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31The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.

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We now see why the Prophet adds here this sad catalogue, and how well these things harmonize together, — that God would testify his paternal love by the manifestation of Christ, — and that he would exhibit tokens of his wrath, which would fill the whole world with anxiety and fear.

What he says of blood and darkness is, no doubt, to be taken metaphorically for a disordered state of things; for we know that calamities are often compared to obscurity and darkness. It is the same as though he said, “So great will be the succession of evils, that the whole order of nature will seem to be subverted that the very elements will put on a new form; the sun, which illuminates the earth, will be turned into darkness, the moon into blood; the calamities which shall come will take away every token of God’s kindness. Then nothing will remain, but that men, sunk, as it were, in the deepest abyss of all evils, will seek some spark of grace from God and never find it; for heaven will be dark, the earth will be covered with thick darkness.” We then see that the Prophet does not express what would be, word for word, nor is he to be understood as speaking, as they say, literally, but he uses a figurative mode of speaking, by which he sets forth such a dreadful state of things, that the very elements would put on a new appearance; for the sun would not any more perform its office, and the moon would refuse its light to the earth. As God, then, would take away all tokens of his favor, so the Prophet, by blood, by darkness and by dark clouds, sets forth metaphorically that sorrows by which the minds of men would necessarily be possessed.

Now if any one asks, why by the coming of Christ was God’s wrath more stirred up against men? for this may seem to be without reason. To this I answer, that it was, as it were accidental: for if Christ had been received as he ought to have been, if all embraced him with due reverence, he would have certainly been the giver, not only of spiritual grace, but also of earthly happiness. The felicity of all, then, would have in every respect been made complete by the coming of Christ, had not their wickedness and ingratitude kindled up anew the wrath of God; and we see what a flood of evils burst forth immediately after the preaching of the gospel. Now when we consider how severely God afflicted his people formerly, we cannot but say that much heavier have been the calamities inflicted on the world since the manifestation of Christ, — whence this? Even because the world’s ingratitude had arrived to its highest point, as indeed it is at this day: for the light of the gospel has gone forth again, and God has exhibited himself to the world as a Father, and we see how great is the wickedness and perversity of men in rejecting the gifts of God; we see some contemptuously rejecting the Gospel, and others impelled by satanic fury to resist the doctrine of Christ; we see them making a boast of their blasphemies, and we see them kindled with cruel rage and breathing slaughters against the children of God; we see the world full of ungodly men and of the despisers of God; we see an awful contempt of God’s grace prevailing everywhere: we see such an unbridled licentiousness in wickedness, that it ought to make us ashamed of ourselves and weary of our life. Since, then, the world is so ungrateful for such a favor, is it a wonder that God should show more dreadful tokens of his vengeance? For certainly at this day, when we closely examine the condition of the world, we find that all are miserable, and even those who applaud themselves, and whom the world admire as semigods. How can it be otherwise? The common people, doubtless, groan under their miseries, and that because God thus punishes the contempt of his grace, which he has again offered to us, and which is so unworthily rejected. Inasmuch, then, as so base an ingratitude on the part of men has provoked God’s wrath, it is no wonder that the sound of his scourges is everywhere heard: for the servant who knows his lord’s will and does it not, is worthy, as Christ declares, of heavier stripes, (Luke 12.) And what happens through the whole world is, that after God has shone by his gospel, after Christ has everywhere proclaimed reconciliation, they now openly fall away, and show that they prefer having God angry than propitious to them: for when the gospel is rejected, what else is it but to declare war against God, and to scorn and not to receive the reconciliation which God is ready to give, and of which he treats of his own accord with men?

It is then no wonder that the Prophet says here, that the world would be full of darkness after the appearance of Christ, who is the Sun of Righteousness, and who has shone upon us with his salvation: but it was, as it were, accidental, that God exhibited himself with so much severity to the world, when yet it was the acceptable time, when it was the day of salvation and of good-will; for the world suffered not that to be fulfilled which God had promised to us by the Prophet Joel, nor received the Spirit of adoption, when they might have safely fled to God; nay, when God was ready to cherish them in his own bosom. But since they were refractory and untractable, it was necessary for God to visit such perverseness in an unusual manner. It is no wonder then that the Prophet says, that in those days there shall be prodigies in heaven and on earth, for the sun shall be turned into darkness, etc., before it shall come the day of Jehovah, great and terrible

It may be asked what day the Prophet refers to: for he has hitherto spoken of the first coming of Christ; and there seems to be some inconsistency in this place. I answer, that the Prophet includes the whole kingdom of Christ, from the beginning to the end; and this is well understood, and in other places we have stated that the Prophets common speak in this manner: for when the discourse is concerning Christ’s kingdom, they sometimes refer to its commencement only, and sometimes they speak of its termination; but they often mark out by one delineation the whole course of the kingdom of Christ, from its beginning to its end; and such is the case here. The Prophet, by saying, ‘After those days I will pour out my Spirit,’ no doubt meant that this, as we have explained, would be fulfilled when Christ should commence his kingdom, and make it known through the teaching of the gospel: Christ poured out then his Spirit. But as the kingdom of Christ is not for a few days, or for a short time, but continues its course to the end of the word, the Prophet turns his attention to that day or that time, and says, “There shall, in the meanwhile, be the greatest calamities: and whosoever shall not flee to the grace of God shall be very miserable; they shall never find rest nor comfort, nor the light of life, for the world shall be sunk in darkness; and God shall take away from the sun, the moon, the elements, and all other aids, the tokens of his favor; and he will show himself everywhere to be angry and offended with men.” The Prophet further shows, that these evils of which he speaks would not be for a few days or a few years, but perpetual; ‘Before,’ he says, ‘the day of Jehovah, great and terrible, shall come.’ In short, he means that all the scourges of God, which he had hitherto mentioned, would be, as it were, preparations to subdue the hearts of men, that they might with reverence and submission receive Christ. As, therefore, men carry by nature a high spirit, and cannot bend their neck to recede the yoke of Christ, hence the Prophet says here that they were to be subdued by severe scourges, when God would remove all evidences of his love, and fill heaven and earth with dread. Thus, then, he would in a manner change the hardness and contumacy which is innate in men, that they might know that they had to do with God. And, at the same time, the Prophet reminds them, that unless they were amended by these scourges, something more dreadful remained for them, — the Judge would at last come from heaven, not only to clothe the sun and moon in darkness, but to turn life into death. It would, indeed, be far better for the reprobate to die a hundred times than always to live and thus to sustain eternal death in life itself.

The Prophet then means, that men persisting in their obstinacy shall meet with something more grievous and more ruinous than the evils of this life, for they must all at last stand before the tribunal of the celestial Judge: for the day of Jehovah, great and terrible, will come. He refers, in this sentence, to unbelievers and rebels against God; for when Christ shall come, he will be a Redeemer to the godly; no day in their whole life will shine on them so pleasantly; so far will this day be from bringing terror and fear to them, that they are bidden, while expecting it, to lift up their heads, which is a token of cheerfulness and joy. But as the Prophet Joel’s object was to humble the confident pride of the flesh, and as he addressed the refractory and the rebellious, it is no wonder that he sets before them what is terrific and dreadful.




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