Climate Change and the coming People's Revolution: Joel's Prophecy for Our Time
Updated: Jul 18
Disclaimer: Bible prophecy interpretation is complex, and as Sir Isaac Newton noted, generally not well understood until fulfillment. Yet Jesus told his disciples to "keep on the watch" and to "lift up your heads" when they see significant events--that deliverance is near. It is in this spirit that this is written: to help Christians make sense of today's events in the context of prophecy. There is no claim to inspiration or special insight. All errors are mine.
Human caused climate change is no longer debatable--at least not among climate scientists. The wildfires in Australia last year killed or displaced an estimated 3 billion animals. Oceans are absorbing excess CO2 and becoming increasingly acidic and toxic to sea life. Species are disappearing at an alarming rate. The arctic, also known as earth's air conditioner, is warming much faster than the rest of the planet. When arctic ice no longer freezes in winter, the ocean in the north will warm very quickly increasing global temperatures and disrupting climate further. The Antarctic is also thawing at an alarming rate, which along with arctic melt, is causing sea levels to rise. Cities and farms are running out of fresh water. According to NASA, 2020 was tied for the hottest year on record.
On the political front, little is being done. Those on the right deny climate change is happening, and the money trail leads back to the fossil fuel companies . Those on the left give nice speeches but, as Greta Thunberg has recently said, these amount to lies. There's little action. At the same time, democracy is under attack by neo-fascist forces, which have no interest in conserving ecosystems. After losing the election in 2020 to Joe Biden by over 7 million popular votes, Donald Trump tried to overturn the results and stay in power. He came close to achieving this but thankfully, was defeated by a determined Congress and the courts. Billionaires continue to make obscene amounts of money, pay little or no tax, and control much of Congress and even the Presidency through campaign contributions and lobbying. Tech billionaires control what we see online through their various algorithms and search engines and make money selling our personal information. TV evangelists are worth tens of millions and drive exotic cars. Conservative pastors were and many still are, happily in bed, as it were, with the spiritually bankrupt Trump and his movement. Many resisted public health measures, like mask wearing and vaccines, and certainly caused much suffering by those that caught the virus and spread it further. The wealthy and powerful in the oil business, it seems, are intending to stuff as much cash into their pockets as possible before the planet becomes uninhabitable: by continuing to resist any efforts to limit emissions and reverse climate change. In a word, earth's current leaders are incapable of addressing this existential problem.
At the same time, powerful grassroot movements, like Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion, are arising and asserting their rights along with progressive politicians that are increasingly seeing campaign successes--by simply offering what most people want: like universal, affordable medical coverage; like having a climate plan that takes the current climate crisis seriously. It is becoming increasingly clear that the only reason why all Americans don't have affordable health care, a place of their own, free public college, a living-wage job, and a guarantee that we leave the environment in better shape than we found it, is because the greedy and entitled few have grasped such a large portion of the pie that any changes that affect their profits are strangled. And the politicians are just their errand boys, who get rewarded with generous campaign contributions and cushy board member jobs or consulting fees on retirement. But the mask is coming off. As usual, the greedy few confuse arrogance with cunning. And so they create the seeds of their own demise. "Let them eat cake" is a case in point. What followed was the French Revolution and its guillotines.
Does bible prophecy have anything to say about these things? Let's look at Joel's book.
The prophecy begins with a proclamation: "Hear this O elders, and listen, all inhabitants of the land. Has anything like this happened in your days or in your fathers days? Tell your sons about it, and let your sons tell their sons, and their sons the next generation. What the gnawing locust has left, the swarming locust has eaten; and what the swarming locust has left, the creeping locust has eaten; and what the creeping locust has left, the stripping locust has eaten" (Joel 1:2-4, NASB 1995 Update).
When Joel was compiling his prophecy, there were locust swarms in that area. But the prophecy will move from locust swarms to swarms of people, known as the LORD's army (Joel 2:1-12). However at the time of writing, North Africa and the Middle East are experiencing the worst locust swarms in decades and there is evidence that climate change is the culprit. This may be an indicator that the prophecy is now in operation. We note that after the locust swarms, Joel speaks of devastated crops and animals groaning because of lack of food (1:8-18) and fires that have devastated pastureland (1:19-20). The climate change driven fires in Australia killed an estimated three billion animals. The heat waves in British Columbia cooked an estimated billion shellfish. We see evidence of climate change globally now.
The prophecy continues, "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. It has made my vine a waste and my fig tree splinters. It has stripped them bare and cast them away; their branches have become white" (1:6-7). The lion is a symbol for Babylon (Daniel 7:4). We note also that the beast of Revelation 13:1-10, which I have argued is Papacy, has the "mouth of a lion": Babylon is entangled with Roman power, as the harlot image in Revelation 17 describes. I believe this image describes Western powers led by the Anglo-American power in our time, a partnership of Britain and the U.S.A., along with their harlot churches and corrupt business leaders. What does this all mean?
Rome, since Jesus' time, is God's enemy and is the King of the North in the latter part of Daniel's prophecy in Chapter 11. It was Rome that executed Jesus and persecuted his followers. It was so-called Holy Rome that arose after Imperial Rome's demise in the fifth century and, along with the Papacy, persecuted those that were trying to follow Christ according to Scripture and conscience. When the French Revolution ended Papacy's wicked reign, the Anglo-American power arose as described in Revelation 13:11-18, "exercising all the authority of the first beast [Holy Rome + Papacy] in his presence. Anglo-America would now, in our time, represent Roman power.
When Protestant churches arose during the Reformation, they continued the Papacy's policy of nationalism and forced their respective citizens to join the government's church. Those, like the Anabaptists who resisted, were persecuted. In our time, we see the corrupt religion of white evangelicalism in the US and similarly in other countries, tied to the political powers in an unclean and unholy partnership. This mix of false religion partnered with government continues to deceive believers, stealing them from Christ. This, I believe, is what is meant by "It has made my vine a waste and my fig tree splinters. It has stripped them bare and cast them away; their branches have become white" (Joel 1:6-7). Vine and Fig Tree is a reference to faithful Israel, including the Christians "grafted in" as Paul explains (Romans 11:11-31). The false Christianity arising after the death of the apostles had destroyed much of Yahweh's garden and continues to destroy it today. How? By convincing believers that their race or their country is superior and somehow holy and promoting violence, greed, and immorality while claiming to be righteous. The white evangelical church in the USA, for example, overwhelmingly voted for Trump--a lying, greedy, abusive conman. How far they have fallen!
Chapter 2 of Joel speaks of Yahweh raising a mighty army for the "day of the LORD" (Joel 2:1-2). They have the appearance of horses, and we note Revelation 9:15-19 also speaks of an army of horses with their riders, and even numbers them: 200 million. This is a massive army that has never been seen before. They are a "great and mighty people; there has never been anything like it to the years of many generations" (Joel 2:2). The "land is like the garden of Eden before them but a desolate wilderness behind them, and nothing at all escapes them" (2:3). This vision of Eden before them I think indicates that the time for the restoration of the earthly paradise, as described in Revelation 21 is near when this army arises. They cooperate with one another (2:7-8) and "rush on the city, they run on the wall; they climb into the houses, they enter through the windows like a thief" (2:9). This describes, I think, a political movement: their message is delivered everywhere through various media sources. "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?" (2:11).
One may ask: if these are the Lord's people, then should they not all be Christians? Certainly some, maybe many are. But God has used various peoples in the past to do his will, and this time will likely be no different.
What I think Joel is describing here is a people's revolution: an uprising against religious hypocrisy, corrupt, greedy business and billionaires, and corrupt, lying political leaders. This movement is supported by Yahweh Himself, since "strong is he who carries out His word" (2:11). In Revelation 17 a harlot (corrupt churches) is sitting atop a ten horned beast (Roman-like political powers). The "ten horns" begin by resisting Christ, and I believe we have seen this in the rise of corrupt churches partnering with neo-fascist political powers in our time--especially Trump's attempt to overthrow an election he lost and install neofascism in America. But we note that they will not be successful. "These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful" (Rev 17:14). I believe the ongoing political demise of Donald Trump, who is called "God's anointed" by his adoring base, is the beginning of the end for these neo-fascist powers.
But why do these powers, which historically, gladly supported corrupt business and corrupt religion turn on the harlot? Because "God has put it in their hearts to execute His purpose by having a common purpose, and by giving their kingdom to the beast until the words of God will be fulfilled" (Rev 17:17). Likely people's parties will be elected to office in many countries and assume power. We note that in Chapter 18 of Revelation, "the kings of the earth, who committed acts of immorality and lived sensuously with her, will weep and lament over her when they see the smoke of her burning...and the merchants of the earth weep and mourn over her, because no one buys their cargoes any more" (Rev 18:9,11). The powerful rulers and the corrupt business people will be afraid that they could be the next targets, so stand at a distance. If the "ten horns" then, are not the traditional powerful rulers, the corrupt business people, or the corrupt churches, that leaves ordinary people. It is therefore a people's revolution on a scale never before seen, where the French Revolution--arguably the largest political 'earthquake' in history--serves as a template (Rev 16:18).
"Then a strong angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying , "So will Babylon, the great city be thrown down with violence, and will not be found any longer" (Rev 19:21). The false churches will be unmasked and destroyed: "the light of a lamp will not shine in you any longer; and the voice of the bridegroom and bride will not be heard in you any longer; for your merchants were the great men of the earth, because all the nations were deceived by your sorcery. And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints and of all who have been slain on the earth" (19:23-24). The "light of a lamp" is defined by Jesus as the true believer bearing witness (Matthew 5:16). The bridegroom is Christ, and the bride is his church (2 Cor 11:2). These churches will never again see the presence of the Spirit or the presence of the Savior: for they have persecuted Jesus' own people, and have partnered with the worst of corrupt politics and business.
Moving back to Joel, Yahweh is still calling people to become reconciled to Him during this time: "Yet even now," declares the LORD, "Return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping and mourning; 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. Who knows whether He will not turn and relent and leave a blessing behind Him" (2:12-14). We are counseled to "Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children and nursing infants." Why? Because the return of Christ is near: "Let the bridegroom [Christ] come out of his room and the bride [the faithful church] out of her bridal chamber" (Joel 2:16). This is a reference to the marriage of the Lamb in Revelation 19:7-9 and 21:1-5. This is where Jesus returns, calls his true followers to himself, and begins his reign of a thousand years over the earth (Rev 20:4).
It is true that the apostle Peter referred to Joel 3:28 as fulfilled in the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2:17). But certainly not all of Joel's prophecy was fulfilled. As I have argued elsewhere, I believe prophecies can be fulfilled more than once, where earlier fulfillments outline later, larger fulfillments. So Pentecost was a partial fulfillment of Joel, and we should look to a greater fulfillment in our time, since no other time period appears to fit. And as Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 CE by the Romans, so Babylon will be destroyed by the same powers.
So what does this all mean for us in 2021? I believe Satan is now losing the battle to control earth's peoples. He may be intending to take the earth down with him, either through unstoppable abrupt climate change, or possibly nuclear war. I believe the Lord Jesus is now actively involved in earth's affairs however and so Satan will fail on both accounts. Neo-fascist powers are losing in elections and socialist [for the people] powers are rising. There is a growing people's movement that is not fooled by oil company propaganda, telling them climate change is not a big issue. They are not fooled by conservative politicians telling them that the pandemic is not real, or that vaccines are dangerous, or massive tax cuts for corporations are good for workers. They see the rich taking the lion's share of resources and paying little or no income tax. They are not fooled by false claims to being "job creators"--they see it for what it is: entitled, greedy capitalism. They understand that the time to act is now, if we have any hope at all in reducing climate change, and they see the efforts of oil companies, corrupt politicians, and corrupt or ignorant pastors to maintain the status quo as a great evil imposed on earth's peoples. They know about the children's unmarked graves in residential schools and boarding schools and their hatred of the these churches--the harlot and her offspring of Revelation 17--is rising.
Yahweh's 'army' will win more and more elections, and bring in new legislation that will make it impossible for traditional powers--false churches, corrupt business, and corrupt politicians--to hang on to authority. Finally, the people will have had enough of these churches as more and more unmarked graves are discovered around the world in church-run schools along with the nightmarish stories of these poor children. They will decide that there is no good reason for these churches to exist. It will be the end of the false, corrupt church. The kings of the earth--powerful rulers, and the merchants--corrupt business--will stand "at a distance because of the fear of her torment" (Rev 19:9-10). This is the end of Babylon. The "northern army"--the West led by the Anglo-American power--will be utterly defeated and humiliated in the Middle East (Joel 2:20; Daniel 11:40-45). But God will restore earth's capacity to produce food and support life (Joel 2:21-27). He will pour out His Spirit afresh on his people, as at Pentecost but now on a grander scale (2: 28-29). It will be a time of great celebration in the defeat of evil and in the sanctification and glorification of God's good name.
Chapter 3 describes a final judgement upon the nations that have rejected Yahweh and abused his people. The timing for this may be the end of the thousand years of judgement, or the Millennium, described in Revelation 20:2-3 but may also apply to the coming battle between Yahweh and his forces and Satan and his, where Satan will be defeated and imprisoned prior to the Millennium. This is the period where Christ reigns from the New Jerusalem, and Satan is imprisoned so, "he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed." At the end of this thousand year period of judgement (Rev 20:4), Satan is released "to deceive the nations" again (v7-8). Satan's army is called "Gog and Magog", and I believe the prophecy in Ezekiel is describing the same thing (Ezekiel 38-39). Note that God's peace-loving people would "beat their swords into ploughshares" (Isaiah 2:4), but these enemies of God would reverse that: Joel tells us they would "beat [their] plowshares into swords" (Joel 3:10). In both Joel Chapter 3 and Revelation 20, Gog and his hoards are soundly defeated, never again to arise on God's good earth. And Satan is thrown into the 'lake of fire'--the symbol for complete annihilation (Rev 20:10).
The result is that God has vindicated his good name, and judged Satan and his followers as being unfit for the Kingdom. "The mountains will drip with sweet wine...a spring will go out from the house of the Lord to water the valley of Shittim" (Joel 3:18). Ezekiel speaks of a similar spring of water of blessings, that increases to a torrent (Ezekiel 47). Paradise is restored (Rev 20:1-5). Egypt and Edom will become a wasteland because of how they treated God's people (Joel 3:19). This is likely meant as a remembrance of the damage and suffering those opposed to God have caused earth and its peoples. But Judah and Jerusalem will be inhabited forever (Joel 3:20). Judah and Jerusalem represent God's faithful people. The New Jerusalem, in Revelation 21:1-5 represents the rule of Christ over this earth. From this point onward, God will always be with his people, and never again allow the wicked to abuse them or his precious earth.
Praise God, you people!