‘Blood moon’ lunar eclipses not a sign, Baptist professors saycomment (0)
April 24, 2014
Could a series of “blood moon” events be connected to Jesus’ return? Some Christians think so.
In the wee hours of April 15 morning, the moon slid into Earth’s shadow, casting a reddish hue on the moon. There are about two lunar eclipses per year, according to NASA, but what’s unusual this time is that there will be four blood moons within 18 months — astronomers call that a tetrad — and all of them occur during Jewish holidays.
A string of books have been published surrounding the event, with authors referring to a Bible passage that refers to the moon turning into blood. “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord,” Joel 2:31 says.
In the New Testament, Acts 2:20 echoes the same doom: “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord.”
Books capitalizing on the event include “Four Blood Moons: Something Is About to Change” by Texas megachurch pastor John Hagee.
In his book, Hagee said something will happen to the nation of Israel because of the tetrad. The four eclipses occur April 15 and Oct. 8, 2014, and April 4 and Sept. 28, 2015. The ones in April occur during Passover, and the one in October occurs during the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles.
Jewish holy days revolve around a lunar calendar with Passover beginning on the first full moon after the beginning of spring, and the Feast of Tabernacles occurring on the first full moon after the beginning of fall. Hagee writes that every time a tetrad occurs on Jewish feast days, something traumatic and “world-changing” happens to Israel.
In 1492, the Jews were expelled from Spain and Christopher Columbus discovered America, giving the Jews a place to go. In 1948, the modern state of Israel was born, and in 1967, Israel won the Six-Day War and recaptured Jerusalem.
This time, Hagee suggests that a Rapture will occur where Christians will be taken to heaven, Israel will go to war in a great battle called Armageddon and Jesus will return to earth.
But NASA doesn’t consider tetrads as especially rare. The most unique thing about the upcoming tetrad is that they are visible from all or parts of the United States, NASA stated.
Two Southern Baptist professors also say Hagee’s prediction is a misinterpretation of the Bible, noting it “ignores” a common style of writing in the Bible known as “apocalyptic literature” that “frequently contains cosmic imagery” to describe significant spiritual events.
In apocalyptic literature such figures of speech aren’t meant to be interpreted “in a literalistic manner,” said Ben Merkle, associate professor of New Testament and Greek at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.
Hagee has a history of making controversial statements, as when he suggested Hurricane Katrina was an expression of God’s wrath toward New Orleans. He also holds to “dual covenant theology,” the belief that Jews can be saved by keeping the Old Testament “Law of Moses” unlike Gentiles, who must trust Jesus as Lord and Savior.
“The heavens are God’s billboard, and when something big is about to happen, He gives planet Earth a sign in heaven,” Hagee said. “It’s a signal that something significant is about to happen. Pay attention. NASA has said this is coming. God has said through Joel and Saint Peter, ‘Listen. When this happens, it’s unusual.’”
But Merkle said such cosmic imagery commonly occurs as a figurative way of describing God’s action in human history.
Isaiah 13:10, for example, says the stars “will not give their light,” the sun “will be dark when it rises” and the moon “will not shine.” But context makes clear that the prophecy was fulfilled in the sixth century B.C., when the Babylonians took Judah into exile, Merkle said. It did not reference a literal darkening of the sun, moon or stars.
Merkle said a similar interpretation applies to Acts 2:20, a key passage in Hagee’s interpretation of the tetrad. In that verse, Peter quotes the Old Testament prophet Joel on the day of Pentecost — including Joel’s talk of God turning “the moon to blood” — to describe God’s giving of the Holy Spirit to the Church.
“Peter (and Luke) had no difficulty in affirming that the prophecy given by Joel was fulfilled in the coming of the Spirit” at Pentecost, Merkle said. “Peter specifically states that the Spirit’s coming at Pentecost ‘is what was spoken by the prophet Joel’ (Acts 2:16).
“Peter could have omitted the references to the sun and moon by ending his quotation from Joel earlier. But he specifically includes them as what has been fulfilled. Peter knew that such cosmic language should not be interpreted literalistically. Rather he knew that such language meant that God would sovereignly intervene in history and do something miraculous. He knew that this marked a key event in the history of redemption. It was a sign that they were living in the end times.”
Saying that Acts 2 encourages believers to be on alert anytime the moon literally takes on a red hue represents a misunderstanding of Scripture, Merkle said. “Hagee has a history of putting forth teaching that is later retracted and his interpretation of the four blood moons may fall into that category,” he said.
Bruce Gordon, associate professor of history and philosophy of science at Houston Baptist University, agreed. Apart from the star God placed over Jesus’ birthplace in Bethlehem, “the whole business of discerning ‘signs in the heavens’ related to human affairs smacks either of astrology or pointless speculation about eschatological prophecies in Scripture,” he said in written comments to Baptist Press.
“Of course, Christ will return someday and creation will be made new,” he said. “The wise course of action is not to speculate about various ‘signs of the times,’ however, but rather to keep your spiritual house in order and give stronger emphasis to Jesus’ pronouncement that ‘about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father’ (Matt. 24:36).”