Popular Bible preacher John Hagee has authored a book and produced a movie by the same name, Four Blood Moons (in theatres March 23 only). On the film’s website the San Antonio megachurch pastor states, “The heavens are ‘God’s billboard.’ He’s been sending signals to earth, and we haven’t been picking them up.” In part 1 of this series, as an astronomer I analyzed those “signals,” a series of four (tetrad) total lunar eclipses that supposedly ushers in prophetic activity ahead of the return of Christ. Now, as a student of Scripture and as one who believes in premillennial eschatology, I convey my primary, biblical criticism.
1. Earth phenomena might be responsible for lunar darkening. Three biblical passages mention the Moon taking on a blood-like appearance: Joel 2:31, Acts 2:20, and Revelation 6:12. All three state that both the Moon and the Sun take on a darkened appearance. These passages also imply that the darkening will be visible to all of humanity. However, there is no darkening of the Sun during a total lunar eclipse. Furthermore, total lunar eclipses last only a couple of hours and are visible to a fraction of humanity.
Eight other biblical texts describe the darkening of the Moon’s light, but not the blood color: Ecclesiastes 12:2; Isaiah 13:10; Ezekiel 32:7–8; Joel 2:10; 3:15; Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:24; and Revelation 8:12. In all these passages not only is the Moon’s light darkened but that of the Sun and stars as well. In Revelation 8 the darkening of the Sun, Moon, and stars is preceded by a third of the world’s forests and grasslands being burnt up and a huge mountain set ablaze. Ash from volcanic eruptions and from forest and grass fires both reddens and dims sunlight, moonlight, and starlight.
I personally have seen the reddening and dimming effect of forest fire smoke several times. Not only does the Moon look blood-red but the Sun and stars do as well. I have seen the noontime Sun dimmed to such a degree by forest fire smoke that my environs were as dark as night.
The worldwide injection of dust into the atmosphere offers a consistent and satisfactory explanation for all the Bible passages describing the dimming or reddening (or both) of the Moon’s light. It explains, too, how the entire human population would notice the phenomenon and that many people would begin to fear God as a result. The same cannot be said for Hagee’s lunar eclipse hypothesis.
2. “Great lights” benefit animals but say nothing about prophecy. Another interpretive concern lies in the treatment of Genesis 1:14. Hagee and others (such as Mark Biltz of El Shaddai Ministries and Larry Huch of Larry Huch Ministries) appeal to this verse as justification for looking to the Moon for signs of God’s interventions in human history. Genesis 1:14 (and 1:16) does say that the two great lights (the Sun and the Moon) will serve as signs. However, it says that from creation day four forward they will serve as signs to mark seasons, days, and years, not that they will serve as signs to mark prophesied events.
Throughout creation days one, two, and three, light from the Sun and Moon penetrated Earth’s atmosphere, but because of overcast skies at that time, creatures on Earth’s surface could not make out the form of the bodies responsible for the light. On creation day four Earth’s atmosphere first became transparent. Now creatures on Earth’s surface could discern the positions of the Sun, Moon, and stars in the sky. Knowledge of those positions enabled them to determine what part of the year and day they were in and, thus, determine when they should feed, reproduce, migrate, hibernate, and so on. Support for this interpretation stems from the observation that all the life described in Genesis 1 before creation day four does not require knowledge of the positions of the Sun, Moon, and stars to perform their life functions, but all the life described after creation day four in Genesis 1 needs that knowledge to regulate their complex biological clocks.
3. Numerous world events have yet to occur. Finally, Old Testament prophecies regarding the second rebirth of Israel indicate that several events must yet take place before anyone can conclude that the Great Tribulation, the time of the end that precedes Christ’s return, is at hand. A sampling of these events (again, from a premillennial perspective) includes:
- a dictator takes control of a confederation that includes all the world’s nations (Daniel 7:7–8, 23–25; 2 Thessalonians 2:3–12)
- the nation of Israel agrees to disarm (Ezekiel 38:3–11)
- all adherents of Judaism reside in Israel (Ezekiel 34:6–16; 36:8–12, 24; 37:20–21; 38:8; 39:25–28)
- Israel achieves great economic prosperity (Ezekiel 36:8–12, 33–36; 38:12–13)
- Israel gains some degree of political control over the lands known in the ancient world as Edom, Moab, and Ammon (Isaiah 11:14; Ezekiel 38:3–8; Daniel 11:36–45; Amos 9:11–12; Obadiah 1:19–21; Zephaniah 2:8–11; Zechariah 10:10)
- the Great Commission nears completion as Christ’s followers raise up disciples in every ethnicity, kith, or people group throughout the world (Matthew 28:18–20)
While one can argue that these political and economic events could happen in the very near future, so far none have occurred.
Rather than get caught up in the fulfillment of end-times prophecy, I believe Christians should take comfort in Christ’s promise to return and should remain busy promulgating the Gospel. He will return to Earth once his followers have taken the good news of salvation to all the people groups of the world and have raised up many disciples. Instead of waiting for a sign in the sky, we can make his return imminent by completing the task he assigned us. His Holy Spirit promises to help.