“And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.”[Joel 2:30-31]
The Old Testament prophets, such as Isaiah, Joel, Zephaniah, and Zechariah, are expert witnesses when it comes to the Day of the LORD. Every New Testament reference to the last days and the Day of the LORD are built upon the imagery and information in these prophetic books.
The problem, however, is that the majority of believers are not well versed in the Old Testament, much less the prophets, which breeds much unnecessary confusion and misinterpretation of the end times and Day of the LORD.
In our introductory passage above, the prophet Joel says that there will be signs and wonders both in the heavens and on the earth leading up to the “great and awesome (dreadful) day of the LORD.” In other words, these signs and wonders will be seen just “before” the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven and comes back to earth to wage war against the ungodly.
So what are these signs? I’m glad you asked.
Signs on the Earth
I will begin by considering the wonders on the earth that will be connected to the coming of the Lord and His great Day of vengeance. Joel says that on the earth there will be “blood, fire, and columns of smoke” [Joel 2:30].
My first step in discerning the nature of these signs is to look for similar language and descriptions in the Bible that potentially provide a more comprehensive picture.
One obvious place to start is the book of Revelation — more specifically the trumpet and bowl judgments. As a matter of fact, the first two trumpet judgments in Revelation 8 are quoting verbatim from Joel 2.
“The first angel blew his trumpet, and there followed hail and fire, mixed with blood, and these were thrown upon the earth. And a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up.
The second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood. A third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.”[Revelation 8:7-9]
As we continue to work through the trumpets and bowl judgments, we see even more details about the signs on the earth before the great Day of the LORD.
- The 5th Trumpet — “He opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft.” [Revelation 9:2]
- 6th Trumpet — “By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed, by the fire and smoke and sulfur coming out of their mouths.” [Revelation 9:18]
- The Two Witnesses — “They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire.” [Revelation 11:6]
- The 2nd, 3rd & 4th Bowls — “The second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood of a corpse, and every living thing died that was in the sea. The third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood.… The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire.” [Revelation 16:3-4,8]
All of these signs on the earth will intensify in severity and frequency the closer we come to the Day of the LORD. That is why this time of great tribulation and distress will be like no other and never again shall be.
Notice that all of these signs and wonders on the earth culminate with the gathering of the evil armies under the authority of the Beast (Antichrist) “to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty” [Revelation 16:14].
Interestingly enough, Joel and the prophets have much to say about this final battle for Jerusalem. This will be the futile attempt of the Antichrist to assemble all the armies of the earth to come against Jerusalem, only to discover that the King of kings has returned to the earth to utterly destroy him. [see Revelation 16:12-21, 19:11-21]
I plan to save the Battle of Armageddon for a later post, but for now, let us take a look at the heavenly signs that accompany the Day of the LORD.
Signs in the Heavens
“Multitudes, multitudes,[Joel 3:14-15]
in the valley of decision!
For the day of the LORD is near
in the valley of decision.
The sun and the moon are darkened,
and the stars withdraw their shining.”
From the very beginning, God created the celestial bodies to measure time, mark the seasons, and also for signs [Genesis 1:14]. At the same time God’s judgments on the earth are causing men’s hearts to melt with fear, there will be signs in heavens above that will be getting the world’s attention. The cosmic chaos before the Day of the LORD will warn all the inhabitants of the earth that the end is at hand.
What could these heavenly signs be and how should we interpret them?
I believe solar and lunar eclipses are in full view, as well as celestial conjunctions where stars and planets converge. I also believe these signs could include potential meteors and comets falling to earth [see Revelation 8:8-11].
The Scriptures also allude to billows of smoke causing the sun to be darkened in Revelation 9:2, and the 5th bowl judgment seems to supernaturally plunge the kingdom of the Beast into darkness, just like the LORD caused the plague of darkness to fall on Egypt while at the same time providing light for the Israelites [Exodus 10:21-23].
The prophet Zephaniah also alludes to the Day of the LORD as a day of thick darkness.
“The great day of the LORD is near,[Zephaniah 1:14-15]
near and hastening fast;
the sound of the day of the LORD is bitter;
the mighty man cries aloud there.
A day of wrath is that day,
a day of distress and anguish,
a day of ruin and devastation,
a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and thick darkness.”
Jesus Himself quotes directly from Joel 3 and speaks of the “sign of the Son of Man” appearing in heaven when He returns in power and great glory [Matthew 24:29-31]. There are multiple passages in both the Old and New Testament that emphasize these unique heavenly signs. I will share some of them here for context.
“Behold, the day of the LORD comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the land a desolation and to destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of the heavens and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising, and the moon will not shed its light. I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will put an end to the pomp of the arrogant, and lay low the pompous pride of the ruthless. I will make people more rare than fine gold, and mankind than the gold of Ophir. Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken out of its place, at the wrath of the LORD of hosts in the day of his fierce anger.”[Isaiah 9:9-13]
“For the LORD is enraged against all the nations,[Isaiah 34:2-4]
and furious against all their host;
he has devoted them to destruction, has given them over for slaughter.
Their slain shall be cast out,
and the stench of their corpses shall rise;
the mountains shall flow with their blood.
All the host of heaven shall rot away,
and the skies roll up like a scroll.
All their host shall fall,
as leaves fall from the vine,
like leaves falling from the fig tree.”
“I will drench the land even to the mountains with your flowing blood, and the ravines will be full of you. When I blot you out, I will cover the heavens and make their stars dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give its light. All the bright lights of heaven will I make dark over you, and put darkness on your land, declares the Lord GOD.”[Ezekiel 32:6-8]
“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.[Luke 21:25-27]
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”[Matthew 24:29-31]
“When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?'”[Revelation 6:12-17]
The Biblical authors have spoken and are clear. The Day of the LORD is the END. It is the final day of His vengeance upon the earth when He comes in power and great glory to tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God.
There will be clear signs in the heavens and on the earth just prior to the epic moment the sky is rolled back like a scroll and the LORD is revealed from heaven in flaming fire. This is the day our Warrior King Jesus returns to the earth to wage war against the Antichrist and his evil hoards at Armageddon.
Jesus reminds His followers not to fear, however, because the Day of the LORD is the day of our ultimate redemption, when we receive our resurrected bodies and join the heavenly host in triumphant procession on the earth behind the King of kings. This why Jesus tells us …
“Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”[Luke 21:28]