At the end of the Tribulation, Jesus said, the universe will collapse: the light of the sun and the moon will be extinguished, the stars will fall, the powers of the heavens will be shaken. The basis for this symbolism is in Genesis 1:14-16, where the sun, moon, and stars ("the powers of the heavens") are spoken of as "signs" which "govern" the world. Later in Scripture, these heavenly lights are used to speak of earthly authorities and governors; and when God threatens to come against them in judgment, the same collapsing-universe terminology is used to describe it. Prophesying the fall of Babylon to the Medes in 539 B. C., Isaiah wrote:
Behold, the Day of the Lord is coming,
Cruel, with fury and burning anger,
To make the land a desolation;
And He will exterminate its sinners from it.
For the stars of heaven and their constellations
Will not flash forth with their light;
The sun will be dark when it rises,
And the moon will not shed its light. (Isa. 13:9-10)
Significantly, Isaiah later prophesied the fall of Edom in terms of de-creation:
And all the host of heaven will wear away, And the sky will be rolled up like a scroll; All their hosts will also wither away As a leaf withers from the vine, Or as one withers from the fig tree. (Isa. 34:4)
Isaiah's contemporary, the prophet Amos, foretold the doom of Samaria (722 B.c.) in much the same way:
"And it will come about in that day,"
Declares the Lord GOD,
"That I shall make the sun go down at noon
And make the earth dark in broad daylight." (Amos 8:9)
Another example is from the prophet Ezekiel, who predicted the destruction of Egypt. God said this through Ezekiel:
"And when I extinguish you,
I will cover the heavens, and darken their stars;
I will cover the sun with a cloud,
And the moon shall not give its light.
All the shining lights in the heavens
I will darken over you
And will set darkness on your land,"
Declares the Lord GOD. (Ezek. 32:7-8)
It must be stressed that none of these events literally took place. God did not intend anyone to place a literalist construction on these statements. Poetically, however, all these things did happen: as far as these wicked nations were concerned, "the lights went out." This is simply figurative language, which would not surprise us at all if we were more familiar with the Bible and appreciative of its literary character.
What Jesus is saying in Matthew 24, therefore, in prophetic terminology immediately recognizable by his disciples, is that the light of Israel is going to be extinguished; the covenant nation will cease to exist. When the Tribulation is over, old Israel will be gone.
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Preparing for Armageddon, Natural Disasters, Nuclear Strikes, the Zombie Apocalypse, and Every Other Threat to Human Life on Earth. Most of us have thought about how we would handle various types of scenarios that could signal the end of the world. There are plenty of movies on the subject, psychological papers, and even survivalists that are part of reality TV shows. Perhaps you have had dreams about being one of the few left and what you would do in order to survive.