30 June 2009

Verse-by-verse through Joel (2:28-2:31)

Joel 2:28-31--"And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. And also on menservants and on maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of YHVH." "And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh" &ff. If there was ever a concept that caused such a debate among God's people, it is the idea of "The Day of YHVH." And we see here, in verse 28, that another word is thrown in to make us ponder even more. That word is "Afterward..." When Peter brings to the mind these words in Acts 2:17, he quotes the LXX and calls that time "the last days..." What period of time does "afterward" refer to? What are the "last days" Peter speaks of? Is it (A) some time in Joel's near future? Or (B) the time of Mashiach, when Peter spoke? Or could it be (C) the "end times," when God brings all the things we see to an end? The short answer is...YES. There is a concept we must always remember when we are reading Scripture. And that is the continuity of the Scriptures. In other words, there are indeed some passages that were spoken to ONE person, or ONE group of people (or even the entire nation Israel) that were to be understood as a ONE-TIME promise or command. For example, when God told Elisha to command Naaman to swim in the Jordan to cure his leprosy--is that the common treatment for leprosy? No. That was a ONE-TIME deal. When God promised Job that He would restore everything he had lost double--and oh, how the Creflo Dollars of the world love to pervert THAT promise!!--that was a ONE-TIME promise to ONE man. Now, there are some Old Testament stories that we can use for encouragement, and we can use them as testimonies to the strength of the arm of God in aiding those who trust in Him. But not every promise is applicable today. However, there are commands and warnings--and, yes, promises--in Scripture that are forever and always. Thou shalt not murder (Exodus 20:13). That is still for today. YHVH is my Shepherd (Exodus 23:1). Still for today. And one very easy way to tell if a promise or command or warning from the Old Testament is still in effect is if that promise/command/warning is repeated elsewhere in Scripture. "If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments." He said to Him, "Which ones?" Jesus said, "'You shall not murder,' 'You shall not commit adultery,' 'You shall not steal,' 'You shall not bear false witness,' 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, '‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself'" (Matthew 19:17-19). Because Jesus quoted these commandments, it shows us that they are still in effect today. "I AM the Good Shepherd" (John 10:11). By Jesus calling Himself our "Shepherd," He is telling all people--Jew and Gentile alike--that He is indeed the Shepherd of Psalm 23, and will covet and protect and die for His sheep (side road--Did Jesus say He would lay down His life for goats and dogs? Who did He say He laid down His life for? "The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep"--John 10:11. Just in case anybody was wondering whether Jesus died for only His elect or for the whole world). So when Peter stands up and declares that God would pour out His Spirit upon all flesh, with the accompanying signs, he was simply demonstrating that the promise of God, spoken by Joel, had not yet been completely fulfilled in Joel's day, or even by the time Christ came. See, we humans get so caught up in this little breath of wind we call "time." We forget that, for us, life is but a vapor, which is here for a little while then vanishes away (James 4:14). But as far as God is concerned--well, if He tarries for a thousand years, what is it to HIM but a day (2nd Peter 3:8)? And do we really think that His word is limited by our concept of time? That, "Well, God hasn't done it yet; I guess it isn't going to happen"? Friend, God is not on OUR timetable--WE are on HIS! And if His will is that something is going to happen a lot later than we want it to, who are we to say otherwise? Does Paul not tell us that Jesus did not appear at a time designated by man, but that when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son (Galatians 4:4)? His word is eternal, it will never fade! Psalm 119:89--Forever, O YHVH, Your word is settled in Heaven! Isaiah 40:8--"The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever." Matthew 5:18--"For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled." So, because Peter is repeating this promise that was given some 800 years prior, he is really telling us that this "Day of YHVH" not only has been, but was being, and eventually will someday be. That the Old Testament picture is now to become a reality. That as God saved the people of Judah from the physical death that occurred because of the destroying locusts, He would also save His people from eternal destruction that awaits those condemned to Hell. That when the day comes when God gives all of mankind over to their basest desires, when He lifts His restraining hand that is holding back the evil hearts of men, that He will show wonders in heaven and earth. He will send His angels to pour out bowl after bowl of His divine wrath and justice upon those whole will deny Him, despise Him, blaspheme His name, and utterly reject Him and kill His saints (Revelation 16:1-21). So as we begin, let us keep one thing in mind: As with any Old Testament prophecy, not every single detail had a future fulfillment in mind. That said, let's look at the immediate impact of the word of YHVH spoken through Joel, and how it was repeated in the words of Peter. Verse 30. "And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: blood and fire and pillars of smoke." What had been taken away from the people? Their sacrifices. They had so hardened their hearts against God that He destroyed any hope of them being righteous in His eyes by way of bulls and goats. There was no fear of YHVH in Judah in those days. Therefore, there was no mercy for Judah in YHVH. But now, the people have repented, they have rent their hearts and not their garments (Joel 2:13). They have returned to YHVH. He has restored their crops, healed their land, and allowed them to resume their sacrifices. And, if we recall, what are three things that were a result of those animal sacrifices? First, there was Blood... Lots of it. Think about it. Think about all the people bringing all their animals. Animals like bulls, oxen, goats. These are not small animals. And when you have a large animal--are you going to have more than a little blood? Now, multiply that times hundreds of thousands of people. At the very least. So many animals were slaughtered every day that the priests could never sit down. So the fact that God was returning to them the gift of bringing Him burnt offerings was to be a sign on earth that God had accepted their repentance as being true. But what about in Heaven? Well, they had confessed their sins. And what does John say will happen if we confess our sins (1st John 1:9)? When was the Lamb of God slain (Revelation 13:8)? So the blood of the bulls and goats would once again cover their sins (although it would not take those sins away, Hebrews 10:4) while the blood of Christ, shed before the foundation of the world, would take away the sins of those who would continue to believe and who abided in the word of God. Fast forward about 800 years. The Christological fulfillment of this promise. The blood of Christ was shed. The Lamb of God had come to take away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Now, your garden variety Jehovah's Witness will tell you that Christ was nailed to an upright stake. They will say the cross was a pagan symbol, so Christ could not have died on a two-beamed cross. I guess someone forgot to tell them that Christ was crucified by pagans, and than even an upright stake would have been a pagan form of capital punishment. ...Anyway... But here's why Jesus HAD TO die on a two-beamed cross: this was typified in the Old Testament on no less than 2 occasions. One was the first Passover. Long story short: where did the people have to smear the blood of their lamb? On the doorposts and.....what? The lintel. (See Exodus 12:7). The lintel was a crosspiece that went over top of the door. Hmmm.....an upright post and a crosspiece. Interesting. Second, where did God tell the High Priest to put the blood of the goat that was slain for YHVH? Leviticus 16:18--"And he shall go out to the altar that is before the LORD, and make atonement for it, and shall take some of the blood of the bull and some of the blood of the goat, and put it on the horns of the altar all around." And do you remember, kids, how many corners were on the altar? Yes, four. And if you consider that Jesus had nails driven through His left hand (1), His right hand (2), His feet (3), and had the crown of thorns on His head (4), that makes four corners.....just like the altar. Another element of the sacrifices was ...Fire... What did the priests do with the animals once they cut their jugular vein and drained all the blood? They cut it up and roasted it. Space does not permit me to list all the things they had to do (cut this off, throw this out, carry that outside and burn it and bury it, etc). But, as an example, the burnt offering in Leviticus 1:7-9--The sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire on the altar, and lay the wood in order on the fire. Then the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall lay the parts...on the fire upon the altar...And the priest shall burn all on the altar as a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to YHVH. So when the people once again saw fires being kindled on the altar of burnt offering, this was a sign on earth that God was pouring out His spirit upon the people, and He would once again allow them to worship Him with their sacrifices. And in Heaven, God would once again consider their burnt offerings to be a sweet aroma unto YHVH. So what is the Christological implication? As with the blood, we look backward so we can look forward. What was Isaac's question to Abraham in Genesis 22:7-8? Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” Then he said, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” This of course is another foreshadowing of Christ. We know the Lamb was Christ. The wood was the cross. But what was the fire? It was God's wrath, that He poured out upon His Son, who drank that cup full strength. Luke 22:41-42--And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” And as our Lord, the King of Glory, hung upon that cross, the wrath of God--that divine fire of God's holy justice--was poured out upon that Son, devouring our sins in a single burnt offering. As we sing, 'Till on that cross as Jesus died The wrath of God was satisfied For every sin on Him was laid Here in the death of Christ I live Mark 15:34--And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? What greater sign can be shown in Heaven, than Almighty God allowing His Son to endure the wrath of our Father? And should not those who claim to love God, also fear God? Hebrews 12:28-29--Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire. And, whenever you have fire, you have pillars of smoke. Almost 100 years later, Isaiah would see the King, YHVH Sabaoth. And how would he describe the throne room of Almighty God? Isaiah 6:4--And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. And, of course, whenever the high priest went into the Most Holy Place on Yom Kippur, as did Aaron that first time, YHVH would do what He promised to Moses: "I will appear in the cloud above the mercy seat" (Leviticus 16:2). But, eventually, that mercy seat would be done away with, and the eternal mercy seat would take its place. For, as the blood of the goat upon whom the lot of YHVH fell was sprinkled on the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant (Leviticus 16:14), the blood of the Lamb of God was shed abroad upon the mercy seat of the cross. For it pleased God to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of [Christ's] cross (Colossians 1:20). The mingling of blood and fire and smoke upon Golgotha also brought about some fulfillment of verse 31, where God says through the prophet, "The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of YHVH." After all, what happened the moment Jesus gave up the ghost and died? Matthew 27:45--Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. And, just to speculate a little bit, as far as the moon turning to blood (and, no, this ain't a hill I'm gonna die upon). Could this not have referred to a lunar eclipse? Considering that Passover was celebrated during the new moon, when the moon is obscured by the earth? For your consideration: what color does the moon appear to turn during a lunar eclipse? If you've never seen a lunar eclipse, the moon appears to turn a shade of dark red, even maroon. Now, the people in Jerusalem would not have seen the moon at that time, but certainly those who lived on the other side of the world would have, no? So, at the moment when Jesus died, the entire world would have been shrouded in darkness. The sun would not give its light, and the light the moon gives off as it reflects the light of the sun would be negated. Again, speculation. So, not only did all these things come about--the blood, the fire, the smoke--at some point after this was written by Joel. They also happened during the time of Messiah. And they will happen again before the final Day of YHVH as well. For this same Peter, who stood and told the people at Pentecost that these things were coming to pass, warns us that the final day of YHVH will be preceded by these same elements. 2nd Peter 3:10--But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Even John tells us in Revelation 16:1-21 that the seas and the rivers and the springs would turn to blood, that the sun will be given the power to scorch men to death and dry up the Euphrates, and cause smoke to rise and cover so much of the earth. Friend, the Day of YHVH is something that should be feared by anyone who does not know Christ. The things that will happen during those 7 most dreadful years when the wrath of God is poured out upon the earth will make the things we see happening now look tame by comparison. But for those of us who do know Almighty God, and Jesus Christ whom He sent, the Day of YHVH will be the fulfillment of our labor. What we have now, what we see only dimly, will be revealed in its fullness. When we see, face-to-face, the One who paid for our sins with His blood, and we fall at His feet as dead men, and we cry out how unworthy we are for Him to have suffered as he did for us. Then we will cry out in joy inexpressible, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain!"