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There is a point in the future when the earth will be devastated by objects from space. I have used the rather generic phrase “cosmic disturbance” as a label for that event. There is evidence in Scripture and elsewhere that cosmic disturbances have occurred in the past, but in this brief article, we’ll only examine the future event the Bible describes very clearly.
Asteroids and Meteorites
We are familiar with the planets in our solar system that revolve around the sun and many of us are also familiar with the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Asteroids in orbit move in the same direction as the planets. In size, asteroids may be microscopic and detectable only with sensitive equipment, or they may be as large as Ceres, the largest known asteroid at 623 miles in diameter.
There are two other groups of asteroids with entirely different orbits. The Amor asteroids are in an orbit which regularly brings them near the earth’s orbit. The Apollo asteroids form another group, possibly more significant to us than the others. Their orbit actually crosses the earth’s, so they are an excellent source of meteorites, which means they can enter the atmosphere and strike the earth.
If a large meteorite impacted on land, it would make a crater about ten times its diameter in size and eject about twice as much debris into the atmosphere as the meteorite contained. A dust cloud from the impact would darken the sky. A meteorite six miles in diameter could cause total darkness for up to a year. With total darkness of just a few months, temperatures on the surface would be below freezing and snowfalls of ten to twenty feet could result. If smaller bodies impacted instead of a single large one, they could start immense fires and smoke would darken the skies.
If a major body hit in an ocean, it would throw much more material into the atmosphere (salt steam, pulverized and melted rock). It also would create tsunamis that would flood entire coastal areas.
Any major meteorite would cause chemical changes in the atmosphere. The one that exploded over Siberia in 1908 produced nitrous oxides that destroyed portions of the ozone layer. Even a small asteroid would form nitric acid, which would rain down on the oceans, poisoning the water and killing marine life near the surface. The extent of the damage would depend on such factors as the meteorite’s speed and distance traveled in the atmosphere.
With this basic knowledge of asteroids and meteorites, we can better understand what will happen immediately after the time of great distress, or the Great Tribulation.
The End Times
After Jesus described the events of the Great Tribulation, he described what I’m calling a cosmic disturbance. “Immediately after the distress of those days ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken’” (Matt. 24:29, NIV). The “falling stars” probably are meteors and a cloud of dust could darken the sun and moon, either cosmic dust accompanying the meteors or ejected into the air by meteorite impacts.
There is a curious phrase at the end of that verse: “the heavenly bodies will be shaken.” The Greek text literally says “the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” The key words are power (dynamis; power, especially inherent power), heavens (anything above the earth’s surface, such as the atmosphere, sky, or God’s dwelling) and shake (agitate, physical shaking; being insecure or unsettled).
Because the cosmic disturbance occurs between the Great Tribulation with Satan in control of the earth and the Day of the Lord when Jesus assumes control of the earth, and due to the description of heavenly bodies or powers being shaken, it seems likely this event actually is the transition between spiritual kingdoms. Satan is about to lose control of his kingdom — it becomes Jesus’ possession — including the physical universe and the lower spiritual realm, where Satan is lord or prince. His control over these areas will definitely be shaken; permanently broken. Therefore, we could interpret the verse figuratively.
It’s also possible to interpret the verse literally, by allowing “the powers of the heavens” to refer to the laws of creation, those inherent abilities possessed by an object in the universe. Specifically, we are aware of four basic powers in the universe: gravity, electromagnetism, strong and weak nuclear forces. It would be possible for any or all of these forces to lose their effect in the presence of a stronger force, such as the power of Jesus’ presence.
In particular, we know the power of death will lose its control over the dead in Christ when he resurrects them, and the power of gravity will no longer hold them to the earth when they rise to meet the Lord in the air (1 Cor. 15:52 1 Thess. 4:16-17). The power that binds us to our physical bodies won’t prevent us from changing to eternal bodies (1 Cor. 15:51, 53).
So, what will happen during this disturbance? There will be wonders in the heavens and on earth, including fire, smoke and blood, which might include lava flows (“blood”) from volcanic eruptions (Joel 2:30; Acts 2:19). The earth will be shaken and even moved from its orbit, likely due to an impact from a large meteorite (Isa. 2:19; 13:13). The “stars” (meteorites) will fall to earth, and the sun and moon will be darkened, likely from a dust cloud created by meteorite impacts or by cosmic dust accompanying them (Matt. 24:29). The sea will be roaring and tossing, and people will faint from terror (Luke 21:25-26).
Some people, while reading these Scriptures, might conclude these are the result of God pouring his wrath on the earth; but that happens later, after Jesus removes his people from the earth. Consider instead, the transition between kingdoms, as suggested earlier.
God gave physical creation to Adam and Eve as their domain to govern, but Satan gained control when he enticed them to disobey God and he (Satan) became the prince or ruler of this world (John 12:31). Since then, all of creation has been groaning in bondage to decay (Rom. 8:20-22), so the physical universe is strongly affected by whoever rules it. While he was on earth, Jesus (the Creator, John 1:2-3) exercised authority over creation – storms, waves, demons, illnesses and diseases – and said his followers would do the same and even greater things (John 14:12). Jesus defeated Satan when he died for humanity’s sin, and regained total authority over creation. Currently, God is working through his sons and daughters in the midst of Satan’s kingdom. But Jesus will return to take complete control of creation, making it part of his kingdom, and his first act will be to remove his family before the world receives God’s wrath.
Because creation is strongly affected by who rules over it, it seems likely it will react strongly to Jesus destroying Satan’s kingdom and “cleaning house” when he legally and officially retakes control. That spiritual event will be experienced in the physical realm as the cosmic disturbance.
Bible prophecy describes a period of widespread devastation after “the beginning of birth pains” and “the great tribulation”, in the opening moments of the “day of the Lord.” Historic biblical accounts include similar descriptions of sun darkening, meteorite storms, oceans roaring, tidal waves and cosmic fire.