Total Eclipse: Biblical Reflections of what it points to

My eyes were fixed upward yesterday, on April 8, as I watched my first total solar eclipse. It may be the only one I will ever see. It was incredible to witness the sun being blocked out by the moon completely, for a couple of minutes, and then shine forth again. It got me curious about what the Bible might have to say about such a phenomenon. 

There are at least 4 significant things that an eclipse like this points to.

First, the eclipse points us to:

1. God’s Glory as Creator and Sustainer

On the fourth day of Creation, in

  • Genesis 1:14-19, we read about how God created the sun, moon, and stars to give light to the earth, separating day from night, as well as to “serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years.”

The sun and moon and stars are like a great cosmic clock that mark the days, months, years, and the amazing thing about eclipses is that the predictability of God’s cosmic clock allows us to know where and when eclipses will take place.  This points to God’s creative handiwork and power. As it tells us in

  • Psalm 19:1 – “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”

The New Testament completes the detail that Jesus, who is God, actively created all things and sustains all things.

  • Colossians 1:16-17 – “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

Second, an eclipse reminds us of:

2. God’s judgment

There are numerous descriptions in the Bible of what appears to be solar or lunar eclipses and most of them are associated with God’s foreboding judgment against nations, groups, and humanity in rebellion towards God. Here’s a few examples.

  • Isaiah 13:9-11 – See, the day of the Lord is coming —a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger—to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it.  10 The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light.  The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light. 11 I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless.

The context of this prophecy, over 600 years before Christ, is that Isaiah is predicting the invasion of Babylon upon the southern tribes of Judah that would be fulfilled in 586 BC when Babylon took them into exile. This “day of the Lord” was a day of judgment, and associated with it was the darkening of the sun, which is what occurs in a solar eclipse.

The prophet Amos also speaks of what sounds like a total solar eclipse in a passage describing God’s judgment against sinful mankind. 

  • Amos 8:9 – “In that day,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight.”

The context of this passage is once again a foreboding warning of judgment, and in view is something that sounds like a total solar eclipse where there is darkness in the middle of the day.

Then in the book of Joel, the prophet sees a massive locust invasion as a harbinger of the future day of the Lord where God acts in judgment upon sinful man, and darkness is mentioned too.

  • Joel 2:1-2, 10-11 – Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming. It is close at hand—a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness…  10 the sun and moon are darkened, and the stars no longer shine.
    11 …The day of the Lord is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it?

Again, the darkening of the sun is associated with this future day of the Lord.  In addition, a lunar eclipse is also referenced.

  • Joel 2:31-32 – The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood
        before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. 32 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved;

In a lunar eclipse, the earth comes between the sun and the moon, casting a shadow on the moon which sometimes makes it appear a red color. This is known as a blood moon lunar eclipse, and it is mentioned in Joel 2:31.

Third, an eclipse points us to:

3. God’s invitation to repent

In the middle of the prophecy in Joel about the day of the Lord, and the sun turning to darkness, God gives an invitation to turn/return to Him.

  • Joel 2:12-13 – “Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart,
    with fasting and weeping and mourning.” 13 Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate,
    slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.

This tells us that while God is judge, he is also gracious and invites everyone to turn to him in repentance, to turn away from sin and to Him in faith. As it says in

  • 2 Peter 3:9 – “God is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

How can it be that God would be so patient with us, though we deserve his judgment? How does he cleanse us from our sin and rebellion?. He made that provision for us through Jesus.

Fourth, an eclipse points to:

4. God’s provision for our salvation in Jesus

On the day that Jesus died, the sun was darkened for 3 hours. This likely wasn’t a solar eclipse, because the darkening during a total solar eclipse is a few minutes, not a few hours. Yet, the description of this total darkening is seen in

  • Luke 23:44-46 – “It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.”

Furthermore, there was a blood moon lunar eclipse on the day Jesus died.[1] We know this because using software, the view of the sky can be reanimated anywhere in the world going back thousands of years.  The biblical evidence for this lunar eclipse is that 50 days after the crucifixion, following Christ’s resurrection and ascension, Peter stood up on the Day of Pentecost to explain the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and he quoted the prophet Joel.

  • Acts 2:16-17 – This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 17 “‘In the last days, God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit on all people. … 19 I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. 21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

Peter could point to the act of the sun turning to darkness and the moon turning a blood red color, 50 days earlier, as if to remind them that they had all witnessed these specific astronomical events, just as the prophet Joel predicted. It was meant to tell them that, though God judges sin and rebellion, he also offers a way of escape through faith in Christ Jesus, who gives the gift of the Holy Spirit to all who believe, so that “anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Jonathan Edwards, who wrote with great depth and insight, once talked about how a solar eclipse points to Christ’s death and resurrection. He said this in his notes of Scripture, number 291: “The moon, that receives all her light from the sun, eclipses the sun, and takes away his light; so Christ was put to death by those that he came to save. … The sun can be in a total eclipse but a very little while, much less than the moon, though neither of them can always be in an eclipse; so Christ could not, by reason of his divine glory and worthiness, be long held of death. …The sun’s coming out of his eclipse is a figure of his resurrection from the dead.”[2]

Just as nothing could stop the sun from shining forth again after the eclipse, a fact that I got to witness firsthand, so nothing could stop Christ from rising again from the grave in power, overcoming the darkness of death and gloom. For all who turn to Him as their Savior, he provides salvation and a way to escape God’s judgment upon our sin.  Have you taken that way of escape?  It’s not too late.



Categories Devotionals, Q&A | Tags: | Posted on April 9, 2024

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