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Prophecy prognosticators are gearing up for a new round of end-time speculation based on the belief that a tetrad of blood moons in 2014 and 2015 are a prelude or postlude to some prophetic event. See my previous article for an introduction to the topic.
Prophecy writers touting the blood moon phenomenon are basing their argument on the belief that since sun, moon, and stars are for “signs” (Gen. 1:14) that a special stellar phenomenon like a red-looking moon might have prophetic significance.
It’s true that God does use the sun, moon, and stars as special indicators. God told Abraham that his descendants would be equal to the stars in the heavens (Gen. 15:5; 26:4) and the “sand which is on the seashore” (22:17). We’re told that this was fulfilled: “'The Lord your God has multiplied you, and behold, you are this day like the stars of heaven in number” (Deut. 1:10).
Also in Genesis we are told that Israel is represented by the sun (Jacob), moon (mothers of the children), and stars (11 sons) (Gen 37:9¬-11). The sun, moon, and stars represent Israel, Jacob’s given name. A similar example is found in the book of Revelation:
“A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; and she was with child; and she *cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth” (12:1-2).
In the Genesis and Revelation examples, sun, moon, and stars represent Israel. Stellar phenomena represent nations in general. For example, Babylon’s destruction is represented by something that happens to the sun, moon, and stars:
Behold, the day of the Lord is coming, Cruel, with fury and burning anger,
To make the land a desolation;
And He will exterminate its sinners from it.
For the stars of heaven and their constellations
Will not flash forth their light;
The sun will be dark when it rises
And the moon will not shed its light. (Isa 13:9-11; also see 24:23; 50:3; Ezek 32:7).
In none of these examples does anything happen to the sun, moon, and stars. They represent something.
When the sun, moon, and stars are stationary and giving off their light, God is pleased with the nations. When the sun and moon go dark and the stars fall, this is a sign of God’s displeasure.
We see a similar motif in the New Testament. God’s describes Israel’s coming calamity in AD 70 when the Roman army razed the temple (Matt. 24:2) and destroyed the city using examples of national judgment borrowed from the Old Testament:
“But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL [Isa. 13:10; Amos 5:20; 8:9; Zeph. 1:15] from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Matt. 24:29; also see Heb. 112:25-29).
Again, nothing physical takes place on the sun, moon, and stars. All the action and change takes place on earth to the nation of Israel.
With this brief background, we can make some sense of the blood moon language quoted by Peter at Pentecost. Note that the words in ALL CAPS are direct quotations from the Old Testament:
“‘AND IT SHALL BE IN THE LAST DAYS,’ God says, ‘THAT I WILL POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT ON ALL MANKIND; AND YOUR SONS AND YOUR DAUGHTERS SHALL PROPHESY, AND YOUR YOUNG MEN SHALL SEE VISIONS, AND YOUR OLD MEN SHALL DREAM DREAMS; EVEN ON MY BONDSLAVES, BOTH MEN AND WOMEN, I WILL IN THOSE DAYS POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT And they shall prophesy. ‘AND I WILL GRANT WONDERS IN THE HEAVENS ABOVE AND SIGNS ON THE EARTH BELOW, BLOOD, AND FIRE, AND VAPOR OF SMOKE. THE SUN WILL BE TURNED INTO DARKNESS AND THE MOON INTO BLOOD, BEFORE THE GREAT AND GLORIOUS DAY OF THE Lord SHALL COME. AND IT SHALL BE THAT EVERYONE WHO CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE Lord WILL BE SAVED’” (Acts 2:17-21).
Peter makes it clear that these events were taking place in his day: “This is what was spoken through the prophet Joel” (2:16; Joel 2:28-32). The “last days” were the last days of the Old Covenant that was passing away (Heb. 1:1-2; 1 Cor. 10:11; Heb. 9:26).
Notice that Joel does not prophecy that the moon will be “like” or “as blood” (see Rev. 6:12) but that it will actually be blood. Even John Hagee notes that “the moon does not actually turn to blood, but it does appear blood-red.” (Four Blood Moons (Franklin, TN: Worthy Publishing, 2013), 19.)) Neither Joel nor Peter says that the moon will “appear blood-red.” So what does it mean?
From what we’ve seen of how the Bible uses sun, moon, and stars for nations – either good or bad – nothing actually happens to the sun, moon, and stars. Anything that happens, happens on earth and the sun, moon, and stars are used as object lessons.
We use similar language. The film A Star is Born had nothing to do with an actual star. When we say, “Obama’s star has fallen,” again, an actual star is not in the picture. Consider how many national flags use the sun, moon, and stars. The United States flag uses 50 stars. The Muslim nations use a moon. Japan has a sun. Will anything prophetic take place in 2014 and 2015? I don’t have any idea. One thing I do know, the prophecy speculators will claim prophetic significance because it will help them sell more books and raise revenue for their various enterprises.