You might remember just a few years ago, some prominent Christian leaders made quite a few dollars writing books about how the lunar eclipses of that year fulfilled biblical prophecy that the world was going to end. How did it turn out? The world is still spinning they are a good bit richer.
I can understand why people are eager for Christ to return. When he does, he sets all things right and the Kingdom of God will reign over all things. That means the restoration of all things and not the destruction of all things. We’re doing a good enough job destroying things on our own. The return of Christ sounds great, especially when there is so much suffering and evil in the world. One of the classic prayers of the church is, “Come, Lord Jesus.”
I can also understand why people dig around in the Bible to pull out individual verses and try to apply them to the things going on around them. It means a lot to us when the Bible applies directly to our lives.
However, using the Bible to scare the world about a solar eclipse represents a poor reading of the Bible. Here are a few reasons:
1. Solar eclipses happen regularly.
According to space.com, “Approximately once every 18 months (on average) a total solar eclipse is visible from some place on the Earth’s surface. That’s two totalities for every three years.”
Our brothers and sisters in Christ have experienced many solar eclipses throughout history. Similarly, our brothers and sisters in Christ across the world have experienced them in their own locations. To think that the Bible tells us something about an eclipse only when “we” can see it is quite egocentric.
2. Searching the Bible for end-of-the-world predictions misses the point.
We already know the end of the story–we proclaim it in the communion liturgy: “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.” Yes, the Bible talks about the close of this age and the beginning of the age to come. But you’ll find much less about worldwide destruction than you’d think. Instead, you’ll find good news about a new creation!
The minor prophets (Hosea – Malachi) regularly talk about the “Day of the Lord.” Yet, every time they do, the purpose isn’t to give us inside information about future world events, but to call us to holiness of heart and life. Jesus even says, “…about that day or our no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father…. Therefore keep watch….” (Matthew 24:36, 42). The point is that keeping the end in mind urges us to live fully in Christ today. To search the Bible for codes and hidden prophecies is to miss this important point.
3. Assuming that we’ve discovered something about the Bible that no other generation of Christians could find isolates us from the faithfulness of God in the church that has gone before us.
It’s neat to think that there might be hidden codes in the Bible that we can uniquely discover. Yet, God has chosen revelation as God’s modus operandi. God has revealed Himself throughout history, in the scriptures, and most fully in Jesus Christ. God doesn’t form elite societies of people that have secret hidden knowledge (that would be Gnosticism). Instead, God has fully revealed God’s self so that all might take part in the Kingdom of God through Christ.
We are not the first generation or the only culture that has handled this sacred text. In fact, we only have it because the faithful church of the past has passed it down to us. Let’s not fall into the trap of assuming that we have some superior insight that the church has never had before.
“LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”Psalm 8:1-9 NIV