Making Biblical Sense of the Blood Moons

On April 15, 2014 there was a lunar eclipse. As it happens, this was not simply an ordinary stand-alone eclipse but rather the first in a series of four lunar eclipse events called a Tetrad. The four lunar eclipse events of 2014 and 2015 are being called “blood moons.” What is a blood moon? And how did this term come into popular use among modern day Christians? The answers are related to a common misunderstanding about a biblical prophecy given by the Old Testament prophet Joel, and further elaborated on by Jesus, Peter, and John in the New Testament. Here is the relevant section of Joel’s prophecy:

And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. (Joel 2:28-32)

We will get to the teachings of Jesus and the New Testament writers on this passage shortly. But first let us examine the 2014-2015 Tetrad of lunar eclipses in light of this passage. Right up front we must understand that the term “blood moon” is not found in Scripture. It has been coined from the passage in Joel 2. It has only come into popular use by Christians and prophecy students recently. In 2008 a prophecy teacher published an article on his web site (which has since been removed) predicting the beginning of the tribulation in 2008 and the return of Jesus in 2015. He based his teaching around the idea that these events were foreshadowed by the four lunar eclipses in 2014 and 2015.

Then in 2013 John Hagee published a book titled, Four Blood Moons. The book gave special significance to the timing of the four lunar eclipses, noting that they occur on the Jewish feasts of Passover and Sukkot (Tabernacles.) It was shown that two previous Tetrads (among many others over the centuries) occurred in 1948 and 1967- periods of great importance to Israel. Hagee correctly states that the book of Genesis tells us that God has put the heavenly bodies in the sky “for signs and for seasons.” And on this point I am in agreement. We should definitely take note, watching and praying, whenever anything unusual or of significance takes place in the heavens. Many people credit Hagee for popularizing the term “blood moon.” In fact, many Christians often associate the reddish color of the moon during a total lunar eclipse with the “moon turning to blood” as prophesied by Joel.

However, it must be stated emphatically that the four lunar eclipses of 2014-2015 have nothing to do with the prophecy in Joel! When Christians and prophecy teachers connect every event and every sign with unfulfilled bible prophecy, it brings the entire subject into disrepute with unbelievers and causes much confusion in the Body of Christ. Important end-time and Day of the Lord prophecies such as those in Joel 2 must be studied carefully and compared with similar passages in order to rightly understand and apply them. Joel’s prediction about the moon turning to blood is a specific event that occurs once and once only, and it is connected with several other specific celestial events as well as specific traumatic events on earth.

Aside from that fact that the four “blood moons” Hagee writes about are not being accompanied by the rest of the celestial events listed in the prophecy, there are other reasons to be skeptical about the book and its conclusions. For example, the Jews use a lunar, not a solar, calendar to mark the annual feasts. So of course, there are going to be Jewish feasts on some lunar eclipses. In fact, one sixth of all lunar eclipses will occur on Passover or Sukkot, so the timing is not necessarily some special Divine sign. Also, three of the four “blood moon” eclipses will not even be visible in Israel. And Israel has had many traumatic events in her long history that are not associated with any lunar eclipses. Still, it is best to keep an open heart and mind as we watch and pray as our Lord commanded. And we should note that there are many things happening in the world right now that should cause us to take notice, things that are more biblically significant and of greater importance than lunar eclipses.

Let us now examine Joel’s prophecy again and compare it with Jesus’ teaching on these same celestial signs, followed by John’s finale in the book of Revelation. It is only by comparing Scripture with Scripture that we gain a more thorough understanding of the timing and significance of these celestial signs.

Notice that Joel gives us the earliest possible timing of certain events:

I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.

So the great and terrible day of the Lord will not come until this cluster of signs takes place. Notice that at least five things on earth and in the sky happen together. The clear implication is that these signs will take place very near to the day of the Lord, but in any event they clearly precede that day. These are not ordinary events such as lunar or solar eclipses that have been occurring for centuries. If this were the case, then how would they be understood as significant signs? No, these are cataclysmic celestial events that will capture the attention of the world.

In His Olivet Discourse on the end times, Jesus adds more details about the timing and the results of this cluster of celestial events:

Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matt. 24: 29-31)

Here is a very important statement from the lips of Christ about the timing of the darkening of the sun and moon, as well as the other signs. The Body of Christ needs to give heed to this statement; doing so would end a lot of confusion about blood moons, the rapture, and other end time questions! Jesus tells us that the celestial signs prophesied by Joel will take place “immediately after the tribulation.” So Joel tells us they take place before the Day of the Lord, and Jesus says they occur immediately after the tribulation.

In order to fully understand this, we need to differentiate between the tribulation and the great and terrible Day of the Lord. These are two different time periods with different events, not two synonymous terms for the same thing. The tribulation is caused by the antichrist and is primarily aimed at Israel and the Church. The Day of the Lord is caused by God and is the Day of His wrath upon the enemies of Israel and the persecutors of the Church.

Jesus clearly tells us that immediately following the antichrist’s tribulation, a cluster of celestial signs will shake the heavens and the earth. The wicked will see the sign of the Son of Man appear in the heavens with great power and glory, and then the angels will gather His elect from the four winds accompanied by the blast of a trumpet.

John provides the greatest details about this same event in Revelation 6:

I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood. And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place. And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (Rev. 6:12-17)

John’s vision coincides in exact detail with Jesus’ words in Matthew 24. As is typical of biblical end time prophecies, the same event is described and predicted by multiple writers, each building on and adding detail to what has already been written. In order to understand prophecy, we don’t begin in Revelation. Rather, we start with the Old Testament prophets to learn the foundation and context, and then we move to the New Testament for further details. The book of Revelation gives us the final details that God wants us to know.

Joel is typical of many prophecies that have a two-part fulfillment. I believe it is incorrect to call this a ‘partial fulfillment’ because a prophetic event either takes place or it doesn’t. But many prophecies predict a series of events, some of which end up being separated by hundreds or thousands of years. (See my article Last Days Revival and Biblical Hope for more in this subject.) Joel’s prediction of the Spirit of God being poured out on all flesh was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost; the celestial signs will be seen as the Lord cuts short the antichrist’s tribulation on Israel and the Church and raptures the church in preparation for the great Day of His wrath.

For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ… (I Thes. 5:9)

In conclusion, it is important that we study the Scriptures, asking the Holy Spirit to give us light and understanding so that we may rightly divide the Word of Truth. Cutting and pasting eschatological concepts together while ignoring other details does not honor the Lord or edify the Church. The “blood moons” of 2014-2015 may or may not be heavenly signs related to current or coming events, and we would be wise to be diligent as we watch and pray in this season. But to link these eclipse events to the prophecies in Joel, Matthew, and Revelation is bad hermeneutics, and coining doomsday phrases that are not based on solid biblical principles is irresponsible when so many are confused and searching for the truth about the Lord’s return.

Let us fear, lest we be found watering down the mighty impact of these coming events with sloppy hermeneutics. Let us hold fast to what Scripture actually says as we diligently search these things out. The coming cluster of celestial signs is a major event on God’s prophetic timetable. These signs will be global and unmistakable, and will show that the Day of God’s holy wrath is come. Come, Lord Jesus!