Soon after the trouble of those days, the sun will grow dark, the moon will no longer shine, the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers in space will be driven from their courses.
[This is the one of 15 scriptures in which Jesus provides his disciples with some details about the Second Coming of Christ. For more on the Second Coming see Day 150. For more on the Messiah see Day 145. For more on the End of the Age see Day 128.]
Clue #12: There will be signs in the sky.
When I see this description about the heavens being obscured and disrupted I think about natural disasters. Volcanic eruptions or meteor strikes, for example, surround the earth with particulate matter that make the sun and moon dim and make it harder to see the stars. As for stars falling from heaven, that sure sounds like meteors to me. Shooting stars. Perhaps he is saying that his return occur during a meteor shower. Who knows?
Interestingly enough, I found that the famous volcanic eruption of Vesuvius that destroyed the Italian city of Pompeii occurred in 79 AD, right around the time of Jesus, and that there were also a cluster of 35 volcanic eruptions before Jesus was born. However, climate data doesn’t indicate that there was any cooling effect that would have resulted from increased particulates in the atmosphere.
Another explanation for this scripture is that it is metaphoric. Similar language is used in the Book of Isaiah when describing the impending fall of Babylon to the Medes (actually the Persians, who were very closely related to the Medes) around 540 BC:
The day of the Lord is coming—that cruel day of his fierce anger and fury. The earth will be made a wilderness, and every sinner will be destroyed. Every star and every constellation will stop shining, the sun will be dark when it rises, and the moon will give no light. The Lord says, “I will bring disaster on the earth and punish all wicked people for their sins. I will humble everyone who is proud and punish everyone who is arrogant and cruel. Those who survive will be scarcer than gold. I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken out of its place on that day when I, the Lord Almighty, show my anger. (Isaiah 13:9-13).
This same kind of language is used again in Isaiah 34 regarding the destruction of Edom:
The sun, moon, and stars will crumble to dust. The sky will disappear like a scroll being rolled up, and the stars will fall like leaves dropping from a vine or a fig tree. (Isaiah 34:4).
Ezekiel predicts the same kind of heavenly signs when predicting that God’s retribution against the King of Egypt:
When I destroy you, I will cover the sky and blot out the stars. The sun will hide behind the clouds, and the moon will give no light. I will put out all the lights of heaven and plunge your world into darkness. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken. (Ezekiel 32:7-8).
This same kind of language is also used by the prophets Amos and Joel. It’s notable that there isn’t any evidence that I could find that there was any actual physical change in the celestial bodies when the prophecies of Isaiah and Ezekiel came true, supporting the idea that these descriptions are allegorical.
To the Jews an orderly sky was a sign that God was happy and all was right with the world. Like today’s astrologers, they looked to the heavens for signs that might reveal something about the future. In the final analysis what Jesus says here is traditional Jewish prophetic language that associates social change with astronomical portents. Whether it’s literal or allegorical, it sounds dramatic and scary and it certainly gets a person’s attention.
So far Jesus’ predictions were all things that were occurred in the lifetime of his disciples. Based on that, it may be relevant that there are two meteorological phenomenon associated with the life of Jesus. First, there was the Christmas star that appeared in the sky at his birth (Matthew 2:2). Some think it may have been a comet. Second, during this crucifixion it says that the whole country was covered with darkness for three hours (Matthew 27:45). I think maybe that is what Jesus is referring to here in this scripture. The darkness at his crucifixion, blotting out the sun, moon, and stars. Certainly it’s true that when he died one of the brightest starts in the constellation of humanity fell from earth, and the light that he brought to the world was dimmed. The heavenly bodies are predicted to change their course, perhaps a reference to the fact that the world will never be the same after his death. When I put on my prophetic thinking cap that’s what I come up with. Not actual astronomical phenomena. Something much more important and profound.
What does this scripture say to you?