When there are “signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves” (Luke 21:25), should we be looking for the end of the world or something like it? Many people think so. A careful look at the prophetic discourse that Jesus gave in Luke 21 is about events leading up to and including the destruction of the temple and judgment on Jerusalem that took place in AD 70.
Halley’s Comet passed over Jerusalem in AD 70.
Comets, space debris hitting earth, and other stellar and terrestrial phenomena are often viewed as end-time signs. Especially earthquakes:
“For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes” (Matt. 24:7).
Anybody familiar with the history of the times in which Jesus made this prophecy will know that there were many large earthquakes in the region. There’s one recorded in the gospels (Matt. 28:2) and another in the book of Acts (16:26). Both of them are described as “great [Gr.: mega] earthquakes.” They were common occurrences.
Some will say that it’s the size and number of earthquakes that make them prophetically significant today. Jesus says no such thing. Remember, the Bible described them as “mega” earthquakes.
In addition to these two earthquakes referenced in the New Testament, there are histories of the period that mention others. In the writings of the first century historian Tacitus there is this description of conditions in Rome in AD 51: “This year witnessed many prodigies signs or omens … including repeated earthquakes.” Josephus, an eyewitness to the events surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem that took place in AD 70, wrote that an earthquake in Judea was so great that “the constitution of the universe was confounded for the destruction of men.”
“There were earthquakes in Crete, Smyrna, Miletus, Chios, Samos, Laodicea, Hierapolis, Colosse, Campania, Rome, and Judea. Paul started churches at Colosse and Hierapolis. However, these two cities, along with Laodicea, suffered a great earthquake in approximately A.D. 61. Laodicea was rebuilt soon after the earthquake, but Colosse and Hierapolis were not.”
In that same verse where Jesus mentions earthquakes, there is reference to “a great famine all over the world” that “took place in the reign of Claudius” (see Acts 11:28). The word translated world is oikoumene and means “inhabited earth,” that is, the known world, not the whole wide world. The same word is used in Luke 2:1 about Roman taxes and in 21:26 to describe the limited nature of the then coming judgment on Jerusalem.
What about meteors? Are they unusual occurrences of a prophetic kind? Actually, there’s not much that’s unusual about them. The Russian meteorite that crashed to earth “was about 55 feet in diameter, weighed around 10,000 tons and was made from a stony material.” Scientists say it’s the “largest such object to hit the Earth in more than a century.” This means that there were larger ones that hit the earth — lots of them.
“In 2008, astronomers spotted a meteor similar to the one in Russia heading toward Earth about 20 hours before it entered the atmosphere. It exploded over the vast African nation of Sudan, causing no known injuries.
“The largest known meteor in recent times caused the ‘Tunguska event’ flattening thousands of square miles of forest in remote Siberia in 1908. Nobody was injured by the meteor blast, or by the Sikhote-Alin meteorite that fell in eastern Siberia in 1947.”
There have been more than 38,000 meteorite finds. This doesn’t count the ones that have not been found.
There’s a meteor reserve in Poland. Two meteorite hunters “found a 300-kilogram (660-pound) cone-shaped hunk of iron, which measures two metres (yards) in diameter” late in 2012 “at the Morasko Meteorite Reserve just north of Poznan.” There are numerous craters on the reserve, the largest being about 60 meters (196 feet) in length and 11.5 (37.7 feet) meters deep.
So be careful when some prophetic speculator points to the heavens and the earth and assures you that the end is nigh. You’re more likely to die of natural causes than mind yourself in an end-of-the-world conflagration.
The vast majority of people who get right with God are those who recognize their sin, repent of it, and put their faith in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. You don’t need signs from the heaves for that.