This September, there are a couple of topics that are probably going to take up a lot of space on your social media newsfeed. Blood moons and harbingers of judgment. You may find yourself wondering what to make of all the prophesies and predictions that will be twittering about on your social media streams. An understanding of hermeneutics, the basic principles of Bible interpretation, will serve you well though this month, as well as the rest of your life.
The Blood Moons
This is a subject you may have seen on your newsfeed. According to End-times preacher John Hagee, the author of “Four Blood Moons: Something is About to Change,” Acts 2:19-20 contains a warning that a set of four lunar eclipses, or “Blood Moons”, occurring on or near festivals in the Jewish liturgical calendar shows that the end is nigh upon us.
“And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day” (Acts 2:19-20).
While reading posts on your newsfeed by the end-times social media mavens, ask yourself, what do other verses and books of the Bible say about this passage? Read all of Acts chapter two and pay attention to what Peter says in verse 2:16 “…this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel.” Also compare the passage to Luke 23: 44-45, “It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining.”
Peter quotes the prophet Joel in reference to alarming signs recently seen in the skies of Jerusalem at the time Christ was hung on the cross. Darkness fell over the city, and people where frightened. He proclaimed that the signs they saw in the sky and the disciples miraculously preaching in foreign languages (tongues) was a sign that the prophesies of the Messiah were being fulfilled. Jesus Christ had come to bring salvation!
A plain reading of the text shows that if you are looking for the meaning of the bloody red moon or the darkening of the sun, look no further. Joel’s prophecy about the blood moon has been fulfilled, according to Peter. The regularly occurring lunar eclipses described as signs by John Hagee are not what the prophet or the apostle were talking about. They were talking about something very unique that happened on the day Christ was crucified. Apologist Chris Rosebrough has done a couple of good podcasts about the book here and here.
The Nine Harbingers
As September 13th draws closer, the subject of harbingers of judgment will no doubt appear in your social media stream. Writer Jonathan Cahn, author of the fictional book “The Harbinger: The Ancient Mystery that Holds the Secret of America’s Future” implies that Isaiah 9:8-11 reveals a set of nine harbingers that have been set into motion that are leading America toward God’s judgment on the country. September 13, 2015 is an especially important date because, at that time, the Jewish Sabbatical year begins.
“The Lord sent a word into Jacob, and it hath lighted upon Israel. And all the people shall know, even Ephraim and the inhabitant of Samaria, that say in the pride and stoutness of heart, The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones: the sycamores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars. Therefore the Lord shall set up the adversaries of Rezin against him, and join his enemies together” (Isaiah 9:8-11).
To Cahn, the fallen bricks and sycamore trees represent the ruins of the Twin Towers in New York City on 9/11. The stones and cedar trees symbolize the defiant vow of Senate majority leader Tom Daschle (and by extension America) to rebuild in spite of God’s judgment through the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City.
When interpreting the Bible, keep in mind the Apostle Peter’s admonition, “First of all, you should know this: No prophecy of Scripture comes from one’s own interpretation” (2 Peter 1:20). In short, if only one teacher “discovered” it, that’s a major red flag!
Paul also warned Titus, “pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the merely human commands of those who reject the truth” (Titus 1:14).
Listen to another good podcast that talks about the fallacy of seeking hidden mysteries in this passage, here.
To be sound in your interpretation of the scriptures, be careful to avoid reading into the text what is not there, reading the word “trees” and interpreting them as sky scrapers, for example. Guard against thinking with anachronisms, like the idea that America has a covenant with God similar to the one He initiated with Israel. America does not have a covenant relationship with God, Christians do.
If everything mentioned in the Bible can also be considered a symbol or code that only a select few “prophets” can understand, then the Bible could be used to say anything.
As Paul told Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
So is this the end? Will September 13th bring a great shaking? Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, we should all remain faithful to the Lord. The Bible does teach that Americans–and everyone else who sins–are already under God’s judgment. (Romans 3:9-20)
But as for the end of days, Jesus said, “Now concerning that day and hour no one knows–neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son–except the Father only” (Matthew 24:36).
Basic Hermeneutic Principles:
- Know the literary genre of the passage you are reading.
- Understand what the passage meant to the original readers.
- Look for the context of the passage.
- Let scripture interpret scripture. Check to see what other verses and books of the Bible say about the same thing.
- The plain meaning of the text is usually the proper interpretation.
- Do not rely on allegories, codes or otherwise hidden devices to interpret the Bible.
- Be careful to avoid reading into the text what is not there (Eisegesis Greek: ἐξήγησις).
- Guard against thinking with anachronisms when interpreting the Bible.
- Become familiar with the Bible’s use of literary devices. Read, “How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth” by Gordon Fee