JOEL 2:28

© Rosemary Bardsley 2016

The purpose of this study is to look at Joel 2:28 in 'the big picture' - to see how and where it fits in God's self-revelation in the whole Bible, both Old and New Testaments. By looking at this verse in 'the big picture' we will be better equipped to understand its relevance to us today. Here is a simple depiction of 'the big picture' perspective:

The big picture perspective
Old Testament    New Testament
Anticipation    Fulfilment    
Physical symbols    Spiritual reality      
     Hidden mystery    Revealed knowledge
                   God in the Most Holy Place    God The Holy Spirit indwelling all believers

 

THE IMPORTANT QUESTION: Where does Joel 2:28 fit in this big picture?

This question raises a number of secondary question:

Is Joel 2:28-32 written in the symbolic-anticipation era or in the literal-fulfilment era? It was written in the symbolic-anticipation era.

Does Joel 2.28-32 refer simply to one day – the Day of Pentecost? No. Because, apart from the pouring out of the Spirit, nothing else mentioned actually happened on that specific day, and Peter quoted almost the entire passage. The introductory phrase in verse 28 [and in Acts 2:17] indicates an era, not a single day.

Does Joel 2:28-32 refer to the whole church era? Yes.

Does Joel 2:28-32 speak literally of various single individuals engaging in specific acts or are the words ‘prophesy’ ‘dream dreams’ and ‘see visions’ symbolic of widespread knowledge of God? It speaks symbolically of widespread knowledge of God. Consider the context – Joel 2:27 and 3:17 both speak of the knowledge of God that will begin in and emanate from Israel/Zion. Joel 2:28 takes that knowledge to ‘all people’. In the greater context of the historical era in which Micah and Isaiah prophesied, along with Joel, a recurring theme is the absence of knowledge of the Lord.

In a still broader context, does the whole Old Testament look forward to a time when the knowledge of the Lord will be available to all who believe because of the coming of the Messiah and the Spirit, rather than mediated through a small number of prophets/seers? Yes.

The new covenant of grace in Christ is also a covenant of knowledge of the Lord.

Under the Old Testament covenants, priests and prophets were in place to mediate between God and the people. Under the new covenant, because of the one Mediator Jesus Christ, every believer is a ‘priest’ with right of access into the very presence of God, and every believer is a ‘prophet’ in the sense of being one who knows the Lord and his truth, in a way the people of the old covenants never could. This new covenant knowledge of the Lord is intimately connected with the indwelling of every believer by the Spirit of God.

The scriptures included below track the Old Testament anticipation of this every-believer knowledge of the Lord, and its fulfilment in the New Testament.

Understood in this context, the Joel 2 prophecy refers to the same fact anticipated in many other prophecies, that in the new covenant every believer [‘all people’ ‘sons’ ‘daughters’ ‘young men’ ‘old men’ ‘men and women’] has, because of the indwelling Spirit, the knowledge of the Lord, not just the few appointed prophets. [Thus Joel is not talking about specific individuals with the ‘gift of prophecy’, or ‘prophetic knowledge’, but about the knowledge of God common to every genuine believer through knowing Christ and through the indwelling Spirit of God.]

The role and need for both priestly and prophetic mediators between God and man is made totally redundant by the coming of Christ the one true priest and the one true prophet. Just as we no longer need the priests to offer sacrifices, so we also no longer need prophets/seers in the Old Testament sense of those who bring a ‘thus saith the Lord’ message.

Old Testament Scriptures tracking the anticipation of knowledge of the Lord under the new covenant:

Numbers 11:29

Moses replied, “… are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!”

Isaiah 11:1-3,9

‘A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse, from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him –
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of power,
the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD –
and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.
… for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.’

Note: a feature of Hebrew poetry is parallel thoughts – where each successive line in a couplet says the same truth in different words. This is instructive in understanding and getting the power of the message in these verses, which are from Hebrew poetry.

Note the strong anticipation of the knowledge of God characteristic of the new covenant.

Isaiah 32:1-4

‘See, a king will reign in righteousness
and rulers will rule with justice.
Each man will be like a shelter from the wind
and a refuge from the storm,
like streams of water in the desert
and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land.
Then the eyes of those who see will no longer be closed,
and the ears of those who hear will listen.
The mind of the rash will know and understand,
and the stammering tongue will be fluent and clear.’

Isaiah 40:5

‘And the glory of the LORD will be revealed,
and all mankind together will see it.’

Isaiah 52:15b

‘For what they were not told, they will see,
and what they have not heard, they will understand.’

Jeremiah 3:15,19

‘ ”Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding. In those days … men will no longer say, ‘The ark of the covenant of the LORD.’ It will never enter their minds or be remembered; it will not be missed, nor will another one be made…
… I thought you would call me “Father”.’

This was spoken to those who had rejected the knowledge of God.

Note: verse 19 anticipates the knowledge of God as ‘Father’ resulting from the testimony of the indwelling Spirit.

Jeremiah 31:33-34

‘ “I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
No longer will a man teach his neighbour,
or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’
because they will all know me
from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.” ’
Hebrew poetry

Ezekiel 36:26-27

‘I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.’

Indwelling Spirit. [Note that a recurring phrase in Ezekiel is ‘then you (or they) will know that I am the Lord’ – it occurs approximately 70 times, in contrast to the historic national rejection of God and international ignorance of God.]

Hosea 2:19-20

‘I will betroth you to me forever;
I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,
in love and compassion.
I will betroth you in faithfulness,
and you will acknowledge [= know] the LORD.’

Hebrew poetry

Note: the word translated ‘acknowledge’ in the NIV is the same word translated ‘know’ in the previous verses.

Joel 2:27-29

‘Then you will know that I am in Israel,
that I am the LORD your God,
and that there is no other;
never again will my people be shamed.
And afterward,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days.’

Hebrew poetry

This passage is just one of many anticipating universal knowledge of God among the people of God because of the indwelling Spirit.

Habakkuk 2:14

‘For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD,
as the waters cover the sea.’
Hebrew poetry

 

Scriptures referring to the final prophet in the line of OT prophets:

Malachi 4:5

‘I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes.’

Matthew 11:11-15:

‘Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. He who has ears, let him hear.’

Important Note: Jesus said that John the Baptist was greater than anyone else – that means greater even than Moses, Elijah and Isaiah. Yet, Jesus said, even the least in his kingdom is greater than John the Baptist. In what way is the least of us greater than John the Baptist and therefore also greater than the Old Testament prophets? That we are blessed with [1] the knowledge of God in Christ Jesus – his complete and final self-revelation, and [2] the indwelling Spirit of truth who opens our minds and teaches us. The day of the ‘prophet’, in the nature of the Old Testament prophets and John the Baptist, is over. Why go back to the old, when the new has come? Why go back to the predictive when the fulfilment has embraced us? Why look for messages from the Lord when we have his ultimate and final message? Why try to emulate the Old Testament prophets when Christ says that they are way less than even the least of us? To do so is to despise what we have in Christ and his Spirit.

 

Representative scriptures referring to the universal knowledge of God among those who believe in Christ. Note the strong relationship between knowledge of God and the indwelling Spirit.

Matthew 1:2:

‘… and they will call him “Immanuel” – which means “God with us.” ‘ Knowing God through knowing Christ.

Luke 3:30-31:

“For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.”
Matthew 3:11; John 1:33: ‘… He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit …’ Indwelling Spirit of God

Mark 4:11:

‘The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables …’ Knowing God through knowing Christ.

John 7:37ff:

‘“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of lining water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.’

Knowing God through knowing Christ.

Indwelling Spirit of God

John 8:12:

‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ Knowing God through knowing Christ.

John 12:45-46:

‘When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me. I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.’

Knowing God through knowing Christ.

John 14:7-9

‘If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him. … Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say “Show us the Father”?’

Knowing God through knowing Christ.

John 14 – 16: – phrases used to refer to the coming of the indwelling Spirit:

‘…another Counsellor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth’ [14:16,17]

‘… you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you’ [14:17]

‘I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you’ [14:18]

‘On that day you will realize …’ [14:20]

‘I … will show myself to him’ [14:21]

‘… we will come to him and make our home in him’ [14:23]

‘… the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit … will teach you all things and will remind you of everything’ [14:25]

‘… the Counsellor … the Spirit of truth …will testify about me’ [15:26]

‘ … the Spirit of truth … will guide you into all truth. He will … tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.’ [16:13-14]

Indwelling Spirit of God

Knowledge of God

Romans 8:14ff:

‘… those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children then we are heirs – heirs of God …’ Note: The desire of God expressed in Jeremiah 3:19 ‘I thought you would call me “Father”’, becomes a reality here in the new covenant community of faith indwelt, informed and instructed by the indwelling Spirit.

1 Corinthians 2:7-16:

‘… we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written:

“No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who live him” –

but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. … no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. … The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.   The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment:

“For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?”

But we have the mind of Christ.’

Indwelling Spirit of God

Knowing God through knowing Christ.

2 Corinthians 4:6-7:

‘God … made his light to shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay …’ Knowing God through knowing Christ.

Hebrews 8:1-13:

10:16

This chapter contrasts the old covenant with the superior new covenant, and quotes in full Jeremiah 31:31-34 which focuses, not on the superior sacrifice or priesthood of Christ, which the Hebrews chapter is focusing on, but on the promise that everyone in that new covenant will know the Lord and not have to run around telling each other to know the Lord. Knowing God through knowing Christ.

2 Peter 1:3:

‘His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness’ Knowing God through knowing Christ.

1 John 2:20,21:

‘But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I do not write this because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it …’ Indwelling Spirit of God

1 John 3:24:

‘And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.’ Indwelling Spirit of God

1 John 4:13:

‘We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.’ Indwelling Spirit of God

1 John 5:20:

‘We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true – even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.’ Knowing God through knowing Christ.