There’s been a lot of talk about some coming tetrads of lunar eclipses, often referred to as blood moons. For any of you who have wondered where exactly to draw the line between fact and fiction, I’m offering this synopsis of what I’ve found in examining these things.
The first thing to note about all this is that in paying attention to these lunar eclipses and expecting them to mark significant human events, we are making a strong claim about God the Creator. We are saying that long ago when He first set the planets and Sun and moon in their orbits, He knew exactly how history would unfold. He knew that we would rebel against Him. He knew how He would respond to this. He chose to mark key events along the way by signs in the sky. He knew precisely what orientation of each heavenly body was needed in order to produce the desired signs at the desired times. And He accomplished all this, back at the foundation of the world, before our history had even begun.
Not a small task. The depth of knowledge and understanding required to accomplish all this is truly astounding. But yet, I’m totally on board with this claim, because I’ve already seen that God can do and has done this, marking many past historical events with signs in the sky.
But my perspective differs a bit from that of many blood moon perspectives you may have seen:
1) The importance of visibility
Whether you can actually see a given astronomical event often depends on where in the world you live. A given lunar eclipse for instance can be seen by only about half of the world. And a given solar eclipse can be seen only by people along a very narrow track – a very small percentage of the world. If God intended a particular astronomical event as a sign, it’s quite reasonable to expect that in His arranging of the details He would have ensured that this event would be visible to those for whom it was intended.
2) How important are tetrads?
Blood moon researchers typically have paid attention only to tetrads of lunar eclipses, ignoring other potentially meaningful eclipses. What I find in looking more closely at the details is that it can be just one of the four eclipses in a tetrad that marks a key event, with the details of timing and visibility being less interesting for the others. And an eclipse with very special details of timing and visibility can occur as just one of two or three, rather than one of a tetrad. I would conclude then that what we need to pay attention to is the precise characteristics of each individual eclipse, rather than how many companions it has.
3) Definition of a “blood moon”
These researchers typically refer to any lunar eclipse as a blood moon. A good writeup on the eclipse at Jesus’ crucifixion (see http://www.rcyoung.org/papers.html, or specifically http://www.rcyoung.org/articles/Eclipse1.pdf) clarified for me that it’s the timing of an eclipse, occurring near the horizon either just after sunset or just before dawn, that produces the heightened visual effects which earn some eclipses the title “blood moon.”
[Apr 5, 2014 edit: I was misunderstanding this point. After further investigation, my understanding now is that more than one situation can lead to a reddish-colored moon. A lunar eclipse can show a reddish coloring when it’s straight overhead, or anywhere in the sky, once it reaches totality. Any total lunar eclipse can be a “blood moon”. So the other researchers are not wrong on this point. The detail about eclipses occurring near the horizon is also valid, but for total eclipses to appear as blood moons, it’s not a necessary requirement. What this detail adds to the picture is that sometimes lunar eclipses which are not total – eclipses in the partial or even penumbral phases – can appear as blood moons, taking on a reddish coloring, when they occur on the horizon near sunrise or sunset.]
Ok, so with this background, here’s what I find for some future eclipses. I take Israel to be the primary audience, so Jerusalem’s perspective is what I’m showing. Keep in mind though that God may have intended different eclipses as signs to different parts of the world.
The 2014/2015 tetrad
- Apr 15, 2014, Hebrew month 1, day 15
begin 6:54am, fullest 9:46am, end 12:38pm
Passover day 1, about 16 hours after the lamb is slain, the following morning
- Oct 8, 2014, Hebrew month 7, day 13
begin 10:16am, fullest 12:55pm, end 3:34pm
Two days before Sukkot
- Apr 4, 2015, Hebrew month 1, day 14
begin 11:02am, fullest 2:01pm, end 5:00pm
Passover, about 4 hours before the lamb is slain, the preceding afternoon
- Sep 28, 2015, Hebrew month 7, day 13
begin 2:12am, fullest 4:48am, end 7:23am
Two days before Sukkot
Given that sunrise and sunset are roughly 6am and 6pm, we can readily see from the times shown that for Israel and the Middle East, the first three eclipses of the tetrad will not be visible at all. They will all occur during daylight hours. The first eclipse of the tetrad should be visible in the western hemisphere however, from time zone UTC+10, past the international date line, and up to UTC-2. The second eclipse of the tetrad should be visible from UTC+7, through the international date line, and up to UTC-5. The third eclipse of the tetrad should be visible from UTC+6, through the international date line, and up to UTC-6. The last eclipse of the tetrad should be visible from UTC-9, across the Atlantic, and up to UTC+3. This does include Israel, with the timing such that it probably will indeed appear as a blood moon, just before dawn. [Apr 5, 2014 edit – It will meet both requirements for a reddish-colored moon, being both total and on the horizon. Will this mean more coloring than the usual blood moon? I don’t know, but this seems plausible.]
It’s interesting to note that one small segment of the world, from UTC-9 to UTC-6 (the western side of North America), will be in on all four eclipses, while another small segment from UTC+3 to UTC+6 (roughly Iran through India), will see none of them.
From Israel’s perspective, we have just one lunar eclipse – a blood moon, in the fall of 2015. It seems that a Passover eclipse would be a very significant thing for Israel, but there is none – none that they can see. Not yet, anyway.
Solar eclipses along with this tetrad
Some researchers point to Solar eclipses that accompany this tetrad as having additional significance. But what do we find if we check their visibility? The NASA data shows me just one, March 20, 2015, and it is to be visible only from a narrow path through the North Atlantic Ocean. In other words, no one will see it. For me, that says zero significance. It is a normal thing for solar eclipses to occur about two weeks before or after lunar eclipses. That’s just a normal, expected part of Solar System mechanics. So I would take one or more of the lunar eclipses to be the intended signs, with the accompanying solar eclipses being just a kind of reflection or consequence of the lunar eclipses, with no meaning of their own.
The 2032/2033 tetrad
Most researchers look no further than 2015. Some accompany this with emphatic claims that 2014/2015 is the “last tetrad of the century” – implying to them, I think, that surely 2014/2015 must be marking the tribulation or the final battle of Armageddon, so Jesus’ return is almost upon us, and after that – who cares what other signs might be in the sky.
But suppose they’ve missed their guess. When 2015 has passed them by, and they’ve lived through whatever trying times those signs actually represented, they’ll take another look to see what else is there. They’ll see a rather anemic triad in 2025/2026 in which all the eclipses come a month too early to mark the Jewish festivals. And then they’ll look at the tetrad of 2032/2033 –
- Apr 25, 2032, Hebrew month 2, day 15
begin 2:23pm, fullest 5:14pm, end 8:06pm
2nd Passover, day 1, eclipse in progress when the lamb is slain
- Oct 18, 2032, Hebrew month 8, day 13
begin 6:25pm, fullest 9:03pm, end 11:41pm
no known significance
- Apr 14, 2033, Hebrew month 1, day 15
begin 6:13pm, fullest 9:13pm, end 12:14am
Passover day 1, eclipse begins when the lamb is slain
- Oct 8, 2033, Hebrew month 7, day 13
begin 10:20am, fullest 12:56pm, end 3:32pm
Two days before Sukkot
Remember the 2014/2015 tetrad, how only the last occurrence was visible from Israel, and no Passover eclipse was visible from Israel? Here that has been reversed. This time it’s only the last occurrence that’s not visible from Israel, and both Passover eclipses are visible from Israel, both with the timing such that the eclipse will be close to the time of the sacrifice of the lamb. First in 2032 is an eclipse at the 2nd Passover (the alternative date that was set up to accommodate special circumstances – see Numbers 9:6-12). Then in 2033 for the first time we get the eclipse right at Passover from the perspective of Jerusalem. This feels significant to me. A total eclipse in view of the people of Jerusalem, right at Passover.
So – does the 2033 eclipse have significant meaning? We probably can’t know for sure from where we sit now, with the event still 19-20 years in the future. But I’d like to propose at least that we keep our eyes and minds open to the possibility that the 2014/2015 tetrad does not mark the time of Jesus’ return; that we continue to watch and pray, waiting to see how events unfold. I’d be really happy for Jesus to come back this soon – but these eclipses could be marking some other kind of transitional event, possibly leading to a further ingathering of God’s people to the nation of Israel, and possibly allowing time for further strengthening of the nation and restoration of the Temple, which seem to be requirements for the fulfillment of some remaining Old Testament prophecies. For a solid perspective on the relationship of Old Testament prophecy to our present day, let me commend to you the writings of Joel Rosenberg, at http://flashtrafficblog.wordpress.com/. Let’s walk in the spirit of Jesus’ end-times instructions in Matthew 24:45-46, “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns.”
Some key resources to help you investigate these things on your own
For free software that lets you readily view the sky from the perspective of any place and time, go to http://www.stellarium.org/
To identify what Hebrew date is represented by any Julian or Gregorian date, go to http://torahcalendar.com/. This does a good job of reconstructing the actual observation-based lunar calendar that was in use before the modern Hebrew calendar calculation system was invented. Though the calculated calendar is the one that’s in common use today, it really provides only an approximation of the actual lunar month starting dates and can be off by up to 3 days from the actual beginnings of months. For purposes such as this where we’re looking at correspondences with other astronomical signs, it’s clear that an astronomically correct calendar should provide the most precise and meaningful results.
Info on eclipses
Lunar – http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/LEcat5/LEcatalog.html
Lunar eclipse explorer – http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/JLEX/JLEX-index.html
Solar – http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEcat5/SEcatalog.html
Solar eclipse explorer – http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/JSEX/JSEX-index.html