What is the biblical meaning of Joel 2:28 and the following?
The meaning of Joel 2:28-3:21 relates to a prophecy about the future that began after Jesus’ return to heaven. The prophecy begins with a description of the new ministry of the Holy Spirit (Joel 2:28-29), refers to the return of Jesus Christ, the battle of Armageddon (Joel 3:1-17) and ends with the 1,000 year, earthly kingdom (Joel 3:18-21). Here is Joel’s prophecy,
And it will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. And even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. And I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth, blood, fire, and columns of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the LORD will be delivered; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be those who escape, as the LORD has said, even among the survivors whom the LORD calls. Joel 2:28-32 (NASB)
The prophecy is a loose quote of Acts 2,
. . . but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: “And it shall be in the last days,” God says, “That I will pour forth of My Spirit upon all mankind; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even upon My bondslaves, both men and women, I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit and they shall prophesy. And I will grant wonders in the sky above, and signs on the earth beneath, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come. And it shall be, that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Acts 2:16-21 (NASB)
A quick comparison of the Acts quote of the Joel prophecy will reveal that there are a few slight changes in wording but nothing significant.
The Joel prophecy starts with the statement “I will pour out My Spirit.” Acts records that this will occur in the last days and then quotes the Joel passage. Then just as the prophecy promised, the partial fulfillment occurred after Jesus established the New Covenant with His death and returned to heaven (Luke 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25; compared to Luke 24:49; John 15:26; 16:7). The New Covenant is described in Hebrews 8 and Jeremiah 31:31-34. After Jesus left, the Holy Spirit came as promised and began convicting men and women of their sin. The Holy Spirit also gives people faith, seals, baptizes believers into the body of Christ, gives spiritual gifts, and seals believers as a promise of eternal salvation. The study “The Spirit’s Ministry – Tongues and Prophecy” will provide these details about the ministry of the Holy Spirit after Jesus left. In summary, the Holy Spirit, who is called the Helper (John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7), came after Jesus left this earth and indwelt the apostles and every Christian since. The Holy Spirit was poured out upon the believers and many miraculous events occurred. That is what the Joel prophecy referred to. Men also experienced visions and dreams. Acts 9:10-12 tells that a Ananias experienced a vision and Acts 10:17-19 reveals that Peter had a vision from the Lord. The Apostle Paul also had visions (Acts 16:9-10; 18:9; 2 Corinthians 12:1-10).
The last part of the prophecy speaks of a future tribulation period which includes the return of Jesus Christ, the battle of Armageddon, and the establishment of God’s 1,000 year kingdom has not yet occurred. Joel and Acts say that wonders will occur in the sky, the sun will darken, the moon will turn red. These have not occurred yet and neither has the Lord Jesus returned. Daniel 7 and the book of Revelation confirms this. This means that the Joel prophecy was partially fulfilled immediately after Jesus returned to heaven. That is why the Holy Spirit quoted only the first three verses and the first part of the fourth verse of the Joel prophecy in Acts 2:16-21. The references to the signs in the sky, the sun, and moon were apparently included so that the quote was not broken up, even though they will not occur until later. The rest of the prophecy will be fulfilled later.
It is important to recognize that it is common in scripture for hundreds and even thousands of years to occur between verses and in the middle of a verse. The study of the “Picture of the Antichrist” illustrates one such example. Another great example occurred in Luke 4:16–21 when Jesus was in the synagogue in His hometown of Nazareth and during the worship service quoted a portion of the prophecy in Isaiah 61:1-2. Jesus read the first verse and then stopped in the middle of Isaiah 61:2. The first part of the prophecy was about His first coming when He preached good news and healed many people. But He did not read the second part, since it is about the future – future judgment. That will occur in the end time. Old Testament prophecies frequently have large gaps of time in the middle of a verse and between verses.
The prophecy of Joel 2:28-3:17 is an important prophecy. Since it has been partially fulfilled, there is every reason to believe the rest of it will be fulfilled too! Praise the Lord.
Suggested Links:The Spirit's Ministry - Tongues and Prophecy
Picture of the Antichrist
Satan In A Rage
Healing At Bethesda