As one reads Joel, it is important to catch the changes in verb tense and in chronology. The first chapter describes a historical locust plague, one of such magnitude that the prophet sees it as a punishment from God and urges the people to fast and repent before God. Chapter 2 moves on to God's army of locusts, speaking of them in the present tense. It is easy to see the depictions of the locust plague as the testimony of a person who actually witnessed the calamity. The description is immediately followed by another call to repent from God Himself (Joel 2:12-17).
Then, in verse 18, the tense of the verb changes from present to future tense. This is significant because it signals that the locust plague of chapters 1 and 2 is a type of something similar in the end time. The language changes slightly to describe the future fulfillment, and the reader has to understand that it applies only in type to the historical fulfillment. By the time we read the end of Joel 2, the focus is primarily on the future event. In fact, the locust plague of ancient Judah is almost entirely forgotten.
We can see this in verses 26-29. In the first two of those verses, Joel writes about the post-restoration people of God: “My people shall never be put to shame.” This cannot be true of the ancient Jews, who have repeatedly been put to shame down through the centuries. The history of the Jews has been a litany of distrust, accusation, oppression, exile, exclusion, and even holocaust. Clearly, Joel is looking far into the future.
What Is Joel 2 Really About?