We’re all aware of the total eclipse of the sun on August 21st, 2017. But perhaps you’re not aware why so many are excited:
— David Rives (@TheDavidRives)
August 12, 2017
For us Americans, this will be the first total eclipse of the sun viewable in the states since 1979. So we don’t have to fly half way around the world to see a total eclipse as astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez did in 1995, flying to Northern India to see the eclipse on October 24th of that year.
The spectacle of a total eclipse is so awe inspiring I won’t talk much about the wonder of it. Both believers and unbelievers alike testify about how unique the experience is:
“Personally witnessing a total solar eclipse in the flesh is an amazing, awe inspiring, tremendously moving event. I never experienced anything quite like it.”
Astrophysicist, Big Bang advocate
“It started with an experience I had in in 1995. I went to observe a total eclipse of the sun in India. It was my first (and still only) total eclipse of the sun. It was a spectacular event. It was just an experience for all the emotions. Either astronomers who can understand the whole phenomenon and can predict it to within a second of time anywhere on the earth, or a local native are equally in awe in reacting in the same way to this incredible phenomenon. It really left a big impression on me.”
Astrophysicist, Intelligent Design Advocate
What is it about this singular event that makes even secular scientists – people who believe the earth exists as an accident of cosmic events and a myriad of random collisions – wonder if it could really be a mere accidental coincidence that intelligent creatures such as ourselves can both view and appreciate the specialness of a Total Eclipse of the Sun?
The longer one considers the requirements to view a total eclipse, the lesser it appears that it is a mere accident. Guillermo Gonzalez explains the conditions necessary to view a total solar eclipse. It requires:
1. A luminous body, in our cases the sun
2. An eclipsing body, in our case the moon
3. An observation platform, in our case the surface of the earth
4. They all have to be in a straight line
5. “The apparent size of the moon has to be almost the same as the apparent size of the sun in the sky. They’re both about 1/2 a degree. The sun is 400 times bigger than the moon, but it’s 400 times further away. So there’s this coincidence that people have noted for centuries, but they just said, ‘oh well it’s a coincidence’ and shrugged their shoulders’.”
6. Implied, but not stated, you must have an intelligent viewer. A significant requirement since to our knowledge, intelligent viewers exist only on this planet.
While the first four requirements are rather mundane – it happens on many planets with moons, the fifth is what what makes the solar eclipse on the earth unique. That special ratio that allows the moon to completely, and precisely cover the disk of the sun – and only the disk, not the corona – as in the picture above of the March 20, 2015 eclipse. That is truly unique in our solar system. Gonzalez did the math to verify it:
“The best place in the total solar system to view solar eclipses is from the surface of the earth. I’ve actually calculated the circumstances for eclipses from all the other planets and all the other moons – about 65 of them (the major moons) and it’s an amazing coincidence. The one place that has observers is the one place that has the best eclipses.”
While this helps to highlight the wonder of an eclipse, it’s secondary to why I point it out. The main reason I point this out is to spotlight that the preponderance of this evidence leads one away from the “mere coincidence” suggestion and points in the direction of an intelligence behind the design of the universe. Which brings me back to the question of signs from such a designer.
In another article on The Creation Club site about the eclipse, the author does a good job of pointing out the type of sign the eclipse is not. Let me pick it up from there and suggest a few items that a total eclipse of the sun is a sign of. Put another way – some things the eclipse should remind us of.
Signs Gleaned from the Total Eclipse of the Sun
1. The solar system, and thus the universe is intelligently designed.
While the eclipse is among the most dramatic evidence of the intelligently designed universe, it is certainly not the only evidence. The requirements for intelligent life to exist is long and growing. And there’s much too much of it to review here. But taken collectively it makes a powerful case for an intelligently designed universe as Eric Metaxas pointed out in a popular article that was so well received that it provoked a knee jerk denial from atheist physicist Lawrence Krauss. But don’t let either of those well known names decide for you. Experience the eclipse – if possible – yourself. Recall the requirements for an eclipse. Consider the number of other planets that have eclipses like ours in our solar system. (That would be zero.) Consider the requirements for intelligent life on earth. (You know, the items too numerous to list here.) Then decide for yourself. See if you don’t agree with me that the eclipse is yet another sign that testifies about an intelligent creator and designer. (Is 45.18)
2. The entire Cosmos, including the eclipse, is controlled by the king of the Cosmos: God
The Bible makes clear two things about the workings of the cosmos:
a) God put all the stars where they belong; nothing is missing, all are in their respective places. The prophet Isaiah puts it this way:
Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing. (Is 40.26 )
So God put all the stars exactly where he wants them. Not one is out of place (missing). And they move according to his laws. If he doesn’t make that clear here, he makes that clear elsewhere:
b) The heavenly bodies move according to God’s laws.
God makes this clear during his conversation with Job. Recall that due to his afflictions Job wanted to voice his many complaints to God. God answers Job, and reminds Job that He (God) is God, creator of heaven and earth; and that Job is speaking of things he is totally ignorant of, and thus should be silent. During this discourse God points out that He created the constellations, and not only the constellations, but also the laws that they move by. And to drive home the point of the infinite power and majesty of God and the finite ability and weakness of Job, God asks Job if he could do as God had done:
“Can you lead forth a constellation in its season,
And guide the Bear with her satellites?
“Do you know the ordinances of the heavens,
Or fix their rule over the earth?
(Job 38.32-33, NASB)
God asks Job in verse 33 – “Do you know the ordinances of heavens?” – or as we might say, “the laws of physics that govern the stars,” and drives the point home by asking Job if he could put in place such laws. In Hebrew the question is asked expecting the “no” answer, so a paraphrase of the verse would be:
Do you know the laws of physics that govern the stars?
Those laws which also govern the earth,
you can’t even put those laws in place, can you?
So this verse emphasizes that God created the laws that governs the movements of the stars and the planets. That means that God alone is directly responsible for the conditions that allow us to experience, appreciate and marvel at the wonder of a Solar eclipse. Consider that another meaning of the sign of the eclipse.
3. The Eclipse is a sign that God is the source and renewer of all Hope
The renowned physicist Stephen Hawking can’t help but let his atheism show through his approach to cosmology. It seems at every chance he gets he’s either trying to show why God is not needed to create the universe, or that religions have led to some wild beliefs. The latter is true with regards to false religions, but the problem is he doesn’t distinguish false religions from the true one.
In one TV special he dregs up old Viking mythology and points out that in those days solar eclipses would have been a fearful thing, so they made up a story about what happens during an eclipse: a wolf named Skoll who was about the business of chasing the sun finally catches it and eats it. And they had to shout and scream the wolf away to make the sun re-appear. Hawking points out that the sun would have re-appeared anyway. Which is true.
Unfortunately due to his anti-Christian bias he misses a greater symbolism found in the Bible. The Bible says “God is light” (1 Jn 1.5) and light shining on God’s people is often a symbol of his blessing and forgiveness, while darkness is a symbol of punishment and judgment.
Thus in the eclipse which briefly hides the sun only for it to reappear, we have a reminder and a celestial picture of this verse:
For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back.
In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,” says the LORD your Redeemer.
Thus the eclipse is like a picture of God’s discipline on those upon whom he has compassion: of short duration followed by the brilliance and glory of the light of his love and forgiveness, shining in all it’s brilliance as does the sun as it emerges again. In that sense the shining light turning again toward us as a symbol of God’s face shining on us in pleasure is reminiscent of the Aaronic blessing:
“The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”‘
As the light of the sun begins to emerge again, I suspect many will sense in their spirit an inner joy, as they recognize a symbol of God’s blessing and grace as the sun again begins to light up the sky.
4. A Sign announcing (and warning of) the Return of God
Many are familiar with the verse from Joel:
The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.
There is a lot of theology to be unpacked with this verse, which we don’t have time for here. So let me keep it to three quick points.
First, this appears to be a reference to a solar eclipse as modern commentators point out.
Second, this eclipse in Joel is both sign and warning – wrapped up in one event. And it happens before the return of the Lord. (Otherwise it couldn’t be a warning.) Since we don’t know which particular eclipse Joel was referring to, every eclipse could potentially be the one the prophet is referring to. Thus every total eclipse of the sun should be a reminder that we should all be making ready for the return of the Lord.
Third: The Big Question
Does this mean that Jesus will return on August 21, 2017? I don’t believe that is what the sign is saying. First, remember the sign is also a warning. It wouldn’t be much of a warning if at the moment you get the warning the event that it’s warning about happens. A warning needs to come before the event. Secondly because scripture says “No one knows about that day or hour…” ( Matt 24.36) Yet, that is a fairly likely date to choose – for the uninitiated. Third, look again closely at that verse. It depicts both a solar eclipse and a lunar eclipse. (A blood moon is a lunar eclipse.) Under normal circumstances, the two together are not possible on the same day – the moon would have to be on opposite sides of the earth at the same time. So what could be in view?
Could it be that the “darkness” that is spoken of is not an eclipse at all, but something that covers the sun creating darkness? Other times of darkness are pointed at in support of this theory, such as the darkness during Jesus crucifixion; or the plague of darkness during the Exodus. But at those times the darkness was spoken of as coming over the land, not the sun. ( Matt 27.45, Ex 11.22)
Or could it be the verse points to an eclipse, but by mentioning both the solar eclipse and lunar eclipse God is giving an indication that these signs take place over time? The solar eclipse on one day and the lunar eclipse on another? That would retain the sense of the previous verse, of showing “wonders in the heavens” (Joel 2.30)
And it is clear that time is often compressed in prophetic messages. Consider for example Revelation chapter 12. In this one chapter we see an amazing span of events: The fall of Satan and the angels who followed him, The birth of Christ, and it also appears to reference the end times with the mention of “a time, times and half a time” (Rev 12.14 compare Dan 7.25). My point here is that time is compressed in Rev 12 – to show many events that actually occurred over a long period of time. Likewise, the appearance of the darkening of the sun and a blood moon, though spoken of in one verse, could actually be occurring over a span of time. That could mean this solar eclipse – when paired with either previous lunar eclipses or coming lunar eclipses could be the beginning of a span of time during which God is sending a final warning about Christ’s return. But as to the length of the warning – we don’t know – because as I mentioned above – no one knows the day or hour. We’re not even sure if this is the eclipse that is meant to be that final warning. It could be a different one. But of the following you can be sure:
For those who love the Lord, His return and his presence is never a fearful thing because, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear” (1 Jn 4.18). But for those who have denied him, who hate him, and refuse to be a subject in his kingdom – these are the ones for whom “the day of the Lord” will be a “dreadful day.” To such this eclipse and every eclipse is a sign, a reminder and a warning of the judgment to come.
But to those looking forward to the kingdom of God, especially those who fully appreciate the symbolism while watching the eclipse, and are patiently awaiting his return, I leave you with this advice. Let the eclipse be a sign that reminds you to be faithful to what Jesus has called us to do: Prepare and watch.
“Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back–whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn.
If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!'”
1 Alex Filippenko, ref. from The Universe episode “Total Eclipse”, History documentary, 2010
2. Guillermo Gonzalez, ref. from The Privileged Planet, Illustra documentary, 2006
3. Myriad collisions – secular theorists now believe the earth grew to its present size because
“every square inch of earth got hit by a comet or an asteroid.”
Hal Levinson, Planetary scientist, ref. from How the Universe works EXPANDED episode “Update – Birth of Earth”, documentary, 2013
The moon, according to secular theorists, was also formed by multiple collisions.
Within Galactic Habitable Zone
Orbiting main sequence G2 dwarf star
Protected by gas giant planets
Within circumstellar habitable zone
Have a nearly circular orbit,
an Oxygen-rich atmosphere,
Orbited by a large moon
Ratio of liquid water and continents
Be a Terrestrial planet
Have a Moderate rate of rotation
Have an Oxygen/Nitrogen Atmosphere
The Privileged Planet, Illustra documentary, 2006h
7. Eric Metaxas, “Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God“, The Wall Street Journal, 12/25/2014 http://www.wsj.com/articles/eric-metaxas-science-increasingly-makes-the-case-for-god-1419544568
8. Lawrence M. Krauss, “No, Astrobiology Has Not Made the Case for God“, The New Yorker, Jan 24, 2015, http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/astrobiology-made-case-god
9. The question in Job 38.33 is phrased with אם (’im – eem). The standard Hebrew lexicon notes “in direct question…expecting the answer No, especially in a rhetorical style.”)
The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew-Aramaic Lexicon, (Peabody: MA, Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. 1979) p.50
10. Stephen Hawking’s Grand Design, episode “Did God Create the Universe”, Discovery documentary, 2011
11. There were actually two wolves, and researchers now believe it was actually Haiti that ate the sun during the eclipse; Skoll would have eaten the moon during a lunar eclipse.
Daniel McCoy, “Skoll and Haiti”, Norse Mythology for Smart People (website), http://norse-mythology.org/skoll-hati/ accessed 8/12/17
12. Those specifically calling the darkened sun an eclipse include Richard D. Patterson in his Commentary on Joel in The Expositors Bible Commentary Volume 7 (Zondervan, 1985, p.256), and The Thompson Chain Reference Bible (Zondervan, 1983, p.934) – which identifies it as an eclipse in its notes. A typical early comment: Matthew Henry in his 18th century commentary on the verse merely notes that “these signs will be performed in the letter of them, ” (Matthew Henry Complete Commentary) so while not specifically calling it an eclipse, he is confident the sun will be literally darkened.
13. For example, Pastor John Hagee highlighted a tetrad of lunar eclipses split by a solar eclipse in the years 2014-15 in his sermon series on the topic (broadcast Dec, 2012) and movie Four Blood Moons (2015)
Lunar eclipse Passover 4/15/14
Lunar eclipse Sukkot 10/08/14
Solar Eclipse 3/20/15 (Nissan 1)
Lunar eclipse Passover 4/4/15
Lunar eclipse Sukkot 9/28/15
It is unclear at this time whether these lunar eclipses should be paired with any other events either celestial or terrestrial as indicative of a work God is doing. Thus the importance of watching.
All images – used by permission from the license holders as noted below
Solar Eclipse, March 20, 2015; NASA: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio (Public Domain)