“God put the sun, moon, and stars in the heavens as signs for all of creation to understand His will.”
The recent solar eclipse in America and the four lunar eclipses of 2014-2015 led many to seek for the Biblical importance of these remarkable celestial events. One famous television pastor wrote a best-selling book about the role of the lunar eclipses in God’s prophetic plans. Some Bible prophecy teachers argue that the sun, moon and stars are given by God to warn of major events in the history of the world.
This claim is based on Genesis 1:14, “And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:” Since God put the celestial bodies in the sky as signs we should be paying attention when something unique happens in the heavens. God might be trying to tell us of an important event that is about to happen.
Genesis 1:14 does not say God uses the celestial bodies to warn of future events. Just like in English the Hebrew word for sign has multiple meanings. The correct definition is determined by the rest of the sentence or paragraph. Genesis 1:14 says God put the things in the sky for four reasons: for signs, for seasons, for days and for years. The last three purposes are related to telling the time. The sun, moon and stars mark out the changing of the four seasons. The rising and setting of the sun marks out the days. The revolutions of the sun and the stars in the sky mark out the passing of the years. They are signs related to the passing of time not to omens and portents.
In the Pentateuch, the five books written by Moses, a sign is a mark, token or memorial of something. The miracles accomplished by God when He brought Israel out of Egypt were signs. They were tokens of the great power of God that confirmed His promise to the Israelites that He would deliver them. The law of God was given to Israel as a sign reminding them they were the covenant people of God. The rest of the Old Testament uses signs predominantly as a reminder of something that happened or as confirmation a promised event is going to happen. When God promised to heal King Hezekiah He gave to Hezekiah a sign that confirmed what God had promised would happen.
In the Old Testament a sign is always connected to a specific promise or event. A sign is never a vague portent of impending doom. An eclipse does not promise anything specific, nor can a single eclipse be connected to a definite promise of God. The signs of the Old Testament were attached to specific events or promises. The sun, moon and stars do not forebode the future. They are tokens of God’s faithfulness, continual reminders that He is Creator and unfailing memorials to His glory.
The claims of the Bible provide an ample basis on which to test Scriptures’ reliability. Possibly the greatest avenue for verifying the veracity of Scripture is in prophecy. No other religious book in the world contains the amount of future telling contained in the Bible. The vast number of prophecies in the Bible provide abundant opportunity to determine if the Bible is trustworthy.
The standard for testing Biblical prophecy is set by the Bible itself. Deuteronomy 18:22 sets the bar as it can be set. If a prophet claims to be speaking the Word of God his prophesies must be completely accurate. If the prophecy fails just once then the prophet and his message is not of God. Since the Bible claims to be of God it must be right all the time. Have the prophecies of the Bible failed even one time?
The Bible contains many fulfilled prophecies. These prophecies are often very specific in their nature. For example, the prophecies of Jesus birth tell of his family (He would be a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah and David). They tell of his birth place (Micah 5:2) They tell of the tragic events surrounding Jesus’ birth (Jeremiah 31:15) The Bible tells when Jesus would be born. The Bible foretells Jesus’ birth and the events surrounding His death. It prophesies the kind of death He would suffer, the abuse He would take, His betrayal, His burial and His resurrection.
The Bible contains specific prophecies about the rise of kings and kingdoms. The Bible prophesies the defeat of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. The Bible prophesies how long the people of Judah would be captive in Babylon. It tells of the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the year when the rebuilding would take place. The Bible foretells the rise of the Persian empire, the reign of Cyrus and his role in rebuilding Jerusalem. Through the prophet Daniel God revealed that Medo-Persia would overthrow the Babylonian empire and then would itself be overthrown by the Greek Empire. Scripture tells of the destruction of Edom, Tyre, Sidon and Nineveh. All happened just as Scriptures foretold.
The complete list of Biblical prophecies fulfilled cannot be given in a brief article. Over 300 specific prophecies of Jesus were fulfilled in his first coming. Dozens of specific prophecies about Israel and the other ancient nations have all been fulfilled. Many of the prophecies are very specific. The huge number of Biblical prophecy fulfilled is more than coincidence. The Bible is exactly what it claims to be, the Word of God.
The last book of the Bible is filled with numbers. Numeric references begin in the very first chapter with the seven spirits of God and increase from there. The next two chapters are addressed seven churches in Asia Minor. The judgments described come in groups of seven: seven seals, seven trumpets, seven thunders and seven bowls. The judgments afflict people and creation in thirds and quarters. The beast of Revelation has ten horns. The book of Revelation includes measures of months- 42- and days- 1,260 and 3 1/2. One hundred forty-four thousand Jewish men are set aside for God and two witnesses preach in Jerusalem. The list could continue, but no consideration of the numbers in Revelation would be complete without the mark of the beast- 666. Why does Revelation have so many numbers, some of which are frequently repeated? What is the significance of all these numbers.
The book of Revelation abounds with images that are difficult for its readers to fully understand. Certain sections are clearly symbolic representations that use fantastic imagery to depict historic and future events. Other sections are not as certainly symbolic. This author believes the majority of Revelation to be a literal depiction of future events. The amount of symbolism in Revelation makes the question of the importance of the numbers a difficult one to answer.
Most of the numbers have no discernible importance outside of identifying quantities or periods of time. The number of Jewish men set apart for God cannot be said to have any particular significance. The repetition of thirds in describing destruction is intriguing, but the Bible gives no hint that the fraction should be understood as anything other than a specific measurement. The reader of Revelation must take care to not assign any importance to a number without Scriptural direction. While there may be some significance to some of the numbers, the Bible does not tell what the significance may be. Without a Biblical statement it is impossible to determine any symbolic meaning of a number.
Revelation contains two notable numbers that are given some symbolical meaning. The number seven is used over 30 times in the book of Revelation. As used in the Bible, and in Jewish thought, the number seven seems to indicate, at times, completion, fulfillment or perfection. Consequently, the description of the “seven spirits of God” in Revelation 1 appears to be a description of the perfect Holy Spirit. Seven may also have significance in its usage in other places in Revelation, but determining the places where seven has a more symbolic import is difficult. No certain doctrines of future events can be developed based upon a speculative application of a symbolic seven. Any other symbolism attached to the number seven does eliminate literal meaning. The book of Revelation was first written to seven real churches. Whatever symbolic meaning may be found in the groups of seven judgments, the judgments are real and seven in number.
The number 666 has gained a lot of attention over the years as the mark of the beast. Described in Revelation 13:16-18 the mark of the beast is a mark placed on the hand or head which is required to sell or purchase any goods. This mark is described as “the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man.” The mark of the beast is a particular number which is uniquely indicative of man. Some have speculated that six is the number of man because man was created on the sixth day of creation. Whether this is true or not, Revelation 13 directly connects six hundred sixty six with the Antichrist. The number 666 seems to uniquely identify the Antichrist and those who worship him.
Most of the numbers of Revelation should be viewed as nothing more than counters of time or amount. Some may have some symbolic significance, but that symbolic meaning is left unclear in the Bible. What matters is the clear message of Revelation: Jesus is returning. He will return in conquest executing judgment on all who have not believed Him.
According to a handful of teachers about Bible prophecy the series of lunar eclipses that started last year is a sign from God that something significant is about to happen in the world, probably in relation to Israel. This predication is based on the idea that when the Bible says the moon will be turned to blood it is referring to a full lunar eclipse, also called a blood moon. A quick online search of the Bible reveals the phrase blood moon is not found anywhere in the Bible. The phrase is a modern one that possibly originated in the 1800’s. Though the blood moon is not found in the Bible, the question still remains, does the “moon be turned to blood” refer to a full lunar eclipse or a special series of eclipses?
The moon being turned to blood is most likely not intended to teach that the moon will change its substance to become actual blood. Instead, the phrase seems to be describing an event which causes the moon to take on a deep red color like that of blood. Though the phrase blood moon is descriptive of the appearance of the moon during the lunar eclipse, the assertion that it is descriptive of a lunar eclipse tetrad is uncertain at best. The coloration of the moon during a full eclipse is not that different from the deep orange of a moonrise occuring just after sunset. Why are harvest moons not on the prophetic booksellers table? Despite the efforts of modern authors, no evidence exists to suggest that the writers of the Bible or the original readers would have understood “moon turned to blood” in terms of an eclipse. We cannot today make a passage mean something it never meant.
The Bible teaches that something will happen which will cause the moon to take on a deep crimson hue. To understand if this most recent series of blood moons is a fulfillment of the Biblical prophecies, one must look to the Bible. The reference in Joel 2 declares the moon being turned to blood will be associated with the sun be darkened and wonders of fire and smoke in the skies. Revelation 6 expands on these events teaching that at this time the stars will begin to fall from the sky. Most importantly for our understanding, and most destructive to the theories devised by blood moon speculators, is the timing of the moon being turned to blood. Revelation 6 describes these horrible cosmic events as taking place during a time called The Tribulation. The Tribulation is a seven year period of intense suffering unlike anything ever seen before. The catastrophes of that time will not be natural but supernatural. The violence and destruction of those seven years will be unmistakably different from the earthquakes, hurricanes and tragedies happening today. The moon will not be turned to blood before the tragedies begin but in the middle of a series of horrific events. Since the world is not engaged in another world war, and since the world is not stricken with near universal famine, and since a quarter of the earth’s population has not been struck down in painful death, and since the sun has not been blotted out of the sky, and since the world has not been shaken with an earthquake that moves the mountains and islands out of their place, and since the stars are not falling out of the sky, then I can say with Biblical certainty these lunar eclipses are not fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. (Revelation 6:1-17) The moon being turned to blood is a horrible happening preceding the day of Jesus. It is not a sign given for speculation, but one part of the wrath of God being poured out on mankind. God has already communicated in His Word all that mankind needs to know about the return of Jesus. He is not using eclipses to reveal special information about the end of the world.
Will everything change as one author foretells? I have no doubt that significant events will continue to happen in the years ahead. Those looking for proof of their conjectures will find ample evidence in the normal wars, catastrophes and political upheavals of the world. Those looking for Biblical truth will find the lunar eclipse is a sign that the celestial bodies are still spinning as God has ordained. When the moon is turned to blood mankind will know already know something is happening and God’s wrath is being poured out on humanity.