Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Apocalyptic Visionary or End-time Sensationalist?

OK, let me say up front I hesitate to post this because it may give people the impression that I am easily led into hysterical end-time dating setting.

This is hardly the case.

But, I happen to be entertained by conspiracy theories of all varieties, and if the presentation has a religious twist with lots of sensational end-time speculation, that's even better! And seeing I plan to start addressing eschatology in general here soon, I thought this was apropos.

So with that disclaimer in mind,

A friend recently sent me an email asking my opinion about a video presentation by a Messianic Jewish pastor up in Washington state by the name of Mark Biltz. He runs an outfit called, El Shaddai Ministries.

Here's the video: Linking Eclipses to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ

Essentially, in a nut shell, pastor Mark has done a study linking solar and lunar eclipses to what could be possibly the second coming of Jesus. (Are the goose bumps honking yet?)

Working from Genesis 1:14ff., where God establishes the sun, moon, and stars to be for signs, seasons, years, and days, and calculating in how the yearly Jewish festival calendar is built around the monthly lunar/solar cycles, Biltz takes the prophetic expressions about the sun going black and the moon turning to blood (Joel 2:31, etc.) to speak to the cosmological signs of solar and lunar eclipses.

He then talks about how there is a cosmological phenomenon of 4 total lunar eclipses in a row. The next time this happens, according to the NASA website dedicated to tracking the eclipse cycle, is in the years 2014 and 2015. There will be two total eclipses of the moon in 2014, one during the spring on passover, the next in the fall on, Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles. Then a total solar eclipse happens between the next set of lunar eclipses, which again fall upon the spring Passover and the fall Sukkot in 2015.

The last time this phenomenon happened was during the 6-Day War in 1967, at least according to Biltz understanding of the NASA website. Where I sort of got lost following his calculations is with him tying these two eclipse occurrences together with the Jews recapturing Jerusalem in 1967 and the 48 years or so that passes until 2015. Suffice it to say, if he is on to something, so he says during his presentation, then moving back 7 years from 2015 is 2008, which could mean the tribulation will start in the fall of 2008!


Now is your goosebumps really honking?

Biltz claims he is not dating setting, and in fact has attempted to clarify any misunderstandings of his information to suggest he is setting dates.

The video is two 25-minute presentations he gave that are edited together, so it is about 50 minutes of time to watch what he has to present. There are also a couple of pages containing his notes and charts outlining his information. See here and here.

A few personal thoughts:

First, I appreciate his exhortation to watchfulness. I think Reformed minded Christians like myself have failed in cultivating an attitude of watching for the return of our glorious Lord. Much of it has to do, I am sure, with a reaction against the ridiculous sci-fi style eschatology that reads eschatology into current events or is played out in fantasy novels. Also, Reformed folks tend to busy themselves reforming culture and churches that they are dismissive of watching and waiting for the second coming. We need to be on the alert that we are not becoming overly unbalanced in reaction to bad eschatology that we forget the importance of eschatology.

Second, I happen to think there is something to the sun, moon, and stars being used of God to demonstrate specific cosmological signs pointing to specific eschatological events. I am not of the opinion that the prophetic expression "the sun turns to darkness and moon turns to blood" is merely a figurative motif speaking of God's sudden and disastrous change by His moving in judgment. I can first recall reading this perspective in Curtis Crenshaw and Grover Gunn's anti-dispensational screed, Dispensationalism Today, Yesterday, and Tomorrow, and though the idiom may only be figurative in some prophetic contexts, I still believe the illustration is attached to genuine cosmological signs.

Third, I also think Christ fulfilled the spring feasts of Passover, First Fruits, and Pentecost with His first coming, and He will fulfill the fall feasts of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Tabernacles with His second coming.

Fourth, I believe Biltz's tying the eclipses of 2015 to the 1967 6-day war is problematic. I believe there could be a debate as to whether the State of Israel possessed all the land, or all of Jerusalem at that time.

Fifth, I am curious as to where these total eclipses will be noticeable. Are they suppose to be total in Israel? Does it matter if they are only seen in their totality, say in India, or North America? How does that impact Biltz's conclusions?

Now, I personally would like to read the comments of anyone willing to leave one. I particularly would like to read the opinions of Reformed amillennialists and postmillennialists. I know you guys are out there. I understand Biltz's material is easy to be dismissed as the off the wall views of a crack-pot, but I would like to read a meaningful interaction with what he presents from your particular eschatological perspective. If of course you are so inclined.

If you don't get around to it by October, then I guess it will be otherwise meaningless.

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