Anytime there is an eclipse of the moon or the sun it seems to stir up a lot of interest, sometimes almost as the time Hailey’s comet came in view from earth a few years ago. To me it looked like a smoky dust ball in our southeastern sky, hardly visible, even with binoculars. Then, it was gone in a few days, never to return in our lifetime.
But four total lunar eclipses in two years, projected by NASA are getting considerable attention among Bible prophecy adherents. There is much more to it in that regard, however, than just four lunar eclipses in two years. It’s their timing, visibility and repetitive appearances on certain days of the years. Here is a list of their salient characteristics:
They will appear on specific annual feast days of Israel. In 2014, on April 15, the Feast of Passover and October 8, 2014, the Feast of Tabernacles.
They will appear in 2015 on the Feast of Passover, April 4, and on the Feast of Tabernacles, September 28.
The moon and its signs are distinctly related to Israel. The Jewish calendar is based on a lunar month of thirty days and a 360-day year, with periodic adjustments. Different phases of the monthly moon cycle become reference points for much of Israel’s society.
The visibility of the eclipses around the world add to the mystery of these so-called “blood moons.” The first one in 2014 will only be visible in Australia, Pacific and the Americas. In October, it will be visible in Asia, Australia, Pacific and the Americas. In 2015, the first one will be seen in Asia, Australia, Pacific, and the Americas. And, the last one will be visible in the East Pacific, Americas,
Europe, Africa, and West Asia. In the latter region it will be visible in Jerusalem as the moon sets.
Some Observations about These Characteristics
The full eclipses fall on the first and last feast days of the annual seven-feast cycle, seemingly and perhaps purposely bracketing the annual seven feast schedule for each year. Is it to call attention to this annually repeated pattern since God gave Moses the instructions for their observance so many centuries ago on Mount Sinai?
Is it not strange that while the signs of the moon are directed to Israel’s attention, rather than the nations (Gentiles), these total eclipses are not visible in Israel, except for the final one, and that, hardly at all? It begs the question, why?
Let’s look at the feasts and their purposes in God’s plan. They were given to Moses as part of the declaration of the laws of God for the Hebrew nation. They are listed in Leviticus 23 in brief form. Hebrews 10:1 declares the law is but a shadow of the reality that was to come. That is, the law and its sacrifices were not the real thing, but were a foreshadowing of that reality then yet to come. Colossians 2:16-17 reveals that reality is Christ, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” as John the Baptist declared in John 1:29.
These feast days, or festivals, had future fulfillments, and we can see that the first four were fulfilled in short order at the time of the crucifixion and shortly thereafter. Jesus was the Passover Lamb. It is unique how exact the timing was for His death. While the priests at the temple were preparing the lambs for that scheduled sacrifice, Jesus was being interrogated by the religious leaders and their Roman counterparts, and they were preparing Him for His sacrifice. Yet, Jesus was not sacrificed there; He was not part of that sacrifice, and he was sacrificed outside the city. He was not of the tribe of Levi, which had charge of that other sacrifice; He was of the tribe of Judah and of the order of Melchizedek, that priest of a much higher order (Hebrews 7).
Jesus was buried and in the tomb during the next feast, the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Unleavened bread is flat bread; it does not rise in its baking. It is essentially dead, thus Jesus fulfilled that shadowed reality in His burial.
But on Sunday morning He rose from the grave and became the first fruit of the resurrection, corresponding to the first harvest time of the year, celebrated as the Feast of “First Fruits.”
Then, seven Sabbaths plus one day later the Feast of Pentecost was scheduled. It was the time of the second harvest, and the fulfillment was the coming of the Holy Spirit to indwell the very lives of the believers, as He was promised. Jesus had told the disciples, when revealing to them that a Comforter would be coming after He departed, saying in John 14:17, “Bow He is with you, but then he will be in you.” Note that this day was a Sunday, the day the church, the body of Christ, was born.
No other feasts have been fulfilled since then, when in less than sixty days four of the foreshadowing feasts were turned into reality. Once in Jesus’ ministry, probably about this time of the year, he said to His disciples:
“Do you not say, It is yet four months, and the harvest comes? Behold, I say to you, Lift up your eyes and look on the fields, for they are white to harvest already” (John 4:35).
It is apparent in the context that He is not talking about the fields of grain before them. Sometime later, as Jesus was about to ascend to His Father in heaven following His resurrection, the disciples had one last question to ask Him:
“Lord, do You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” And Jesus responded, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power, the Holy Spirit coming upon you. And you shall be witnesses to Me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:6-8).
About ten days later, the church was born and here, we see its mission. A few years later, at the conference in Jerusalem, that mission was clearly defined: “God at the first visited the nations (Gentiles) to take out of them a people for His name” (Acts 15:14). This period of time since Pentecost has been given to that mission, as spelled out in Acts 1:8. That four months until the harvest in the Jewish annual calendar has become a gap of many centuries. We have seen the “times and seasons” that Jesus spoke of, in reference to the question asked about the restoration of the kingdom to Israel, now come to pass. The kingdom has been restored to Israel as an independent nation.
There have been no feast fulfillments since Pentecost, yet there is one more time of harvest on the Jewish calendar each year—the fall harvest. The next feast, the Feast of Trumpets, is unique in its manner of practice as an annual festival. It falls on the first day of the Jewish civil New Year, timed with the appearance of the new moon that starts the month’s new cycle. The requirement of exact correlation with the timing of the new moon at sundown meant that a two-day option had to be created in case cloudy weather prohibited a vision of the timing of the new moon. (As you may recall, Jewish days begin at sundown and end at the next sundown.)
At the opening trumpet blast from the temple in local practice, the field workers would immediately stop their harvesting and go to the place of meeting for worship. There, they would meet with the Lord. It is not that difficult to see the parallel with Paul’s description of the Rapture of the believers in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17: “For the Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. And so we shall ever be with the Lord.”
It is not clear exactly when during the festival would the Rapture occur, for Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:52 of a “last trumpet” when the transformations happen. In the Thessalonians passage, Jesus “descends from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and the trumpet of God.” He also calls it a mystery, and certainly it is, for Jesus
has said, “Therefore watch, for you do not know either the day or the hour in which the Son of Man comes” (Matthew 25:13).
The next feast, the Feast of Atonement, was scheduled on the tenth day of that seventh month (of the religious year). Only believers are qualified for atonement, and this festival foreshadowed that provision in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. For the unsaved Jew that provision is not effective until they have recognized that Jesus is their promised Messiah and believe on Him. According to the prophecy of Zechariah, there is a time coming when Israel will look upon Jesus in a much different light, like the light of understanding and reality, and of bitterness and repentance:
“And I will pour on the house of David, and on the people of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of prayers. And they shall look on Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourns for his only son, and shall be bitter over Him, as the bitterness over the first-born” (Zechariah 12:10). It will be the time of the true atonement for Israel, as foreshadowed in the Feast of Atonement.
Zechariah goes on to say, in the next chapter, “And it shall be in all the land, says Jehovah, two parts in it shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left in it. And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried. They shall call on My name, and I will answer them; I will say, It is My people; and they shall say, Jehovah is my God” (Zechariah 13:8-9). You can read the rest of the story in Revelation 12, where that great red dragon, the devil, chases them into the wilderness.
That final feast of the seven, the Feast of Tabernacles, points to the coming of Jesus Christ back to earth as the conquering Sovereign, who will close the seven years of tribulation with destruction of evil forces aligned against God, including the man of sin and the false prophet. Those two will be “thrown alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone” (Revelation 19:20). In the following chapter we are told what happens to the devil—he is cast into the bottomless pit for a thousand years and Jesus reigns on earth, on the throne of David in Jerusalem.
The Bible says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt [tabernacled] among us” (John 1:14), and again, He will come to dwell among us, as foreshadowed by the Feast of Tabernacles, thus climaxing that historical calendar of God’s plan for Israel, His chosen nation, and His church of Jewish and Gentile believers.
The questions we should be asking now are:
What is in these feasts that would cause the bracketing of the seven for each of two years?
For whom are the signs meant, since they are not visible in the land of Israel, except in their fading moments on the second day?
One of my readers alerted me to the following possibility. Noting the worldwide visibility of the eclipses, except in Israel and the Middle East, remembering also that God has scattered the Jews among all the nations, we cannot forget that God is still calling all Jews
back to their homeland in Israel. With our focus on the nation and land of Israel, we forget that a great number of Jews are still scattered among the nations, and those nations are the very ones in the visible path of the blood red moons. For example, there are about 5.5 million Jews still in the United States and over a third of a million in Canada. How many more are in the sweep of the moon signs over other countries?
The one feast of the remaining three to be fulfilled, the Feast of Atonement, is the one that directly confronts unrepentant Israel with its foreshadowing of their Messiah’s unveiling before them. Their recognition and acceptance of Him is set forth in prophecy, as noted above. Possibly these two factors—the full return of Jews to Israel and the fulfillment of the Feast of Atonement—are the core elements of the message of the moons.
Are these factors, then, clues to the purpose of the moon eclipses, their appearances on the first and last feasts of the annual series, and why Israel, itself, the historical lunar signs recipient, is not the focus of these signs?
Is God making a final call to the yet scattered Jews back to their homeland? Are the Rapture and the Atonement fulfillments a part of this unique, two-year alert and warning of things to come? Is God’s appointed time now upon us?