Jesus is nearly here! Or something. Whenever something like an eclipse (solar or lunar) happens, there are people who insist that it is connected to the book of Revelation, or to Jesus’ prophecies about the coming of the Son of Man. Divine judgment is imminent! Next thing you know the Church will be Raptured, and Jesus will split the eastern sky. Might they be right? Is the eclipse a sign that Jesus right around the corner?
There is no particular biblical reason to believe that a random total solar eclipse (which happen in different places really every few years) is connected to the apocalypse. Some of the prophecies do mention the sun going dark, but this has happened thousands of times since Jesus left. The only way to make this eclipse special is to root through all sorts of obscure astronomical minutia to create patterns out of nowhere. It’s just an exercise in fantasy.
That’s really not all there is to be said. While we have no reason to associate this eclipse with Jesus’ return, we do need to remember that creation is by nature always symbolic. The heavens never stop witnessing to God’s glory and work. There is biblical symbolism connected with the sun and with its darkening, and it applies as much today as it did in the days of the prophets.
Biblically, the sun symbolizes two related things. First, it symbolizes God, particularly His face. Here’s how I put it on Facebook the other day:
The sun represents the face of God. It is too glorious for us to behold directly, but it gives light to everything else. It warms the earth and is the source of all life on its surface. It sits in heaven, gazing down upon all people. It shines upon the just and the unjust, blessing both. Yet it also can scorch and burn, and we need some degree of protection and distance lest we be consumed. We can see it, and truly receive its light and heat, but it is removed from us by a great distance and is completely incomparable to us.
Second, the sun symbolizes the highest rulers and authorities, both in the spiritual and the physical realms. The sun represents kings, councils, emperors, and heavenly powers (think angels and demonic gods). This theme shows up all the time in the Psalms and the prophets. This is connected to the sun’s symbolism of God. Since God is the highest authority of all, He is represented by other high authorities. So the same sun which represents God also represents other rulers.
We see, then, eclipses in the Bible do symbolize divine judgment on a double level. On the divine level, when the sun goes dark, this symbolizes God hiding His face. God turns away, and instead of shining the earth in blessing, He puts the world in darkness. On the lesser level, when the sun goes dark, it symbolizes turmoil among the powers of the world. Rulers and authorities are put in chaos, and in the prophets this often resulted in a king, emperor, or dynasty being overthrown.
So what does this mean? Does an eclipse visible over the United States today prove that America is about to be judged in some way? It may not; biblical symbols are not always directly connected in time and space to what they represent. Natural symbols are often general reminders which do not point to specific events. That said, it’s not hard to imagine that the eclipse does represent a coming judgment on America, simply because we are obviously ripe for catastrophe. There is already loads of political, social, and military turmoil in our country. Trump, trans, racists, radicals, inequality, ISIS, Korea, killings, etc. have filled up the news with more tension than we’ve seen in several years. People on all sides of all issues have been at fault in all sorts of ways. Rare are the poor in spirit, the meek, the pure in heart, and the peacemakers, especially in the places where are most needed.
I’m not saying this proves that the eclipse foretells an impending catastrophic judgment on us. Symbolism is complex, and not all signs point to something nearby.
But let’s just say nothing which could appear in the news over the next year or two would surprise me. America is ready to fall apart, and none of us need to see an eclipse to know that.