‘The days are coming when I will send a famine through the land— not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord’ (Amos 8:11).
In Part 1 I mentioned that the Hebrew word translated as ‘hearing’ in the above verse means ‘hearing with understanding.’ Despite the ready availability of the Bible today in many languages, there is much confusion in the minds of many Christians concerning many aspects of the Christian faith.
I listed fourteen points (which by no means exhaust the number of areas of confusion).
In this article I will comment on the first three that were mentioned there, and in future articles I will comment on the others.
When speculation is confused with prophecy
So many people in today’s church are self-appointed prophets who appear to be convinced that almost every thought they have is an anointed prophetic insight that they boldly declare with a sense of authority – and often with a ‘Thus saith your God.’
The Bible contains many warnings about people who prophesy falsely. For example, the warning Jeremiah gave to the people of his day is also so appropriate for today: ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord”’ (Jeremiah 23:16).
Jesus also warned, ‘… many false prophets will appear and deceive many people’ (Matthew 24:11).
And it is not just those who manage to secure an international platform for their speculations – blood moons and Shemitah years are not the only type of prophetic speculations – about which we need to be concerned, but also those in the local church who often give instantly-forgettable ‘prophecies’ which tell the people how pleased God is with them all!
Sadly so few those utterances are birthed in God and are at best irrelevant and at worst dangerous.
Paul gave great advice that people appear to largely disregard today: ‘Test everything. Hold on to the good’ (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
The authors have taken as their springboard the three references in the Bible to blood moons (which are caused by a total lunar eclipses) – Joel 2:30-31, Acts 2:20 and Revelation 6:12. They have argued that the uncommon event of four blood moons (called a tetrad, that is, four full lunar eclipses without partial eclipses in between) that have been occurring between 2014 and 2015, have profound spiritual significance. It has been maintained that the three tetrads during the last 500 years have corresponded with significant Jewish festival times when terrible events took place in Jewish history but that out of those events flowed positive results.
In support of their theory they have referred to
(i) The expulsion of 200,000 Jews in 1492 occurred at the time of a tetrad
(ii) A tetrad occurred at the time of the birth of the state of Israel in 1948
(iii) The reunification of Jerusalem following the Six-Day War in 1967 was near to another tetrad.
However, the facts are as follows:
(i) The expulsion of the Jews from Spain took place a year later, in 1493
(ii) The birth of the State of Israel took place on May 14, 1948, that is, significantly earlier than the tetrad of 1949 – 1950
(iii) The Six Day War did occur during the tetrad of 1967 – 1968.
Also, other tetrads have occurred from the first century which have coincided with Jewish festivals without any significant occurrences.
Two of the most momentous events in Jewish history – the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 AD with the slaughter of many Jews, and also the Holocaust during World War2 which resulted in the death of more than six million Jews – did not coincide with tetrads!
Further, while tetrads are relatively rare, each decade about four to five total eclipses (blood moons) can be seen from various locations on earth.
So what can we conclude? That the current hype is significantly lacking in historical factuality or sound biblical exegesis. Apart from making a lot of money for the authors of the books advocating the theory, the theory of the spiritual significance of the blood moon tetrads is just that – a theory – which lacks a sound foundation.
Despite the pretence of seeking biblical and historical justification for the theory, it is nothing less than astrology. Note that the Bible approves of astronomy, (Psalm 8:3-4) that is, the scientific observation and study of the stars and planets, but it does not approve of astrology, that is, the supposed interpretation of the movements of those cosmic bodies to determine how they influence the future.
In speaking about the ancient Babylonians for whom astrology played an important role, God scathingly said, ‘Let your astrologers come forward, those stargazers who make predictions month by month, let them save you from what is coming on you’ (Isaiah 47:13).
The practice of trying to tell the future by interpreting the movement of the sun and planets is strictly forbidden in the scriptures.
Furthermore Jesus clearly warned, ‘No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come’ (Mark 13:32-33, emphasis mine).
When Judaism is confused with Christianity
As Christians we are so indebted to Judaism. God entrusted the Jewish people with his revelation that we call the Old Testament, and the Christian religion finds its roots in Judaism. God’s revelation as contained in the Old Testament held the promise of God’s act of redemption through the Messiah, Jesus.
Unquestionably a greater knowledge of the Old Testament (which Jesus frequently quoted) helps us to understand better the teaching of the New Testament. Indeed, the book of Hebrews in the New Testament demonstrates that in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ the Old Testament records find their true meaning. Therefore both historically and theologically Judaism and Christianity are closely related.
However the differences between Judaism and Christianity are not insignificant, principally the Christian conviction that Jesus Christ is the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah. Judaism rejects that belief.
• In referring to the festivals and legal codes mentioned in the Old Testament, the apostle Paul wrote, ‘These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ’ (Colossians 2:17).
• The writer of Hebrews makes the same point, ‘The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming – not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.’
• And writing specifically about Judaism, Paul commented, ‘It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery’ (Galatians 5:1).
Christianity is not Judaism plus Jesus! I can fully affirm Christians who want the show their indebtedness, respect, support and encouragement for Jews, but we need to avoid the pitfall of trying to Judaise Christianity. However much we acknowledge our indebtedness to Jews and however much we want to bless them and stand with them in many of their struggles.
Christianity is not Judaism with the addition of Jesus! Christ’s life and ministry has rendered the old (or ‘first’) covenant outdated. The book of Hebrews makes this clear particularly in chapters 8 – 10. Clearly there are strong similarities between the old and the new covenants as both have been given by God. But the beginning on the new covenant has seen the end of the old.
In Hebrews 8:8, 10, 13 we read that God said, ‘The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. … This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.’ … By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.’
Paul, a Jew who was proud of his Jewish roots, validated that understanding when he wrote ‘Therefore, if anyone (that is, Jew or Gentile) is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!’ (2Corinthians 5:17).
To which we give a resounding, ‘Hallelujah!’
Dr Jim McClure, author of several books and Bible study series, welcomes questions from concerned Christians. In his well-researched Grace Revisited he reveals grace as having a strong active meaning and is like a many faceted diamond out of which shines a greater understanding of the great God we worship.
Normally $35 but obtainable from the author for $25 (plus postage). Link/orders/enquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org