Summary: There will be a total solar eclipse today? Will it be the end of time?
The Sun Shall be Turned to Darkness
This morning, I am writing this sermon in a coffee shop waiting for the great total eclipse of 2017. At this location, it will be total for a few seconds. Everyone is mixed with both a sense of excitement and well as fear. Eclipse viewing glasses are selling for high prices, if you can find them. This is supposed to be a once in a lifetime event. So far, the skies are pretty clear, just a little haze. But clouds can form here in the summer at a moment’s notice. It would be terrible for all who have flocked here from outside the zone of the eclipse and filled up our hotels here that their view might be dashed by even a stray cloud.
Eclipses have always been a mixture of wonder and fear. Many have seen it as a sign of impending doom. When the timing of eclipses could not be calculated, one could see how frightening the experience of the sun going out in the middle of the day might be. It has raised enough hysteria here, even in our age where we know it has been coming for decades. Total eclipses of the sun are rare events in which the sun is turned into darkness. Lunar eclipses are more frequent where the moon turns blood red. This too, has been a source of wonder and fear.
The prophet Joel lived several centuries before Christ. The Lord used the occasion of a plague of locusts as an object lesson for Judah. There are several insects which were called in locusts in Joel’s day, and perhaps there was more than one plague of them. Locusts devastate every green thing. This meant the crops would be destroyed, and famine would result. Like an eclipse, the appearance of them was a portent of disaster.
The Lord told Joel to prophesy to the people that the LORD was upset with his people, and the plague was a call for them to repent and turn to the LORD. He calls on the priests to intercede at the altar for the sins of the people and call on Him to spare the people. It is a shame that the LORD has to bring these things about to wake up the wicked. But the evil of the locust plague could become the opportunity for restoration.
We also know from Scripture, that the prophets also spoke messages which referred to future events. They themselves may or may not have known this, but the Spirit of God who knows the future used them to prophesy the future. This is the case of the passage in Joel we are studying. It says that the events starting in verse 28 would occur in the last of days. These days would not be the days of Joel. We know that Peter quotes this passage in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost as showing the descent of the Holy Spirit was a fulfillment of part of this passage. The church was not drunk on wine, but filled with the Spirit. Here the fulfillment was several hundred years later than the utterance. Young men and women would prophesy and ream visions. The Bible says that God does nothing without revealing it first to His prophets.
But when we look at this passage, there seems to be events that still await fulfillment. We are not aware of any eclipse on the Day of Pentecost to serve as a sign. We know the heavens were open, and fire fell upon the tongues of the believers. This was an astonishing display of God’s power, but no eclipse as far as we know. Of course, God can make the sun dark any time it pleases Him. This he had recently done for three hours as Jesus was on the cross. This certainly was not a solar eclipse as we know it. I A total solar eclipse under the most favorable conditions is less than 10 minutes, and today’s eclipse will be only about 3 minutes a few miles north of here. One might also note that Jesus was crucified at Passover which would have been full moon, and solar eclipses can only occur at new moon.Eclipses can be predicted, but the hand of God can not.
The prophet Joel says that the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the day the Lord returns. It becomes a warning, but also a promise. In the midst of catastrophic judgment, there is a promise to everyone who repents and calls upon the LORD shall be saved. In the middle of doom, they will be snatched from the fire.
Of course, speculation about this day Joel prophesies about has been the source of much speculation. These and other Biblical prophecies have been applied to events in the days of their interpreters. Of course, in bad times, it seems easy to map the signs to the times and say that this indeed is the day of the fulfillment of Joel. One could think in the days of St. Augustin that there were many of the signs. The barbarians like clouds of locusts had descended upon the Roman Empire and sacked even Rome itself. The Vandals were advancing on Augustin’s own home city of Hippo. Surely this looked like the end. It was for the Roman Empire, perhaps, but this was not the end of time.