We are finally going to get what so many of us have been eagerly awaiting: the end of the world. It is near, and this time it is for real. The harbinger of the apocalyptic mega-event is the fourth and last of an exceptional series of lunar eclipses, also called blood moons, which is to take place on 28 September 2015. This is only a few weeks away as I publish this, so this may well be one of the last – if not the last – issues of Create a Learning Site ever to appear. Unless there is a mistake in the theory that I will explain in a little bit. But first…
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… I would like to offer a reflection on a profound change that has taken place since I studied this subject of the end times for my master’s thesis. This was in the early 1990s and therefore looked back to publications of the 80s and 70s and further back. By the way, if you are interested, a simplified version of this thesis, titled The Still Great Planet Earth, is available as free download once you subscribe to this blog using the form in the sidebar.
I was reminded of this recently when I saw a photo of a book by Hal Lindsey posted on Facebook by Gaétan Brassard with the following comment (translated from the French):
Excerpt from my future book: “a lot of books on biblical prophecies are like yoghurt: they are quickly past date”.
You have to be a certain age I suppose to fully appreciate this. Hal Lindsey’s book, in English titled The Late Great Planet Earth, was the bestselling non-fiction book of the entire decade of the 1970s. To be fair, the predictions and forecasts of the book held quite a bit longer than yoghurt, a number of years rather than a mere couple of weeks. Still, already during the 1980s it increasingly became clear that the book was, well, out of date.
So what is the profound change I just referred to? For all his errors, Hal Lindsey at least was trying to interpret the Bible. His entire scenario, as erroneous as it turned out to be, was the result of wrestling with passages of Scripture, painstakingly putting piece after piece of the prophetic puzzle in its supposed place. This cannot be said for his recent successors and the hype they have created around the so-called blood moons and, to introduce an additional element, the shemitah.
To be sure, these ideas still reach back to a term or phrase in the Bible. There are passages that speak of the moon becoming blood (actually, there are only three, one of which is a quote of the first: Joel 2:31, Acts 2:20, Rev. 6:12). Shemitah is a Hebrew word meaning release, and it is used in connection with the Sabbath year, the seventh year in which the fields were not to be cultivated and all debts had to be forgiven or “released” (Deut. 15:1-9; you are wondering what this has to do with the end of the world? Good question; we will get to it, but the short answer is: nothing). There is therefore still the appearance of being “biblical,” but this is based on little more than a word or phrase ripped from the Bible. The claims that are built on it go far beyond the biblical text.
Blood Moons: So What Are We Talking About?
To answer this question we first have to review a bit of science. A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth stands between the sun and the moon. This can only happen at full moon, when the sun and the moon are on opposite sides of the Earth. The moon moves into the shadow of the Earth and loses much of its brightness, but does not disappear from sight. Depending on the exact time and circumstances, it may turn dark or take on a reddish colour. This is where the association with blood comes from, which has led some to coin the term blood moon to refer to a lunar eclipse. The colour can also be orangey rather than blood red, but hey, moon of orange does not sound very apocalyptic, does it?
A solar eclipse occurs when the moon moves between the sun and the Earth. In a total eclipse the moon disk completely covers the sun, so that the sun disappears from sight; it turns dark. In this constellation, the sun and the moon are on the same side of the Earth; this can therefore only happen at new moon. For this reason, a lunar and solar eclipse cannot possibly happen on the same day; they are always at least two weeks apart.
Lunar eclipses are not rare. According to NASA, there will be approximately 85 total eclipses during the 21st century.  Much less common is a sequence of four total eclipses, not interrupted by a partial eclipse. (During a partial eclipse only part of the moon moves into the Earth’s shadow and loses its brightness.) A series like this is called a tetrad by astronomers, although in end-time speculation the term tetrad is often used in a more restricted sense, as we will see. Again according to NASA, there will be eight such tetrads in the 21st century; there were none between 1600 and 1900. 
For more explanation, watch these two NASA video clips:
Even rarer is a tetrad in which each eclipse falls on a Jewish holiday. That an eclipse would take place on a Jewish holiday is not improbable. Both the Passover feast and the feast of Tabernacles take place or start on day 14 or 15 after the new moon, and therefore always coincide with full moon, the only time of the month when a lunar eclipse can occur. Much less likely is that this would happen four times in a row spread out over a two-year period: Passover, Tabernacles, Passover, Tabernacles. In recent publications on the end times, the term tetrad is usually reserved for such a peculiar and rare sequence.
Since the beginning of the Christian era, this has only happened eight times, including the present tetrad: 162-163, 795-796, 842-843, 860-861, 1493-1494, 1949-1950, 1967-1968, and 2014-2015.
Do any of these years stand out to you as particularly significant?
Lunar Eclipses as Prophetic Signs and Fulfilment of Prophecy
When Mark Biltz, whose name is often misspelt as Blitz (no kidding!), looked at these dates in 2007, he answered the question with yes – at least for three of them. He concluded they were associated with significant events in the history of the Jews:
- The Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492 (but notice that this preceded the supposed sign of the 1493-1494 tetrad).
- In 1948, the State of Israel was declared and fought a war for its independence (but since the war ended with an armistice in January 1949, notice that all of this took place before the first eclipse of this tetrad).
- In July 1967, the Israelis conquered the old city of Jerusalem with the Temple Mount (but notice that by then only one of the four lunar eclipses had occurred).
So what significant event is going to be associated with the present tetrad, which finishes with the lunar eclipse on 28 September 2015? Will it be the beginning of another major war in the Middle East? Will it mark the beginning of events leading up to the second coming of Christ? Whatever it will turn out to be, based on biblical prophecies of the moon turning to blood before the great day of the Lord, Mark Biltz has no doubt that this tetrad is a prophetic sign of great importance.
Hmm… I am beginning to have some doubts. Considering the pattern displayed in these earlier tetrads, shouldn’t the “significant event” be clear before the final eclipse? What about the four tetrads in the first 1000 years after Christ; what was their significance? And what about all the other lunar eclipses? Why do they not have prophetic significance? Where in the Bible is special significance ascribed to four lunar eclipses in a row on Jewish holidays?
From Lunar Eclipses to Blood Moons and John Hagee
I should really stop calling them lunar eclipses. This sounds so cold and scientific; it won’t sell. So let’s talk about blood moons. Mark Biltz is the originator of the idea, but the person who took it to the masses and made it a household word is Pastor John Hagee. His book Four Blood Moons: Something Is About to Change was published in 2013 by Unworthy Publishing. No, sorry, that should be Worthy Publishing.
John Hagee is no newcomer to the art of end-time speculation. He published his first book on the subject almost 20 years ago, in 1996: The Beginning of the End: The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the Coming Antichrist. Do you even remember Yitzhak Rabin? He was prime minister of Israel and was murdered in 1995 because he signed a peace accord with the Palestinians. Tragic, but how does this, of all things, mark the beginning of the end? I don’t have a clue. 20 years later his death does not stand out as a prophetic marker of great significance. I guess this book, too, is past its “best before” date.
But back to Four Blood Moons. Look at the subtitle: “Something Is About to Change.” Taken at face value, this is a meaningless statement. Of course something is about to change; it always is. Imagine the opposite: absolutely nothing is going to change for a whole month. Now that would be a stunning claim. It would also be one that is easy to check and falsify.
But of course in this context the statement is not to be taken at face value; it is an understatement. What it means is: something really big and extraordinary is about to happen, something that may well be related to the end of the world: “The final Four Blood Moons are signaling that something big is coming….something that will change the world forever” (Hagee 2013:237). Or as the cover has it: “Just as in biblical times, God is controlling the sun, the moon, and the stars to send our generation a signal that something big is about to happen.”
(Notice that World War I and II, which included the Holocaust, were not announced by blood moons. Pretty big events, I’d say.)
And the Shemitah?
In this context, Hagee also pays attention to the shemitah year. I have already explained that this term refers to the Sabbath year, but of course it sounds more intriguing and mysterious if you can find a different, less known Hebrew word for it. To keep the Sabbath year was a biblical command for Israel under the Mosaic covenant. But what does this have to do with the future? This letter is already running longer than usual, so I’ll have to keep it short, but here is the essence.
It really goes back to “Rabbi” Jonathan Cahn and his two books, The Harbinger and The Mystery of the Shemitah. Cahn thinks he has discovered a seven-year pattern, coinciding with the Sabbath year cycle, of judgments and warnings and economic crises in American history. He senses a strong prophetic urge to warn that America needs to repent and prepare for a great shaking, which may be economic collapse, war, or worse.
So it is not in the Bible. It is based on prophetic inspiration. Or something else (especially if this fall does not bring a significant economic crisis to America).
The present Sabbath year began on 25 September 2014 and ends 13 September 2015. This means it more or less coincides with the end of the present tetrad, lending increased significance to both.
Okay… And What Does the Bible Say?
So what is in the Bible, other than the word shemitah? I have already pointed out the three references that do indeed mention – not “blood moon,” but the moon turning to blood (Joel 2:31, Acts 2:20, Rev. 6:12). Here is the original passage that inspired the other two:
And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the LORD has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls. (Joel 2:30-32, ESV; this was quoted on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 as now in process of fulfilment…)
In addition, there are several passages that refer to the moon turning dark (Joel 2:10; 3:15; Is. 13:10; Ezek. 32:7; Mt. 24:29f; Mk.13:24; Rev. 8:12), which is not quite the same thing, but close. Like Joel 2, all these passages refer to more than a dark or blood red moon: sun and stars are affected as well; in Joel 2 and Acts 2 there are also signs on the earth. All are associated with momentous events indeed. In most cases, this concerns the day of the Lord; in three cases, their context foretells a historical judgment, now in the past: on Israel in form of a locust plague (Joel 2:10), on Babylon (for Is. 13:10), and Egypt (for Ezek. 32:7). None of them speak of a tetrad.
Is this about lunar eclipses? But then it must also be about solar eclipses. And these cannot possibly coincide. Besides, does this not sound like more than a merely interesting and entirely predictable and utterly harmless natural phenomenon? It may well be that eclipses inspired the prophetic imagination, but I doubt the prophets meant to predict more of the same.
Seeing they happen so often: which solar eclipse, which lunar eclipse, signals the end or is the sign specified in various texts?
Here is a better interpretation. It is the belief of many interpreters (me included) that this kind of formulaic language is not intended to be taken literally. It is part of the apocalyptic way of speaking, part of the apocalyptic “code” if you will. It signifies momentous change, yes: a change of world order, the passing of an old age and the beginning of a new one. It is a way of speaking about God’s coming and intervention. It is the equivalent of using bright neon letters and amplified sound to communicate your message. But if its fulfilment is merely a lunar or solar eclipse (or four), this would be a severe anti-climax.
Blood Moons Crashing: The World Is Not Yet Ending after All
The more I think about it, the more problems I begin to see with this theory. In closing, let me point out a few:
- There are no passages in the Bible that speak of four successive lunar eclipses, much less blood moons.
- How many of these blood moons did you see? The problem is, none of them are visible everywhere. Here is a fact of great irony: none of the first three of the present tetrad were visible in Israel.  What kind of a sign is that!?
- There were seven tetrads on Jewish holidays in the past 2000 years (not counting the present one), but only three of these are picked up in the literature – because the other four do not coincide with anything significant in Israel’s history: 162-163, 795-796, 842-843, and 860-861. And as pointed out before, the remaining three largely or entirely happened after the event they supposedly marked.
- Sabbath years have no prophetic significance in the Bible and are not times of judgment. History does not follow a seven-year rhythm of crises and disasters. Don’t you think historians and economists would have picked this up if it did?
- It is hard to see how the blood moon prediction differs from astrology – or other forms of divination and fortune telling, which are often based on interpreting signs of some sort. Does that sound like a biblically valid approach to future events?
It is probably not the economy that is going to crash this month, but the blood moon theory. I guess I will be writing more Create a Learning Site issues after all. So let me finish with a verse taken out of context (but relevant nonetheless):
The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. (Ps. 121:6, NIV)
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lists_of_lunar_eclipses provides lists of lunar eclipses for the past 4000 years and down until the end of the 30th century.
 “‘During the 21st century, there are 8 sets of tetrads, so I would describe tetrads as a frequent occurrence in the current pattern of lunar eclipses,’ says Espenak. ‘But this has not always been the case. During the three hundred year interval from 1600 to 1900, for instance, there were no tetrads at all.’” http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2014/27mar_tetrad/
 http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/lunar.html shows where lunar eclipses were or will be visible.
References & Photo Attribution
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Standard Bible Society, 2001)
The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984)
Jonathan Cahn, The Harbinger: The Ancient Mystery That Holds the Secret of America’s Future (Lake Mary, FL: Frontline, 2012)
Ibid., The Mystery of the Shemitah: The 3,000-Year-Old Mystery That Holds the Secret of America’s Future, the World’s Future, and Your Future! (Lake Mary, FL: Frontline, 2014)
John Hagee, The Beginning of the End: The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the Coming Antichrist (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1996)
Ibid., Four Blood Moons: Something Is About to Change (Franklin, TN: Worthy Publishing, 2013)
Lunar Eclipse Dec 21 2010 – Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Thxguy, https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/File:Dec_2010_Lunar_Eclipse-1.jpg, Public Domain
Lunar Eclipse: Luc Viatour, www.Lucnix.be, https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Datei:Eclipse_lune.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0
Solar Eclipse: Abel Pardo López, https://www.flickr.com/photos/sancho_panza/54940367/, CC BY 2.0
PM Yitzhak Rabin with President Clinton and Yasser Arafat during the signing of the Oslo I Accord in 1993: Israel Defense Forces, https://www.flickr.com/photos/idfonline/8137846834/, CC BY-NC