs. This increase of power is the result, Mrs. White says, of two developments; the increase of evil since Pentecost, and the arrival of the time of the closing of human probation.
This means that in the writings of Mrs. White the latter rain has as its function the completing of the work begun under the early rain figure.
Negatively, the rain work of the Holy Spirit is not a guarantee of one’s salvation, and it is not an objective proof of one’s sanctification.
It is rather the agency by which man’s growth in the Christian pattern set by Christ is realized without ever taking away man’s freedom to return to the doing of evil.
The latter rain eschatological context.
For our study, basic to the eschatology one finds being set forth by Mrs. White, are two premises; (1) the figures represent reality, and (2) the nature of man is capable of change. This second premise is the heart of the latter rain study, for in Ellen White’s materials man can and must enter into a relationship with God that brings about a progressive change in man that is so complete he can accurately be described as a reborn and new creature. Man is here seen as a hand-crafted product made by God that is ruined by sin, but still being loved by his Maker, who, as soon as the fall of man occurs, sets into action a plan of restoration that develops men gradually into the creatures they would have been had Adam never fallen.
This restoration process is controlled externally by the choices of man, both as a group and as an individual, and by the developments of the great controversy that lead to a final full and complete vindication of God from any responsibility or contribution to the sin problem by all of God’s created beings, including Satan himself.
Internally, the restoration process is determined by the amount of grace that man’s daily cooperation with God, or lack of it, enables him to benefit from.
Grace is here not only an attitude of Gods toward sinful beings, but it is “as real as the air which circulates around the globe.” Steps to Christ, p. 68. It is given through certain channels or “means of grace.”
To Ellen White, how much spiritual growth an individual realizes depends on his choices, the circumstances of his life, and the eschatological developments that are occurring at the time in which he lives.
The eschatological developments that immediately surround the latter rain figure include such events as are represented by the following terminology:
- The Loud Cry
- The Third Angel
- The mark of the Beast
- The Seal of God
- The Shaking Time
- The Close of Probation
- The Seven Last Plagues
- The Time of Jacob’s Trouble
- The Second Coming of Jesus Christ
- The Life Eternal
The element common to all of these events is that they are so designed as to progressively bring all people to a point of making a decision for or against Christ, under the threat of ruin and death as a result of a decision for Christ that will include a commitment to obey God’s will as expressed in the Gospel and in the Ten Commandments of Exodus 20.
The central teaching of Mrs. White regarding the latter rain is that it brings the progressive work of grace in the soul to completion, a work that began with the early rain bestowal of grace; and that the events and requirements which accompany the salvific process in men’s lives reveal the character of God to be a blending of justice, mercy, love, and righteousness, with omnipotence and omniscience.
The central purpose of the latter rain work is to give men the power to meet God’s will for them at a particular eschatological time.
The primary effect of the latter rain grace when it has been imparted is that the receiver is prepared for meeting Christ at His second coming without fault – ready for translation.
The controlling motif in the outworking of the latter rain scheme is the vindication of God from any responsibility for the existence or continuance of evil, while the ultimate result of the combined works of grace which are brought to completion by the later rain grace is the full restoration of fallen man to the spiritual nature he had before the fall, and a resulting continual flow of praise to the God who could bring about such results.
Joel 2:28, 29
“The Priests, determined to account for the miraculous power of the disciples in some natural way, declared that they were drunken from partaking largely of the new wine prepared for the feast. Some of the most ignorant of the people present seized upon this suggestion as the truth, but the more intelligent knew it was to false; and those who understood the different languages testified to the accuracy with which these languages were used by the disciples.
“In answer to the accusations of the priests Peter showed that this demonstration was in direct fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel. . . .”The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 40, 41.
“In immediate connection with the scenes of the great day of God, the Lord by the prophet Joel has promised a special manifestation of His Spirit. Joel 2:28. This prophecy received a partial fulfillment in the outpouring of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost; but it will reach its full accomplishment in the manifestation of divine grace which will attend the closing work of the gospel.” The Great Controversy, p. ix.
“If this prophecy of Joel met a partial fulfillment in the days of the apostles, we are living in a time when it is to be even more evidently manifest to the people of God. He will so bestow His Spirit upon His people that they will become a light amid the moral darkness; and great light will be reflected in all parts of the world. O that our faith might be increased, that the Lord might work mightily with His people. (MS 49, 1908).” Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 4, p. 1175.
‘”Nor was the darkness of the night less uncommon and terrifying than that of the day; notwithstanding there was almost a full moon, no object was discernible but by the help of some artificial light, which, when seen from the neighboring houses and other places as a distance, appeared through a kind of Egyptian darkness which seemed almost impervious to the rays.” – Isaiah Thomas, Massachusetts Spy; or, American Oracle of Liberty, vol. 10, No. 472 (May 25, 1780). Said an eyewitness of the scene: ‘I could not help conceiving at the time, that if every luminous body in the universe had been shrouded in impenetrable shades, or struck out of existence, the darkness could not have been more complete.’ – Letter by Dr. Samuel Tenney, of Exeter, New Hampshire, December, 1785 (in Massachusetts Historical Society Collections, 1792, 1st series, vol. I, p. 87). Though at nine o’clock that night the moon rose to the full, ‘it had not the least effect to dispel the deathlike shadows.’ After midnight the darkness disappeared, and the moon, when first visible, had the appearance of blood. May 19, 1780, stands in history as ‘The Dark Day.’ Since the time of Moses no period of darkness of equal density, extent, and duration, has ever been recorded. The description of this event, as given by eyewitnesses, is but an echo of the words of the Lord, recorded by the prophet Joel, twenty-five hundred years previous to their fulfillment: ‘The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come.’ Joel 2:31.” The Great Controversy, p. 308.
(List the eschatological subjects with which Mrs. White surrounds her quotations from Joel.)
The Great Controversy, p. 310.
The Close of Probation.
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, pp. 179-181.
The shaking time.
(The special bestowing of grace that brings the work of grace in the soul to completion.)
The close of probation.
The Seven Last Plagues.
The Loud Cry, etc.
Joel 2: 28, 29
The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 40, 41.
The Early Rain, or the Acts 2 Pentecost.
The Great Controversy, p. ix
“The scenes of the great day of God.”
Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 4, p. 1175.
The days in which we live – the time of the end.
The Great Controversy, p. 308
The Dark Day of May 19, 1780.
Section IV Summary
We have gone through Joel looking for the answer to the question, what function is the message of Joel to perform in the history of God’s people. The answer now seems to be quite clear: Joel, as a prophecy, serves to point God’s church to the day when God will prepare His people for the events which close the great controversy between good and evil, while as accomplished history , the book of Joel functions as a revelation of where we are in those closing events, as an encouragement to those experiencing those events by portraying the ultimate victory of good, and as an invitation to all who read it to make the preparations necessary if one is to be involved on God’s side.
The book of Joel also serves as part of the Bible’s confirmation of the truthfulness of the material Ellen White presents us with regarding the eschatology of the new Testament – both when the material serves to reveal, and when the material serves to excite us regarding the potential for those events to occur in our lives.
“As we see the fulfillment of prophecy, our faith in the final triumph of Christ’s kingdom should strengthen; and we should go forth with renewed courage to do our appointed work.” Gospel Workers, p. 26f.
“He who beholds the Savior’s matchless love will be elevated in thought, purified in heart, transformed in character. He will go forth to be a light to the world. . . . ” Gospel Workers, p. 29.