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On Blood-Red Moons

Human beings excel at discovering patterns. This is, of course, a manifestation of God-given intelligence. Trained chimpanzees may be able to string together all sorts of words using sign language, but they’ll never progress in language acquisition far enough to make the mistake every English-speaking toddler does in saying something like, “Mommy goed to the store.” No one speaks this way, but it fits the pattern their brains are hard-wired to pick up on. We do the same thing when we see “faces” in the moon, Mars, windows, toast, trees, etc. (cf. pareidolia).

Anyway, two remarkable alignments are occurring in 2014 and 2015 that have been picked up by the pattern-discovery radar of some Bible teachers, and the word is out. Perhaps you’ve heard of the “blood moons”? Allow me to explain.

Full moons happen when the earth is positioned between the sun and the moon. Most of the time, the moon is out of the earth’s shadow and still lighted by the sun. Two to five times a year, the earth’s shadow blocks out the sun’s light and the moon appears eclipsed from certain vantage points on earth.

Animation_September_28_2015_lunar_eclipse_appearance
"Animation September 28 2015 lunar eclipse appearance" by Tomruen - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons -
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Animation_September_28_2015_lunar_eclipse_appearance.gif#/media/File:Animation_September_28_2015_lunar_eclipse_appearance.gif

According to astronomers, about 29% of lunar eclipses are total, meaning the earth’s shadow completely covers the moon. We can still see the moon during total eclipses, however, because sunlight—in particular, light in the red spectrum—bends around the earth’s atmosphere. The reddening of the moon in total lunar eclipses is the same visual phenomenon that colors the sky at sunrise and sunset. The term “blood moon” is not used by astronomers, but it has recently gained traction for its dramatic value.

blood-moons-1
Graphic credit: https://answersingenesis.org/astronomy/moon/will-lunar-eclipses-cause-four-blood-moons-in-2014-and-2015/

When four successive lunar eclipses are all total eclipses, this is referred to as a lunar tetrad. This is our first point of alignment:

The total lunar eclipses on April 15, 2014, October 8, 2014, April 4, 2015, and September 28, 2015 form a tetrad.

This in itself is not remarkable. Tetrads, though rare, are regular and predictable. The last century saw five tetrads, and there have been 55 tetrads since 1 AD.

What attracted the attention of Bible teachers is the second point of alignment:

All four of these lunar eclipses fall on major Jewish holidays (Passover and Tabernacles).

This is indeed intriguing.

Before we get too excited, though, note that since the Jewish calendar begins months at new moons, it is inevitable that Passover (14 Nisan) and Tabernacles (15 Tishri) will fall on full moons periodically. If you crunch the numbers, you’ll find that these Jewish holidays have aligned with lunar tetrads eight times since the birth of Christ.

Some Bible teachers have pointed out the last three tetrad-holiday alignments corresponded (more or less) to significant times in Jewish history: the six-day war (1967–68 tetrad), the creation of the Jewish state (1949–50 tetrad), and the expulsion of Jews from Spain (1493–94 tetrad).

Does this rise to the level of a “sign,” or, as John Hagee said, “a world-shaking event that will happen between April 2014 and October 2015”? Hardly. If you’re looking for a pattern in this, you might find one, but what about the previous tetrad-holiday alignments in which nothing of significance is reported in Jewish history?

When Scripture speaks of the moon’s turning to blood as a sign of the end times (Joel 2:31; Rev 6:21), it is using the imagery of a lunar eclipse to describe upheaval and the inversion of the order of things. But there is no biblical basis for connecting lunar tetrads with eschatological developments for Israel or with Christ’s return, as some have attempted to do.

My advice? Don’t spend all your money on apocalypse survival kits. Go enjoy the lunar eclipse on September 28, and strive to be found doing the master’s business when he returns (Matt 24:45–46). 

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