God created the sun, moon, and stars on the fourth day of creation (Genesis 1:14-19). He placed them in the sky to separate the day from the night. The sun was to govern the day and the moon was to govern the night. They would also mark the passing of seasons, days, and years. The LORD declared that these celestial bodies would have yet another purpose saying, “let them be for signs”. God uses the sun, moon, and stars as a channel through which He speaks to humanity.
This morning we will resume our series titled “Signs of the End Times” with a message called “Astronomical Events”. Astronomy and astrology are similar, but not the same. Astronomy is the scientific study of space, including the position and movement of planets, stars, and so forth. Astrology is the belief that these celestial bodies have influence over human affairs and the natural world. Astronomers are scientists who simply observe, record, and measure heavenly objects, while astrologers are philosophers or mediums who advocate that these have mystical power over the fortune and well-being of people.
Astrology can easily devolve into a form of divination, which is expressly forbidden by God (Deuteronomy 18:10). The heavens are a natural piece of God’s creation - they have no supernatural attributes. Those who turn to the stars in search of answers rather than to the LORD are committing a grave sin. God strongly warns against worshiping or serving “the host of heaven”. Those Israelites who strayed from God and began to worship the sun, moon, and stars, were judged accordingly.
Therefore, when we talk about signs occurring in the celestial bodies it is important to realize that God Himself is speaking through these inanimate objects. They themselves wield no cosmic or mysterious sway over the lives of men. They are powerless to dictate anything, but rather are being used by the LORD as indicators of events. The heavens declare the glory of God and the wonderful work of His hands (Psalm 19:1). Jesus stated that specific astronomical events will take place in the last days.
I. SUN (Isaiah 13:9-11)
There are a few instances recorded in the Bible in which darkness prevailed over the land during the day time. One of the several plagues that God sent upon Egypt prior to the exodus was a heavy darkness that could “be felt”. It continued for 3 full days (Exodus 10:21). While Jesus was being crucified, a foreboding darkness fell over the land in the middle of the day and persisted from noon until 3pm (Matthew 27:45). These and other Biblical references to literal darkness imply that sunlight was being blocked or shielded from the earth in some way.
While God is certainly able to produce darkness supernaturally, He might also use natural means to do so. Severe dust storms have been known to blacken the skies during the day time, such as during the dust bowl. Heavy clouds and thunderstorms often bring about darkness as they cast shadows on the earth below. Thick smoke, smog, or air pollution can obstruct the light and contribute to darkness as well. One of the more daunting and perhaps prophetic causes of daytime darkness is the solar eclipse.
A solar eclipse takes place when the moon passes directly between the sun and the earth, thereby blocking a portion of its light. Solar eclipses may be considered total, partial, or annular depending upon the amount of the sun being covered. On average, a total solar eclipse can be seen roughly every 18 months from somewhere on the earth. However, these vantage points are relatively small and change from one year to the next. Total solar eclipses that are visible from the same location only occur about once every 360 years.
Whether by an eclipse or by some other means, the Bible repeatedly warns that “the sun will be darkened and not give its light” on the day of Christ’s return…
II. MOON (Joel 2:31; Acts 2:20)
Prophecy also states that the moon will be “turned into blood” before the great and glorious coming of the Lord. While there may be other phenomena that could cause this, the most widely accepted explanation of this looming astronomical sign is a lunar eclipse. A lunar eclipse occurs when the earth passes between the sun and the moon thereby casting an eerie shadow on its surface. During a lunar eclipse, the moon appears to be reddish in color as the only light illuminating it has been refracted through the earth’s atmosphere.
Lunar eclipses are commonly referred to as “blood moons” and seemingly fit the apocalyptic descriptions given in Scripture regarding the last days. They are more common than solar eclipses, and are more visible to larger numbers of people. While it is unsafe to look directly at a solar eclipse, there is no danger in looking at a lunar eclipse. Thus, many more people are able to see and recognize them. On average, 1 total lunar eclipse takes place each year and is visible from almost half of the earth’s surface.
There are no clear references or stories in the Scripture pertaining to past blood moons, though many actually took place. However, the Bible does frequently mention new moons and full moons. The Hebrew calendar was, in fact, structured around the phases of the moon. Thus, the moon had (and still has) an important place in Jewish life. They marked the seasons and passage of time by it. Due to its great significance, it is only logical that God would use the moon as another sign of the end times.
III. STARS (Revelation 6:12-13)
Probably the most well-known example of God using a star as a sign for humanity occurred during the birth of Jesus Christ (Matthew 2:1-2). The magi followed the Star of Bethlehem from Persia eastward to Jerusalem. Eventually they found the baby Jesus, worshiped Him, and presented Him with gifts. On another occasion, God instructed Abraham to look up and count the stars if possible, promising that his descendants would be just as numerous (Genesis 15:5). During their conversation, a mournful Job mentioned several constellations of stars to his discouraging and unhelpful friends (Job 9:9; 38:31). These are just a few of the Biblical references to stars.
At Jesus’ second coming, scripture predicts that “the stars will fall from the sky”. Modern scholars generally equate this end times sign with a great meteor shower. Simply put, a meteor is a space rock. When a meteor enters the earth’s atmosphere, it rapidly falls towards the earth. Intense heat causes the meteor to burn up as it streaks through the air (rarely does any part of it actually reach the ground). This process briefly causes a brilliant light to flash across the sky. People commonly refer to falling meteors as “shooting stars”. When a debris field of numerous meteors enters the earth’s atmosphere all at once, it appears as though many stars are falling from the sky. Meteor showers are quite common, as several occur each year.
The Bible never expressly states that the astronomical wonders of the last days will be the result of a solar eclipse, a lunar eclipse, or a meteor shower. God, in His omnipotence, could cause the sun to be darkened, the moon to be turned to blood, and the stars to fall from the sky using some other means. After all, He was able to make the sun and moon stand still (Joshua 10:12-13). As such, we should be careful not to overemphasize the significance of eclipses, blood moons, and so forth. After all, they have been going on since the heavens and earth were created. That said, these amazing astronomical events provide us with frequent and spectacular reminders of the Lord’s soon return.
Let’s close today’s message with a warning. Using mathematical calculations and formulas, scientists can now accurately pinpoint the dates of future eclipses, meteor showers, and other astronomical events. This has led many people to speculate about and predict the exact day of the Lord’s return. Christians should be leery of this practice, as Jesus taught that no one knows that day or hour except God the Father. Rather than trying to guess when Christ will come, we should instead focus on preparing ourselves and others for His arrival.