Tonight, North American viewers will see a rare event: a total lunar eclipse, when the moon is four days out from its closest approach, coinciding with the longest night of the year. This is a good time to review the symbolism of the lunar eclipse.
According to NASA, the eclipse should be visible in North American according to this approximate timetable:
- Penumbral Eclipse Begins: 05:29:17 UT
- Partial Eclipse Begins: 06:32:37 UT
- Total Eclipse Begins: 07:40:47 UT
- Greatest Eclipse: 08:16:57 UT
- Total Eclipse Ends: 08:53:08 UT
- Partial Eclipse Ends: 10:01:20 UT
- Penumbral Eclipse Ends: 11:04:31 UT
Here “UT” means “Universal Time” and corresponds to Greenwich Mean Time (London, England, UK). To obtain a rough estimate of the local time of the eclipse, subtract the appropriate time-zone offset. Bear in mind, however, that the exact minute and second will depend on where the observer is located within the time zone. The eclipse will occur “later” in portions of the time zone that are further west.
This is the first total lunar eclipse in three years, and the first such eclipse corresponding to the winter solstice in 372 years (since 21 December 1638).
The Bible mentions celestial events that seem to fit the descriptions of solar and lunar eclipses:
The sun will be turned into darkness,/And the moon into blood,/Before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.
The problem: solar and lunar eclipses must occur at a minimum of 14 days apart. Such paired eclipses are rare, because the moon orbits the earth in a plane different from the plane of the ecliptic, or the orbit of the earth around the sun. The most recent total eclipse of the sun took place on July 11 of this year, and was visible in the South Pacific, not North America.
More to the point, any two total eclipses occurring 14 days apart would have had to be visible from Jerusalem to have true spiritual significance. Jerusalem is the center of Divine attention on earth and is arguably the geographic center of the earth’s land masses (making it the best-located city on earth to build a seat of government). This eclipse is visible primarily to American and Canadian and extreme northern European viewers, not to Israeli viewers, so it cannot have any particular end-times significance.
At best, any total eclipse of sun or moon would give warning to mankind that a much more dire event will come in future. On that occasion, events that might otherwise be mistaken for solar and lunar eclipses might occur on the same day, as might have happened during a fateful Passover, about 1980 years ago.
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