“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” (Mat. 24:29-30)
In our opening text, Jesus speaks of the events that accompany His appearing. He identifies the tribulation as the experience that precedes the darkening and passing away of the sun, moon and stars.
Religion has fabricated many erroneous teachings about the tribulation. However, the many tribulations we encounter in life are often accompanied by the blazing fire of God’s dealings that separate those things that pollute the pure nature of God within our spirit. Thus, Job testifies: “when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold” (Job 23:10).
Dear saint, you would be greatly mistaken to think that you have no part in tribulations or even the great tribulation. Both mentions of the ‘great tribulation’ in the book of Revelation relate directly to the church. Of those who in obedience go through the great tribulation, it is written: “these are they which came out of GREAT TRIBULATION, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 7:14).
The Greek word for ‘tribulation’ is ‘thlisis’. The word occurs 43 times in the New Testament mostly referring to the saints. ‘Thlisis’ simply means: “a pressing, pressing together, pressure”. The tribulation is intended to press us into complete union with Christ. Tribulation will cause the power of Christ to spring up from the depth of our being to subdue our carnal strength and self-dependence until the pure gold of His nature begins to shine forth in us. For this cause: “we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Rom. 5:3-4).
Paul declares: “we must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). John also introduces himself as: “your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 1:9). This is our lot, for “no one should be moved in these tribulations. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this” (1 Thes. 3:3).
Tribulation must come before birthing. If there is no travail in your life today then the time of your labor is not yet. “The woman has pain when she is giving birth, because her hour has come; but when she brings forth the child, she remembers the TRIBULATION no longer, on account of the joy that a man has been born into the world” (Joh. 16:21). This is why the tribulation is mentioned with the day of the Lord, for it is the beginning of the birthing (appearing) of the new man in the image of Christ in our lives.
Jesus goes on to tell us what will immediately follow the tribulation – the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
I trust it is clear to all that Jesus was not referring to literal events here. Jesus was using the commonly used symbols of the sun, moon and stars to relay a deeper message. These symbolisms occur throughout scripture from Joseph’s dream, to mentions of God as the Sun and Christ as the Morning Star, and more directly in the prophetic declarations of Joel, Isaiah, and Daniel, as well as, the events that follow the opening of the sixth seal in Revelation 6.
So what is Jesus relaying to us through these symbols? Brother J. Preston Eby writes: “It should be clear to any thinking mind that the old heaven with its sun, moon, and stars, is the old world of human consciousness, worldly society, and man-made religion with all its luminaries — the ‘lights’ that governed, controlled, dictated, constrained, inspired and directed our thinking, understanding, ways, will, desires, ambitions, and conduct in the world of humanity.”
Today we live in the world system that is governed by the natural man. This system is the old heaven that is passing away, be it the political, economic, social, or religious order it comprises.
Consider the meaning of each of the luminaries. In both the positive and negative sense, the sun represents those who rule, just as God made “the greater light (sun) to RULE the day” (Gen. 1:16). God is also referred to as the Sun, “for the Lord thy God is a SUN and a shield” (Ps. 84: 11). He is the great Ruler.
In the system of the world, the sun signifies those powers that rule over a nation, an organization, a religion, a household, or even an individual.
On the other hand, the moon (the lesser light) generally speaks of the dominion that the lifeless routines, pseudo light of ceremonies, of laws, of rituals, of ordinances, or habitual practices have over people.
Lastly, the stars represent individuals that have risen to prominence in the various spheres of the world system. These include kings, queens, presidents, dignitaries, politicians, Hollywood celebrities, musicians, athletes, etc. These are luminaries of the old heaven which rule the earth today and multitudes look to them for light and direction. A luminary is “a person who inspires or influences others, especially one prominent in a particular sphere”. Another word for luminary is ‘leading light’.
There are also luminaries in today’s religious sphere. The church system; with its hierarchy, its ceremonies and its ministers, has instituted luminaries which rule over the saints. How many millions of the Lord’s people look to televangelists, mega-church preachers, pastors, worship leaders etc. as their light? How many saints have become entagled in religious works, programs, and flesh-oriented activities? How many defiantly observe moon festivals; celebrating Christmas and Easter, decorating trees in accordance with pagan traditions.
Today ministers have become major personalities, superstars, celebrities, VIPs, and leading lights exalted in the heart of the saints. So great is their influence that many have come to reject the inward Light of the Spirit’s witness. I’m astonished when these supposed shepherds unashamedly claim that the saints need to submit under a local church and to the leadership of a pastor. These are but stars who occupy the rightful place of the Morning Star. Rest assured, the old-order Church system will be dealt with by God’s consuming fire so that no one will look to its light.
The destruction of Jerusalem by fire serves as a foreshadowing of these events. In 70 AD the Roman army led by Titus lay siege to the city and burned it to the ground. They left Jerusalem and the temple in such ruins that historians claim that anyone who came to the city would not believe that it had ever been inhabited.
When the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, the religious rule and the system of Jewish hierarchy was destroyed with it – the sun that illuminated that order was darkened. The religious practices of the temple ended – there was no more sacrifices, no more washings, no more incense, and no more re-filling of the candlesticks and the table of showbread. All religious practices and ceremonies ceased – the moon gave her light no more. The priests, the Pharisees, and the Sadducees fell as stars from their high and exalted places.
Such is the fate of the old system of religion and the world as they will go through the same fiery judgment at the hand of God. Its sun will be darkened, its moon will lose its light and its stars will fall when the Living Christ becomes exalted as the only Light in the lives of His saints. Thus, it is written that “the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment” (1 Pet. 3:7). Truly heaven and earth will pass away (Mat. 24:35).
But do not be mistaken dear saint, this is a work that has already begun in the lives of His apprehended sons. The darkening of these luminaries must first take place in each of our individual experiences before it happens out there. Even now, the passing away of the old spiritual order and the establishing of the new is taking place in His elect. We who long for the culmination of this work must patiently endure tribulations until we become completely governed, energized and directed by the Sun of Righteousness. For then it will be said: “the city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it” (Rev. 21:23-24).