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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:The Coming Day of the Lord
Text:Joel 2:30-32 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:End Times
 
Preached:2016
Added:2016-03-06
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 18:1,4                                                                                            

Ps 37:1,2

Reading – Joel 2; Acts 2:14-24

Ps 135:1,3,6,10

Sermon – Joel 2:30-32

Hy 73:1,2

Hy 67:1,3,4,7

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Loved ones in Christ, if we ever have questions about the end of the world and about what will happen when King Jesus returns in glory, we turn to the book of Revelation. There in that last book of the Bible, there’s much about the end-times: signs and wonders, disasters and persecutions, and the Lord Jesus coming in all his glory to judge the living and the dead. It’s a good book for us to read in these last days.

But it’s not the only book to read. Much of Revelation, in fact, echoes and repeats what was said before—especially what was said in the Old Testament. Prophets like Daniel, Ezekiel, and Zechariah actually had a lot to say about the end of the world. God has been getting the church ready for a long time, telling us what to expect when He comes again.

And the prophecy of Joel hits some very similar notes. Someone once said that this small book includes almost every aspect of the Christian doctrine of eschatology, or the “last things.” The New Testament might give us more detail, but it’s all here in basic form.

About the author Joel very little is known. He’s the “son of Pethuel,” that’s about it (1:1). Unlike the other minor prophets that we’ll studying, Joel doesn’t tell us whom he brought this message to, or even when he brought it. There aren’t any hints either about who might have been king, or who the main enemy was, or what the prevailing sins were at that time. It’s all very general, like the LORD intended it to be an especially timeless message—a prophecy that stands until that final day of judgment. 

But like in Revelation, here the Lord tells us that though He’s coming soon, there’s still a little time for repentance. There’s still a little time to get ready. As the apostle Peter says in his second letter: “With Christ coming again, what manner of people ought you to be?” For the tone of our life should be living in expectation. Praying for the end. Working for the kingdom. Making sure that we’re at peace with God, and at peace with each other. For God has promised that those who live by faith will be saved from destruction, and glorified for eternity. I preach God’s Word to you from Joel 2,

Joel prophesies the great and awesome day of the LORD:

  1. a day of wonders
  2. a day of calling
  3. a day of salvation

 

1. a day of wonders: You might want to read through Joel in between services today, or later this evening. When you do, you’ll notice that he often talks about “the day.” For instance in 2:31, “the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD.” Joel keeps pointing the people to it: Be ready for the day! Joel’s not the only prophet to do this. As just one example, we hear Isaiah when he says, “The day of the LORD of hosts shall come upon everything proud and lofty, upon everything lifted up” (2:12). And what is that day? It’s the day that God will come in power and judgment, in wrath and justice.

"The day” that we’re speaking of is more than just one square on the page of a calendar. It speaks of a general period of history, an era—like we might say when reminiscing, “Back in the day…” The prophet is warning Israel that there’s coming a time of judgment.

And it seems like the people of God felt good about that day. They looked forward to it, because it’d be the day when their enemies would be crushed, and Israel’s cause would be proven right. Come to think of it, we might look forward to Christ’s return for the same reason. When Jesus comes back, we say, then all the atheists in the world will be proven wrong, and all those blood-thirsty persecutors will finally meet with justice…

But the prophet Amos, another one who speaks about the day of the LORD, turns this kind of expectation on its head. Amos says, “Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! For what good is the day of the LORD to you? It will be darkness, and not light” (5:18). That’s a hard truth: the LORD’s coming isn’t something for Israel to look forward to. It isn’t, because their sin stands in the way. If you’re not living in obedience, Amos says, be careful what you wish for! If you’re not living in holiness right now, then you have to be pretty bold to sing “Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus!”

For the “day of the LORD” is one that cuts both ways. His day dawns bright and cheerful for God’s people, his true believers. But it’s day that dawns in thick darkness if you’re living apart from the LORD.

In this book Joel describes four separate scenes of that awesome day of God. The first scene is chapter 1. It’s the immediate disaster that befalls the land, when there’s a devastating plague of locusts. The locusts eat every green and living thing, and they turn the land of promise into a wasteland. “Alas for the day!” the people cry in 1:15. And locusts are only the beginning.

In chapter 2, the day is looked at from another angle. Now the plague is an army, with the LORD God himself at the head. This great multitude will invade the land and terrorize the cities. And as that army rumbles closer, all of creation is tormented by terrible signs. We read that in verse 10, “The earth quakes before them, the heavens tremble, the sun and moon grow dark.” Those same signs reappear in our text, when God says, “I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: blood and fire and pillars of smoke” (2:30).

It’s a day of wonders. And the people know exactly what these things announce: the approach of the LORD! When Almighty God comes near, when He comes down to earth—in judgment and in salvation—there’s no mistaking the effect. There are earthquakes. There’s violence in the heavens, with clouds and thick darkness. Things are thrown into upheaval, and destroyed. It’s what happened in Egypt, when the LORD showed his wonders in the ten plagues. It happened again on Mt. Sinai, when the mountain rocked and swayed and was covered with thick darkness.

Now it’s happening again, says Joel. There is “blood and fire and pillars of smoke” (2:30). Makes you think of those images you see on the news from the Middle East: people bleeding in the streets, entire cities going up in flames, mass confusion everywhere. And the sun “turned into darkness” (2:31). Maybe that’s describing an actual eclipse, or maybe the sun is so obscured by smoke you can’t see it anymore—but the effect is the same. For when the life-nourishing sun is gone, there’s great alarm. During the day, no sun—and at night, “the moon [is turned] into blood” (2:31). Because with so many fires burning, even the heavenly lights take on a different colour.

These are signs and wonders of the end. Whether natural disasters or catastrophic war, it signals the arrival of the LORD Almighty. And the prophet is telling us, because we have to know just how serious it is. Like he asks in 2:11, “The day of the LORD is great and very terrible; who can endure it?” There’s coming a time when punishment for sin will be handed out. And who can endure it? God’s holiness will be maintained, his justice displayed—not just among the unbelievers, but among his own people, and all the world.

This is precisely why it’s called the day “of the LORD.” His day! Because by these events, God is declaring that He is mighty, He is holy, He is King. It’s his day, because more than anything else, our God wants his name revered. He wants his glory to be acknowledged. When God comes near in judgment, or when He comes near in salvation, don’t ignore it. At your own peril you look away from these signs!

And that holds true when we open the New Testament. We can point to three separate events when we see these signs and wonders that Joel prophesies. The first is when our Saviour is hanging on the cross. What happens in those last three hours? The sky is darkened and the sun disappears. For God’s judgment is being handed down: not against a nation-state, but against a solitary man of flesh and blood. Jesus is carrying the LORD’s wrath against sin. And when Jesus dies, even the earth quakes, splitting rocks and opening graves. By all this, the LORD announces how significant the event is: there’s judgment on sin, but now there’s also salvation. That’s one event of these signs and wonders: at the cross of Christ!

Then on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descends, God puts on another display of his mighty wonders. For there’s a great sound, a rushing mighty wind, and tongues of fire. And notice how on that day the apostle Peter takes Joel 2 as the text for his sermon. Because this event means that the LORD is again coming near, this time to dwell in us through his Spirit! It’s exactly what Joel prophesies just before our text, “And it shall come to pass… that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh” (2:28). A new age is dawning, because in Christ God has done his great redeeming work.

At Pentecost, you’ll notice that not every part of Joel 2 is fulfilled. There’s still those other signs like the sun being turned into blackness and the moon into blood. It doesn’t mean that God forgot to put on some special effects. It means that Pentecost is only the beginning of something more: “the beginning of the end,” you might say. Because now we’re in that final phase of God’s plan for the world. The last days began with the coming of Christ and his Spirit—and the last days will conclude when Christ returns.

That’s the third major event where God’s terrifying approach is so visible. This time it’s not an actual event, but a prophecy, in Matthew 24. Jesus’ disciples had asked him, “What will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?” (v 3). And as part of his answer, Jesus says, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (v 29). You’ll agree that this again sounds very much like Joel 2.

And then the Lord himself will arrive, “The Son of Man will appear in heaven,” Jesus says, “and all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (24:30). That’s the final step in the unfolding of God’s plan. Christ coming back, in great glory—to purify all of creation with fire, and to judge all of mankind. That final and most glorious day of wonders hasn’t happened yet. But it’s surely coming, which makes today…

 

2. a day of calling: Maybe you’ve seen a modern day “prophet.” It’s usually a disheveled man on a street corner downtown, holding a sign that announces, “Repent, for the end is near”—or something to that effect. Such a “prophet” has at least one thing in common with the prophets of the Old Testament: they called on people to change their ways, before it was too late.

So for Joel. He’s warned of approaching locusts, invading armies, and unfolding wonders in creation. He wants everyone to know that the LORD’s coming near in judgment. For there’s another message here too, just beneath the surface: “Repent, before it’s too late to repent.”

People have never wanted to hear that message. People downtown don’t want to hear it.  And probably even we think it doesn’t apply to us. “Repent? But we’re the church! And we should be exempt from all that pain—hardship and suffering happen to other people, not to us.” Don’t deceive yourself, says the prophet. Instead, Israel should know—we should know!—that it’s a warning we need. Remember that the LORD disciplines those He loves. And the coming hardship is meant to soften hard hearts, it’s meant to bring people to their senses. For God is the Judge of sinners, yet a Saviour to those who call on him!

This was always one of the reasons for God’s covenant curses. So that after being harassed by the locusts or decimated by the enemy, Israel might finally turn back to the LORD. There will be troubles and persecutions. There will be wars and plagues and trials. We certainly won’t be exempt. Yet these things are a loving warning to God’s people. They’re a wake-up call to those who might be slumbering. The end is near—so get yourself ready!

Now, we said that unlike some prophets who condemn idolatry or injustice, Joel simply calls the people to repentance. Not from this or that sin, but repentance, plain and simple. The only reference to Israel’s sin is 1:5, about getting drunk. There the prophet exhorts, “Awake, you drunkards, and weep; and wail, all you drinkers of wine.” But that doesn’t even mean that drunkenness was the main problem in Israel. Rather, their attitude was. They were sleeping. They were careless. Their spiritual senses were dulled.

Isn’t that how it always goes? If you’re not living in expectation of Christ, then you won’t care much for his cause. If you’re fully immersed in the world, then Christ’s church won’t be that important to you. If you’re all about today, then the future means nothing. And then it’s all too easy become unaware of what’s really going on in this world. You forget that this world is going to end.

So we fall into a stupor, like Joel describes. It’s like what happens when you drink too much wine or beer—then, nothing really matters. It’s all a haze, lost in the fog. So “wake up,” the prophet says! The only way you can heed God’s warning is if you’re spiritually alert. The only way you can believe is with a sober mind.

It’s why Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “Let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But let us who are of the day be sober.” And why? Listen to how Paul finishes: “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess 5:6-9). So be sober. Don’t be so filled with today that you forget all about tomorrow, when Christ comes back to bring salvation!

So the LORD will try to wake us up. For there’s still time: “It shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved” (2:32). Before the sun is completely darkened, there’s still a glimmer of light. Right now, you may still call on God’s name.

What does that mean, to call on God’s name in these last days? It is much more than being acquainted, like you know my name and I know yours. We know God’s name, and we use it! And this is also more than going through the motions of prayer, where we mumble something at the end of the day. Calling on God’s name means devoted worship, a heartfelt seeking after God. Calling on him means confessing, “You are my God! I trust in you, even if this world falls apart. I serve you, even if this world asks for my allegiance. I look to you for every good thing, even if I have nothing.” There’s an acquaintance with God—where we know his power and his promises—but there’s also a love for him, and an obedience to him.

It’s as God said earlier in chapter 2 through Joel, “Turn to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning. So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm” (vv 12-13). That’s true repentance. That’s a real calling on God. It means doing something with your sin, besides repeating it. It means grieving your sin, confessing it, and seeking a new holiness in Jesus Christ.

Peter brought this same message at Pentecost. He first explains what was happening, that “the last days” had started with the coming of Christ and his Spirit. And see how Peter ends his quotation from Joel with verse 32 of our text, “And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved” (Acts 2:21). That’s God’s open invitation, and that’s God’s enduring promise for whoever hears. Whoever calls on the LORD’s name shall be saved!

So when the crowds asked Peter what they needed to do, it was quite simple: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). That’s true repentance: making a U-turn. Turning the wheel of your life away from sin, and toward Jesus Christ. And even more than Peter understood on Pentecost, God’s offer of salvation is for all people: “Whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved!” That’s for us, that’s for our neighbours, that’s for everyone.

As we go through these last days, that invitation gets louder. The volume is being turned up, because remember, we’re already in the final phase of God’s plan for the world. There might not be much time left. Christ is coming, so it’s time to call on him. It’s time to renew our call, and to strengthen our call. Christ is coming, and so is his day of salvation.

 

3. a day of salvation: Beloved, what does it really mean to be “saved?” When Joel talks about salvation in our text, does he mean only escaping disaster: getting away from the locusts, taking refuge from the armies? And when we talk about salvation, what do we mean? Is “being saved” simply being able to avoid God’s wrath?

Salvation is much, much more: “Whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved” (2:32). Yes, saved from disaster. Yes, saved from judgment. But more than that, Joel explains, “In Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance” (2:32). Suddenly Joel has brought it to a new level, because he’s given us a location. Mount Zion was where the temple was, it was the centre of true worship—where the LORD’s Name was called on. And Zion was the place that God dwelled among his people.

Joel says that “in Mount Zion,” there will be deliverance. Jerusalem, filled with salvation itself! Because in that city there will be a new and loving harmony between the LORD and his people. In Zion, God will dwell with us, and we with him—something made possible only through the shed blood of Christ.

This Mount Zion is the same city that the book of Revelation talks about in chapter 21 and 22. It’s the New Jerusalem—the city with twelve gates, and twelve foundations. It’s the city that has no temple, and no sun or moon, because it’s so filled with the glory of God, living among his people!

Seems incredible, doesn’t it? For there are times we can’t help but wonder if the church is doomed. In these last days, we experience weakness, we see unbelief, we hear about persecutions. At times, if feels like the powers of Satan are getting the upper hand. But notice that little phrase in verse 32: all this will be “as the LORD has said” (2:32). In that, you hear the key to Joel’s confidence, “As the LORD has said.” That’s still the lesson of faith, when we learn to listen to God’s voice, instead of our own voice. In Zion there will be deliverance, just “as the LORD has said.”

There will be deliverance—yes, even if it is only a “remnant,” says Joel (2:32). After the invasions and the slaughter, it seemed like only a few saints were left. The rest would be scattered among the nations, and many would never return. But the “remnant” means that there’s always a few remaining.

Isn’t that still a good word to describe the church on earth today? A remnant. For some have left. Some have passed away. Believers are scattered across the four corners of the earth. The church never feels strong in herself, a people who might be engulfed and overwhelmed at any moment. But here’s the difference: we are “the remnant whom the LORD calls” (2:32). The remnant is saved, because through Christ we belong to our God.

Being a remnant in these last days means having a certain outlook. You’re small and weak, so you know that you need a lot of help. Being a remnant means you’re in the minority, and you know that you don’t really belong here. Someone who’s part of God’s remnant knows that all our strength is in the Lord. Yet God has given his holy remnant something to look forward to: salvation—not just deliverance from earthly sorrows, but full restoration in body and soul, “as the LORD has said.”

Like Jesus declares in Revelation 22, “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done” (v 12). Yes, already long before Revelation, Joel told us about that coming day. Repent, He said, for the end is near! “For whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved!”  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2016, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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