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"Multitudes, Multitudes in the Valley of Decision!" (Joel 3) February 14

After God deals with Israel and Judah, He now turns to those nations that have abused them. He will now judge all the nations. Indeed, the Israelites of the end time will suffer a period that Christ called the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21-22). Jeremiah refers to it as the "time of Jacob's trouble" (Jeremiah 30:5-7). Yet notice this about the Day of the Lord, referred to in our previous reading: "For it is the day of the Lord's vengeance, the year of recompense for the cause of Zion" (Isaiah 34:8). Thus, the Day of the Lord here appears to be the final year immediately preceding Christ's return. Immediately following Israel's Tribulation, it is a time of divine punishment on the world at large for their sins, including what they have done to Israel. (However, it should be noted that in some contexts the Day of the Lord extends past this time to include the millennial reign of Christ and even eternity beyond.)

Some equate the "Valley of Jehoshaphat" (verse 2) with the area of "Armageddon," citing Revelation 16:16. Yet this verse actually shows the area of Armageddon—i.e., the Hill of Megiddo overlooking the Valley of Jezreel (the modern plain of Esdraelon)—to be the assembly point for the final battle, not the scene of the battle itself. So where will the final battle itself take place? In Zechariah 14, God answers, "Behold, the day of the Lord is coming.... For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem.... Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives" (verses 1-4).

Concerning the reference to the Valley of Jehoshaphat in Joel 3, Jamieson, Fausset & Brown's Commentary has this to say: "Parallel to Zechariah 14:2, 3, 4, where the 'Mount of Olives' answers to the 'Valley of Jehoshaphat' here. The latter is called 'the valley of blessing' (Berachah) (II Chronicles 20:26). It lies between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives and has the Kedron [i.e., Kidron] flowing through it." This depression is now known as the Kidron Valley, which runs north to south along the east side of the Old City. It stretches south for more than 20 miles through the Judean wilderness to the area of the Dead Sea. Continuing from the JFB Commentary: "As Jehoshaphat [righteous king of Judah] overthrew the confederate foes of Judah, viz., Ammon, Moab, this valley [see 2 Chronicles 20:16, 26—and actually God overthrew them while Jehoshaphat and company merely despoiled the bodies], so God was to overthrow the Tyrians, Zidonians, Philistines, Edom, and Egypt, with a similar utter overthrow ([Joel 3:]4, 19). This has been long ago fulfilled; but the ultimate event shadowed forth herein is still future, when God shall specially interpose to destroy Jerusalem's last foes, of whom Tyre, Zidon, Edom, Egypt, and Philistia are the types. As 'Jehoshaphat' means 'the judgment of Jehovah [i.e., Yahweh],' the valley of Jehoshaphat may be used as a general term for the theater of God's final judgments on Israel's foes, with an allusion to the judgment inflicted on them by Jehoshaphat. The definite mention of the Mount of Olives in Zechariah 14, and the fact that this was the scene of the ascension [of Christ], makes it likely the same shall be the scene of Christ's coming again: cf. 'this same Jesus... shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven' (Acts 1:11)" (same note).

Of the Kidron Valley, Smith's Bible Dictionary states, "It is now commonly known as the 'valley of Jehoshaphat'" ("Kidron," 1986). Still, as the JFB Commentary points out, it may be that Valley of Jehoshaphat connotes more than just the Kidron. Revelation 14:20 says that the "winepress," a figurative representation of the Valley of Jehoshaphat, the "valley of decision" (Joel 3:12-14), is an area nearly 200 miles long. This is far longer than the Kidron Valley. Indeed, that's as long as the modern state of Israel. So perhaps the entire Jordan Valley is indicated. We can imagine troops stretching all the way from well above Megiddo, down the Jezreel Valley to where it connects to the Jordan Valley, then south to Jericho, and finally ascending to the Kidron Valley at Jerusalem. This seems reasonable when we consider that the forces of the kings "of the whole world" that will be present (Revelation 16:14)—some of whom will shortly before have fielded an army of 200 million men (9:16), more than two thirds the current population of the United States. "Multitudes, multitudes," Joel writes (Joel 3:14). And yet they are as nothing against God—indeed, their incredible numbers will only make for a very great slaughter.

The nations have never been kind to Israel (verses 2-3). Joel lists a number of them that have been cruel to Israel, some having plundered God's people over many centuries. Slave trading (verse 3), common among ancient nations, will be practiced again before Christ returns (compare Revelation 18:11-13). And numerous other scriptures show that it is the end-time Israelites who will be slaves. God will repay the nations for the way they have treated His people.

Joel 3 is full of graphic imagery, often in stark contrast to similar imagery used elsewhere. The enemies of Israel are to turn their plowshares into swords and their pruning hooks into spears (verse 10)—that is, prepare for war—the opposite of what God says will happen after He does away with war (Isaiah 2:4). He likens the nations' sins to grapes ready for the winepress, as already mentioned (Joel 3:12-14; compare Revelation 14:17-20).

Finally, Joel describes how God will replace man's wicked rule over the earth with His way of government (Joel 3:17). In the end, Israel will become beautiful once again (verse 18). Some claim that the return of the Jews to the land of Israel in modern times is the fulfillment of this prophecy, but the description given here shows that this prophecy hasn't yet been fulfilled. Indeed, the Jews are seen here receiving forgiveness of their sins (verses 20-21), which comes only through acceptance of Jesus Christ as the Messiah (see Zechariah 12:10). Furthermore, the Jews make up only a small portion of the modern descendants of Israel (see our free booklet The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy.)

Finally, God says that He will live in Jerusalem (Joel 3:17, 21)—another clear proof that Joel is a prophecy of end-time events and is yet to be fulfilled.

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