Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Snake Bit!

Earlier this year a bizarre story surfaced about a Pentecostal preacher famous for handling snakes during Sunday services. Jamie Coots, died after being bitten by a poisonous snake at his Middlesboro, KY church, Full Gospel Tabernacle. Coots was the star of National Geographic's "Snake Salvation" reality series, which followed the peculiar preacher through his daily life and showcased his passion to preserve this radical expression of faith.

Oddly enough, this wasn’t the first time Coots experienced the agony of having snake venom course through his veins. He had been bitten nine times and even lost his finger during a previous bite because he refused medical attention. Coots told ABC News during an interview that he and his followers “believed that God calls upon them to handle venomous serpents and to drink other poisons.” If bitten, Coots and his parishioners refuse medical treatment because they believe that their fate is in God's hands.[1]

Coots and other backwoods churches which practice snake handling throughout rural Appalachia claim they can back up their dangerous custom with Scriptural proof. Citing Mark 16:18 which says, “They will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover,” these charismatics on the fringes of Christianity claim they are just following the commands of Jesus.

Of course the media would pounce on this story because it sensational and paints Christianity in a negative light. When the lost hear about stupidity such as this it’s easy to characterize Christians as country bumpkins who don’t have enough sense to get out of the rain. When people watch shows like “Snake Salvation” it’s no different than going a carnival to see the bearded woman or the midget performers—it nothing more than a sideshow.  

Chances are the average believer will never run into a snake handler and you couldn’t pay most people enough money to stand six feet from a rattler, much less pick one up. That being the case, most people know intuitively that snake handling isn’t at all what Jesus was speaking about, and here’s why.  

First, it is very important to remember that there are some questions regarding whether Mark chapter 16, verses 9-20 belong in the Bible. There is some evidence that these verses were not originally part of the Gospel of Mark. As a result, it is not wise to use anything from Mark 16:9-20 as the sole basis for a doctrine or practice.

Second, the passage does not contain any imperatives. It does not say, “Go out and handle snakes.” It is describing something that will occur, not commanding that something should occur. An example of this is the Apostle Paul in Acts 28:3-5: “Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand … But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects.” Notice that Paul did not seek out to handle a snake. The snake bit Paul, but God protected Paul from the effects of the snake bite. Mark 16:17-18 is saying that if you are faithfully serving God in the spread of the gospel, He can protect you from anything that may cross your path.

Third, Scripture is also consistent that we are not to put the Lord to the test (Ex. 17:2; Matt. 4:7). Just as Jesus refused to jump off the pinnacle of the temple, even though God would send angels to protect Jesus, so are we to not intentionally put ourselves in situations that require God’s miraculous intervention.

So what can we learn from this strange story of snake bite? In my estimation, it highlights the danger of taking verses out of context, reading into them something that was never intended (also called isogesis) and then building an entire theology from those verses. If we aren’t careful, it’s easy to make the Bible say whatever we want.

The classic example is the fella who was trying to determine God’s will for his life, so he randomly opened his Bible and read the first verse he came to, Matt. 27:4, “And Judas went out and hanged himself.” He scratched his head and thought, “That can’t be right,” so he randomly opened his Bible again and landed on Luke 10:37, “Now you go and do likewise.” He was beginning to really get concerned by now so he decided to try one more time. He flipped open his Bible to John 13:27, “Jesus said, ‘What you are going to do, do quickly.’”

It is always dangerous to base any conclusion on an isolated verse or passage. Scripture must always be interpreted in the light of Scripture. If we do not follow this rule we can conclude almost anything we choose and produce a verse or passage from the Bible to substantiate it. Most of the false cults of our day are based on a fragmentary exposition of the Bible. Their views can often be proved by isolated verses but never by the teaching of the whole Book.

[1] GILLIAN MOHNEY, “’Snake Salvation’ Pastor Dies From Snakebite,” ABC NEWS, 16 February 2014 <http://abcnews.go.com/m/story?id=22542243> 

Monday, June 16, 2014

3 Reasons Why Hell Must Exist

When I was a kid I remember seeing cartoonist Gary Larson’s parody of hell in a Sunday comic strip. It was a picture of several demons whipping people as they lined up to get coffee. Flames danced in the background. One man with his coffee cup full turns to another and says, “Oh, man the coffee’s cold! They thought of everything!”

Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Dallas, reported that, “Only 50 percent of theology faculty believes that hell exists. Nearly half of all seminary students believe that it is in ‘poor taste’ to tell unbelievers that hell is their destination if they reject Christ. While nearly 60 percent believe in some kind of hell, only 4 percent believe they are going there.”[1]   

Perhaps, one commentator in U.S News and World Report explained it best when he summarized the redefining of hell like this, “Johnathan Edwards would scarcely recognize the hell of today. After decades of near obscurity, the netherworld has taken a new image: more of a deep funk that a pit of fire, suggesting that hell might not be so hot.”[2]

Whether we eradicate the idea of hell altogether or simply attempt to renovate it by turning down the temperature we do so against the teaching of the Bible and to our own peril. A devious lie that Satan has blinded people with is the notion that hell doesn’t exit—that it is an outdated teaching let over from the Middle Ages used by the Church to frighten simple-minded people into good behavior.

However, thirteen percent of the 1,850 verses in the New Testament that record the words of Jesus deal with the subject of eternal judgment and hell. In fact, Jesus had more to say about hell that He did about heaven. Given Jesus’ extensive teaching on hell it’s contradictory to say, “I accept Jesus as a great moral teacher or even the Son of God, but I refuse to accept His teaching about Hell.” So why must Hell exist?

We must remember that God did not arbitrarily choose His attributes. He cannot cease to be holy or just any more than water can cease to be wet. Because of who God is there must be a hell. God didn’t crate hell because He’s a manacle sadomasochist who enjoys torturing people. Oddly enough, hell exists to glorify the attributes of God. 

1.      Hell must exist to vindicate God’s justice

If hell does not exist then God is ultimately not just. It would be totally unjust for God to let the sins of the world to go unpunished. That would be like opening the doors of every maximum security prison in America and letting the felons walk free. Can you imagine God saying to Hitler, Stalin or Osama Ben Laden at the final judgment, “For all your rebellion against Me and your unspeakable crimes against humanity, your punishment is to no longer be conscious.” The pain of non-existence is no pain at all. To cease to exist is not to be held accountable for sin.   

On a spiritual level, we are all convicted felons, guilty of breaking God’s moral law.  By God’s perfect standards we are all guilty of murder, theft, adultery and blasphemy. If God did not bring to account every human thought, motivation and action then He is not a just Judge.

Erwin Lutzer writes, “We all agree that heaven is a comforting doctrine. What is often overlooked is that hell is comforting too. Our newspapers are filled with stories of rape, child abuse, genocide and a myriad of injustices. Every court case ever tried on earth will be reopened; every action and motive will be meticulously inspected and the exact retribution will be meted out. In the presence of an all-knowing God there will be no unsolved murders, no unknown child abductor, no hidden brides or crimes.  No one is getting away with anything.”[3]

People often object by saying that eternal punishment is not a fitting penalty for finite sins. For instance why would God lock someone up and throw away the key just for not believing in Him. However, we must keep in mind that the Bible teaches that Hell is not a one-size-fits all. Hell will have degrees of punishment that are proportionate to a person’s sins.  Crimes committed against an infinitely holy God cannot be paid for by finite measures of time.

As Johnathan Edwards argued, “The heinousness of any crime must be gauged according to the worth and dignity of the person it is committed against. And since sin is against an infinite God then it is worthy of a corresponding punishment.”

2.      Hell must exist to validate God’s love

A few years ago there was a video clip that went viral of a young man proposing to his girlfriend at a UCLA basketball game. Thousands of fans were watching on the arena’s Jumbo-tron screen as he got down on one knee and popped the question. However, they didn’t ride off in the sunset together. The girl covered her face, shook her head and walked away. He was jilted and now the whole world would see his humiliation.    

Imagine if that young man continued to pursue that woman, he bought her lavish gifts and treated her like a princess but she continually rejected his love. Finally, the young man bursts into her home one night, holds her up and gun point and says, “I love you so much I'm going to force you to marry me.”

How long do you think that relationship would last? Likewise, there are no shotgun weddings in heaven. Forced love is a contradiction in terms. God's love is persuasive, it's convincing, but it's never coercive. God will not force anyone into heaven kicking and screaming. God is going to allow each of us the freedom of choice. In fact, what would really be unloving of God is if He forced people to be with Him forever. So by creating hell God pays the ultimate compliment to human autonomy. Those who do not wish to love God, must be given the dignity to choose separation from God.

3.      Hell must exist to value God’s sacrifice

In Luke 19:10 Jesus said, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” Again in Mark 10:45 Jesus said, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” The central focus of Jesus mission on earth was to die for the world’s sin.

If there was no Hell then Calvary was the blunder of the ages. It is incomprehensible to the think that God would let his only Son to be killed and battered for a punishment that does not exist. Jesus’ sacrificial death is robbed of its eternal significance unless there is a Hell from which people need to be delivered.   

Hell may be a paralyzing doctrine for many, but it can energizing because it magnifies the beauty of the cross.  Hell is the backdrop that reveals the profound and unbelievable grace of God.  The cross brings to light the enormity of our sin and portrays God’s mercy in full color.  

Many Christians seem embarrassed about hell. They refrain from speaking about it to non-Christians lest they be branded as fire-and-brimstone Bible-thumpers. But omitting the reality of hell from our conversations doesn’t not make us more tolerant or loving; on the contrary it makes us deceptive and unloving. If you had a doctor who refused to tell his patients they had cancer because he couldn’t handle delivering bad news, would that make him a good doctor? In the same way, if we know the only to escape God’s judgment and don’t share that then we are not being very compassionate. 

The truth is that hell is our default destination and if we don’t do anything that’s where we will end up. Jesus reminds us in John 3:17-18, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

Fortunately, the good news of the Gospel is that God has done everything possible to make a way for us to be in heaven. He sent his Son to die on the Cross. He wrote a book telling us how to be saved. He gave the Holy Spirit to prick your heart and enlighten you to the truth. And he’s brought you here today to hear the message of grace and mercy that He offers through His Son.

 Henry E. Erwin won the Medal of Honor for his incredible act of heroism during WWII. Erwin worked as a bombardier on a B-29 bomber. Erwin's job was to drop phosphorus smoke bombs through a chute in the B-29's floor. On April 12, 1945 Erwin was flying over Japan when he got the order to pull the pin and drop a bomb into the chute. However, the fuse malfunctioned, igniting the phosphorus, burning at 1,100 degrees. The canister flew back up the chute and into Erwin's face, blinding him, searing off one ear and obliterating his nose. Smoke immediately filled the aircraft, making it impossible for the pilot to see his instrument panel.

Erwin was afraid the bomb would burn through the metal floor into the bomb bay. Partially blinded, he picked it up and feeling his way, crawled around the gun turret and headed for the copilot's window. His face and arms were covered with ignited phosphorous and his path was blocked by the navigator's folding table, hinged to the wall but down and locked.

Erwin couldn't release the table's latches with one hand, so he grabbed the white-hot bomb between his bare right arm and his ribcage. In the few seconds it took to raise the table, the phosphorus burned through his flesh to the bone. His body on fire, he stumbled into the cockpit, threw the bomb out the window and collapsed between the pilot's seats.

The smoke cleared enough for the pilot to pull the B-29 out of a dive at 300 feet above the water and turn toward Iwo Jima where Erwin could be given emergency treatment. His horrified crew members extinguished his burning clothes and administered first aid until medics stabilized his condition. Amazingly, Erwin managed to survive. He was flown back to the United States, and after 30 months and 41 surgeries, his eyesight was restored and he regained use of one arm.[4]  

The Bible says, in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.” Erwin’s body was burned head-to-toe, but his sacrifice saved the lives on the men on board the B-29. Just so, Jesus suffered the torment and shame of the cross. He was beaten and bloodied so that we wouldn’t have to face the flames of hell.

God has wrapped yellow caution tape around Hell’s porch and posted a million and one red flags outside the entrance. To descend its stairs, you’ll have to cover your ears, blindfold your eyes and ignore the most epic sacrifice of history—Christ on the cross.  

[1] Robert Jeffress, Outrageous Truths (Colorado Springs: Random House, 2013), 72.   
[2] Jeffery L. Sheler, “Hell Hath No Fury,” U.S. News & World Report, 23 January 2000
<http://www.usnews.com/usnews/culture/articles/000131/archive_033602.htm> .
[3] Erwin Lutzer, One Minute After You Die (Chicago: Moody Press, 1997), 111.
[4] http://www.history.army.mil/html/moh/wwII-a-f.html#ERWIN

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Making Memories with Dad

When I was boy my dad and I would take regular fishing trips on Saturday mornings.  However, there is one trip that stands out in my mind more than any other. The stream we were fishing in wasn’t very deep. In fact, I can remember it being up only a few inches above my ankles. At first glance you would think that a tadpole would have trouble living in the stream, much less a trout.

But we went out with our dough balls, corn niblets, and night crawlers and casted our lines in the cold waters. We fished for some time and caught nothing—anybody that’s ever been fishing knows that dreadful feeling. Then I remember we came to a little clearing in the stream and my dad was just a few feet ahead of me. I cast my line and the baited hook landed right between my dad’s legs. This was a total accident on my part and that I’m sure I could not do it again if I tried.

The instant my hook hit the water I felt a tug on my rod. I reeled as fast as I could and fought the whopper with all of my strength. About that time my dad looked down and saw a fish thrashing about under his legs and he started to dance around. I can remember laughing so hard and I was so excited that I could barely hold the rod in my hands. Right there out of that little shallow stream I pulled out the biggest fish I had ever seen in my young life. What made it even better was that I could actually say that I caught it from under my dad’s feet!

To this day I have never let my father forget the time I out-fished him. I could write a book filled with warm memories of my father. Who could forget shooting hoops in the driveway with dad, building wooden race cars for the annual derby or the unforgettable taste of his melt-in-your-mouth yeast rolls that came piping hot out of the oven during the holidays. Dad and I had some great times together down through the years and I learned everything about being a man of God from him. I thank God for his incalculable influence in my life. 

My dad was there for me—leading, teaching, modeling—which is a rare thing considering the statistics today. Fatherlessness has become an epidemic in our culture. 43% of US children live without their father. [1] Children who live absent their biological fathers are, on average, at least two to three times more likely to be poor, to use drugs, to experience educational, health, emotional and behavioral problems, to be victims of child abuse, and to engage in criminal behavior than their peers who live with their married, biological (or adoptive) parents.[2]

Given this information you could very easily make the argument that a good deal of the social ills we experience today from teen abortions, to drug addiction, to overflowing prisons could be dramatically decreased if dads were there in the home. Dr. James Dobson has said, “Though children of all ages, both male and female, have an innate need for contact with their fathers, boys suffer most from the absence or noninvolvement of fathers.”[3]

I think he’s right on. The reason is because masculinity cannot be derived from femininity. Don’t misunderstand me moms, your job is vitally important. But no matter how much you love your son, the only way little boys understand what it means to be a man is have an example from another man. In this way, single mothers are facing a losing battle and boys are the ultimate losers. Boys without positive male influences are severely handicapped in life. If they don’t have a good male role model they will take one from somewhere else and it could be the hard drinking guy next door, or the womanizing athlete or the gang-banging rapper. This just perpetuates the cycle of dysfunctional men. The more I work with boys and men the more I understand that it’s far easier to build strong boys than to repair broken men.

Dads don’t underestimate your influence. By your absence or presence, successes or failures, you are shaping the next generation. God has called us to the daunting job of being husbands and fathers. Let’s stand in the gap, fight for our families, love our wives and lead our children into God-honoring lives. You might be able to rebuild a car engine, but can you father a child’s heart? You might know everything there is to know about a perfect golf swing, but what about knowing what makes your child tick? You can try and replace your presence with toys, electronic gadgets and stuff, but what they really want is you. Hang in there. Determine not to become a statistic. Don’t just be a sperm donor; raise a child in the way he should go.     

[1] http://fatherhoodfactor.com/us-fatherless-statistics/
[2] James Dobson, “Boys Need Fathers, “ Charisma Magazine, 2 February 2013 <http://www.charismamag.com/life/men/16874-dr-james-dobson-boys-need-fathers>
[3] James Dobson, Bringing Up Boys (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2001), 55. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Blood Moons Prophecy: Hype, Harbinger or Hoax?

(*Note: If you are not familiar with the Blood Moons Prophecy and would like to watch a video explaining the theory you can follow the links at the bottom of the page)

May 19, 1780 is known by historians as “New England’s Dark Day.” In the midst of the Revolutionary War, nightfall eerily descended on New England at midday. Farmers were bewildered as birds quit singing and animals returned to the barns to roost. Families who were in the middle of eating lunch reportedly had to eat by candle light. A Massachusetts resident noted that in some places, the darkness was so great that “persons could not see to read common print in the open air.” Townspeople crowded the local churches in a frenzy thinking that the Judgment Day was at hand. People prayed through the night wondering if the sun would ever rise again.

The extent of the darkness was remarkable. The phenomenon was observed at the farthest regions of New England. Westward it spread to the farthest part of Connecticut. Southward at Albany, NY it was observed all along the sea coast. To the north, the land was blanketed in darkness as far as the American settlements extended. The duration of the darkness was also disturbing, continuing in the neighborhoods of Boston for at least fourteen hours.  

During that dark day in 1780, the House of Representatives was convened in Hartford, Connecticut, under the leadership of its speaker, Col. Abraham Davenport. The Colonel opposed adjourning the state legislature early, announcing to his men:

I am against adjournment. The day of judgment is either approaching, or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause of an adjournment; if it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish therefore that candles may be brought.[1]

For the past two centuries historians and scientists have argued over the cause of this strange event. Today there are many theories. Was it the result of volcanic eruption, fire, meteor strike—or something more sinister? A solar eclipse can be ruled out as there is a record of when these occur, and they only last for a matter of minutes. There is no record of volcanic activity in 1780 either, making a huge ash cloud an unlikely explanation.[2]

Christians are suckers for this kind of stuff too. Prophecy buffs are notorious for whipping their audiences into heightened states of paranoia by drawing obscure passages out of Ezekiel and Zechariah and connecting them to the headlines. If the price of oil goes up or if there’s a tsunami tearing up jack, there’s a television evangelist with a chapter and verse saying, “Look, see here, the sky is falling.” If a nefarious world dictator wakes up with a bad case of indigestion, some over-caffeinated blogger who read every book in the Left Behind series is writing about it.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not making light of biblical prophecy. I am looking for the Second Coming of Christ. I adhere to a pre-mil, pre-trib, rapture eschatology. I salivate at the sight of end-times charts and graphs. I am just as interested in the identity of the two witnesses in Revelation 11 and understanding the meaning of Daniel’s wild and crazy visions as the next guy. But sometimes the Christian community tends to go overboard when it comes to end-times scenarios.

What is the Blood Moons Prophecy?

            Case in point is the recent interest over the so-called, “Blood Moons Prophecy.” According to NASA, four blood moons will appear on four Jewish feast days in 2014-2015. In the middle of this sequence (known in scientific circles as a tetrad), there will be a solar eclipse. Here are the times of their appearance:

04/14/2014 . . . Passover
10/08/2014 . . . Feast of Tabernacles
03/20/2015 . . . Total Solar Eclipse
04/04/2015 . . . Passover
09/28/2015 . . . Feast of Tabernacles[4]

A lunar eclipse occurs when the earth’s shadow (the umbra) falls on the moon. If the earth’s shadow completely covers the moon, it is a total eclipse. These total lunar eclipses are known as blood moons because when they occur, the moon takes on a reddish hue or blood color. Astronomers explain that this happens because the earth’s atmosphere scatters out shorter-wavelength light (green through violet) leaving mostly longer-wavelength light (red, orange, and yellow) in the earth’s umbra.

So what’s all the fuss about? A few prophecy buffs, based upon a handful of Scriptures and a few historical facts, believe that this tetrad of blood moons signals some impending event with Israel, or perhaps even the end of the age. Some believe that these moons could be the “final four” warnings for humanity to turn or burn.

Mark Blitz of El Shaddai Ministries was the first to take the blood moons prophecy to the mainstream market with the release of his 2008 book and documentary, Blood Moons: Decoding the Imminent Heavenly Signs. Blitz said in an interview:

I believe that the blood moons have great historic and prophetic significance just as they did following 1948 and 1967. In the book of Joel it mentions three times about the sun and the moon going dark and in context it also mentions Divine wrath against all countries who want to divide or part the land of Israel. I believe the moons are like flashing red lights at a heavenly intersection saying to Israel as well as the nations they will be crossing heavenly red lines if they do, and God has more than a pen and a phone in his hand.[5]

Another fire and brimstone preacher telling us to look to the heavens is John Hagee, the pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, who has championed this view in his recent bestselling book Four Blood Moons: Something Is about to Change. He writes:

This is the hand of God orchestrating the signs in the heavens. The final four blood moons are signaling that something big is coming . . . something that will change the world forever. But the bigger question is, are we watching and listening? . . . What they are telling us is that God is getting ready to change the course of human history once again. He is preparing to display the next series of signs in the heavens.[6] 

In another interview Hagee said of the blood moons:

There’s a sense in the world that things are changing and God is trying to communicate with us in a supernatural way. I believe that in these next two years, we're going to see something dramatic happen in the Middle East involving Israel that will change the course of history in the Middle East and impact the whole world.[7]

As you may have already surmised, I am skeptical of Hagee’s and Blitz’s claims. In my estimation, they have only added to the hysteria associated with the end-times by cobbling together a few Scriptures taken out of context and selectively reporting certain aspects of history. It is my aim in this essay to give a critique of their predictions and show that their message has some serious flaws.

Why do I feel the need to do this? Because we are told multiple times in the New Testament to do our homework. No one wants to be deceived and there is enough bad preaching and false doctrine leading people astray as it is, so we should be wary of sensationalists who are all but setting dates for the return of Christ.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 Paul tells us, “Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.” The apostle John gives a similar command, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).  Finally, we are to emulate the example of the Berean Christians in which it is written, “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11).  

As a former seminary professor of mine once said, “Christians don’t get brownie points for being gullible.” I think he has a point. The American church is known for its shallowness when it comes to doctrine. There is a tendency to swallow hook-line-and-sinker whatever comes out of pulpits today, simply because a preacher said it. If you don’t believe me, just look at how many are wrapped up in the prosperity teachings which promise believers the ability to simply “name-it-and-claim-it.” We must be more discerning in the last days as Jesus warned that counterfeits would be on the rise, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray” (Matt. 24:4-5). 

Examining the Evidence  

Essentially, the blood moons theory is built upon four main ideas:

First, God uses the heavens to give signs to humanity. In Genesis 1:14 we read, “And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years.” According to Blitz and Hagee, God uses the skies as a billboard to advertise to the world what He is about to do. Hagee writes, “Therefore based on the Bible, God uses the sun, moon and stars as signals to mankind. He uses the heavens as a divine billboard announcing coming events.”[8] So if humanity is watching the heavens intently with the Bible in their hand they should be able to discern when God is sending an unmistakable message.  

Second, science confirms there will be four blood moons in 2014-15, each falling on the Jewish feasts of Passover and Tabernacles.

Third, Scripture mentions the moon turning to blood in conjunction with the end times. They are as follows:

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. (Joel 2:30-31).

Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory (Matt. 24:29-30).

And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day (Acts 2:19-20, *note that in this passage Peter is quoting from Joel 2:30-31).

When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale (Rev. 6:12-13). 

Fourth, historical evidence suggests that when four blood moons fell on Jewish feasts in the past, significant events transpired involving the Jewish people and/or their land. According to Blitz and Hagee the blood moon tetrad in conjunction with the Jewish feasts has occurred three times in the last five hundred years. These coincidences are as follows:

·         The first tetrad occurred in 1493-1494, one year after The Edict of Expulsion of the Jews was signed by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain on March 30, 1492. The edict banned Jews from Spain if they failed to convert to Catholicism. The year before the tetrad, Columbus sailed to the Americas, paving the way for the rise of the United States, which became a haven for the Jewish people from their perpetual persecution.

·         The second tetrad was in 1949-1950, one year after the founding of the modern state of Israel on May 14, 1948. Even though Israel was attacked from every side, they prevailed. The birth of Israel was backed and supported by the United States and President Harry S. Truman. After this historic occasion the Chief Rabbi of Israel, Isaac Halevi Herzog, called the White House and told Truman, “God put you in your mother’s womb so that you would be the instrument to bring about the rebirth of Israel after two thousand years.”[9]

·         The third tetrad transpired in 1967-1968. On June 5-10, 1967 Israel fought the famous “Six Day War” against the combined forces of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. The Jewish people turned a bloodbath into a victory and captured the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, the West Bank from Jordan, the Golan Heights from Syria, and they seized control of Jerusalem.[10] 

With one tetrad remaining Hagee and Blitz are certain that a Divine conspiracy of cosmic proportions is afoot. This unique confluence of science, history, and Scripture fuels speculation that something significant is about to happen with Israel and/or America in 2015. But does this argument stand up to historical and biblical scrutiny or are these guys just trying to sell books?

Scripture Twisting

The first problem with the blood moons prophecy is the way that the Scriptures are taken out of context in order to support the theory. Anyone who attends a reputable seminary or Bible college to learn how to interpret the Scriptures (also known as hermeneutics, or the science of interpretation) is taught the first three rules of biblical exposition: context, context, context!

Understanding context begins with four principles: literal meaning (what it says), historical setting (the events of the story, to whom is it addressed, and how it was understood at that time), grammar (the immediate sentence and paragraph within which a word or phrase is found), and synthesis (comparing it with other parts of Scripture for a fuller meaning). As Christian apologist Norman Geisler used to say, “If the literal sense makes good sense, seek no other sense lest you come up with nonsense.” This is the golden rule of interpreting the Bible. If passages are taken out of context, then confusion reigns.

In my evaluation the most fundamental mistake of the blood moons proponents is that they have taken several Scriptures out of context and twisted them to fit their argument. We first run into this when Hagee and Blitz argue that the heavens serve as a “cosmic high-definition billboard” which advertises God’s agenda to the world. They base this on an exaggerated reading of Genesis 1:14.

However, if we go back and look at that verse, it’s simply stating that the sun, moon and stars were created for more practical purposes, which are as follows:

·         Separation: the sun and moon are there to divide the day from the night. As the earth spins on its axis it moves one hemisphere from day to night.

·         Regulation: Along with marking the passing of days and nights, the sun and moon are there to be “signs and for seasons and for days and years.” The earth’s rotation on its axis determines our days. The moon’s orbit around the earth determines our months. The earth’s rotation around the sun determines our years. At some point during the earth’s journey around the sun, one hemisphere is closer to the sun and the opposite hemisphere is farther away.  This accounts for the differing weather patterns of spring, summer, winter, and fall.

·         Illumination:  Genesis 1:15-17 tells us of the two great lights, “one to rule the day and one to rule the night.”

There is nothing really extraordinary associated with the regular movements of the heavenly bodies as reported in Genesis. This passage has nothing to do with God using the sun, moon, or stars as a means of sending mankind specific messages. I think that Hagee and Blitz are overstating the real purpose for God creating the heavenly bodies as spelled out in the creation week. The lights in the heavens are “signs” only in the sense that they mark off time periods—like the changing of spring to summer.

Never in the Bible are we told to look for astrological signs in an attempt to discern future events. Instead, this practice of astrology is flatly rejected by God, “And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven” (Deut. 4:19).

The stars, planets, and moons should awaken wonder at God’s power, wisdom, and infinitude. We should use the stars to keep track of time and place and to remind us of God’s faithful, covenant-keeping nature. Anything beyond that is treading into dangerous territory.

There are also problems with the other passages which are listed above as evidence of the blood moons prophecy. Let’s first look at the oft-quoted passage by Hagee and Blitz in Joel 2:30-31. There are two basic difficulties with using this passage. The first is a timing incongruity and the second is an issue with selective interpretation.

At the beginning of Joel 2 we are given a time-stamp which explains when this prophecy will come to pass. The important phrase comes in 2:1, “Blow a trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming; it is near.” Again in Joel 2:11 we read, “For the day of the Lord is great and very awesome; who can endure it?”

The Old Testament refers to “the day of the Lord” nineteen times (Isaiah 2:12, Ez. 13:5, Joel 2:1, 11, 31; Micah 4:5). The New Testament mentions “the day of the Lord” four times (Acts 2:20, 1 Thess. 5:2, 2 Thess. 2:2, 2 Peter 3:10). If you do an in-depth study into the meaning of this phrase, you’ll quickly understand that this is a period at the end of time in which God miraculously intervenes in human affairs. It is a time of unparalleled natural disasters, judgment, and terror. The events described during “the day of the Lord” correspond with the same kind of supernatural wrath and destruction defined during the tribulation period in Revelation 4-19 and Matthew 24. Remember that the tribulation is a future seven-year period of time when God will finish His discipline of Israel and finalize His judgment of the unbelieving world. Therefore, it is safe to say that “the day of the Lord” and the tribulation period are synonymous terms describing the same cataclysmic time period when God unleashes unprecedented judgment on the world.

If we pay attention to the context of Joel 2 then it’s clear that those events will take place during the tribulation. This becomes a problem for Blitz and Hagee’s theory because the setting for the sun being darkened and the moon turning to blood will be just before the Second Advent of Christ, which cannot be in 2014-2015, since we are not in the seven-year tribulation period that must precede it.

Another problem with Joel 2 is that it speaks of other astronomical phenomena going on at the same times as the blood moons. For example, Joel 2:10 adds, “The earth quakes before them; the heavens tremble. The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining.” Obviously, these events are considered to all happen in conjunction, which is scientifically impossible considering that a solar and lunar eclipse cannot happen at once. Thus, the events spoken of here are supernatural and definitely not on NASA’s radar. Notice also that this same prophecy speaks of a total darkening of the heavens and an earthquake. Hagee and Blitz do not factor in these other events taking place in 2014-2015. If we are going to be consistent in our interpretation of this passage then we have to consider all of this prophecy in order for this to be fulfilled, not just selected parts of it.     

These same problems also apply to Matthew 24:29-30. First, Jesus appears to be saying that the darkening of the sun and moon and the falling of the stars will happen at once. If this is correct then it cannot refer to the blood moons of 2014-2015 for the same reason that the Joel 2 passage doesn’t fit. The fact that all of these phenomena are happening at once entails an incredible, once-in-the-history-of-the-universe event—not a predictable series of eclipses. While there may be a solar eclipse to occur on March 20, 2015, this will not happen on the same day as any of the lunar eclipses.

This passage also suffers from a timing inconsistency. Notice when Jesus says these celestial events will happen, “immediately after the tribulation of those days (Matt. 24:29). In other words, these events happen at the end of the seven years of tribulation. Again, this passage cannot apply to 2014-2015 because we are not yet in the tribulation.  

Revelation 6:12-13 also cannot pertain to the blood moons of 2014-2015 for the same reasons as the other two passages. The context of this passage is set during the tribulation. Since the blood moons of Revelation 6 happen as a result of the opening of the sixth seal then we have to consider the previous five seals. The first seal releases a rider on a white horse; the antichrist. The second seal unleashes a red horse which brings worldwide war. The third seal lets loose a rider on a black horse which brings with it hyperinflation and famine. The fourth seal brings about the rider on the pale horse which has death and hell behind him. As far as I know, none of these terrible things have happened yet. Therefore, Revelation 6 cannot apply to the blood moons of 2014-2015 since the tribulation hasn’t started.

Revelation 6:12-14 also outlines five other cosmic signs along with the blood moons—a great earthquake, the sun becoming as sackcloth, the stars falling from the sky, the sky splitting like a scroll, and the mountains and islands moving. I hate to sound like a broken record player, but proponents of the blood moons prophecy conveniently ignore all of these other signs that accompany the moon turning to blood.

Finally, prophecy scholar Mark Hitchcock points out, “None of the verses quoted to support this theory mentions four blood moons. The entire blood moon prophecy is based on something that the Bible never specifically predicts. The Bible does mention the moon turning to blood in connection with Christ’s return, but it never mentions four blood moons, let alone four blood moons in conjunction with the Jewish feasts of Passover and Tabernacles.”[11]

Once in a Blood Moon

God can do anything He desires with the world He has made. In fact, He caused an unusual star to guide the wise men to the Christ child (Matt. 2:2) and He caused unnatural darkness to envelop the skies of Jerusalem during Jesus’ crucifixion (Matt. 27:45). However, these were special, supernatural events that coincided with significant moments in the life of Christ. Moreover, we know that God will cause supernatural disturbances in the heavens during the tribulation period (Luke 21:25-26). But these are exceptions to the norm—what we would call miracles. 

The problem with claiming that the blood moons are “special” or “rare” occasions is misleading, since they are phenomena which astronomers are able to predict with regularity. In fact, the NASA website has every solar and lunar eclipse that will occur already marked on the calendar until the year 2050.[12] The reason they can do this is because the orbit of the moon around the earth and the orbit of the earth around the sun is constant. Miracles, on the other hand, are not predictable or even expected. The problem is that the passages the blood moon preachers cite as evidence for their theory are definitely miraculous in nature. They report future supernatural phenomena that could not be explained by science. Therefore, the blood moons of 2014-2015 do not seem to fit with the prophetic passages cited because they are part of the natural and predictable order of the solar system.    

In a fascinating article published by creation scientist Dr. Danny Faulkner, he explains how eclipses and even tetrads are not really as exceptional as Blitz and Hagee would lead us to believe.

To illustrate the frequency of the coincidence of lunar eclipses with Passover and Sukkot, consider that there were 230 lunar eclipses of all types (total, partial, and penumbral) during the twentieth century (1901–2000) . . . and 39 lunar eclipses in the twentieth century that coincided with Passover or Sukkot . . . This is about one-sixth (39/230) of the twentieth-century lunar eclipses, which is what we would expect because Passover and Sukkot happen in two of the 12 months. Therefore, again, the coincidence of lunar eclipses with these two observances is more common than Biltz realizes.[13]   

Another glaring problem with the blood moons prophecy is that it will not be visible to everyone on earth. Concerning the first blood moon on April 14, 2014, NASA reported, “None of the eclipse is visible from north/east Europe, eastern Africa, the Middle East or Central Asia.”[14] Since the Middle East will not see the first blood moon, that means that Israel—the nation to which the blood moon prophecies are supposed to be for—won’t even catch a glimpse. Astronomers say this is true of the second blood moon as well, on October 8, 2014.    

Why is this an issue? Because two of the blood moon passages that Biltz and Hagee cite are connected with the return of Christ (Joel 2:30-31, Matt 24:29-30). Scripture tells us very specifically that when Jesus returns His coming will be witnessed universally, “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him” (Rev. 1:7). The limited visibility of the blood moon tetrad works against the idea that something of biblical proportions is about to happen. Mark Hitchcock adds:

Something can’t be a sign if you never know about it. Those who maintain that the four blood moons are a portent that something is about to change need to explain how something hidden to most of the world, and especially those in Israel, can serve as a dramatic sign of the times for them. This is a serious problem.[15]

Historical Sleight of Hand  

Blitz and Hagee are also misleading in the way they report the connection between blood moons of the past and significant events for the Jewish people. There’s no doubt that in the past noteworthy events in Jewish history have occurred around the time of a tetrad, but this is not all it’s cracked up to be.

First, let’s look at the supposed connection with the tetrads of 1493-1494 and the Great Expulsion of the Jews from Spain. John Hagee wrote, “The explusion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 was a world-changing moment. The mantle of prosperity was lifted from Spain and placed upon the shoulders of an infant nation that would become the United States of America. God Almighty used the Four Blood Moons of 1493-94 as a heavenly billboard to mankind.”[16] 

There is no doubt that the Edict of Expulsion was significant for Israel. However, I don’t see how the blood moons heralded this great persecution since the tetrad of 1493-1494 happened after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain and the discovery of the New World by Columbus in 1492. The blood moons can’t be much of a sign to the Jewish people to get ready for change if they happened after the fact. Something can’t be a sign of a coming storm if it happens after the event. That sign isn’t much help—kind of like sounding the fire alarm after the house has been burned down.

The second tetrad of 1949-1950 is flawed for the same reason. The birth of the nation of Israel in May 1948 was a prophetic game changer. I personally believe it is the greatest sign that we are indeed in the last days. Almost every other end-times prophecy hinges in one way or another on the presence of the Jewish people in their land. This should not be overlooked. However, the blood moons tetrad of 1949-1950 happened after the nation was born. Israel’s rebirth occurred on May 14, 1948 and the eclipses came a year later. Again, something cannot be a sign if it postdates what it’s supposed to predict.

What about the third tetrad? On June 5, 1967, the Six Day War erupted in Palestine. As previously noted, Israel’s victory was overwhelming and shocked the Arab world. The first blood moon of the tetrad occurred on April 24, 1967, a little over two months before the Six Day War began. The final tetrad of this series happened on October 6, 1968. So it would seem that this historical example has some validity. 

My point is that the historical evidence for the blood moons prophecy is hit or miss. Hagee and Biltz’s claims are not as airtight as they may seem. In fact, in a World Net Daily interview Blitz reported, “We are on the verge of witnessing something historic. This has happened only eight times over the last 2,000 years!”[17] Eight times?! I wonder why he is talking only about four tetrads and leaving the other four out? My guess is that because the four tetrads before 1493-1494 were not connected to anything historically significant in the lives of Jewish people. Since they didn’t support his theory he conveniently threw them out.

If Biltz and Hagee are really suggesting that God uses these tetrads as a means of communicating to Israel about coming events, where were the warnings about the far greater and far worse events the Jewish people have faced? Why didn’t God warn them about the Holocaust or the Roman siege in 70 AD? Furthermore, why are some of the tetrads denoting good events, while others bad events? The Spanish Inquisition right next to the victory of the Six-Day War? There seems to be no rhyme or reason to it.


Please do not misunderstand me. I do believe that significant things are on the horizon for Israel and the rest of the world. Bible prophecy declares that times are a changin’ and we ought to be ready as God’s people if the Lord tarries. However, I just don’t think there is any connection between Israel’s future and the blood moon tetrads of 2014-2015. When you place the theory up against scriptural and historic evidence it withers away into another false prophecy that sounds compelling and will no doubt send books flying off the shelves.

That being said, I do believe that there are signs indicating that Christ’s return could be very near. However we still must confess that we don’t know the specific day, the hour, or the year of His coming (Mark 13:32) or the Rapture. God’s timetable is not ours. Christ could return tomorrow or it could be another century. All we can do is be ready for Him by working, witnessing, and watching. Perhaps the best advice we can take is from Martin Luther who said we should, “live like Jesus died last evening, rose from the dead this morning and is coming back after suppertime.” 

Video Links:

Mark Blitz on "Prophecy in the News" <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32ZkCygd8bE>

John Hagee preaching <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4lqk3XdMkDY> 

[1] Mark Hitchcock, Blood Moons Prophecy (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2014), 167-168. 
[2] Tom de Castella, “What Caused the Mystery of the Dark Day?” BBC News Magazine, 18 May 2012 <http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-18097177>.
[3] Arthur C. Clarke, quoted in Richard A. Swenson, Hurtling toward Oblivion (Colorado Springs: NavPress 1999), 20. 
[4] Bruce McClure and Deborah Byrd, “What Is a Blood Moon?” Earth & Sky, 30 March 2014 <http://earthsky.org/space/what-is-a-blood-moon-lunar-eclipses-2014-2015>.  
[5] Mark Blitz quoted in Raphael Poch, “Blood Moons Rising (This Passover)” Breaking Israel News, 13 April 2014
[6] John Hagee, Four Blood Moons (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing, 2013), 237, 244.  
[7] John Hagee quoted in Erick Stackelback, “Divine Sign for Israel? Hagee Explains Blood Moons” CBN News, 15 April 2014 < http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/insideisrael/2014/February/Divine-Sign-for-Israel-Hagee-Explains-Blood-Moons/>.
[8] Hagee, 20.
[9] David Jeremiah, What in the World Is Going on? (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008), 22.
[10] Hitchcock, 57-68.
[11] Hitchcock, 124-125.
[12] http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/eclipse.html
[13] Danny Faulkner, “Will Lunar Eclipses Cause Four Blood Moons in 2014 and 2015?” Answers in Genesis, 12 July 2013 < https://answersingenesis.org/astronomy/moon/will-lunar-eclipses-cause-four-blood-moons-in-2014-and-2015/>.
[14] Fred Espenak, “Eclipses During 2014,” <http://eclipses.gsfc.nasa.gov/OH/OH2014.html>
[15] Hitchcock, 97-98.
[16] Hagee, 195.
[17] Mark Blitz, quoted in “Blood Moon: A Special Message to America?” World Net Daily, 13 April 2014 <http://www.wnd.com/2014/04/blood-moons-a-special-message-to-america/>