Joel spoke of the Day of the Lord, a time when God’s people would understand His justice. The prophet employed agricultural, militaristic, and religious metaphors to persuade God’s people that they should recognize the signs of the times and get right with God. The first portion of Joel was aimed at the prophet’s initial audience, perhaps suffering in the siege ordered by Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kgs 24:10-25:30). Joel then spoke of a future day, when God would send His Spirit upon His people and bring victory to them.
Joel’s brief prophecy had a disproportionately large effect on the storyline of Scripture. Peter and John employed Joel’s prophecy to describe the ministries of the Spirit and Jesus.
(1) The presence of the Spirit confirmed Christ’s resurrection and signaled the beginning of the last days. Joel prophesied that in the day the Lord would become jealous for His land, He would spare His people and send His Spirit upon them (Joel 2:18-32). After Joel urged the people to repent and turn to the Lord, saying, “Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave a blessing behind Him, so you can offer grain and wine to the LORD your God” (Joel 2:14), he turned to announce that the Lord would indeed restore the fortunes of His people that they would no longer be a disgrace among the nations (Joel 2:18). Joel announced that the Lord would restore His people and then pour His Spirit upon on all peoples: young, old, male, female, and slaves would testify to God’s presence among them (Joel 2:28-32). When the Holy Spirit descended on those gathered in the temple for Pentecost, various people groups heard in their own language what the apostles were proclaiming about Jesus. Peter explained that the anointing of such a diverse crowd as had gathered in the temple could be attributed to none other than the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy (Acts 2:17-21). Peter proclaimed that the presence of the Spirit among them pointed back to the resurrection of Christ and signaled the dawn of the last days.
(2) The promise of a victory for God’s people will be realized at Christ’s return. Joel announced that many would be saved “before the great and awe-inspiring Day of the LORD comes” (Joel 2:31). When that day arrived, Joel said, the nations who opposed Israel would be gathered for destruction. The themes of the prophet echo in the words of John in Revelation. In Joel 3:13, the prophet proclaimed the Lord’s wrath against those who opposed Israel, saying, “Swing the sickle because the harvest is ripe. Come and trample the grapes because the winepress is full; the wine vats overflow because the wickedness of the nations is great.” John says the same thing concerning the great day of battle when the Lord would return and execute vengeance upon His enemies, that is, when the Son of Man comes to reap the earth’s harvest (Rev 14:14-15; 19:11-16). In Joel 3:16, the prophet wrote concerning the future Day of the Lord, the day of victory, “The LORD will roar from Zion and raise His voice from Jerusalem; heaven and earth will shake. But the LORD will be a refuge for His people, a stronghold for the Israelites.” Similarly, John reported news of a great earthquake (Rev 6:12; 8:5; 11:13, 19; 16:18), and the preservation of the elect (Rev 13:8-9; 14:1-5). In Joel 3:17, Joel prophesied a day of restoration, saying, “Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who dwells in Zion, My holy mountain. Jerusalem will be holy, and foreigners will never overrun it again.” John witnessed these themes in his vision of the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, when he wrote, “Look! God’s dwelling is with men, and He will live with them” (Rev 21:3a), and “Nothing profane will ever enter it: no one who does what is vile or false, but only those written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Rev 21:27).