The Evening Glow Of This Age
The sign of the consummation of this age, as we have seen, is a world war attended by famines, pestilences and earthquakes in diverse places. In addition to the infallible sign of this mighty and impending event, there are other evidences which should be taken into consideration if our study is to be complete.In the Physical Realm
Joel, a prophet in the second half of the eighth century before the Christian era, devoted the major part of his prediction to the Day of Jehovah. He began his discussion in chapter 1, vs. 15, and continued his prophecy through 2:17. His oracle describes vividly the terrible conflict which will be waged at the conclusion of the Great Tribulation.In the Spiritual Realm
Transported in vision by the Spirit to the midst of the Great Tribulation, the prophet called upon the nation to repent before God (2:12-14). The observance of a day of prayer, repentance, confession and humiliation before Jehovah is described in vss. 15-17, whereby the nation implores His pardoning, forgiving grace. That God will answer such a petition and come to the rescue is shown in vss. 18-21. Joel then sees the curse lifted from the world the earth bringing forth its strength and Israel restored to favor and fellowship with God in her own land (vss. 21-27).
Beginning with verse 28 the prophets horizon enlarges; he sees the conversion of the Gentile nations, an event which follows Israel's return to God and national restoration: "And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh." God pours out His Spirit in the measure contemplated here only when people genuinely accept Him.
Following this we read these words:
And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my Spirit. 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 great and terrible day of Jehovah cometh" (Joel 2:28b-31).
The Hebrew word translated "and" at the beginning of this second quotation is, in numerous places, rendered "but." The choice of the word is determined by the context and its thought. Beyond question, the first portion of vs. 28 refers to the conversion of the Gentiles after Israel's restoration, which occurs at the end of the Tribulation Period.
But when we read the clause following and vss. 29-31 we see that these signs are to appear before "the great and terrible day of Jehovah cometh" (vs. 31b). The signs in the physical realm are all before the great and terrible day of the Lord! So also are the spiritual manifestations in the form of Jewish young men's visions and the old men's dreams. They too are located before the Day of the Lord otherwise they would have no significance. Literally translated, vs. 28 would read as follows: "And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; but your sons and your daughters shall prophesy ..." It is evident to me, from the drift of thought in this verse, that all the prediction after the word "flesh" refers to that which will occur prior to the great and terrible day of the Lord.
Great supernatural manifestations in the physical realm are foretold in the wording of this passage. We are to "take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless there is evidence in the context indicating otherwise." Since such proof is lacking, we must conclude that these predictions will be literally fulfilled in the physical realm, heralding the near approach of the Day of the Lord.
The promise that God will pour out His Spirit upon Jewish youths and maidens and that old men will "dream dreams" evidently refers to spiritual matters. These things are phenomena that belong to the spiritual or psychic realm. We must accept this testimony at face value. Therefore, we may expect a mighty revival to break out in Israel prior to the bursting forth of the judgments of the Day of Jehovah.Has That Day Come?
Malachi, the last prophet of the Old Testament, also foretold such a sweeping revival, with Elijah the Prophet as the leader of this movement:
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of Jehovah come. And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers; lest I come and smite the earth with a curse (4:5,6).
What could possibly be used of God to bring about this wonderful spiritual renewal in Israel, scheduled to begin immediately before the great and terrible day of the Lord? All Bible students know that God employs both men and means to accomplish His purposes--even in the spiritual realm. At the present time he has committed unto men the word of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18,19).
When the Eunuch was seeking truth, the Lord broke up a revival in Samaria to send the evangelist Philip to give him the word of God. When Cornelius was praying for more light, He sent Peter to give Cornelius the message of life. "The entrance of thy word giveth light."
The Word of God is the seed of the kingdom. It is necessary to sow wheat if one desires to harvest wheat; to plant corn if he wishes to gather corn. Since the Word of God is the seed of the kingdom and since a spiritual crop is here foretold, evidently this passage assumes a mighty sowing of the Word of God in Israel which will spring forth in this unprecedented spiritual harvest, beginning at the very threshold of the Great Tribulation.
Sometimes we hear people saying that we are already in the Great Tribulation. Such a view is incorrect, for these foreboding portents in the heavens and upon earth, together with the sweeping revival in Israel, must precede the judgments of the Day of Jehovah. Since they have not as yet occurred, we may be absolutely certain that the Day of Jehovah has not begun.
This point is a most significant one. Though they have not appeared, the world is moving with kaleidoscopic rapidity. Developments that formerly required centuries now transpire even in a few hours or days. It behooves us who know the Lord and His truth to quicken the tempo of our labors and to do the work of Him who is our Saviour. He has given us a specific task while we sojourn here upon earth. Without doubt we are approaching very rapidly the crisis of the world--the Day of Jehovah!