Charles Simeon Commentary - Joel 2:28 - 2:32

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Joel 2:28 - 2:32


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DISCOURSE: 1182

SIGNS OF THE MESSIAH’S ADVENT

Joe_2:28-32. And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days, will I pour out my Spirit. And I will shew wonders in the heavens, and in the earth, blood and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered.

IT is much to be regretted that the obscurities which occur in the prophetic writings (especially those of the lesser prophets) deter many from reading so large a portion of the inspired volume. If there are some parts hard to be understood, there are some parts plain and highly instructive: and the very figures, which from their boldness and sublimity appear intricate, will be found easy and intelligible, through the light reflected on them in the New Testament. The passage before us would, on a cursory perusal, be deemed incapable of any sober construction, or, at least, of any proper application to ourselves: but it plainly declares to us,

I.       The signs of the Messiah’s advent—

Numberless were the signs by which the world were taught to know the true Messiah: we here notice only two:

1.       The effusion of his Spirit for the conversion of his elect—

[The Spirit in preceding ages had been given to those of the Jewish nation only, and to but few even of those, and in a scanty measure; but was “afterward,” that is, in the times of the Messiah, to be “poured out” abundantly, on Gentiles as well as Jews, and without any distinction of age, sex, or quality, the meanest as well as the greatest being chosen to participate this benefit. This was literally fulfilled, as St.Peter affirms, on the day of Pentecost [Note: Act_2:16-21.]. We must not however limit the operations of the Spirit to the imparting of miraculous gifts: the terms used by the prophet import, that they who should receive the Spirit should be so instructed in the mind and will of God, as to be led to “call on” the Messiah, and enjoy “the deliverance” which he was coming to effect. Nor must the prophecy be confined to the apostolic age: for St. Peter also testifies that the promise is to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call [Note: Act_2:39.].]

2.       The execution of judgments for the punishment of his enemies—

[As an Apostle has explained the former part of the text, so has our Lord himself that which now presents itself to our view [Note: Mat_24:7; Mat_24:29 and Luk_21:11; Luk_21:25.]. The immediate subject, to which these figurative expressions refer, is the destruction of Jerusalem: nor, whether we consider the prodigies that accompanied the siege [Note: See Doddridge’s note on Act_2:19.], or the devastation and bloodshed occasioned by the Roman armies, are they too strong to represent the scenes which occurred in that devoted city. But those calamities were only shadows of infinitely heavier judgments that shall fall on the ungodly in the last day [Note: Our Lord so blends the two events together in Matthew 24. that it is not always easy to determine to which of the two his expressions are to be referred.]. Then, while “the heavens pass away with a great noise, and the elements melt with fervent heat, and the earth and the works also that are therein are burnt up,” will all the contemners of the Messiah wail because of his wrath and fiery indignation [Note: 2Pe_3:10. with Rev_1:7.]. It is indeed in the former sense only that this can be a sign to convince the world at present; but in the latter sense it will hereafter be a demonstration to the whole universe, that all which had been spoken of Christ was true.]

To encourage an earnest expectation of the Messiah, the prophet declares,

II.      The blessedness of those that believe on him—

The subjects of the Messiah’s kingdom are characterized as “calling upon his name”—

[To call upon Christ is, to give him all that honour and worship that are due to the Supreme Being. This was done by the first martyr, Stephen, and by all the Christian Church [Note: Act_7:59 and 1Co_1:2.]. It was that which rendered them so odious to the Jews [Note: Act_9:14; Act_9:21.], and so distinguished among the Gentiles [Note: Pliny, in his letter to the Emperor Trajan, stating for his information the conduct of Christians, says, “they met on certain days before it was light to sing a hymn to Christ as God.”]. And, at this hour, it justly describes all those who are endued with the Spirit. All, without exception, regard Christ as the only source of life and salvation, and depend on him for daily supplies of grace and strength: “the life which they now live in the flesh, is altogether by faith in the Son of God.”]

Nor shall any of that description ever experience the calamities that were foretold as coming on the ungodly world—

[The “deliverance” mentioned in the prophecy before us, doubtless referred primarily to the escape of the Christians from Jerusalem, while the Jews, hemmed in on every side, were reduced to the greatest miseries. But we must extend our views to a more important deliverance, even from sin and Satan, death and hell: it is from these that the sincere follower of Christ will be saved, while all who reject him will perish under the displeasure of an incensed God. In this view St. Paul quotes the very words before us, expressly applying them to Christ as the object of our worship, and confining the blessings of salvation to those who call upon him [Note: Rom_10:12-13.]. At the same time we must observe that none who comply with this direction are excluded; “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord,” whatever he may have been, or whatever he may have done in times past, provided he call in sincerity and truth, shall find the Lord rich in mercy towards him.]

This subject will be found of use,

1.       To confirm our faith against the cavils of infidels—

[There have been in every age some, who have rejected Christianity as a cunningly devised fable. But we would ask, Was the effusion of the Spirit predicted? or could the accomplishment of that prediction be counterfeited? Was the destruction of Jerusalem foretold? Did Jesus apply the very words of our text to that event, and declare that they should be accomplished before that generation should pass away? And did this also happen within the time specified, attended with such prodigies as strictly corresponded with the terms of this prophecy? Then Christianity must be of divine original; Jesus must be the true Messiah; and salvation must be, as he has declared, through faith in him. Let us then “never be moved away from the hope of the Gospel,” but “hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering.”]

2.       To vindicate our experience against the calumnies of scoffers—

[St. Peter adduces this passage in vindication of those who had received the miraculous influences of the Spirit; and asserts that, what was profanely imputed to intoxication, was indeed a fulfilment of the words of Joel. Thus scoffers of the present day deride all pretensions to the enlightening and sanctifying influences of the Spirit, and, without any candid examination, impute them to folly or hypocrisy. Our professions of faith in Christ, our simple dependence on him, and assured hope of salvation by him, are also deemed enthusiasm. But if we can say, “This is that which was spoken by the Prophet Joel,” or by Peter, or by any other inspired writer, we need not regard their calumnies. If it was said to the apostles, ‘Ye are drunk,’ we may be content to have it said of us, ‘Ye are fools.’ Let us then seek more and more earnestly the operations of the Spirit, and be daily calling on the Lord Jesus for grace and mercy: so shall our experience accord with the sacred oracles, and our deliverance be completed, when the sufferings of infidels and scoffers shall commence.]