With every interesting celestial event these days, Christian prophecy theorists take to YouTube to share their speculation on why it's a "sign" and what it might just mean. But does God really communicate warnings this way in the sun, moon and stars? Does the Bible really instruct us to look for "signs" in the heavens? What are we to "watch" for according to Jesus? As you will learn, theorists (unintentionally) deceive themselves and others when they don't properly define and use the word "sign" the same way the Bible does. Get Scriptural answers to these important questions, ones that you won't find on YouTube no matter how many "views" a video has...
"Thanks a lot, YouTube!"
Since the Christian speculation over the "four blood moons" lunar eclipses of 2014-2015 failed and neither the Great Tribulation nor the Rapture happened as predicted, we're still here. That means now we get to discuss similar speculation about the latest solar eclipse or celestial event. Are you ready?
Once again, it's all thanks to YouTube... Yes, the same wonderful YouTube that brings you:
- any song or music video from your childhood you want to experience again,
- instructional videos to fix anything and everything in your life,
- and hilarious cat clips
...also brings you theories that either were dismissed with the arrival of Science or that are too obviously contrived to ever spread through other channels that cost money or by free channels that are limited to much-less-persuasive text (like the original Web 1.0).
Why do you think flat Earth theory is in a resurgence? (No, NASA did not develop a time machine and bring back medieval people and teach them to blog.) It's because free video allows any "thought" (using the term loosely) to get bolstered up by convincing charts, photos and the silver tongues of persuasive on-screen personalities. Flat-earther Christians began emailing me in early 2015 right after a now popular YouTube video on the topic was posted:
- 2015, first flat-earther to write me: "I haven't seen you write about the flat Earth yet, which by the way, fits way better with bible teachings."
- 2016, same person after writing a flat Earth article for him: "Please cancel ALL emails to me. You are a complete moron and obviously have spent no time on researching the flat Earth."
(Yes, you have to have a thick skin to do what I do...and that I do.)
Speculation On The 2017 Total Solar Eclipse
Likewise, because of YouTube, prophetic speculation is spreading about the latest interesting eclipse. It's even popular enough to break into mainstream news just like the 2014-2015 speculation did.
I say "interesting" eclipse because there are several eclipses (lunar or solar) every year that are simply ignored by our helpful YouTube "watchmen." Unless a celestial event has something extra (like taking place on Jewish holy days or happening seven years away from something else interesting) then you won't see a prophecy video on it. Eclipses are far too common to form the basis of a prophecy theory every single time they happen.
But the 2017 solar eclipse is an interesting one. Here are some of the factoids talked about this eclipse—along with my responses to help you think about them more critically yourself:
- Claim: "The next total solar eclipse in America is in seven years and forms an X when combined with this eclipse. These eclipses could be marking out the seven year Tribulation!"
Response: Where does the Bible say to look for eclipses to mark the Tribulation? Nowhere. What does it tell us to expect first? Jesus already said, "when you see the Abomination of Desolation" the Great Tribulation is next (Mt 24:15). Further, the seven-year-long 70th Week of Daniel cannot start this year as numerous prerequisites have not happened, like the Nuclear Middle East War, Elijah's coming, and most importantly the Good News of the Kingdom returning (Mt 24:14) (more on that below).
- Claim: "The solar eclipse happens the day before the start of the Hebrew month of Elul."
Response: "Day before" is kind of random and arbitrary. Wouldn't the eclipse need to happen on Elul 1 itself if you want to connect it to the past historical prophetic events of that day? That's what was done in 2014-2015 with eclipses on the very days of Passover and Sukkot by Mark Biltz. This time Mr. Biltz is happy enough with "the day before" to make a connection. This is a logical fallacy called "moving the goal posts."
- Claim: "Jonah left for Nineveh on the day of Elul 1 after there was a major solar eclipse in Nineveh the month before."
Response: See above that the eclipse is not on the day of Elul 1, so to be consistent, you must throw out any connection to Elul. As for "the month before" claim (generously granting that the dating of this ancient event is reliable), why would the Ninevites connect Jonah's arrival with an eclipse an entire month before? To reasonably expect people to connect an eclipse to something, that something needs to happen at the same time, such as right as Jonah arrived and started warning. Again, moving goal posts. (For a great depiction of something like this, see Mel Gibson's movie Apocalypto and how a solar eclipse causes the pagans to change plans immediately.)
- Claim: "The solar eclipse is 40 days from Yom Kippur"
Response: Actually, it's 41 days before Yom Kippur because it comes the day before Elul 1 which itself always starts the "40 days of awe/repentance" before Yom Kippur, yes? But even if it was 40 days, so what? Elul 1 comes every year without event. Eclipses come every year without event. Nothing in Scripture connects general eclipses with prophecy.
- Claim: "World War 1 started in August, 1914 the same month there was a total solar eclipse over the Ottoman Empire (E. Europe) which ended with WW1."
Response: Why is "same month" significant? As stated above, it's tenuous at best to connect an eclipse to any event that is not concurrent. Further, there have been half a dozen total solar eclipses in Europe since WW1, so why have we not had WW3-WW7 already? Because this WW1 eclipse claim comes from another logical fallacy called cherry-picking data.
- Claim: "The last time an eclipse crossed only the United States was during WW1 on August 21, 1914"
Response: I guess the implication here is that "trouble" is coming again this time? If this is how it works based on WW1, what happened to the total solar eclipse across the continent before WW2?? I guess there's not much of a pattern here when you include all the data but instead just draw a circle around the data that fits your theory, also called the Texas Sharpshooter fallacy.
- Claim: "The path of the solar eclipse passes over counties that 95% voted for Trump"
Response: What, you mean God is using the Sun to highlight his approval of Trump? Albeit only 95% approval...haha. I thought he was the Messiah, er, Cyrus LOL. (I am not against Trump per se, just some people take their adoration of him too far, in my opinion.)
- Claim: "The path of the solar eclipse passes over SEVEN towns called Salem!"
Response: What, you mean God is using the Sun to highlight his approval of Trump? Albeit only 95% approval...haha. I thought he was the Messiah,
There are many, many more claims than this about the eclipse because, just like with the 2012 Mayan Calendar speculation, as more people hear the idea, they perceive more connections of their own that spawn more YouTube videos. The above most frequently repeated claims are enough to see how arbitrary and subjective the "evidence" is for this eclipse being prophetically significant.
Q: "What are the odds? It can't be just a coincidence!"
A: No it's not a coincidence but the odds are not as great as you think when you understand what it really is!
As the section above illustrated, the "connections" that are made to support the "significance" of the eclipse or other event use inconsistent rules. In other words, they use inconsistent rules and logic to connect whatever they can remember or imagine or Google that would impress people.
- If the event falls same day as a Biblical holy day...bingo!
- If it comes the day before a biblical date...close enough, bingo!
- If it comes the same month as something else big...bingo!
- If it comes seven years before something...bingo!
Obviously, when you employ flexible, moving goalposts or "rules" like this, you are able to find interesting factoids for any event or date you believe is significant. This is what happened with the 2012 Mayan Calendar date, and the 2014-2015 Four Blood Moons theory and we know how these turned out despite the claim, "the odds of all these connections are astronomical!
This happens not because of legitimate coincides but rather due to a human psychological bias called Confirmation Bias. This bias causes us to ignore or reject evidence against our theory and accept and report all the evidence for it. Even when people present evidence against our theory (like this article!) their bias will use flexible rules and other moving goalposts to reject the evidence against it.
For example, here's another claim about the 2017 total solar eclipse regarding the name Salem:
Seven towns named Salem. So what, right? But wait, they found a verse to tie it to the eclipse. Drum roll again, please...
Joel 2:31-32 (ESV) — The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. 32 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in JeruSALEM there shall be those who escape, as the LORD has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls.
Look at that, will you, the word Salem is last part of the word Jerusalem and it's connected to an eclipse! "What are the odds?"
"Depart From Me, I Never Knew you!" - Jesus
Jesus' predicted he will tell many sincere believers basically to "get lost" instead of welcoming them into the Kingdom. So...who are they and what did they miss or do wrong? In this study, get those answers and the one requirement for salvation Jesus taught (that Christianity misses) so that you can make sure you don't hear these dreaded words yourself!
The odds are very high indeed when you can "cheat" by matching any aspect of an eclipse to any part of any word in the Bible even remotely related to an eclipse. Contrivances like this only demonstrate the imagination and research genius of the prophecy theorist to justify their event as important. They don't provide any real Biblical proof that the event is prophetically significant.
By the way, real Biblical evidence for an event's prophetic significance would be along the lines of a direct quote from Jesus. Like him saying, "When you see X, then the end shall come." Turns out Jesus said something exactly like that, but not about an eclipse! (More below.)
Justification From Psalm 19 ("The heavens declare")
Prophecy theories like this are not just based on specific claims about a particular eclipse or other celestial event. The theorists also quote numerous Biblical passages to justify their unusual focus on heavenly events in the first place. (Again, see the film Apocalypto for a reminder of how the pagans viewed eclipses. You could say Christians fearing eclipses again today is "retro" but in a negative way, much like flat Earth theory is retro. P.S. No judgment on the people, just the ideas they believe and, too often, beat other believers up over.)
For an example of the "heavenly" focus verses they employ, look at this partial transcription of a "biblical astronomy" YouTube video and see if you can spot any problems with the reasoning before I point them out:
The Bible says when Jesus returns there shall be signs in the Sun and the moon and the stars (Lk 21:25). Think about this: If God wanted to speak to all his children across the entire Earth and speak to them all at once in the same universal language how would he do it? Look at Psalm 19:
"The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the Earth and their words to the end of world."
When Jesus was born it was marked in the stars. The three wise men saw his star in the east and knew of it. What makes you think his second coming would be any different?
Sounds reasonable, doesn't it? At least to most new to prophecy study. It's persuasive enough for many of them to hit the share button and send it to others to help warn them or ask their opinion. (I know for me I only ever watch a prophecy teaching on YouTube because someone shared it to ask my opinion of it.) The transcript above leads to a false conclusion to justify looking to the heavens for God's direction such as with eclipses.
Here's the problems with the arguments above:
- Psalm 19 tells us the heavens declare something, and it's a pretty broad concept at that: "God's glory." It uses a lot of poetic language (like anthropomorphism) to emphasize this. But there is no literal speech or language or communication on that level from the sky. There is enough expanse there for humanity to realize God exists and to be "without excuse" in denying this fact and disobeying him as Paul said (Rom 1:20). That's it for the normal, daily basis that the psalm is commenting on (with two rare exceptions, see 3 below).
- Because of this, the heavens cannot ever serve as a way for God to "speak" intelligibly to his children. For nearly all of us, space is just a random bunch of balls of light with different names, sizes and illumination levels. A few of these balls have vague or general historical meanings like the Signs of the Zodiac do. What it means when they light up or crisscross is anybody's guess, and guess away they do! This is why there are a million and one subjective opinions on "what the eclipse means" shared by prophecy theorists.
- The Bible already answers the question posed on how God has and will speak "to all his children" when the need comes to do that: through his end time prophet Elijah and lastly through seven literal thundering shouts of his voice (Ps 29:3=Rev 10:4) right before he brings his Kingdom to Earth at the 7th trumpet (Rev 11:15). Oh, God can speak to all his children at once with clear, human language when he wants to. He did this with all of ancient Israel at Mount Sinai and they consequently asked him to "please, stop" out of fear (Ex 20:19).
Justification From "Signs" Verses
As you can tell, apart from God's greatness, the heavens do not communicate much at all very clearly to us humans. This is why God uses several other much better means to talk to humanity. As noted above, all these means use actual, real, human language. If God spoke in a way any less clear than that, no one could be held accountable to act on his instructions or warnings. They could rightly claim they did not understand because his "heavenly lights language" was incomprehensible.
But what about all those "sign" verses? Doesn't sign mean a message as with a "For Sale" "sign?" Doesn't God use the lights in the heavens to at least send simple informational warnings of end times events?
Not quite. Let's look at the common verses that are used to justify drawing attention to eclipses and other heavenly displays.
Genesis 1:14 (NIV2011) — And God said, "Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years."
The thrust of Genesis 1:14 is that the heavenly lights would signal common divisions of time: "seasons, days and years." In the Bible, the month is based on the moon; months begin with the new (crescent) moon. Days begin when the sun sets or disappears. Stars in the sky change based on the season you are in. Years also can be marked by the solstices, or shortest or longest days of the year. That's what Genesis in context means by letting them be all things dealing with the calendar. It says nothing about "let them be for prophetic warning signs from God" like prophecy theorists wrongly wield (proof-text) the verse to mean.
Luke 21:25 — There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the Earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea.
Revelation 12:1 (NIV2011) — A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.
In both of these passages the word for sign could also be translated as "miracle," "token" or "wonder." Notice that none of those words convey the idea of "communication/speech/warning" as is portrayed by prophecy theorists. The point of the word is that there is a attention-catching display in the sky. It's called a "wonder" because it makes people "wonder" due to it being unclear and hard to explain.
Further, if you read Luke 21:25 in context, you do not find instructions to look for this sign to mean anything. It comes at the end of God's wrath, right before the Jesus appears. It's certainly proper to have a nice heavenly fanfare before his triumphant return. By then we'll already know the day he's coming.
Revelation 12 goes on to explain the meaning of the great signs of the Woman and the Dragon. The Dragon is the constellation Draco and also Satan. The Woman also works at many levels including the constellation Virgo, Mary and saints of Israel and of the Church. It shows plainly that the Woman gives birth to the Messiah who later is "taken up" to heaven (Acts 1:9=Rev 12:5). There is no connection in any way given between the Woman in heaven and the end times events. Later after she is found on the earth fleeing from the Dragon, she is indeed an end time character, too. The sign in the sky she portrayed earlier is never connected to her end time actions and existence. When people make such a connection they read into the text what is not there, ignoring what is there as they did connecting September 23, 2017 with Revelation 12.
Defining the Word "Sign" Incorrectly
As the previous section explained, when you look at the "signs" verses in context, they do not support the meaning for which they are used by Christian prophecy inventors. Each verse refers to a specific instance and application, such as calendar signs and the the sign on the day Jesus returns. They are not meant to give "carte blanche" or a blank check to justify "scanning the heavens for any sign" like Christian theorists do.
All that was obvious to me long ago and I have written on it before. Thinking deeper on this topic, I began I see another problem. The meaning of the word translated "sign" in our English Bible versions does not support the definition that prophecy theorists use it for. Sign, like many words, has several valid, possible literal meanings and connotations. A sign can have a short message in it like a billboard or "For Sale" sign does ("$1000 call 555-1212"). Or a sign can mean something as limited as a signal light to indicate your engine is malfunctioning or that the day is over like a sunset does.
Which one is the Bible intending? Let's clear up that confusion on the right definition of the English word "sign" to use:
- Prophecy Theorists: Sign = "communication or message from God" much like a "billboard" or "God's day timer" (to borrow from the title of Mark Biltz's book where he teaches watching for heavenly signs on God's calendar among other things).
- The Bible: Sign = "wonder, display, token, signal" again, much like a sunset or a car's dashboard engine warning light.
Here's what the problem is with prophecy theorists' portrayal of celestial "signs" with their limited and specific meanings in their context: It's like when our car's designated engine warning light goes off and we decide it means we need to call our mom because she misses us. In other words, we reject the simple, limited, contextual meaning of the sign and expand it to be not just something else from left field, but a complete communication like "Aww... Mom misses me. I need to call her." Meanwhile, all the engine light indicates is something quite vague and limited: something is wrong with the engine!
A Real End Time "Sign:" "Good News of the Kingdom"
The final nail in the coffin of the approach of the prophecy theorists is that as they go about inventing new end time signs based on NASA charts and historical factoids, they completely ignore the one precursor end time sign that Jesus gave us. That sign is found hidden away in a single, puzzling verse in the middle of the Olivet Discourse:
Matthew 24:14 (ESV) — And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
"This" gospel of the Kingdom? "Which one was that again?"
Exactly! Until 2016 I did not know the answer to that, either. It had me stumped, too.
It's not our fault. Christianity does not teach any such "this gospel of the Kingdom" or we would not respond with blank stares when asking what it is. Christianity certainly teaches "good news about Jesus" just not the good news of Jesus, you know, the one that he taught on the rewards God gives people now who seek the coming Kingdom and God's righteousness (Mt 6:33).
Going further, if Christianity did teach the Good News of Jesus already, Jesus could not indicate it as an end time sign. We'd somehow have to know exactly when it reaches "all nations," which one can never know for sure or easily. But if the Good News message of the Kingdom died out with Jesus and the apostles, then when it reappears on the Earth in our time, we then have a distinct clear and recognizable, unprecedented-in-2000-years sign. It will be so amazing that the worldwide spread of it in this social media/YouTube age is ensured. You won't be able to miss it.
Finally, Here's The Real Role of Eclipses In End Time Prophecy!
By the way, the Good News of the Kingdom message will contain a built-in extra reason to "obey it" (2Th 1:8). I'm referring to the warning on end time events. In our time, you don't just need to repent to be saved, but also to follow God's end time escape instructions to survive what's coming.
Here's the kicker. Interestingly enough, one of first events of the end time "beginning of sorrows" (perhaps simultaneous with an earthquake or directly follow it) that Jesus warned about affecting the whole Earth is...
...drum roll please...
But not just any eclipse. In fact, it's going to be a weird combined, simultaneous solar and lunar eclipse:
Joel 2:31 (ESV) — The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.
Revelation 6:12-14 (ESV) — 12 When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, 13 and the stars of the sky fell to the Earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. 14 The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.
Joel and Revelation both agree that, somehow, both the sun and moon will be eclipsed at the same time. Of course that is impossible today and I doubt most (if any) on Earth will be able to witness both. For a typical lunar eclipse, the sun and moon must be on opposite sides of the Earth. A solar eclipse at the same time would require another celestial body to be very near to Earth in order to block the sun. Or perhaps the object blocks the sun for both the moon and Earth...
However exactly it happens, such a new foreign body is identified by Revelation later (and only after analyzing it's many literal clues) as a dwarf planet it calls Wormwood (Rev 8:10-11; Note that the Greek word aster translated "star" is not specific to a star but can mean among other things planets of various sizes).
Notice also in context that even this unprecedented combination lunar and solar eclipse does not happen as an isolated incident. A great earthquake, so great that it shifts the Earth's entire topography significantly, also occurs with it. Not to mention so many shooting stars that the normal starry night sky scrolls away. How is this possible? The dwarf planet Wormwood is broken up at Earth's Roche Limit and partially disintegrates. It can then literally "fall from heaven" upon the Earth (Rev 8:10). It's dispersed slowly enough in small enough chunks to not end all life on Earth right then and there.
Now is it a "sign?" Revelation does not use that word but again, in the many meaning of the word sign, you could say among the first "signs" of Wormwood is a unique double eclipse. But we'll already know it's coming because of Elijah (and already be in safety in Judea as Psalm 91 depicts). So in one way it is but the way theorists look to eclipses to tell them the end ahead of time, it's definitely not.
Seeing this all in context, can you understand how incorrect it is for prophecy theorists to quote those verses above to support their attention to isolated eclipses (even if four similar ones happen in a row) like they did in 2014-2015? Can you understand how it's the same as seeing the dashboard engine indicator light go on, ignoring its "check engine"-label context and deciding it means something completely different outside the car?
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