A Melting Solar System - Matthew 24:29
February 4, 2021 · C.E. Carter
“But immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” (Matthew 24:29)
Futurists use verses like this to argue for their position that the text of Matthew 24 is mostly referring to future events, and not (as is my position) to events which would surround that generation of listeners (Matthew 24:34). It’s a valid argument, since the timeframe references of this passage link two events with a tight chain; “immediately after” the “tribulation”, there will be something akin to a “melting solar system”. A dutiful Christian with a commitment to Biblical inerrancy will read this passage, study the timeframe references, and glance outside the window to see that the sun, moon, and stars are all intact and in place. This will cause him to reasonably conclude that the solar system hasn’t melted yet, and therefore that the tribulation either hasn’t happened yet either, or that he’s currently living through it.
This would be a compelling case if it weren’t for the fact that this “melting solar system” language, formally known as “de-creation language” had a specific hermeneutical significance. Reading the Bible well means reading the Bible through the lens of the Bible, and that means reading “melting solar system” language for what it really is in scripture. For example, God uses this same de-creation language to pronounce the destruction of Babylon through the prophet Isaiah,
For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not flash their light; the sun will be dark when it rises and the moon will not shed its light. (Isaiah 13:10)
In fact, scripture always uses de-creation language like this to refer to the destruction of a city or a nation. Always. This is because, roughly, celestial bodies refer to rulers and other governing authorities, and so falling stars, blackened moons, and darkened suns would indicate the complete undoing of the social and political order; when it’s all over with, there isn’t a single piece of the old system that hasn’t been toppled out of place. Jesus knew this (duh), and intentionally used this language to signify exactly what He was talking about: specifically, the siege and destruction of Jerusalem, the demolishment of the Temple within her walls, and the diaspora of the remaining Jews who rejected Christ. Like Babylon, Jerusalem had to be overturned; the old Judaic aeon had to end in order to make way for the new Christian aeon.
More on that last part later.