Faith Over Fear

The following is adapted from a Sunday School lesson I put together for my kids at church in the wake of the recent earthquake here in NJ and the total eclipse last Monday. Enjoy!

So many people believed that the earthquake and eclipse meant the Rapture or the Apocalypse would occur on April 8th. Since we’re here right now, the world obviously did not end. But what did actually happen? And does the Bible talk about the “End of Days”? Should we be scared?

An earthquake is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as, “a sudden and violent shaking of the ground,
sometimes causing great destruction, as a result of movements within the earth’s crust or volcanic
action.” According to the United States Geological Services website:

The April 5, 2024, [magnitude] 4.8 earthquake near Whitehouse Station, New Jersey,
occurred as a result of oblique reverse and strike-slip faulting at shallow depths in the
crust… While this earthquake is relatively small globally, earthquakes of this magnitude
are commonly widely felt in the eastern United States because of efficient seismic wave
propagation in the region. Earthquakes in the eastern US are infrequent but not
unexpected. Since 1950, 40 other earthquakes of magnitude 3 and larger have occurred
within 250 km of today’s earthquake.

So while last week’s earthquake was certainly memorable, and even historical, it wasn’t unique. It
wasn’t unprecedented- there have been many earthquakes here in New Jersey, including aftershocks
throughout the week- and there will be many more in the future.

An eclipse is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as, “an obscuring of the light from one celestial body by
the passage of another between it and its source of illumination.” According to NASA:

On April 8, 2024, a total solar eclipse moved across North America, passing over Mexico,
the United States, and Canada. A total solar eclipse happens when the Moon passes
between the Sun and Earth, completely blocking the face of the Sun. The sky will darken
as if it were dawn or dusk. Weather permitting, people along the path of totality will see
the Sun’s corona, or outer atmosphere, which is usually obscured by the bright face of the
Eclipses occur due to the special coincidence of the Moon and the Sun being the same
angular size. The Sun is approximately 400 times wider than the Moon, but it is also
approximately 400 times farther away, so they appear to be the same size in our sky. This
is what allows the Moon to completely block the Sun during total solar eclipses.
During the 5,000-year period between 2000 BCE to 3000 CE, Earth will experience 11,898
eclipses of the Sun: 4,200 partial eclipses, 3,956 annular eclipses, 3,173 total eclipses and
569 hybrid eclipses. That means that every 1,000 years there are 840 partial eclipses, 791
annular eclipses, 635 total eclipses, and 114 hybrid eclipses. That works out to 2-3 solar
eclipses of all kinds each year, and about 2 total solar eclipses every 3 years.
After the total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024, the next total solar eclipse that will be visible
in the contiguous United States will be on August 23, 2044.

Once again, while last week’s eclipse was amazing, it wasn’t one-of-a-kind. It was special and rare,
but not actually once-in-a-lifetime.

From Newsweek:

Some people wrongly predicted the Rapture would occur during Monday’s solar eclipse, but that did not stop others making jokes about it…. Ahead of the rare lunar event, many worried the eclipse would signal the end of times also known as the Rapture.

It is a belief held by some Christians, mainly American Evangelicals, where a judgement day would befall on Earth. Only those who were true believers without sin would be taken to heaven and everybody else would stay on Earth.

Many point to the passage known as the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24 of the Bible that refers to the end times which will be signaled by a darkened sun, according to religious website The Harvest.

This hasn’t been the first time people believed that the weather, a natural disaster, wars, or other
current events meant The Apocalypse was near. I remember in 1999, many believed Jesus would
return because all of the computers would fail on January 1, 2000. There were more, of course. Relevant has a good list. Here’s a few:

In 1997, [Ed Dobson] published The End: Why Jesus Could Return by A. D. 2000, arguing
that the increasingly chaotic world was a sign that Jesus would be returning soon. While
he did accurately predict that things would get more hectic, he clearly didn’t get
everything right.

Speaking of authors, Edgar C. Whisenant, a former NASA engineer and seminary student,
predicted the rapture would occur in 1988, sometime between September 11 and
September 13. He detailed all his theories in his 1988 book, 88 Reasons Why the Rapture
Will Be in 1988. The following year, he released a new book, titled The Final Shout:
Rapture Report 1989….

Some voices in the Christian community warned that the end was coming with the arrival
of 2020, this time citing technological collapse or other cataclysms. Well, they got one
thing right — the year 2020 was indeed catastrophic, but not in the way they expected.
Many Christians pointed to worldwide disease and socioeconomic unrest as a sign that
the end times had begun, but four years later, it’s safe to say they were, once again, wrong.

We now know what earthquakes and eclipses are, and how some Christians believed wrongly that
they were signs of the End of Days. But does the Bible actually talk about it? What should we
believe? Let’s turn to the Gospel of Mark to find out.

“But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give
its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be
shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.
And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends
of the earth to the ends of heaven.

“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its
leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you
know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away
until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass

“But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the
Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will
come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in
charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay
awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at
midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— lest he come suddenly and find you
asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”

Mark 13:24-37

Far too many people have been paying attention to the first verses of that passage- looking to the
skies, at the sun, moon, and clouds- while ignoring the vital message at the end. No one, not even
Jesus, knows when He’ll return, only Father God. Instead, we are told to “stay awake” twice, which
is kind of like a first century way of being woke; saying we need to be prepared and at the ready. We
must keep our hearts and minds on the love of God.

Timothy G Warren writes at the Episcopal Church’s Sermons That Work Blog:

The news media is rife with reports of increased terrorism, nations rising against nations,
and rising religious extremism and intolerance. Political and religious leaders are under
continual scrutiny as reports of indiscretion and malfeasance surface, and crime seems to
be taking over the streets.

In the midst of suffering and despair, the world longs for some cosmic event that will wipe
away all that is wrong in a single stroke.

Apocalyptic predictions in social media and from pulpits are indicative of the fear and
anxiety filling people’s hearts in light of life’s uncertainties; however, the church’s
emphasis on scripture, tradition and reason is the lens through which these signs can be
put into focus and better understood. Part of remaining alert in these times is a
commitment to continual study of scripture in light of historic teachings of the church,
developing critical-thinking skills, and seeking a discerning spirit.

Until Christ’s return, the church is reminded to remain awake as she diligently carries on
the ministry of the Lord. She learns from the past while maintaining a confident faith in
the future, all the time tending to the work of the Kingdom of God today. Now is not the
time to be caught sleeping while the master is away, but to be busy about managing his
affairs. The people of the world may be driven by fear and anxiety, but believers can be
confident that God will strengthen them to the end, so that they may be blameless on the
day of the Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Comment

Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

Joseph Flemmingreply
April 14, 2024 at 5:09 pm

Once again, a great lesson. Speaking truth with the Bible and Science together in harmony, unlike others who create an exaggerated dichotomy, portraying these realms of knowledge about the deeper meanings of the universe as fundamentally opposed. Always great to read a unified approach to nurturing the mind and soul with glimpses into the creator’s mysteries. Bravo 👏

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