Sunday, July 15, 2012
The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky,
Remember when I gave the allegory of John being suddenly taken from the first century into the 21st century and it is an election year. And there are really big political rallies going on. At one political rallies there are representatives from the Democrats party on one side of the street waving flags with the symbol of a donkey, on it. On the other side of the street there are Republicans representatives waving flags with the symbol of an elephant, on it.
We know these symbols identify two political parties, but what would John think? Remember John was suddenly taken from one world and placed into another world. Would John immediately know these symbols represent two political parties?
Or would John think these two symbols represent a literal donkey and elephant? The point is they are symbols and John would have to do a little study to find out their true meaning to our culture
This text has been the subject of all sorts of speculation and wild theories about the end of time and the events that will happen at the return of Christ. Many believe that this text is talking about a literal destruction of the world. But let us put out of our minds what we have been traditionally taught about this passage and put ourselves in the mindset of a first century Jew.
The first thing that we must understand is that each particular gospel had a particular audience that the words were for, especially when considering the synoptic gospels. The gospel of Matthew was written primarily to a Jewish audience, that is why Matthew quotes the Old Testament prophecies so many times in his book.
The problem is we are not accustomed to dealing with such symbolic language like the sun being darkened and the stars falling, etc., without thinking literally. However to the Jews, this was not a new language. Matthew’s Jewish readers were certainly well versed in the sort of symbolic language and imagery and understood the meaning. The sun, darkening and the moon don't give its light; and the stars falling from the sky, represents the ceasing of a kingdom."
The prophet Isaiah is a good example of how this symbolic language is used in Jewish thought. This type of apocalyptic, figurative language, was used to describe the desolation and the judgment of God by invading forces. Take for example the prophesied fall of Babylon to the Medes in 539 BC.
"Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. And I will punish the world for their evil..." (Isaiah 13:9-11)."
This is applied to Babylon, as mentioned in verse 1. The fall of Babylon is represented by the stars and constellations of heaven withdrawing their light, and the sun and moon being darkened (9,10).
Whenever there was an overthrow of the rulers and authorities of a nation, it was represented by the sun, moon, and stars not give their light.
In the judgments of God, through all the prophets, the heaven, sun, moon, stars, and the like represented the overthrow of governments, governors, dominions in political states, as Joel 2:10-11 The earth quakes before them, The heavens tremble; The sun and moon grow dark, And the stars diminish their brightness. The LORD gives voice before His army, For His camp is very great; For strong is the One who executes His word. For the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; Who can endure it?
The "shaking of the heavens and earth" was used by Haggai 2:6-7 to speak of political overturns. "For thus says the LORD of hosts: 'Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and the dry land; 'and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,' says the LORD of hosts.
Notice how the shaking of heaven and earth are associated, with the overthrow of thrones and kingdoms; and the strength of the Gentiles. Haggai 2:21-23 "Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying: 'I will shake heaven and earth. I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms; I will destroy the strength of the Gentile kingdoms. I will overthrow the chariots And those who ride in them; The horses and their riders shall come down, Every one by the sword of his brother
"The destruction of the Jews by Antioch Epiphanes, is represented by casting down some of the host of heaven, and the stars to the ground. (Daniel 8:10)
And further note Amos 8:9, "And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord GOD, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day." This had reference to the northern kingdom.
Now note the prophecy of Ezekiel against Egypt: "And when I shall put thee out, I will cover the heaven, and make the stars thereof dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give her light. All the bright lights of heaven will make dark over thee, and set darkness upon thy land, saith the Lord GOD" (Ezekiel 32:7-7). This applied to Egypt, as mentioned in verse. 2, 12, 16.
In other contexts, when the stars fall, they fall to the earth, a sure sign of temporal judgment (Isaiah 14:12; And it grew up to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and some of the stars to the ground, and trampled them.
In Isaiah 13:6-13 we see that destruction of the heavens and earth pertain to when the Medes broke up the Babylonian empire.
Nahum applies this earth-shattering metaphor to Yahweh's judgment of Nineveh (Nahum 1:1-5). Isaiah applies this language to Edom of 703 BC (Isa 34:3-8). Ezekiel applies this language to Babylon's victory over Egypt (572 BC) in Ezekiel 32:7-11. There is no question about when these things would happen. We have literature from the Old Testament that we must read figuratively unless the word demand otherwise.
When Jesus said, "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 (Matthew 24:29)." No doubt it is the overthrow and abolition of the Mosaic dispensation, or old covenant; the destruction of the Jewish governments, governors, dominions and political states.
In Bible figurative language, when 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 refers to governments and rulers.
The writer of Hebrews borrowed, the language from Haggai 2:6-7 and writes, Hebrews 12:27-28 Now this, "Yet once more," indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.
The Jewish readers were certainly well versed in this symbolic language and imagery. Matthews aim is to stare up the memory of his Jewish audience about what was written in their Old Testament scriptures. When the ruling authorities of the nation of Israel passed away, it was said that the sun was darkened and the stars fell from the sky, the moon did not give its light and the passing of the old heavens and earth etc.