By Leonard Lauriault
Autumn will be upon us next Wednesday and summer will officially be over, although there’s still the likelihood of more hot days and, God willing, more rain. This year, the autumnal equinox will happen at 2:20 a.m. MDT on Sept. 23. Equinoxes happen twice each year and are predictable to the minute, which is pretty neat. Equinox means “equal night” (http://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/equinox-not-equal.html).
So, daylight and darkness will be close to 12 hours each, but not exactly because of the differences in the sun’s position in relation to our position on the earth (actually, we learned long ago that the sun is stationary and it’s the earth that moves). The equinox is based on when the center of the sun crosses the horizon in morning and evening (probably at sea level where the prime meridian crossed the equator). On the other hand, sunrise and sunset are determined by when the sun’s highest point crosses the horizon (the sun’s leading edge in the morning and its trailing edge in the evening). So, we shouldn’t expect day and night to be equal on the equinox in Quay County.
Interestingly, the Jewish Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) also falls on Sept. 23. Like Easter, the date for this religious holiday changes each year because it’s based on the lunar calendar. On this day, obedient Jews become cleansed of their sins before the Lord (in his eyes) (read about that in Leviticus, chapter 16). The sacrifices made on the Day of Atonement didn’t take away their sins, they just weren’t held accountable for them until the next Day of Atonement when the sacrifices were repeated (Hebrews 10:1-4). Under the New Covenant, rather than carrying the burden of our sins until the next Day of Atonement, we’re continually cleansed by Jesus’ blood shed once for all time (Hebrews 9:11-14, 24-28; 1 John 1:5-9). So, every day is a day of atonement for Christians.
As with the equinoxes and the Day of Atonement, God has set a day when Jesus will bring judgment and salvation (we learned that long ago as well, but we don’t know the day or time – Matthew 24:36-39). Some consider the Day of Atonement to represent that day of Jesus’ return (http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0095.htm).
I don’t think that there’s any apocalyptic significance to the autumnal equinox and the Day of Atonement falling on the same day (it’s probably happened before) because that would be a sign of Jesus’ return and he said there would be no such sign (Matthew 24:6-7, 26-31). Actually, until Jesus comes back, things will go pretty much as they have since the beginning with night and day, etc. (Genesis 8:22; 2 Peter 3:8-10). Then, when Jesus does come, he’ll take his people to a place where there’ll be no night (Revelation 21:22-27). Imagine that: Eternal rest in broad daylight with no more fear of things that go bump in the night.
Is your name written in the Book of Life so you can enjoy that eternal day?
Leonard Lauriault is a member of the Church of Christ in Logan. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org