by Marty Purvis
"I saw a large ball of fire, with a long tail that descended rapidly from the sky and fell before our incredulous eyes," said teacher Elmer Adan Rivera. Francisco Aguilar Sabillon described it more graphically, "I arrived almost immediately to the site of the explosion � there were enormous flames, and everything was destroyed . . . I fled from the place, frightened." Residents were terrified by this fireball that crashed and broke into a number of red and yellow pieces, igniting a fire that destroyed acres of coffee plants and a main highway on November 22, 1996. What were these people from Western Honduras describing? Was it space debris from an orbiting satellite? Was it a bomb? What caused this explosion and the resulting 165-foot-wide crater? On December 15, scientists confirmed that a meteorite had slammed into a sparsely populated area of Honduras. The fireball, explosion and crater were caused by a meteorite estimated to be 6-10 feet in diameter. (Associated Press, 12/16/96)
In forthcoming issues, this series, called "End-time Harbingers" will report on the ever-increasing scientific data, which indicates to scientists and scholars alike, that planet Earth is coming precariously close to the end of its history. Many people make the mistake of evaluating political, social and geological events by finding Bible texts to support their specific understanding of how prophetic events will occur. For example, an event that stimulated significant apocalyptic interest was the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. More than a dozen authors wrote religious books describing how this invasion and the worldwide response fulfilled Bible prophecy. The passage of time has proved most of these conclusions to be in error. However, the Bible does predict significant political, social and geological events will occur prior to Christ�s second return. So, how do we keep a balanced perspective regarding "signs" of the end? Jesus advised His disciples to take a lesson from the fig tree "Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door." (Matthew 24:32-33) If we use the spiritual discernment God has given us, Christ�s return will not surprise us like a thief in the night. (1 Thessalonians 5:2)
The first few articles in this continuing series will address geological harbingers, each one concentrating on a specific geologic phenomenon. The Old Testament prophet, Joel, when describing what would happen on the Earth before Jesus returns wrote, "I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD." (Joel 2:30,31) The apostle Peter quoted this text after Pentecost (Acts 2). God's purpose for Earth-shattering wonders is to awaken people to consider the gospel and recognize that the end of the world is at hand. For purposes of this and following articles, there are two periods of time that need to be considered. Prior to the casting down of the censer, described in Revelation 8:5, the number of geological catastrophes will continue to increase. As the number of earthquakes, meteorites/asteroids/comet appearances, volcano eruptions, floods, hurricanes, tornados and other disasters continue to escalate, a sense of impending doom permeates each individual�s thoughts. During the last century, the number of these "natural" events have continued to intensify with unparalleled proportions. In addition to natural geologic events, people are also concerned about what will happen in the year 2,000. Some authors have labeled it "millennial fever." Concern about the future and the next millennium prompts people to seek knowledge about the future. Interest in psychics, prophets (both true and false), new age concepts and apparitions, all demonstrate that people have a fear about the future. It may surprise you to learn that God has set these societal concerns in motion and will utilize them to the fullest to ensure that as many people as possible will be ready to hear the end-time message and choose salvation. For example, NBC aired a mini-series last month about an asteroid impacting the Earth which causes devastating results. This is no accident. The media continues to focus on apocalyptic issues because members of the media know the increasing interest people have in catastrophic situations.
The second time period involves the trumpets as described in Revelation 8. When the censer is cast down and the trumpets actually begin, the people of Earth will realize that this is far more that random acts of nature. The global nature of the events, the concise order in which they occur, allows no other alternative but to admit that these events are acts of God. Unlike the increasing number of "natural" events that occur prior to the casting down of the censer, the timing, order, catastrophic and global nature of the trumpet events will compel people to listen to Revelation�s story. Initially, this series of articles will address each type of global event, provide current, relevant scientific information, evaluate the impact on public awareness (as related to Revelation�s story) and, through this process, demonstrate that God is in control. "I know that the LORD is great, that our Lord is greater than all gods. The LORD does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths. He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth; he sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses." (Psalm 135:5-7)
Jesus made a statement to His disciples in Matthew 24:29 "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.�" Think about what the disciples must have thought when He made that statement. Their only exposure to stars falling from the sky perhaps were meteorites that they may have seen on occasion, streaking through the night sky. John, however, provided graphic details in Revelation 8 as he outlined the first three trumpets. He described "hail and fire mixed with blood," "a huge mountain," and "a star, blazing like a torch." With today's scientific knowledge, we can comprehend much more of what Jesus and the apostle John were describing.
The human race has always had an interest in astronomy and the movement of celestial bodies. Many ancient calendars were based on the movements and alignment of stars. In pagan cultures, astrologists used the movements of stars as a basis for their conclusions. In fact, even the Hebrew calendar was based the relationship between the equinoxes and the orbit of the moon. Even though there was much interest in heavenly bodies during Biblical times, it was not until the second century that Ptolemy developed a geometric scheme that predicted the motions of planets. He believed that Earth occupied the center of the universe. Finally, in 1543, Copernicus published his theory that Earth and the other planets revolved around the sun. As you might expect, this created enormous controversy among the authorities at that time. It took more than a century for the ideas proposed by Copernicus to be generally accepted. During this entire time period, no one knew that asteroids even existed. The ancients believed that meteorites were stars that fell from the sky, since they could not see the asteroids. The first asteroid was discovered by Italian astronomer Giuseppe Piazzi in 1801. He named it Ceres and it has a diameter of about 600 miles. Since that discovery, there has been an explosion in scientific knowledge about asteroids. In 1898, the asteroid Eros was discovered and for many years was thought to be Earth�s nearest neighbor � it approaches to within 14 million miles.
With this history in mind, it is not hard to understand why the apostle John described the second trumpet as a huge mountain. His only personal exposure to objects impacting the Earth was watching a "star" (meteorite) fall from the sky. How could we possibly expect him to correlate a small speck of light trailing through the night sky and something as "big as a mountain" being one and the same? What is amazing about John�s description is that it has taken 18 centuries for us to understand what he described in a few short sentences. The remainder of this article will focus on what we know today about asteroids and how it integrates with Revelation�s story.
We are the Target
In ancient days, many theories were proposed about what existed in space. One of the early books written on this subject was written by Lucian of Samosata in second century A.D. His fictional story tells of a man who was blown to the moon by a strong wind and another man that traveled to the moon on the wings of large birds. It was not until the early 1900's that scientists began to understand that the area outside our atmosphere is a vacuum. Until recently, scientists thought that very few objects in outer space intersected with Earth�s orbit and if they did, were not large enough to cause damage. Even though impact craters have been observed on the moon for many centuries, only within the last 100 years have scientists discovered similar craters on Earth.
In the past decade, scientific thought has changed significantly. The consensus of astronomers and geologists alike, is that our planet is in a cosmic shooting gallery of various objects from outer space. While the orbits of planets (and their moons) within our solar system are measurable and consistent, other objects move within our solar system that are either undetected or whose orbits are affected by the gravity of other planets. If objects, such as comets or asteroids impacted Earth, there would be global devastation. Depending on the size of the object, life on Earth as we know it could come to an end. However, God's word reveals in Revelation that the destruction caused by the first three trumpets will not completely destroy the human race.
The impact in Honduras, mentioned at the beginning of this article, is one of several events that have occurred recently. Individuals in the United States have observed two meteors passing through the Earth�s atmosphere. On October 3, 1996, a meteor entered the Earth�s atmosphere near Artesia, New Mexico where it began to break apart and eventually showered the Earth with meteorites as far away as Lubbock, Texas. The largest meteor fragment bounced off the Earth's atmosphere back into space, orbiting the Earth once before landing near Bakersfield, California. Commuters in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. observed another meteor on December 17, 1996. People from McMinnville, Oregon to Canada saw this "fireball" (defined as a meteor that passes through Earth�s atmosphere, but does not strike Earth).
What are the Asteroids?
Asteroids, by definition, are any one of a large number of solid objects in the solar system that orbit the sun. Asteroids are made up of materials similar to the elements found on Earth. The characteristic that distinguishes asteroids and meteorites is not, as most people think, their relative size. Instead, when an interplanetary object enters Earth�s atmosphere, it is called a meteorite. Because asteroids orbit the sun, rather than a planet of the sun, they are sometimes known as "small planets." Objects less than 33 feet in diameter that enter Earth�s atmosphere typically burn up and explode high in the Earth�s atmosphere. However, the objects that concern scientists today are those that are larger than 33 feet, and objects larger than one kilometer are considered to be "civilization threatening."
The majority of asteroids orbit the sun between the planets of Mars and Jupiter and do not pose a significant threat to Earth. The orbits are elliptical, which means that one part of the orbit is closer to the sun than the remaining part. The Amor asteroids intersect the orbit of Mars, the Aten asteroids orbit the sun inside Earth�s orbit and the Trojan asteroids orbit the sun in a similar orbit and speed as Jupiter. However, the asteroids of consequence to Earth are the Apollo asteroids which intersect Earth�s orbit. Ten years ago, scientists believed only 50 asteroids intersected Earth�s orbit. Now, they have determined that asteroids have impacted Earth many times in the past.
Satellite photography has enabled scientists to identify over 100 impact sites even though many of the craters have been masked by erosion or filled by water. Technology has also improved our ability to locate and track asteroids. Since many asteroids have not been located, often we are not aware of how close asteroids are until they have already passed Earth. For example, in the Spring of 1989 asteroid 1989 FC passed our planet inside the orbit of the moon, but scientists did not see it coming.
What do we have to Fear?
Although we can observe previous impacts on Earth, statistically the probability of Earth being impacted by an asteroid is quite small. It is interesting to note, however, that other statistically remote events that happen on Earth today are often called "acts of God." For example, tornados are a common occurrence in the state of Kansas. Even though the probability of losing a home by a tornado is very small, it still happens. Sadly, when this occurs, the results are often attributed to God. An asteroid impact causing global destruction can be compared to the tornado example. The probability of global destruction is remote, from a scientific sense. However, an asteroid impact is one of the few events that can be identified directly from Scripture as an "act of God." When the time is right, God will give planet Earth His warning. The consequences will be so catastrophic that the human race will not be able to ignore it.
On June 30, 1908, an object about 200 feet in diameter exploded in the Siberian atmosphere about three miles above the ground, leveling trees for a 50 mile radius and causing destruction in an 800 square mile area. The energy released from this explosion was estimated to be 20 megatons, which is about the size of a nuclear weapon designed to destroy a large city. A significant amount of dust was left in the upper atmosphere which was observed at night for several weeks after the explosion. Consequences from a larger impact would be even more severe. If an asteroid one kilometer in size hits the ocean, it would cause a tsunami that could wipe out all the port cities in the ocean, not to mention cargo ships and oil tankers in its path. The ecological impact of previous oil spills would pale in comparison to this global destruction. Further, thousands of square miles surrounding an ocean impact site would become anoxic (oxygen deficient) for two reasons. First, the heat generated by the impact would boil the oxygen out of the water. Second, the force from an impact would stir the water, causing warmer, deeper water, which contains less oxygen, to be brought to the surface. This warm, anoxic water would be a perfect breeding ground for red algae. (The prophet John described it as looking like blood.)
The consequences of a land impact are no less significant. An asteroid one kilometer in diameter would cause an explosion and shock wave destroying everything for one hundred miles. At the point of impact, a crater would be formed causing an ejection of material back into the air. The larger-sized material would already be fiery hot and as it fell back to Earth, would set fires across the continent. Consequences are not limited to the continent that takes the hit. The entire world population would be affected by resulting dust ejected into the air. The jet stream would carry the dust around the Earth, blocking sunlight and lowering temperature, thereby, destroying crops around the world. Isn�t it interesting that man�s concern has been limited to "global warming." God�s actions during the trumpets will cause this globe to experience both hotter and colder temperatures than our civilization has ever known.
It is reassuring to know that the Biblical account of this future event demonstrates God's control as He prepares people to hear Revelation�s story. Interest would have remained relatively low regarding asteroid impacts outside the scientific community without physical evidence. However, God gave plenty of physical evidence which immediately heightened the general public�s interest in interplanetary impacts in July 1994. At that time, fragments of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 crashed into Jupiter at a speed of 60 kilometers a second. Interestingly, this astronomical event occurred only four months after the end of the Jubilee calendar. It certainly seems that this is more than just mere coincidence. Researchers have calculated the size of the impact fragments that hit Jupiter to be less than one kilometer in size, which computes to the 1.5 kilometer asteroid striking Earth (at a typical speed of 20 kilometers a second). Impacts of this magnitude are considered to be "civilization threatening." From the scientific perspective: "No longer is the question how often is the Earth struck by objects 1 km or 10 km or more in diameter, but simply when and where will the next one strike . . . and what precise range of physical and environmental consequences may be expected." (Dr. Clark Chapman, The Risk to Civilization from Extraterrestrial Objects and Implications of the Shoemaker-Levy 9 Comet Crash, Abhandlungen der Geologischen Bundeanstalt, Wien, Vol. 53, pp. 51-54, 1996)
What Can we Do?
After the Shoemaker-Levy 9 impact, people suddenly realized there was a significant threat posed by asteroids and many organizations continue to develop ways to reduce the possibility of an asteroid impact. As Christians, there are several points that can enhance our faith if we will consider and accept them. First, God has chosen to reveal information about asteroids and their potential life-threatening consequences right on time. Advanced knowledge about the threat needed to exist before people could understand the eternal consequences. Further, God provided a physical demonstration of the devastation that could occur on Earth by giving us an object lesson on Jupiter. Second, the hearts and minds of Earth�s population are much more receptive to Revelation�s story when they can see the object lesson. For example, if a person living in 1850 had come to the conclusion that trumpets two and three represented asteroid impacts, he or she would probably have been committed to an insane asylum. Even the timing of the next millennium (the year 2,000) presents questions about the future, causing people to consider Revelation's story. Third, now that the human population is aware of the threat, they are taking steps to reduce the potential of an asteroid impact. Scientist are seriously considering ways to identify and divert life-threatening objects so they will not hit Earth. Consequently, within the next two decades, if God does not act, technology will be so far advanced that asteroids will no longer be a threat to people of Earth. These three points converge so convincingly, that I believe it is safe to assume that history is on a collision course with the final acts of God.
The approach man typically takes to resolve problems follows this process. First, the problem has to be identified. Second, the problem has to be of a large enough scope to affect large numbers of people. Third, political entities attempt to address the concern of the people either by highlighting the issue or providing funds to resolve the problem. Fourth, the funds are utilized in an attempt to resolve the problem. The issue of potential future asteroid impacts follows this same approach. In the late 1980�s, several scientific articles were written about the potential hazard of asteroid impact. In fact, Wake Up New Zealand Seminars produced materials regarding this issue as early as 1986, before most of the scientific community had even considered the idea. We continued to share the relationship between asteroid impacts and Revelation�s story in our materials, but our feeble efforts were not enough to stimulate politicians to act. Finally, through the efforts of scientists, such as Clark Chapman and David Morrison, the House of Representatives in the United States Congress issued the following statement. "The chances of the Earth being struck by a large asteroid are extremely small, but since the consequences of such a collision are extremely large, the Committee believes it is only prudent to assess the nature of the threat and prepare to deal with it. We have the technology to detect such asteroids and to prevent their collision with the Earth. The Committee therefore directs that NASA undertake two workshop studies. The first would define a program for dramatically increasing the detection rate of Earth-orbit-crossing asteroids; this study would address the costs, schedule, technology, and equipment required for precise definition of the orbits of such bodies. The second study would define systems and technologies to alter the orbits of such asteroids or to destroy them if they should pose a danger to life on Earth. The Committee recommends international participation in these studies and suggests that they be conducted within a year of the passage of this legislation." (1994 Statement from the House Committee on Science and Technology, Ammendment to House Version of NASA Authorization Bill.)
With that statement, the political objective of "appearing to resolve the problem" was achieved. In response to this the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) issued a report published in 1992 called the "Spaceguard Survey Report." In the report, NASA addressed the hazard of asteroids, methods to detect them and projected costs of about 100 million dollars to implement the program. In 1994, within a week of the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet impact, the House Committee on Science and Technology required that the Department of Defense and NASA to identify and catalogue, within ten years, all asteroids and comets greater than 1 kilometer that cross Earth�s orbit.
Governmental activities concerning asteroids have not been limited to just the United States. On March 20, 1996, the Council of Europe issued an action titled "On the Detection of Asteroids and Comets Potentially Dangerous to Humankind" that addressed their concern about potential asteroid impacts and Near Earth Objects (NEOs) stating:
"The Assembly therefore welcomes various initiatives � i.e. the "Spaceguard Survey" report published by NASA, the creation of the "Working Group on Near-Earth Objects" by the International Astronomical Union, and the recent decision of the NEO community to set up a "Spaceguard Foundation" to coordinate the efforts at an international level � as important steps paving the way towards the development of a worldwide surveillance programme aimed at discovering all potentially-hazardous NEOs and tracking their orbits forward by computer so that any impact could be foreseen some years in advance, allowing preventive actions to be taken as necessary.
"The Assembly invites governments of member states and the European Space Agency (ESA) to urge the setting-up and development of the above-mentioned "Spaceguard Foundation" and to give the necessary support to an international programme which would:
� establish an inventory of NEOs as complete as possible with an emphasis on objects larger than 0.5 km in size;
� further our understanding of the physical nature of NEOs, as well as the assessment of the phenomena associated with a possible impact, at various levels of impactor kinetic energy and composition;
� regularly monitor detected objects over a period of time long enough to enable a sufficiently-accurate computation of their orbits, so that any collision could be predicted well in advance;
� assure the coordination of national initiatives, data collection and dissemination, and the equitable distribution of observatories between northern and southern hemispheres;
� participate in designing small, low-cost satellites for observing NEOs which cannot be detected from the ground, and for investigations which can most effectively be conducted from space;
� contribute to a long-term global strategy for remedies against possible impacts.
While not directly providing funding for the identification and tracking of NEOs, this action by the Council of Europe strongly encourages the member nations to participate in alleviating this perceived risk to civilization."
Governmental entities are not the only organizations concerned about the hazards of NEOs. Scientists on an international basis are also attempting to work together to address ways in which asteroids can be detected and diverted. Scientists from China, Japan, Kazakistan, Ukraine, United States and many other countries have met to examine ways in which the Earth could be defended from asteroid impacts. These meetings initially began in 1992 with the NEO Interception Workshop at Los Alamos, California and continued with meetings in Erice, Italy (1993), Snezhinsk, Russia (1994), Livermore, California (1995), and again in Snezhinsk, September 23-27, 1996. There is a heightened awareness among scientists that NEOs pose a significant threat to the Earth and they continue to focus on ways to detect and eliminate the potential catastrophe of an asteroid impact.
Currently, the scientists are facing a number of unknowns in responding to the threat. First, they do not know how many asteroid's orbits may threaten Earth. Second, they are not confident about the present methods available that could be used to divert an asteroid, even if one is detected. At the last Space Protection of the Earth Conference (SPE-96) in Snezhinsk, a number of presentations were given that presented alternative methods to deflect or destroy incoming asteroids. There are two opposing viewpoints about methods that deal with the threat. Most U.S. scientists support early detection and diversion of asteroids. One scientist, Edward Teller, has gone so far as to propose a space platform to detect and study NEOs. Russian scientists, however, prefer a space based detection system which would provide a four to seven day warning of a potential impact. They further recommended at the conference, the possibility of developing a rocket which would carry a nuclear warhead. This rocket would could be launched into the asteroid, breaking it into small enough pieces that would explode in the upper atmosphere before hitting Earth.
The issue that continued to surface in all of these meetings was that without funding, none of the proposals could be taken beyond a conceptual level. More meetings are scheduled, with the next SPE meeting planned for 1998. While there is increased global awareness in the scientific community, it appears that people will only be moved to act if there is a direct threat to civilization. Revelation 8 indicates that by the time of the first trumpet, man's efforts come too little, too late.
Find Those Rocks!
A number of proposals have been developed for an early warning system for Earth threatening asteroids. Scientists have proposed both Earth-based and Space-based systems to provide early detection. While these ideas have been developed, other systems have already been put in place to identify and track the orbits of asteroids that potentially threaten Earth. Several programs have recently been initiated to observe and track NEOs. "Spacewatch" is a program located at Kitt Peak Observatory near Tucson, Arizona which has been in place since 1989. Its stated goal is to survey the Solar System to completion. It uses a 36 inch reflector telescope combined with a charge coupled device (CCD). This CCD is a digital sensor which is attached to a computer to locate and identify NEOs. Kitt Peak Observatory is associated with the University of Arizona. Professor Tom Gehrels and his staff have located over 126 near-Earth asteroids, as well as five comets. They also discovered one asteroid that approached within 63,000 miles (105,000 km) of Earth in December 1994. This program is being expanded to a site in India, so the night sky can be observed for a longer period each day.
In late 1995, another asteroid tracking program was established on Mt. Haleakala on the island of Maui, Hawaii. The project is called NEAT, an acronym for Near Earth Asteroid Tracking. It uses a 36-inch telescope with a detector which sends readings to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasedena, California for analysis. This telescope, formerly used for tracking satellites, has detected fourteen asteroids whose elliptical orbits cross Earth's orbit. The latest one was discovered on January 10, 1997. This asteroid is an "Aten asteroid" which means its orbit is mostly within Earth's orbit. Scientists estimate that its diameter is approximately 600 feet.
Just one decade ago, only fifty asteroids were known to cross Earth's orbit. Now astronomers have identified over 200 asteroids that cross our orbit and they estimate there are nine times that number that have not been identified or tracked. Once an asteroid is found, they are tracked for a period of time so their orbits can be calculated. In addition, there is always the risk that the gravitational pull of a planet could redirect the path of an asteroid toward Earth at any time.
Most of these programs run on a shoestring budget using older telescopes, since the political environment in the U.S. does not currently support significant expenditures. This mind-set is based on two reasons: First, asteroids impacting the Earth are not perceived as a threat justifying large expenditures. Second, God is in control of the political environment and He also controls the plans of man. He will not allow man's technology to develop before it is time.
Other methods are currently being used to observe asteroids. Of course, telescopes are being used to observe asteroids once they have been located. In addition, radar is also being used to detect and evaluate asteroids. In February 1996, a spacecraft was deployed on a three-year mission to orbit the asteroid named 433 Eros. The focus of this mission is to learn more about the composition of the asteroid. Scientists believe that most asteroids are made up of iron, nickel and silicates. Differences in the physical composition of asteroids are due to different percentages of these elements.
How will People Know?
Political and scientific interest on the subject of asteroid impacts is causing movie and television producers to develop both fictional and nonfictional programs about potential asteroid impacts. Many of you have may have seen the NBC television mini-series titled "Asteroid � The Sky is Falling" which was aired February 16 and 17. While the scientific theory behind the story line may not be accurate, the fact that the program was watched by millions of people certainly heightened their awareness of the asteroid threat. We are also informed of the possibility of a full length movie being developed around the concept of a civilization-threatening asteroid impact.
Awareness will continue to mount as documentary programs continue to air on the subject of asteroid impacts. During the month of February, two television programs were aired: the National Geographic special called "Asteroids: Deadly Impact" which evaluated the impact threat through the eyes of Eugene and Carolyn Shoemaker (of Shoemaker-Levy 9 fame), and the Discovery Channel program titled "Three Minutes to Impact" about the history and hazards of a future asteroid hit. On March 23, TBS (Turner Broadcasting System) will also broadcast a documentary called "Fire from the Sky" which addresses asteroid impacts in light of the Hale-Bopp comet. Can there be any doubt that the public awareness of a potential Earth impact is increasing? God is controlling public awareness and people throughout the world will find out about the trumpets right on time.
A number of theories have been developed to prove that asteroids have previously impacted the Earth. Scientists have observed that there are often "doublet craters" of similar size on the Earth as a result of asteroid impacts. They have also noted similar cratering on the planet of Venus. Several theories have been advanced about the doublet cratering. Images from the Galileo spacecraft in 1994 revealed that Ida, a 35 mile long asteroid in the main asteroid belt, has a one mile satellite orbiting it, called Dactyl. This satellite was probably caused by asteroids impacting each other. Although this may be one theory regarding double craters, it is not the only reason for this phenomenon on Earth, since the craters are typically of similar size and shape. Another potential explanation is that the asteroid broke up when entering the Earth's atmosphere. However, since most craters are usually more that ten miles across, this leads many scientists to believe that the asteroid causing the crater would be too large to break up before hitting the ground. For doublet craters to be created, the asteroids must have been of similar size before hitting the Earth. It is unlikely that an asteroid breaking up as it hurls through Earth's atmosphere would break up in pieces that are the same size. Another theory for binary asteroids, as these co-orbiting asteroids are called, is that they were a single asteroid comprised of loose material. In a previous pass with a planet, the material was pulled apart, similar to the way Jupiter pulled apart comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 before the final impact. Then, an impact occurred on the next orbit of the planet around the sun. Astronomers also believe that some asteroids have been elongated by gravity that is exerted by various planets as the asteroids pass. Bill Bottke of the California Institute of Technology in Pasedena, California suggests that this is what happened to asteroid 1620 Geographos. Asteroid 1620 Geographos is nearly three times as long as it is wide.
Interestingly enough, astronomers and geologists now believe an asteroid impact near the Yucatan peninsula which destroyed the dinosaurs, may also fall into this category. There are some interesting theories related to the Yucatan Peninsula impact. Some scientists now believe that the Yucatan impact was one of several impacts extending in a line off of the East coast of the U.S. into the North Atlantic Ocean. Another explanation is that this was another huge binary impact. Other scientists believe that the chain of impacts was due to the angle the asteroid entered Earth's atmosphere causing it to separate into several pieces before hitting the Earth.
This concept, when integrated with the story of the Genesis flood, resolves some interesting questions. Genesis 7:11 says, ". . . on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened." What caused the springs of the deep to open? Bible students normally do not consider how the flood occurred. Instead, they try to evaluate geological results in light of what happend during the flood. An asteroid impact could be a contributing factor to the Antideluvian's destruction. The explosion from such an impact would destroy life in a wide area surrounding the impact site and fires would be set around the world. The force generated by such an impact would disturb the tectonic plates, causing global earthquakes, opening pathways for water and lava to find their way to the surface. Volcanoes would erupt, belching ash and smoke into the air to combine with the dust raised from the asteroid impact. This dust would darken the Earth and immediately reduce the air temperature. The cooling of the air could possibly have caused the torrential rains which lasted forty days and nights. The Bible says, "As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man." (Matthew 24:37) We have an excellent description of what is going to happen in the first four trumpets. Is it too much to believe that a similar event occurred at the time of the flood?
The Dark Ages
The Discovery Channel program "Three Minutes to Impact" provided another piece of information that should be of great interest to Bible students. Most Christians know about the period of time called "the dark ages." History teaches that during the dark ages, the Roman empire faded as a political force, even though the religious structure that remained, controlled the lives of common people and made life very difficult. Most contemporary scholars prefer to call this period of history, the middle ages, since they do not appreciate the religious overtones that accompany the term "dark ages." Regardless of the attempt by some scholars to alleviate the use of the term, there are a number of reasons why the dark ages are labeled in this manner. Reasons include the surrogacy of the peasant people to their masters, the absolute control exercised by the Roman church and the associated martyrdom during that period. People believe that the powers of darkness (Satan) attempted to control and eliminate true Christianity through the Universal Christian Church of Rome.
However, another reason for the term "dark ages" that I had never heard before was presented on a recent Discovery channel program, which should also be of special interest to students of Bible prophecy. The program revealed that scientists have discovered evidence supporting a meteor impact in Northern Europe in A.D. 538. This impact darkened the skies, causing crop loss and weather changes for eighteen months after the impact. Therefore, the Dark Ages literally started out as the title suggests.
A.D. 538 is an important prophetic date in light of Revelation's story. Revelation 12:1-14:5 describes a story of two beasts. The story begins with Satan trying to kill the baby, Jesus, and extends through His second coming. A key time period in this story is Revelation 12:14, which states, "The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent's reach."
The period of "a time [one year] , times [two years] and half a time [1/2 year] " describes a period of 3 1/2 years or 1260 days (3.5 years times 360 days in a year). Since this period falls within the time frame of the Jubilee Calendar, the 1260 days represent 1260 years of Earth's history. This time period of 1260 years ended when the pope of the Roman Catholic Church was imprisoned by the order of Napoleon in A.D. 1798. In fact, Bible students of that era were predicting that the Catholic Church would fall before 1800 based on this prophecy. If we subtract 1260 years from 1798 we return to A.D. 538. Typically, Bible students who accept this 1260 day time prophecy have used 1798 and subtracted the 1260 years to document the 538 date. However, there has never been a separate event identified that marked A.D. 538 as the beginning of the dark ages. Now, historians and scientists alike have inadvertently confirmed the greatness of God. What better way could God mark the beginning of the dark ages than an asteroid impact which triggered a literal period of darkness at just the right time? (For a more detailed description of the 1260 year period, see The Revelation of Jesus. )
Can there be any question that God is trying to wake up Earth's population to the fact that He is returning SOON? Consider the convergence of the following events.
1. In the last two centuries, mankind has become aware that asteroids exist.
2. In the last decade, mankind has learned that:
The dinosaurs were destroyed by an asteroid impact.
3. Governments are becoming concerned about the asteroid threat.
4. Students of Scripture are coming to the conclusion that Revelation 8 describes asteroid impacts.
5. God has used celestial signs in the past (the flood, the dark ages and the star at the birth of Christ) and will use them in the future (the stars falling, the dark day and the trumpets) to mark dates of import.
5. The media, in both documentary and fictional form, is publicizing the hazards of asteroid impacts.
7. We are rapidly approaching the end of the millennium and people's concern regarding millennial issues and end-time events continues to increase.
8. Technological prowess is such that man will soon have the capabilities to divert asteroid threats from Earth.
It is no mistake that these points are converging at this time. It is important to remember that our Creator is in control and He will act as He has always acted in the past � right on time. God does not require us to exercise our faith without providing us with unquestionable evidence that He is about to act (Amos 3:7). He has set the stage. He directs the world and the inconsequential plans of man. His love for us is great and knows no boundaries. He will go to great lengths to awaken carnal man to his sinful condition and the need for a Savior.
When one considers the mounting evidence, those individuals with spiritual discernment can see very clearly that God is about to make the final call for those who are willing to live by faith. What will you do? Are you going to share your faith in Him with others? Or, has the entire Christian community fallen asleep at the wheel? God will "wake up" Earth's inhabitants, even if He must use governments, politicians, scientists, newspapers, television stations, or movie productions. If necessary, He will make the "rocks cry out" to accomplish His will. May God help each of us as we make decisions that will affect our future and the future of all people around us.