Joel 3:14 says, “Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.” Many evangelists have drawn from this passage to challenge audiences to “make a decision” for Christ. Others view this valley of decision as a time of judgment when the Lord decides the fate of the nations. Which is it? An invitation or a prophecy of doom?
The context of Joel 3 clarifies that this is a time when God judges the earth. Verse 2 says, “I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. And I will enter into judgment with them there, on behalf of my people and my heritage Israel.” The Valley of Jehoshaphat is the same as the “valley of decision.” Jehoshaphat means “Yahweh judges”; the “decision” being made in the valley is God’s, not the multitudes’. The literal, geographical location of this valley is likely the Kidron Valley on the east side of Jerusalem.
The focus of Joel 3 is on the future Day of the Lord. This time will include a gathering of the nations (verse 2), a judgment on wickedness (verse 13), and astronomical signs (verse 15). Joel’s prophecy of the valley of decision finds its counterpart in Jesus’ Olivet Discourse and the judgment of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-46).
Immediately following the prophecy of judgment, Joel transitions to a description of the Lord’s millennial reign, a literal 1,000-year time period that follows the tribulation. During the millennium Christ rules as king from Jerusalem. Some interpreters argue the millennium is figurative, yet many passages, including Joel 3:18-21, describe this time in great detail. Further, Revelation 20:1-7 refers to “1,000 years” six times. It seems that God desires us to know that the millennial kingdom is a literal time period.
Ultimately, the “valley of decision” in Joel 3:14 is not about humans choosing whether or not to follow Christ; it is God handing down His decision of judgment at the end of the tribulation. Wickedness will be dealt with decisively, swiftly and justly. Praise the Lord for His promise to make all things right one day and to be “a refuge for his people” (Joel 3:16).