blood-moonI’ve now seen one too many links on Facebook to problematic theories about the prophetic nature of the blood moons. Specifically, most of the stuff I’ve seen connects the blood moons to End of the World kinds of things or at least to God’s supposed concern for current geopolitical arrangements involving Israel. Not that I’m an expert on ancient Jewish or Christian apocalyptic literature, but I do think I know enough to point people to credible sources and to summarize my own findings (I do teach Revelation to my 8th graders and I did minor in Biblical Studies where I mostly took Biblical text classes). Maybe some of my graduate school of theology and seminary and bible professor friends can weigh in if I’m off base.

First, whatever you think about Replacement Theology and Supercessionism, the state of Israel that came into legal and corporate existence in 1948 is neither the people of God nor the ancient Jewish nation with which the people of God were once coextensive. God has no covenant with Bibi Netanyahu nor with the Jewish State. So, whatever you think about the way prophecy and fulfillment works, it is simply not true that the modern nation-state calling itself Israel has any kind of biblical significance.

Second, prophecy does not predict the far future. Prophecy is concerned with God’s will in a given moment in time for a specific group of people. Prophecy calls that group of people to repentance and threatens consequences if there isn’t repentance. Not everything prophesied even comes true. For example, Jonah prophesied that Nineveh would be destroyed in 40 days. It was not destroyed. The goal of prophecy is to reconcile people to God, to proclaim God’s word in particular circumstances to particular people

Third, Apocalyptic literature, such as Revelation and Daniel and Ezekiel, is written in highly symbolic language that a) points to God’s ultimate judgment by use of exaggerated and end-of-the-world language (similar to me saying “If I eat one more donut I’m going to explode!”, b) signifies spiritual realities; explains what is really going on (the Roman emperor is a beast inspired by Satan whom God will judge), or c) points to other disasters that have already occurred as indicative of God’s present judgment. So, the moon turning to blood in Revelation or in Joel or in other places neither points to the far future nor refers to the actual moon literally turning red.

Fourth, the Bible, as literature, had to be understood by its original audience. If the original audience wouldn’t have understood (and I think we have a sure bet that ancient Israelites and first-century Christians wouldn’t have understood twenty-first-century geopolitical arrangements), then such things would not have been written to them

As I tell my students, there are three primary myths that people have about Revelation (and Apocalyptic literature in general): 1) That it is written for us (it wasn’t; it was written for its original audience, though we glean–like from all of the Scriptures–nourishment and sustenance), 2) that it predicts the far future (it doesn’t; prediction is not really the purpose of biblical prophecy), and 3) that it is written in a mysterious code that must be deciphered (it wasn’t; just because it confuses us doesn’t mean that it confused its original audience who lived with and understood the symbols).

So, in conclusion, don’t believe the theories purveyed by those with political agendas (the biggest culprit is the serial con-artist John Hagee) who want to ruin the fun and beauty of the blood moons with their innovative eschatologies.

P.S. For the curious, most of my understanding of how apocalyptic literature works comes from David DeSilva’s book Unholy Allegiances and Ian Fair’s commentary on Revelation entitled Conquering with Christ.