“But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, ‘Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy. I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath: blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.'”
During this momentous Pentecost season following Israel’s 70th anniversary, as I was reading Acts 2, reflecting on Peter’s curious decision to quote Joel’s prophecy at a length so far beyond that which was fulfilled that day, I could not help but find the feast of Pentecost itself, by Peter’s lead, pointing me to the true significance of Joel’s prophecy. A hint from the Spirit, perhaps? The strong counsel to “watch” for the signs of the Lord’s coming is strewn throughout Holy Writ, most of all from the Lord’s own lips.
“Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.”
I think we’re supposed to watch.
The point of eschatology is that we don’t know the precise time of the Lord’s appearance, so we are to watch for the signs of the times in the light of divine information disclosed in prophecy. It’s not that we’ll never know when the Lord is coming; it’s that we’ll never know if we don’t watch.
“If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.”
“But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.”
1 THESSALONIANS 5:4
“But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.”
So, manning our watch post, what can we understand from the Joel 2 prophecy uttered by Peter on the day of Pentecost? That the Day of the Lord is coming, and it is frightfully near; furthermore, that God has decreed two distinct heralds of this great and terrible time. In previous articles, I have made the case for the sixth seal of Revelation marking the start of the Day of the Lord and the commencement of God’s wrath on earth. You may draw the comparison yourself…
“Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir. Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the Lord of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger.“
“And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?”
This is the day the secular world heedlessly hurtles toward, the sixth seal, the wrath of God, the Day of the Lord. The prophecy of Joel 2 names the clear signs that are to mark its imminency: “I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath: blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.” We’ve already ascertained that the sixth-seal sign of a darkened sun and moon, preceded by a great earthquake, will be obvious signs to the whole world that the good times are up. But Joel’s prophecy gives us yet another insight, two signs, even earlier than the shrouded luminaries: “…wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath: blood and fire and vapor of smoke.”
Ah… now we’re getting somewhere.
These two signs, oddly, do not seem to appear in Revelation’s description of the sixth seal. A black sun and a bloody moon I can see fulfilling the “wonders in heaven”, but when paired in the same verse with the earth sign of blood and fire and smoke, I’m not so sure. Perhaps these two signs, one of heaven and one of earth, precede the events of the sixth seal altogether, the initial and absolute promise of God that the epic of evil has reached its last chapter—punishment.
As I sat crosslegged watching the news from Hawaii during the Pentecost season, pondering away before blood-red streams of molten lava laying the paradise to ruins, for the life of me, I could not find the meaning in Joel’s prophecy.
It hit me soon enough, as I’m sure it hit all the watchful saints.
Understand that the volcanic eruption in Hawaii, still underway as I write this, is a truly historic calamity, sending chills of terror all across Pacific coastlines where such devastation from the Kīlauea Volcano is seen as a messenger of awakening to all volcanoes near the Ring of Fire. It is a symptom of deep subterranean disturbance, seismic activity writhing like a woman in labour ready to give birth to the dead in Christ alongside the worldwide earthquake described in the sixth seal of Revelation.
Just before birth in a human pregnancy, a woman’s water breaks and her cervix dilates. With her painful contractions comes a burning sensation known as the “ring of fire.” The earth itself has a “Ring of Fire,” a 25,000-mile-long area in the shape of a horseshoe around the basin of the Pacific Ocean that is now on high-alert because of the sudden rise in seismic and volcanic activity in Hawaii.
“Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead.”
Kīlauea began erupting on May 17, 2018
What can such imagery evoke but “blood and fire and vapor of smoke”? Other translations render that “billows” or “columns of smoke”, and Kīlauea’s spewed 30,000 feet into the sky, over six miles high, gushing liquid fire stained red like flowing blood with veinlike streams rushing death over the lush island landscape. The cost has been calamitous. Hawaii has declared a state of emergency with mass evacuations and a red alert for all aviation. Reaching the coast and plunging into the ocean, the lava is polluting the atmosphere with toxic hydrochloric acid. This is a disaster of epic proportions, and it’s not the only one.
The volatile Mount Merapi in Indonesia did the same thing in early May with an 11-foot column of ash—not to mention the nearby Mount Sinabung in Sumatra, which erupted in late February with a 23,000-foot billow of smoke.
And now, a disaster spewing from Guatemala’s volcano Fuego has retold the tragedy of Pompeii by reducing men, women and children into statues of ash. 200 missing, 75 dead, and counting.
Is this not precisely what we were told to look for in regard to the coming Day of the Lord, paired with “wonders in heaven above”? What wonders, you ask? Was it not just last September, eight months ago, that the watching community of saints were captivated by the perfect fulfillment of the Revelation 12 sign? It’s the only astronomical sign illustrated in Scripture; and there it was, heralding the rapture of the Church and the coming Tribulation as it appeared precisely on the Feast of Trumpets—just as now, through the season of Pentecost, we find the terrifying volcanic devastations worldwide fulfilling “signs in the earth below: blood and fire and vapor of smoke”.
I can only speculate that Joel 2 was referring to the very last signs before the Day of the Lord, and they all appear to be raging forth in the current Hebrew year.