SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS – NOW!
by Andrew Strom.
How many Christians know that there have already been BLOOD-RED AND ‘SACK-CLOTH’ MOONS over Jerusalem in 1996 and 1997, precisely on the Passover Sabbath and other important Feast days? What does this mean? And how many know of the other heavenly signs that are occurring at the moment – obviously pointing to significant end-time events?
(THIS ARTICLE OWES MUCH TO THE INFORMATION GATHERED BY GREG KILLIAN OF ISRAEL, WHOSE WEBSITE IS LINKED AT THE END OF THIS ARTICLE).
Some Christians seem to view the concept of ‘signs in the heavens’ as being somehow akin to godless astrology or pagan superstition. However, the Bible makes it very clear that God Himself very often employs such celestial signs, to prepare and warn His people of imminent earth-shaking events. We are told in Genesis that God created the sun and the moon “for SIGNS and for seasons” (Gen 1:14). “And I shall show wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath…” (Acts 2:19). The Bible declares that this will be particularly true of the Last Days. Jesus Himself warned of this ‘End-time’ period: “And great earthquakes shall be in diverse places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and GREAT SIGNS shall there be from heaven… And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars” (Mt 21:11,25). The Bible even talks of the moon being “turned to blood” as a sign that we are nearing the very end of the age. (Joel 2:31, Rev 6:12).
Significantly, there have already been BLOOD-RED and SACK-CLOTH MOONS (caused by lunar eclipses) over Jerusalem in 1996 and 1997, falling precisely on major feast-days of the Jewish calendar. The first of them came on the evening of 3 April 1996, which was the beginning of the Feast of Passover. The second came on the evening of 26-27 September 1996, which was ‘Erev Hag HaSuccoth’ (the Eve of the Feast of Tabernacles). And there were also two such eclipses in 1997, falling precisely on the feast-day of ‘Purim’ (23 March 1997 – a 90% eclipse) and also in the middle of the ‘Days of Teshuva (Repentance)’ on 16 September 1997. There will not be any further total lunar eclipses over Jerusalem until 21 January 2000. The chances of such a string of eclipses occurring over Jerusalem precisely on these significant dates surely has to be far more than coincidence. It is also worth noting that if we take the Jewish month of Nisan as being the first month of the year, as the Jews were commanded in Exodus 12, then the first three of these eclipses all occurred within the space of just ONE BIBLICAL YEAR. (April 1996 to March 1997).
But what causes some eclipses to turn the moon blood-red? Well, the answer is as follows: A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon is full, and the earth passes between the moon and the sun, thus blocking the sun’s light and casting a shadow on the moon for a time. However, often during a total lunar eclipse, the moon is not completely dark, but is faintly illuminated with a red light refracted by the earth’s atmosphere which filters out the blue rays. Occasionally a lunar eclipse occurs when the earth is covered with a heavy layer of cloud, which prevents light refraction, making the surface of the moon completely dark (like sack-cloth). However, the first lunar eclipse this year certainly turned the moon blood-red. As one Jerusalem resident commented of the Passover eclipse: “Did you see that beautiful 3-D Red Moon? It was awesome; The most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen in the sky…”
The words of the prophet Joel regarding blood-red moons are somewhat more ominous however: “And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, AND THE MOON INTO BLOOD, before the great and terrible day of the LORD come” (Joel 2:30-31). These words are found in the same passage that speaks of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon “all flesh” in the Last Days. In other words, the prophesied great End-times Revival and harvest occur in the same immediate time-frame.
It is also interesting to note what the Jewish Talmud (book of tradition) has to say about blood-red moons: “When the moon is in eclipse, it is a bad omen for Israel… If it’s face is as red as blood, [it is a sign that] the sword is coming to the world…” Interestingly enough, on the very day of the ‘Erev Hag HaSuccoth’ Sack-cloth moon this year (26 September 1996), renewed violence broke out between the Palestinians and the Israelis (due to the opening of a tourist tunnel near the Dome on the Rock), after many months of comparitive peace. Who knows where all this renewed bloodshed might lead?
It seems very clear that the signs mentioned above are obviously designed by God to point us to the significance of the JEWISH FEAST-DAYS AND FESTIVALS at this time. And indeed, the significance of these Feasts for the Last Days is well worth looking into. The three most important Feasts that God instituted for the Jewish people were, of course, Passover, Pentecost and the Feast of Tabernacles. Significantly, Jesus the Messiah was killed exactly on the Passover some 2000 years ago, with the details of His death corresponding precisely to symbolic Passover rituals (the slaying of the sacrificial lamb, etc). And fifty days later, precisely on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was outpoured upon His disciples for the first time, thus beginning the Christian Church. Many Christians today believe that the last great move of God before the end – the last great ‘harvest’ – will somehow be tied directly to the coming of the third one – the Feast of Tabernacles (which is a festival celebrating the ‘first fruits’ of harvest). It was actually during the Feast of Tabernacles that Solomon dedicated the Temple, and while the musicians ‘lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the LORD’, suddenly the cloud of God’s glory filled the Temple (2 Chron 5:3-14… Might it not be the same in our day also?) These are some of the reasons why I feel it is so significant that these blood-red and sack-cloth moons are pointing to particular Jewish Feasts.
(I also want to make an additional point about the Passover here. During the Passover meal, it has been Jewish tradition from time immemorial, to set a place at the table for Elijah the prophet, symbolizing the fact that they expect Elijah to come, “preparing the way” for the Messiah. As Greg Killian wrote, “Pesach [Passover] is when we expect Elijah to begin turning hearts and preparing the way for the King”. As the Scriptures declare: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers…” (Mal 4:5-6). Many Christians today also believe that ‘Elijah’ is about to arise again during the Revival/harvest period that will precede the final JUDGEMENT and the return of Christ. The reason I mention all this is that it gives an ‘End-time’ aspect to the Passover which may be one reason why God is again pointing to this particular Feast at this time. Perhaps ‘Elijah’ really is about to emerge again, just as John the Baptist did almost two millenia ago).
Some people today scoff at the idea that we are nearing the end of the age, and the final Judgement of all the earth. When they are reminded of the unprecedented bloodshed, and the terrible droughts, earthquakes, famines and plagues that have scourged the planet in recent years, they say that such natural disasters have occurred right down through history. (Yes, but on such an epic scale?) Perhaps even now they will continue to scoff, even with blood-red and sack-cloth moons hanging ominously in the Jerusalem sky. But are we not witnesses today to the exact signs prophesied in Scripture, pointing to the ‘time of the end’?
These blood-red and sack-cloth moons are by no means the only spectacular “signs in the heavens” that have occurred in recent times, however. In July 1995, the comet Hale-Bopp was discovered by two amateur astronomers from America. What fascinated astronomers at the time was that while it was still far beyond the orbit of Jupiter, the comet could actually be seen with small telescopes. Leading astronomers admitted to being astonished at the discovery. “It is unheard of for a comet to be visible by small telescopes while so far away,” said Dr Brian Marsden of Harvard University, an expert on comets. This giant comet has now been estimated to be about as large as a mountain (between 25 and 100 miles across), making it probably the biggest comet ever discovered. The last time it visited the inner solar system was probably about 4000 years ago. And amazingly, the day that it made it’s closest pass to earth was 23 March 1997 – the very Feast Day (‘Purim’) when there was to be another blood-red (or sack-cloth) moon over Jerusalem. (More on the meaning of this particular Feast in a moment). In fact, the comet was visible on the very night that the eclipse itself occurred.
It is interesting to note that when it was first discovered, this comet was located right inside the drawn “bow” of the archer in Sagittarius. Those Christians who are familiar with the ‘Divine witness of the stars’ will be aware that Sagittarius is known to signify the Redeemer’s triumph. The figure is that of a mighty warrior with a bow and arrow, riding forth majestically. Most importantly, the barbed arrow in his bow is aimed at the heart of the Scorpion. In the Apocalypse, the apostle John sees the same mighty conqueror going forth: “And I saw, and behold a white horse; and he that sat on him had a bow, and a crown was given unto him, and he went forth conquering, and to conquer” (Rev 6:2). Of course, there is nothing new in God using such “signs in the heavens” to alert mankind to spiritually significant events. As everybody knows, it was just such a sign that enabled the wise men to locate the newborn Messiah, Jesus, almost exactly 2000 years ago.
According to the traditions of the Jewish Talmud, it is especially alarming to have a comet pass through the constellation of Orion (which is exactly what Hale-Bopp is doing): “There is a tradition that it never passes through the constellation of Orion, for if it did, the world would be destroyed…” However, the Jewish Feast of ‘Purim’, which is clearly being drawn to our attention in the most obvious way by the above signs, actually celebrates a very significant DELIVERANCE in the history of Israel. If you read the book of Esther, you will see that this was the day that the king’s right-hand man Haman had purposed for the exiled Jews to all be put to death. The holiday is called Purim after the selection process which Haman used to select the date of the Jews destruction: a lottery (or a “Pur”), using astronomical forecasting . This method was supposed to result in the date that the Jews were most vulnerable to attack. In fact, this was astronomically true – the Jews WERE most vulnerable on the 13th of Adar. One of the miracles of Purim was that Esther – godly Bride of the king – was given the ability to totally reverse the astronomical implications of the day so that the Jews would instead be victorious. Because of this miracle which came about through the lottery – the “Pur,” the holiday is called Purim. Interesting that God is so clearly pointing to this particular Feast-day at this time, isn’t it?
Another significant ‘sign in the heavens’ that is occurring at present very possibly equates with the ‘Woman crowned with twelve stars’ found in Revelation 12: “And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery… And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, that he might devour her child when she brought it forth; she brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to His throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which to be nourished for 1260 days” (Rev 12:1-5).
Over the four years 1996 to 1999, precisely at the time of the Feast of Trumpets in Israel (Tishrei 1), there will be a sign in the heavens that has never occurred before and will never occur again. The new moon will be ‘born’ in the constellation of Bethulah (the Virgin) on this date during each of these four years, and will then move directly to the feet of the Virgin within 24 hours. The Sun is just below the horizon, so that Bethulah is ‘clothed’ with the Sun. Positioned over the Virgin’s head is the constellation known as “Bernice’s Hair”,- this is the crown of twelve stars! And higher, above her legs, we find Draco, the Dragon, poised to devour her child when it is born.
Greg Killian believes that the three-year period of this sign may represent the “birth pangs” of the woman. In 1996 and also in 1999, this sign occurs on the Sabbath. His thought is that these birth pangs may have begun in 1996, with the actual birth taking place in 1999?
Please remember that this particular positioning of the constellation Bethulah (the Virgin) – about to give ‘birth’ to Lavanah (the moon), has never occurred before, and will never occur again, due to the procession of the equinoxes. The new moon is a very significant factor to all those who follow the Jewish Talmudic tradition, and is the basis of the whole Jewish calendar system. (It is believed to be symbolic of the Messiah).
There are a number of other interesting factors which also point to this grouping of years as being important ones in God’s End-time calendar. As is well-known by many Christians, 1996 saw the celebration of exactly 3000 years since the founding of Jerusalem as David’s capital for Israel. Many also believe that 1996 brought up exactly 2000 years since the birth of Christ (most likely on the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles), though some believe that the correct year was actually 1997. The idea that God has a specific timetable that He is working through, with certain ‘signs’ indicating important seasons of spiritual activity, should not be foreign to those who study the Bible. Many prophecies (notably those of Daniel and Revelation) have times, years and dates specified in great detail, and it is obvious that God is ordering events and spiritual seasons on the earth to coincide precisely with His long term plan. And this applies even more to the ‘Last Days’, which is the period that we have now very much entered into.
Just as an aside here, a number of Revival-oriented readers might also be interested to note the thrust of a prophecy reportedly given at the tail-end of the great “Healing Revival” of the 1950’s by the man who is universally regarded as the key leader of that move of God. (The Healing Revival essentially lasted from 1947 through 1955, and was the last true ‘Revival’ as such to hit the Western world. We have had Charismatic renewal and the “Jesus Movement” of the ’70’s since then, but nothing this powerful). This prophecy which was given in Chicago on the 16th of January 1956, stated that the church was about to go into a “wilderness” period for forty years (obviously implying that on the other side of this wilderness lay further Revival). And of course, forty years on from 1956 brings us to the year 1996. Perhaps true Revival really is just around the corner?
The year 1997 was obviously also being pin-pointed by God, with blood-red moons and unprecedented celestial signs, but also with patterns of spiritual activity involving YEARS AND DATES as well. Many Christians recognize that as this age draws to a close, the spiritual impact of the church on Israel, and Israel on the church, becomes more and more significant. A number of Christian leaders have noted that significant events affecting Israel over recent decades have often mirrored or foreshadowed trends that were occurring in the church also. And I believe that this will become increasingly true as we near the very ‘time of the end’.
There is an interesting pattern of significant dates involving Israel over this past century or so, which it would be good for us to look at with this in mind. The following is a very significant set of dates that have been crucial to the successful formation and survival of modern Israel: (a) 1897. The first Zionist Conference in Europe, led by Theodore Hertzl. (Two-thirds of the delegates were Messianic Jews). Crucial to the eventual formation of Israel.
TWENTY YEARS LATER: (b) 1917. The British Generals Gordon and Allenby (a Christian) and their armies take Jerusalem without firing a shot. When camped outside, after praying about the situation and getting a Scripture about a “flock of birds”, they decided to send biplanes over the city and drop clay tablets bearing the words: “Leave the city now, signed Allenby.” The Turks thought the word ‘Allenby’ resembled ‘Allah’, and they fled the city, surrendering Jerusalem entirely without a fight!
THIRTY YEARS LATER: (c) 1947 (- November). The United Nations officially declares Israel to be a recognized state. (It took the Israelis another nine months to defeat the Arabs who were occupying the land).
TWENTY YEARS LATER: (d) 1967. The Six-day War. Against all odds, the vastly outnumbered Israels are completely victorious, and now occupy the whole of Jerusalem, Gaza, the West Bank and the Sinai, etc.
THIRTY YEARS LATER: (e) 1997. Blood-red moons over Jerusalem, land tensions and “rumours of war” – possibly the build-up to a eventual huge conflagration in the Middle East?
It is interesting to note the Revivals and significant trends that began in the church at around the same time that things were happening in Israel. And this “foreshadowing” has become even more pronounced in recent years, I believe. After a relatively quiet (and in the church, ‘stagnant’) 1980’s, the 1990’s are again proving to be a tumultuous and eventful period for both Israel and the church. Like Israel, in the last couple of years it seems to me that through spiritual compromise, the church has literally been ‘giving away’ huge sections of it’s own territory to the enemy, who have no doubt been rubbing their hands with glee. However, when true Reformation and Revival come (with the corresponding godly leadership), this whole “Laodicean” scenario will be completely reversed, and it will be Satan who will be on the back foot. (Surely this mighty move of cleansing and repentance is not too far away now. And like Israel, it will begin with a complete change of leadership – the kingdom being taken from one group and given to another). The prophesied mighty move of God is surely on the way.
I have been amazed at what has been occurring in the political scene in Israel over the last few years or so. I believe that it was quite significant symbolically that the Jewish Prime Minister Rabin (who was really the first to buy peace by giving away Israeli land to the Arabs) was killed at a peace rally in ‘Kings of Israel Square’ in Jerusalem in late 1995, and was replaced by Mr Peres, whose name is literally part of the “writing on the wall” where it says: ‘Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and the Persians’ (Dan 5:28). The very man who was continuing Rabin’s policy of giving away Israeli land had a name that Biblically carried the sense of a kingdom being taken away and divided!
Like the more recent Netanyahu change in the leadership of Israel, I believe that the church is also about to go through a complete ‘Reformation’ of it’s leadership, which will lead to a tremendous Revival, though this may come at quite a price. I am convinced that, as always, only a comparitive “remnant” from today’s church will make it through into the coming move of God. What God has been showing many praying people in my own country about the coming move is that it is to be a “street-revival” – a street-based outpouring of the Spirit of God, bringing tremendous conviction of sin and deep repentance. But after this mighty ‘harvest’ comes an equally mighty JUDGEMENT, which will fall upon all the earth.
To conclude this article, I would just like to return again to the fact that AT THIS VERY TIME – IN OUR DAY – there are awesome Scriptural prophecies being fulfilled, which have implications that are almost too vast to take in all at one time. Is it possible that WE ARE LIVING IN THE VERY LAST DAYS – the very ‘time of the end’ that the Bible speaks of? God is sending His “signs in the heavens” to warn us of what is about to come. The question is, what will you, what will I, do about it? Will we allow apathy to continue to dominate our lives? Will the church “laugh and party” it’s way into the next millenium? Or will we allow God to bring true Reformation – beginning with us? To me, one of the most frightening Scriptures in the entire Bible is the one that speaks of people in the End-times, “eating, drinking, partying, marrying”, etc, blithely ignorant of what is coming upon the earth. But isn’t much of Christendom in our day largely in the same ‘bless-me, bless-me’, inward-looking state? Church awake! Clothe yourself with righteousness and Truth. The “happiness club” days are gone. It is surely time now to get serious with God. Surely only those who are seeking Him with all their heart can expect to make it through the momentous events that lie ahead.
Please feel free to photocopy this article.
(Special acknowledgements to Greg Killian for much of the information presented here. Acknowledgements also to Jim Denby, George Curle and Michael A. Clark).