And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.Joel 2:30 ASV
Portents in the heavens are frequently associated with the coming of great events.
On the day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter quoted this very passage as having already been fulfilled as a prelude to “the great and notable Day of the Lord,” the day upon which salvation would be given to all who should “call on the name of the Lord.”
And I will show wonders in the heaven above, And signs on the earth beneath; Blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the day of the Lord come, That great and notable day: And it shall be, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.Acts 2:19-21 ASV
Since the day on which Peter said that was only fifty three days after the crucifixion of Christ, it is appropriate to look to that event as the time of the portents mentioned here.
“Wonders in the heavens …” The sun’s light failed for a period of three hours, the most remarkable “portent” ever seen in the heavens by any generation.
All of these things were surely among the wonders on earth beneath.
“Blood and fire and vapor of smoke …” These expressions almost certainly indicate one of the great Jewish national festivals as the occasion when God’s wonders would be done.
The sacrifice of many thousands of animals, the roaring fires of the sacrifices, and the “vapor of smoke” inevitably associated with those great occasions would appear to be adequate identification.
Christ was crucified at the Passover festival, and the Holy Spirit came upon Pentecost, some seven complete weeks later; and thus the “blood, fire, vapor of smoke” reference was fully applicable to both occasions.
The echoes of the final judgment are also in these verses, but this should not be surprising.
The Final Day actually began with the crucifixion of Christ and will be consummated at his Second Coming.
“The last days” began with Christ’s first advent and will end with the second advent. They are the days during which the age to come overlaps the present age; hence the assurance with which Peter quoted Joel’s words and declared, “This is that.”
It is very likely that Peter and all of the apostles regarded the final judgment as an event to occur in their own times, or shortly thereafter; although, in all fairness, it must be pointed out that no sacred writer ever said so!
What the apostolic group “thought” is therefore a very poor basis for interpreting their words, which were not of themselves, but of God.
The fact that the Final Judgment is still future, after nearly two thousand years, is no grounds whatever for supposing that the prophets were mistaken. Indeed no!
The great and terrible judgment of all mankind will yet occur, as Jesus Christ and all of the apostles and prophets have warned.
What appears to be “the delay” is merely the mercy and forbearance of God, “who is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”