Troublesome Topic: Powerful Signs

Matthew 24:29


Directly following

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the hardships of those days, the sun will be darkenedthe moon will not give its light

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and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

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In a direct line from the difficulties I just described till the next big event, things will happen which only God can make happen;

the people who consider themselves to have power over life and who make big things happen will no longer be able to accomplish anything, Those with less power who exercise their influence by controlling clandestine activities will no longer be able to function,

the famous people that everyone wants to be like will fall into disgrace, and the

power structures (e.g. demonic strongholds) that have been established for a long time will be changed.

God will do what only He can do. This may refer to changing the physical characteristics of the sun, moon and stars, or it may refer to Him cutting down to size the most powerful people on earth, or it may refer to limiting the activity of demonic forces. Either way, God will demonstrate His power in unmistakable ways.

The heavens will be shaken” could mean there will be changes in the rules governing the spiritual realm. If this is the right interpretation, God will remove the freedom Satan currently enjoys which enables him to do his work. God will change the parameters that He established as limitations for the activity of others, including Satan, demons, and angels. Satan can only work because God allows it in order to test and try men’s souls, but there will come a time when God removes Satan’s freedom to do so.

After the destruction of the temple, there will be major signs.

The sun will be darkened,

the moon will not give its light,

the stars will fall from the sky.

and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

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Is this figurative speech or literal? Does this have to do with the destruction of the temple or with Jesus’ second coming? Or both?

The words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 24 were fulfilled with the destruction of the temple if one considers the smoke rising to the sky and blotting out the sun for those who lived in Jerusalem and its vicinity. However, its fulfillment in AD 70 seems incomplete. It is reasonable to assume that a greater degree of fulfillment is still to come. Was it intended to have a figurative fulfillment? In part yes, but even so AD 70 did not represent a complete fulfillment for the power structure in the heavens was not totally changed, only partially changed. I believe that the future fulfillment of these words about the sun, the moon and the stars will be both physical and figurative. I believe God will do things that man cannot explain, but these physical realities will represent changes that are spiritual. The physical and the spiritual will mirror each other.

We can learn something from a similar Old Testament passage and how it was used in the New Testament to interpret what was happening. At Pentecost, Peter, guided by the Holy Spirit, realized what was going on and its history-altering significance. Because he realized what the arrival of the Holy Spirit meant he quoted Joel (2:28-31) who spoke about the fulfillment of one age and the beginning of the new age by pointing out that God would pour His spirit on all men and women. Then he goes on to talk about other demonstrations of God’s power:

Acts 2:19


I will deliver

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wonders in the heaven above, and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and vapor of smoke.


I will provide a display of amazing things way out of your reach where only I can go, and also

indications of my purpose right where you live, but these will not be happy things, they will be portents of suffering, death and punishment, and the lasting evidence of complete destruction.

Acts 2:20


The sun will be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.


The rulers that control many things or bring about major accomplishments will not be able to accomplish anything, and the

lesser rulers that control clandestine activities will not be able to function during the lead-up to the day in which the Lord does great and awesome things that only He can do.

Peter was saying, “This is it folks! Today is the fulfillment of that prophecy!”

But wait. Did any of this stuff actually happen on the day of Pentecost? No, not literally, but it did happen symbolically. For them symbolism was very important, and Peter saw the coming of the Holy Spirit as a direct fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel. We think of symbolic fulfillment as being inferior to a physical fulfillment, but for the ancient Jews it was often the other way around; there were many times when for them, symbolism was more powerful than reality.

In Matthew 24:29 Jesus drew from Isaiah 13 and 34. Isaiah 13 proclaims judgement on Babylon and chapter 34 proclaims judgment on the nations. The context of the Isaiah passages makes it clear that these events will not be a sign that something is coming; they will not be a wakeup call. They will be part of God’s judgment on the nations; judgment will have already begun! The sign will not indicate “you better get ready by repenting,” rather it communicates, “judgment has arrived; it is too late to repent.” God is a just and fair judge, He gives plenty of opportunities to repent, but there will come a time when there will no longer be time to repent, rather time for punishment has arrived. That is why the nations will mourn at His arrival, all people will understand what His arrival means and those who are not right with Him will weep.

The next lesson is: “Coming on the Clouds”



This word is often translated “immediately;” it can also mean “directly, straightaway, shortly, or as soon as.” It is an adverb which, at first glance, seems to pertain mostly to issues of timing. However, there are several uses of this word in the Gospels which do not fit with our idea of “immediately.” It appears that the temporal interpretation hides the underlying emphasis of the word which is “on a direct line between two events without a change of course in between,” or we could say it is “the next main event in the series of events being discussed.” If there are a few thousand years between those events, that does not change the fact that this is the next main event.

Bengel has described prophecy as looking at a scene involving various mountain ranges. We see the first set of mountains clearly, but the others behind it we only see as occasional peaks and we have no idea what lies between them. Our eyes can only see the tops of each mountain range. Usually the distance between the first mountain range and the next one is much greater than we would think. Regarding prophecy, we only see the big events that have been foretold, we cannot see all the small events that will occur between them, or the length of time that will elapse between them.

There will be a succession, a sequence of events. Regarding the use of the word “immediately,” the connection between two events is not measured in time but in their relevance to each other. We want lengths of time to be given so we can predict exactly when something will happen; that is not what Jesus chose to give His disciples, and it is precisely what He told them not to do – don’t try to figure all these things out; when they happen, you will know it.


Any reference to “the sun and moon” would remind a Jew of the creation narrative and how God said these would “govern” the day and the night respectively. That is why the sun and the moon became symbols for power and control over certain aspects of life.

3: “The powers of the heavens”

This type of phrase usually refers to supernatural beings, not powerful people.


Is 13:10, Ezek 32:7-8, and Joel 2: 30-31 say things similar to what Jesus said.


What I have rendered as “deliver” is actually the Greek verb “to give.”  Deliver is one of the options, among several, and is the one that fits the context best.