Back in 2012 a lot of folks were concerned that something dramatic would happen, like the end of the world, when the Mayan calendar ran out of dates on December 21. After that date came and went quietly (all that happened here was that we got some snow), I wondered what predicted calamity would get people riled up next. Asteroids? The Yellowstone volcano? Climate change? As a matter of fact, it looks like an ice age is on the way now, with the outside temperature at -3 F. as I write this.
Now it turns out to be a bunch of total lunar eclipses, each one falling on a Jewish holiday. It is exciting to Christian Zionists, anyway. Typically there are two lunar eclipses a year, spaced about six months apart; you will see them if your side of the earth is turned toward the moon when they happen. Here is the schedule for this year and next year:
In the event of a total lunar eclipse, the moon does not disappear in the earth’s shadow completely. Instead, some light reaches the moon because the earth’s atmosphere bends it around the earth, but it is reddish, longwave light, so the moon turns a coppery red color. Hence the recently coined term “blood moon” to describe it. I have fond memories of staying up late at night when I was younger, to watch an eclipse take its course. In 1975 and 1982, I drew a picture of the moon every fifteen minutes, to show how it changed color.
Three Jewish holidays always happen when there is a full moon: Purim, Passover, and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles). Therefore, it is not strange to have an eclipse on one of those holidays (I remember one on Purim a few years back), and because Passover and Sukkot are exactly six months apart, when Passover gets an eclipse, Sukkot will probably get one, too. Of the 230 eclipses that occurred in the twentieth century, 37 were on Jewish holidays.
However, it is very rare for both eclipses to fall on Jewish holidays for two years in a row, and for all of them to be total (not partial). Recently, some evangelists like Mark Blitz and John Hagee have drawn attention to this; they call it the “blood moon tetrad,” and are saying it’s a sign that God is planning something big for 2014-2015, like the Rapture.
Now where do they get this idea? Well, the Books of Joel and Revelation, two books full of end-time Biblical prophecies, mention that in the last days, “the moon will turn to blood.” They also point to the seven tetrads that have happened over the past two thousand years, and link each one with a major event involving Israel. You can go to the website Pray4zion.org to see the list of associated events. Here are the dates for those tetrads:
Being a history buff, I checked the dates, and I saw more coincidences than connections. Here is how I see it for each tetrad:
162-163: The Romans persecute both Christians and Jews. Of course this matters to us, but the persecution got much worse in the next century, especially under Decius (249-251) and Diocletian (285-305). In the 160s persecution was sporadic; while one Roman governor threw Christians to the lions, another would leave them alone.
795-796: Charlemagne conquers the northeast corner of Spain (Barcelona and the Pyrenees mts.), giving his empire a border province, the “Spanish March.” While this stopped Moorish raids on France, I don’t see how it mattered much in the big picture, especially for Jews. At this date, Jews were tolerated on both sides of the border.
842-843: The Arabs invaded Italy and sacked Rome in 846. Because I don’t see the pope as God’s chief agent on earth, this is only relevant to God’s plan if you are a Catholic. In fact, the Papacy behaved so badly in the ninth, tenth and early eleventh centuries that historians have invented a special word to describe it: pornocracy. A better case can be made for tying the tetrad to the breakup of Charlemagne’s empire; the Treaty of Verdun divided the empire into three parts in 843.
860-861: The Byzantine Empire defeats the last Arab invasion of Asia Minor. However, two hundred years later the Turks would come along, invade, and change the name of the land to Turkey. They would not stop advancing until they were stopped at the gates of Vienna, in 1683. Again, this is an event that has some relevance to Christians, but not to Jews.
1493-1494: Three important events happened in 1492, all of them having to do with Spain. On January 1, Granada surrendered to Ferdinand and Isabella, ending seven hundred years of war between Moors and Christians (the “Reconquista.”). In summer the Jews were expelled from Spain; most of them moved to North Africa, the Middle East and the Balkans, Moslem-ruled areas. And in October Christopher Columbus discovered America. This is a case of the signs happening after the event they are supposed to be tied to; by the time of the first blood moon, Columbus was back in Spain. A sign that comes after a predicted event is no more exciting than a bet made on last year’s horse race.
1949-1950: This has been linked to modern Israel becoming independent in 1948. However, the first blood moon comes eleven months AFTER independence, and even the 1948 war was over by then. Another case of the sign coming after what it predicts. Perhaps the blood moons were for the communist conquest of China, or the Korean War?
1967-1968: Well, maybe. The Six Day War happened between the first and second blood moons, and Israel took East Jerusalem, reuniting the city. This is a better connection to a Christian or Jewish event than the others.
After I got done with this list, my wife commented that no tetrad came during the Holocaust, and if there was any major event of Biblical proportions in recent Jewish history, that was it!
Last year, the church I used to attend in Florida posted two podcasts on the blood moon predictions. You can listen to them at http://www.buildupzion.org . Basically, they noted that only one eclipse is visible from Israel, but all four can be seen from the western hemisphere. Therefore, if God has a message in the eclipses, it is a message directed at us in the Americas, not at Israel. For instance, it could be a call for Christians to observe the Jewish holidays, the way some of the early churches did before 300 A.D.
And this past weekend, my pastor chose to preach his first sermon for 2014 on this subject. Go to http://ekk-lex.org/sermons/2014/index.html to read his sermon notes. One thing is certain: for this year and next year, this will be the proverbial “talk of the town.”