After observing a total lunar eclipse over Jerusalem’s Temple Mount in 2008, Pastor Mark Biltz pondered the meaning of such a celestial event and began investigating heavenly occurrences in the Bible. He wondered if it was possible to ascribe them meaning.
He found a positive sign almost immediately in Genesis 1:14, the verse in which God creates the sun and the moon. A literal English translation of the Hebrew is: “And God said, and there will be lights in the heaven’s firmament, to separate between day and night, and they will be for signs, and for festivals, and for days, and years.”
The blatant mention of “signs” was all Biltz needed, he recounted to The Times of Israel in a phone conversation from his Washington state home ahead of his livestream annual Passover seder with his 1,000-strong congregation.
The next challenge was looking for historical connections — which he quickly found in abundance.
In scanning the 5,000 years of lunar eclipses charted on the NASA website, he began seeing a pattern when crossing the dates of past lunar eclipses against historical time periods. Most striking to Biltz were the widespread upheavals he saw linked to the Jewish people and the State of Israel during what NASA labeled “tetrads,” or the phenomena of four full lunar eclipses in two years.
Namely, he recognized that the Inquisition, and Israel’s War of Independence and the Six Day War all occurred during these periods of four “blood moons.” (During the fall of the Second Temple, although not a tetrad year, there were a host of heavenly events, he said.)
This week the world will experience the third of a tetrad of “blood moons,” colloquially termed because of Rayleigh scattering (which also causes sunsets to appear red) in filtered moonlight through the Earth’s atmosphere.
Biltz had accidentally stumbled upon the now wildly popular four blood moon phenomena. He wrote a 2008 book about it and had his idea capitalized upon by popular Pastor John Hagee, who also wrote a bestselling book and recently produced a movie screened in theaters around the world last week.
Some Christian believers, however, look at the four blood moons phenomena as a portent for an apocalyptic end of time. An Internet search on Biltz, the spiritual leader of El Shaddai Ministries with a 250,000-strong weekly online congregation, reveal similar doomsday statements attributed to him. And a huge amount of web space is spent on debunking any and all theories attached to blood moons.
Biltz told The Times of Israel he “100% does not think it’s the end of the world.”
He readily admitted, however that he “would be surprised if a major conflict didn’t take place this year.” As there’s never any need to look very far for contemporary Jewish national strife, he noted last summer’s war with Hamas.
He can’t be certain, but the blood moons may have something to do with “the horrible deal they just got with Iran,” he said in a conversation following President Barack Obama’s briefing on Thursday. The deal, which Obama labeled as “historic,” is denounced by the Israeli government as “dangerous capitulation.”
A similar endeavor was carried out by interfaith website Root Source, founded by Israeli Gidon Ariel and American Bob O’Dell, in Jerusalem’s Western Wall during the March 20 full solar eclipse over the North Pole.
Biltz said in a Breaking Israel News interview that “if a Jew from Israel calls for prayer for the entire world during the solar eclipse, then we Christians should return the favor and call for prayer for Israel, and the reading of Psalm 122, during the lunar eclipse.”
While applauding their motives, the majority of Christians don’t attribute these celestial events with signs. As one Christian in Israel put it, “Personally, I don’t give much credence to this blood moon craze. If it motivates them to pray for Israel, fine! But I don’t need a blood moon to prompt me to pray for Israel, nor do I need it to know that we live in perilous times.”
Interestingly, Biltz is very accepting of that reaction (“some people think I’m the anti-Christ,” he joked) and said he just wants people to “put this in your own theological pipe and smoke it how you want.”
‘It’s all about the journey, the discovery. I’m like a kid turning over rocks saying, “Look what I found here!”‘
“It’s all about the journey, the discovery. I’m like a kid turning over rocks saying, ‘Look what I found here! Buried treasure!'” he said.
It is more important to Biltz that the world begin recognizing the rectitude of the “biblical calendar” — the calendar that dictates Jewish festivals and holidays.
He explained that the Islamic calendar, for instance, merely follows the moon; the Gregorian is based on the sun. But the biblical calendar uses the sun and moon.
This creates a situation in which Easter can be a month prior to Passover, or that “Jesus be resurrected before he’s been crucified” — on the assumption that the Last Supper was during the priestly Passover sacrifice in Jerusalem.
God, “the master time keeper, wants us to be aware of his clock,” said Biltz.
This is why his congregation, an eclectic mix of nationalities, languages and beliefs, meets on Saturdays, the Jewish Shabbat. Biltz, who has Jewish ancestry on his father’s side and grew up observing Passover every few years in honor of his half-Jewish grandfather, was born a Catholic, but became a Protestant at age 19. Nineteen years later — of course there is a reliable pattern in his life as well — Biltz was drawn to Jewish wisdom.
He began learning rabbinical literature — he said he has a full set of Talmud at home — when he decided how he could “change the world.”
In 2001 he decided “Christians needed to understand how wonderful Jewish thinking is.” He began teaching Jewish texts in his online and live congregations to “get Christians to love the Jews from the Torah perspective, not the emotional perspective.”
Now with up to four million hits a month, Biltz claimed, his online ministry draws “every tribe, nation, and tongue. They all want to come and learn Torah.”