Behold, the day of the Lord is coming,
Cruel, with fury and burning anger,
To make the land a desolation;
And He will exterminate its sinners from it.
For the stars of heaven and their constellations
Will not flash forth their light;
The sun will be dark when it rises
And the moon will not shed its light.
Thus I will punish the world for its evil
And the wicked for their iniquity.
And when I extinguish you,
I will cover the heavens and darken their stars;
I will cover the sun with a cloud
And the moon will not give its light.
All the shining lights in the heavens
I will darken over you
And will set darkness on your land,
Declares the Lord God.
SAN ANTONIO, TX— Prophecy and end-times expert Pastor John Hagee, founder of Cornerstone Church in San Antonia, Texas, was seen in his study furiously typing up a book to be rushed out ahead of the historic solar eclipse.
“This puppy won’t sell like my classic blood moon book,” Hagee told reporters as he typed at 150 words per minute. “I mean four blood moons? That was a once in a lifetime deal – every prophecy guru’s dream. But I can still sell a few hundred thousand copies as long as I can find some kind of tenuous connection to Daniel, Zechariah, or Revelation.” (babylonbee.com/news)
Prophecy-obsessed Christians have latched onto the impending eclipse. Anne Graham Lotz, for example, speculates the solar eclipse is a sign of impending judgment on America. She starts her brief comments by citing Joel 2.31. In that text the sun is darkened before the great day of the Lord. Along with the blood-moon delusions of a few years ago, this obsession with regular astronomical phenomenon is the result of a combination of poor biblical exegesis and a lack of understanding of science.
First, a solar eclipse is a normal and predictable event. There is nothing about this event which is unusual or supernatural. Simply put, the moon blocks light from the sun. This is a very predictable event. There was a solar eclipse March 8/9, 2016 visible in Indonesia (no apocalyptic judgment happened), and there will be another solar eclipse July 2, 2019 visible in South America. TimeandDate.com lists dates for lunar or solar eclipses around the world.
Second, any biblical text which mentions the “sun darkened” is not talking about a regular, normal eclipse. Here are two examples. In the Joel 2.31 passage Lotz cites, the sun is darkened as a part of apocalyptic events associated with the Day of the Lord. In the immediate context Joel refers to the Holy Spirit as “poured out” on all people. This is a standard way of referring to the New Covenant (for example, Isaiah 35; Jeremiah 33.31-33). The “darkening of the sun” could refer (literally) to the sun darkened during God’s wrath on Jerusalem in 586 B.C., or (more figuratively) to the abasement of the sun and moon as spiritual forces, gods, etc. Either way, it is not a natural, predictable phenomenon.
A second example of unnatural darkness is the three hours of darkness during the crucifixion (Mark 15.33). This cannot be an eclipse since it lasts far too long and is localized to “the land,” probably just Jerusalem or Judea. Although the darkness can be explained theologically in several different ways, it is not a natural, predictable phenomenon.
Third, the Bible must be read in its cultural context. The ancient world did not fully understand what an eclipse was and often thought they were signs from the gods. For example, according to Herodotus an eclipse occurred during a war between the Medes and the Lydians; both sides were so terrified by the sign they immediately signed a peace treaty (Hist.1.73-74). The eclipse was allegedly predicted by Thales of Miletus.
Similarly, in 1503 Columbus accurately predicted a lunar eclipse and the red moon and used this prediction to pacify the local Jamaican islanders. Thucydides 1.23.3 listed eclipses along with earthquakes, droughts, famines, and pestilence that affected the Athenians during the Peloponnesian War.
This means a writer living in 500 B.C. or A.D. 90 who wanted to describe strange apocalyptic signs would naturally include eclipses in their list of cosmic signs. But the word in this context has to mean an unpredicted, unnatural darkness rather than a natural and predictable solar eclipse.
Conclusion. If you live in America, enjoy your eclipse. But do not worry about it as a sign from God ushering in his judgment. Honestly, God has plenty of good reasons to smite America and he does not need to warn us with an eclipse.
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the firmament displays His handiwork.