Is This Year’s Cicada Swarm a Biblical End-Times Prophecy Unfolding?

Are cicadas a sign of the end of the world? Probably not. But should we be encouraged about the life God has given us today, even amid the chaos, as well as the life to come? Definitely.

Updated May 20, 2024
Is This Year’s Cicada Swarm a Biblical End-Times Prophecy Unfolding?

Cicadas? Really? Oh 2024, you really are something.

A leap year. An Olympic year. An election year (nothing to see here on that front). A historic eclipse, followed by historic solar storms that projected the Northern Lights all the way into the South (those “Northern” Lights should really work on their branding). Also, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and tornadoes—it can feel as if the world is in some sort of cosmic tailspin.

And now, we get a plague of massive flying creepy-crawlies too? What is this, Exodus?

What Is the Cicada Phenomenon?

Like it or not, trillions of cicadas collectively known as Brood XIX and Brood XIII have begun emerging this year in multiple states, the result of a rare, double-brood event. One of these normally shows up every thirteen years, while the other reveals its hideous face every seventeen years (no offense to any cicadas reading this article—I’m sure you’re quite handsome). Each of these broods instinctively waits underground for the perfect soil conditions before venturing out of their subterranean abodes to eat, mate, and die. But of course, the dying part doesn't happen before they all land on your lawn mower at the same time like some galactic arthropod mothership.

This year’s cicada phenomenon affects seventeen states across the Southeast and Midwest. I call it a “phenomenon” because these two broods haven’t emerged together since 1803, and they won't do so again until 2245. It’s just simple math.

Or is it? (Cue dark, enigmatic music.)

Is the Current Swarm of Cicadas a Sign of the End Times?

We hear about the mysterious implications of strange, natural phenomena every single day in the news. In fact, bet your life has been affected in some way by all the weirdness of the past few years. For me, a devastating tornado hit our little town near Nashville, Tennessee, in 2020, destroying schools, churches, and homes—including the home of one of my best friends, who is also our lead pastor. Miraculously, his family narrowly avoided injury. Tragically, the same can’t be said of many others.

With so much alarming chaos swirling all about us all the time, you’ve probably heard someone say: “It’s a sign of the times! The end is near!” Indeed, church marquees and Facebook posts swarm with such sentiments, referencing scriptures like Matthew 24:7 (NIV): 

“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.” 

It’s no wonder that some Christians—and not a few televangelists and pastors—regularly proclaim that what we are seeing in our world today is the literal fulfillment of such prophecies.

To be clear, I’m not saying that the strange phenomena of recent years are unrelated to biblical references about the earth’s groaning for a future and eternal resolution that God promises will one day unfold. But if we’re not careful, we can begin interpreting all things mysterious or anomalous as cosmic signs of impending doom, even when they may or may not be actually related to the end of the world. Furthermore, the energy modern Christians can devote to such hypotheticals often leads us to unhealthy obsessions that don’t produce the sense of Spirit-led calm, contentment, or confidence that should characterize those trusting in God’s ultimate care over all things. Instead, we become fearful (or enthusiastic) alarmists who incessantly watch the color of the skies or ponder the cloudy concepts of the latest insect infestation more than we lean into the clear, clarion invitations of Scripture to daily live in the ways of Christ.

We become too obsessed with ruminating over cicadas to remember to rest by still waters.

Why Is it Important to Avoid Irrelevant End Times Speculations?

Thinking about cicadas and earthquakes and solar storms (oh my!) is not a sin, but neither is it a path to right thinking. So what is? The 17th-century theologian Rupertus Meldenius labeled this path as the “essentials.” Non-essential topics may be interesting or even important, but they are not essential to fully experiencing the life and effectiveness Christ intends for each of us.

The Holy Spirit led early Church leaders into similar patterns of thinking, which led to the development of repeatable statements like the Apostles and Nicene Creeds. God wanted the growing number of Christians in different places with vastly diverse contexts and experiences to be able to know with confidence what was essential to their collective faith and unity, and what was merely secondary or tertiary. Cicadas definitely fall into the second category. Such topics may be interesting, but no matter how much you study them, write books about them, sell survival kits to prepare for them, talk about them on your podcast, or preach them from your pulpit, they cannot produce life in someone’s heart.

Only the essentials of the gospel do that.

In Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis commented on the power non-essential emphases have to distract Christians from what truly produces life within us. Writing from the perspective of a demon who is trying to deceive people, Screwtape says, “What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of mind I call ‘Christianity And.’ You know—Christianity and the Crisis, Christianity and the New Psychology, Christianity and the New Order, Christianity and Faith Healing, Christianity and Psychical Research, Christianity and Vegetarianism, Christianity and Spelling Reform. If they must be Christians let them at least be Christians with a difference. Substitute for the faith itself some Fashion with a Christian colouring. Work on their horror of the Same Old Thing.”

“Christianity and Cicadas” would definitely fall into this category, a subcategory of Lewis’s “Christianity and the Crisis.”

How Does Our Faith Help Us Determine What Is Real?

When it comes to matters of eschatology (end-times theology), which are most definitely biblical in nature, we should be open to reading these scriptures without removing the mysteries divinely embedded between the lines and adding our own “And” in the mix. Beware when someone makes a definitive statement about something in the future about which Jesus himself refused to make definitive statements.

To be curious about the end of the world is natural and human, and we’re not the first disciples to be so. After his resurrection and before his ascension, Jesus’s disciples voiced their own curiosities about the end of the world as they knew it; that is, the end of Roman occupation and the beginning of the Messiah’s rule from the restored nation of Israel. After all, the Messiah was standing right in front of them, so it made sense to ask. But Jesus’s response didn’t remove the mystery about the end times at all. However, it did remove the mystery of what they should be focusing on. 

“He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’” - Acts 1:7-8 NIV

In other words, such topics are obviously important, but God doesn't want you to fully know everything about them. However, he does want you to fully know and embrace the life you already have right now by fully pursuing and living out the ways of Christ. 14th-century German theologian Thomas à Kempis pointed out the dangers of focusing on that which is intended to be a mystery versus that which is intended to be plainly understood. “What good is there in arguing about esoteric things [abstract concepts understood by few], things that would not matter on Judgment Day even if we remained always ignorant about them? What grievous folly to neglect the things that are profitable and necessary while instead turning our minds to harmful curiosities! In this, we have eyes but do not see” (The Imitation of Christ, emphasis added).

Embrace the Reality of Jesus Christ.

Above all, a disproportionate amount of theorizing about how the mysteries of tornadoes and cicadas and 5G (and a million other things) are connected to the imminent end of the world does not bring us the peace or joy that God intends us to have when we think about that ending. From a kid who grew up in church hearing about the endless scenarios of the end times on a consistent basis, they made me more terrified than anything else. So in an echo of one of the most important New Testament passages on the topic, let me remind you how we should feel about the end of the world. 

“But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” -  I Thessalonians 5:8-11 NIV  (emphasis mine)

Are cicadas a sign of the end of the world? Probably not. But should we be encouraged about the life God has given us today, even amid the chaos, as well as the life to come? Definitely.

Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Jeff Herge

John C. DriverJohn C. Driver is a husband, volleyball dad, writer, podcaster, and minister. He has authored, co-authored, or served as the primary collaborative writer for over thirty books, including the satirical The Ultimate Guide for the Avid Indoorsman (Harvest House) and Not So Black and White: An Invitation to Honest Conversations About Race and Faith (Zondervan).
A nerdy humorist at heart, John is a former History teacher who has been featured on Good Morning America and numerous other shows and podcasts. On his weekly podcast, Talk About That, John goes toe-to-toe with best friend and comedian Jonnie W. in hilariously real and genuinely insightful conversations about life, history, current culture, faith—and everything in between. He earned a B.A. in History and a M.S. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Tennessee. He lives near Nashville with his wife and daughter, where he has served as an executive and teaching pastor at The Church At Pleasant Grove for over twenty years.


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