In September 2021, many people went into a frenzy when the United States Postal Service announced that their mail delivery service would become permanently slower. This new phenomenon is called Pre-Parcel Anxiety. “We live in a society where we build expectations and uphold perfectionism. We want things here and now. We want efficiency and struggle with patience,” psychotherapist Owen O’Kane explains.

Today, we’re seeing what I’m calling Pre-Trib Anxiety. The world is in such a mess that anticipation of the always-imminent rapture is making people anxious. Where is it? It should have been here by now. Why is there a delay? This anxiety is being treated (if I can use that word) by prophecy prognosticators assuring Christians that the rapture is right around the corner. We are closer today than we’ve ever been. How long have we heard that claim? Seeing an eclipse or a blood moon is thought to be an email from God that your rapture parcel is on its way.

With the Solar Eclipse on April 8, 2024, I’ve been asked to deal with claims that it’s an imminent warning for upcoming prophetic events. Are Christians being duped again, like when in 1970 Hal Lindsey strongly intimated that the so-called rapture would take place before 1988 in his book The Late Great Planet Earth and when Edgar Whisenant claimed the same for September 1988 in his booklet Why the Rapture Will be in 1988?

Then there was Harold Camping of Family Radio who was notorious for issuing a succession of failed predictions of dates for the end times. Camping first predicted that Judgment Day would occur on or about September 6, 1994. When it failed to occur, he revised the date to September 29 and then to October 2. In 2005, he predicted the Second Coming of Christ would occur on May 21, 2011, when the saved would be taken up to heaven in the rapture, and that “there would follow five months of fire, brimstone and plagues on Earth, with millions of people dying each day, culminating on October 21, 2011, with the final destruction of the world.”[1]

What’s different today with claims that solar and lunar eclipses and so-called blood moons are signs that the “rapture” is around the corner? Not much. It’s been done to death as any history on the subject will show. American Vision has published Frank Gumerlock’s The Day and the Hour which is an encyclopedic study of false end-times speculations.

The Day and the Hour

The Day and the Hour

Throughout Christian history, bizarre fringe groups and well-meaning saints alike have been fully convinced that events in their lifetime were fulfilling Bible prophecy. In The Day and The Hour, Gumerlock spans two thousand years of conjecture on the last days, disclosing the dreams and delusions of those who believed that their sect was the 144,000 of Revelation 7; that the 1290 days of Daniel 12 had expired in their generation; that the "Man of Sin" of II Thessalonians 2 was reigning in their time; that a Rapture of the saints, a Great Tribulation, a Battle of Armageddon were just around the corner; or that a Millennial Kingdom was about to dawn.

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People have short memories or no knowledge of such foolishness. There are consequences to such foolishness in the name of “Bible prophecy.” Camping’s prediction for May 21, 2011, prompted ridicule from atheist organizations and rebuttals from Christian organizations.

In what I’m seeing and reading, there is general ignorance among Christians when it comes to Bible prophecy that fall into two categories. First, there is the “you’ve heard it said” category. Popular prophecy writers are trusted authorities on prophetic matters. These people have a very large audience. Their prognostications are shared around the internet without much skepticism.

Second, the most popular prophecy system that predicts the so-called rapture of the church today feeds this sensationalism. Seeing the sun go dark (which did not and will not happen) and the moon turning to blood (which did not and will not happen) are used as supposed physical confirming signs that millions of Christians have been taught that verify the end times. Additionally, the “signs of the times” seem to fit current world conditions. 

In the end, it all comes down to what the Bible says. I realize that everyone who writes on the topic says this, but I suspect that many in the imbibing prophetic public have rarely taken the time to put what they read and hear to the test even though the Bible commands us to “test” or “examine everything carefully; hold fast to what is good” (1 Thess. 5:21). John writes something similar, “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). Even the most authoritative Christian is not exempt as the Bereans show us: “Now these were more noble minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). The Bereans tested Paul and examined him carefully, and he didn’t object. He welcomed these students of the Scriptures.

So much of prophetic speculation today is wrapped up in the idea of presumed unfilled prophecy related to national Israel. This is a huge interpretive mistake. 

Prophecy writers with a futurist bent can’t seem to grasp the significance of the New Covenant. Like the Judaizers, they want to keep some remnant of the Old Covenant alive. Israel becoming a nation again in 1948 is said to be prophetically significant. Within 40 years of that date, the end times would manifest themselves. When 1988 came and went, the prophetic goal posts were moved. Nineteen sixty-seven became the new starting date. But that took us to 2007, and we are now 17 years beyond that date. The starting date and the length of a generation are repetitively elastic. People like Henry Morris and Tim LaHaye said 1917 was the starting date. LaHaye eventually abandoned this view, and Morris’ calculation faded when the last surviving soldier from the First World War died. For example, Morris argued that “this generation” in Matthew 24:34 was a reference to World War I: “That is, the generation which sees all these signs (probably starting with World War I) shall not have completely passed away until all these things have taken place.”

The claim is that some redemptive elements from the Old Covenant related to Israel remain to be fulfilled. The temple must be rebuilt. The priesthood must be reestablished. The breeding of modern-day red heifers is said to be a prophetic sign related to unfulfilled Bible prophecy even though the book of Hebrews refutes such a belief.

The commands concerning the red heifer were a foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Christ for our sins. Jesus was “without blemish,” just as the red heifer was to be. As the heifer was sacrificed “outside the camp” (Num. 19:3), Jesus was crucified outside of Jerusalem (Heb. 13:11-12). And, just as the ashes of the red heifer cleansed people from the contamination of death, so the sacrifice of Christ saves us from the penalty and corruption of death.

Christians supporting the reinstitution of these OC practices in the name of God fulfilling unfulfilled promises made to Israel borders on the absurd. It is ridiculous and contrary to everything we find in the New Testament.

Wars and Rumors of Wars

Wars and Rumors of Wars

A first-century interpretation of the Olivet Discourse was once common in commentaries and narrative-style books that describe the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. There is also a history of skeptics who turn to Bible prophecy and claim Jesus was wrong about the timing of His coming at “the end of the age” and the signs associated with it. A mountain of scholarship shows that the prophecy given by Jesus was fulfilled in exacting detail when He said it would: before the generation of those to whom He was speaking passed away.

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So-called blood moons and eclipses become important end-time signs even though they have been common and predictable events throughout the centuries. We always know when and where they will appear. The darkening of the sun and moon and falling stars were common sign indicators for the fall of nations, for example, OT Babylon.

For the stars of heaven and their constellations
Will not flash their light;
The sun will be dark when it rises
And the moon will not shed its light (Isa. 13:10).

And Old Testament Egypt: 

“And when I extinguish you,
I will cover the heavens and darken their stars;
I will cover the sun with a cloud
And the moon will not give its light.

“All the shining lights in the heavens
I will darken over you
And will set darkness on your land,”
Declares the Lord GOD.

“I will also trouble the hearts of many peoples when I bring your destruction among the nations, into lands which you have not known. And I will make many peoples appalled at you, and their kings will be horribly afraid of you when I brandish My sword before them; and they will tremble again and again, every person for his own life, on the day of your fall” (Ezek. 32:7-10).

Nothing physically happened to the sun, moon, and stars when God judged Babylon and Egypt. Jesus used language from the OT and applied it to first-century Jerusalem (Matt. 24:31), the “this generation” of Matthew 24:34. What Jesus quoted from the OT in Matthew 24:31 didn’t have anything to do with eclipses or moons that looked red.

The April 8th solar eclipse has prophecy speculators speculating for the umpteenth time that the end or the rapture must be near. It’s a shame that so many Christians are taken in by the prophetic hype. It’s all because too many Christians are still living in the shadow of the Old Covenant.

To be continued…

For further study, see the following books:

The Hope of Israel and the Nations

Matthew 24 Fulfilled

Matthew 23-25

The Destruction of Jerusalem

The Great Tribulation

Is Jesus Coming Soon?

[1] Elizabeth Tenety, “May 21, 2011: Harold Camping Says the End is Near,” Washington Post (January 3, 2011).