The last major war involving Israel in the Middle East, the “Yom Kippur War”, took place forty years ago. In late 1973, Israel was attacked by Egypt and Syria. Both the USA and the Soviet Union initiated massive resupply efforts to their respective allies during the war. At the same time, the emerging (mostly Arab) nations of OPEC declared an oil embargo that lasted into early 1974. The price of oil quadrupled in a matter of months, bringing on the stock market crash of 1973-74.
One thing that’s much less known about this time is that newspapers around the world back then reported that a very large comet would appear around Christmas of 1973, large enough to be seen with the naked eye during the day.
A little info about comets, what isn’t always known about them is how visible they will be when they are nearing the sun or moving away from it. What makes a comet appear in the night sky or even in the day is the degree to which the comet melts as it approaches and swings around the sun. If it melts in the right way, then the tail that’s seen is the sun’s reflection on the melted “tail” of the comet.
The comet of late 1973, called Kohoutek, was known to be unusually large. The world awaited its arrival during what was already one of the most tumultuous times since the Second World War. Prophetic types back then even said that Kohoutek was a portent and omen of even more direful changes soon to come.
What happened? It was a dud. Of course the comet did circle the sun and move back out into its orbit. But it virtually didn’t show up in the sky because the expected melt of the tail somehow didn’t happen. Scoffers had a field day. Those believing in “signs in the heavens” felt ashamed and foolish.
What does all that have to do with today? The London newspaper, The Telegraph, reported on December 29, 2012 the approach of a large comet which should be visible towards the end of 2013, exactly 40 years after the Christmas comet of 1973.
By Gregory Walton
5:00PM GMT 27 Dec 2012
The comet, named Ison, is expected to be so “spectacularly bright” that it will be visible to the naked eye in daylight next year. Comet Ison was discovered accidentally in September this year by astronomers Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok. They stumbled upon what could be one of the biggest astronomical events of the decade; a comet so bright that it will likely be visible to the naked eye in daylight.
Amateur astronomers will have the best chance of seeing Ison in November and December, leading scientists to colloquially call it the ‘Christmas Day Comet’.
It is due to come to life in October next year, say experts and … it would become visible to the naked eye as early as November, its newly formed tail stretching far into the sky above the horizon.
Strange. Exactly forty years later, another large and potentially spectacular comet is due to visit our skies.
But the unbelieving world would say, “So what? After all, that one forty years ago was a bust and didn’t show up, right?”
But seen or unseen, was comet Kohoutek a portent of significant change? In late 1973, not only was there a major war in the Middle East going on. The oil crisis had more of an effect on world markets and society than at any time before or since. And it was revealed years later that the USA and Russia got much closer than anyone knew at that time to a major nuclear exchange between their respective naval fleets in the eastern Mediterranean.
There’s more. In late 1973 Willy Brandt was Chancellor of West Germany. Edward Heath was the Prime Minster of Great Britain. Mariano Rumor was Prime Minister of Italy. Georges Pompidou was President of France. Kakuei Tanaka was Prime Minister of Japan. Richard Nixon was President of the United States. Anker Jørgensen was Prime Minster of Denmark. And Haile Selassie was Emperor of Ethiopia.
In the next 12 months, each of those 8 leaders, many of them leading international figures at the time, lost their jobs through revolution, election, death or overthrow.
But the unbelieving world would say, “Be reasonable! Isn’t this all just a coincidence? Surely we mustn’t think that some passing astronomical event has any meaning to our modern world? That’s…, that’s medieval! “
Medieval. Speaking of which, the most famous comet of all, Haley’s comet, which comes around every 86 years, appeared long ago in 1066. If you’re British, you probably know the significance of that date. That year England was invaded and subjugated by the French, led by William the Conqueror. French became the language of the upper classes in England for the next 100 years and the English people languished under foreign rule till into the 1200’s.
In 1976, Comet West was another highly visible comet, seen during the daytime. Wikipedia says of this comet:
Despite its spectacular appearance, Comet West went largely unreported in the popular media. This was partly due to the relatively disappointing display of Comet Kohoutek in 1973, which had been widely predicted to become extremely prominent: scientists were wary of making predictions that might raise public expectations.
But in China, Comet West was noticed and commented on. A few months after it appeared, China suffered the Tangshan Earthquake, the world’s worst earthquake of the 20th century in terms of lives lost. Then a few months later in China, the founder of the modern nation of China, Mao Tsedung, died. People there spoke of the large comet seen earlier that year.
What does it all mean? Does it mean anything? I don’t like fear mongering and speculation about natural phenomenon that could possible herald a coming disaster. But there’s another side to this. Jesus Himself said “great signs shall there be from heaven” (Luke 21:11) and this phenomenon of signs is mentioned over twenty times in the New Testament. Also, at the time of the first coming of the Messiah, there were signs in the sky, the Star of Bethlehem, as it’s called.
When I first heard of this approaching “Christmas comet”, due in late 2013, I was stuck by the timing and also by what it was being called. I lived through late 1973 and I remember the sense of apprehension that many felt at that time. Would it be a tipping point into a post civilization time for the world? Would there be a nuclear exchange? No one knew. But everyone knew it was a very dangerous time.
Some said it was the opening of the final events of this age which would usher in the promised Kingdom of God on earth. But all that didn’t happen. The ship weathered the storm, righted itself and we sailed on into calmer waters.
And our unbelieving friends and scoffers will tell us, “So there’s nothing to fear, right? All the fear mongers are just kooks and crazies. We’ll all just muddle along as we always have.”
Or so they say. But for those with faith in the God of Abraham, we know He promised a kingdom to come on the earth. Could a second highly visible Christmas comet, exactly forty years after the one of 1973, have any significance?
Even the fact that it’s exactly forty years later is rather noticeable. The children of Israel wandered forty years in the Wilderness before finally entering the Promised Land. Jeremiah preached the coming judgment of Israel for around forty years before it happened. Saul, David and Solomon all had reigns of forty years. So God seems to like that period of forty years.
I’m not going to be foolish enough to say with certainty that this coming comet is without doubt a sign and harbinger of the final events of this age. On the other hand, I do feel strongly that we’re on the cusp, possibly even on the edge of the abyss, that will bring in the times the prophets spoke of before God’s Kingdom comes on earth.
Perhaps the best is to remember what Jesus told His followers at the end of Mark 13, a chapter in which He told them about His coming. He ended it by saying, “And what I say unto you, I say unto all. Watch.” (Mark 13:37)