For the last year or so people keep asking me what I think about the blood moons. Since the last blood moon will occur in a few weeks (September 28, 2015, the first night of Sukkot), I thought that maybe I should say something about blood moons before it’s too late and the whole subject has waned and been forgotten.
I was musing about this last Shabbat afternoon while on a Sabbath-stroll with a few of the fellows from Beth Immanuel. I asked one of my colleagues (who shall remain nameless), “Do you think I should teach about the blood moons before it’s too late?”
He replied wittily, “Forget about blood moons. You should teach about mud balloons.”
That comment reminded me of the old sarcastic simile, “That went over like a lead balloon.” It’s something you say after you attempt a joke and nobody laughs. It happens to me a lot. Most of my jokes have a lead-balloon quality, but I like to think that they are not as bad as the constant stream of puns and verbal inversions that flows from my colleague (who shall remain nameless).
Later in the day, just before minchah-time, I was walking back to the synagogue, and I saw two hot air balloons rising like the moon.
I’m not making any of this up.
Unlike balloons made of mud or lead, the hot air balloons climbed slowly above the treeline and then gracefully drifted on unseen breezes over historic, beautiful, Hudson, Wisconsin. I thought this strange. Had I not, only an hour or so earlier, been thinking about balloons (albeit balloons made of mud and lead)? As I watched the two balloons rise, I was impressed to think that hot air can lift people so high.
Still more uncanny, only a few hours after that, the full moon of Elul really did rise and take its position in the sky as the last full moon before the anticipated blood moon of Sukkot.
What does it all mean?
For those of you who aren’t already in the know, a “blood moon” occurs when the moon undergoes a total lunar eclipse. As the shadow of the earth passes over the face of the moon, the dimmed moon takes on a reddish hue which some have likened to the color of blood. The comparison rests on the strength of biblical imagery:
The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. (Joel 2:31)
I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood. (Revelation 6:12)
Lunar eclipses happen routinely. The phenomenon is not uncommon. So what accounts for all the excitement currently waxing?
The excitement has to do with the unusual occurrence of a lunar tetrad—a cryptic-sounding word that apparently is used among moon-people to indicate four successive lunar eclipses, with no partial lunar eclipses in between, each one separated from the next by six lunar months. A tetrad is a somewhat rare event, but the cool part, from a Messianic Jewish perspective, is that each of the lunar eclipses in this particular tetrad coincides with a significant day on the Jewish calendar:
- April 15, 2014: Passover 5774
- October 8, 2014: Sukkot 5775
- April 04, 2015: Passover 5775
- September 28, 2015: Sukkot 5776
Maybe it looks more significant than it is. Since three Jewish holidays coincide with full moons every year (Passover, Purim, and Sukkot), the odds of a lunar eclipse hitting a Jewish holiday are actually 1:4. When two lunar eclipses fall within a single year, the convergence with a Jewish holy day is almost inevitable. The significance of the tetrad seems to diminish even more when you realize that three of the four lunar eclipses in this tetrad were not visible from Israel. The only eclipse that can be seen at all from Israel is the coming Sukkot eclipse. On September 28, 2015 viewers in Israel may be able to see the tail end of the eclipse for a short while before sunrise. (We’ll ask the FFOZ Israel staff to get up early that day and take a look.)
Nevertheless, it seems like the four consecutive blood moons falling on four holy days must portend something, does it not?
Is it a sign from heaven?
I hope it means that our redemption is near. But even if the redemption tarries, the blood moon tetrad is still important. It has us lifting our eyes up to the heavens and wondering about the day and hour, as our Master tells us, “Lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28).
Moreover, the hype around the blood moons has thrust the biblical calendar into mainstream awareness. John Hagee’s book Four Blood Moons spent more than 150 days on Amazon.com’s top 150. That means that, for the first time, thousands of Christians and curiosity-seekers have been reading about Passover, Sukkot, and the prophetic significance of the festivals. That’s not just hot air. The blood moon teachings also brought attention to Mark Biltz of El Shaddai Ministries, and, like Hagee, Biltz is a friend of Messianic Judaism and the Jewish people.
What do I think about the blood moons? I think that they are HaShem’s message to our generation. He is telling us that the redemption is at hand. Therefore, we should repent, turn from sin, and draw near to his kingdom. What else could they possibly mean?