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Matthew 24:29 Will the sun and moon go out and stars fall from heaven?

Is this passage literal? Is it symbolic? Has this tribulation started already?

Hi Bryan,

Thanks for asking a question on www.thisisyourbible.com
(All quotations from the King James Version unless stated otherwise).
Collating all three accounts from the synoptic gospels:
Matthew
Mark
Luke
21:24 And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
24:29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven,
13:24 But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, andthe moon shall not give her light, 25 And the stars of heaven shall fall,
21:25 And there shall be signs
in the sun,
and in the moon,
and in the stars;
21:(25)…and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; 26 Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth:
24:(29)…and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
13:(25)…and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken.
21:(26)…for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.
24:30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn,
24:(30)… and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
13:26 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.
21:27 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
21:28 And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.
What is this referring to? And when is the tribulation period spoken of here, has it begun already?
The ‘tribulation’ in context is seen to be that of Israel scattered and persecuted among all nations and Jerusalem being ‘trodden down’ of the gentiles. This has been ongoing since AD70.
Is it to be taken literally?
Signs in the sun, moon and stars may be literal phenomena (as the darkening of the sun at noon when Christ was crucified) but certainly refer to the demise of ruling bodies (governments) on the earth. The sun represents sovereignty; the moon represents religious ministry; the stars represent men of influence in the political sphere.
We see similar symbology used in the prophecy of the final restoration of Israel:
Isaiah 60:20 Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: for the LORD shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended.
This means that Israel will not again lose its sovereignty and priesthood.
The symbology is used in the prophecy of the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians:
Jeremiah 15:9 She that hath borne seven languisheth: she hath given up the ghost; her sun is gone down while it was yet day: she hath been ashamed and confounded: and the residue of them will I deliver to the sword before their enemies, saith the LORD.
In the prophecy of the overthrow of Egypt by the Babylonians:
Ezekiel 32:7 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. 8 All the bright lights of heaven will I make dark over thee, and set darkness upon thy land, saith the Lord GOD.
In the prophecy of an army invading Israel:
Joel 2:10 The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining:
This could have multiple fulfilments; the Babylonians in BC 586; the Romans in AD 70 and the invasion that is yet to happen.
We know that a final invasion of Israel is to take place as described in Ezekiel 38 and 39 and Zechariah 12 to 14.
The situation will be similar to BC 586 and AD 70 but the outcome will be different.
Luke’s account tells us that in addition to the signs in the sun moon and stars there will be distress of nations and men’s hearts failing them for fear.
Luke 21:(25)…and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; 26 Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth:
The sea and the waves roaring is almost certainly a symbol of unrest amongst those governed (we have a foretaste of this in what has been dubbed the ‘Arab Spring’). Alongside this there is a natural fulfilment in the form of tsunamis.
‘With perplexity’ indicates that governments will be unable to find a solution.
‘Men’s hearts failing them for fear’ means that men will lack the courage necessary to tackle the problems.
‘Tribulation’ as far as Israel is concerned has been happening since AD 70.
In Ezekiel a period of peace and prosperity (which we do not yet see) is prophesied before the final invasion.
Ezekiel 38:8 After many days thou shalt be visited: in the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste: but it is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safely all of them.
Ezekiel 38:11 And thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates,12 To take a spoil, and to take a prey; to turn thine hand upon the desolate places that are now inhabited, and upon the people that are gathered out of the nations, which have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the midst of the land.
Although Israel regained some of their land in 1948 and Jerusalem in 1967 it has been a time of continuing tribulation. It may be that as far as the prophecy in Matthew 24:29 is concerned that the period of peace and prosperity described in Ezekiel will count as ‘AFTER the tribulation of those days’. This would mean that the signs in the sun, moon and stars relate to the time of the final invasion of Israel.
It is after the final invasion of Israel that Christ will return to save Israel and be revealed to the people on the earth.
Matthew 24:30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn,
This is not referring to Christ’s return to raise the dead and gather his elect. This will have taken place at some time prior to the invasion of Israel. This I surmise from Revelation 16 where Christ’s return as a thief is said to take place when the nations are being gathered to Armageddon (which I take to be the invasion of Israel described in Ezekiel 38 and 39 and Zechariah 12 to 14*).
Revelation 16:15 Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. 16 And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.
This is why he says that we should react when these things BEGIN to happen:
Luke 21:28 And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.
*Note: I could be wrong in connecting Armageddon with Ezekiel 38 and 39 and Zechariah 12 to 14. This is the way I currently understand it.
I hope this helps.
God bless you,
Glenn,
www.thisisyourbible.com
 
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