To juxtapose the Old Testament prophet (Joel) against the New Testament prophet (John) is an interesting exercise. We can see a lot of similarities and some themes not from their message but from their prophetic message. We’ve seen it in the Major Prophets and now in the Minor Prophets. It’s a movement that seems the same in each one.
First, there is judgement and fear, tears and weeping. Whether a declaration of the sinfulness of God’s people or “weeping and weeping” over the scroll and our inability to even open it let alone read it (let alone understand it!), the opening of a prophet’s message is almost always sorrowful. But the movement is always upward. From there, we hear of God’s grace poured upon His people. Sometimes it is freedom from exile, sometimes a Lamb able to open the scroll, but the movement is always from judgement to grace.
And isn’t this the gospel as well? The gospel begins with the reality of our own sinfulness. This is not a popular message these days and many are seeking to share the gospel without it, but it can’t be done. The beginning of the gospel, just like the beginning of any message from God, is our unworthiness of God’s love and our inherent sinfulness. (For more on this, come to our Wed. evening bible study where we are studying Romans!) But if people are turned off by talk of their sinfulness and leave before hearing the rest of the message, then we cannot do our job as evangelists. Our message doesn’t stop with our sinfulness, but moves on to grace. We are sinful, yes, but God’s grace is always greater than our sinfulness. His love overcomes our guilt; His mercy overcomes our punishment. His desire for us overwhelms our fear of Him. And the end of the message is that we are together forever. If that is not desirable, then the message is moot.