HomeFaithDooley Noted: A total eclipse of common sense

Dooley Noted: A total eclipse of common sense

News of April 8’s solar eclipse captured the imagination of the nation, largely because of its accessibility and breadth of totality. From northeast Canada all the way down to Texas, schools paused and work slowed so that onlookers could get a glimpse of the sun going dark. Even surrounding states as far away as California were able see partial blockage of the sun’s rays. Though each year boasts of two to four eclipses, most of those are over the ocean or near hard to reach places that make them invisible to most of the planet. Astronomers do not expect a similar occurrence for another twenty-one years.

Just as fascinating, though, was the apocalyptic language of many who took to social media to describe the phenomenon. Because the last such eclipse occurred seven years ago, some were quick to point out this is the Bible’s number of perfection. Additionally, laying this year’s eclipse over the path of 2017’s blackout forms the shape of a cross according to some. These coincidences were enough to lead more than a few Christians to conclude that God was revealing the imminent return of Jesus. Not since the last blood moon (caused by a lunar eclipse) has there been such unwarranted prophetic fervor.

I’m not suggesting that cosmic upheaval does not accompany the Lord’s final judgment of humanity. The Apostle John described a time in the future when the sun will become black as sackcloth and the moon red like blood (Rev. 6:12). The ensuing chaos will include falling stars and a split sky that signals the day of God’s wrath (Rev. 6:13-17). Heaven and earth will shake at the voice of Him to whom we must give an account (Heb. 12:25-27).

Yet, equating these biblical predictions with natural events like a solar eclipse misses the point entirely. Galactic gestures like these do not signal that the Lord’s judgment is coming, but that it has already arrived. Furthermore, Scripture discourages efforts to pinpoint the time of our Savior’s second-coming.

Jesus explained, “Of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come (Mark 13:32-33).” Just before His ascension back to heaven, Jesus reminded His followers, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority (Acts 1:7).”

The point of biblical prophecy is not to help us make accurate predictions about Christ’s coming, but to encourage our active preparation for His coming. Aggressive speculation not only leaves believers looking foolish, but also distracts the faithful from living out their faith in the here and now. Christians cannot afford to gamble with eschatological gimmickry when the charge to remain unblemished by the world is the healthiest response attached to the sure return of the Lord (1 John 3:3).

So, what, if anything, should we conclude about God from the recent eclipse? The greatest takeaway emphasizes WHO God is more that WHAT He will do. The grandeur of creation reminds us to appreciate the glory of our Creator. The physical world is a form of general revelation that makes God’s eternal power and divine nature known (Rom. 1:20). Simply put, denying God’s existence in a universe as magnificent as ours is the epitome of foolishness (Rom. 1:21-23).

Consider, for example, the breathtaking order of the recent eclipse. The moon, though vastly smaller than the sun, can block the luminary’s beams by passing between it and the earth. But how? Despite being 400 times smaller, the moon is 400 times closer to our planet than the sun. This perfect ratio creates the illusion to us that the two bodies are the same size.

Truly, the heavens are declaring the glory of God and the work of His hands (Psalm 19:1).

So, even if the eclipse of 2024 has no prophetic significance, it still has much to teach us. Namely, God is big; we are tiny. He is eternal; we are finite. He is sovereign; we are not. Because His glory is unending, He is worthy of our praise and adoration. The meticulous order of creation reminds us that no person is an accident, and no life is insignificant. Join me in marveling over what God has already done even as we anticipate what He will do in the future.

Dr. Adam B. Dooley is pastor of Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, TN, and author of Hope When Life Unravels. Contact him at adooley@ebcjackson.org. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBDooley.

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