Fulfilled prophecy can be a powerful part of apologetics.
The Old Testament offers many predictions. These include the fall of Israel and Judah, the rise of King Cyrus along with the Greek and Roman Empires. Of great importance for Christian apologetics is the vast number of predictions surrounding the events of Jesus’s life. Jesus himself predicted the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, and Revelation gives an indication of what would lie ahead for the age in which we live.
Lured into looking stupid
Fascinated by end-time prophecies, many Christians have been lured into making bold claims about future events. John Napier (1550-1617), mathematician and inventor of logarithms, predicted that the end would come sometime between 1688 and 1700. John Wesley (1703-1791) predicted that the end would come by 1836 at the latest. In more recent times, Edgar Whisenant published 88 Reasons why the Rapture will be in 1988 (now out of print!). They were all wrong.
At time of going to print, claims by John Hagee have been in wide circulation among Christians. Hagee is the senior pastor of 20,000 member Cornerstone Church, San Antonio, and founded Christians United for Israel which numbers over a million members. He has recently published Four Blood Moons: Something is About to Change and sparked significant media interest.
Hagee has drawn attention to an unusual astronomical event, occurring during the next year, called a ‘tetrad’. This is a series of four lunar eclipses. If you were standing on the moon you would witness an eclipse. From our vantage point on the earth, the moon often turns to a deep red colour.
John Hagee claims that this should interest us because the Bible points to ‘signs’ in the sky and lunar events are often associated with prophecy (Joel 2.31; Matthew 24.29; Acts 2.19-20; Revelation 6.12). The unusual combination of four consecutive lunar eclipses occurred around Passover at the time of the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 and again at the time of the Six Day War in 1967 when Israel extended her boundaries.
End of the age?
So what will the forthcoming tetrad herald? They will be occur around the time of Passover during 2014 and 2015. Hagee implies it may point to a forthcoming rapture and end of this age. It could well be a sign accompanying significant events for the Jewish people and the State of Israel.
Generally, those who make prophetic claims shroud their words in ambiguity. They are hard to falsify. Speaking to Christian Broadcasting Network news, Hagee said: ‘I believe that in these next two years we are going to see something dramatic happen in the Middle East involving Israel’. It would be hard to imagine any two-year period when such a prediction had not been proved true!
The Christian defence of the faith relies upon the authority of the Word of God. If we also place authority in celebrity speakers then we risk undermining confidence in the Bible.
Consider the four moons claim again. The Bible speaks of supernatural signs in the sky, but lunar eclipses are natural events. Such ‘blood moons’ are not that uncommon. Mike Moore, writing for the Christian Witness to Israel website, points out that they did not occur exactly at the time of the formation of the State of Israel but in 1949-1950. Furthermore, Hagee fails to mention that four of the seven ‘tetrads’ in the past two thousand years have no apparent relationship to Jewish history. Even more problematic, not all the eclipses of 2014-2015 will even be visible from Israel.
Jesus warned his contemporary sign-seekers. He said: ‘An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of …Jonah’ (Matthew 12.39). Popular culture loves astrological predictions and omens. It also loves to ridicule failed predictions and gullible Christians. Jesus refused to pander to popular curiosity. Instead, he gave one clear sign. The sign of Jonah is the sign of one who died, was buried three days, and rose again to new life. Our Jonah is Jesus Christ, the one who conquered death. His resurrection from the dead is rock-solid proof that Christianity is true, Christ is the Saviour and the Bible a reliable source of truth.
Chris is lecturer at Moorlands College and pastor of Alderholt Chapel. His books include Confident Christianity and Time Travel to the Old Testament published by IVP.