“God put the sun, moon, and stars in the heavens as signs for all of creation to understand His will.”
The recent solar eclipse in America and the four lunar eclipses of 2014-2015 led many to seek for the Biblical importance of these remarkable celestial events. One famous television pastor wrote a best-selling book about the role of the lunar eclipses in God’s prophetic plans. Some Bible prophecy teachers argue that the sun, moon and stars are given by God to warn of major events in the history of the world.
This claim is based on Genesis 1:14, “And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:” Since God put the celestial bodies in the sky as signs we should be paying attention when something unique happens in the heavens. God might be trying to tell us of an important event that is about to happen.
Genesis 1:14 does not say God uses the celestial bodies to warn of future events. Just like in English the Hebrew word for sign has multiple meanings. The correct definition is determined by the rest of the sentence or paragraph. Genesis 1:14 says God put the things in the sky for four reasons: for signs, for seasons, for days and for years. The last three purposes are related to telling the time. The sun, moon and stars mark out the changing of the four seasons. The rising and setting of the sun marks out the days. The revolutions of the sun and the stars in the sky mark out the passing of the years. They are signs related to the passing of time not to omens and portents.
In the Pentateuch, the five books written by Moses, a sign is a mark, token or memorial of something. The miracles accomplished by God when He brought Israel out of Egypt were signs. They were tokens of the great power of God that confirmed His promise to the Israelites that He would deliver them. The law of God was given to Israel as a sign reminding them they were the covenant people of God. The rest of the Old Testament uses signs predominantly as a reminder of something that happened or as confirmation a promised event is going to happen. When God promised to heal King Hezekiah He gave to Hezekiah a sign that confirmed what God had promised would happen.
In the Old Testament a sign is always connected to a specific promise or event. A sign is never a vague portent of impending doom. An eclipse does not promise anything specific, nor can a single eclipse be connected to a definite promise of God. The signs of the Old Testament were attached to specific events or promises. The sun, moon and stars do not forebode the future. They are tokens of God’s faithfulness, continual reminders that He is Creator and unfailing memorials to His glory.