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Is the darkening of the Sun and falling of stars literal or symbolic?

The prophecy of darkening of the Sun, moon turning to blood, and falling of stars in Matthew 24:29 has been mentioned also in the following references: Revelation 6:12-13; Acts 2:20; Joel 2:10. This prophecy, like many other prophecies, has dual fulfillment. One is historic and the other is futuristic:

A-Historic Fulfillment

1. The sun turned into darkness.

Prophecy: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened” (Matthew 24:29).

Fulfillment: This was fulfilled by a day of supernatural darkness on May 19, 1780. The darkness was not caused by any eclipse of the sun by the moon, for it was full moon only the night before, and consequently the moon was on the opposite side of the earth from the sun.

“The nineteenth of May, 1780 was a remarkably dark day. Candles were lighted in many houses. The birds were silent, and disappeared. The fowls retired to roost. It was the general opinion that the day of judgment was at hand. The legislature of Connecticut was in session at Hartford, but being unable to transact business, adjourned.”- President Dwight, in “Historical Collections.”

“In some places persons could not see to read common print in the open air for several hours together. Birds sang their evening songs, disappeared, and became silent the barnyard; and candles were lighted in the silent; fowls went to roost; cattle sought the barnyard and candles were lit in the houses. The obscuration began about ten o’clock in the morning, and continued until the middle of the next night, but with differences of degree and duration in different places. . . . The true causes of this remarkable phenomenon are not known.” – Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, edition 1883, page 1604, in article “The Dark Day.”

Herschel, the great astronomer, says: “The dark day in Northern America was one of those wonderful phenomena of nature which will always be read with interest, but which philosophy is at a loss to explain.”

“The darkness of the following evening was probably as deep and dense as ever had been observed since the Almighty first gave birth to light; it wanted only palpability to render it as extraordinary as that which overspread the land of Egypt in the days of Moses. If every luminous body in the universe had been shrouded in impenetrable shades, or struck out of existence, it was thought the darkness could not have been more complete. A sheet of white paper, held within a few inches of the eyes, was equally invisible with the blackest velvet.” – “Our First Century,” by R. M. Devins, Page 94.

2. The moon turned into blood.

Prophecy: “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come” (Joel 2:31).

Fulfillment: The moon became as red as blood on the night of the “dark day,” May 19, 1780. Milo Bostick in Stone’s History of Massachusetts says, “The moon which was at its full, had the appearance of blood.”

3. The stars fell from heaven.

Prophecy: “And the stars shall fall from heaven” (Matthew 24:29).

Fulfillment: The great star shower took place on the night of November 13, 1833. It was so bright that a newspaper could be read on the street.

-The celebrated astronomer and meteorologist, Professor Olmsted, of Yale College, says: “Those who were so fortunate as to witness the exhibition of shooting stars on the morning of November 13, 1833, probably saw the greatest display of celestial fireworks that has ever been since the creation of the world, or at least within the annals covered by the pages of history. . . . The extent of the shower of 1833 was such as to cover no inconsiderable part of the earth’s surface, from the middle of the Atlantic on the east to the Pacific on the west; and from the northern coast of South America to undefined regions among the British possessions on the north the exhibition was visible, and everywhere presented nearly the same appearance.”

“At Niagara the exhibition was especially brilliant, and probably no spectacle so terribly grand and sublime was ever before beheld by man as that of the firmament descending in fiery torrents over the dark and roaring cataract.” – The American Encyclopedia, edition 1881, article “Meteor.” 

Upon reading a statement that modern fireworks excel this greatest exhibition of shooting stars, Mr. Clarkson, father of the former editors of the paper from which the following quotation is made, and himself agricultural editor of it, said: “The writer of that sentence did not witness the glorious meteoric shower of November, 1833, when the display was so much superior to any artistic display of fireworks that neither language nor any element in nature can furnish comparisons. The comparison of the sheet-iron thunder of the theatres to the electric display of Providence when the heavens are all on fire, and the earth trembles would be tolerable. But the awful grandeur of the display on the night of the thirteenth of November, 1833, which made the stoutest heart stand in awe, and the most defiant infidel quake with fear, is never to he compared with the most brilliant fireworks. Those who witnessed the meteoric shower named saw the greatest display that man ever will see until the day that Peter speaks of when the heavens, being on fire, shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat. The agricultural editor of the Register was out alone with a team and load of lumber all night on that never-to-be forgotten night. And he cannot now consent to hear of human fireworks being superior to that most grand and sublime spectacle ever before or since beheld by man. Patent fireworks are no nearer this wonderful phenomenon than a lightning-bug is equal to the Sun.” – Iowa State Register, July 12, 1889.

Frederick A. Douglas, in his book “My Bondage and My Freedom,” page 186, says: “I witnessed this gorgeous spectacle, and was struck with awe. The air seemed filled with bright descending messengers from the sky. It was about daybreak when I saw this sublime scene. It was not without the suggestion at that moment that it might be the harbinger of the coming of the Son of man; and in my state of mind I was prepared to hail Him as my friend and deliverer. I had read that the stars shall fall from heaven, and they were now falling.”

B-Futuristic Fulfillment

The apostle John in the book of Revelation says that just before Jesus comes back, in a very quick succession “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).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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