What the psalmist had long before ordered to be said among the heathen (Ps. 96:10) the prophet here will have in like manner to be published to all nations, That the Lord reigns, and that he comes, he comes to judge the earth, as he had long been judging in the earth. The notice here given of God’s judging the nations may have reference to the destruction of Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar, Antiochus, and to the Antichrist especially, and all the proud enemies of the Christian church; but some of the best interpreters, ancient and modern (particularly the learned Dr. Polock), think the scope of these verses is to set forth the day of the last judgment under the similitude of God’s making war upon the enemies of his kingdom, and his gathering in the harvest of the earth, both which similitudes we find used in the Revelation, Rev. 19:11; Rev. 14:18. Here we have,
I. A challenge given to all the enemies of God’s kingdom to do their worst. To signify to them that God is preparing war against them, they are called upon to prepare war against him, Joel 3:9-11. When the hour of God’s judgment shall come effectual methods shall be taken to gather all nations to the battle of that great day of God Almighty, Rev. 16:14; 20:8. It seems to be here spoken ironically: “Proclaim you this among the Gentiles; let all the forces of the nations be summoned to join in confederacy against God and his people.” It is like that, Isa. 7:9; “Associate yourselves, O you people! and gird yourselves, but you shall be broken to pieces. Prepare war; muster up all your strength; wake up the mighty men; call them into your service; excite them to vigilance and resolution; let all the men of war draw near. Let them come and enter the lists with Omnipotence if they dare; let them not complain for want of weapons, but let them beat their ploughshares into swords and their pruning-hooks into spears. Let them resolve, if they will, never to return to their husbandry again, but either to conquer or die; let none plead unfitness to bear arms, but let the weak say, I am strong and will venture into the field of battle.” Thus does a God of almighty power bid defiance to all the opposition of the powers of darkness; let the heathen rage, and the kings of the earth take counsel together, against the Lord and his Christ; let them assemble, and come, and gather themselves together; but he that sits in heaven shall laugh at them, and, while he thus calls them, he has them in derision, Ps. 2:1, 4. The heathen must be wakened, must be raised from the dead, that they may come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat, to receive their doom (Joel 3:12), may come up out of their graves, come up into the air, to meet the Lord there. Jehoshaphat signifies the judgment of the Lord. Let them come to the place of God’s judgment, which perhaps is the chief reason for the using of this name here, but it is put together as a proper name for the sake of allusions to the place so called, which we observed before; let them come thither where God will sit to judge the heathen, to that throne of glory before which shall be gathered all nations (Matt. 25:32), for before the judgment-seat of Christ we must all appear. The challenge (Joel 3:9) is turned into a summons, Joel 3:12. It is not only, Come if you dare, but You shall come whether you will or no, for there is no escaping the judgments of God.
II. A charge given to the ministers of God’s justice to appear and act against these daring enemies of his kingdom among men: And therefore cause thy mighty ones to come down, O Lord! Joel 3:11. When they bring their forces into the field, let God bring his, let the archangel’s trumpet sound a charge, to call together his mighty ones, that is, his angels. Perhaps it is with reference to this that Christ’s coming from heaven at the last day is said to be with his mighty angels, 2 Thess. 1:7. These are the hosts of the Lord, that shall fight his battles when he shall put down all opposing rule, principality, and power when he shall judge among the heathen, Ps. 110:6. Some think these words (Joel 3:9, 10), Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, are not a challenge to the enemies’ hosts, but a charge to God’s hosts; let them draw near, and come up. When God’s cause is to be pleaded, either by the law or by the sword, he has those ready that shall please it effectually, witnesses ready to appear for him in the court of judgment, soldiers ready to appear for him in the field of battle. They shall beat ploughshares into swords, if need be. However, it is plain that to them the charge in given (Joel 3:13), Put you in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe; that is, their wickedness is great, the measure of it is full, and they are ripe for ruin. Our Saviour has expounded this, Matt. 13:39. The harvest is the end of the world, and the reapers are the angels. And they are commanded to thrust in their sickle. their sharp sickle, and gather in both the harvest and the vintage, Rev. 14:15, 18. Note, The greatness of men’s wickedness makes them ripe for God’s judgment.
III. The vast appearance that shall be in that great and solemn day (Joel 3:14): Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision, the same which before was called the valley of Jehoshaphat, or of the judgment of the Lord, for the day of the Lord is near in that valley. Note, 1. The judgment-day, that day of the Lord, has all along been looked upon, and spoken of, as nigh at hand. Enoch said, Behold, the Lord comes, as if the Judge were then standing before the do or, because it is certain that that day will come and will come according to the appointment, and a thousand years with God are but as one day; things are ripening apace for it; we ought always to be ready for it, because our judgment is at hand. 2. The day of judgment will be the day of decision, when every man’s eternal state will be determined, and the controversy that has been long depending between the kingdom of Christ and that of Satan shall be finally decided, and an end put to the struggle. The valley of the distribution of judgment (so the Chaldee), when every man shall receive according to the things done in the body. The valley of threshing (so the margin), carrying on the metaphor of the harvest, Joel 3:13. The proud enemies of God’s people will then be crushed and broken to pieces, and made as the dust of the summer threshing-floors. 3. Innumerable multitudes will be gathered together to receive their final doom in that day, as in the destruction of Gog we read of the valley of Hamon-Gog, and the city of Hamonah (Ezek. 39:15, 16), both signifying the multitude of the vanquished enemies; it is the word here used, Hamonim, Hamonim, expressed by the way of admiration—O what vast multitudes of sinners will divine justice be glorified in the ruin of at that day! A multitude of living (says one of the rabbin) and a multitude of dead, for Christ shall come to judge both the quick and the dead.
IV. The amazing change that shall then be made in the kingdom of nature (Joel 3:15): The sun and moon shall be darkened, as before, Joel 2:31. Their glory and lustre shall be eclipsed by the far greater brightness of that glory in which the Judge shall then appear. Nay, they shall themselves be set aside in the dissolution of all things; for the damned sinners in hell shall not be allowed their light, for God himself will be their everlasting light, Isa. 60:19. Those that fall under the wrath of God in that day of wrath shall be cut off from all comfort and joy, signified by the darkening not only of sun and moon, but of the stars also.
V. The different impressions which that day will make upon the children of this world and the children of God, according as it will be to them. 1. To the wicked it will be a terrible day. The Lord shall then speak from Zion and Jerusalem, from the throne of his glory, from heaven, where he manifests himself in a peculiar manner, as sometimes he has done in the glorious high throne of his sanctuary, which yet was but a faint resemblance of the glory of that day. He shall speak from heaven, from the midst of his saints and angels (so some understand it), the holy society of which may be called Zion and Jerusalem; for, when we come to the heavenly Jerusalem, we come to the innumerable company of angels; see Heb. 12:22. Now is speaking in that day will be to the wicked as roaring, terrible as the roaring of a lion (for so the word signifies); he long kept silence, but now our God shall come, and shall not keep silence, Ps. 50:3, 21. Note, The judgment of the great day will make the ears of those to tingle that continue the implacable enemies of God’s kingdom. God’s voice will then shake terribly both heaven and earth (Isa. 2:21), yet once more, Hag. 2:6; Heb. 12:26. This denotes that the voice of God will in the great day speak such terror to the wicked as were enough to put even heaven and earth into a consternation. When God comes to pull down and destroy his enemies, and make them all his footstool, though heaven and earth should stand up in defence of them and undertake their protection, it shall be all in vain. Even they shall shake before him and be an insufficient shelter to those whom he comfor 3af0 ts forth to contend with. Note, As blessings out of Zion are the sweetest blessings, and enough to make heaven and earth sing, so terrors out of Zion are the sorest terrors, and enough to make heaven and earth shake. 2. To the righteous it will be a joyful day. When the heaven and earth shall tremble, and be dissolved and burnt up, then will the Lord be the hope of his people and the strength of the children of Israel (Joel 3:16), and then shall Jerusalem be holy, Joel 3:17. The saints are the Israel of God; they are his people; the church is his Jerusalem. They are in covenant and communion with him; now in the great day, (1.) Their longings shall be satisfied: The Lord will be the hope of his people. As he always was the founder and foundation of their hopes, so he then will be the crown of their hopes. He will be the harbour of his people (so the word is), their receptacle, refuge, and home. The saints in the great day shall arrive at the desired haven, shall put to shore after a stormy voyage; they shall go to be for ever at home with God, to their Father’s house, the house not made with hands. (2.) Their happiness shall be confirmed. God will be in that day the strength of the children of Israel, enabling them to bid that day welcome and to bear up under the weight of its glories and joys. In this world, when the judgments of God are abroad, and sinners are falling under them, God is and will be the hope and strength of his people, the strength of their heart, and their portion, when other men’s hearts fail them for fear. (3.) Their holiness shall be completed (Joel 3:17): Then shall Jerusalem be holy, the holy city indeed; such shall the heavenly Jerusalem be, such the glorious church, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. Jerusalem shall be holiness (so the word is); it shall be perfectly holy; there shall be no remainder of sin in it. The gospel-church is a holy society, even in its militant state, but will never be holiness itself till it comes to be triumphant. Then no stranger shall pass through her any more; there shall not enter into the New Jerusalem any thing that defiles or works iniquity; none shall be there but those who have a right to be there, none but its own citizens; for it shall be an unmixed society. (4.) God shall in all this be manifested and magnified: So shall you know that I am the Lord your God. By the sanctifying and glorifying of the church God will be known in his holiness and glory, as the God that dwells in his holy mountain and makes it holy by dwelling in it; and those that are sanctified and glorified are so through the knowledge of him that called them. The knowledge which true believers have of God is, [1.] An appropriating knowledge. They know that he is the Lord their God, yet not theirs only, but theirs in common with the whole church, that he is their God, but dwelling in Zion his holy mountain; for, though faith appropriates, it does not engross or monopolize the privileges of the covenant. [2.] It is an experimental knowledge. They shall find him their hope and strength in the worst of times, and so they shall know that he is the Lord their God. Those know best the goodness of God who have tasted and seen it, and have found him good to them.