Pamdemics. Economic collapse. Locust plagues. Murder hornets.
Whenever the world goes through a crisis, it’s natural to wonder if we have reached the end of days. “This is it! We’re all going to die!” We turn to social media and YouTube for answers and encounter wacky end time predictions. Some involve spectacular astronomical events, such as blood moons, mysterious constellations, and, most dramatic of all, a darkening sun.
But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. (Matt. 24:29)
Was Jesus talking about the end of the world? Most pastors would say he was.
A 2020 survey by LifeWay Research revealed that 9 out of 10 pastors say current events match those that Jesus said would occur shortly before he returns to Earth. The Son of God said no one knows the day or hour of his return, but some seem to know more than Jesus.
For more than a thousand years conmen have been fleecing the church with dubious end times predictions. So far, every prediction has proven wrong, yet the end times carnival carries on because people never learn.
When Jesus spoke about the sun and moon going dim, was he was NOT talking about a coming day of judgment. He was talking about the destruction of the Jewish temple and the great tribulation that accompanied that terrible event. He was not making an astronomical prediction, but a political one.
How can we be certain?
For three reasons: (1) In Matthew 24, the disciples asked Jesus when the temple would come down, (2) Jesus said within a generation, and (3) within a generation the temple came down. We should be amazed at the accurate fulfillment of Christ’s words. Instead we’ve hijacked his prophecy to tell stories that frighten children. We’ve got people thinking the solar system is about to collapse. Which is balmy and a bad advertisement for Jesus.
Why did Jesus talk about dimming suns and moons? He was using Old Testament metaphors to paint a picture of what was about to happen to Jerusalem.
Sun and moon
When Isaiah foretold of Babylon’s destruction, he said:
For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not flash forth their light; the sun will be dark when it rises, and the moon will not shed its light. (Isaiah 13:10)
Ezekiel used similar language when he prophesied the downfall of Pharaoh:
When I extinguish you, I will cover the heavens and darken their stars; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon will not give its light. (Ezekiel 32:7)
The sun and stars did not literally go dark when Babylon and Egypt fell over. The prophets used figurative language and so did Jesus when foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem. He was not saying the solar system was going to collapse. He was saying, “The lights are about to go out on Jerusalem and the old religious system.”
There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. (Luke 21:25–26)
In Luke’s account of the prophecy, Jesus mentions the sun, moon, and stars, but also adds the roaring of the sea and the waves and men fainting with fear. Again, this is figurative language. Jesus was probably referring to the legions of Rome that swept tsunami-like across Galilee and the endless waves of soldiers that crashed upon Judea. You can be sure Jewish people fainted with fear when they saw the four legions of Vespasian wiping out everything in their path.
“Dismay among the nations,” describes the bewildered reaction of Rome’s client states to the slaughter of the Jews. “They killed a million people? What might they Romans do to us?” Or it could be a reference to the misery of the relocated captives. At the end of the siege, the Romans exported 97,000 Jewish prisoners. Most of them ended up enslaved or in the circus.
God’s unshakeable kingdom
“The powers of the heavens will be shaken” is a reference to the temple. The Jews believed the temple was God’s heavenly seat on earth. It was the physical foundation of their faith. “It’s going to be shaken,” said Jesus. “These stones are coming down,” and they did.
The shakeable temple can be contrasted with the unshakeable kingdom of heaven (Heb. 12:26–27). One is manmade and frail; the other is God-made and everlasting.
Do you fear a coming apocalypse where the sun turns off and the stars fall from the sky? Fear not. Jesus is describing no such thing in Matthew 24. He’s saying the lights are going out in Jerusalem. When will it happen? Not in the future when he returns, but “immediately after” the tribulation of the Roman siege. In our past.
After the Romans were done killing and burning in the summer of AD70, the sun and moon of Jewish society were darkened, the religious stars had fallen, and the Jewish religion had been thoroughly shaken.
It was the end of their world, not ours.
Some material here came from AD70 and the End of the World.
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