Halley’s Comet, the Jupiter Effect, and Blood Moons

As I’ve written in two previous articles about the upcoming Blood Moons in 2014/2015, (here and here), there are a number of Christian writers who claim that they will signal some type of end-time prophetic event. These types of speculations have a long and anti-climatic history.

On December 31, 1979, Chuck Smith, the late senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, California, told those who had gathered that the “rapture” would take place before the end of 1981, seven years before the 1988 endpoint of the 40 year generation that began when Israel was reconstituted as a nation in 1948.

Smith claimed that because of ozone depletion the image depicting a scorching sun in Revelation 16:8 would be fulfilled during the post “rapture” tribulation period: “And the fourth angel poured out his bowl upon the sun; and it was given to it to scorch men with fire.”

In addition, Halley’s Comet would pass near earth in 1986 and would wreak havoc on those left behind as debris from its million-mile-long tail pummeled the planet. Here’s how Smith explained the prophetic scenario in his book Future Survival which is nearly identical to what appears on the taped message:

“The Lord said that towards the end of the Tribulation period the sun would scorch men who dwell upon the face of the earth (Rev. 16). The year 1986 would fit just about right! We’re getting close to the Tribulation and the return of Christ in glory. All the pieces of the puzzle are coming together.1

Nothing prophetically significant happened in 1986 related to Halley’s Comet, and there is no reason why it should have since it’s been a predictable phenomenon for more than two millennia as it makes its way around the sun every 75 to 76 years.

There was another astronomical event that caught the attention of scientists, prophecy writers, and even Isaac Asimov who wrote the Foreword to the 1974 book The Jupiter Effect: The Planets as Triggers of Devastating Earthquakes. The following is from a 1997 lecture by Damian Thompson, author of The End of Time: Faith and Fear in the Shadow of the Millennium:

“Back in 1982, there was terrific excitement in New Age circles at the approach of something called the ‘Jupiter Effect,’ an alignment of the planets which a couple of maverick scientists predicted would slow down the earth’s rotation, leading to an earthquake which would destroy Los Angeles. Leading fundamentalists might be expected to scoff at this; instead, they jumped straight on the bandwagon. Hal Lindsey, author of The Late, Great Planet Earth, wrote that ‘what we can expect in 1982 is the largest outbreak of killer quakes ever seen in the history of planet earth along with radical changes in climate.’2 Not to be outdone, Pat Robertson suggested that the chaos caused by the Jupiter Effect might prove the perfect cover for a Soviet strike against the US. But this prospect did not worry the Southwestern Radio Church: it suggested that the Rapture might occur just before the planetary alignment, that the earth would be righted on its axis, and that pre-Flood conditions would be restored.”3

As we now know (and should have known then) there was no Jupiter Effect on March 10, 1982.

John R. Gribben, one of the authors of the best-selling Jupiter Effect, admitted in his 1999 book The Little Book of Science that he was sorry he “ever had anything to do with it.”

But the people who get caught up in the latest end-time speculative story either have short memories of past predictions or no knowledge at all.

Without having all the facts or a worksheet of past failed prophetic claims, it’s not hard to convince the uninformed who are easily persuaded by some silver-tongued orator who claims to have some clear eye into the future based on special knowledge.

So the next time someone mentions the upcoming Blood Moons, ask them about the predictions prophecy pundits wrote about Halley’s comet in 1986 and the non-Jupiter Effect of 1982.

  1. Chuck Smith, Future Survival (Costa Mesa, CA: The Word for Today, [1978] 1980), 21. []
  2. Also see Hal Lindsey, The 1980’s: Countdown to Armageddon (King of Prussia, PA: Westgate Press, 1980), 30-31. []
  3. Quoted in Charles Cameron, “Overdetermined and Underestimated,” The Arlington Institute: Project Y2K (July 5, 1999). []
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