by Robert Pate
Pastor of Bible Community Baptist Church, Central City, IA
Who has not gazed at the ebony blackness of a night’s sky and marveled at the flickering lights upon its cosmic sea. I still remember going out when young and looking with a sense of wonder at the individual stars, the constellations, and the glowing moon. Some of that charm continues even to this day. I still stand amazed at the beauty and vastness of space and what lies contained therein. Is it any wonder then that in the early morning hours of April 15 my family and I looked into the cold Iowa night sky to observe a total lunar eclipse? This particular type of lunar eclipse is sometimes referred to as a “blood moon” because of the reddish tint that covers the surface of our celestial neighbor as the earth’s shadow totally envelops it. This red moon occurs because while the moon is entirely covered by the earth’s shadow, some light from the sun still passes through the earth’s atmosphere and is bent toward the moon. While other colors of the spectrum are blocked and scattered by our planet’s atmosphere, red light makes it through and gives the moon its breathtaking color.
Now, a lunar eclipse is certainly not uncommon, and a total lunar eclipse, though less common, is not rare. Yet there are two factors which make this April morning’s natural phenomenon stand out. First, it is of interest because it is the first of a series of four total lunar eclipses that will occur over the next year-and-a-half. Such a series of four consecutive blood moons is known as a “tetrad” and is a less common occurrence but not unheard of. The last occurred in 2004 and 2005, and they are likely to occur between eight and nine times over the next 100 years. What makes this series even more amazing is that in the midst of these blood moons there will be a total solar eclipse on March 20, 2015. Such an eclipse of the sun during a tetrad of lunar eclipses is rare. Second, it is also of interest because this lunar eclipse falls on the exact day of the Jewish Passover celebration. Additionally, each of the next blood moons of this tetrad will also fall upon a Jewish feast day. They will occur on the Feast of Tabernacles (October 8, 2014), on Passover (April 4, 2015), and again on the Feast of Tabernacles (September 28, 2015). According to NASA, such a tetrad falling on Jewish feast days has occurred only three times previously in recent history.
While it is understandable that such cosmic events would make amateur astronomers’ hearts flutter, they are also gathering significant interest among many Bible-believing Christians. Some prophetic students of the Bible have found great significance in these current solar events. They believe that since God controls the heavens, He is warning the world of a change in the course of human history. Introduced by Mark Biltz in 2008 and made popular by John Hagee in his book Four Blood Moons, this teaching is finding a ready audience.
WHAT SOME ARE SAYING ABOUT THE BLOOD MOONS
These prophecy teachers hold that God is using these blood moons to warn the planet of upcoming world-changing events that are centered in the nation of Israel. They proclaim that the blood moons falling on these Jewish holy days and surrounding the eclipse of the sun should be taken seriously by every child of God for three main reasons.
First, the Bible speaks of a future time when the sun will be darkened and the moon will turn to blood. The prophet Joel predicted, “The sun will be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes” (Joel 2:31), and Peter quoted this in Acts 2:20. Additionally, Matthew 24:29 speaks of the sun being darkened and the moon not giving her light, and Luke 21:25 refers to signs in the sun and moon. Many teach these passages foretell a blood moon event with a total solar eclipse, and the current blood moon cycle could be a fulfillment of this prophecy.
Second, such a tetrad of blood moons upon Jewish holy days with a total solar eclipse within the sequence has only occurred three times previously in modern history, and on each of these occasions significant events have taken place with serious ramifications for the Jewish people. In each case the blood moons occurred on Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles. It is held that a study of these occasions warrant the belief that God was warning the world that He would bring the Jews through a time of tears and tribulation to triumph.
The first tetrad (1493-1494) was significant because of the Spanish Inquisition. King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella signed a decree known as the Edict of Expulsion, which banished all Jews from Spain who refused to convert to Catholicism. They were to leave the country by August 1, 1492. It was an uncertain and terrifying time for the Jews since they did not know which countries would receive them. Yet God brought the Jewish people through this time of tears and tribulation to triumph because of their later immigration to America that was made possible through the voyage of Christopher Columbus. Satan may have thought he would destroy the Jews, but God preserved His people by providing for them a harbor of safety to which to flee.
The second tetrad (1949-1950) was significant because of the rebirth of the nation of Israel. On May 14, 1948, David Ben Gurion, the nation’s first prime minister, declared Israel a free and independent nation. Within hours, six Arab nations attacked the infant state and plunged it into a war of independence. The year 1949 was significant because the first permanent government of the reborn nation of Israel took office on January 25, and during the next several months, a series of four truce agreements were signed which established Israel’s borders.1 This war was quite costly for the Jewish people, but God brought the Jewish people through this time of tears and tribulation to triumph because their tiny nation had survived and for the first time in nearly 1,900 years stood reborn as a nation in their promised homeland.
The third tetrad (1967-1968) was significant because of the Six-Day War. The Jews had won a miraculous victory in 1948, but the prize of the ancient city of Jerusalem was withheld from them. By 1967 the countries surrounding Israel were again rattling their sabers. Egypt, Syria, and Jordan were all publically threatening to annihilate the Israelis. Facing destruction, Israel launched a preemptive strike on June 5. In six days it was over, the military capabilities of her enemies were decimated, and the old city of Jerusalem was once again in Jewish hands. God brought the tiny nation of Israel through this time of tears and tribulation to triumph by giving them victory against overwhelming odds and restoring their national capital.
Third, the coming four blood moons and total solar eclipse are signs that God will perform some great action concerning Israel. The conclusion of Ray Bentley is shared by many, “Every time there have been four moons on the first days of the feasts of Passover and Tabernacles two years in a row, something significant has occurred involving the Jewish people.”2 Hagee writes, “Therefore, we can rightly conclude that the next series of four blood moons of 2014 and 2015 will also hold significance for Israel and the Jewish people.”3
These, in a nutshell, are the main points of the blood moons teaching. But is it correct?
SHOULD WE TAKE THESE PROPHECIES SERIOUSLY?
The wise writer of Proverbs informs us that, “He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbour cometh and searchest him” (Proverbs 18:17). In other words, anyone’s arguments seem convincing until someone else comes along and cross-examines him. When one watches Biltz’s video or reads Hagee’s book, one is overwhelmed at first by the sheer impressiveness of the arguments. But are there any objections to this view? Yes, there are a number of weaknesses that need to be heard and given consideration before one takes it for granted that the blood moons are God’s message to us today.
First, although quite impressive, this teaching is extra-biblical. When considering the four blood moons position, one must never lose sight of the main consideration: this teaching is nowhere found in the Bible. Neither the Old Testament nor the New Testament ever speaks of four consecutive total lunar eclipses which encircle a total solar eclipse. Every verse used by proponents of this view is interpreted to speak of such events, but the Bible never says four blood moons and a solar eclipse will happen together. Even the verses which are said to speak of a lunar eclipse never state that such an eclipse will occur four times in a given time period, but only once. We must never forget that impressiveness is no substitute for biblical declaration. Any teaching must be suspect that is not clearly presented in the Word of God.
Second, the sign of the blood moons is not a very effective sign for Israel. What makes a “sign” a sign? For a sign to be effective it must meet two requirements: it must come before the event it points to and it must be seen by those it is meant for. If I had stood in my pulpit in Iowa two weeks after the tragic Boston bombing and predicted that a horrible event would occur during the marathon, would that have been a sign to the residents of Boston? No, because I would have stated it after the fact and because my words would have only been heard by my local congregation, not the people where the event would take place. For it to have been a sign, my words would have had to have been uttered before the event and been heard in Boston. Therefore, the lunar and solar eclipses impacting Israel should be visible from there and occur before the world-changing events they foretell. But historically, in the first two instances (1493-1494 and 1949-1950), the signs occurred after the events to which they were supposed to point. The expulsion of the Jews from Spain and the discovery of the New World both occurred in 1492 before the four blood moons of 1493-1494. Furthermore, even though the Israeli War of Independence extended into 1949, the main event was the birth of the nation of Israel, which occurred in 1948.
In the final example of 1967-1968, Israel’s Six-Day War did take place after the first blood moon but before the final three. It again seems strange that all four would not have occurred before the important event of the retaking of Jerusalem. Additionally, only one of the eight blood moons of the last two historical precedents was fully visible from Israel (that of April 1950, after the event), four others were partially visible while the rest were not visible at all.4 Therefore, we are left with the problem of blood moons that were supposed to be God’s sign of His protecting His Jewish people occurring which could not be seen by His people or were seen after the events of which they spoke. And what of the upcoming eclipses? The first three total lunar eclipses in 2014-2015 won’t even be visible from Jerusalem, and only the beginning of the final eclipse will be. Also, the path of the total solar eclipse of 2015 is in the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, and there is a good chance that few people, if any, will actually see it.5 Mark Hitchcock comments, “Those who maintain that the four blood moons are a portent that something is about to change need to explain how something hidden to most of the world, and especially to those in Israel, can serve as a dramatic sign of the times for them.”6
Third, the teachers of this view fail to interpret their proof-texts in their full context. The primary passage used by blood moons advocates is Joel 2:31 (quoted in Acts 2:20). While this verse certainly speaks of a future time when the sun will be darkened and the moon will appear red as blood, of what time does it speak? The context of foretold events makes it clear that it refers to the second coming of Christ. The day referred to is not the Tribulation Period but the day of Christ’s return to this world. Just before our Lord comes from Heaven, these supernatural events will take place. This being true, the blood moons tetrad and accompanying solar eclipse cannot be the fulfillment because Jesus cannot return in glory until after the Tribulation takes place. Furthermore, Matthew 24:29 actually says. “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light …” This passage is speaking of the same time period that Joel does. It occurs immediately after (not before) the seven-year Tribulation and just before the appearance of Christ. It cannot refer to the current tetrad. The text itself makes that plain. Also, Luke 21:25 reads, “And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon …” The context again shows that Jesus was speaking of the second half of the Tribulation period just before “They see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (verse 27). Therefore, the major passages used to support the blood moons theory are in reality in opposition to it. These verses are not speaking of four total lunar eclipses and one complete solar eclipse but of a supernatural darkening of the sun and the reddening of the moon at the time of Christ’s victorious return to this planet; an event which cannot take place until at least seven years in the future (not 2014-15).
Finally, this teaching is too vague on its fulfillment, leading to its becoming a self-fulfilling sign. What exactly are these blood moons a sign of? None of the major supporters of this teaching are saying. Hagee is clear that it is not the Rapture since that event could occur at any moment. Biltz, the originator of the view, feels that there is a high probability of a major prophetic war involving Israel or some huge economic effect.6 Still, no one is certain what will happen; only that something significant will occur. That makes it very hard to validate the event if it does occur. During a question and answer time of a recent prophecy conference, Steve Herzig of The Friends of Israel answered a question concerning the blood moons by saying, “People are always looking for a sign. Do they need blood moons to say that something significant is going to happen in Israel?”7 Something of major consequence is happening every year in the world and especially in the Middle East. Mark Hitchcock agrees and writes, “With all the problems and dangers in the world today, especially in Israel, it’s not far-fetched to envision something big happening in Israel at any time. … Blood moons prophecy advocates will undoubtedly find something in 2014-2015 that they can point to as a fulfillment arising from the appearance of the four blood moons. In that case, the prophecy becomes self-validating, but also meaningless.8 Therefore, the very fogginess of the blood moons teaching highlights its suspicious nature.
SOME CONCLUDING THOUGHTS ON THE BLOOD MOONS
The current blood moons teaching certainly is interesting, and viewing the eclipses should be spectacular for those who can see them; but should Christians really be concerned? Despite the claims of advocates, the biblical answer appears to be “No.” Does that mean we can learn nothing from this event? I believe we can, because this current issue of the blood moons should drive us individually back to a consideration of our relationship to Bible prophecy.
First, we each need to know the basics of biblical prophecy so as not to be blindsided by some current fad, prediction, or false teaching. Paul tells us, “I would not have you to be ignorant brethren, concerning…” and then goes on to speak of the rapture of the church (1 Thessalonians 4:13). We must not allow ourselves to be ignorant of future events that are plainly taught in the Bible. This may take a little time and study on our part, but it will be well worth it. Your pastor can recommend some excellent books to help you on this journey of discovery.
Second, we each need to be a member of a solid local church which teaches the truth about Bible prophecy. This is more stabilizing than listening to someone’s views on television. Honestly, there are a multitude of writers and teachers out there who can confuse and lead you astray. We each need to find a local church where the pastor interprets the Bible literally and teaches the premillennial, pretribulational return of Jesus Christ. Excellent teaching in your local church will protect you from confusing and wrong teaching elsewhere.
Third, we each should not get so caught up speculating about signs that we forget to live for and look for the Son. There are signs all around us that show that the stage of biblical prophecy is being set for the final act (Israel is a nation again, Russia is lining us with Islamic nations, the independent countries of Europe continue to draw closer together, the world longs for a leader that can solve all their problems), but the purpose of Bible prophecy is not to merely increase our knowledge. Rather, it should cause us to long for that moment when we will meet our Savior face to face, and it should result in our serving Him more fervently as we await that day. Jesus promised, “I will come again, and receive you unto myself” (John 14:3b). May each of our hearts’ response be that of the Apostle John, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20b).
1 John Hagee, Four Blood Moons (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing, 2013), 206.
2 Ray Bentley, The Holy Land Key (Colorado Springs: Water Brook Press, 2014), 191.
3 Hagee, 225.
4 Jack Kelley, “The Coming Blood Moons”, www.raptureready.com/featured/kelley/jack274. html.
5 Danny Faulkner “Will Lunar Eclipses Cause Four Blood Moons in 2014 and 2015?”, www.answers.ingenesis.org/articles/2013/07/12/lunar-eclipses-cause-blood-moon.
6 Mark Hitchcock, Blood Moons Rising (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014), 98.
7 “Day in the Prophetic Word” conference, Dubuque, IA, April 5, 2014.
8 Hitchcock, 148-9.