On Friday, Pr. Todd Wilken interviewed James Patrick Holding of Tekton Education and Apologetics Ministries concerning his review in the Christian Research Journal of televangelist John Hagee’s book Four Blood Moons. Holding’s review article is titled “Hagee’s Magic Apologetics.” Holding’s book is titled Blood Moon Lunacy and was written to evaluate Hagee’s claims and history of false predictions. The interview was generally very helpful in evaluating Hagee’s faulty dispensationalist theology, his newspaper exegesis, and his cherry picking of data.
But there was one point in the interview where Holding’s remarks seemed to catch Pr. Wilken off guard. I know that even with the small amount of experience that I have with radio interviews that things can be said that just can’t be dealt with because of the limits of time in radio programming. I do not fault Pr. Wilken for not addressing this particular point in the interview. I rather appreciate that he was able to cover so much in the short time he had.
But the issue should be addressed. It regards Holding’s comments about the interpretation of Joel 2:31 and the blood moon mentioned in that text. The statement by Holding that caught Pr. Wilken off guard was the following:
Holding stated: “Now, it’s open to question whether or not Joel is referring to literal eclipses in that particular passage. In that period in which Joel wrote, the biblical peoples considered the sun and the moon to be symbols of political entities. And we do the same thing, of course: we have the fifty stars on the American flag–each star representing a state. And so Joel’s message is very much more likely something saying governments are going to fall. That’s what he means by the sun and the moon being eclipsed. Rather than that he’s referring to some literal eclipse.”
We should clarify first that when the Bible uses the phrase “blood moon” it does not necessarily refer to an eclipse. The phrase is found only in Joel 2:31; Acts 2:20, and Revelation 6:12.
There are several other passages that speak of a “darkening” of the moon or the moon “not giving off light.” (Isaiah 13:10; Ezekiel 32:7; Joel 2:10; 3:15; Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:24, and Revelation 8:12)
But what we should note very clearly is that the Bible itself gives a clear teaching about the meaning of the prophecy of the blood moon made in Joel 2:28-32. Joel wrote:
28 “And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions. 29 And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. 30 “And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: Blood and fire and pillars of smoke. 31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. 32 And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the Lord Shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, As the Lord has said, Among the remnant whom the Lord calls.
Here is how Scripture teaches us that this prophecy has already been fulfilled. Peter, preaching on Pentecost said:
14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words.15 For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day.16 But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
And here Peter quotes Joel 2:28-32 up to the word “saved.” What was the sound of the rushing mighty wind? Why could these Twelve Galilean men speak all these different languages fluently? “This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel”!
The context makes clear that there were Jews from all nations present in Jerusalem for Pentecost, just as they were required to be present 50 days prior on Passover. Peter calls on these people to remember what took place when they were here in Jerusalem 50 days before.
22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— (Acts 2)
What was it that they were witnesses to? Peter appeals what they had witnessed of Jesus in the last three years of festivals when they had come to Jerusalem. But he exhorts them to focus on what took place 50 days ago by saying:
23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; 24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit to which they were now witnesses was tied together by Joel with the the darkening of the sun and of the moon. There would be wonders in the heavens. And there would be wonders in the earth.
What they all saw 50 days prior when the Passover Lamb was to be prepared this took place:
45 Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land.46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27)
Just to be clear. This could not have been a solar eclipse. Passover is on the full moon. At that time the moon is on the opposite side of the earth from the sun. The sun was darkened by God through some other method. And as the greater light to rule the day was darkened, the lesser light which ruled the night by reflecting the sun’s light would also be darkened.
It is possible the moon was in eclipse during this particular passover. But not necessary that it be a lunar eclipse. It was darkened. The point being that people on the daylight side of the earth and people on the night time side would see the visible sign God established through His prophet Joel. These were the visible signs in the heavens.
But there were also signs in the earth. At the end of that darkness another event took place:
50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.
51 Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, 52 and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.
54 So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, “Truly this was the Son of God!”(Matthew 27)
There was also the earth quake the morning of the first day of the week after the crucifixion. Peter directs his hearers to remember all these signs that they saw and heard. Each of these signs was in fulfillment of what God promised through His prophet Joel. All of these done to point the people back to the written Word of God about His Messiah. All focusing on the Work of Christ for our salvation and His resurrection.
During this next year and a half when we have three more lunar eclipses we can expect that there will be more false prophecy about what Joel wrote.
We want to remember first that the Apostle Peter states the prophecy in Joel chapter 2 is fulfilled by the events of the crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and Pentecost.
Second, we also would do to remember that when Joel says “the moon shall be turned to blood” this does not necessarily refer to what we call a lunar eclipse. Rather, it means a darkening of the moon, caused by God, as a visible sign to people on earth that He has done what He promised to do.
Those signs promised in Joel were given at the Passover festival where Jesus was crucified and risen. And they were given 50 days later at the festival of Pentecost. Both days when the people of God were required to be in Jerusalem for the festivals. And both events witnessed by them.