Once again the Church world is being rocked by so-called prophetic signs of the end-times, this time in the form of the so-called “Four Blood Moons.” In a book by that title (Four Blood Moons: Something is About to Change) the author, Pastor John Hagee lays out what he calls “celestial signals” signifying something earth-changing is about to happen. These signals are in the form of a series of blood moons which will occur in 2014 and 2015 and will have great significance for Israel. Although single blood moons happen fairly regularly, there have only been a handful of times over the last five hundred years that four have occurred at the same time.
According to Hagee, “a blood moon is when the Earth comes between the sun and the moon so that the sun is shining through the atmosphere of the Earth and casts up on the moon a red shadow. And so the moon appears to be red.” These blood moons (according to the Pastor) signify that “in these next two years, we’re going to see something dramatic happen in the Middle East involving Israel that will change the course of history in the Middle East and impact the whole world.” He refers to these as a series of lunar eclipses which give the impression the moon is blood red. In his book, he documents several times when four blood moons occurred within a certain period in which significant events happened to the Jewish people. “In each of these blood moons, you have something that begins in tragedy and ends in triumph,” Hagee explained. For example, there was a blood moon in 1948 during which Israel became a nation. In 1967, another occurrence, Israel won the Six-Day War and recaptured Jerusalem.
Let me say from the outset that I deeply respect all of those who love his appearing, even those who arrive at different conclusions than I do in this article. We are told in Scripture that we should actively look for his Coming, regardless of our views on prophecy. So those who study and teach on prophecy do us a great service by reminding us that we all long for the Son of Man to appear, regardless of how we interpret Scripture.
Nevertheless, I take great exception to the way Pastor Hagee handles several texts of Scripture. According to Hagee, these blood moons were prophesied about in book of the prophet Joel: “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come” (Joel 2:31).
But was the prophet Joel (quoted in Acts 2) referring to actual stellar phenomena when he predicted that “the sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood?” (Incidentally, Hagee doesn’t even address how the phenomena of the sun being turned into darkness will be fulfilled). First of all, it is true the Bible refers often to the so-called “sun, moon, and stars” signs. For example, In Revelation 6:12-13 there is a reference to what appears to be a stellar eruption. And in Matthew 24:29, we are told that the “sun shall be darkened and the moon shall not give her light. And the stars shall fall from heaven. And the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.” And just as he ignores the sun being turned to darkness, he also makes no mention of how it will come to pass that the stars shall fall from heaven.
Those who interpret these things as literal stellar phenomena fail to understand that the Old Testament Prophets (as well as John in Revelation) often used apocalyptic language when conveying their message. Apocalyptic language is highly symbolic language which uses imagery to convey meaning rather than communicate through precise language. We actually have such elements in our own language such as poetry, simile, and allegory. And one of the ways the Hebrew Prophets used apocalyptic language was to describe the toppling of human governments. For example, when describing the fall of Babylon, the prophet Isaiah says,
“Behold, the day of the LORD comes,
cruel, with wrath and fierce anger,
to make the land a desolation and to destroy
its sinners from it.
For the stars of the heavens and their constellations
will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising,
and the moon will not shed its light”
Notice that when God describes the fall of the nation of Babylon he basically tells them that He is going to put their lights out! In the New Testament, the apostle John used similar language when describing the coming of Jesus:
When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (Revelation 6:12-17).
Why did the Prophets use the falling of the stellar universe to depict the toppling of governments? The answer is found in the first chapter of the book of Genesis. After announcing his intention to provide two great lights in the heavens, Moses records the reason for these two lights:
And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness” Genesis 1:12-14
He (Moses) uses the Hebrew word memsalah translated by the word ‘rule’ in regards to the purpose for which God created these two great lights. This Hebrew word means to have dominion or to have power to govern. It is the standard Hebrew word in the Old Testament used for human governments and their dominion. So when the Old Testament Prophets speak of the toppling of kingdoms such as Babylon they did so by likening it to the toppling of the heavenly bodies. There is a reason the Prophets use the heavenly bodies in their language to describe the fall of human government—they got it from Moses! From the beginning, God associated the heavenly bodies with government and rulership. So it is not surprising that when God describes the toppling of governments he uses the language of the heavenly bodies being toppled.
John does the same thing in his Revelation. It too is written in apocalyptic style, drawing heavily from the Old Testament. In fact, every statement in Revelation is either a quote or an echo from the Old Testament. One of the reasons therefore we do not understand the book of Revelation is we do not know our Old Testament well! Simply understanding this about the book of Revelation will open new vistas of understanding.
How then should we read Joel 2:31, especially as Peter quotes it in his Pentecost sermon in the light of what we have learned: “And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes” (Joel 2:30-31).
Was this a prophecy of future blood moons signaling earth changing events in modern Israel? Or should we interpret it as apocalyptic language as is clearly the case with other similar passages? I think this passage is also describing the toppling of human government and the establishing of the kingdom of God. But that brings up an important question: Why did Peter quote it then in his Pentecostal sermon? (Acts 2:19-20). If this is apocalyptic language describing the toppling of human government, what was Peter referring to? I believe it clearly refers to the soon coming fall of the nation of Israel as predicted by Joel in Joel 2:20.
Prophecy teachers like Hagee mistakenly assume that any statement like that in Joel 2:20 (‘before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day’) is a reference to the Second Coming (or Rapture). But throughout the Old Testament a day of judgment upon a nation were often referred to as the “Day of the Lord” (Joel 2:1-2, Zeph. 1:7). That is how Joel is using it in his prophecy. It is announcing the judgment of God on the nation as Wade Burleson also agrees:
“When the prophet Joel wrote “The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD” (Joel 2:31), he was describing the judgment of God upon the nation of Israel for their rejection of His Son. National judgment on any people in rebellion to God is often described as “the dreadful day of the Lord.” Joel’s prophecy, referred to by Luke in Acts 2:20, was a prediction of the “great day of the Lord” against Israel, the day when God judged the nation by destroying Jerusalem, the Jewish Temple and scattered the people (AD 70). God brought to an end the Old Covenant, formally ushered in the New Covenant (agreement) where people of every nation, race, family and language group find peace with God through faith in the person and work of His Son.”
Wade Burleson, It’s Called Lunacy for a Reason
So using Joel 2:30-31 as a prophecy of Four Blood Moons is at best a stretch and at worse a distortion of Scripture. It is interpretation which leads to speculation and conjecture. Peter is quoting the Joel prophecy as being immediately fulfilled (even though it would be another 40 years till actual fulfillment). Pentecost was the beginning of the fulfillment of this prophecy, but in forty years the nation of Israel and its rule would be toppled when Titus and the Roman armies destroyed the temple and killed one million Jews. Jesus had spoken specifically about this in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. The events of AD 70 are also part of salvation-history confirming that the New Covenant was now fully in place with the enthronement of Jesus and the spread of the Gospel throughout the entire Roman world. There was no longer any need for the temple since Jesus’ sacrifice paid the penalty of sin for all time.