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  • Writer's pictureMatt Garris

The Sign of Jonah

“A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” (Matthew 16:4, New King James Version)

When the Pharisees and Sadducees tested Jesus by asking for a sign from heaven, He responded by saying they would be given the sign of Jonah. His response is interesting, and immediately raises a few questions. First, why did the Pharisees and Sadducees ask for a sign from heaven? The Scripture said they were testing Jesus, but was it biblical to ask for a sign from heaven? We can find some answers in Genesis 1:8, where God created a firmament above the Earth which He called “Heaven,” and in Genesis 1:14, where God created the sun, moon, and stars “for signs.” Genesis 1 is clear that God placed the sun, moon, and stars to be signs from heaven.

Second, were the Pharisees and Sadducees were the only “wicked and adulterous generation” that would receive the sign of Jonah? Jesus said a generation, not specifically this generation, and there have certainly been other wicked and adulterous generations since that of Jesus’ contemporaries. Perhaps this will be easier to answer alongside a third question Jesus’ response raises, what is the sign of Jonah? There are three potential answers to this question. The most common answer is the one Jesus explains in Matthew 12:40, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” A second answer is that Jonah himself was the sign (Luke 11:30). However, the third answer, while not explicitly stated in Scripture, is that the sign of Jonah is an eclipse. It is plausible based on astronomical and historical evidence that Jonah entered Nineveh on or shortly after June 15, 763 BCE, when the Bur-Sagale total eclipse passed overhead. Some suggest that the common belief in the East, including those in Jesus’ audience, is that a total eclipse is the sign of Jonah. Furthermore, an eclipse is a sign from the heavens, and the darkness over the land from the sixth to the ninth hour during Jesus’ crucifixion (Matthew 27:45), while not technically an eclipse, would likely have been interpreted as a sign from heaven. 

Perhaps the most important question is, so what? What if an eclipse was the sign of Jonah? Is this really a relevant issue for believers in the 21st century? I suggest that it is extremely relevant at this present moment, and applies far more to the modern church than most Christians probably imagine. On April 8, 2024, the United States will experience its second nationwide solar eclipse in seven years. While these are rare astronomical phenomena and cool to watch, we must remember that God gave us the sun and moon “for signs.” As long as we still have a sky, God is still speaking through it. What is He saying and why does it matter? Are we one of those wicked and adulterous generations that gets this sign? Here’s some more background information.

This eclipse is the second one this century that crosses the entirety of the United States. That suggests that whatever God is saying is for the United States. Typically, when you hear about the sun, it refers to the worldly system. Think of all the pagan sun worshippers or all the times when Solomon says “under the sun” in Ecclesiastes to indicate how the world works. When you hear about the moon, it refers to God’s people. For instance, think about how the Jews use a lunar calendar when the rest of the world uses a solar calendar. But a solar eclipse is a rare moment when they are seen together. I believe that is the Lord speaking to His people in the world, and about their relationship with the world. In this case, I believe the eclipse is a sign for the American church, and has some important information for us. So let’s get into the Word!

God had me reading and re-reading the book of Jonah for several months before I even realized the eclipse was coming. I believe He was preparing me to be one who has eyes to see and ears to hear what He is speaking through this sign. Of course, I’m not infallible, so you should read and study for yourself, but here’s what I see. When people think of Jonah, they think of the big fish that swallowed him. While that is important to the story, we need to look at the part where Jonah got to Nineveh to understand its relevance for the American church in this season. There are four characters here to examine: God, Jonah, the people of Nineveh, and the king of Nineveh. I believe they represent God, the American church, unsaved America, and President Biden.

In the beginning, God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach against it, but Jonah goes the opposite direction. He started in Israel, and instead of going east toward Nineveh, which is in Iraq, he went west toward Tarshish, which likely became Carthage, in modern Tunisia. Interestingly, in most Bible accounts, people move west when walking with God and east through disobedience, but Jonah’s biblical compass seems to work in the opposite direction (no time for that today). Why did Jonah disobey? It doesn’t seem to be fear of the Ninevites, as many have speculated. He explains in Jonah 4:2 that He didn’t want to go to Nineveh because he knew that God would be merciful to the Ninevites. Much like the prodigal son’s older brother who thought his brother was just getting what he deserved, Jonah believed that the Ninevites deserved the destruction that God would pour out on them. He did not want to warn them of the imminent danger they faced. For reasons we could all understand, Jonah had hardened his heart against the Ninevites, and ran from God’s assignment on his life. He had clearly heard from God, but became unwilling to participate in Nineveh’s salvation. He tried to escape to the opposite end of the known world to avoid delivering the word of the Lord to the Ninevites. 

However, thanks to a divinely placed storm and fish with which you are likely already familiar, Jonah ends up in Nineveh preaching the message God had given him. Many people instinctively think Jonah preached grace, mercy, or repentance, but he actually preached judgment. And his message had an immediate impact. To walk across Nineveh would take Jonah three days (Jonah 3:3), but we see that people responded with repentance as soon as he began to enter the city on the first day. The common Ninevites responded first, believing God, proclaiming a fast, and wearing sackcloth, and the king followed their example and made it official when he heard what had happened. Finally, as the people humbled themselves before God, He relented from the disaster He had planned to bring upon them. In Nineveh’s example we see individual and national repentance, and we see God’s response to this. Through Jonah’s obedience, God granted Nineveh a season of mercy.

This sign of Jonah could indicate the beginning of a season of mercy for the United States, depending on how we respond to God’s message for us. This message began with the first national eclipse, which entered the United States in Salem, Oregon (side note; eclipses always move west to east, but I won’t address that here), and passed over a total of seven places called “Salem” before exiting at Fort Sumter, near Charleston, South Carolina. This second national eclipse begins in Eagle Pass, Texas, at the Mexican border and passes over seven places in the United States called “Nineveh.” There are plenty of other interesting tidbits, such as this eclipse passing over Jonah, Texas, and the visibility of the “Devil’s Comet,” but let’s focus on what God is telling us here. Salem, of course means “peace,” and Nineveh represents Jonah’s message of judgment and our opportunity to repent. It’s as if God said, “peace” for the first eclipse, but now says, “repent or be destroyed.” If these don’t seem to make sense together, just stay with me.

Fort Sumter, South Carolina is a small island in the mouth of Charleston harbor. Fort Sumter is historically significant, because it marked the first military action of the Civil War. The Confederacy began when South Carolina seceded on December 20, 1860, but the active rebellion and warfare didn’t start until April 12, 1861, when the rebel force fired on the Union soldiers at Fort Sumter. Similarly, the Civil War officially ended when General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomatox Courthouse on April 9, 1865, but the active rebellion did not end until June 1865, when General Joseph O. Shelby sank his battle flag into the Rio Grande at Eagle Pass, Texas, and crossed into Mexico. The active rebellion against God’s established government began at Fort Sumter, where the last eclipse ended, and ended at Eagle Pass, where the current eclipse begins. So after God pleaded seven times with the American church, “choose peace,” we chose to rebel, and now, if we will end our rebellion, He’s pleading with us, “repent.” But what is this rebellion, and what if we don’t repent? 

The American church has many imperfections, but I believe the one God is currently speaking on is how we have allowed the world’s wickedness to influence us negatively rather than our holiness influencing them positively. We are to be the light of the world, but instead we are being darkened by its sin. This is most evident in our unholy alliance with the LGBTQ and Pride movements, and our sinister role as willful accomplices to their blasphemy.

The American church has watched quietly while these movements corrupted another heavenly sign, God’s rainbow. We have allowed a generation of children to be abused and mutilated beyond the worst that we could imagine just a few short years ago. Rather than remain faithful to God, we have abandoned Him for popularity with sinners. We think we’re being nice by telling people their sin is not only acceptable, but God-given and the source of their identity. We suggest that God did not create them fearfully and wonderfully in His image with a conscience and free will, but rather made them as animals, inhumanly identified by certain temptations which they believe they are unable to resist. Furthermore, we celebrate the lie that Jesus’ sacrifice is not sufficient for them, and we agree with them that God should have to accept their sin because He made them that way. That’s right, we help them reject Jesus’ sacrifice and tell God that not only was His son was crucified in vain, but that their sin is His fault, too. And if all that wasn’t enough, we sit back passively every June and allow them to flaunt these abominations throughout our society and in our churches as they celebrate the grave sin of pride. 

 As God’s representative in this country, the American church is failing abysmally. Not only have we chosen to accept what God rejects, but we’re blinding these people to the reality of the eternal damnation they’re bringing upon themselves. The LGBTQ and Pride movements, along with the American Christians who act as their “allies,” have positioned themselves as enemies of God. They, like the Confederate army of the Civil War, are engaged in active rebellion against God Himself, and His appointed authority, in this case, the family. Just like the Civil War, the government made a decision first, and the rebellion followed. In this case, it was the Supreme Court’s Obergefell vs Hodges decision on June 26, 2015, which legalized homosexual “marriage” in the United States.

The first eclipse happened on August 21, 2017, exactly 787 days after the Obergefell vs Hodges decision. If you aren’t aware, 787 is the 138th prime number, a number that cannot be divided by anything other than one or itself. If numbers speak, then prime numbers speak with more authority because they’re indivisible. Biblically, the number 787 indicates respect for the authority of God. Since it cannot be factored, let’s look at the prime factors for 138, its sequence number, which are 2, 3, and 23. The number 2 signifies division, 3 signifies a binding yoke, and 23 signifies death. The number 23 is the 9th prime number, and 9 signifies judgment. So 787 days after the Obergefell vs Hodges decision, God speaks to the United States through the first eclipse and says numerically, “You should have respected My authority, but by dividing the binding yoke of marriage in your nation, you have brought judgment and death upon your land.” At the same time, He spoke geographically, saying seven times, “Choose peace, but I know you will rebel against Me.”

The second eclipse will happen 3,209 days after the Obergefell vs Hodges decision. This is the 454th prime number, and 454 means firmly held in a trap. Its factors are 2, which signifies division, and 227, which is the 49th prime number and means blindness to betrayal. The number 49 means time of the end, but is also biblically associated with forgiveness and is the perfect square of 7, which may mean either sword or the end. Through this second national eclipse, God is saying numerically, “You were blind to the betrayal which has firmly held you in a trap. The time of the end is upon you, but you can choose My forgiveness or face your end through the sword of My judgment.” Geographically, He is saying, “Abandon your rebellion, sink your rebellious Pride flag in the river of My forgiveness, and repent before I destroy you.”

So what does this all mean for God, the American church, unsaved Americans, and President Biden? We’ll come back to God and President Biden in a moment. The American church needs to do two things. Firsts, immediately and unequivocally separate itself from the LGBTQ and Pride movements. This means tearing down posters, repainting over symbols, changing some policies, and preaching the truth of the Word of God about these movements. Second, American Christians need to drastically increase our evangelism and discipleship efforts to match the urgency of the final hours in which we live. We tend to be more like Jonah in this regard than most of us would like to admit. Some of us have become “so heavenly minded that we’re no earthly good.” We are so focused on the things of the Lord, like studying His word, praying, worshipping, and fellowshipping with likeminded believers, that we end up ignoring the world around us. Others of us are so consumed by the daily concerns of our lives that we become neglectful of the imminence of our Savior’s return. Yes, God wants you to have a great marriage, raise up godly children, honor Him through your work, and prosper in every area of your life, but those things are means of advancing the gospel, not ends within themselves.

Whether our heads are in the clouds or in the ground, most of us are not making disciples for Jesus as often or as effectively as we should be. We have decided, like Jonah, that we are unwilling to participate in the salvation of those who desperately need it. We would rather escape into heaven or into our own selfish needs than deliver the message God has entrusted us to share with our unsaved family members, neighbors, and coworkers. But God placed you on earth right now for such a time as this! You are not in heaven yet, you’re still on earth so you can still share the gospel with people. And Jesus’ return is imminent, so you can’t continue kicking that can down the road. You have unsaved people all around you who are destined for eternal damnation unless someone shares the gospel with them. Do not ignore their plight! We are kingdom ambassadors on official kingdom business with an impending deadline and stakes that could not be higher. Today is somebody’s day of salvation, and God has appointed you to be a part of it!

It is noteworthy that Jonah did not preach love, mercy, acceptance, or 12 steps to getting God to bless you with your dream chariot. He preached righteous judgment for deserving sin, and he preached it boldly. We must do the same thing. Judgment may seem unpopular, but obedience demands it, love demands it, and the urgency of our time demands it. Perhaps our fellow Americans, like the Ninevites, will repent. The Ninevites individually believed God, fasted, and wore sackcloth, signifying their acceptance, repentance, and humility in response the God’s imminent judgment. As the Jonah Awakening swept Nineveh, the government followed suit.

Individual repentance should precede national repentance, but there is a time and God-ordained pattern for that as well. God is calling the American church to end our country’s rebellion following the pattern in 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” This involves God’s people which are called by His name. Those are the Christians, those of us who have taken the name of Christ. We  must humble ourselves, much like the Ninevites who dressed in sackcloth, or General Shelby who sank his battle flag and went to Mexico. In modern terms, this means not only abandoning all things related to the LGBTQ and Pride movements, but paying less attention to ourselves and more to the world in which God has placed us. We must pray, confessing our national sin, interceding for forgiveness on behalf of our leaders and neighbors, and asking the Holy Spirit to convict us of all the sins of which we are unaware. We must seek God’s face, and listen for His still, small voice. And we must turn from our wicked ways, no longer ignoring the lost around us, but sharing the coming judgment and gospel with them. If we do that, then God will hear us, forgive us, and heal our nation.

When the Ninevites repented, God extended His mercy to them, and He is willing to do the same for America. We see God’s heart of mercy many times in Scripture. God told Abraham in Genesis 18:32 that He would not destroy Sodom if He could find at least 10 righteous people there, and asked in Ezekiel 18:23, “Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die… …and not that he should turn from his ways and live?” Similarly, God’s final question to Jonah was, “Should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left?” God’s heart is for mercy, and He is not willing that any should perish.

However, God is also just, and while His heart is merciful, He leaves the decision to accept His mercy to us. What would have happened had Nineveh not repented? I believe they would have been destroyed in 40 days, just as Jonah had spoken. This may cause you to wonder what the date will be 40 days after this second American eclipse. It will be May 18, 2024. May 18th is a significant date because its when the priest Eli died in 891 BC. Like President Biden, Eli was the ruler of a nation and had sons that were causing problems with his ability to govern. Eli was elderly when he died, but he did not die from old age. In one day, both of his sons died in combat, and the ark of the covenant was captured by the Philistines. The news was too much for Eli, who fell down from where he was seated and broke his neck, ending his 40-year term of leadership. Most believed that Eli’s death, combined with those of his sons, his military’s defeat, and the loss of the ark signified God’s judgment upon Israel for its national sins. That was 2,914 years ago. And if you’re curious, the prime factors of 2,914 are 2, 31, and 47. These mean division, family of one God, and humility. Right now, God hasn’t said anything on May 18th, but that could change if we don’t repent, and God pours out His judgment on the United States.

This second American eclipse is the sign of Jonah for our wicked and adulterous generation. It signifies both a warning for God’s coming judgment and the potential for a season of mercy if we repent. Our Father wants to extend His mercy to us, and He loves us despite our evil and ignorance. In this season, we must keep our attitudes and actions submitted to God, and trust the Holy Spirit to help us boldly and lovingly declare God’s coming judgment to our friends, families, neighbors, coworkers, and others within our spheres of influence. As we diligently share this message with them, let us earnestly pray for their repentance, and a season of mercy just like Nineveh received.


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