‘Blood moon’ eclipses spur books, debate

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WASHINGTON (RNS)—Could a series of “blood moon” events be connected to Jesus’ return? Some Christians think so, but others dismiss the speculation.

In the wee hours of the morning April 15, the moon slid into Earth’s shadow, casting a reddish hue on the moon. About two lunar eclipses occur per year, according to NASA. But what’s unusual this time around is four blood moons will take place within 18 months—astronomers call that a tetrad—all of them during Jewish holidays.

bloodmoon books425A string of books have been published surrounding the event, with authors referring to an Old Testament passage that refers to the moon turning into blood. “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord,” Joel 2:31 says. In the New Testament, Acts 2:20 echoes the same doom.

Recent books capitalizing on the event include Blood Moons: Decoding the Imminent Heavenly Signs by Washington state author Mark Biltz; Blood Moons Rising: Bible Prophecy, Israel, and the Four Blood Moons by Oklahoma pastor Mark Hitchcock; and Four Blood Moons: Something Is About to Change by San Antonio megachurch pastor John Hagee.

Topping best-seller lists

Hagee’s book is drawing the most attention, charting at No. 4 on The New York Times best-seller list in the advice/how to section, and No. 80 on USA Today’s best-seller list. The book by the controversial 74-year-old founder of Cornerstone Church also spent more than 150 days in Amazon’s top 100 books.

In his book, Hagee says something will happen to the nation of Israel due to the tetrad. The four eclipses occur April 15 and Oct. 8 this year, and April 4 and Sept. 28 next year. The ones in April occur during Passover, and the ones in October occur during the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles.

bloodmoon chart425San Antonio pastor John Hagee and others think a series of “blood moon” lunar eclipses signal the Second Coming of Christ. The chart above is from Hagee’s book, “ Four Blood Moons: Something Is About to Change.”Jewish holy days revolve around a lunar calendar, with Passover beginning on the first full moon after the beginning of spring, and the Feast of Tabernacles occurring on the first full moon after the beginning of fall. Hagee insists every time a tetrad occurs on Jewish feast days, something traumatic and “world-changing” happens to Israel.

In 1492, the Jews were expelled from Spain and Christopher Columbus discovered America, giving the Jews a place to go. In 1948, the modern state of Israel was born, and in 1967, Israel won the Six-Day War and recaptured Jerusalem.

A 300-year gap

During the 300-year interval from 1600 to 1900, there were no tetrads at all, according to NASA eclipse expert Fred Espenak.

This time, Hagee suggests the Rapture will occur. Christians will be taken to heaven, Israel will go to war in a great battle called Armageddon, and Jesus will return to earth, he claims.

But NASA does not consider tetrads as especially rare, saying eight sets of tetrads will occur before the year 2100. The most unique thing about the upcoming tetrad is they are visible from all or parts of the United States, NASA stated.

A publicist for Hagee said the pastor was not available for an interview.

blood moon photo350A lunar eclipse from Sydney on Aug. 28, 2007. (RNS Photo courtesy of Peter Gaylard, via Wikimedia Commons)“When you see these signs, the Bible says, lift up your head and rejoice, your redemption draweth nigh,” Hagee said in a sermon, according to the San Antonio Express-News. “I believe that the heavens are God’s billboard, that he has been sending signals to Planet Earth, but we just have not been picking them up.”

Bordering on astrology?

Greg Boyd, evangelical pastor of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minn., called the predictions a waste of time, maybe even bordering on astrology.

“You have an entire population buying into this stuff, so no congregation is immune to this,” Boyd said. “It can strike fear into people, which is so unnecessary and wrong.”

The Jewish holy days carry less theological significance than Jesus’ resurrection for many Christians, said Sam Storms, a pastor of Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City. Any connection between the two events should carry less weight, he said.

“We need to stop giving in to some of these sensationalist speculations,” he said. “Maybe Christians are more gullible. One has to twist the data to make it appear as if these are the fulfillment of some biblical prophecy.”

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