immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and
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
As I continue
with an exposition of verse 29, it is important to note that we have already
seen the great impossibility that this passage could have been fulfilled about
2,000 years ago in the Roman destruction of Jerusalem. So to what does the darkening of the
sun and moon and other astronomical events refer? Is Christ' s description that of a real, physical event, or
is He merely using symbolic language in which He describes something else?
We must take note
of the fact that Christ' s statement in this passage contains four descriptive
phrases. First, the darkening of
the sun; second, the moon not reflecting its light; third, stars falling from
the sky; fourth, a shaking of heaven powers.
Darkening of the Sun
We saw earlier
that preterists like Dr. Kenneth Gentry believe that the reference to the sun
in this passage is not to the literal, physical sun, but merely a symbol for
something that occurred in the first century. He believes that " this portrays historical divine judgment
under the dramatic imagery of a universal catastrophe."  To what does he contend that this
imagery is? " I will argue that
this passage speaks of the a.d. 70
collapse of geo-political Israel. . . . of national catastrophe in terms of
cosmic destruction."  Of course, I contend that sun, in this
context has to refer to the physical sphere that shines in the sky. If that is the case, then clearly the
events being described in verse 29 have not yet happened in history and must
refer to a future time.
Before we go any
further, lets examine how many of the 164 times that the word " sun" is used in
the Bible as a symbol or figure of speech and not a reference to the physical
sun. There are five possible uses
of " sun" as a symbol in the Bible (Gen. 37:9; Psalm 84:11; Jer. 15:9; Mal. 4:2;
Rev. 12:1). In Genesis 37:9 and
Revelation 12:1 the sun is a symbol for Jacob, the father of Israel. Psalm 84:11 says, " the Lord God is a sun and shield," comparing
an attribute of God to the sun.
Jeremiah refers to the death of a mother with seven sons by an invading
army as, " Her sun has set while it was yet day" (15:9). Malachi describes the coming Messiah as
One Who is " the sun of righteousness," Who " will rise with healing in its
wings" (4:2). As anyone can see,
about 97% of the time " sun" refers to the physical sphere that shines
faithfully in the sky. In five
instances of symbolic use, none refer to " a universal catastrophe," as
suggested by Dr. Gentry. Dr.
Gentry and preterists like him must transform Matthew 24:29, Isaiah 13:10 and
Joel 2 and 3 into non-physical symbols since clearly such catastrophic events
did not occur in God' s creation during the a.d.
70 event. There are no textual
factors in Matthew 24 that support understanding the sun, moon, and stars as
mere symbols of some other natural event.
Instead, context supports the role of the sun, moon, and stars as
physical phenomena accompanying our Lord' s return.
It makes sense
that the heavens and earth are physically affected by man's sin at the end of
history, just as nature underwent physical change when man fell at the
beginning of history. With the
literal view, Genesis and Revelation recount the beginning and ending of
history. Revelation notes the
magnitude of the shaking of the heavens and the earth in judgment. Noah's flood had physical effects, and
so too will the judgment of the tribulation prior to Christ's return. Franz Delitzsch aptly puts it this
way: " Even nature clothes itself
in the colour of wrath, which is the very opposite to light." 
I believe that
Dr. Gentry understands a number of similar, yet smaller in scale, incidents of
biblical history to be literal.
These other events do not put his preterism at risk. The question must be raised: Did the sun literally not shine over
the land of Egypt while at the same time shine in the land of Goshen during the
ninth plague (Exodus 10:21-29)? Of
course it did! Did the sun
literally stand still for half a day in Joshua 10? You bet it did!
Did the Lord cause the sun to go backward 10 degrees in the days of King
Hezekiah (2 Kings 20)? It most surely did!
Similarly, during the crucifixion of our Lord, did darkness really fall
over the whole land of Israel about the sixth hour until the ninth hour (Luke
23:44-45)? Sure it did! It was a pattern of the final darkness
that will accompany the final judgment at the end of the world. " When He died, the sun refused to shine
(Lk. 23:45). When He comes again
it will not shine (Mt. 24:29)."  Why shouldn' t grandiose, supernatural
phenomenon accompany the glorious return of our Lord? Only a naturalist mentality would say that a literal
occurrence of Matthew 24:29 is impossible. After all, God said in Genesis 1:14 that one of His purposes
for the sun, moon, and stars is to serve as " signs" in the heavens. It would be absurd to think that these
references to the sun, moon, and stars are to be taken merely as symbols with
no physical referent. Why should
not the One who created the heaven and earth have the heavens reflect His
global judgment upon a sinful world?
Our Lord Jesus Christ demonstrates His actual rule over all His creation
upon His return to planet earth, including over the sun, moon, and stars. Delitzsch says, " when god is angry, the
principle of anger is set in motion even in the natural world, and primarily in
the stars that were created ' for signs' (compare Gen. i. 14 with Jer. x. 2)."  There may be objections in the minds of
men to such heavenly displays, but no such problem exists in Scripture.
is the mother of invention, Gentry and other preterists must manufacture new
meanings to words and phrases that cannot be sustained by any of the
contexts. Dr. Gentry
declares: " Isaiah 13 speaks of
remarkably similar events accompanying Babylon' s collapse in the Old Testament
era."  He is correct that Matthew 24:29 refers
to Isaiah 13:10, something recognized by all commentators. He is also correct that Isaiah' s
prophecy speaks of Babylon' s collapse.
However, as is typically the case with preterists, he is wrong about when this prophesied event will occur in
history. He believes it occurred
during Old Testament times, while I, and most futurists, believe it will unfold
within the context of future tribulation events.
Twice, in the
immediate context, Isaiah warns that " the day of the Lord is near" (13:6) and that " the day of the Lord is coming" (13:9). The timing of the events in verse 10
relate to when the day of the Lord
occurs in history. I believe
Scripture indicates that the day of the Lord
will occur in conjunction with the 70th-week of Daniel, also known
as the seven-year tribulation. One' s overall understanding of the day
of the Lord will impact their
understanding of the timing of the fulfillment of this and many other
passages. Jesus refers to Isaiah
13:10 in Matthew 24:29 (also in Mark 13:24) and thus places it in very close
proximity to the tribulation (" immediately after" ). However, Dr. Gentry places the events of Isaiah 13:2- 16, " in the Old Testament era," hundreds of years
before the first coming of Christ.
This creates a major conflict between when Dr. Gentry' s believes that
Isaiah 13:2- 16 was fulfilled and when our Lord said it would be fulfilled. I think I will side with Jesus on this
There are further
problems with Dr. Gentry' s understanding of Isaiah 13. Isaiah 13:10- 11 says, " For the stars of heaven and their constellations will
not flash forth their light; the sun will be dark
when it rises, and the moon will not shed its light. Thus I will punish
the world for its evil, and the wicked for their
iniquity; I will also put an end to the arrogance of the proud, and abase the
haughtiness of the ruthless." The
phrase " the sun will be dark when it rises,"
in verse 10 demands a literal, instead of a symbolic understanding in this
context. If this text is supposed
to be symbolic about the fall of nation, then why would the prophet speak of
the sun rising, although darkened.
No, this is the language of real, solar movement and events.
global events described in verse 10 make sense because verse 11 says that the
Lord is punishing " the world for its evil." The Hebrew word for " world" is tebel and " conveys the cosmic or global sense . . .
i.e., the whole earth or world considered as a single entity."  " Instead of ' eretz we have here tebel," notes Delitzsch, " which is always used like a
proper name (never with the article), to denote the earth in its entire
circumference."  This passage (verses 2- 16) is clearly
global in scope, which would rule out Dr. Gentry' s local, symbolic, and past
interpretation and, thereby, demands a future fulfillment. " At this point this oracle of judgment
on a great coming world-power begins to expand to cover the whole world,"
surmises G. W. Grogan while commenting on verses 9- 13. " Matthew 24 shows Jesus, in similar
fashion, relating a local judgment that was to fall on Jerusalem to the great
events that would usher in his second advent and the end of the age." 
Verse 13 is a
clear denotative statement supporting a non-symbolic intent for verse 10. " Therefore I shall make the heavens tremble,
and the earth will be shaken from its place at the fury of the Lord of hosts in the day of His burning
anger." " I shall make the heavens
tremble" looks back to our Lord' s acts described in verse 10, which are in turn
referred to by Jesus in Matthew 24:29.
Grogan explains it as follows:
Verse 13 seems to go even beyond v. 10
in depicting the effects of divine judgment on the natural universe. There is to be a general convulsion of
the whole created order (cf. 34:4).
In this way the instability of the order of things since the Fall will
be disclosed (as it is seen in so many of the signs of Christ' s coming in Mark
13), thus revealing the need for the eternally stable order of the kingdom of
God that Christ' s coming will establish.
As we have
examined the first of four statements in Matthew 24:29 concerning the Lord' s
return, we see that the overwhelming evidence comes down on the side of the
futurist view of the passage.
Frankly, preterists like Dr. Gentry do not have a leg to stand on. Not only does Matthew 24 not mean what
they say it does, neither does Isaiah 13 to which they appeal. Dr. Gentry and others like him must
fabricate from Isaiah 13 an alleged Old Testament genre, which is supported by
nothing in the actual text. It is
clear that if both Matthew 24 and Isaiah 13 are taken the way the author
intended then futurism, and not preterism, is the teaching of the text. Maranatha!
Continued . . .)