Writings by Cole Huffman

The Sun Comes Back

It rained on our First Evan staff eclipse party. We had the right NASA-approved glasses. We had geographic proximity to the line of totality. But at 1:22 pm on August 21 at 735 Ridge Lake Boulevard, dark clouds obscured peak viewing. About an hour later the rainclouds departed. By then all that remained for viewing was the sun and moon doing their impersonation of Pac-Man.

It took me back in memory to my only visit to Mt. Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota. There with two of my daughters, we found the presidents in a complete fog. Low clouds allowed hazy views at best. Occasionally someone would shout, “They’re out!” and everyone ran to see but it was never a great view.

I experienced a solar eclipse in 1999 in St. Gallen, Switzerland. My brother-in-law and I had a Swiss layover on our way home from a teaching trip to Kenya. Europe was the path of totality that summer. Our day in the Old World happily coincided with it.

But the most recent eclipse was a bummer from where I stood in Memphis. How disappointing if I were an eclipse enthusiast. A news report I watched the night before featured a local man who “waited his whole life” to see the sun and moon and earth align on August 21. I hope he had a better view than I did.

How disappointing if I pinned eschatological significance to the eclipse. I want to see Jesus return as much as anyone, but solar eclipses are not themselves “the sign of the Son of Man” in the heavens (Matt. 24:29-35). An eclipse is actually more like an antichrist sign, in effect. Not that an eclipse signals his emergence, but in 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul previews a figure he calls “the lawless one,” a person of power and global influence who figures prominently into the judgment events that comprise the Day of the Lord.

Different labels in Scripture are used to describe this lawless one. John called him “antichrist.” In Daniel he’s the “little horn.” In Revelation: “the beast.” The lawless one attempts to eclipse Jesus and for a time take for himself the glory that is due God alone.

The word eclipse is taken from a Greek word that means “abandonment” because it feels like the sun has abandoned the sky. But even in a total solar eclipse the moon doesn’t block out all of the sun. The sun’s corona (also from a Greek word—“crown”) is still viewable. So it will be with the lawless one Paul writes about in 2 Thessalonians 2. He positions himself in eclipse of Christ and casts his shadow over the whole world for the duration of the Day of the Lord. But it will not be a “path of totality” completely. God the Son still retains his crown. All will see it. The eclipse even makes that crown more luminous.

“Lawless” is a character description of persons individually and collectively (culture). It doesn’t have to look menacing. C. S. Lewis wrote about the worst evils being perpetrated by those with smooth chins and clean fingernails working in well-lighted offices, people who don’t need to raise their voices. In 1934, a U.S. delegate to the Baptist World Alliance Congress, held in Berlin, Germany, reported what he found under the regime of a man named Adolf Hitler:

“It was a great relief to be in a country where salacious sex literature cannot be sold; where putrid motion pictures and gangster films cannot be shown. The new Germany has burned great masses of corrupting books and magazines.”

The Baptist delegate went on to defend Hitler as a leader who did not smoke or drink. He wanted women to dress modestly and opposed pornography. What a guy, that Hitler!

The world is a cauldron right now for many reasons. One being how right everyone considers his/her own cause to be. White nationalists are convinced they’re right as much as Antifa activists are convinced they are. We live in an era of constant moral indignation. As a recent Christianity Today editorial put it,

“It isn’t that conservatives and liberals have shrugged off transcendent ideas of right and wrong. Rather, they each appeal to a different transcendent moral foundation. We are not in an era of moral relativism but moral pluralism.”

The man of lawlessness will capitalize on that somehow and offer solutions everyone considers sane. But his eclipse will not be quite the path of totality Satan wants it to be. On the day of the eclipse in 1999, I bought a USA Today in Zurich. The path of totality dominated the front page. The feature article quoted Jacqueline Mitton, a member of Britain’s Royal Astronomical Society. She called the eclipse “the magical moment many of us have been anticipating for decades.” The article concluded with her words:

 “You want the magic of the moment to last as long as possible… and even though you know it [the sun] will come back, there is this concern in the back of people’s minds that it might not. I’m sure it will be jolly good to see the sun return.”

Indeed it will, Jacqueline. We don’t pin eschatological hopes to eclipses. But we do want to see the Son return. Come, Lord Jesus.

Posted by Cole Huffman at 3:06 PM
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