An Analysis of the Mysterious Heavenly Bodies Used in the Olivet Discourse and the Book of Revelation
By: Jonathan Photius
THE BIBLE TELLS US there are to be signs in the heavens before the terrible and dreadful day of the Lord. Throughout the New Testament text and especially St John’s Apocalypse, we are often shown catastrophic events at the end of the world described by the heavenly and humanly bodies – the Sun, the Moon, the Stars, the Air, the Sea, the Earth, the Woman to name a few. On the surface, the visions using the heavenly symbols give the reader a sense of some ominous asteroid to hit the earth, meteor showers causing damage, solar eclipses or a “blood moon” lunar eclipse. Many modern day Futurist and Dispensationalist prophecy interpreters almost always take these symbols as ominous celestial events which will occur in the sky prior the Rapture and Second Coming of Christ. Are these literal interpretations are way off the mark? Are they to be studied in a more symbolic or historical context? In this article, we will focus on some of these key symbols described in the Olivet Discourse and Book of Revelation. The proper decoding of these symbols will form the foundation for our examination of St. John’s apocalypse from a more logical historical perspective.
Celestial Symbols – The “Heavenly Bodies”
There are many scriptural references in the old and new testaments that appear to describe ominous events related to the sun going dark, the moon going dark or turning to blood, and the stars falling from the sky like a meteor shower or shooting star. Here are some passages in scripture that describe these events:
“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 the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” – Matthew 24:29
“Then the third angel sounded; And a great star fell from Heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell upon a third of the rivers and on the springs of water, and the name of the star is called Wormwood; and a third of the waters became as worm-wood; and many men died from the water because it was made bitter” – Revelation :8:10-11
“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 will not give its light.” – Ezekiel 32:7
“Before them the earth quakes, The heavens tremble, The sun and the moon grow dark. And the stars lose their brightness.” -Joel 2:10
“And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.” – Revelation 6:13-14
These are some scary passages! Falling stars can either be comets, asteroids, meteors or nuclear bombs falling from the sky. Who wants to be alive to suffer and witness these events? But are these really foretelling future cataclysmic events, or is the reality that they are describing a symbolic event of historical importance to the Church? If it is the latter case and we need to come to understand the intended meaning of these passages. As a result, we arm ourselves with a much different and better perspective to be able to decode and understand many other prophetic scriptures in a whole new light. Let’s now examine the meaning of the Sun, Moon and Stars with some scripture and science.
The first reference to the Sun, Moon and the Stars can be found in the Book of Genesis with the story of Joseph. Joseph raised the ire of his brother and fathers when he had a prophetic vision of his future in Egypt during the great famine to come:
Genesis 37:9-10 – “Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, “Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, thesun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me.” So he told it to his father and his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you?” And his brothers envied him, but his father kept the matter in mind.”
This scriptural passage forms our basis to understanding that the sun, moon and stars are to be interpreted to mean the “father/husband” of Jacob, the “wife/bride” of Jacob, and the “brothers” of Joseph who would go on to be the great leaders and patriarchs of the twelve tribes of Israel. Notice the symbolism here of the 12 stars, the sun and moon is very similar imagery used in Revelation 12-1. There were 12 tribes, similar to the 12 apostles in the New Testament. The Church often also uses Bridegroom and Bride imagery to describe our relationship with Jesus Christ.
Different cultures throughout history have embraced the Sun as a source of light, warmth and the sustainer of life. This has also lead many cultures to worship the Sun outright. Christianity has even been accused by the ‘Christ Mythology’ advocates as nothing more than a revised form of pagan sun worship. These critics do not understand that Christ is not the Sun-God in the sky like Apollo or Mithra, but Christ is the ‘Sun/Light of Life’ in a metaphysical sense. Those old pagan religions worshiped a physical Sun, but Christians worship Christ as God in “spirit and truth.”
In Matthew, Mark and Revelation, we have a reference to the Sun going dark like what is observed during a rare ominous total solar eclipse. The key to understanding the true identity and true nature of the Sun in scripture can be first realized through studying a few key New Testament verses. For example, in Revelation 10:1 we read:
“Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow above his head. His face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire” – Rev 10:1
This same description of a face shining like the sun is described in the Transfiguration of Jesus in the Book of Matthew:
“After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.” – Matthew 17:1-2
It is well understood through Scripture that Christ is the Metaphysical Sun. Just has the physical sun shines the bright light upon the world as the sustainer of all life on the Earth, Christ shines his light upon the world so that we will not walk in the darkness and deception of the Devil. St. John the Theologian also highlights the words spoken by Christ himself as the Metaphysical Sun in the Gospels:
“… I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.” 13– John 8:12
Malachi also refers to Jesus as the “Sun of Righteousness”:
“But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings” – Malachi 4:2
So there is certainly no doubt: Jesus Christ is referred to as the “metaphysical” Sun in pretty much all of the scriptures that use the word “sun”.
The Moon shines by reflecting the light of the Sun onto the Earth. It is unable to generate light on its own. In scripture, the Moon represents the Universal Church, as it gives light to us in the absence of Christ and the Church shines the light of Gospel through the hearing of the Gospel during Sunday services or through private study and reading of the bible. When the moon is in it’s fullness, it generates the light and reflection of the Sun the strongest and reveals the true worship of God through the Holy Trinity. Likewise, a Crescent Moon only shines one-third of the light of the Sun, and obscures the light of the Sun by two-thirds. So then it it clear to see that the full understanding of the light of Christ and the Monotheistic God is obscured and dim without the fullness of the “full moon” of the Universal Church. How does the Church reflect the fullness of the Sun and the Glory of God? Let’s examine this mystery in more detail through the analysis of the surface of the moon.
The “Man in the Moon” Icon
Many times we often hear about the “Man in the Moon.”. This often refers to the pareidolic images of a human face, head, or rabbit that seems to be visible. These perceived images can be compared to impressionist artform that are made up of many blurry brush strokes. From a farther perspective the image becomes clear. The same can be said for mosaic art, which is often made of small pieces of colored glass or stone. Up close the mosaic image is harder to discern, but step back from a farther distance and the mosaic image or icon can be become clearer to the naked eye. These pareidolic images on the moon are a similar phenomenon in which our mind responds to particular pattern and perceiving that an image exists. Pareidolic images on the moon to the naked eye are the result of the dark area on the surface of the moon due to the lunar maria (“seas”). These mariaare dark plains, formed by volcanic activity during the ancient formation of the moon, while the much brighter highlands reflect more of the light. It was once thought that these dark plains were large bodies of water, but they are actually areas formed by lava. The maria cover approximately 15% of the moon’s surface and reside on the side that is always visible to the earth. The “man” always faces the earth because the rotation of the moon occurs only once per orbit around the earth. We never are able to see the “dark side” of the moon as a result. Depending on the location on the earth we might not see the same “man” visible on the moon. A different face can be seen in the Southern Hemisphere compared the Northern Hemisphere as the moon rises.
What if God intended this celestial body to tell an even greater story about the mystery of Christ and his Church? It can be shown that the moon is a living icon and witness of the Holy Trinity! If we examine the surface and on clear night of the full moon, we will notice that there are in fact three faces or images that can be discerned, at a angular distance of 120 degrees apart from one another. The fact that we can rotate the moon to see these images at 120 degrees of separation seems to reveal another mystery in the significance of the number 12 and 120: 120 = 10 x 2 x 2 x 3. The number “3” represents the Trinity, and “2 x 2” is a representation of Christ as the second person of the trinity contains 2 natures and 2 wills. These three images rotated 120 degrees apart from one another are only visible during the full moon phase, because the church is the only earthly body that provides the direct revelation of the Holy Trinity in it’s fullness to the world. It is also possible that the “rabbit” long identified by other cultures can actually be viewed (in reverse) as a “dove”, representing the Holy Spirit. Let’s examine the images rotated 120 apart from each other in the figure below. The first 2 images are what can be seen either in the northern or southern hemispheres during the rise of the full moon. The third pattern is easier to see during the high rise of the moon around midnight, and that is an image we see an image in a form of a dove.
“and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in a bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.”” – Luke 3:22
So then, all references in the New Testament regarding the “moon” leave us no doubt that refer to the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. The full moon that is visible to us every 28 days is a living icon created by the Hand of God as a visible testament of the Holy Trinity. Why is only the visible side of the moon “painted” with these formations and not the “dark” or “far” side of the moon? It is because the dark side of the moon represents a barren monotheistic god who has no son. The far side of the moon, meanwhile, represents that pagan moon-god which is under the darkness and delusion of Satan. This side is only visible to the earth during a crescent moon and contains thirds of darkness and delusion and hence the visibility of the Sun and Holy Spirit is no longer visible within the other monotheistic religions.
The Gospels and Revelation also make references to the Stars in Heaven. What is the mystery behind the Stars? In reality, the stars are distance suns that can be much larger than ours, but from our perspective they appear in the sky as small heavenly bodies, showing their own light and brightness. We typically like to call our favorite sports heroes or actors as “stars”, or someone of great importance and fame. The same applies to scripture, the stars in the New Testament represent the apostles, bishops or church hierarchy, just as in Genesis they referred to the 12 tribe leaders, or sons of Jacob.
The bishops exhibit a similar nature to that of a shining star that shows the glory of the light of Christ. They are the guides of the church that lead and guide the church through the darkness or delusions of the night. Just as the constellations guide and help us to navigate our direction, and the times and seasons, so do the bishops guide us through understanding the traditions and teachings of the church and the Gospel. They shine the brightness of the light of Christ, although at a much smaller scale. Collectively together, all of the starts in the sky represent all of the bishops and saints that have gone before us. How do we know that a Star = Bishop in the New Testament? Revelation 1:20 provides a clue, referencing the “angels” or “bishops of each of the churches to a star:
“This is the mystery of the seven stars you saw in My right hand and of the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.” – Revelation 1:20
The “Woman” Clothed with The Sun
“And there appeared a great sign in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: and she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.” – Revelation 12:1-2
The woman in the New Testament scriptures is identified as the “one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church” and “New Israel.” Many scriptures identify the Church is the Bride, and Jesus is the Bridegroom. In fact, the Church since the early centuries viewed itself as the Bride “Betrothed” to Christ. Another example is the Bridegroom icon of Jesus is always displayed during Orthodox Holy Week services. The women is described with additional information to truly identify her as the church: “a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars”. And earlier in this chapter we also reviewed the symbolic references of the sun, moon and stars in scripture so that we have a proper context of this passage. The “woman clothed with the sun” is the betrothed bride-to-be that is adorned with the true doctrines of Christ. St. Paul tells us we receive this clothing from Christ at our baptism:
“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” –Galatians 3:27
The book of Ephesians make reference to this special relationship between the woman and the Christ, the Sun of Righteousness::
“Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.” – Ephesians 5:22-33
The Parable of the Ten Virgins in Matthew 25 describes the Bridegroom as follows:
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.” – Matthew 25:1
There are other references that the church is at first “Betrothed” to the Bridegroom.
“… For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 11:2
We are told later in Revelation chapter 19 that this betrothed woman will become the wife of Christ on the completion preparation during the betrothal process. This is the period that she would undergo many trials and tribulations to show herself worthy of his honor.
“Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready..” – Revelation 19:7
So when the Futurists and Dispensationalists insist that the Unbelieving Jews scattered in the Diaspora represents the “Woman” in Revelation 12, show them these scriptures and tell them that is impossible, because they were never married to Christ during their Seven Times expulsion among the nations, except for the 144,000 Jews that formed the strong tree roots which we now call Christianity.
The True Meaning of the Black Sun, Red Moon an Fallen Stars
The Futurist interpreters of prophecy often take these celestial symbols to be literal events and forecast an ominous time of future tribulation upon the earth. Case in point is the “Blood Moon” fever that has circled the prophecy pundits through various books and DVDs. In proper context, these celestial bodies alternatively may foretell a time of great apostasy, persecution and war within the church. This would be a time in history where the understanding of the true nature of Christ and his teachings will become obscured and darkened. During this time the Church will also become red through the martyrdom of the saints and wars between the Christian saints and the enemies of Christ.
Take for example the verses in Matthew and Revelation:
“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 the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” – Matthew 24:29
“I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood. And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind.”– Revelation 6:12-13
Both Matthew and Revelation provide the same imagery immediately after the verses speaking about a period of martyrdom and persecution in the Church. The tribulation is often thought to be a time of testing which would last for “42 months” or “three and a half years”. The historicists equate these to mean 1260 years, beginning from the beginning of the middle ages after the fall of Rome until the Protestant Reformation and Renaissance. So the, Matthew 24 and Revelation 6 use these celestial symbols to describe that after the 1260 year tribulation period upon the True Church and before the Second Coming of Christ, the holy teachings and doctrines of Christ will become obscured through heresy and denomination divisions. During this period the light of Christ will dim and His glory will be less visible. And a few examples of why the Church will not accurately reflect the true doctrines of Christ would be due to it’s darkness of simony, indulgences and papal corruption. This corruption would lead the Church in the West to the Protestant Reformation, described to occur after the blackness of the Sun – the blood red or dark moon. As the moon during a lunar eclipse becomes red, the people of the “earth” would rise up and block the light of the sun to accurately reflect it’s teachings within the Church, causing the Church/moon to turn to red. This bloodshed between Christians is easily confirmed in history, such as the infamous St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, the Thirty Years, War, an persecution of Jews through various pogroms throughout Europe. Due to reforms within the early Lutherans, Calvinists and Baptists, many bishops left Catholicism or were excommunications on charges of heresy. Therefore, the stars, or original apostolic succession and hierarchy of bishops would be abandoned and rejected by the Protestants. After this the end of this time period, the Church would continue to be shaken to it’s foundation… for example, with the numerous sex scandals, child molestation accusations and sexual perversions of the televangelist leaders. Have these two scriptures already been fulfilled? Perhaps so. It is clear to see that many denominations have reached this state of chaos without the true light of Christ to guide them.
Summarizing the Celestial Bodies of Scripture
- The Sun, being the brightest visible object in the sky, representing Christ who is the “Light of the World” and whose “face shown like the Sun.”
- The Moon is symbolic of the Universal Church, and provides the light upon the world in the absence of Christ through the darkness of the night, or spirit of delusion on this earth by Satan.
- The Stars represent the bishops and teachers, such as the Father’s of the Church and Saints, who shown as bright heavenly bodies and radiated the light of Christ upon members of the Church, guiding and navigating the church through troubles and tribulations, just as the physical stars in the heavens help to guide the travelers and sailors throughout the night.
© 2019 by Jonathan Photius
About the Author:
Jonathan Photius is a lifelong Eastern Orthodox Christian who has studied biblical and non-biblical apocalyptic prophecy for over 30 years. Jonathan is a Historicist interpreter of the prophecies, which advocates a continuous fulfillment of prophecies throughout history. He is the author of "Seven Times Unto The Consummation" and "The Encyclopedia of Christianity In The Book of Revelation", both which present neo-historicist views on prophetic interpretation.