The Darkened Sun, and Bloody Moon

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The prophet Joel claimed the sun will turn to darkness, and the moon will become like blood, before the arrival of the day of the Lord. Perhaps he observed an eclipse of the sun, that had turned day into night, and at another time, the moon had become blood-red during a lunar eclipse. He perceived a great significance in these signs, as both the sun and the moon were appointed for signs, seasons, days, and years in Genesis 1:14.

And God said, Let there be lights in the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years.

Solar and lunar eclipses are among the most dramatic of all astronomical phenomena. If they are signs, what do they represent? Joel 2:31 says:

The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come.

Peter quoted this prophecy on the day of Pentecost, when he addressed the Jews in Jerusalem, soon after Christ had been crucified, as reported in Acts 2:20. Both the sun becoming dark, and the moon turning to blood, would precede the "day of the Lord". In his second epistle, Peter says the day of the Lord will come as a thief.

2 Peter 3:10
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

Since the day of the Lord comes as a thief, it arrives in an unexpected fashion or time; that is how a thief in the night operates. A thief works when most people are sleeping. Although many people suppose the signs of the arrival of the day of the Lord will be easily recognised, several prophecies suggest most people will be caught unprepared, and will not be aware of it. Jesus said it would be like a snare.

Luke 21:34-35
And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.
For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.

The sun becoming black, as occurs during a solar eclipse, is clearly a prophetic symbol. Joel's prophecy is probably based on the sun being darkened during a rare total solar eclipse. When the moon passes over the disk of the sun, the sun is blacked out, and only a corona is visible. There is darkness, and stars appear, as if it were night. It is an awesome spectacle. The "dark sun" of prophecy seems to be related to this natural event, but since it is prophecy, its symbolism should be understood, and it must be interpreted. The real meaning may have nothing to do with the literal sun.

Image showing the sun darkened during a total solar eclipse from
The sun turns to darkness during a total solar eclipse

Solar eclipse of August 11, 1999
Credit & Copyright: Michael Kobusch

A lunar eclipse occurs when the earth's shadow passes over the moon. During this event, the moon's appearance typically becomes "as blood" because of the refraction of sunlight in the earth's atmosphere. Just as in the case of the sun becoming dark, the prophecy about the moon becoming "as blood" is symbolic, requiring interpretation, and may refer to something other than the real, literal moon.

Image of lunar eclipse from
The moon turns blood red during a typical lunar eclipse

Photo Credit & Copyright: Andy Steere

Solar and lunar eclipses are regular natural phenomena, which have symbolic meaning in prophecy. How should we interpret the prophecy of the sun becoming black, and the moon becoming as blood?

An explanation of the symbolism associated with the sun and moon and stars is provided in the story of Joseph's dream recorded in Genesis. Joseph, the son of Jacob, dreamed that the sun, moon, and eleven stars bowed themselves down to him. In the interpretation, the sun was Jacob, who was also called Israel, the moon was Rachel, the mother of Joseph, and the stars were the sons of Jacob.

Genesis 37:9-11
And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.
And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?
And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying.

Another prophetic symbol to be considered is blood. It is a symbol of murder in the early chapters of Genesis, as God referred to Abel's spilled blood crying out from the ground, after Cain had killed his brother.

Genesis 4:8-10
And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.
And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?
And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.

Here we have, based on the information in Genesis, the sun is Jacob, or Israel, and the promises of Abraham he inherited; the moon is Rachel; the stars are the sons of Jacob, and blood is a symbol for murder. This is the Old Testament background for the interpreting the symbolism of the sun, moon and stars, and from it we should be able to figure out the meaning behind the prophecy about the sun becoming dark, and the moon becoming as blood, that Peter referred to.

John's prophecy in Revelation 12:1 describes a great sign, a woman in heaven, clothed with the sun, with the moon at her feet. The woman is the city of God, the new Jerusalem, which John calls the bride of Christ. She represents the stars, the people of God. She is the Church, as shown by Revelation 12:17:

And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

The sun which clothes the woman is identified with Jacob in Genesis, but he also represents the promises of God, that were given to Abraham, and the birthright which Isaac blessed him with, and he had received the name Israel. So the sun which clothes the woman represents the promises of Abraham, and the truth of the gospel, which is the light she brings to the world.

The moon, which Genesis identifies with Rachel, also appears in John's prophecy, and is at the woman's feet. Rachel is identified with the Jewish people in Matthew 2:16-18.

Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men.
Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying,
In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.

This identification of Rachel with the Jews, together with the identification of Rachel with the moon in Genesis 37:10, leads to the following interpretation of the symbols in John's prophecy:

sun = gospel
woman = Church
moon = Jews

The sun being darkened can be interpreted as the Church's light being hidden from the world, and the truth of the gospel being hidden. This was true for many centuries when learning was restricted, and Bible was unavailable to most people. Just as the descendants of Abraham went to dwell in Egypt, where they were oppressed, the sun turning to darkness in Joel's prophecy pictures a time of darkness when the Church's light was dimmed, and the truth of the gospel was hidden.

The moon turning to blood is symbolic also, and probably pictures the common attitude many have towards the Jews, and to the Mosaic legislation, which scripture says contained a shadow of good things to come, referring to the types that prefigured the ministry and death of Christ, and his kingdom.

Copyright © 2005 by Douglas E. Cox
All Rights Reserved.