Don’t worry about those 4 blood moons

If you’re worried about the coincidence of four blood moons somehow signaling the end of the world, relax. The prophetic scheme hatched by ministers Mark Blitz and John Hagee amounts to little more than proof of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s thesis in Fooled by Randomness.

Our world is full of noise and confusion. As a result, we look for patterns to create sensible narratives that help explain reality. Taleb applies this insight to markets. But it’s just as true for people predicting the Ultimate Crash.

Witness the various and sundry end-times predictions of, say, Harold Camping. Or Hal Lindsey. Or Herbert W. Armstrong. Or the Watchtower Society. Or William Miller. Or Melchior Hoffmann. Or . . . well, just pick your favorite street-side apocalypse hawker with a sandwich board.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, to choose from. And they’ve all left their disappointed doomsday devotees. But studying where they went wrong can be instructive.

Predictable as a thief

Solomon was right: There’s nothing new under the sun, including people eager to see it drop out of the sky. The turn of the first millennium after Christ had everyone buzzing about God rolling up the big scroll. And first-century Judaism sprouted more false messiahs than the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1970s.

Earthquakes and eclipses. Comets and conflagrations. Wars and their rumors. We’re always eager for the end. We are obsessed with it. Not that we don’t have cause. Christians see it in the scripture. We confess it in the creed. But obsession with the eschaton is as unbiblical as it is unhelpful.

“Now,” says Paul, “concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling to meet him, we beg you, brethren, not to be quickly shaken in mind or excited, either by spirit or by word, or by letter purporting to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come” (2 Thes 2.1-2).

Paul penned this corrective to the church at Thessaloniki because they had already disregarded his previous teaching. “But as to the times and the seasons,” he said, “you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (1 Thes 5.1-2).

Why we’re obsessed with the end

The desire to know the end is a distinctly human impulse, born from the need for resolution and closure. We are frail creatures, victims of the vicissitudes of life. We long for a means to settle that tension, to subtract ourselves from the crises in which we find ourselves.

The Christian trying to index biblical prophecy by his newsfeed is falling prey to the same impulse that makes the broker and the trader overconfident about their take on the exchange. But complex models that supposedly factor all the relevant data are usually just elaborate means for fooling ourselves.

The notion that four blood moons overlaying Jewish feast days somehow predicts world-shattering events is intriguing—and also totally without validation in scripture or tradition. Proponents might, for instance, point to the prophet Joel, who speaks of the moon turning to blood in the second chapter of his prophecy. But not only is my namesake missing a few moons, Peter indicates his prophecy was fulfilled in the events of—or related to—Pentecost (Acts 2).

Oh, but never mind. Things are terrible in the world right now. From the religious crackdowns in China and North Korea to the crises in the Middle East and the erosion of faith in the West—things are so terrible, it must be the end, right?

Practically every generation has thought so. Because we feel the impulse for closure as strongly as we do, we seek its confirmation everywhere—bad weather, bad politics, bad anything—never realizing that all the failed prophets of previous generations were grasping at the same, lame straws.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s insight

Paul told the Thessalonians to be sober and vigilant. And, importantly, he urged them “to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands” (1 Thes 4.10-11). Keep your head down and do your work. Be faithful and wait. It may seem boring compared to Armageddon, but that’s the path we’re called to walk.

I’ve long been struck by these words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer from Letters and Papers from Prison:

I discovered later, and I’m still discovering right up to this moment, that is it only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith. . . . I mean living unreservedly in life’s duties, problems, successes and failures, experiences and perplexities. In so doing we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God, taking seriously, not our own sufferings, but those of God in the world—watching with Christ in Gethsemane. That, I think, is faith; that is metanoia; and that is how one becomes a man and a Christian. . . .

Life’s duties and problems and perplexities are the things the Thessalonians and we keep trying to avoid. Nonetheless, they are the things that prove and develop our faith, which is arguably phony until tested by the trials of life.

We’re not meant to bail the world. We’re meant to work with Christ in redeeming it. That won’t happen until we scuttle our desire for escape and embrace Paul’s ethic of work and faithfulness. That is how we live like—and even in a sense become—Christians.

Image credit: Lauren Harnett, NASA.


  1. Very interesting post. As good as your comments were, the Bonhoffer quote is so excellent, good words for me right now. On topic, I have a client who goes to Hagee’s church, and he has given me an earful about the blood moons. And of course my facebook page blows up with it from former pentacostal friends. Your post doesn’t mention it, but is this not resulting from the pre-trib pre-millenial theology these folk espouse? I tend to see revelation as almost pure allegory and didactic teaching and that most of the prophecies it contains were fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD70, and that the anti-Christ is a code word for Nero.

  2. I always thought that the symbolic references to the moon turned to blood were just based on the observation that that’s how it looks during a lunar eclipse. In the same way, there are references to the sun turning black, as it does during a solar eclipse. No doubt both these occurrences were frightening and seemed to suggest celestial unrest. What better way to suggest cataclysmic change than by speaking of the events that everyone knew about.

    Some people just want to keep turning Biblical prophecies into code, but surely they were meant to be plainly understood. Much less interesting that way, I know, but more accurate, it seems t me.

  3. Bonheoffer’s Theology and understanding has substance, and I also agree that the only way one becomes a Christian is by living it in the here and now, down to earth, in every day life. It is said: the earth is the footstool, our first step where we experience and find God….he is a God of the living who transforms us, starting here on earth.

    Not to long ago I watched John Hagee on TV talking about the 4 Blood-moons and had to change the channel, because I could not bear hearing him yelling and making a Sunday service so theatric. I still have a hard time and feel a sense of pain and disbelief about the state of Christianity here in America.
    So it is refreshing to read some honest and serious commentary about what it means to be a Disciple of Christ. BTW Bonheoffer has a great book out on this subject. He has depth, and it is what is lacking here among common Christians.
    All the good theology won’t cut it, if we do not live it. It makes a joke out of it instead. And that is what I see in the Churches here. A joke, an impression literally, great words without the living substance, a meager community but large in numbers, you walk in and out really knowing no one but superficially, as an acquaintance we all meet and leave, or hi and bye.
    Church and Christianity is an Organic Body that seems no longer to exist here…. there is a disconnect. A business venture and everyone is replaceable if you don’t come along with their agenda. It really is tragic and sad. The Churches should judge themselves first, instead of judging outside of itself,… and leaving the judgment of the Churches to outsiders.
    Perhaps our interest in end times (not mine) is, that people have not come to terms with their own end times, end or death, and transfer the questions they want answered for prophesies to answer. It is a cultural fixation and trend with youth, and a general denial of death, as the Church, or Christianity, equates Death with Sin. I am born to die, as Nature has it, and rebirth. We look for answers in der Quelle, in the beginning of a spring or a fountain of water=life that will end up in an ocean if it did not run dry along life’s way. And where did the spring come from?
    What a beautiful organic cycle it is = LIFE

    I feel comfort in reading, books, essays and also all the great comments here, knowing that there are still thinking and serious Christians out there trying to make sense in/ and discovering the God of Love and what it means to live a Christian life here on earth now.

    Thanks Joel, as usual good thoughts to ponder.

  4. Hi Joel! Thanks for this article and I do so appreciate the Bonhoeffer quote, as I very much appreciate Dietrich Bonhoeffer writing from prison and also his other writings. He loves God and encourages Christians to do the same. And it is obvious that you also love God and encourage Christians to do the same.

    Your article and the quote also remind me of another quote by a favorite author, C.S. Lews: The present moment is the point at which time touches eternity (at least that’s pretty close, I hope!)

    The point being with your article, Bonhoeffer’s writings, C.S. Lewis, all encouragement to live in the Present Moment, the moment where God is, ever present and filling all things.

    After all, each day is a gift, that’s why we call it the Present (don’t know who said that, but it is one of my all time favorites.) God bless you!

  5. Yes we are supposed to live in the present and cherish each day and live it wisely, as unto the Lord. We are to put God first in our lives, to love Him with our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength, to value and meditate on His Word, in order that we might be filled with the spirit of Christ and produce abundantly the fruits of the spirit. Our lives are short, and we never know when they might suddenly come to an end, and so “whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might: for there is no work , nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, whither thou goest.” Ecc. 9:10. But God has also told us to “watch and pray”, so that we would not be caught off guard. He gave us the signs of the times so that we would be uplifted and encouraged and strengthened to stay close to Him and “steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord…..”. He gave us many signs and prophecies of the end times, and what it would be like just before the return of Christ. We should not ignore these signs and treat them as rubbish. They are there for a reason. When an abundance of detailed signs all converge on a certain generation, then we know it is close. The tetrads which fall on four successive Jewish feast days with total eclipses are extremely unique, and NASA tells us this will not happen again for another 500 years. It is the scriptures which state: “And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars, AND UPON THE EARTH distress of nations with perplexity….” Luke 21:25, etc. Are we to disregard these things? No, we are told by God, “…to this man will I look, even to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.” Isa.66:2 There was a sign in the heavens when Christ was born, and there have been signs in the heavens during many other important events regarding the Jewish nation. 1949, and 1967 were the last ones, just after they became a nation again in their own land and were fighting against huge odds to survive, also the amazing war of 1967 when several miracles occurred, and they regained possession of the half city of Jerusalem and the temple mount. The facts and figures are too numerous to cite in this post, but signs in the heaven is definitely one way God uses to wake people up.

      1. Please forgive me for using that wording. Although there are likely those who do treat the signs that way, I did not mean to say that you treat them that way. Your message is certainly correct that we should not fear these things, but our focus should be on serving faithfully each day.

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