“Immediately after the distress of those days ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.” (Matthew 24:29)
We are not specially told how the sun will be darkened. However, it does not seem to mean that the stars will literally fall. Rather there will be certain signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars, of such a violent commotion that the stars themselves will seem to fall. Luke also adds that there will be a dreadful commotion of the sea, with the sea and the waves roaring to such an extent that men will faint through fear and alarm.(1) Some of the more popularized potential explanations of such an occurrence are as follows.
• Meteorites – Descriptions by scientists of the potential impact caused by a meteorite hitting the earth could account for the phenomenon described by Jesus. If a major body made landfall it could make a crater about ten times its own diameter in size and eject about twice as much debris into the atmosphere as the meteorite contained. A dust cloud from the impact could cause the sky to be darkened. A meteorite that is six miles in diameter could cause total darkness for up to a year. With total darkness of just a few months, temperatures on the surface of the earth would fall to below freezing and snowfalls of ten to twenty feet could result. If smaller bodies impacted instead of a single large one, they could start immense fires and smoke would darken the skies.
If a major body hit in an ocean, it could throw much more material into the atmosphere (salt, steam, pulverized and melted rock). It also could create tsunamis that were thousands of feet high and capable of flooding entire coastal areas. For example, the explosion of Krakatoa (a volcano) created a tidal wave that was 125 feet high. A major meteorite impact would likely be much more severe. A major meteorite could also cause chemical changes in the earth’s atmosphere. The one that exploded over Siberia in 1908 produced nitrous oxides that destroyed as much as 40% of the ozone layer. Even a small asteroid could form nitric acid, which could rain down on the oceans, poisoning the water and killing marine life that lived near the surface. The extent of the damage would depend on such factors as the meteorite’s speed and the distance that it traveled in the atmosphere.
Of course, scientific estimates can be way off because man cannot account for all the variables, and have little experience with direct observation. So, an actual event could be less severe than described, similar to what is described or even worse than described.(2)
According to a group led by former NASA astronauts, large asteroids are already hitting the Earth far more often than anyone previously realized (beginning of birth pains?). They claim that the only thing preventing a meteor from destroying a major city is sheer luck (better known as Providence). From 2000 to 2013, the B612 Foundation says 26 meteorites packing the punch of an atomic bomb have struck the Earth, although they all landed far from human populations. The group’s findings imply that meteor impacts could be three to ten times more common than previously thought. Michio Kaku, a physics professor at the City University of New York and author of The Future of the Mind, said that a “city buster” that could take out a city the size of New York City could hit every 30 years, instead of every 150 years like previously thought. The meteor that sailed over Russia on February 15, 2003, which was only 60 feet across, had the force of 20 Hiroshima bombs.(3)
• Nuclear Exchange – Since 1945, man has been haunted by the possibility that the end of the world might come as the result of mankind’s own self-destructive tendencies. Once a nomadic people in the wild, we have since climbed the ladder of technological, if not civil, advancement. But are we advancing towards utopia or like the Light Brigade are we charging toward our own destruction. After all, if we learned nothing else from 2001: A Space Odyssey, it is that if you give a monkey a bone, it inevitably will beat another monkey to death with it.(4)
It is now seventy plus years since the discovery and propagation of nuclear weapons. Thus far, their use has been limited and we have managed to avoid a full-scale global thermonuclear exchange – although on more than one occasion we came perilously close. Despite attempts by “responsible” world powers at nuclear disarmament, it may only be a matter of time before a rogue nation (North Korea or Iran?) or lesser power (ISIS or Al Qaeda?) gets in the “game.” Men and machines are fallible, and motives are not always noble, as world events constantly remind us. Fools and madmen do exist, and sometimes rise to power. Concentrating always on the foreseeable future, we have not adequately focused on the unforeseen consequences of our scientific “advancements.” In so doing we may have unwittingly played right into Biblical prophecy and placed our civilization and our species in jeopardy.(5)
Apart from the direct devastation that a global (or even regional) thermonuclear exchange would entail (as the missiles rain down from the sky like falling stars), the “nuclear winter” that followed could be much like Christ described. Models suggest that the ignition of dozens or more firestorms, comparable to that of Hiroshima city in 1945, would result in the injection of significant quantities of soot into the Earth’s stratosphere, which could then go on to have a profound and severe effect on the global climate. This would produce cold weather and reduced sunlight for a period of months or years.(6)
Direct Judgment – Of course a direct judgment from God, similar to what occurred with Sodom and Gomorrah might be the simplest explanation. In the final analysis, how it happens is not the point. The fact that it will happen because Jesus prophesied it will happen is what really matters..
- Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Vol. 3, p. 146). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
- “The Nuclear Winter” (1983), Carl Sagan