Sunday, April 7, 2024

Let not your heart be troubled


I’m a little stunned. I tend to be pretty cynical when it comes to the online world, but I’m still surprised by the fear and paranoia that I’ve seen lately surrounding the upcoming eclipse and the recent earthquake in the northeast.

I’m no expert on the tinfoil hattery surrounding the two events, but Relevant magazine explains that some eclipse fears stem from the fact that this is the second eclipse in seven years and seven is a number that signals completion in the Bible. I’ve also seen more tenuous theories that link the date of the eclipse (4/8) to the strength of the earthquake (4.8 on the Richter scale) to Exodus 4:8. Why Exodus? Who knows?

Photo credit: Jongsun Lee/

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Jesus mentioned earthquakes as a sign of the end times in his Mount Olivet discourse and the Bible also talks about God sending earthquakes as judgment both in the Old Testament and the prophetic book of Revelation.

The Bible also tells us that the sun was darkened for three hours during Jesus’s crucifixion and that there will be a three-day plague of darkness in the endtimes. There were eclipses in AD 29 and 33, but they weren’t during the Passover and the biblical periods of darkness are far longer than any eclipse.

Having said all that, there is nothing to suggest that next week’s eclipse or the earthquake in the northeast herald the Apocalypse. The speculation that the Apocalypse is coming next week is just that: pure speculation.

Earthquakes aren’t unheard of, even on the east coast. I remember feeling an earthquake in Georgia when I was in high school and a fault line runs west of Atlanta near where we used to live. Charleston, South Carolina (Charlie South in airline parlance as opposed to Charlie West) experienced a severe earthquake in 1886. An individual, isolated earthquake is not a sign of God’s wrath.

Not every natural occurrence is a sign from God. The Old Testament tells the story of the prophet Elijah, who went into the wilderness to seek God. Elijah sees a powerful wind, an earthquake, and a fire, but the Bible notes that God was not in any of these. God was in a gentle whisper that followed these cataclysms.

If the people who are fearmongering about the eclipse delve into their Bibles they would find that Jesus told us that “no one knows the day or the hour” of his return. The Bible tells us that Christ’s return will come as a “thief in the night.” I think it’s safe to say that this means it wouldn’t be predicted by the stars millennia in advance. (And what does the Bible say about looking for signs in the stars?)

There have been a multitude of date-setters who have predicted the Second Coming. Remember “88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Occur in 1988?” These date-setters have all been wrong because Jesus told us that they don’t know.

I do believe that Christ will return one day. Maybe it will be in my lifetime and maybe it won’t. The key is to be ready because we don’t know. We aren’t assured of our next breath.

I don’t often agree with Marjorie Taylor Greene, but I can at least partially agree with the nutjob from Georgia on something she said last week. Posting on the platform formerly known as Twitter, Greene wrote, “God is sending America strong signs to tell us to repent. Earthquakes and eclipses and many more things to come. I pray that our country listens.”

I don’t see any indication that the eclipse and the earthquake are signs from God, but I do agree that we need national repentance. MGT is right about that, but maybe not how she means.

I’m sure that MGT is talking about repentance for the national sin of abortion, which figures heavily in theories about impending divine judgment, as well as homosexuality, transgenderism, and probably for rejecting Donald Trump. She isn’t necessarily wrong on at least some of these.

But abortion and homosexuality aren’t the only sins listed in the Bible. If we are totally honest, we have to read between the lines to ascertain the morality of abortion at least.

But there are a lot of sins that are specifically mentioned. For example, there is sexual immorality such as extramarital affairs, something that MGT is allegedly very familiar with, not to mention Donald Trump.

How about lyingbearing false witness, and hypocrisy? The Bible condemns these in strong terms. Acts 5 tells the story of Ananias and Sapphira who were struck dead for lying about a donation to the early church.

What about corrupting the church? Jesus reserved his harshest criticism for people who practice a hypocritical public religion and religious leaders who profit from their positions and lead people astray.

What about not showing love to our fellow man? Paul wrote that prophecy and good works without love were worthless.

As a friend posted on Facebook this morning, “Don't tell anyone Jesus loves them until you're ready to love them too.” This is similar to another posting that I saw recently that reminded us that God called us to show his love, but he never told us to judge for him.

And that commandment to love includes immigrants and foreigners without mentioning immigration status.

As one of my pastors used to say, “Amen or oh me?”

We do need to repent. We all have a lot to repent for and neither political faction has cornered the market on Christianity.

For that matter, I’m not sure that a great many of the political and religious leaders who claim to be Christian really believe in the Bible. If they really believed in the eternal consequences of their actions, would they act so flagrantly against biblical guidelines in a manner that suggests that they believe the end justifies any means rather than being concerned with the ethics and morality of their actions.

As @jawno recently pointed out online, “Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss so we’d know that someone’s public affection for Jesus might not be telling the whole story.”

We don’t need to fear eclipses and earthquakes (well, maybe earthquakes a little). Jesus told us not to fear those who can kill the body, but the one who can kill the soul. Coming from a guy who has had cancer, that can be easier said than done.

I think that there is too much emphasis on the end times from some quarters of the church, not to mention too much speculation. Some Christians are so concerned with the Mark of the Beast that they miss the immorality and sin right in front of their eyes… and in their own lives. That includes wild-eyed speculation that a very normal eclipse and minor earthquake might herald the Second Coming.

On Monday, the eclipse will happen but it won’t usher in the Apocalypse. Or maybe it will. The point is that no one knows. So don’t engage in unfounded guessing that is only going to serve to undermine the credibility of Christians everywhere.

Christians played important roles in the development of science and technology. It’s a shame that so many believers now reject knowledge and expertise in favor of the primitive fears of their pagan ancestors.

Let not your heart be troubled. God is in control.

From the Racket News

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