Millions of Christians woke up this morning and turned on their favorite news outlets. Televisions, computers, smartphones and tablets tuned their signals to see if any news came out of Israel overnight.
The spark that created this firestorm was a heavenly event. In the sky early this morning was a rare occurrence, a full moon eclipse. What makes this lunar eclipse extra special is that it comes on the Jewish holy day of Passover, the celebration of God’s deliverance from centuries of slavery in Egypt.
But the reason that all of this spurred so many to check their news this morning was the startling appearance that such an eclipse makes in the sky. From a bright, white, full moon the Earth’s only natural satellite gradually turns red as the Earth’s shadow passes over it. Some call it a “blood moon”. And there are many who hoped that this happening would spark an event that would signal the closeness of the return of Jesus Christ.
Of course, what we all found this morning as we checked Israel’s news was a page full of typical Israeli headlines. The government is in question. Debate over peace with the Palestinians causes current and past events to be reviewed. A lone gunman brought terror to a city with ancient roots on the same day that rockets were fired into the nation.
While we might take any of these headlines and twist them in some way to prove that “the end is near,” these are everyday items in Israel. Few know what it is like to live in a nation where terror strikes often. Most nations don’t have political struggles that arise from the debate of how best to survive when surrounded by nations that have tried to wipe you off the map. This is the life that every Israeli man, woman and child wakes up to, every single day.
Nothing seems out of the ordinary the morning after the Blood Moon. And many Western Christians are going to be disappointed. Pastors and authors have written books and recorded teachings that inspire Christians to consider this as the first of four eclipses that could signal the return of Christ. Of course, if any of them uses the word “could” it usually in fine print. “Could” has a tendency to hold sales down.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not attacking these men at all. But I’m not in favor of what they have done or how they have profited from it. Neither am I against interpreting and teaching Biblical prophecy. There are many truths for us to learn through prophecy, for the days to come, but also for everyday living.
Yet these teachings have pushed many to take their hope for Christ’s return and move its focus away from their faith in Jesus. Instead of looking to the Holy Spirit for guidance and direction, many have looked to earthly teachers. Such is a dangerous path.
There are a number of variables involved in all of this that led to my skepticism as I rifled through the headlines this morning. If we stop and think about how these Scriptures, questions and logical conclusions add together, we might have kept our eyes closer to Jesus this week.
- Looking for a sign. Jesus said that only the Father knows “that day and hour” (Matthew 24:36). We can guess, but we cannot know. I admit that this is the first of four moons that are supposed to be considered as a whole. But is that really what was taught? Is that really what people were encouraged to do? Then why all of the disappointment over this first one? Expectations were high because the focus was drawn from waiting for Christ to desiring a sign. When the Pharisees asked Him for a sign, Jesus said they would not receive one (Mark 8:12). Jesus isn’t like your “On Demand” television station, and doesn’t work signs for the sake of entertainment or to prove Himself. Otherwise Passion Week would have ended without a cross.
- Over-emphasis on one sign. After Jesus explained to His Disciples the signs of the end of time, He told them to consider a lesson from nature. When you see a combination of signs in the fig tree, you know that summer is near. In the same way, a combination of signs would signal the nearness of the end (Matthew 24:33). But the Blood Moon teachings focus on just one sign.
- Hoping for trouble.The Psalmist tells us to “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (122:6), yet so many were hoping for trouble to fall upon Israel. When we should be praying for palm branches and peace, many were watching for tanks and bombs. To take a step towards our “blessed hope” Christians actually hoped in their hearts that God’s chosen people of Jacob’s descendants would be face disaster. God promised that He would bless those blessed Abraham and curse those who cursed him. If we were truly honest, if we consider what we really hoped for when we checked the news this morning, were we blessing or cursing?
Now we have the problem of looking like those who expected the world to end in December of 2012. It sounded ridiculous, but the world pretty much decided it wasn’t going to happen. Have we honored Christ in proclaiming our theory full of holes so we could sell a lot of books and DVDs, or so many downloads on our YouTube channel?
We have cheapened the holy Word of God and the power of Spirit-led prophecy in the eyes of the world. We got caught up in signs instead of in Jesus. And the world has seen it, taken note of it, and judged us for it.
These are just a few of the variables that I came up with that constantly nagged at my heart. There are still three Blood Moons that await us in this cycle, not just according to these teachers but according to the scientists who know how to determine these things. Something could still happen.
And one day Jesus will return, I have not doubt. It may not be the morning after a Blood Moon, but it will be. Jesus said, “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44). Signs will come. Teachers will spread their ideas. The truth is that Jesus has promised to return, just as He promised to rise out of the grave.
For me, the answer is not found in “the heavens” but “in Heaven, at the right of hand of the Father.” The answer is Jesus. He told us to the seek first the Kingdom. He told us to love Him with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength. He told us to go and make Disciples, and to love one another and our enemies.
Jesus didn’t tell us to depend on signs and wonders. In fact, He warned that even the elect the would be led astray by them. Watch, and be ready.