The Sun, the moon and the stars
When the Scriptures speak of the heavenly bodies, they are referring to either the luminaries themselves, various individuals, or signs of things to come. The context will generally tell us which one is intended. The purpose of this Study is to consider and discover what is meant when a prophet speaks of the sun, moon and stars passing away, or being dissolved, or the heavens being rolled up. Are they speaking of luminaries which are to be destroyed, or of individuals which are to be dethroned, or are they speaking of signs which are to cease?
Early on in scripture GOD tells us of HIS purpose for the sun, moon and stars.
- GENESIS 1:14-18 And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs ['owth], and for seasons [mow'ed, appointed times], and for days, and for years: and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.
- And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lessor light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.
Two purposes are given here for the heavenly bodies. First, we are told that they were to be as signs, for appointed times, for days and for years. The English word signs is translated from the Hebrew word 'owth. In his Old Testament Word Studies, Wilson defines the word as, "a sign, mark or token, which brings to mind, or confirms anything either past, present, or to come; which excites attention or consideration; which distinguishes one thing from another; or is an inducement to believe what is affirmed, professed, or promised."
One might think of a road sign as a marker warning the driver of something ahead, bringing to one's mind an action to be considered. Thus, these heavenly bodies were often intended as signs or markers placed so as to bring to mind something which induced the star gazer to believe what was promised. E. W. Bullinger suggested that this something was indeed the twelve signs of the Zodiac, which told the heavenly story of man's redemption. The Redeemer's first coming was promised in Virgo, Libra, Scorpio and Sagittarius. His work and its results were revealed in Capricornus, Aquarius, Pisces and Aries. Then His second coming was foretold in Taurus, Gemini, Cancer and Leo. For further reading on this enlightening topic the student may want to refer to Bullinger's Companion Bible, appendix 12, or to his book Witness of the Stars.
We are also told in the first chapter of GENESIS that the heavenly bodies were given as lights, to give light upon the earth. Howbeit, when the scriptures are speaking of the heavenly bodies as simply luminaries, we should always question whether the reference is literal or figurative. An example of a literal usage might be when Paul declared GOD's judgment upon Elymas the sorcerer, telling him, ". . . . behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season" (ACTS 13:11). He was to be blind and not able to see the actual literal sun.
Another example of a literal usage might be when the psalmist pondered,
- PSALM 8:3-4 When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that thou visitest him?
Howbeit, these heavenly bodies are also referred to figuratively and not literally. The writer is not always speaking of a literal luminary but is often painting a vivid and graphic image for the reader to consider. Three such occurrences are by Isaiah which have been ably set forth by J. Stuart Russell in his book, The Parousia, pages 351-352.
- In Isaiah xiii. we have a very remarkable prediction of the destruction of ancient Babylon. It is conceived in the highest style of poetry. The Lord of hosts mustereth the host of the battle; the tumultuous rush of the nations is heard; the day of the Lord is proclaimed to be at hand; the stars of heaven and the constellations withhold their light; the sun is darkened in his going forth; the moon ceases to shine; the heavens are shaken, and the earth removed out of its place. All this imagery, it will be observed, which if literally fulfilled would involve the wreck of the whole material creation, is employed to set forth the destruction of Babylon by the Medes.
- Again, in Isaiah xxiv. we we have a prediction of judgments about to come upon the land of Israel; and among other representations of the woes which are impending we find the following: 'The windows from on high are open; the foundations of the earth do shake. The earth is utterly broken down; the earth is clean dissolved; the earth shall real to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; it shall fall, and not rise again,' etc. All this is symbolical of the civil and social convulsion about to take place in the land of Israel.
- In Isaiah xxxiv. the prophet denounces judgments on the enemies of Israel, particularly on Edom, or Idumea. The imagery which he employs is of the most sublime and awful description: 'The mountains shall be melted with the blood of the slain. All the host of heaven shall be dissolved; the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll, and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig-tree.' 'The streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch. It shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof shall go up forever; from generation to generation it shall be waste; none shall pass through it for ever and ever.'
- It is not necessary to ask, Have these predictions been fulfilled? We know they have been; and the accomplishment of them stands in history as a perpetual monument of the truth of Revelation. Babylon, Edom, Tyre, the oppressors or enemies of the people of God, have been made to drink the cup of the Lord's indignation. The Lord has let none of the words of His servants the prophets fall to the ground. But no one will pretend to say that the symbols and figures which depicted their overthrow were literally verified. These emblems are the drapery of the picture, and are used simply to heighten the effect and to give vividness and grandeur to the scene.
Thus the prophet was speaking of the heavenly bodies in a figurative manner and not literally. He wished to paint a more vivid picture for his readers than if he had spoken literally. The Bible is an eastern book, and thus speaks in the language of the Oriental. They, more than Westerners speak poetically, often using symbols and figures to set forth before their readers and listeners the truths which they wish to teach. As such, the four Gospels are overflowing with Yeshua's (Jesus') parables which use this exact method and imagery.
An important aspect of this figurative language is when the scriptures refer to these heavenly bodies as individuals. The first such reference is to Joseph and his family.
- GENESIS 37:9-10 And he [Joseph] dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me. And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?
This was all figurative language, for no one imagines that the literal sun, moon and stars bowed down to him. We are later told in GENESIS how Joseph's dream was brought to pass when he was elevated by Pharaoh as the supreme ruler in all of Egypt. Another example of a star representing an individual is in NUMBERS.
- NUMBERS 24:17 I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: There shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth.
This was Balaam's prophecy, which probably concerned king David, who was represented as another star coming from the family of Jacob, destined to do mighty deeds for his country. Many suppose that the passage refers to Yeshua (Jesus) as the Messiah, but that suggestion did not originate from the scriptures but from the writings of Justin Martyr in his Dialogue with Trypho the Jew.
The prophet Isaiah often used this imagery of a star representing some individual.
- ISAIAH 14:12-15 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.
The prophet was referring to the king and kingdom of Babylon, which had thought and esteemed itself to become higher than all other powers and authorities. Howbeit, as a star himself this monarch was going to be cast down from his exalted position. We should note that this star being thrust down had nothing at all to do with an actual literal star falling to the earth. It was all imagery.
A similar scene is painted for us by the prophet Daniel where he prophesied concerning the downfall of many in his own nation.
- DANIEL 8:10 And it [the enemy] waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them.
The prophet was referring to some future adversary of Israel, probably Antiochus Epiphanes (2 MACCABEES 8:2 & 9:10), who centuries later ravaged the host of Israel, killing their princes and rulers. Daniel foretold the unfortunate defeat of his nation as stars being cast down to the ground, and then stamped upon. Next, Daniel sees the righteous ones, not cast down but this time exulted as the stars for ever and ever.
- DANIEL 12:3 And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.
Then in the Christian scriptures we note how Jude wrote concerning some individuals who had been troublemakers in their fellowships, people who even though they spoke boastfully, were actually only empty vessels. He called them wandering stars.
- JUDE 10-13 These are spots in your feasts of charity when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.
He described them as empty clouds, dead fruit, raging waves and wandering stars. Of course these were not actual wandering stars but Jude was speaking figuratively, painting a vivid picture for his readers. Then when Yeshua gave the magnificent revelation of His imminent return to His apostle John, He explicitly unveiled this mystery, that oftentimes stars did in fact represent angels.
- RSV REVELATION 1:20 As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.
We blind ourselves to the truth of prophecy if we neglect this important key, that stars often refer to individuals. Scripture has little interest in some distant star falling out of its orbit and being burned up. Rather, when scripture speaks of a star being cast down it most likely is referring to some evil ruler or perhaps a fallen angel rather than to some actual star (see also REVELATION 9:1, 11).
As is most fitting, the last and final reference in scripture to a star symbolizing an individual was when Yeshua identified Himself as a star, even the bright morning star. What a beautiful imagery this rising star is.
- REVELATION 22:16 I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.
But beyond the stars being representative of individuals, whether persons or angels, scripture also colors for us a dark and gloomy picture of the sun becoming black and the moon as blood, culminating in the entire heaven being rolled together as a scroll.
- REVELATION 6:12-14 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. And the heaven departed [apochorizo] as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.
Many readers have assumed that John's vision here concerned the total destruction of the entire physical universe, but we should consider that this also is a figurative representation of the end of that age. Below, we will consider in further detail the sun, moon and stars referring here to individuals, both heavenly and earthly, but first let us ponder what John intended to mean by the heaven departing as a scroll?
It goes without saying that this is certainly a strange way of describing the complete destruction of the universe if that was John's intention, the heaven vanishing like a scroll that is rolled up (RSV). What else might he had meant with this odd description which his vision describes? This phrase is elsewhere rendered,
- And heaven recoils as a scroll rolling up (Concordant Version)
- The sky receded as a scroll rolling up (NIV).
- The sky was divided like a torn scroll curling up (NAB).
- And the heaven was removed as a scroll when it is rolled up (ASV).
- The sky disappeared like a scroll rolling up (NJB).
The obvious problem for the translators is with this word apochorizo, which they have rendered recoiled, vanished, receded, divided, removed, disappeared and other various ways. Still, this is strange language for describing the destruction of the universe. And if we are going to suppose that John's vision concerns the total destruction of the stars and the planets, indeed the heavens themselves, then how do we explain Isaiah's almost identical passage?
- ISAIAH 34:4 And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree.
Isaiah's warning had to do with the destruction not of the entire universe, but only of Israel's enemy, primarily the nation of Idumea (see verses 1-3). If Isaiah was not referring to the total destruction of the cosmos, then why would we force that interpretation upon John? Rather, we should consider that both were somehow referring to the destruction of local authorities, local governments and local leaders, both religious and political.
Let us take note of an enlightening comment on Isaiah's passage by Albert Barnes.
- The figure here is taken from what strikes the eye, that the heaven above us is an expanse . . . . which is spread out; and which might be rolled together, and thus pass away. It is possible that there may be a reference also to the fact, that in a storm, when the sky is filled with dark rolling clouds, the heavens seem to be rolled together, and to be passing away. The sense is, that there would be great destruction among those high in office and in power- a destruction that would be well represented by the rolling up of the firmament, and the destruction of the visible heavens and their hosts, and by leaving the world to ruin and to night. (Notes on the Old Testament- Isaiah, Volume 1, page 492)
As such, if Isaiah was speaking figuratively of the heavens being rolled together as a scroll, we should expect that John most probably was speaking with the same language. These were graphic portrayals of the end of their age, of the annihilation of their social and political orders. Forty some years before John's visions, Yeshua had similarly predicted the end of their age.
- MATTHEW 24:29-31 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, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
- And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth [ge, land] mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
- And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. [see also LUKE 21:25-26]
When we read thoughtfully, we find difficulty in just assuming that the reference to the luminaries here was a prediction of a literal event. Notice that right after the sun and moon have been darkened, and the stars have fallen from heaven, that then the people of the earth were seeing Yeshua coming in the clouds. It just doesn't seem likely, or even possible that all this would be accomplished literally, in this fashion. Instead we should expect that much of what Yeshua foretold was figurative, the stars and the sun and the moon evidently representing earthly and heavenly powers.
One might also wonder that if the Lord and His apostles had been expecting the complete destruction of the entire physical universe, then of what point was His instructions just moments earlier for them to flee into the mountains when they began to see these signs accomplished (MATTHEW 24:16)? But if on the other hand He was warning of the coming destruction of their political and religious leaders, of their city and temple and nationality, then all makes perfect sense. Then His encouragement to get out of Jerusalem while they could was wise and prudent advice.
Yeshua's prophecy had to do with several separate incidents, both literal and figurative. First, the darkening of the heavenly bodies and shaking of the heavenly powers; then after that a sign was to appear in heaven having to do with the Son of man, culminating in many unbelievers mourning as Yeshua approached with great power; and finally the gathering together of His chosen people. Surely the prophecy was describing the complete overthrow of the Adversary's kingdom and then the setting up of His own in its place, His own heavenly kingdom.
The sun, moon and stars here no doubt referred figuratively to individuals, both heavenly and earthly, who were ruling over the Land of Israel. These would be Satan and his host of fallen angels as well as those evil persons which the Adversary had inserted into power to rule over the Land, both Roman and Jewish. We read (REVELATION 13:1-17) of the evil beast (Emperor Nero), the Dragon (Satan) who gave all others their power, the great harlot (Jerusalem), the scarlet beast with the ten horns (the Roman Procurators), and another beast (governor Gessius Florus). They were all to be removed from power and obliterated, shaken from their tree and cast out.
In a separate vision (REVELATION 12:2-9) we are told of a great red dragon (Satan), with seven heads and ten horns, and a third of the stars of heaven (Satan's angels) who did battle with Michael and his angels. We are told how Satan and his host lost that heavenly war and was then cast out to the earth, and his angels with him. Is this not a perfect portrait for us of the sun, the moon and the stars falling from their orbits? Is this not exactly what the scriptures mean when they speak of the heavens being shaken? Not the literal stars and planets, but the powers represented by them. This same shaking is also referred to in HEBREWS.
- HEBREWS 12:25-26 See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven (see HAGGAI 2:20-22)
We are told here that on some previous occasion the earth was shaken, no doubt referring to earthly thrones and dominions being removed. But now we are told that the heaven also was about to be shaken, perhaps referring to Satan's dominion. The result of this shaking was that the stars were going to fall from the sky like figs from a tree. The imagery paints a perfect picture for us. We see the heavenly powers trying to cling to their high places as the Lord shakes them out of their trees. These are no doubt some of those of whom Paul wrote of in his epistle to the Ephesians.
- EPHESIANS 6:12 Because the wrestling is not to us against blood and flesh, but against principalities, against authorities, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual [powers] of wickedness in the heavenlies. [from Berry's Greek New Testament]
Paul's real adversaries were not people of flesh and blood but spiritual heavenly forces. These powers were to be shaken and removed from their dominion at Yeshua's return. Consider also 1 CORINTHIANS 15:24-28 & LUKE 10:18.
Next let us consider several passages in the Bible which speak of the world passing away, which we should examine to see how they bear upon our topic.
Our first chore here should be to understand a little about this Greek word kosmos from which the English word world has been rendered. It certainly can mean the entire universe with all of its stars and moons and planets, but not necessarily. Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon defines it in these various ways,
- 1). an apt and harmonious arrangement or constitution, order.
- 2). ornament, decoration, adornment.
- 3). the world, i.e. the universe.
- 4). the circle of the earth, the earth.
- 5). the inhabitants of the world.
- 6). the ungodly multitude; the whole mass of men alienated from God, and therefore hostile to the cause of Christ.
- 7). worldly affairs; the aggregate of things earthly; the whole circle of worldly goods, endowments, riches, advantages, pleasures, etc., which, although hollow and frail and fleeting, stir desire, seduce from God and are obstacles to the cause of Christ.
- 8). any aggregate or general collection of particulars of any sort.
As such, we can see that to assume that this word kosmos always means the actual universe, is misleading and will throw us off the scent and sow only confusion in our reading. We would do well to measure each occasion of its use by the context in which the writer has placed it. Armed with this understanding let us therefore proceed with our Study.
- 1 CORINTHIANS 7:31 And they that use this world [kosmos], as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world [kosmos] passeth away [parago].
We should note that the Greek here does not intimate that the fashion of the world was going to pass away at some judgment day in the future, but rather it reads that it was then actually passing away. The language used is that of the shifting scene of a play on a stage. Paul was seeing even as he wrote, the gradual and eventual overthrow of their entire religious and political system, their civil and social society passing away. Not the destruction of the physical universe with its billions and billions of galaxies, but rather the great upending of their age, the annihilation of their national systems.
In the context of this passage we read where Paul was instructing his readers to abide as they were (7:20, 24); whether or not they were uncircumcised (7:18-19), bondsmen (7:21-23), married or unmarried (7:26-29) they were not to seek a change in their situation. Why? Because the time of the great harvest of that age was rushing upon them (7:29). The crash of their world order was at the point of disintegrating every political and religious system. What point was there in marrying and starting a family while the whole social order and fabric of their society was unraveling? What reason could a man have for planning a business venture when such a cataclysmic end was about to overtake them? Why seek freedom from slavery when many of them were soon going to be called to GOD's judgment throne as Christ's servants? John also exclaimed the same thing.
- 1 JOHN 2:17 And the world [kosmos] passeth away [parago], and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
Neither Paul nor John were speaking of the end of the material universe, but rather they were writing about the organization, the rulership, the solidarity of their national order passing away. Indeed, they were speaking of the fashion and lust of the old kosmos passing on while a new kingdom was upon the horizon, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
In the very next passage John wrote that for his readers it was indeed the last time, but it was obviously not the last time for the existence of the universe with all its constellations and galaxies, for they are still with us today. Rather it was the last time for Israel's national sovereignty, it was the last time for their capital city and temple, for their religious and social institutions.
But there were those who had been teaching otherwise. Those false apostles and false teachers who had been infecting the fellowships with doubts about the fast approaching convulsion of their age. In his letter, Peter referred to some who were beginning to speculate that the Lord had delayed His return too long, or else maybe He wasn't coming back at all, in which case they might as well go ahead and live their lives as they pleased.
- 2 PETER 3:3-4 Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.
Nearly forty long years had now passed since Yeshua ascended into heaven, at which time the two attending angels had assured His apostles of His eminent return (ACTS 1:9-11). But still no sign of Him. Some were then reasoning that perhaps He wasn't ever returning, that perhaps there was to be no judgment day, no day of reckoning for their nation. Peter wrote therefore to confront their whisperings.
- 2 PETER 3:5 For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water:
Of course Peter referred here to the creation story from the first chapter of GENESIS. But then he went on to make the correlation for them of how that world was overwhelmed by Noah's flood.
- 2 PETER 3:6-7 Whereby the world [kosmos] that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: but the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
Peter wrote that Noah's world perished! But we know that it didn't perish, at least not the entire planet. What happened, as we can be confident Peter well knew, was that many of the inhabitants, both men and beasts perished, but others, those on the ark with Noah, survived. Evidently what Peter meant then, when he wrote that Noah's world perished, was not that the whole planet was destroyed, but only that many of the inhabitants perished, the social and political institutions perished. We should expect then that when Peter makes his comparison and link between Noah's world perishing and their own world being reserved for fire, that it is not the entire planet which they expected to perish, but rather just many of the inhabitants.
Peter then continues along this same theme.
- 2 PETER 3:10-13 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away [parerchomai] with a great noise, and the elements [stoicheion] shall melt [luo] with fervent heat, the earth [ge, land] also and the works that are therein shall be burned up [detected or exposed].
- Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved [luo], what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire [puroo] shall be dissolved [luo], and the elements [stoicheion] shall melt [teko] with fervent heat?
- Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
The correct interpretation of this interesting passage is wholly dependent upon one's perspective. If the student believes that Yeshua has not yet returned to gather together His church into heaven, if he thinks that Yeshua and His apostles were wrong when they repeatedly alerted their audiences and readers concerning the fast approaching day of the judgment, if the first Christians were misguided and misled concerning the end of that age being the complete collapse of Israel's city and nationhood and temple, then he will think that this passage must refer to some still impending catastrophe yet to come. (see the Study, Whatever Happened to Timothy?)
But, if the student understands that Yeshua and His apostles said what they meant and meant what they said, that indeed the culmination of that age was in fact upon them, shortly coming to pass, at the very door, then the reader will realize that Peter could not possibly have intended to write that the heavens and the planet were about to be obliterated, wiped out and burned up. In that case we will have to look for another interpretation. We will have to consider how else could Peter's words could have been intended? What else could he have been predicting? What is it in these passages that most everyone has not been understanding?
When translators have a fixed and preconceived notion about how an event is to unfold, they tend to craft their version to represent that notion. We must be diligent to recognize and uncover those prejudices. Practically every Bible commentator has failed to consider the possibility of Christ's return and GOD's day of judgment occuring during the first century, even though this is exactly what He and every writer of the Christian scriptures affirmed. As such, they have haphazardly translated and rendered passages such as this one in Peter's letter to reflect their erroneous view.
First they tell us that on the day of the Lord that the heavens shall pass away, suggesting that they will be destroyed. Howbeit, as touched upon above with the word parago, the Greek word parerchomai, from which they get the phrase pass away really means simply to pass, as passing by or passing around or to go past. Let's take the time to consider a few of these occurrences to see how this bears out.
- MATTHEW 26:42 He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away [parerchomai] from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.
This passage concerns Yeshua's prayer to the Father just before His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, the cup representing GOD's course for His life, His destiny. Obviously the Lord was not intending that the cup was going to perish, but rather that if the cup was not going to pass Him by, then He would drink from it. Consider a couple of other verses where Peter himself used this word parerchomai.
- MATTHEW 14:15 And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time [hour] is now past [parerchomai]; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals [food].
Thus, Peter [see verse 28] and the other disciples were recognizing that daylight was fading and soon it would be difficult for the multitudes to find something to eat, so they encouraged Yeshua to send the multitude away. They didn't mean to suggest that the time or hour was going to be destroyed or obliterated but rather that it was just late in the day and all should make preparations for the night, before darkness fell upon them.
- 1 PETER 4:3 For the time past [parerchomai] of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries:
Likewise, in this first epistle of Peter, he noted that the time of unchristian behavior for him and his readers had passed away; it was now behind them and they should instead live righteously. Neither occurrence was suggesting that something was being destroyed. Time was moving on, marching on as the saying goes. That former lifestyle was in their rearview mirror, so to speak.
In his Critical Lexicon and Concordance, E. W. Bullinger defined parerchomai as, "to come beside or near any person, draw near; go or pass near, pass along by". Thus, in our passage in 2 PETER, we are told that in some fashion the heavens were going to pass along by, with a great noise. We should also note that this noise (rhoiredon) wasn't necessarily from something like a loud explosion, as if the universe was incinerating, but more like the noise of the hissing of a serpent or of an arrow wizzing through the air (Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary). Such a noise might cause panic, similar to hearing an approaching mortar shell in battle, causing all to jump for their fox holes.
Our passage in 2 PETER was a reflexion and echo of the one from Isaiah quoted above, where the destruction of Bozrah, the capital city of Idumea is referenced. We should also note that nearly every version renders this passage as the host (the individuals) of heaven being dissolved or rotting away, not heaven itself.
- ISAIAH 34:4 And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree.
As such, a strong argument continues to build here against just assuming that Peter intended to say that the universe was going to perish in some sort of cosmic explosion. We should also note that the idea of the world ending is no where found in scripture. In fact, the phrase "the end of the world" is never used in the sense that the planet or the universe is going to be destroyed. Its only occurrences in the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) have to do with the furthest extremity of the planet (see PSALM 19:4 & ISAIAH 62:11), not the destruction of the cosmos. In the Christian writings (the New Testament) it only refers to the end of the age (aion), not the end of the world (kosmos).
A word should probably be made concerning such passages as the one below, where it appears that the writer is indeed suggesting that the world is going to someday be destroyed.
- PSALM 102:25-26 Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth ['erets]: and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed. (see also HEBREWS 1:10-12)
When the translators render their versions, we must be alert to their prejudices. The Hebrew word 'erets which they have chosen to render as earth, does not necessarily mean planet earth. Often it has reference to some country or parcel of land, such as the land of Israel. The LORD laying the foundation of 'erets could easily refer to the building up of Jerusalem or of Israel itself (see verse 16). When one takes the time to read the entire psalm, he will no doubt see that it is Zion and Jerusalem which is on the mind of the writer, not the cosmos.
An interesting and clear example of how poorly some translators have rendered scripture is in this passage from HEBREWS.
- HEBREWS 9:6 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world [kosmos]: but now once in the end of the world [aion, age] hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
Obviously, the writer of HEBREWS when using two different Greek words in the same passage, kosmos and aion, did not mean for them to represent the exact same thing, yet the King James Version translators have rendered both of them by the same word, world. The reader who was unwilling or unable to read the text behind the English version might be misled and deceived by many of these erroneous renderings. See also MATTHEW 13:39-49; 24:3; 28:20 where this word aion has also been rendered world. Note that the RSV renders it correctly in all of these passages.
We are also told in 2 PETER that certain elements were all going to melt, but the word from which they translated melt, luo, doesn't mean melt at all. It is elsewhere rendered loose 27 times, break 5 times, unloose 3 times, destroy twice, dissolve twice, put off once, melt once, break up once, and break down once. Its basic meaning is "to loose, to unbind, discharge from prison, or to overthrow" (see MATTHEW 21:2 MARK 1:7 ACTS 2:24 REVELATION 5:2; 20:3).
Twice in the passages we are considering (3:11 &12) it is rendered dissolved, which is probably how they excused defining it as melt in verse 10. The same word is used in the Greek LXX in DANIEL 5:12 where the prophet is said to be a loosener of knots because he could "understand to interpret dreams and explain riddles" (ESV). So what Peter may have been trying to tell his readers was that in some fashion these elements were going to be unloosed, unraveled or unbound. Nothing is necessarily being intimated here about the universe being destroyed or melting away.
Notice should also be made about this word elements [stoicheion]. It had nothing to do with molecules or even atoms. Peter is not speaking of the basic building blocks of the universe being melted down. The word stoicheion means the elementary principles of something, the ABCs of an idea or concept. In HEBREWS we are told of the first principles [stoicheion] of the oracles of GOD (5:12). In like fashion Peter is speaking of these elementary principles being loosed or unwound.
We are beginning to see that each of the English words which the translators have used to push the idea that the physical heavens and earth were all going to be destroyed or burned up, when scrutinized closely, really don't suggest that at all. But when one has the idea of the whole universe being disintegrated by some cosmic nuclear chain reaction, then that is what one reads into passages such as these.
Next we are told in Peter's epistle that the earth was to be burned up, howbeit, the Greek word ge which they have translated earth usually means land, as the Land of Israel. It can mean planet earth, but not necessarily. Bullinger in his Companion Bible, appendix 129 defines it as such,
- 4. ge = land, as distinct from water; or earth as distinct from heaven; or region or territory, used of one special land, or country, as distinct from other countries, in which peoples dwell, each on its own soil.
By the time that the Romans had put down Israel's rebellion in 70 A.D., they had certainly burned up many of the cities of Israel, but not the entire planet. Even so, as noted below, it's very doubtful that Peter was even alluding to this burning.
In this very chapter this word ge is found four times (3:5, 7, 10, 13). Peter's first reference was to the original creation of GENESIS noting (in verse 6) that that world perished in the waters of Noah's flood. As noted above, the planet didn't perish but rather the ungodly on the planet perished, their ungodly dominions and entrapments perished. Next he spoke of this present heaven and earth being reserved for the day of judgment. But again, the celestial heavens and planet earth were not going to be judged, but rather the individuals in those heavens and on that planet, that Land, were going to be judged (REVELATION 20:11-13).
Then comes this reference to the earth and its works being burned up, howbeit, the phrase "and the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up" is missing in many notable Vulgate Manuscripts (Challoner-Rheims Version, from the Latin Vulgate). Even in the Greek the phrase "shall be burned up" is doubtful. Instead of burned up, it might better read, "shall be disclosed" (Lexham English Bible), or "will be found out" (The New American Bible), or simply "shall be found" (The Concordant Literal New Testament), or "will be laid bare" (The New English Bible and the NIV). Few modern versions understand that the Greek here supports the idea that the planet was going to be incinerated.
Then (3:13) Peter speaks of righteousness dwelling in new heavens and a new earth (ge). Of course righteousness does not dwell in the celestial or terrestrial bodies, but rather in the individuals inhabiting those places. Thus, we see in Peter's language that even though he speaks of the heavens and the earth, he really is meaning the people, the individuals of the heavens and the earth. There is every reason to understand here that when Peter speaks of the heavens and earth, he is referring to the individuals in the heavens and earth and not the physical stars and planets.
In verse twelve we are told that the heavens being on fire [puroo] shall be dissolved [luo], and again that the elements [stoicheion] shall melt [teko] with fervent heat, seeming to suggest that the universe was indeed going to be utterly destroyed. To undo this knot which has been tightly bound and twisted by prejudiced translators, we will have to consider several more of these words in detail.
The phrase being on fire suggests to our minds that the heavens were going to catch fire and somehow burn up, yet this word puroo doesn't carry that meaning at all. As much as anything it means to be purged of all dross. In other words, it is the process whereby a metal is heated, not necessarily to destroy it but rather to remove the impurities. The word is used just six times in the Christian scriptures, 1 CORINTHIANS 7:9; 2 CORINTHIANS 11:29; EPHESIANS 6:16; REVELATION 1:15 & 3:18 and our verse in 2 PETER. Not once does puroo mean to consume or destroy something with fire. The two passages in REVELATION explicitly show that there it's usage has to do with purifying something such as metals. As such, in 2 PETER the heavens were in some fashion to be purified, but not necessarily consumed or burned up. For other pertinent examples of this purifying taking place at the end of that age, see MALACHI 3:2 & 1 CORINTHIANS 3:13.
Then we have the other word which they have rendered melt (teko) which is a totally different word than that which they had previously rendered melt (luo) in verse 10. As we have seen, luo means to unloose while this word, teko is said to mean liquify. Unfortunately, this usage in 2 PETER is the only place the word is found in the Christian writings (the New Testament), so it is not possible for us to do a word comparison.
As is usually the case though, the key to understanding difficult passages is often the context. How did the original writer or speaker set his word or phrase in his sentence or paragraph, what is the immediate and remoter context of his words. Once we determine that, the interpretation usually settles out. Let us then take the time to go back and re-read just what was Peter's intention for his readers in this epistle, so that the discerning student might better understand this troubling passage.
The letter as a whole is a wakeup call, that Peter's readers might better recognize the extreme consequences of their life's choices. He begins by instructing them that by choosing the right way, they will be partakers of the divine nature and thus escape corruption (1:4). But if the fellow Christian becomes sidetracked, going astray and failing to develop these Christian virtues (1:5-7) in their life, that would result in them being ineffective and unfruitful (1:8), for he that does not devote himself to these Christian virtues is blind and has forgotten the total and complete change which the gospel had wrought in his life (1:9). Howbeit, if the reader would be diligent to practice these Christian virtues, then he would never fall, but was guaranteed a rich welcome into Yeshua's everlasting kingdom (1:10-11).
In this epistle Peter encouraged his readers to continue in the faith, to remember his teachings and thus be established (1:12); he also encouraged them to recall the words spoken by the holy prophets and the commandments of the apostles (3:1). His aim was to stimulate them to wholesome thinking (NIV 3:1), to have them live holy and godly lives (3:11), to be spotless and blameless (3:14), because GOD will rescue the godly but HE will preserve the unrighteous for judgment (2:9).
Thus he warned them not to fall, as evidently many were going to fall, for the lies of the false teachers (2:1); he warned them not to be beguiled (2:14) or heed the scoffers who scoff at the promise of Christ's return (3:3). He reminded them that even the angels which sinned GOD cast down to tartaroo (a place of judgment), and delivered into chains of darkness awaiting their judgment (2:4). He also reminded them how the ungodly of the ancient world were not spared, except Noah and his family (2:5). He spoke of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah being turned into ashes because of the ungodly lifestyle of its inhabitants (2:6), all except Lot's family, again because that man was righteous. And then Peter reminded them of Balaam, who had forsaken the right way and instead went astray (2:15).
All of this had to do with individuals who had made the conscious choice to live either righteously or unrighteously. As such Peter was very much concerned with his readers following the right way and not being led astray. He warned them to be on their guard so as not to be carried away with the error of the wicked and thus fall from their secure position (NIV 3:17). Instead, Peter's aim was to encourage them to devote themselves to living righteously so as to find entrance into the new heavens and the new earth, wherein dwells righteousness (3:13).
Thus we see that Peter was not at all concerned with warning them about the physical universe being destroyed or burned up. Rather he was concerned with the righteous and the unrighteous, with the godly and the ungodly, with the followers of the right way and those led astray. He warned them of "cunningly devised fables" and "false teachers" and that the true word of prophecy came from holy men of GOD, carried along by the Holy Spirit (NIV 1:21).
It was the righteous who were secure and assured a grand entrance into the new heavens and the new earth, but the ungodly, the unrighteous, those deceived and beguiled, these were destined to be destroyed as had been the ungodly of Noah's old world, or the ungodly residents of Sodom and Gomorrah, or as the angels which had sinned, or as Balaam who loved the wages of unrighteousness. All had to do with his readers hastening to be found spotless and blameless at the judgment day (3:14), but not of the actual planets and stars falling from the sky and perishing.
Thus, the central and pivotal statement upon which our passage (3:10-12) turns, reads
- 2 PETER 3:11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness.
Because all these things were to be dissolved, unwound or unraveled, what was their decision to be? What manner of persons were they going to become? Were they going to fashion themselves into godly vessels for righteousness thereby being rewarded with eternal life, or were they going to believe the lies of the scoffers and thereby reap corruption? Were they to be among those about to be put to the fiery test, or were they to be among those gladly welcomed into His eternal kingdom.
Peter's whole purpose was to emphasize the consequences of his readers actions. What was to be their response to his encouragements and warnings? All had to do with what was to happen to his individual readers and followers, not what was going to happen to the planets, or the distant stars.
This is the essence of what he meant with the heavens being purified. GOD was going to rid them of all ungodly and unholy influence. One aspect of this is brought to pass in John's vision as recorded in REVELATION when he saw the purification of heaven itself.
- REVELATION 20:1-3 And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.
Thus, after the great spiritual battle was fought and won, Satan was cast into the bottomless pit, chained for a thousand years. Heaven was not destroyed but rather purged of evil, for this angel of GOD armed with a great chain came down from heaven. Heaven was still there, only now it was purified, swept of all uncleanness.
From the first pages of the Bible story we are repeatedly told that GOD considered the physical universe which HE had made as good (GENESIS 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25), indeed, "GOD saw every thing that HE had made, and, behold, it was very good" (1:31). A reasonable question which might be asked then is, Where this idea came from that GOD was going to burn up and destroy HIS own wonderful creation? It came from outside of the Bible, introduced into the early fellowships from Greek philosophy of the late first and early second centuries.
After the destruction of the entire Jewish system in 70 A.D., and the gathering together of the faithful believers into heaven, many unscriptural and non-biblical pagan doctrines were embraced and adopted by the so-called Church fathers. The unfaithful believers (MATTHEW 25) who were left behind were evidently unable to preserve the truths communicated to them through the writings of the Christian scriptures, and therefore error flooded into the fellowships and washed away much which the first disciples and apostles knew and taught. As such, that which is today palmed off as true doctrine is often nothing more than Church traditions promulgated and preserved by an imposter religion (see Church Traditions).
In reference to the world being destroyed by fire, Charles Biggs wrote in his book The Epistles of St. Peter and St. Jude, "this, however, is purely Stoic doctrine, based upon the theory of Heraclitus that fire was the prime element" (page 295). The Stoic philosophers held a cyclical view of history, in which the world was once fire and would become fire again. These Greek philosophies were carried by many of the Gentile converts into the newly formed Christian fellowships and eventually prevailed as Church doctrine.
Thus many in today's Church still teach that the world will someday be destroyed by fire because it is so evil. They further speculate that until that anticipated Armageddon occurs, we are all held captive by this evil world's unholy grip. Nevertheless, so they theorize, at death we all fly free and escape its material clutches. Concepts such as the eternal soul and the sanctity of life issue forth from these pagan doctrines, not from the Bible.
Howbeit, this whole idea that the material universe is evil flows contrary to what the Bible clearly teaches. To give the reader an idea of all that this un-biblical philosophy entailed, we quote from page 168 of Marvin Wilson's book Our Father Abraham;
- Platonism holds that there are two worlds: the visible, material world and the invisible, spiritual world. The visible or phenomenal world is in tension with the invisible or conceptual world. Because it is imperfect and a source of evil, the material world is inferior to that of the spiritual. In this view, the human soul originates in the heavenly realm, from which it fell into the realm of matter. Though human beings find themselves related to both of these worlds, they long for release from their physical bodies so that their true selves (their souls) might take flight back to the permanent world of the celestial and divine.
- Related to Plato's dualistic view of the cosmos, then, is a dualistic view of man. Plato likens the body to a prison for the soul. The immortal soul -pure spirit- is incarcerated in a defective body of crumbling clay. Salvation comes at death, when the soul escapes the body and soars heavenward to the invisible realm of the pure and eternal spirit. The widespread influence of Plato upon the history of Christian thought can hardly be overestimated. Accordingly, Werner Jaeger states that "the most important fact in the history if Christian doctrine was that the father of Christian theology, Origen, was a Platonic philosopher at the school of Alexandria" [from Jaeger's The Greek Ideas on Immortality]. Furthermore, he points out that "he [Origen] built into Christian doctrine the whole cosmic drama of the soul, which he took from Plato, and although later Christian fathers decided that he took over too much, that which they kept was still the essence of Plato's philosophy of the soul."
Thus we learn that this entire scheme that creation was to be destroyed by some cosmic fire is not from the Bible but is the invention of Greek philosophy, taken over by a floundering Church in the second century of our era. Contrary to Church Tradition, whenever the scriptures speak of the sun and the moon and the stars being destroyed, it is referring figuratively, usually to individuals, not the actual luminaries.
An thought provoking question is put to the reader of the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, page 74, when the writer speculates,
- The reader of Scripture cannot but notice how relatively silent the OT is about the next life or another world. By contrast this is a dominating motif in other ancient near eastern literature. Can this be one of the Bible's ways of accentuating the goodness of the earth, the here and now?
Only after Yeshua's resurrection is the idea put forth and expanded in Scripture concerning a believer's future life. The whole terrible scene of the heavenly conflict is laid out for us in another one of John's visions, where we see the entire cosmic battle being fought and won by Micheal and his angels, late in the first century as Jerusalem burned.
- REVELATION 12:1-9 And there appeared a great wonder [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.
- And there appeared another wonder [sign] in heaven; and behold a great red dragon [Satan], having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.
- And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness [beyond Jordan, Petra?] where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.
- And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
- And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.
We would do well and probably be on the right track if we considered that these adornments of the woman, being clothed with the sun, having the moon at her feet and a crown of twelve stars, were also symbols representing individuals.
As is the tempting view, many have taken the woman to be the Virgin Mary and her child the baby Jesus, both fleeing from before Herod's scheme to slay the child. Howbeit, the complete and true scene draws us away from such an interpretation. We quote from The Parousia by J. Steuart Russell, page 449.
- It is not surprising that this representation of the woman who brings forth a man child destined to rule all the nations, who is caught up to God and to His throne, etc., should at the first view suggest the Virgin Mother and her Son, who was no sooner born than He was persecuted by the murderous jealousy of Herod, 'who sought the young child to destroy him;' and who ascended to the throne of God. Nevertheless, such an interpretation at once breaks down, being wholly incompatible with the subsequent representations in the vision. There is nothing in the history of Mary corresponding to the persecution of the woman by the dragon; to her flight into the wilderness after the ascension of her Son; to the flood of water cast out by the serpent to destroy her; and to the war made upon 'the remnant of her seed.'
- There is another objection which is fatal to this interpretation. It is outside the bounds which the Apocalypse itself expressly draws around its scene and time of action. It is not among the things 'which must shortly come to pass.' If we were taken back to look at symbolical representations of the birth of Christ, we should not be upon apocalyptic ground. To leave this ground is to travel out of the record, to forsake the terra firma of historical fact, and to launch out upon a shoreless sea of conjecture, without a compass or guiding star.
Let us then consider who is represented by the woman; who exactly the vision is suggesting as being this woman with a crown of twelve stars? She is obviously not Mary. Neither could she be Jerusalem, nor Rome or even Babylon for she is seen fleeing into the wilderness. Howbeit, she is persecuted by the dragon, which narrows the field down quite a bit, for Satan was known to mostly persecute the believers, the Christian Church (see REVELATION 2:10, 13; 11:7).
But surely the woman wasn't representing the Gentile Christians who were far removed from the scene of John's vision; nor then could she represent those Jewish believers who were dispersed among the nations of the world. That then leaves the local Judean Church, which the apostles had founded, and these were indeed the very ones who were said to have fled from Jerusalem during the Roman siege (see Eusebius' The Ecclesiastical History, III. 5.), just as Yeshua had warned them to do (MATTHEW 24:16). See also W. M. Christie's summary of this whole affair in his book Palestine Calling, pages 28-33, where he recounts how in 66 A.D. the Roman governor Cestius Gallus encompassed Jerusalem, but then abandoned his siege and withdrew to Scopus and Gibeah with the Zealots in hot pursuit, which incidentally allowed the believers to escape and flee beyond Jordan.
It should also be noted that even though this sign was in heaven, the scene which the sign depicted was on earth (the Land), just as the seven angels with the seven last plagues was a sign in heaven (REVELATION 15:1), though their plagues were poured out upon the earth (REVELATION 16:1).
So if the woman is the Judean apostolic Church, then in what fashion was she clothed with the sun? Perhaps we have our answer in Yeshua's own description of the kingdom of GOD in His parable of the tares of the field. He interpreted the parable for His disciples saying that the sower was the Son of man, the field was the world (kosmos), the good seed were to be the children of the kingdom, the tares were the children of the wicked one, the enemy was the devil, the harvest was to be the end of the world (aion, age), and the reapers would be the angels (MATTHEW 13:36-43). Is this not an exact description of the visions set forth for us in REVELATION?
Yeshua finished the interpretation of His parable by declaring that "then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their father". Exactly as Yeshua had depicted in His parable, the righteous believers were going to shine forth as the sun. Was not then the Judean Church clothed with righteous believers? These righteous believers was what gave the Church her glory, her brightness.
But then what of the crown on her head? Who might be the twelve stars in John's vision? Who else but the twelve apostles to whom Yeshua had promised "Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (MATTHEW 19:28). A crown always depicts glory and power, and the glory and power of the Judean Church was without doubt the twelve apostles.
So then, if the Judean Church was clothed with righteous believers, and crowned with the twelve apostles, what about this moon which John saw at her feet? If she was clothed with righteous believers, who then was at her feet? If the sun represented the righteous believers, then does the moon represent less righteous, or unrighteous believers? The fact that these are at the feet of the Church, indicating subservience, would suggest such an interpretation. These may have been peripheral Christians, those not wholly committed as disciples but still curiously attracted or attached to the Church.
When we pause and consider the account more thoughtfully, his vision may not have been just a snapshot of a single incident but rather a series of lengthy episodes succinctly drawn together for John's benefit. As the woman was sustained for three and half years in the wilderness we recognize that the actual episode probably spanned at least that period. As such, when the woman finally fled into the wilderness she may not still have been clothed with the sun. She was clothed with the sun and crowned with twelve stars in the beginning of the vision, but by the time she fled into the wilderness she may have lost some of these adornments. In other words, sometime before she fled into the wilderness, the devil devoured her child, GOD then raising that child to HIS throne in heaven.
It has been supposed that this man child was Yeshua because it is said that the child was to rule all nations with a rod of iron (REVELATION 12:5), which is true in fact about the Lord. But as His subordinates, the faithful believers were also destined to thus rule.
- REVELATION 2:26-27 And he that overcometh, and keepeth my [the Son of GOD's] works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.
Who then was this child of hers? No doubt the offspring of the Church, those individuals adopted into the fellowships and making up the body of believers. These were the ones Satan was intent upon destroying and devouring. As Yeshua had warned them, they shall "deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations [ethnos, multitudes] for my name’s sake" (MATTHEW 24:9).
Thus, some of the believers could have been martyred and then raised from the dead and gathered together into heaven even before the body of the Church ever fled into the wilderness. These might have been the ones John saw when the Lamb opened the fifth seal.
- REVELATION 6:9-11 And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: and they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them [3:5; 4:4; 7:9]; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.
We have learned during this Study that there is no evidence in Scripture that the world will end or that the luminaries are going to fall from the sky, nor that this earth is destined to be burned up by some nuclear fire. When Yeshua returned and gathered together His saints into heaven, then the heavens were purified and cleansed of all unrighteousness. The evil powers were shaken from their lofty seats of authority and a new kingdom was established in heaven. A new country, a new city, indeed, a new Jerusalem.
- REVELATION 21:1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away [departed]; and there was no more sea.