September 7, 2015

Blood Moons: Predicting the Unpredictable

by Clint Archer

moon over jerusalemThe reason a bevy of justifiably smug journalists was camping on Harold Camping’s front lawn on May 21, 2011 is because yet another of the preacher-cum-radio-broadcaster’s predictions of rapture had misfired.

One would think that after his failed prediction of 1988 Camping’s popularity as an authority on date-setting would have waned. If not then, perhaps after his 1989 repeat performance. Incredibly, his credulous followers remained obdurate about Camping’s abilities to pinpoint an event the Bible says is impossible to predict. When he suddenly appeared to the salivating pack of reporters on his lawn Camping explained that his prophecy must have been fulfilled in a “spiritual” way (preterist much?) but that he foresaw the literal coming of Christ happening on October 21, the same year.

Anyhoo… The reason for this trip down memorable mishap lane, is that it’s about that time of the millennium again, so we are faced with a new date-setting phenomenon at which to furrow our brows. This time the mania for rapture takes on slightly more of a lunatic hue. I mean that fairly literally.

The “blood moon tetrad” is the latest prophecy to make the rounds on social media.

Admittedly, I can’t wax eloquent on its finer details, but as I understand it the prediction is elastically derived from the prophet Joel’s words that reoccur on Peter’s lips in his Pentecost sermon of Acts 2:20 the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.

Obviously that verse must be referring to the blood moon tetrad. What’s that, you ask? It’s only the most rare event in the history of history. Kinda.

A blood moon tetrad is when four consecutive lunar eclipses, with six full moons in between, but no partial lunar eclipses interfering, happen to coincide with Jewish feasts. Got that? The first in the series was during last year’s Passover: April 15, 2014 (a possible portent of death and taxes?) and sported a deep red coloration. The crimson imbuement is caused by Rayleigh scattering and is not at all uncommon with eclipses, but still. Red. Like blood. Very cool.

The other eclipses presented themselves dutifully during the Feast of Booths on October 8, 2014, then again at the following Passover on April 4 (also the date of Martin Luther King’s assassination, just saying).

And here’s the good part: the final climactic eclipse will be during the Feast of Booths on September 28. Yup, this very month.

Tetrads are gratifyingly rare, but by no means historic. There have been 62 since Jesus’ first advent, and eight of them have coincided with two Jewish feasts.

What do we make of this? Pastor Mark Biltz, pastor and author John Hagee, and apparently enough readers to make his book on this topic a bestseller,  have taken this to be a cosmic omen of Christ’s return or the end of the world as we know it.

This is reminiscent of the Mayan calendar’s 2012 prediction (proven wrong in 2012 in case you haven’t noticed), and like Camping’s pertinacious predictions, and like every other prediction of Christ’s return—ever. Methinks there will be some embarrassed blushing on September 29. If it’s me who’s wrong, I’ll write a retraction. Mayan pacepalm

If only the Bible had something to say about this stuff. Oh wait…

Mark 13:32-33 “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come.”

Luke 21:7-8 And they asked him, “Teacher, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?” And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them.

When someone presents you with a date that Jesus will definitely return, you can go to your calendar, circle that day, and mark it as “not today.” But then go read 2 Pet 3:11 and remember that any reminder that Jesus is coming back should make us ask “…what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness”? Even when that reminder is a well-meaning crazy person predicting the unpredictable.

Clint Archer

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Clint has been the pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church since 2005. He lives in Durban, South Africa with his wife and four kids.
  • Dan_Cartwright

    Excellent piece with an appropriate bit of well placed sarcasm.

    • Thanks Dan. Sometimes people miss the irony and call me on a view I don’t hold.

  • Lars B

    I always enjoy your articles Clint. Thanks. Btw, Camping’s main prediction before the most recent was 1994. The 1988 and 1989 was someone else

    • Oh ok, thanks. It’s sometimes hard to keep all the false predictions straight.

  • BibleBeliever

    My understanding of the four blood moons wasn’t that is was a prediction of Jesus’ return, but rather that some significant event related to Israel would occur.

    • carol fields

      Yes, that is what I have read as well. While it is true, no one knows the time or date, he did give us signs to watch for. And if Obama has his way and this ridiculous treaty gets passed, a significant even just might occur.

    • Dan_Cartwright

      Something significant concerning Israel is always happening. Google Chris White and Four Blood Moons for an interesting video.

  • rhutchin

    Whether its Camping setting a date or other preachers saying Jesus will return soon (fuzzier date setting), they are all focused on one single event – the restoration of Israel in 1948. Even without prophetic significance, the restoration of the Jewish people to a homeland that they had not seen in hundreds of years was a truly remarkable event. However, as Israel enjoys God’s favor, it is easy to see God’s hand orchestrating the action’s of men to bring about that result.

    So, was 1948 a prophetic year that ushered in the end of time and has precipitated Christ’s return? For many people, it’s exciting to think that it was and that we could see the return of Christ is our lifetime. Camping got wrapped up in numbers believing that numbers like “40” (and 1988) or the Jubilee Year (1994) served as important indicators of God’s plans after 1948.

    The final number that Camping missed may be the number “70,” and the 70th year after 1948 is 2018. Could the year 2018 be of prophetic importance? Who knows, but it is exciting to think that it might. “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Maybe not 2018, but we see that day coming closer with every passing day – so maybe 1948 was a prophetic year and maybe Christ’s return is close: It does make things exciting.

    • Good points. The bottom line is that anything and everything that reminds us, or gets us excited about, Christ’s return should have the effect of us pursuing holiness and evangelism. If not, it’s idle speculation. What I’d caution against is putting any faith in opinions that are offered as authoritative.

    • rdh

      If Jesus, himself, does not know, how does any man on Earth expect to figure this out by solving a math problem…?

      • Jason

        And to think everyone complains about not needing to know the stuff taught in High School math classes!

    • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

      I once heard the passage of the fig tree budding in Matthew 24 likened to the restoration of Israel in 1948 and how “this generation would not pass away” was a 70 year span, which would bring us to 2018.

      I would love to get excited about that, but being an ex-JW I’m a little more cautious about end time predictions than most. 😉

      • Jason

        I’ve heard that often to. Sometimes from very solid Bible teachers.

        The context states that the fig tree is mentioned as a parable of discerning the times and that the times can be discerned based on “these things”(verse 33).

        In context, “these things” are the sun and moon going dark, the heavenly bodies being shaken (some sort of cosmic disaster), and the sign of the Son of Man appearing in heaven.

        Once we start seeing those signs we can know that the Lord will soon gather His elect (within the current generation).

      • Still Waters

        Matthew 24 is ambiguous, because the disciples asked two different questions at the same time which were answered at the same time: 1) When will the temple be destroyed? 2) When will you come into your kingdom? At least some part of Christ’s answer to the first question clearly pertains to the actual destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. I recently read Josephus’ eyewitness account of that destruction to my parents, and the almost incredible violence and tribulation of that time makes one understand why Christ told the women of Jerusalem to weep for themselves and their children. I am increasingly convinced it was meant to be ambiguous, in the same way the OT prophets mixed prophecies about the Messiah with prophecies about more immediate events. It helps to remember that the Jewish religious scholars could not piece together what the Messiah would be, and that some of their pet theories got in the way of recognizing his coming.

  • tovlogos

    Ha — Nice essay, Clint. I appreciate your skepticism, which the Bible gives good to be…
    I am hard pressed to imagine what I would do differently even if I knew the date. We certainly don’t need soothsayers to clearly realize that the time is near; and the assurance of salvation is a daily comfort.

    • This is a good point. I’d prefer if Jesus returned today!

  • 4Commencefiring4

    Sometimes I picture the Lord preparing to wrap it all up and be done with this grand experiment, but then someone predicts “the end” He had in mind and He decides, “Naaah, I can’t have that guy being right. Let’s just see how much more of a mess they can make of it.” And we never disappoint. Sort of like watching a demolition derby.

  • Barbara

    Very good, and concise. Now if only my friends hadn’t cancelled their vacation because of this! Wow. Forwarding this post.

  • Jason

    I keep hoping it’s the day after one of the popular predictions. So many people holding their breath on those days, but if there was a day where few people are looking for the Jesus’s return it’s the day they’re thinking about how wrong yesterday’s prediction was.

  • Still Waters

    Hal Lindsay was notorious for writing a book (or a few) claiming that the current decade would probably be the last. My parents had a few of his ’70s and ’80s book shitting unread on their shelves, and we children would sneer at them, since those decades were long over. When, in the early 2000s, I heard from an enthusiastic fellow church goer that Lindsay was still predicting the coming end, I was slightly horrified that Christians were continuing, after so many failed predictions, to take him seriously. Under OT law, he would have been stoned as a false prophet. It really discredits Christianity to continuously indulge in such predictions, and displays a lack of faith in Christ’s own words that we can not know the day or hour. Also, from observation of the type of people who take the greatest interest in such predictions, I would say that they are using it as a form of escapism from the challenges of living for Christ in a fallen world.

    • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

      So true. I became a Christian in 1996 and of course I thought every “Christian” author must be right about everything! So when I saw a book by Grant Jeffrey called “Armageddon” I had to buy it. Being an ex-JW, I was ready for some “born again” insights into this end time issue.

      Well he predicted Christ’s return in April of 1997 so basically (as a new believer) I was packed and ready to go. Sadly, I’ve had to learn to be discerning even within the church.

  • Sir Aaron

    Of course, some of us might not make it to Sept. 29th. Our bags need to be packed because we could be called home anytime.

    I do believe natural phenomena could be signs of the times, but that’s really about it.

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  • Janet White

    Jesus said “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A shower is coming.’ And so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘there will be scorching heat,’ and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time? So they missed it at His first coming. Will we miss it at His second coming?! (Luke 12:54-56) We won’t know the day or hour, but we are supposed to know the times and seasons. (Matt. 16:2,3)

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