So-Called Doomsday Asteroids
Six days after publishing the article (below), international news outlets broadcasted reports of an asteroid exploding over Russia injuring 1500 people. Three weeks later CNN circulated eye-catching news of two comets – Pan-STARRS and ISON – that will pass by Earth this year (2013). CNN's story was entitled, somewhat sensationally, “Welcome to the year of the comet.” It concludes reassuringly, “Scientists say neither comet poses any threat to Earth ...” The fact of the matter is: scientists are worried about the possibility of a catastrophic hit from an asteroid or comet.
Over the last few decades, geologists and space scientists have catalogued and analyzed 150 craters on the earth. And they've concluded, unanimously, that these were caused by asteroids and meteors colliding with the earth. A couple of the larger craters – as wide as 150 miles – imply that the effects were catastrophic. In 1908 an asteroid exploded over Tunguska, Russia, laying waste 820 square miles of forest. Scientists have no doubt that, sooner or later another strike will happen.
Each year a thousand 'near earth asteroids' are discovered and their orbits are carefully calculated. This year (2013) began with talk of two asteroids, that will pass close by earth. On February 15th 2013, asteroid 2012 DA14 will whizz by in a record-settting close approach. In 2036 we can expect an even larger asteroid, Apophis, to come within 31,300 kilometres – another record setting approach for an asteroid of this size.
Greg Bear notes in a CCN article that scientists know “there's always a possibility we don't have these measurements exactly right. Something could happen at any point in Apophis' orbit to modify its course, just a smidgen. A tiny collision with another object, way out beyond Mars? ... Apophis masses at more than 20 million tons. If it hit Earth, the impact would unleash a blast the equivalent of over a billion tons of TNT... [which] could easily cause billions of deaths and months, if not years, of climate disruption.”
Many God-fearing people take this threat from the sky to be a wake up call, a sign of the end – doomsday if you will. Indeed, the Bible predicts falling stars as one of many signs of the end. (Interestingly, aster the Greek term for star explains how asteroid came into the English language.)
Jesus foretold terrible things in the last days,
And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.”
Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name's sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness. Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name's sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives.
“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, for these are days of vengeance, to fulfil all that is written. Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.” (Luke 21:9-31, bold font added)
The last book of the Bible repeats Christ's warning that "stars will fall from heaven”, as recorded in Matthew 24:29,
The second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood. A third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.
The third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star fell from heaven, blazing like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many people died from the water, because it had been made bitter. (Revelation 8:8-11, bold font added)
It is interesting to see how a famous space scientist, Eugene Shoemaker, described an asteroid. (Shoemaker discovered the famed comet, 'Shoemaker Levy 9,' which exploded into Jupiter in 1994.) The way he described an asteroid entering our atmosphere sounds exactly like John the apostle in Revelation 8:11, “like a great mountain burning with fire.”
Not long after this spectacular collision with Jupiter in 1994, Hollywood capitalized on the unlikely - but real - possibility of a similar hit to Earth. Several movies were produced, including, Deep Impact, which showed the catastrophic scope of an impact to the Atlantic ocean. Almost 20 years have passed, but how many people take this doomsday scenario seriously? Irreligious scientists speak of 'doomsday' caused by asteroids but god-fearing people see deeper meaning.
The Lord revealed to the prophet Ezekiel a vision, at a time when Israel had sunk to a very low level of corruption and wickedness. The vision depicts a messenger putting a mark on those who “sighed and groaned over all the abominations committed...” (Ezekiel 9:4-11) Then a team of executioners killed whoever was unmarked! Many in our generation find this shocking but take a careful look at modern trends and ask yourself if there aren't similarities to Ezekiel's time. Is it not true that today, godly people are a minority and they are sighing and groaning over plummeting moral values, drug addiction, rampant pornography and 55 million unborn babies aborted in America? Surely we can expect a day of reckoning. Will God restrain his wrath indefinitely? Is he blind to the unbelievable bloodshed in Muslim nations, not only Muslims killed at the hands of fellow Muslims, but also the horrific persecution and martyrdom of Christians?
A day of judgement is coming even if many modern preachers don't speak about it. Notice how often the words judgement and wrath are mentioned in the book of Revelation, especially the last 18 chapters. Consider this also; Revelation gives several reasons why God unleashes his wrath on the world but one is highlighted - avenging the blood of his martyrs. (Revelation 6:10-17)
God will surely judge evil but we also know he is merciful and compassionate. He loved the world so much that he gave his only Son to die in our place that those who believe in him may have eternal life. (John 3:16) Notice also that Christ concluded his teaching about catastrophic end-times, “straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:28) This statement is like a beacon of hope in the midst of a dark storm.
What do you think is the most common redemptive image in the writings of the prophets? If your answer was, “sacrificial lamb,” you are correct. You may recall two stories involving a lamb that are indelibly etched in the mind of the Jewish people: Abraham's sacrificial test where he prophesied, “God will provide for himself the lamb.” (Genesis 22:8) Not only so, a lamb is prominently featured in the epic rescue from Egypt. The Passover Lamb was slaughtered to redeem/rescue the Israelites out of slavery. Then God instructed them to commemorate this momentous rescue by sacrificing a Passover Lamb every year.
Finally, in the last book of the Bible, where John saw a vision of the end times, the title Lamb is mentioned nineteen times. Why do you think Christ was given this title? Revelation chapter 5 says that he was slain like a lamb to redeem men from every nation. Such an accolade is fitting for heaven's hero figure, the Messiah, of whom it was prophesied “you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6)
Revelation 7:9-10 tells us that when the Lamb of God finished his work of bringing salvation to the whole earth he was given the highest honor,
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” We also read in Philippians 2:9-11, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father."
If you want to discuss these themes please email your questions or comments to me.
All Bible quotes are taken from the English Standard Version.
1. Greg Bear's article (*), originally published by CNN was deemed important enough to also post it on The Muslim Times (*). Interestingly, according to Muslim Ahadith, one of the signs of Qiyamah/doomsday is that, “rocks will fall from the sky.” (Tirmidhi)
2. The falling star, Wormwood, has an interesting connection with poisonous drinking water. Researchers say that if an asteroid were to hit land it would severely impact tectonic plates and trigger massive earthquakes which in turn would affect drinking water. Septic systems would break and toxic waste from landfills would leach into underground rivers, ultimately poisoning drinking water for millions of people. The name Wormwood is, indeed, meaningful. But there are other reasons to consider, not the least of which are the words of the prophet Jeremiah,
And the Lord says: “Because they have forsaken my law that I set before them, and have not obeyed my voice or walked in accord with it, but have stubbornly followed their own hearts and have gone after the Baals, as their fathers taught them. Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will feed this people with bitter food [literally wormwood], and give them poisonous water to drink.” (Jeremiah 9:13-15)
Appendix: Death, Doomsday and Hope
There's no doubt: we are living in the end times. As prophesied, we see many catastrophes and calamities, but we have hope because Jesus said, “stand up and raise your heads because your redemption is drawing near.” Yet 'redemption' is not a familiar topic of everyday conversation. Why did Jesus use 'redemption' when he could have used more familiar synonyms such as 'rescue' or 'deliverance'?
We have already considered this question briefly in light of the epic stories of Abraham and Moses where a sheep/lamb was sacrificed in place of a son. Now let us consider redemption in light of several other Scriptures, i.e. Ecclesiastes, Psalms and Job.
Solomon, a man endowed by God with much wisdom, said, “God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) The psalmist also pondered this theme. He posed a riddle in which he described death as an insurmountable barrier blocking us from reaching our desired destination, i.e. being at home with God and forever gazing on his beauty. How we wish to hurdle this barrier, but no ransom or payment is enough.
The psalmist concluded his sober meditation on death with a confident statement, “But as for me, God will redeem my life. He will snatch me from the power of the grave.” (Psalm 49:15) These hope-filled words call to mind the words of Job as he faced a bleak and perilous circumstance, “But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives ... And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God ... I am overwhelmed at the thought.” (Job 19:25-27)
Each of us will be buried. We will face a doomsday, so to speak, where no man can help us or provide a ransom. God is our only hope of redemption. This is what Jesus had in mind when he declared, “stand up and raise your heads because your redemption is drawing near.”
Each of us as individuals will come to an end of life, so also the world has its doomsday. Bear in mind 2 Peter 3:10-13 along with predictions of unprecedented catastrophes near the end. Scripture makes this clear in three different passages: Jeremiah 30:7, “In all history there has never been such a time of terror.” Daniel 12:1, “Then there will be a time of anguish greater than any since nations came into existence.” Matthew 24:21, “For there will be greater anguish than at any time since the world began.”
Followers of Islam, the world's second largest religion, view the prophet 'Isa (Jesus) as a powerful Messianic rescue figure who will come from heaven in the end times. Therefore it is possible for Muslims to interpret Christ's hope-inspiring words literally, “raise your heads.” However, they don't know the real meaning of redemption and this is critical. Interestingly, Muslims do not acknowledge the name Redeemer among the 99 beautiful names of Allah. If you want to explore this theme in more detail let me encourage you to read, Timeless Truth Encrypted in Ancient Wisdom.