Part IV – Application to Pentecostal Theology
Subpart E – The New Prophetic Movement
Article 1 – Joel’s Army
Section (b) – CONTEXTUAL STUDY OF JOEL’S ARMY
By Daniel Irving
This article may be viewed in video format at the following Youtube site:
a. Modern Misconstruction of Joel’s Army
b. Repentance as the Critical Antecedent to Prophecy Foretelling Pentecost
c. The World’s Iniquity as Devouring of the Body of Christ
d. The Church’s Failure in Sanctification as the Amassing of an Apostate Army
Section (b) – CONTEXTUAL STUDY OF JOEL’S ARMY
a. Modern Misinterpretation of Joel’s Army
The Charismatic Movement of the 1960’s and 70’s was characterized by a less strict adherence to Pentecostal teaching on the baptism. As related in previous articles, such laxity often accommodated overtly non-Pentecostal teaching such as the doctrine of release advanced particularly by the liturgical denominations that took part in the Charismatic Renewal. This digression from Pentecostal teaching was sharpened in the 1980’s and 90’s through a new movement which expressly rejected Pentecostal teaching by accepting some of the more extreme non-Pentecostal views put forward within the previous Charismatic Movement. The Third Wave Paradigm that was prominently advanced through the Vineyard Church Movement – differed from the Charismatic Movement in terms of representing a more definitive rejection of Pentecostal teaching; as evangelicals were invited to experience the presence and power of God without having to adopt the theology of Pentecost or the doctrine of tongues as initial evidence of Spirit-baptism. The Third Wave was characterized by supernatural manifestations and overt religious experience expressly-articulated by John Wimber and his associate C. Peter Wagner as removed from a Pentecostal doctrinal framework.
This theological framework which carries a signs and wonders emphasis is today advancing other new teachings which may be leading to grave consequences for those that follow them. Of their chief errors is a dangerous misconstruction of the prophecies of Joel and a misconception of the meaning underlying Joel’s prophetic Army. Today, Joel’s prophecy of a great army is being proclaimed as the glorious advent of the kingdom of God in which great power is to be conferred upon the church in advance of Christ’s return. We find this interpretation zealously advanced by the modern prophetic movement and particularly by those of the New Apostolic Reformation which arose in the wake of the Third Wave Paradigm of theological thought. Particularly worthy of concern is that signs and wonders seem to be a common occurrence within these and similarly-based movements.
Given Peter’s recourse to Joel on the day of Pentecost, this prophet is commonly referred to as the Prophet of Pentecost. As Pentecost is a poorly understood principle, it is not surprising that the balance of Joel’s prophecy should be subject to misunderstanding as well; and the movement which has historically stumbled the hardest against the principle of Pentecost appears to be now stumbling in other areas of Joel’s prophecy. However, this stumbling and the misconceptions in which it is based might be easily corrected by a brief contextual overview of Joel’s prophecy.
b. The Critical Antecedent to Prophecy Foretelling Pentecost
Again, Joel is commonly regarded the Prophet of Pentecost given that the apostle Peter quotes from Joel’s prophecy on the day ofPentecost when he proclaimed:
But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; “& it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons & your daughters shall prophesy, & your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: & on my servants & on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; & they shall prophesy: and I will show wonders in heaven above, & signs in the earth beneath; blood, & fire, & vapor of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, & the moon into blood, before that great & notable day of the Lord come: and it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Acts 2:16-21
However there is a great deal more expressed in the three-chapters of Joel than the outpouring of God’s Spirit (which occupies a mere ten verses of the second chapter). There is a series of events preceding the Holy Spirit’s outpouring, as well as a series of events that follow the Holy Spirit’s outpouring. Therefore an in-depth study of Pentecost should consider the sequencing within which the feast day is situated in the prophecy. Joel’s prophecy situates this day of the Spirit’s outpouring as coming subsequent toa particular event.
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh. Joel 2:28 (KJV)
After when? From the context of the verse the outpouring of God’s Spirit follows the repentance of His people thereby allowing God to restore the land and to render judgment against the northern army which – rather than a glorious revival of the kingdom of God – actually represents the harbinger and agency of Israel’s destruction. For after the exhortation to; “turn even to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning”,comes the assurance:
.. I will remove far off from you the northern [army], and will drive him into a land barren and desolate . . . Joel 2:20
Therefore we perceive from Joel’s prophecy a sequence of events. This sequence of events begins with a general condition of ruination that exists throughout the land expressed in the first chapter’s metaphorical language as; drunkenness (v.5), the rising up of an enemy against the land (v.6), the drying up of the yearly crops of wine, wheat, barley, and the fruits of the land (v.7-12), a distressed condition of the herds (v.18), fire that has consumed the trees (v.19), and a distressed condition of the wild beasts (v.20). These stand metaphor for the ruined spiritual estate of the body of Christ caused by the influences upon it of the unbelieving world. What is the answer for this abject condition of the church? Repentance! Therefore the second chapter exhorts God’s people to “Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in My holy mountain!”
In brief, only the repentance of Israel (signifying the further work of the Holy Spirit within the body of Christ) culminates in the removal of the northern (ie. “Joel’s”) army and its destruction (v.20). Only then do we have the bringing forth of fruit (v.22), the pouring forth of the early and latter rains (v.23), the abundance of grain to eat (v.24-26), and the realization that the Lord; “is in the midst of Israel” (v.27). Therefore, Pentecost, ie. the pouring forth of God’s Spirit upon all flesh (expressed in the final verses of chapter two) requires that a groundwork be laid in God’s people Israel. If this groundwork (expressed in the mid-portion of chapter two) is not laid in the repentance of the church and their return to a sanctified place in Christ, then the pouring forth of God’s Spirit – rather than indicative of salvation – would serve to incite the world and an unsanctified church toward apostasy.
c. The World’s Iniquity as Devouring of the Body of Christ
Blow a trumpet in Zion, & sound an alarm on My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, For the day of the Lord is coming; surely it is near. Joel 2:1
This terrifying prophesy seems to parallel the thirteenth chapter of Isaiah as concerning the great and terrible “Day of the Lord” and forecasting such things as; terror, darkness, distress, and destruction. Yet, this prophecy begins with “Blow a trumpet in Zion & sound an alarm . . .!” suggesting this day is preventable, at least in regards to its immediate fulfillment.
What appears to be foretold in the second chapter of Joel is the extinguishing of the witness of Christ in the earth. Recall that the Lord Himself questioned whether faithwould be left in the earth at the time of His appearing:
Nevertheless when the Son of man comes, shall He find faith on the earth? Luke 18:8
The Lord indicated that the reason for the loss of faith in the world would be the great iniquitythat would abound. There shall be a surplus of the Devil’s children engaged in “eating up” the Lord’s people; as we read in the Psalms:
Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread, & call not upon the LORD. Ps 14:4
How is it that the devil’s children “eat up” God’s people? The Hebrew word translated “eat up” is the primary word meaning to “eat”, but it is also commonly translated “to devour” or “consume”, e.g.
Deut 9:3 . . . the LORD thy God is he which goes over before thee; as a consuming fire he shall destroy them.
Jdg 9:15 . . . let fire come out of the bramble, & devour the cedars of Lebanon.
God’s people are those that have been sealed of the Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ. How are they devoured? They are devoured of their faith, which is their stock in Christ. The world little understands that by iniquity they are complicit in consuming God’s work in His people. It is not because of the world’s persecution of the church, but because of the world’s iniquity, that God’s people are devoured of their faith. Therefore, thisis the danger to the saints; the weathering away of their faith through contact with a world pursuing a relentless course of iniquity. This is particularly true today in a world of modern technology which allows the world to promulgate its corruption and to overwhelm the faith of men in its base, earthly mind. Through this unholy traffic, the body of Christ becomes defiled in relation to God. Jesus said:
“That which comes out of the man, that defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed: evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, & defile the man. Mark 7:20-23
The world moves naturally within these defilements and so the world constitutes a strong defiling influence upon the church. This is why the prophecy of Joel implicates the nationsas devourers of God’s land. Therefore the Lord said that:
. . . because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. Matt. 24:12
But the Lord tells us to continue in prayer for justice from God from these things. The Lord says:
I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man comes, shall He find faith on the earth? Luke 18:8
This same question seems to be posed as well within the prophecy of Joel. Shall the Day of the Lord be great darkness and terror, or (through repentance) be a day of sanctification and the restoring of the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem? 
d. The Church’s Failure in Sanctification as the Amassing of an Apostate Army
If we are looking for the advent of an earthly kingdom capable of observation, we will be disappointed. Not only will we be disappointed, but we will prone ourselves to false teachers, false prophets, false spiritual manifestations, and apostasy. For we have fairly definitive language that God’s kingdom “will not come with our observation;” (Luke 17:21) ie. our natural senses will not rightly apprehend God’s rule, which occurs spiritually. Therefore as to those born into this kingdom, Jesus explained:
The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit. John 3:8
The ways of the Spirit (ie.. the “kingdom of heaven”) are not comprehensible to the natural mind except by their effect upon the hearts and minds of men. You can see the “trees sway about,” but you cannot see the wind that is creating the effect in the natural world. What are the effects of the kingdom of heaven in the earth? Just as the “sign of the prophet Jonah” constituted the only sign consistent with faith, so is the Lord’s life, death, and resurrection manifested in His elect through the means of faith a proper sign for the world to behold and to believe. As to the world, the kingdom of God’s rule is perceived by the evidence of the swaying of the trees; the outward evidence of the inward work of justification, sanctification, and the glorification of God. But if the world fails to perceive the beauty and power of Christ’s rule in His elect, the effect will be to close the door and consign them to their course of destruction with the god of this temporal world.
If we are looking for an earthly kingdom, we will be vulnerable to deception in a time of false-manifestations, false prophets, and false christs. Consider also that this was the substantial stumbling point for the Jews, who looked for a messiah coming as a powerful world leader for the purpose of establishing an earthly kingdom. Just as the Jews misperceived Messiah as an earthly potentate, so did Christiandom in the years following the apostles. The church became a literal ruler of nations. The looking to earthly power and influence became the chief mark of that earthly institution, counterfeiting the Gospel, while calling itself “the Church.” Those who do not perceive this travesty of historic Christiandom may be doomed to repeat history when the final apostasy occurs.
Therefore the second chapter of Joel then foretells . . .
A day of darkness & gloom, a day of clouds & thick darkness. As the dawn is spread over the mountains, So there is a great & mighty people; There has never been anything like it, nor will there be again after it to the years of many generations. Joel 2:2
The failure of the church to find fulfillment of its hope in redemption will mean the extinguishing of the lamp of the witness of God. The voice of Christ the bridegroom will no longer be heard. There is a parallel prophecy in Zephaniah:
A day of wrath is that day, a day of trouble & distress, a day of destruction & desolation, a day of darkness & gloom. a day of clouds & thick darkness, Zeph. 1:15
Zephaniah’s prophecy is a truly terrifying account of what the Day of the Lord will mean for the non-sanctified and those outside of a saving faith in Christ. This is the day of the closing of the door on man’s redemption. This is the bitter day of weeping and gnashing of teeth when the true horror of redemption’s loss becomes a manifested reality. This particularly includes those that should have found sanctification through faith in Christ but did not – ie. the church – for Zephaniah’s prophecy is directed at Jerusalem as well, and much of the prophecy appears to foretell the consequences of the failure of sanctification even though “the Lord is righteous within her”. And who did the Lord particularly warn in describing the bitterness of this closing of the Gospel door than those of God’s own nation?
But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matt. 8:12
What does it mean when the church fails in terms of her sanctification? Paul writes:
For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. Consequently, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you. I Thess. 4:7-8
God shall certainly sanctify His people. But there are those that are left unsanctified because they somehow rejected sanctification by the Spirit. Therefore at some time, it can be said that they have failed sanctificationand are left in their unregenerate condition. Once the Spirit’s power to cleanse and to sanctify is rejected there is no more justification by faith.
For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. Heb. 10:26-27
What does it mean to “go on sinning willfully after the receiving the knowledge of the truth”? By “knowledge of the truth”much more is implied than mere doctrinal assent or affirmation. This rather implies a knowledge that has been impressed divinely upon the soul. Not a knowledge of the mind, but the spiritual knowledge of God. Recall that Paul chastised the Corinthians for having some among them that – although believers – did not possess the knowledge of God. He writes:
Awake to righteousness, & sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame. I Cor. 15:34
We are to understand therefore that some within the Corinthian church – and we can probably assume they were baptized in the Spirit and therefore certainly justified by faith – had not yet escaped earthly defilements. While they had a mental knowledge of the Gospel, they had not the true knowledge of God. True worshipers of God worship in Spirit and in Truth. But Truth is not a mental assent to doctrine. Truth involves the heart’s apprehension of Christ.
Joel’s prophecy continues:
as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; Joel 2:2 (KJV)
This same Hebrew word translated “morning” is used in Hosea’s prophecy to describe the revelation of Christ upon the heart:
Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter & former rain unto the earth. Hos. 6:3
Joel’s prophecy – as well – predicts the coming of Pentecostal showers following this revelation of Christ through repentance. Thus for the Spirit-baptized but world-ravaged church a new day of Pentecost will come subsequent to the daystar rising in their hearts:
We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawn, & the day star arise in your hearts: II Pet. 1:19
Therefore this amassing of a great army would seem to represent an ominous alternative to the sanctification of the church. Joel’s army represents the consequence of the true and spiritual witness of Christ being rejected at the time it would have dawned upon the heart. And Joel prophesies that; “there hath not been ever the like”, which would establish this occurrence as a one-time event. Never has it happened before, and never shall it occur again. Why is this? Apparently, this is an event of apocalyptic proportion. Once this event occurs, there shall be no more Gospel era. This event will therefore fundamentally change God’s orientation toward mankind.
And the prophecy adds; “neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations.” The Hebrew-word translated “many generations” (KJV) is; dor, and is stated twice so as to intensify its meaning. This is why it is rendered in English as; “many generations”. This appears a mystical reference to the finality of the present – prophetic – generation, which is that of Adam. Thus the regeneration shall be what remains; of which it is prophesied:
Thou wilt prolong the king’s life: & his years as many generations. Ps. 61:6
This is the regeneration; the fruition of the eternal-life that is in Christ, and worked upon the spirit, the soul, and the body. Therefore it would seem clear that this entity commonly known as Joel’s Army and heralded by the prophetic movement as a marvelous equipping of the church and advancement of the kingdom of God, actually represents just the opposite; a grievous judgment upon mankind. But for the Holy Spirit’s agency in bringing the body of Christ into repentance and into obedience from the heart,the age of redemption shall close upon mankind remaining without. That place is the cross of Jesus Christ that is represented by the central candlestick that is the fulcrum of God’s power in the earth; the place Israel may be healed of its transgression, the place where God may pour out His Spirit, and the place the nations may come for the forgiveness of sin.