Terry Cropper is a very good Bible student and has been involved in a study of the book of Luke for some time now. I am sharing his latest installment to share with our visitors. It is an excellent article and one badly needed in modern Christianity!
A study of the book of Luke – By Terry Cropper
25 “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; 26 men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Luke 21:25-26 (NKJV)
We are never taught how the Israelites used figurative, language in Sunday school. So to those unfamiliar with how Jesus uses this figurative, language a short trip through the Old Testament will show how similar language was used to describe the fall of monarchs and nations. Look at the following examples of God’s righteous judgment and see how he describes the fall of national leaders: 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 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 of course applied to Babylon, as mentioned in verse 1. The fall of Babylon is represented by the star’s 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 giving their light.
In the judgments of God, the prophets, used figurative language such as the heaven, sun, moon, stars, to represent 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 overturnings. “For thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and 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, Everyone by the sword of his brother.
Whenever the term I will shake the heavens, And the earth will move out of her place, it is often used in reference to the overthrow of kingdoms the wrath of the Lord of hosts. Isaiah 13:13 Therefore I will shake the heavens, And the earth will move out of her place, In the wrath of the Lord of hosts And in the day of His fierce anger.
“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 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 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 words 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. What were the thing being shaken, and removed? The old Mosaic, covenant of the law. What were the things which cannot be shaken and may remain. The New Covenant, or Kingdom, made in the blood of Christ. These verse are self explanatory because in the very next verse the writer says. Hebrews 12:28 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 way the Jews used the symbolic language and imagery in the Bible is not hard to grasp with time and study all one has to do is just put aside the old traditional ideas of men about scripture.
Matthews aim was 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. It was a shaking of the Old Covenant that could be removed. And a consummation of the New Covenant that could not be shaken and may remain.
The problem is the modern Church 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, in Jesus day this was not new language it was used in their Old Testament scriptures.
For an even more in-depth discussion of apocalyptic language , see my book, The Elements Shall Melt With Fervent Heat.