Joel 3:9-17: The Winepress of Wrath
“9 Proclaim this among the nations: Consecrate for war; stir up the mighty men. Let all the men of war draw near; let them come up. 10 Beat your ploughshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, “I am a warrior.” 11 Hasten and come, all you surrounding nations, and gather yourselves there. Bring down your warriors, O Lord. 12 Let the nations stir themselves up and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations. 13 Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Go in, tread, for the winepress is full. The vats overflow, for their evil is great. 14 Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. 15 The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining. 16 The Lord roars from Zion, and utters his voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth quake. But the Lord is a refuge to his people, a stronghold to the people of Israel. The Glorious Future of Judah 17 “So you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who dwells in Zion, my holy mountain. And Jerusalem shall be holy, and strangers shall never again pass through it.”
The Gathering for Armageddon
“9 Proclaim this among the nations: Consecrate for war; stir up the mighty men. Let all the men of war draw near; let them come up. 10 Beat your ploughshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, ‘I am a warrior’” (Joel 3:9-10)
Armageddon is a New Testament term, and is only used once by the apostle John in the recording of the book of Revelation, the climactic battle is however recorded by Joel. The nations are told by Joel to “consecrate for war,” which is a cry to prepare for battle. In Biblical times when spring had arrived and the winter cold had passed, kings and their armies would prepare to go forth to war. The most important part of their preparations was to consult their gods through the offering of sacrifices, which would then be analysed by the priests for signs from the gods. These pagan superstitions will be dealt with in more detail in the next series on the book of Daniel. The Babylonian priest actually had clay tablets which would be used by the priest to “read” the signs from the animal’s liver. The nation of Israel also made sacrifices to God, looking for His blessing upon their endeavours (1 Sam. 7:8-10).
The scene set by Joel is one of a time of peace being shattered by a call to arms. The shout goes out for soldiers to be shaken awake, the time for battle has arrived and men must come forward to take their place in their ranks. The time for rest and slumber is over, there is an urgency, a startling change in circumstances. The situation is so bad that even the weak are called into the ranks alongside the seasoned warriors. So many more are called up to the fight, that the blacksmiths are required to convert the tools of agriculture into weapons of war, so as to ensure all are armed for the conflict ahead. During the Kingdom age Isaiah prophesies that the reverse will be true (2:4).
The Summation of the Apostate Nations – the story of two valleys
“11 Hasten and come, all you surrounding nations, and gather yourselves there. Bring down your warriors, O Lord. 12 Let the nations stir themselves up and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations” (Joel 3:11-12).
Verses 11 and 12 of Joel, sum up the final two judgements on apostate mankind at the end of the Tribulation, which occur in two different valleys:
Verse 11: The Valley of Jezreel – Armageddon
In verse 11 Joel is dealing with the armies of the world and military conflict that occurs in the valley of Armageddon: “and He gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon” (Revelation 16:16). David Levy writes that “the word ‘Armageddon’ is a Greek translation of two Hebrew words, Har, meaning mountain, and Megiddo, which means crush, kill, strike, massacre; thus, the mountain of destruction” (1). Rising up from the broad flat valley of Jezreel there is a tel (an archaeological mound), on which the town of Megiddo has been built and rebuilt repeatedly through it’s tumultuous past (Excavation has uncovered about 26 layers of settlements). The valley is 22.5km wide and 32km long and has been the sight of multiple battles over the centuries. Biblical battles that were fought there were: Deborah and Barak defeated the Canaanites (Judges 4-5); Gideon defeated the Midianites (Judges 7:25-29); Jehu slew Ahaziah (2 Ki. 9:27); and Josiah was killed by Pharaoh-Neco of Egypt (2 Ki. 23:29-30). Napoleon referred to it as “the most natural battlefield in the whole earth”. The book of Revelation indicates that once more armies will gather at Megiddo for the final world battle – Armageddon.
Although it is God, through His hand of control over the events of mankind, that gathers these armies in the valley (Joel 3:2; Zech. 14:2; Rev 16:16), the motivation for these armies to collect at Megiddo is that that they have come to overthrow the Antichrist (Dan. 11:40-44). The gathering seems to be a rebellion against the Antichrist claiming world supremacy, and his demanding that all worship him as god (Rev. 13:8; 12; 15).
Satan is also a contributor to the gathering, drawing the kings of the earth to war through demonic influence. The question that then must be answered, is why would Satan bring the armies of the world into conflict with his own false messiah? At this time, the Antichrist already has control of Israel, and will be seated on the throne of David in Jerusalem. Satan has successfully counterfeited God’s plans, why would he want to end that apparent triumph over God?
There are a number of reasons why Satan would want to gather the nations of the world to Israel:
- At this time Satan would have been cast out of heaven, meaning his access to God will have been cut off (Rev 12:9). He will therefore know that time is running out for him, and that he needs to act quickly to destroy the divine plans of God (Rev. 12:12).
- Satan will want to pour out his wrath on his old foe, Israel (Rev. 12:13), hoping that her destruction (Rev. 12:6; 13, 15, 17) will frustrate God’s plans. Satan knows his final destination is the Lake of Fire, by destroying Israel, he can delay his final end.
- Satan will gather the armies of the world to battle Yeshua, King of Kings, at His return (Ps. 2:2-4). Satan in a last gasp effort, will use a demonically driven army to attempt to prevent the return of Yeshua, and the establishing the Millennial Kingdom. He wants to hold onto the dominions of the world for himself (Rev. 16:14).
- Satan will be taking mankind, God’s treasured creation, to the greatest possible extreme of rebellion – a direct confrontation with the Creator. Thus, forcing the Creator to destroy in great numbers His creation.
- The above three points are adapted from, David Levy, Joel, The Day of the Lord, The friends of Israel Ministry, Inc. Bellmawr, New Jersey. P71.
The Armies of Armageddon
The two most important apocryphal books in scripture – Daniel and Revelation – indicate the regions these armies of Armageddon will originate from:
Chapter 11 of Daniel, verses 5-20, record the struggles of two dynasties: the Seleucid and the Ptolemaic. Daniel refers to them as the kings of the North (Seleucid), and the kings of the South (Ptolemies), on the basis of their location to Israel. Then in verses 21-35 the focus narrows to include the reign of the contemptible person, who for a brief period controlled the Seleucid Empire. This contemptable individual is Antiochus IV, a man whose life in many ways foreshadows the coming Antichrist. Then in verse 36 of Daniel 11, there is a man that is simply referred to as “the king.” A careful examination of “the king’s” characteristics, reveals that obvious differences exist between him and Antiochus IV, the subject of the preceding verses. The differences are important as they underline that the prophecy is no longer referring to the type (Antiochus IV), but the reality, the ultimate “contemptible person,’ the Antichrist. Antiochus IV is a shadow of the reality – the Antichrist – and he is used to introduce the son of perdition for very important prophetic reasons. The series on Daniel follows this teaching on the book of Joel, and will cover in detail the evidence within verses 36-45, that contain prophetic pointers to the Antichrist. So, when Daniel gives details in verse 40 of conflicts involving a king of the North, and a king of the South, he is not referring to the Seleucid and the Ptolemies. He is once again, giving geographic references in relation to the nation of Israel, this time, of armies that will be a part of the conflict “at the time of the end”:
“At the time of the end, the king of the south shall attack him, but the king of the north shall rush upon him like a whirlwind, with chariots and horsemen, and with many ships. And he shall come into countries and shall overflow and pass through” (Daniel 11:40).
The “king of the South”, implies a confederation of African nations; then once again, as has occurred repeatedly in Biblical history, there is also an army that descends from the North, which although led by the “king of the North,” will very likely also be a confederation of Northern nations.
John in the book of Revelation adds a third threat to the Antichrist’s dominance, he records that from the east, a massive army will cross the dried-up Euphrates River, (Rev. 16:12). This attack by “the kings of the East,” coincides with the sixth bowl judgement, which is the release of demonic powers that go out to “the kings of the whole world” to gather them to battle “on the great day of God almighty” (Rev. 16:14). As Israel is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea in the West, there is no “king of the West” attack. Joel indicates attacks on the Antichrist from North and South, and John indicates an attack from the East, and then states that “the kings of the whole world,” will be involved in the battle for Israel. So, countries from the West will not be left out of the final conflict.
The Antichrist’s forces will be formed from European nations, which will have established themselves in Israel, on the Antichrists move from Rome to Jerusalem. There will therefore be a number of battles leading up to the final conflict at Armageddon, where the armies of mankind will stand in rebellion to Jesus.
“And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs. For they are demonic spirits, performing miracles (Exodus 7:11), who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty. ‘Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!’. Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon” (Rev. 16:13-16).
Scripture reveals only the adversaries in this End Time world war, not the many details that define conflicts, such as where the battles will be fought, and the order in which the conflicts will take place. But, the consequences of these continued conflicts are revealed in the first four of the seven seals of Revelation 6, which are an overview of the seven years of Tribulation, rather than judgements from God, as revealed in the Trumpet and Bowl judgements:
In Revelation 5 we are shown Yeshua as our kinsman redeemer, standing before the throne of God, about to take the seven sealed scroll from the hand of God. W. A. Criswell, in his book Expository Sermons on Revelation, gives an excellent explanation of the use of the scroll in Biblical times (2). He explains that Jewish law ensured that no Jewish family would lose their lands because of debt. Should a Jewish family be in financial distress, their losses would be listed in a scroll and sealed seven times. The conditions necessary to purchase back their land and possessions would be written on the outside of the scroll. When a kinsman-redeemer, who met the stated requirements came forward, he was able to purchase the property back for the family, from the person to whom the property had been forfeited because of their debt. This ensured that no family would ever lose their right to land given to them by God. The seven sealed scroll which Jesus holds is a double-sided legal scroll, which details what must occur before the kingdoms of the world can be redeemed from the clutches of Satan, and returned to mankind through the Kinsman redeemer – Jesus. The process starts with the breaking of the first seal, which is mankind’s rejection of Jesus, and their turning to the counterfeit false messiah, the Antichrist – the rider on the white horse. He, will initiate three and a half years of peace. The second seal will only be broken 3½ years later, after the Antichrist proclaims himself to be god, and the False Prophet erects a statue of the Antichrist in the Temple. The second horse is the fiery red horse, which represents war. The last months of the Tribulation will see the Antichrist’s world domination collapsing and a world at war, which will bring about economic decline, famine, and plague – the black and pale horses.
The war between these nations concludes at Armageddon, and results in the complete destruction of these armies, which join forces to combat the Lord on His return. With the word of His mouth, Yeshua destroys all that stands against Him, crushing them in the wine press of His wrath: “Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Go in, tread, for the winepress is full. The vats overflow, for their evil is great” (Joel 3:13; Rev. 19:15), and blood will flow to the height of a horse’s bridle (Rev. 14:20).
“Why is your apparel red, and your garments like his who treads in the winepress? ‘I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with me; I trod them in my anger and trampled them in my wrath; their lifeblood spattered on my garments, and stained all my apparel’” (Isaiah 63:2-3; c.f. Rev. 19:13).
- (1) David Levy, Joel, The Day of the Lord, The friends of Israel Ministry, Inc. Bellmawr, New Jersey. P70.
- (2) W. A. Criswell, Expository Sermons on Revelation – Five Volumes, Zondervan, 1966
Verse 12: The Valley of Jehoshaphat – the sheep and goats judgement.
“Let the nations stir themselves up and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations” (Joel 3:12)
In verse 12, Joel once more looks at what will happen to the rest of mankind who are still alive at the return of Jesus (see Joel part 5) – they are gathered in the valley of Jehoshaphat for the sheep and goats judgement. In Joel 3:9-17, Joel is making two distinctions: What will happen to those who are a part of the military confrontation with the Lord at His return, and then what will happen to those who are still alive at the end of the Tribulation. In the second category there are three distinct group: The righteous Jews, the righteous Gentiles (sheep), who will go on to populate the earth in the Millennial Kingdom, and the wicked Gentiles (goats), who are condemned to eternal damnation.
“14 Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision” (Joel 3:14).
“Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision!” Many evangelists have drawn on this verse, as a means to challenge audiences to “make a decision” for Christ. Others view this valley of decision as a time of judgment when the Lord decides the fate of the nations. Which is it? An invitation, or a prophecy of doom? We have to take this scripture in context with what has preceded it, Joel is pointing to the Day of the Lord, a time of judgement. So, the “valley of decision” in Joel 3:14 is not about humans choosing whether or not to follow Christ; it is Yeshua handing down His decision of judgment on the sheep and the goats at the end of the Tribulation. Wickedness will be dealt with decisively, swiftly and justly.
“The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining” (Joel 3:15).
Verse 15 uses terminology that is directly connected to the Day of the Lord, and is linking both physical and spiritual with darkness, that is characteristic of the end of the Tribulation – the valley of decision resulting in eternal damnation for many.
Appearance of the Anointed
“The Lord roars from Zion, and utters his voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth quake. But the Lord is a refuge to his people, a stronghold to the people of Israel. The Glorious Future of Judah. ‘So you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who dwells in Zion, my holy mountain. And Jerusalem shall be holy, and strangers shall never again pass through it’” (Joel 3:16-17).
The Appearance of Yeshua for the battle of Armageddon will have three effects on mankind:
- Joel 3:15 links with the fifth bowl judgement in Revelation 16:10, where the kingdom of the Antichrist is plunged into darkness. Those that follow the Antichrist have rejected the light, and are therefore left in darkness, only to be destroyed by the brightness of the Lord’s coming (2 Thess. 2:8 [KJV]).
- The rebellious armies at Armageddon are destroyed by the sword that proceeds from the mouth of Yeshua (Rev. 19:15), the last thing they will hear is the roar of the Lord. They would not open their ears to the witness of the Word that the Lord provided for them, so they are destroyed by the words that come from His mouth. The winepress of the wrath of God, is compressed by the Word of God, squeezing the Life blood out of all who oppose His coming.
- Powerful earthquakes are a common occurrence in the book of Revelation. When violent earthquakes occur people cannot stand, they will be thrown to the ground by the whole of the earth shaking. Mankind has arrogantly stood in rebellion to the Word of God, but no man will be able to stand to face their forthcoming judgement, whether it be at Armageddon, or in the valley of Jehoshaphat. They will be lying prostrate before the Lord.
“I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will put an end to the pomp of the arrogant, and lay low the pompous pride of the ruthless” (Isaiah 13:11).
The appearance of the Lord will be awesome. Suddenly He will appear in the clouds, and the brightness of His glory will illuminate the universe (Mt. 24:30). Yeshua will be seated on a white stallion (as opposed to the foal of a donkey). On His head will be many crowns, from the martyr’s crown, to the crown of the Son of David, pronouncing Him King of kings (Rev. 19:11-12; 16). His eyes will be a flame of fire, from His mouth will protrude a double-edged sword, and His vestures will have been dipped in blood (Rev. 19:12-13), a picture of His penetrating judgement on the nations. Accompanying Him will be His Bride, and the angelic hosts of heaven (Rev. 19:14).
“The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us’.” (Psalm 2:2-3)
Acts 4:24-26 attributes Psalm 2 to David, who records the reaction by the kings of the earth at the initial sighting of The Lord’s Anointed, rather than humility and submission, they “take council,” and prepare to repel the Lord. However, the rest of humanity on sighting Yeshua in the sky will mourn at the fate which they know awaits them (Mt. 24:30).
God will supernaturally protect a remnant of Jewish believers during the Great Tribulation and they will rejoice because, as Joel puts it, “The Lord roars from Zion, and utters his voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth quake. But the Lord is a refuge to his people, a stronghold to the people of Israel” (Vs. 16). Jerusalem has been “trodden down by Gentiles,” since the Babylonians captured Jerusalem in 605 BC, the land of Israel has fallen under the rule of one Gentile nation after another. But no longer, The Prince of Peace will rule the world from the City of Peace – Jerusalem will be the centre of the world – Hallelujah!
An often-asked question is “will there be a nuclear war during the Great Tribulation?”, many people look at the number of people who die during the Great Tribulation, and the descriptions of the plagues and believe that they point to a nuclear war. The most common example is the 7th Seal, Wormwood, the name of a star, that falls from heaven. However, there is no conclusive proof of the use of nuclear power in scripture. The closest description of a nuclear explosion is in Zechariah 14:12:
“And this shall be the plague with which the LORD will strike all the peoples that wage war against Jerusalem: their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths”.
However, this is describing God’s destruction of the armies that are gathered at the battle of Armageddon, not man’s nuclear weapons. So, Zechariah is describing a controlled destruction aimed at individuals, not a mass nuclear detonation. So, the answer to the question on nuclear war occurring in the last years of the Tribulation is not a definite “no”, but a “most likely not”.
Should the Bride of Christ even care what happens during the Tribulation?
During the Tribulation the Church will be having the seven-year marriage supper of the Lamb in heaven. We will then return to earth with Jesus to witness Armageddon – He won’t need our help!
For this reason, pre-Tribulation Rapture theorists are accused, by the other Rapture theories, which occur in the middle (mid-Tribulation and pre-wrath), or at the end of the seven-year Tribulation (post-Tribulation), as being escapist – not caring! They say pre-Tribulation believers are wanting to be sitting on clouds playing on their harps during the Tribulation, instead of being on earth, as a witness to Jesus during the hardships of the seven-year period. There are also the “Christians” who hold to replacement theologies’ variety of End Times theories, all of which deny the existence of the Tribulation in scripture. So, the pre-Tribulation, pre-Millennialists are the only believers that hold to a pre-Tribulation Rapture. That means they are the only people on earth who care about the coming consequences of man’s rebellion, and are prepared to shout the warning to others. Satan has effectively silenced the Church but for a relative handful. The Church needs to warn of the Rapture, we need to warn of the Antichrist, we need to warn of the Tribulation. Our evangelising should include a warning: JESUS IS COMING SOON, will you be ready? If they reject the offer of salvation, they leave with knowledge of the Tribulation, that could save them later. There will be many who come to know the Lord during the Tribulation, because they have the knowledge to recognise the many prophecies being fulfilled, including the part where they have missed the rapture!