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Jesus did say, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun will be darkened.”
There are many who firmly believe that the upcoming solar eclipse is a sign from God that the world will soon come to an end, in direct fulfillment of Jesus’ prophetic words in the Gospel of Matthew.
Immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun will be darkened … and he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other (Matthew 24:29,31).
These words of Jesus can be unsettling, and various groups are making immediate preparations for Jesus’ Second Coming in light of the upcoming eclipse.
However, should we be afraid? Is a total solar eclipse a sign of the end times?
Father James Kurzynski, a parish priest and amateur astronomer who blogs for the Vatican Observatory Foundation, thinks otherwise. He wrote two extensive posts on the topic in order to “burst a few bubbles and explore how the Bible presents solar eclipses and what they mean so people won’t start doing irrational acts of preparing for an end that isn’t coming.”
Kurzynski suggests “the symbolic tones of apocalyptic literature should be read less as looking for eclipses and star formations that predict the end, but that they remind us that the way we treat our common home is a part of God’s plan of salvation. If we allow war and strife to divide the human family it also will be reflected in creation, pointing to a dis-ordered relationship between God and creation.”
In a similar vein biblical scholar Dr. Brant Pitre explains, “In the Old Testament, oftentimes eclipses or the darkening of the sun were interpreted as signs of divine judgment.” However, Pitre mentions that these celestial signs were viewed as “a day of judgment, but also a day of salvation. When Christ is crucified, the darkening of the sun symbolizes both judgment and salvation.”
Pitre also suggests that people should not worry about the upcoming solar eclipse being a sign of the end times, stressing Jesus’ own words, “But of that day and hour no one knows” (Matthew 24:36).
It is also important to note that a total solar eclipse happens more frequently around the world and is not a unique event. Space.com states, “Approximately once every 18 months (on average) a total solar eclipse is visible from some place on the Earth’s surface.” This fact alone should calm the fears of anyone worried about an apocalypse.
In the end, God calls each one of us to prepare for our own “Last Day,” which could be today. We simply do not know when God will call us home and is the reason why we should always be spiritually prepared. A celestial event should not frighten us, but should remind us of our need to “pray without ceasing” and daily prepare our soul for its final journey home.