I've backed away from blogging for the past few months thanks to an impressive academic workload, but I needed to jump back briefly to comment on an exercise in Vain Imaginings that is being promoted by the Rev. John Hagee: The meaning of four “blood moons” (full lunar eclipses) falling on four Jewish high feast days in the 2014-15 lunar cycle.
For those of you on a tight schedule, good news: This blog will be brief. It turns out that it’s incredibly easy to debunk Hagee’s now-gone-viral suggestion that these blood moons have anything to do with the Rapture, the Second Coming, war in Israel, or any other End Times event.
1. Scripture Makes Limited References to the Moon Looking Like Blood.
Hagee had previously suggested that the End Times would begin in the 1990s, but that failed projection hasn’t kept him from keeping his prediction franchise going. His most recent Mammon-grabber of a bestseller is called Four Blood Moons: Something Is About to Change. In it, he related a passage from the minor prophet Joel to our current cycle of four blood moons within a one-and-a-half year period. (Total lunar eclipses are called blood moons thanks to the reddish glow the moon reflects from sunlight’s longest wavelength, red):
Joel 2:28-31 (KJV)
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:
This is the Bible’s primary reference to a moon that looks like blood. Note that there is no mention of a cycle of four phases in which the moon looks like blood over a 1.5 year period. Note, too, that there is no mention of the blood moons taking place on High Feast Days of the Hebrews. I mention these things because they are important to Hagee's book-marketing claims, but appear nowhere in the Scripture text he is promoting. He would have us interpret this text as if it were referring to events taking place right now, but he is severely ... and biblically ... mistaken.
You see, the Bible tells us exactly when these things took place and were fulfilled. In Acts chapter 2, the Apostle Peter declared that the very words written above were fulfilled on the day of Pentecost (v. 16) when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles. That was the coming of the Day of the Lord, and from thence forth, all who called upon the name of the Lord would be saved.
We have a choice: Believe Hagee, because interesting stuff is going on with eclipses and Jewish holidays; or believe Peter that the Scripture Hagee has usurped for his bestseller was in fact fulfilled on the day the Bible declared it fulfilled.
If you side with Hagee, you have a cool, topical Vain Imagining to discuss ... but you will have trouble explaining to the rest of us that the Holy Spirit has not yet come, and that we are still awaiting a day when we can call upon the name of the Lord to be saved.
As my first pastor used to say: “That just don’t play well in my pew.”
2. Prophecies for Israel Should Be Fulfilled in Israel
The above was enough to close the coffin lid on Hagee’s Vain Imagining, but allow me to nail the lid of that coffin shut with a couple other facts:
- Israel Has 7 High Feast Days, not 3: Hagee makes very little effort to explain why four blood moons and an accompanying solar eclipse occurring on exactly three (but not all seven) feast days declared by Moses from Sinai is a special sign of a world changing event. It’s an impressive confluence, indeed; however, no part of the prophecies he pretends to be interpreting mentions a three-sevenths split in the importance of feast days.
- None of the Blood Moons will be seen in Israel: Oddly, the tetrad (a foursome) of blood moons declared by Hagee to be so significant for Israel won’t be visible in Israel. Well, to be fair, the very last one on September 28, 2015 (the feast of Sukkot) will be visible for a few minutes right before sunrise, should anyone there happen to look up. Now, I don’t claim to know the mind of God, but I will hazard this insight: If I were giving the chosen people of Israel a sign in the heavens, I wouldn’t put the best views of that sign in New Zealand.
- Tetrads of Blood Moons Have Not Predicted Anything for Israel in the Past: Hagee claims that the modern founding of Israel was predicted by a blood moon foursome. He also claims that the Spanish expulsion of the Jews was foretold by a blood moon tetrad, as well as the Six Day War for Jerusalem. He would be wrong in all cases, however. The tetrad of 1493 took place a year after the expulsion of Jews from Spain, and 16 years after the launch of the Spanish Inquisition. The tetrad of 1949 took place a year after the founding of modern Israel. The Six Day War – apparently Hagee’s favorite of the fifteen modern Israeli wars – started a random 44 days after the first lunar eclipse of the tetrad of that time; the other eclipses wandered in over the course of the next fifteen months. Simple fact: signs predict. When the alleged signs come after an event, they’re not predicting anything except the past. By that reasoning, the upcoming tetrad of blood moons foretells something really huge happening back in 2013.
- A Fractional Solar Eclipse Is Not “Darkness”: Hagee makes a big deal about a March 20, 2015 Jerusalem solar eclipse. His marketing campaign for his latest book would have you believe that this fulfills Joel’s prediction that the sun will become dark in Jerusalem (and yes, he suddenly, inexplicably cares that this is in Jerusalem now, a milepost that seemed unimportant for lunar eclipses). Long story short: The March 2015 Jerusalem solar eclipse will block less than 10% of the sun. This is no full eclipse from Israel’s perspective. It’s a drive-by.
3. The Moral of My Story Today
I can’t tell you whether Hagee is self-deluded or a conscious deceiver. I can tell you, however, that what he does detracts from the mission of the Gospel. Time and again the Scriptures warn us to avoid Vain Imaginings and to beware the tickling of our ears by preachers we gather around ourselves for entertainment rather than challenge and discipleship. The answers to the question “What’s the harm?” when asked about such flights of fancy as Hagee’s blood moons hoax are these:
- they take energy from the sharing of the Gospel and refocus Christian effort on acts of astrology and divination;
- they encourage partial readings of the Scripture in service to personal interpretations that fall on shallow soil, sprout, and die once predicted dates and times come and go;
- they take time from teachers who must then refute the Gospel-overshadowing theories of charlatans ... time that would be better spent searching the Scriptures or, better still, bringing the Scriptures to life through the fruit of the Spirit and good works laid out for us by God.
My prediction: The last blood moon of the tetrad on September 28, 2015 will come. Then it will go. There will be wars and rumors of wars, but the end will not be yet. Rev. John Hagee will say that he never suggested that the Rapture would happen. He’ll blame that extrapolation of his words on others. He will point toward some event that takes place in 2015 and declare it to be a “major change” that the blood moon tetrad predicted. The change will be an important event for that particular time, but not significant to the history of salvation. Memory of his claims will fade. Then it will be gone, forgotten.
Then someone else, or perhaps Hagee himself, will point to a new personal interpretation, a new startling event, an ear-tickling idea that again predicts a time table for the coming of the Lord. My personal guess (and remember that you heard it here first) will be May 14, 2018 ... exactly 70 years from the founding of modern Israel, which someone will decide is a “generation.”
We’ll all be older then. But will we be wiser?