There are instances in the Bible where an OT prophet is describing both a then-current/near event and a future event in the same prophecy. Joel’s army is an example of this. In Isaiah 7:10-16, we see where Ahaz was given a sign which Isaiah’s son of 8:3-4 fulfills in their time and, of course, it speaks of Jesus’ future birth.
Joel, I believe, does the same thing.
While Joel is addressing a then-current situation of a massive locust invasion, he’s at the same time talking about another type of massive invasion far in the future.
Though Joel is only three chapters, it’s too big to put in this article so please have your Bible open to it. Actually, go ahead and read it, too, since it’s so short!
After briefly mentioning the locusts, Joel then spends most of the book talking about what’s to come in the future. Are there any clues as to WHEN this will occur? Yes. Joel 1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14 all mention the Day of the Lord, with four of them saying either it is near, it is coming, or before it arrives.
Day of the Lord
My understanding of the Day of the Lord is twofold. One, the actual day of Jesus’ Second Coming, and two, the Time of Jacob’s Trouble or the last 3 ½ years of the Tribulation. Sometime within the Time of Jacob’s Trouble seems appropriate here.
We also see other references to Armageddon and the just-around-the-corner Millennium in chapters 2 and 3.
So now let’s look at Revelation 9:1-12.
Revelation 9:1-12 Then the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star from heaven which had fallen to the earth; and the key of the bottomless pit was given to him.2 He opened the bottomless pit, and smoke went up out of the pit, like the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by the smoke of the pit. 3 Then out of the smoke came locusts upon the earth, and power was given them, as the scorpions of the earth have power.
4 They were told not to hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree, but only the men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. 5 And they were not permitted to kill anyone, but to torment for five months; and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings a man. 6 And in those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will long to die, and death flees from them.
Read the next part carefully.
7 The appearance of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle; and on their heads appeared to be crowns like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men. 8 They had hair like the hair of women, and their teeth were like the teeth of lions. 9 They had breastplates like breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots, of many horses rushing to battle. 10 They have tails like scorpions, and stings; and in their tails is their power to hurt men for five months. 11 They have as king over them, the angel of the abyss; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in the Greek he has the name Apollyon.
12 The first woe is past; behold, two woes are still coming after these things.
I’m just going to list the reasons why I think these two passages are talking about the same event.
In Revelation, we see the key was given to the angel to open the Pit and let out these ‘locusts.’ These ‘locusts’ are not allowed to hurt anyone sealed by God. Though they come from the Pit, they are performing a task God wants accomplished: They are His army. Looking to Joel, we see this, too.
- Joel 2:11 The Lord utters His voice before His army;
Surely His camp is very great,
For strong is he who carries out His word.
The day of the Lord is indeed great and very awesome,
And who can endure it?
- Joel 2:25 “Then I will make up to you for the years
That the swarming locust has eaten,
The creeping locust, the stripping locust and the gnawing locust,
My great army which I sent among you.”
What’s God’s purpose in using this army? Chastisement.
- Joel 2:12-14 12 “Yet even now,” declares the Lord,
“Return to Me with all your heart,
And with fasting, weeping and mourning;
13 And rend your heart and not your garments.”
Now return to the Lord your God,
For He is gracious and compassionate,
Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness
And relenting of evil.
14 Who knows whether He will not turn and relent
And leave a blessing behind Him,
Even a grain offering and a drink offering
For the Lord your God?
…and other places as well.
Then blessing and restoration. (Their kingdom arrives afterwards.)
- Joel 3:18-21 18 And in that day
The mountains will drip with sweet wine and the hills will flow with milk,
And all the brooks of Judah will flow with water;
And a spring will go out from the house of the Lord
To water the valley of Shittim.
19 Egypt will become a waste,
And Edom will become a desolate wilderness,
Because of the violence done to the sons of Judah,
In whose land they have shed innocent blood.
20 But Judah will be inhabited forever
And Jerusalem for all generations.
21 And I will avenge their blood which I have not avenged,
For the Lord dwells in Zion.
…and other places as well.
Revelation says they are not allowed to kill. In Joel, we see lots of suffering and loss, but no death.
After this army finishes its task, God destroys it.
- Joel 2:20 “But I will remove the northern army far from you and I will drive it into a parched and desolate land and its vanguard into the eastern sea,
And its rear guard into the western sea.
And its stench will arise and its foul smell will come up,
For it has done great things.”
(God similarly used Nebuchadnezzar’s army in the past and then punished him for taking it too far, and I believe He’ll do the same with the Antichrist.)
Revelation’s description of these ‘locusts’ is similar to Joel’s.
- Joel 1:6 For a nation has invaded my land,
Mighty and without number;
Its teeth are the teeth of a lion,
And it has the fangs of a lioness.
- Joel 2:2-10 2A day of darkness and gloom,
A day of clouds and thick darkness.
As the dawn is spread over the mountains,
So there is a great and mighty people;
There has never been anything like it,
Nor will there be again after it
To the years of many generations. 3 A fire consumes before them
And behind them a flame burns.
The land is like the garden of Eden before them
But a desolate wilderness behind them,
And nothing at all escapes them.
4 Their appearance is like the appearance of horses;
And like war horses, so they run.
5 With a noise as of chariots
They leap on the tops of the mountains,
Like the crackling of a flame of fire consuming the stubble,
Like a mighty people arranged for battle.
6 Before them the people are in anguish;
All faces turn pale.
7 They run like mighty men,
They climb the wall like soldiers;
And they each march in line,
Nor do they deviate from their paths.
8 They do not crowd each other,
They march everyone in his path;
When they burst through the defenses,
They do not break ranks.
9 They rush on the city and run on the wall;
They climb into the houses,
They enter through the windows like a thief.
10 Before them the earth quakes,
The heavens tremble,
The sun and the moon grow dark
And the stars lose their brightness.
Go back and look at No. 6 again. These are NOT people. Terms like ‘nation’ in Joel 1:6 and ‘a great and mighty people’ in Joel 2:2 are simply descriptive words for this vast, overwhelming invasive force of ‘locusts.’ Remember No. 5 — it will be destroyed once it’s served its purpose.