What a day that must have been when Peter was privileged to stand before the multitudes gathered on the Day of Pentecost. It had been ten days since Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father, ten days of waiting for the promised baptism to arrive. So astonishing was the outpouring of power that the crowds heard and saw the phenomenon. Peter stood, flanked by all the Apostles, and proclaimed the fulfillment of Joel’s ancient prophecy. (Joel 2:28-32a) It is the whole of the passage in Joel that concerns us.
As with many Old Testament prophecies, the Joel promise has proven to be a multiple-fulfillment passage, but its multiple fulfillments are not hidden. In fact, the text of Joel chapters two and three clearly demonstrate distinct phases of the Spirit’s outpouring.
It all begins with the Lord becoming jealous for his land and his people. Remember that not only was Abraham’s seed in Isaac covenanted with Jehovah, so was the land. Both are precious to God. Beginning in Joel 2:18, the Lord promises a return to the land and renewed blessings upon his wayward people.
“Then the Lord became jealous for his land and had pity on his people. The Lord answered and said to his people; ‘Behold, I am sending to you grain, wine, and oil, and you will be satisfied; and I will no more make you a reproach among the nations.” Joel 2:18-19
Joel prophesied from Judah some time after the northern kingdom of Israel (Ephraim) had been destroyed and the people carted off into captivity. As with his contemporaries, Joel clearly saw coming judgment upon Judah, but his emphasis was directed at some future time when all the Jews would be gathered back to the homeland; when they would cease to be a reproach to the nations. Within one hundred years of this prophecy, the southern kingdom of Judah was destroyed by Babylon. No Jewish nation existed for twenty-five hundred years.
Suddenly, in a day, May 14, 1948, the Jews once again formed a nation that was recognized by the world. The first part of Joel’s prophecy was fulfilled, all except the promise of Israel losing its status as a “reproach to the nations.” They obviously remain the most universally hated entity on the planet. Still, God promised a great outpouring of his Spirit upon his people, whether Israel was a recognized nation or not. Of course, we understand the inclusion within the promis. Being named “God’s people” comes with receiving the sacrificial, atoning gift of Jesus Messiah. The dividing wall between Jew and Gentile was taken down in Christ. However, one must not forget that a restoration of national Israel is intertwined in the text with the outpouring of the Spirit, and that outpouring would come in two phases.
Phase One of the outpouring happened on the Day of Pentecost as confirmed by Peter. God described the phasing to Joel in terms of an early and a later rain. (Joel 2:23) As with the restoration of the land (grain, wine, and olive oil production) rain is the key. Planting would ideally occur before the time of the early (spring) rains. When that early outpouring occurred, the planted seed would be given the impetus to germinate. Life would spring forth and the precious plantings would grow. What a beautiful picture of Pentecost. The seed of Christ’s death and resurrection was empowered by the promise of the Father. The gardeners were empowered to do the work, to cultivate the new life, and continually work in mission fields of an advancing gospel. Though we cannot stretch an analogy beyond its intended purpose, the early rain wasn’t the only rain. It was simply the beginning of the seasonal rains. Likewise, throughout history the rain of the Spirit has continued from Pentecost to the present, including the great outpourings of the twentieth century.
What concerns us now is Phase Two…the Late (Latter) Rain. The late rain was the catalyst that finished off the grain. It was the pre-harvest kicker; the terminal moisture that brought a conclusion to the season. Can you discern the parallels? The question is when does that phase two latter rain begin? Again, let’s look at the elements found within the context.
First, Israel’s reproach would be removed. Second, the ‘northerner’ would be removed far from the people. Third, the Jews would never again be put to shame. And fourth, the people would know that Jehovah (I am) would be in the midst of Israel perpetually. As of today, none of those elements are in place. Only the restoration of the nation has been fulfilled.
Look now at two particular verses that correspond to the above elements.
“And it shall come to pass AFTERWARD,” Joel 2:28
“For behold, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat.” Joel 3:1-2
Notice that the next outpouring of the Spirit (Peter confirmed the early rain in Acts 2) would not happen until after the Jewish nation is restored. It would also take place before the gathering of the nations in the Valley of Jehoshaphat…which is the gathering of Armageddon. (Megiddo was the ancient fortress at the foot of Mount Carmel that overlooked the Valley of Jehoshaphat.) These two passages give us a clear time frame for the late rain outpouring of the Spirit, the outpouring that would finalize the harvest at the end of the age.
But not only do we have the time frame. I believe we can pinpoint that latter rain to a particular event that is on the horizon. Again, Joel 2: 20 tells us; “I will remove the northerner far from you, and drive him into a parched and desolate land, his vanguard into the eastern sea, and his rearguard into the western sea; the stench and foul smell of him will rise, for he has done great (not in the good sense) things.” To whom is God referring when he speaks of the northerner? What about the northerner’s vanguard and rearguard?
In the light of other passages of prophetic scripture, the northerner takes on a pretty clear shape. Ezekiel 38 describes that personage as “Gog, chief prince of Magog, Meshech and Tubal.” His vanguard and rearguards are also named; Persia, Cush and Put, from the south and east; Gomer and Togarmah from the north and west. All scholars are agreed as to the geographical descriptions of these people groups. Gog, Magog, Meshech, and Tubal graphically depict the meat of Russia. Gomer and Togarmah, forming the vanguard to a Russian coalition, are the peoples stretching from western Turkey all the way to the eastern Caucasus states. From the east comes Persia, modern day Iran. From the south come Cush….the Sudan and people from the Horn of Africa. From the west comes Put…the peoples of the north coast of Africa. The latter groups form the flanking elements of the coalition.
This great coalition will be drawn by God himself in order that the northerner might be removed, once and for all. (Read the whole of Ezekiel 38 and 39) Then, within the text of both chapters, God says he will erupt in wrath and destroy the invading nations. Afterward, “And the nations shall know that I Am the Lord, the Holy One of Israel. Behold, it is coming and it will be brought about, declares the Lord God. That is the day of which I have spoken.” (Take particular notice of the use of the term ‘I Am.’) God will make himself known to the whole world.
From Joel 2-3, and Ezekiel 38-39, I believe we can clearly see that God will bring about the great bout of our time; Jehovah verses Allah, and Jehovah will win hands down. The immediate aftermath will be a harvest so vast it will be mind-boggling. It will come in a time of great trouble, but people will be drawn to the truth like never before. What will believers in Jesus Christ need in those days to bring in that final harvest? We will require nothing less than the latter rain of the Holy Spirit upon his people. Signs and miracles will follow those that believe and proclaim the truth in those days. “And this gospel shall be preached in all the world as a sign to all nations, then the end shall come.” (Matthew 24:14)
That moment is marching rapidly toward us. The planting, cultivating, and intermittent rains have been taking place since Peter proclaimed Joel’s prophesied outpouring. Israel has been re-gathered. (May 14, 1948) The Russians are forming their coalition. The Day of the Lord is approaching, and on the horizon, storm clouds are gathering. But that storm will produce the outpouring of all outpourings, and then the end shall come! Look up, your redemption is drawing close.
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