I have been following this Thread closely for a few days now.
Yes, I would wholeheartedly agree that there is a significant difference between judgement and persecution.
Where are we presently?
By that I mean, where is our citizenship? (Phil 3:20)
I've been thinking a lot lately about the fact that our citizenship is in heaven, (kingdom of God ). This would mean that our knowledge of coming events should first be perceived from that situation; in keeping with "keep your mind on things above", and also, "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world".
The faithful of the Old Covenant lived under the shadow of what we experience today ... they did not know the spiritual realities which Jesus pronounced with the New Covenant and which belong to us in this day.
For instance, what would Christians whose minds are focused on things of the earth, (as the Old Testament faithful), say about, "The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD"?
The faithful of the New Covenant know about spiritual realities through faith, (because faith is the "evidence of THINGS UNSEEN").
By His Spirit we obtained citizenship in the heavenly places and this lifted us up above the darkness. We have been transferred out of the darkness and into the Kingdom of the Son of God's love and move and have our being there through faith.
The prophet Joel was not speaking here of an extra-ordinary natural phenomenon. Rather, he is describing in earthly pictures what he was seeing in the unseen heavenly places; where we too must have our minds focused upon and where also our citizenship must be.
The sun is the image of God who is called "the sun of righteousness", (Malachi 4:2). Job observed a cloud of locusts, a picture of demonic armies, which blocked the sun. This is happening in this very day we live in!
The evil powers put themselves between God and man. As a result, the light of God is darkened for those who dwell upon the earth because sin causes separation between God and man. The light of God no longer reaches the false church that dwells upon the earth. It is as if the sun is screened off by that camel's hair cloth which people use in the Orient.
As the sun is the image of God as light, the moon reflects the glory of the sun. The moon is a light in the night, and 'the light shines in the darkness'. So the moon is the image of Jesus Christ. He was the True Light, coming to enlighten the entire world, (every man), (John 1:4-9).
The fact that the moon adopts the color of blood is characteristic of the great apostasy. Blood is the image of natural life. In the unfaithful church, the name, word and work of Jesus Christ are not related to the Kingdom of Heaven but localized in natural life. The supernatural is removed from the Gospel of Jesus Christ or moved to the past.
A dense smoke has formed a cloud which almost completely blocks off the Gospel of the Kingdom. Christians no longer speak about being "raised up to the heavenly places in Christ Jesus". Instead, they look into the temporary and earthly things. Consequently, the way of God, the right view of God and His plan to form a spiritually mature people are completely lost.
"And the moon into blood." The moon reflects the light of the sun. Jesus "reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature", (Heb 1:3). He came as a light in the dark night. The moon is certainly there but it gives no light and therefore no life. The name of Jesus is still mentioned but His true purpose, which gives a walk in the light and gives imperishable life, is rejected. God's people are insisting to negate the teachings of Jesus and desire to walk in His footsteps by natural means and not according to the eternal plan of God. Christians do not do the works which Jesus did and the gospel of the Kingdom is not preached.
All these things take place "before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes", (Joel 2:31).
Notice that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the spiritual darkness come before the Day of the Lord.
Through the latter rain the Lord is glorified in His saints and marveled at in all who have believed.
At this same time, the great apostasy and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, (2Thess 1:10 & 2:3) .
After this follows the great tribulation or temptation which comes over all the world. This great and terrible day of the Lord is the time period when the powers flood the whole earth, just like the great flood in the days of Noah.
Ordinary human life is not possible anymore. Everything becomes dissolved and lawless; for example: marriage, labor, social life, politics and religious life. There will come a shroud of fear over many.
"And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be delivered", (Joel 2:32). To be saved means more than only to be rescued.
Not only have we been reconciled to God (rescued) by the death of Jesus, we are also being saved to the uttermost by His life, (Rom 5:10).
Salvation is a growing maturing process through which the purpose of God with us is reached. Israel was rescued from Egypt, but not all were saved. Most of them perished in the wilderness. Joel also spoke about the possibility of becoming true spiritual people who will reach completeness, "for the promise is unto you", (Acts 2:39).
"For on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be those who escape, as the Lord has said, even among the survivors whom the Lord calls", (Joel 2:32).
Only those who really have been transferred to the Kingdom of God's beloved Son; those who have been set free from the powers of darkness which rule this world by unrighteousness and falsehood, will continue walking in the light. This is the fulfillment of Isaiah 60:2: "For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord (the sun) will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you".
Unfaithful Christianity seeks a way on earth and therefore becomes a prey of the fire. Those who escape, whom the Lord called by the preaching of the gospel of the Kingdom, ascend in order to walk the road on high. God called them to believe in His Son and to follow Him in His ways. They have life everlasting and belong to the Kingdom of God the Father and His Son.
According to Matthew 13:30 the weeds are gathered first into bundles, bundles of tares. Then the grain is gathered in order to be stored in the heavenly barn, the faithful church.
Then the true believers, although still living on earth, have completely taken up their position in the heavenly realm.
Then the growing together of the two comes to an end because what belongs to God and what belongs to the devil is clearly separated. This is the judgement.