Article of the Month

February 2013

 

—  SUN, MOON, and STARS  —


This month’s article will deal only lightly with the use of theses astronomical bodies as symbols. Sometimes the understanding of the minor symbologies of the Bible is enough to help us to understand its more complex and important prophecies.

It is worthy of note that as early as Genesis 1, in the creative account, the Bible indicates that physical things are representative of other things.

Genesis 1:4. “And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them BE FOR SIGNS, and for seasons, and for days and years.”

While this verse gives the primary function of the literal astronomical lights, it immediately specifies that they will also be used for SIGNS — symbolisms. Thus, when we read Scripture, we must ask ourselves whether the use of sun, moon, and stars is LITERAL, SYMBOLIC, or a combination of both.

 

—  The Abrahamic Promise  —


When the Apostle Paul refers to the Abrahamic Promise in Galatians 3:8 and 29, he calls this promise “THE GOSPEL.”  Indeed, this one promise to Abraham is the encapsulation of the entire plan of God for mankind. Paul’s point is that Abraham’s seed (which is Jesus and his faithful disciples — Galatians 3:29; 4:28) is HEIR to the promise made to Abraham that his “seed” would bless all of the families of the earth — the rest of the world. What a Gospel!

These TWO PARTS of the Gospel (the BLESSER seed, and THOSE WHO WILL BE BLESSED) are mentioned in Genesis 22:17 and are symbolized by “the STARS OF HEAVEN” and “the SAND which is upon the sea shore.” One could conclude that this is merely an expression to let Abraham know HOW MANY people would be counted as his as his descendants (natural and philosophical) eventually. But other texts later in Scripture suggest that rest of his seed would dwell on earth.
 

OTHER USES OF STARS —

 

Stars, as symbols, are used in several ways, but always with the concept of brightness — beings which are sources of light, teachers, light-bearers.

Thus, in Job 38:7, God refers, not only to the whole host of angels as “sons of God,” but also to those who were the brightest among the angels (Michael and Lucifer) as the “morning stars” — because they were the earliest created, and they held the highest positions in the protocol of God’s heavenly hosts — the teachers of the other angels.

In Daniel 8 is an account of the dark-ages development of the apostate rulership in Christianity — the antichrist, or “man of sin.”  In verse 10, this “little horn” (or power) which grows out of Rome tramples on the people (“the host”) and stamps the “stars” to the ground. As we will see in a later prophecy, “stars” here is a probable reference to the Apostles (the true Church’s true light-bearers). Apostolic teachings were either obliterated or turned into relatively meaningless social teachings by the Papacy.

False apostles have existed ever since the early days of the Church. They have claimed to bear light, but the Apostle Jude (verse 13) calls them “wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.” Jude, among other things, seems to be the first to have described and given symbolic meaning to what astronomers call “black holes.” Symbolically, of course, black stars are “wanderers” — those who have departed from the truth — apostates.

It is not only angels and apostles who are called “stars.” In Revelation 1:16, 20 we find reference to “seven stars” held in the right hand of favor of our glorified Lord.  Jesus calls these stars “the angels of the seven churches.” Angels, of course, need not be angelic (heavenly) beings. The term is used Scripturally even for INANIMATE things which serve as messengers for God’s people. Angel literally means messenger and can apply to anyone or anything delivering a message. These “seven angels” are seven prominent teachers of the Church all through the Gospel Age. They are “stars” because their ability to let their light shine so brightly served to guide the path of Christians for the past two thousand years. A careful study of Church history suggests these seven to be (1) the Apostle Paul, (2) the Apostle John, (3) Arius, (4) Waldo, (5) Wycliffe, (6) Luther, and (7) Russell.  Their bright shining made them at the same time greatly hated by their enemies, and greatly welcomed by sincere truth seekers. 

 

THE SUN AND MOON —


In the natural order of our planetary system, the sun gives light, and the moon reflects it. Their symbology in the Bible is the same. The Gospel (the fully-enlightened exposition of the Divine

Plan) is the brightest truth available about God until the Kingdom comes. The Jewish Law was a typical or shadowy PICTURE of what the Gospel would be (Hebrews 10:1). Thus, in the Bible, the sun frequently is used as a symbol of the Gospel (or New Testament illuminations), while the moon represents the much dimmer reflection of those truths — the Jewish Age and its Old Testament typical, indistinct, and prophetic representations of what was to come. 

As Genesis 1:14 foretold, God uses these celestial bodies to teach deep truths. For instance, it is no accident that the Jewish Passover occurs at the full of the moon — the moon growing smaller immediately thereafter. The death of Jesus as the antitypical Passover Lamb happened at that very time when the moon began its waning — picturing the Jewish Law and the Jewish Age on their way out!

The combined symbolisms of sun, moon, and stars occur several times in Scripture. Here is a sampling:

In Revelation 6:12, 13, under the description of “the sixth seal” (during the period of the Church enlightened by Luther), we see heavenly bodies used to symbolize events during what was called

“The Age of Reason.” About the time of the great French Revolution, mankind felt itself much liberated from the constraints of Dark-Age thinking. Men like Voltaire, Jefferson, Franklin, and innumerable others went to extremes in “throwing off” the “wives tales” and “superstitions” of religion in favor of the new goddess: REASON. Much of the French Revolution enhanced this movement. During it, in fact, religion was, for a short time, ILLEGAL.

The French Revolution was the “great earthquake” of Revelation 6:12. We note that the sun was made black — Gospel light was considered erroneous darkness. The moon was “as blood” — Jewish Age Old-Testament sacrifices were viewed only as the bloody, irrational, and superstitious practices of a primitive people. Then (verse 13), “the stars of heaven fell unto the earth” — the teachings of the Apostles and other religious lights were de-spiritualized. In other words, they were only accepted as pretty platitudes for good social (earthly) behavior.

(As an aside: the “untimely figs” of this verse refer to the frustration of Napoleon’s plans to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine. While God intended to do this, it was not intended until the 1870’s. Hence, Napoleon’s schedule was “untimely.”)

Matthew 24:29 is a reference to this same period of time. Daniel calls it “the Time of the End” — a lengthy period during which God provides for the falling apart of the old order so that His new order (the Kingdom) can replace it. (Daniel 11:40; 12:1) This “Time of the End” is carefully delineated by Bible chronology as beginning in 1799 — the end of the French Revolution, and the beginning of Napoleon’s historic escapades.

The Matthew text points to the results of the French Revolution and the “Age of Reason.” As we already saw in Revelation 6, the sun (credibility of the New Testament Gospel) and the moon (credibility of the Old Testament prophets) would be dismissed as false (called darkness). And the stars (Apostolic authority and interpretation) would be “fall from heaven” — become only earth-oriented or fleshly-oriented (as opposed to spiritually enlightened treatises). And religion would be greatly weakened: “the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.”

Matthew 13:43 is the glorious summary of Jesus’ parable of wheat and tares. This parable is a foretelling of Gospel-Age Church history — the mixing of true and false Christians in denominational Christianity for nearly two thousand years. But, as Revelation 2 and 3 show, all of the seven Church stages have “overcomers” — the true and faithful “wheat” who become the “stars of heaven” part of the Abrahamic promise. But here, in Matthew 13:43, Jesus wants us to know how brightly these “stars” will shine. They “shall…shine forth as the sun in the Kingdom of their Father.” They are HEIRS of the Gospel (sun) as preached to Abraham. It is only appropriate that they will reflect that brightest of lights. (See also Daniel 12:3.)

We will look to Revelation 12:1 for our final example. This text has its time setting at the beginning of the Gospel Age — the beginning of Church history. The same symbols we have discussed apply. We see first a woman. (A good woman, not a virgin, is used in Scripture as a symbol of a covenant. Compare Galatians 4:21-28.) This woman in Revelation is the antitype of Abraham’s wife, Sarah. She represents, as Paul explains, the Sarah or GRACE COVENANT under which the promised seed of Abraham is developed. The members of Christ are her true seed — although Revelation 12 is telling us that a false seed, an apostate seed, TARES, would also be a product of this covenant.  Revelation 12 is a history of this covenant’s struggle with the tare seed. Her true seed is only mentioned in passing in verse 17.

Notice her description: She is “clothed with the sun.” Clothing in Scripture symbolizes one’s commission or function — just as a policeman’s uniform informs us of who he is. This woman is clothed with the Gospel. Its service is her commission. She stands on the moon. The Church’s foundation is on God’s Holy Word — the Old Testament prophets. Ephesians 2:20 is only one of several places acknowledging this. Finally, her head carries a crown of twelve stars. Her thoughts and focus are determined by the only doctrine definers of Christianity — the twelve Apostles of the Lamb. 

 

IN SUMMARY

 

We have only tasted a few applications of the symbols. Seeing their prophetic uses inspires us to dig more into the details of God’s picturesque ways of teaching us. Jesus is the “SUN of righteousness” (Malachi 4:2) which will arise with the longed-for “healing in his wings (or beams).” We have seen how his disciples will shine with him as the sun — the realization of the Gospel’s promises which will heal all ills. The “moon” (the Old Testament prophets) has reflected, though not clearly, the many details of the glories to come. And God has consistently sent teachers (bright-shining stars) to guide us as we probe these things. We have hardly scratched the surface!

Literalists have frightened their congregations with predictions of terror as the sun scorches men, or goes dark, the moon drips blood, and the stars literally fall as the earth disintegrates into a cinder. How much grander are the prospects when we believe God when he said these celestial bodies were, among other things, “FOR SIGNS.”
                         

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