April 16, 2014
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Wednesday, April 16, 2014. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Does a blood moon tell us that the return of the Lord is near? There’s a great deal of Christian conversation about this and it does not reflect well on us. As Sarah Pulliam Bailey for Religion News Service reports, “In the wee hours of Tuesday [that’s yesterday] morning, the moon slid into Earth’s shadow, casting a reddish hue on the moon.” That’s called a blood moon, and it occurs when there is a total eclipse of the moon, when the moon slides into the shadow of the earth, and around the penumbra of the earth, the sun is reflected onto the moon and it shines red. Why does it shine red? For the very same reason that a sunset appears in hues of red: it is the reflected image of the light of the sun, and, yet, it is something that is now consuming a great deal of the attention of at least some Christians and some Christian teachers. As Sarah Pulliam Bailey reports:
There are about two lunar eclipses per year, according to NASA, but what’s unusual this time around is that there will be four blood moons within 18 months
Now this has happened before; it will happen again. As a matter of fact, it’s going to happen several times between now and the year 2100, but this tetrad, it occurring in the year 2014 and 15, and all of these red moons occurring during Jewish holidays, well this has sent a lot of Christians into speculation about the return of the Lord. Why? Because the blood moon is found in the Scripture, or at least they claim that the blood moon is found in the Scripture. There certainly is a statement in Scripture that the moon shall be turned into blood and this is tied to apocalyptic expectation connected to the Day of Judgment that is yet to come and to the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. In Acts chapter 2, verse 20, we read the sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord. Remember that is Peter preaching on the day of Pentecost. And that refers back to Joel chapter 2, verse 31, in which the Prophet Joel declared, “The sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the great and terrible day of the Lord.”
So how should Christians think about this? Should we consider the fact that the blood moon, as is identified in terms of total lunar eclipse, is the moon being turned into blood that is part and parcel of biblical prophecy connected with apocalyptic expectation? Well, if we’re supposed to make that connection, that connection’s been made hundreds and hundreds of times since the time of Christ, and that’s the problem. And, yet, as Bailey reports:
A string of books have been published surrounding the event, with authors referring to a Bible passage that refers to the moon turning into blood.
Recent books capitalizing on the event include “Blood Moons: Decoding the Imminent Heavenly Signs” by Washington state author Mark Biltz; “Blood Moons Rising: Bible Prophecy, Israel, and the Four Blood Moons” by Oklahoma pastor Mark Hitchcock; and “Four Blood Moons: Something Is About to Change” by Texas megachurch pastor John Hagee.
Hagee’s book, by the way, has the most attention of all. It is now number four on the New York Times best-seller list in the section identified as advice or how to. It’s number 80 on USA Today’s best-seller list, and it has spent 152 days in Amazon’s top 100 books. Somebody’s buying these books and that means somebody’s buying the argument.
But, as I said, this does not reflect well on us. The Bible does not tell us that we are to spend our time with our eyes on the sky, trying to determine the time when the Lord Jesus Christ will return. Instead, the Lord Himself said when He returns, He expects to find us not looking up at the sky, simply waiting for His return, not involved in all kinds of apocalyptic expectation, but rather doing what the Lord commanded us to do: being active in witnessing in missions; being active in faithful discipleship, following the Lord Jesus Christ; being active in the affairs of life that are commanded as the Scripture tells us how we are to live in this world.
In his book, Four Blood Moons: Something Is About to Change, John Hagee argues that every time there is a tetrad, that is, four of these eclipses within a very close proximity of time, and when those eclipses take place within the timeframe of the Jewish religious holidays, something major happens to Israel. He points back to 1492, when he says the Jews were expelled from Spain and Columbus discovered America. In 1948, the modern state of Israel was born, and in 1967, Israel won the Six-Day War and recaptured Jerusalem. Well, looking at those dates, indeed, major events in at least Jewish history if not the nation of Israel, you can look at that and say, well, there must be something to that argument, until you look back and you recognize that these tetrads, at least as they took place in regard to at least some of the Jewish religious holidays, well, they took place so many times that there are more occasions in which blood moons took place and nothing happened than blood moons took place and something happened. But the reality is that this kind of speculation has to do probably more with astrology than it has to do with the Bible. The Bible simply gives us some very important pictures of the Day of Judgment and the pictures of anticipation and the eminence of the Lord’s return. It does not tell us that we are to figure out heavenly signs in order to understand the timetable for the return of the Lord. “When you see these signs, the Bible says, lift of your head and rejoice, your redemption draws nigh,” Hagee said in a sermon, and that was reported in the San Antonio Express-News.
As related to the blood moons, Hagee also said, “I believe that the heavens are God’s billboard and that He has been sending signals to planet Earth, but we have just not been picking them up.” Well here’s what we’re supposed to pick up: the Bible. And we’re supposed to look to the Bible as our sufficient revelation that tells us everything we need to know about the return of the Lord and what we are to be found doing when the Lord returns according to His own timetable. And, by the way, when you’re thinking about these tetrads and the Jewish religious holidays, also understand that Christians can make way too much of the Jewish religious holidays. They are simply not the timetable that we are instructed to follow. And, furthermore, in terms of these tetrads, eight sets of them are expected between now and the year 2100. NASA reports that the most unique thing about the upcoming tetrad—and remember that the first of these blood moons has already taken place; that was yesterday—is that they are visible from all or parts of the United States. That’s hardly an importance to biblical prophecy.
John Hagee points to the blood moons taking place in this tetrad—and, by the way, they are to take place on the dates of April 15 (that was yesterday), then October 8, and April 4 and April 28 of next year. Hagee says that this tetrad indicates that in this timeline, the rapture will occur, Christians will be taken into heaven, Israel will go to war in a great battle called Armageddon, and Jesus will return to Earth. According to Religion News Service, Hagee is going to the airwaves with his message as well as to the best-seller list.
So, in terms of the Christian worldview and the full authority of Scripture, what should Christians think about this? Well, what we should understand is that there will be heavenly signs when the Lord returns. As a matter fact, we are told that the sun and the moon will actually disappear because in the new heaven and the new earth, the Father and the Son will be our lights. We also come to understand that there are signs that are sent in terms of the heavens that we should note going all the way back to that star that declared the birth of the Christ child in Bethlehem. But we are not told that as Christians we’re supposed to be paying attention to the stars or paying attention to the planets or paying attention to the moon. As a matter of fact, we are supposed to be paying attention to the word and we’re supposed to understand that God has revealed all things in His words. We don’t need the heavens as a billboard in which God is speaking to us because God has told us that He speaks to us in His word, and the sufficiency of Scripture is undermined by this kind of Christian speculation. Instead, we ought to understand that what the Lord has told us to do is to know that that Day of Judgment is coming, and as the Lord says in John chapter 9, “We must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day. Night is coming that no man can work.” In other words, we are to be found busy in well doing; doing what Christ has commissioned His church to do, knowing that the day of judgment and the return of the Lord is near, and praying, as the book of Revelation instructs us to pray, “Even so, Lord, come quickly.”
Big news came out of India yesterday indicating that that nation’s top court had issued “a landmark verdict recognizing transgender rights as human rights, saying people can identify themselves as a third gender on official documents.” This reported by the Associated Press from New Delhi. What makes this story particularly interesting is that this verdict by India’s High Court has nothing to do with gay or homosexual people, but only with transgender people and it’s expected that there may be three million transgendered persons in the massive population of India. As the associated press reports:
The Supreme Court directed the federal and state governments to include transgendered people in all welfare programs for the poor, including education, health care and jobs to help them overcome social and economic challenges. Previously, transgendered Indians could only identify themselves as male or female in all official documents.
Now they’re all kinds of complexities in this. Perhaps one of the biggest issues of perplexity is exactly what the Indian High Court means with this, since that same High Court has upheld laws against behavior in terms of same-sex relationships, and it doesn’t have any applicability, in terms of this new ruling, to gay or homosexual people. Instead, it simply creates a third gender or a third sex known as transgender. It’s really interesting that in its ruling the court said, “The spirit of the Indian Constitution is to provide equal opportunity to every citizen to grow and attain their potential, irrespective of caste, religion, or gender.” Now, again, what makes this very interesting is that when this issue is taken up by at least most courts and in most cultures it is tied to the larger issue of the normalization of homosexuality, in terms of same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage. Indeed, however, in India, those things are not even on the political horizon, and yet the Indian High Court has decided to address this issue of a third gender. The Supreme Court specified in its ruling, says the Associated Press, that it would apply only to transgender people, not to gays, lesbians, or bisexuals. The court also ordered the government to put in place public awareness campaigns to lessen the social stigma against transgender people.
Perhaps the most important insight from this particular news coming from India is that every single culture, even those that have largely resisted the normalization of homosexuality, are being drawn into this global confusion over the issue of gender. The particular ruling by the Indian High Court indicates that that nation is struggling with the issue of gender, which has been largely associated with the larger questions about the revolution in human sexuality, without trying to enter into that total revolution and to put all issues of human sexuality on the table. And, yet, as those who are pushing for the normalization of homosexuality in India understand, this decision greatly helps their case because if indeed there is a third gender known as transgender, then there could also be multiple ways of expressing human sexuality outside the current laws of the nation of India; perhaps even outside of this court’s moral imagination at the present. In other words, the bottom line in this story from India is that the global world is now very much being confused about the issue of gender even as those issues were first raised in the modern industrialized countries. We are now exporting so many of these confusions to other countries and, furthermore, we are sharing confusion built upon confusion. This High Court case in India is hardly going to settle the issue. As almost everyone in India understands, it has now opened an entire door for future litigation. In other words, they’re about to experience what the Western world has experienced for the last several years.
But this news coming from India, also points to something very distinctive about the Christian worldview because when you look at this controversy in the global context, we come to understand that it is the Christian worldview based in Scripture that alone explains why gender is a part of the goodness of God’s creation rather than being a social construct or a biological reality that is simply imposed upon human creatures. That is a huge issue of worldview significance and it points to the uniqueness of Christianity and of the biblical worldview. Because, after all, if we understand the Scripture and we accept biblical authority, then we have no right to come up with a new category of gender because the Creator Himself has told us that for His glory and for our good He has created human beings as male and female. And so when Christians think about the transgender issue, uniquely among all the belief systems of the world, we think of it with the biblical accountability and with an understanding that gender is not ours to transform as we might wish. The Indian High Court might declare that there is a new third gender, but that doesn’t make it so; it just makes it a legal reality. Christians committed to the full authority of Scripture may be the last people on earth to know that we have no right to declare a new gender.
Back in the United States, very troubling news in the state of Colorado. The Colorado Senate is considering Senate Bill 175. Let me read to you the preface of that bill. Again, it’s Senate Bill 175 in the state of Colorado.
The bill prohibits a state or local policy that denies or interferes with an individual’s reproductive health care decisions or a state or local policy regarding reproductive health care that is inconsistent with, or that denies or interferes with accessed information based on, current evidence-based scientific data and medical consensus.
When you think about a moral and legal revolution, you can hardly come up with language that is more revolutionary than what is included in that preamble or preface to Colorado Senate Bill 175. Again, it is a blanket statement. It says that the bill prohibits a state or local policy—and here’s the wording—“that denies or interferes with an individual’s reproductive health care decisions.” That is a massive and all-encompassing category. Just imagine the moral and legal realities included within an individual’s reproductive health care decisions. Immediately, the issue here is with reference to abortion, but the actual impact of an individual’s reproductive health care decisions will be far ranging beyond the issue of abortion. This would eventually and virtually put every kind of restriction upon abortion under any circumstances completely outside of the range of the law. It would place Colorado in the position of saying that there can be no legal restraint of any kind upon an individual’s reproductive health care decisions. By the way, that would extend to something like human cloning. That language taken by itself has no limitations on it whatsoever.
At the end of this preface, the law states that all of the laws of Colorado related to an individual’s reproductive health care decisions, or any access to information concerning those decisions, must be based on current evidence-based scientific data and medical consensus. Well that’s a hugely problematic statement as well. Furthermore, what does it mean to cite evidence-based scientific data? Anyone who understands science understands that at many points in the scientific process there are competing bodies of data, not to mention competing interpretive theories about what the data mean. Furthermore, medical consensus?—well that’s like saying scientific consensus. A consensus is something that might exist at any one point in time, but that consensus is hardly a stable or enduring reality. Furthermore, the law doesn’t state who would have the authority to decide what is evidence-based scientific data or what is the medical consensus. This would place the state of Colorado in a radically new position, and that’s why those who are in the pro-choice and pro-abortion movements celebrate this as the most positive legislation they have seen in many decades.
As the Colorado Springs Gazette reports, the bill “essentially guarantees that state or local policies will not interfere with a woman’s decisions about reproductive issues such as abortion and contraception. It also prevents future restrictions on reproductive choice”—and here are the keywords—“not based on scientific evidence and medical consensus,” but, again, there is no mechanism in the law for anyone to determine what that scientific evidence is or what the medical consensus might be. Perhaps more than anything else this Senate bill in Colorado points to the great worldview divide on the issue the sanctity of human life, and you’ll notice that there really is no middle ground. Even though most Americans find themselves in some kind of muddled middle, what this law indicates is that there is no legitimate moral posture in the middle because you either believe that every single human being at every point of development is made in God’s image and thus has a sanctity of life, a life that must be defended, or you believe that an unborn human life has no value whatsoever and no status that would deserve any protection. This bill insists on that latter interpretation. This bill offers no middle ground. This bill, as a matter of fact, is the most aggressively pro-choice, pro-abortion bill in America in a very long time, and if it passes in Colorado, you can count on this, it will be coming to a state legislature very near you.
One final thought about Senate Bill 175 there in Colorado. There is a sense that we are experiencing a significant cultural shift to the left, in terms of morality, in terms of worldview. The bill that is now proposed in Colorado is only plausible if there is that kind of a shift, and we’re going to have to watch this development very, very closely because it will tell us a great deal not only about the state of Colorado and the issue of abortion, but will tell us a great deal about the moral state of United States of America and whether or not we are experiencing a vast moral shift that includes not only the issue of human sexuality and the issue of marriage, but also the issue of the sanctity of human life. It’s a chilling thought to believe that it might be true, but the evidence is it just might be true and we’ll have to face that reality and deal with.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing. Remember Ask Anything: Weekend Edition. Call with your question in your voice to 877-505-2058. That’s 877-505-2058. For more information, go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com. I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.