I'll begin this article a little differently than the others I've submitted for your
consideration by making an observation that some truly genuine believers in Jesus seem to regard science as incompatible to faith. If you are of such a notion, then the following exploration may not be for you since there is a good deal of science involved in its content. But before you dismiss it out of hand, let me tell you that for me personally science has helped me in my faith walk by letting me begin to appreciate more and more this marvelous universe. And since that which has been created is always less than the one who created it, then how much greater must God therefore be!
Science in and of itself is neither good nor evil. It is more a matter of how it is used that determines that. For example, I can pick up a hammer to repair a section of flooring or I can toss it through someone's picture window. We humans can in the same manner use science to discover a cure for a dreaded disease or to synthesize one that is even worse, to save lives or blast them out of existence. The biggest mistake is to make science our "god" and to look to it for all our answers. Sorry, but that job is already filled!
God has given us rational minds and has never called us to blind faith. In the words of the Bible he has given us over and over again the evidence we need to use these minds to acknowledge his existence, culminating in his coming to live among us some 2000 years ago. If even after all this we still remain unconvinced, it is, in my opinion, just a matter of willful stubbornness on our part.
Likewise God has revealed to us the things that are to come upon our world as history as we have known it winds down. In this essay, rather than trying to look at them all, we will primarily examine those which are to appear right over our heads. And what better place to start than in his Word:
Luke 21:10-13 Then said he [Jesus] unto them, Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: And great earthquakes shall be in divers[e] places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven. But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sake. And it shall turn to you for
a testimony [Bracketed sections added for clarification, here and throughout this article.]
Luke 21:25-28 [Jesus said] And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars,; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and waves roaring; Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. And then they shall see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.
Matthew 24:29-30 [Jesus said] Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
Mark 13:24 [Jesus said] But in those days after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not giver her light, And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.
That there will be signs in the heavens at the very end of this age is certain. They are followed immediately with the return of Jesus Christ to this earth. Luke actually mentions it twice, once at the beginning of his account of the Olivet Discourse, and then with greater detail near its conclusion, the latter paralleling the accounts of Matthew and Mark.
But what about these days in which we live now? Can we expect to see any early indications of the great celestial turmoil that is to come? Let's take another look the first passage. Here Luke tells us that we will have nations and kingdoms rising against each other, great and widespread earthquakes, famines, pestilence (disease), and "great signs" from heaven. However before these things take place, there will be great persecution of Christians and that they will stand before "kings and rulers" for the sake of the gospel.
The best way to see when a particular prophecy is about to be fulfilled is to see if any of the others mentioned are already happening. Just considering the verses just mentioned, it is difficult not to see their relevance to current events. Today in the Twenty-first Century the persecution of Christians (which has never really ended since Jesus walked among us) now continues at an increasing rate not only in authoritarian, Communist, and Muslim regimes, but on a more insidious and subtle level even within the world's democracies. The practical elimination of God from U.S. schools in 1963, removal of the Ten Commandments from courthouses, Christmas creches from public parks, the continuing alienation of Bible-believing clergy and laypeople by our society and even by much of the church in the past decade are well known examples of this very thing. Concurrently, large earthquake activity which ramped up in 2002 has increased dramatically with 2010 already surpassing the total count for 2009 of Magnitude six or greater quakes as of early May. Hunger is likewise increasing with the degradation of the environment and rise in population and diseases both new and old are arising across the world.
Notice that Luke recorded Jesus as saying, "And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh." From this verse, we learn that when these things BEGIN, it is at that point that our redemption draws near, not at the conclusion of them which will occur at the end of the Tribulation, the return of Jesus, and initiation of the Millennial Kingdom. I believe that this argues strongly for a Pretribulation Rapture.
What we have NOT seen to an equal degree as the others are those Jesus said would be "fearful sights and great signs" from heaven. Notice that this is a more general statement that his later one which specifies signs in the moon, sun, and stars, but could certainly include them as well. Naturally, it is impossible to say for certain what they will be, but we can say what they MIGHT be. We'll be taking a look at the most prominent object in our sky, and then proceed from there.
In the vast realm of space our sun is just one of perhaps countless trillions of stars, but according to the best scientific knowledge at this time it is the only one hosting a water-covered world containing the only sentient life in this unimaginably huge universe. It is a class G2 star with a surface temperature of about 10,500 degrees Fahrenheit, a diameter of about 850,000 miles, and is stable enough to have provided a source of dependable light and heat in which life in its multitude of forms can thrive. That's pretty remarkable since all the rest of the planets in our own solar system and those currently found residing around other stars have shown no conclusive evidence of even simple life and certainly none of the intelligent variety living on them. For reasons known to God alone, he has created but one oasis in this entire cosmos on which is grace with the breath of life. It looks more and more that he created and maintained our little Earth just for us and the creatures with which we share it.
Think about it. Most living things, even the hardiest of them, would not survive very long away from the benign shores of our home world. And even down here, a slight change in any number of factors could easily deny us this refuge. Since our sun is such a major player, let us look at signs that might appear regarding it.
Science has known for a long time about the approximately eleven year solar cycle characterized by cyclic sunspot activity and related phenomena. The active times are generally the most immediately noticeable from the increase of charged particles emanating from the sun due to solar flares and Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs). In 1859 there was such a huge CME that auroral displays far from their usual high latitudes were dawn-bright and strange magnetically-induced electrical currents appeared in telegraph lines. Imagine the effect of such a solar outburst today on our ever more technological society with the resulting interruptions on our communications, power grids, and satellite systems.
We are now (in 2010) presently in an unusually quiescent Solar Minimum, where for the better part of 2008 no visible sunspots at all were detected. In the past, the Maunder Minimum which lasted from 1645 through 1715, along with the Sporer (1415-1510) and Dalton (1795-1829) Minimums helped to produce a "Little Ice Age" with noticeably colder worldwide temperatures (though airborne volcanic ash may have contributed). An extreme Solar Minimum today might be considered a sign in itself, however an unusually active Solar Maximum because of its more profound and immediate impact is probably a better candidate. We are now heading toward the next Maximum and it will be interesting to see what it will bring forth.
Before I leave this topic, I feel it important to point out that during the Tribulation we are guaranteed a time when the sun will become a merciless enemy:
Revelation 16:8-9 And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which had power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him the glory.
Though we have so far looked primarily at the sun's activities from a scientific viewpoint, we must always remember that God can at any time directly and dramatically intervene in his creation in a manner beyond our capability to comprehend. This is something we should always bear in mind.
Our closest natural companion in space is the moon. For as long as life has been on this planet, the moon had been there, not only providing us with its night time illumination (except during the new moon) but also, along with the sun, controlling our ocean tides. For thousands of years our seafarers have had to incorporate them into their calculations for sailing themselves and their cargoes across the waves. Our seaports and coastline developments have also had to take them into account. The cyclic regularity of the tides as our world rotates and our moon revolves around it in its nearly month-long orbit year after year has made this possible in the first place.
It is actually an easier matter to speculate about the ways our dynamic sun might affect us than it is to do so our virtually unchanging moon. It is very much a big rock in space lacking the active geological processes, atmosphere, and liquid water which we take for granted on our own world. Other than a constant rain of micrometeorites with the occasional and rare impact by a larger object, not much happens up there. I've heard it said that the most boring job of all would be that of a lunar meteorologist. His or her forecast would be something like this: "Fair, very hot, and dry during the day, fair, very cold, and dry during the night. Zero precipitation, zero wind speed. Our long term forecast calls for more of the same for the next million years at least."
But in Luke 21:25 Jesus said that the even the moon would exhibit signs immediately preceding his return, so perhaps there will be something of a prefigurement of them before the Tribulation even begins. There is always the possibility, albeit remote, of it being struck by a truly massive object capable of altering its appearance, or, under the right circumstances being struck by something of sufficient size to perturb its orbit and in doing so affect tides down here on earth, such an event creating no small amount of chaos, I'm sure. Or, as we've noted before, God might cause a lunar sign of such a nature that we just can't predict.
We live in such a vast cosmos that any number of things might fit the category of signs from the stars. In 1054 a great supernova was seen even in the daytime, the remnants now visible as the Crab Nebula and the core of the exploded star now left spinning at an incredible rate in the constellation of Taurus. In 1572 and 1604 there were two more visible in our sky also within our own galaxy. Most recently was one in 1987 in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a mini-galaxy which orbits our own. Fortunately for us they were distant enough not to cause us harm. But should one explode even within a few hundred light years of us, the effects on our atmosphere might be pronounced, not to mention the damage radiation could cause to our satellites or possibly ourselves.
Another lethal blast of radiation might come from an object called a gamma ray buster. These are yet not fully understood and may come from several different causes but can produce in split seconds bursts of radiation equivalent to the energy of our sun over its entire life! Can you imagine the earth being subjected to such a beam? The results would be no less than catastrophic.
We should also consider other signs from the heavens. An asteroid or large meteor strike to the earth itself is certainly a possibility and, in fact, has happened many times over the duration of the earth's existence. There is ample evidence of this past battering on our airless moon which lacks the weathering processes which continually reshape the surface of Earth. In more recent times, a blast from an exploding meteor or small comet leveled vast areas of the Tunguska forest in Russia, and our astronomers watched in fascination as fragments of the Shoemaker-Levy Comet plunged into Jupiter leaving marks visible even to small telescopes, something I managed to see myself.
It is even possible that the Apostle John saw such an impact which will occur on Earth during the Tribulation:
Revelation 8:8-9 And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood; And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed.
We should also consider the possibility that among the terrors coming from the skies might be ones of our own invention. With the growing tension in the Middle East escalated in no small way by Iran's bellicose declarations against Israel and their desire to become a nuclear power, one can easily imagine the horror of a population beneath an imminent missile strike. As before, John might have witnessed this very thing occurring during the Tribulation:
Revelation 8:10-12 And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of the waters; And the name of the star is Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter. And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as a third part of them was darkened, and the day shone for not a third part of it, and the night likewise.
A hydrogen bomb, which operates on the same fusion principles as most stars, would easily contaminate sources of fresh water making it lethal and kick up vast amounts of smoke and dust which would obscure the light from the moon, sun and stars. By an eerie but perhaps not at all coincidental turn of fate, the word for Wormwood in Russian is "Chernobyl," something Terry James from Rapture Ready brought to my attention some time ago (Thank you, Terry!)
There is yet one last possibility I'd like to consider which seems to be more from the realm of science fiction than of science, but one we should not dismiss out of hand. Lately there has been a curious revival of interest in so-called "ancient astronauts" who were purported to have come here in the distant past and were
instrumental in the creation of such structures such as the Pyramids in Egypt, Stonehenge in Great Britain, and other megalithic structures that we would be hard-pressed to duplicate even today.
But is there really a need to invoke extraterrestrials from deep space as the source of these and other such mysteries or could the answer be a lot closer than we might imagine? In Genesis 6:1-5 we read of the offspring of the "sons of God" (a term also used sometimes for angels -see Job 1:6) mating with human women. The indication is that this was certainly not done with God's approval (Jude 1:6) and was possibly the work of those angels which had accompanied Satan in his rebellion against God in some dim age even before the creation of the universe.
Though these "giants" (or "nephilim" which means "fallen ones") were referred to as "mighty men" of "renown," the fact that not very long after their appearance the Bible tells us that the world had become so evil indicates that they might have been influential in making it that way. I do not find it beyond reason that these beings possessed superior physical and mental attributes which may have allowed them to provide the technical means to explain some if not all of those old mysteries attributed to ET's we find so enigmatic today. The question then becomes, could there be a new race of nephilim about to reveal themselves posing as aliens from another world?
Yes, I admit this is pure speculation on my part, but as we find in the Bible no mention of sentient life coming from other worlds, we have plenty of references to intelligences other than human beings, beginning with God who is the ultimate expression of such, and the angelic hosts, of which Satan and his allies are fallen members. Knowing that the devil's biggest and most effective weapon is that of deceit, fabricating a visit from aliens from another planet, which would no doubt present one of the biggest challenges to the true faith that the world has ever seen, would certainly be consistent with his character and modus operandi throughout the history of humankind
It is easy enough to become overwhelmed with concern as we consider all the signs in our modern world that indicate that we are headed for a particularly pivotal and dark time for our world. But if you take nothing else away from this essay, know that God takes care of his own. He is there for the long haul. But perhaps I'll just end by letting someone named Luke recount once again Jesus' own words:
"And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh."