Eclipse of the End Times

Eclipses were treated as portents throughout much of history (see Anne Graham Lotz’s ambiguous comments on this subject). Eventually, however, people realized that these are entirely predictable events that result from the moon passing between the sun and Earth (in the case of solar eclipses) or the Earth passing between the sun and the moon (in the case of lunar eclipses). As you know, we have one coming up this month, on August 21st  2017, that will be visible in many parts of North America.

XKCD comic decided to do something on the subject, and the connections that many draw between eclipses and the notion of “end times.” Here’s what they came up with:




The Washington Post has an article which highlights the views of fundamentalist pastor Gary Ray and his calculation that the eclipse, and other astronomical phenomena, indicate that the Rapture will happen soon. Here is a quote from the article:

Ray, a writer for the evangelical Christian publication Unsealed, views this eclipse as one of several astronomical signs that the day when Christians will be whisked away from the Earth is fast approaching.

“The Bible says a number of times that there’s going to be signs in the heavens before Jesus Christ returns to Earth. We see this as possibly one of those,” Ray said about the eclipse.

He is even more interested in another astronomical event that will occur 33 days after the eclipse, on Sept. 23, 2017.

The Book of Revelation, which is full of extraordinary imagery, describes a woman “clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head” who gives birth to a boy who will “rule all the nations with an iron scepter” while she is threatened by a red, seven-headed dragon. The woman then grows the wings of an eagle and is swallowed up by the earth.

Ray says that image will be created in the sky on Sept. 23. The constellation Virgo — representing the woman — will be clothed in sunlight, in a position that is over the moon and under nine stars and three planets. The planet Jupiter, which will have been inside Virgo — in her womb, in Ray’s interpretation — will move out of Virgo, as if she is giving birth.

Astronomers don’t see this as a particularly unusual event. But to Ray and others, it could be the sign that the Rapture is ready to happen: “We think it’s God signaling to us that he’s about to make his next move.”

And Ray thinks the two eclipses that are slated to travel across the United States in 2017 and 2024, together marking an X across the nation, could be the starting and ending signs bookmarking a seven-year period of awful tribulations that Revelations says waits in store for nonbelievers who are left behind on Earth when the Rapture occurs.

“That time frame is speculative, 2017 to 2024. But it makes a lot of sense. There are a lot of things that really point us to that,” he said.

Therefore, the eclipse preparation that Ray recommends is a bit different from the scientists’ association’s advice.

“My number one encouragement to people would be to just trust God. More importantly, to trust the right God,” he said, warning that those who do not believe when the day of the Rapture comes will be left behind to face the tribulations. “If people want to be ready, the one thing you can do is accept what He has offered, which is the gift of grace and forgiveness. That’s all we have to do to be ready.”

Kurt Willems has a good preemptive response to that in his blog post “Why Rapture Predictors are Always Wrong.” But I would even more strongly recommend Ben Corey’s earlier post, “Why the Rapture and Santa are Both Fairy Tales: a theological explanation.” See also what Episcopal churches are doing for the occasion of the upcoming eclipse.

Also on the topic of the eclipse, but much more lighthearted in character, there is a theme song for the occasion: Solar Eclipse of the Heart!



Finally, at the intersection of lunar eclipses and flat-earthism:


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  • David Evans

    No-one would actually see that flat Earth eclipse. Half of it would be below their horizon. Unless they were standing at the edge, which can’t be done because it’s blocked by a huge wall of ice patrolled by UN troops (or so I hear)

  • Stormageddon1

    Doesn’t the Bible come right out and say that no one knows the time of the return? If the Bible is the inerrant word of G-D, then rapture seekers are trying to prove themselves smarter than G-D. I have a problem with taking them seriously. But that’s just me.

    • David Evans

      Jesus says “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” He is speaking before any of the New Testament, and in particular Revelation, had been written. That doesn’t rule out the possibility that someone with access to those works might see the signs of the end approaching in a way that people of Jesus’s time could not.

      • Stormageddon1

        Thanks David, for a plausible response. I see more problems than solutions for other issues though. Good one though.

      • Go back a few verses:

        Matthew 24
        “34 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 36 But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

        Specifically, he said that no one knows the day or hour, but that it will happen within the generation of his disciples. Or, as he states earlier in chapter 16:

        “28 Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

        Of course, one could debate whether or not these are Jesus’ actual words, given that the text itself dates from after most of the New Testament.

    • Matthew 16:28 “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”