Pastor David B. Curtis


Media #1015 MP3 Audio File Video File

Stars Falling from The Sky

Matthew 24:29

Delivered 06/07/20

We are periodically working our way through Matthew's account of the Olivet Discourse and this morning we will do another installment. At BBC we hold to a full preterist view of eschatology which sees the second coming of Christ as a past event that happened in AD 70 and was a judgement and removal of the Old Covenant system (heaven and earth), and it established fully the kingdom, the New Covenant (New heavens and earth). Yeshua came soon, quickly, shortly, to that generation, while some of them were still alive, in the first century, just as He said He would, and there is NO mention anywhere in Scripture of a "third" coming.

As we study this chapter, we must keep it in its context. We must remember that in this discourse the Lord is answering the disciple's questions about the destruction of the Jewish temple, the sign of His presence and the end of the age. As we work our way through this discourse, we must fight the temptation to read this as if it was written to us in the twenty first century. Yeshua is speaking to his disciples in the first century and we must study it in that context.

We saw in our last study that our Lord told the disciples that they would see the "Abomination of Desolation" spoken of by Daniel, which Luke explained as Jerusalem surrounded by armies, and when they did there would come a time of "Great Tribulation."

For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. Matthew 24:21 ESV

We saw from our study of this verse that the "Great Tribulation" is past. Sorry to disappoint you but it is over, it happened 2,000 years ago. It was the destruction of Jerusalem as the context of this and the parallel gospel accounts makes abundantly clear.

We need to realize the scope of the great tribulation upon the people of Israel. It was not just those in Jerusalem that suffered and died, but all over Palestine, the whole country felt the judgement of God. Josephus said, "There was not a Syrian city which did not slay their Jewish inhabitants, and were more bitter enemies to us than were the Romans themselves." Yeshua said, there will never be anything to equal it.

We ended our last study with verse 29. For our study this morning we are going to just focus on verse 29 because I think that most of the preterists interpretations of this verse miss what it is saying.

“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 heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Matthew 24:29 ESV

Modern commentators generally understand this, and what follows, as the end of the world; but the words "immediately after the tribulation of those days," show, that he is not speaking of any distant event, but of something immediately following the tribulation just mentioned, and that must be the destruction of Jerusalem.

John Gill (1809) said,

"Verse 29. Immediately after the tribulation of those days, &c.] That is, immediately after the distress the Jews would be in through the siege of Jerusalem, and the calamities attending it; just upon the destruction of that city, and the temple in it, with the whole nation of the Jews, shall the following things come to pass;…and that one day with the Lord is as a thousand years, will not answer to the word 'immediately', or show that that should be understood of two thousand years after: besides, all the following things were to be fulfilled before that present generation, in which Christ lived, passed away, Mt 24:34 and therefore must be understood of things that should directly, and immediately take place upon, or at the destruction of the city and temple."

If you are not familiar with the apocalyptic language of the Tanakh, you will not understand what Christ is saying here. It sounds to us like the end of the world. But if we are familiar with the first three quarters of our Bible, aka the Tanakh or Old Testament we would know that this language is common among the prophets.

This idea is seen clearly as we look at passages like Isaiah 13, where mention is made of the destruction of Babylon using language which seems to set forth the end of the world. In Isaiah 34 we have a description of the fall of Edom using the same language. Nahum 1 uses this apocalyptic language of the destruction of Nineveh. And Ezekiel 32 uses this language to speak of Egypt’s destruction.

For our study this morning I want to focus on the last half of verse 29, “the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” We see this same language in:

When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. Revelation 6:12-13 ESV

Is this to be taken literally? Are the literal stars going to fall out of heaven? Many think so and see this as the end of the world. A cosmic collapse if you will. But I don’t think this is talking about literal stars.

The word “stars” is found 51 times in the ESV most of its uses refer to a large number:

The LORD your God has multiplied you, and behold, you are today as numerous as the stars of heaven. Deuteronomy 1:10 ESV

“Stars” is used of literal stars, bright lights in the sky, and it is used of divine beings.

And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven. Deuteronomy 4:19 ESV

Here “stars” and the "host of heaven" refer to sentient created spiritual beings which reside in the heavens. Yahweh existed from all eternity, Yahweh being the three persons of the divine Trinity; the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Then at a point in time Yahweh created other gods, lesser gods and angels to be part of His family, His divine council. Notice here that these "stars" have been "allotted to the peoples." The word "allotted" in Hebrew is chalaq, which literally means "apportioned" or "assigned." Here we are told that Yahweh has assigned “stars, the host of heaven” to the peoples of the earth (i.e. "all non Israelites").

Israel is not to worship these gods. Speaking of judgment that was to come upon disobedient Israel, Moses says:

all the nations will say, ‘Why has the LORD done thus to this land? What caused the heat of this great anger?’ Then people will say, ‘It is because they abandoned the covenant of the LORD, the God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them out of the land of Egypt, and went and served other gods and worshiped them, gods whom they had not known and whom he had not allotted to them. Therefore the anger of the LORD was kindled against this land, bringing upon it all the curses written in this book, Deuteronomy 29:24-27 ESV

These gods that Israel worshiped were "not allotted to them," those gods were allotted to the nations.

From heaven the stars fought, from their courses they fought against Sisera. Judges 5:20 ESV

Here the stars are fighting for Israel against Sisera.

when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Job 38:7 ESV

Here "stars" and "sons of God" are synonymous referring to divine council members.

You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; Isaiah 14:13 ESV
It grew great, even to the host of heaven. And some of the host and some of the stars it threw down to the ground and trampled on them. Daniel 8:10 ESV
wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever. Jude 1:13 ESV

Here Jude is using an allusion from Enoch:

1 Enoch 80:6-8: And many chiefs of the stars shall transgress the order (prescribed). And these shall alter their orbits and tasks, And not appear at the seasons prescribed to them. 7 And the whole order of the stars shall be concealed from the sinners, And the thoughts of those on the earth shall err concerning them, [And they shall be altered from all their ways], Yea, they shall err and take them to be gods. 8 And evil shall be multiplied upon them, And punishment shall come upon them So as to destroy all.'

The "wandering stars" that Jude speaks of is a common ancient Jewish idiom in both the Tanakh and the Pseudepigrapha for divine celestial beings. In the ancient world, the stars were called the "host of heaven" and were equated with deities. In the Tanakh, the stars of heaven are also called "heavenly host."

In our text in Matthew 24:29 “the powers of heaven” are the “host of heaven.” This phrase “host of Heaven” is found 19 times in the ESV, 18 of its uses refer to divine beings.

And Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left; 1 Kings 22:19 ESV

This is a throne room occupied by Yahweh and His divine council. Micaiah is in Yahweh’s throne room seeing the interaction between Yahweh and the gods. Here we see mention of the "host of heaven" (Heb. tzeva' hashamayim) which stands before Yahweh. "The host of heaven" is a reference to divine beings. These "host of heaven" are not just the stars in the night sky:

“You are the LORD, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you. Nehemiah 9:6 ESV

Only living creatures can worship Yahweh. Clearly, the "host of heaven" here refers to created divine beings who reside in the heavens:

A Psalm of David. Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness. Psalms 29:1-2 ESV

Here the “heavenly beings”, “ben el,” are called upon to worship Yahweh. Psalm 97 tells us that Yahweh is exalted above all gods:

For you, O LORD, are most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods. Psalms 97:9 ESV

If there are no other gods, than this is saying that “Yahweh is far above things that don't exist.”

For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. Psalms 135:5-6 ESV

Yahweh is the supreme ruler over all Elohim. We see this demonstrated in Exodus 12:

For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. Exodus 12:12 ESV

In recounting the Exodus, Numbers 33 says:

while the Egyptians were burying all their firstborn, whom the LORD had struck down among them. On their gods also the LORD executed judgments. Numbers 33:4 ESV

So here we see it wasn’t just against the Egyptians that Yahweh brought judgment; he was also judging their gods.

Back to 1 Kings:

And Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left; and the LORD said, “Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?” And one said one thing, and another said another. 1 Kings 22:19-20 ESV

Yahweh is talking to the heavenly host (sons of God, watchers, divine beings) who are part of His council:

Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD, saying, “I will entice him.” And the LORD said to him, “By what means?” And he said, “I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.” And he said, “You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.” 1 Kings 22:21-22 ESV

This vision seen by Micaiah shows that Yahweh is in complete control of events. He only approves the course of action that suits His purpose, which in this case was to bring about the death of evil King Ahab.

“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 heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Matthew 24:29 ESV

So, this text in Matthew 24 is about the judgment of the gods. Psalm 82 also talks about this judgment:

A Psalm of Asaph. God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: Psalms 82:1 ESV
I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.” Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations! Psalms 82:6-8 ESV

Yahweh is saying here that He will judge the disobedient gods and He will take away their immortality. The prophet Isaiah tells of their coming punishment in a couple of passages:

All the host of heaven shall rot away, and the skies roll up like a scroll. All their host shall fall, as leaves fall from the vine, like leaves falling from the fig tree. For my sword has drunk its fill in the heavens; behold, it descends for judgment upon Edom, upon the people I have devoted to destruction. Isaiah 34:4-5 ESV

Like the "host" of the nations that come against the Messiah will be slain, the "host of heaven" who rules these earthly nations will also be defeated. The sword wielded by the Messiah, will "drink its fill in the heavens" as well as on the earth.

We are told in Isaiah 34:4 that “the host of heaven shall rot away” (Hebrew: maqaq, literally: "waste away," "decay"). In Zechariah 14:12, the same Hebrew root word maqaq is used to describe the fate of those who come against Jerusalem at the end of the age. There is a similarity between Isaiah 34:4 and 2 Peter 3:10-12 that deserves some attention. Peter speaks of an end-time fire in the heavens, which will melt and dissolve the elements:

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 2 Peter 3:10-12 ESV

If you are a Preterist, you are probably familiar with the Greek word for "heavenly bodies” or “elements" here which is "stoicheion" most often translated by Preterists as "elements of religious training, or the ceremonial precepts that are common to the worship of Jews." Obviously, this "stoicheion" is not about atoms or destruction of the universe.

The Greek word stoicheion, translated: "elements" in 2 Peter 3, is understood by many scholars to refer to "heavenly spirits." This understanding can be seen in several passages written by the Apostle Paul. But let's look first at a text that doesn't use it this way:

In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. Galatians 4:3 ESV

Galatians is focused on the problem of Jewish converts wanting to require Gentile believers to obey the Law. In Galatians 4, Paul speaks to both Jews and Gentiles, so he could be using the term in different ways with each audience. Galatians 4:1-7 likely addresses Jewish converts ("those who were under the Law" v5); stoicheion in verse 3, therefore, most likely refers to the elements of the Law. The use of "stoicheion" in Hebrews 5:12 seems to also refer to principles of the Jewish Law. But the Gentiles were not under The Law and did not know the true God. Therefore, Galatians 4:8-11 could be seen as addressing Gentile converts:

But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? Galatians 4:9 ESV

The Gentiles weren't enslaved to The Law, so what were they enslaved to? In the context of Galatians 4:9-11, stoicheion could be interpreted as: "heavenly spirits," or "astral deities."

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. Colossians 2:8 ESV

So here it is "stoicheion of the kosmos." Elements of religious training doesn't seem to fit here.

Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—Colossians 2:18-20 ESV

Here in context "stoicheion of the kosmos" would best fit with heavenly spirits.

The Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible states,

"Given the predeliction of many people in the Greco-Roman world for astral religious beliefs and practices, it could also be argued that the elements are planetary or other celestial bodies; or that the elements refer to spiritual beings: such as angels or demons who control earthly affairs and determine human destiny." (Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible; [2nd extensively rev p. 817]. Leiden; Boston; Köln; Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge: Brill; Eerdmans.)

A number of interpreters, perhaps even a majority, have concluded that "ta stoicheia tou kosmou" refers to spiritual powers of some sort. The Testament of Solomon, a Jewish-Christian work, testifies to a belief in star spirits called stoicheia. Seven bound spirits appear before Solomon and reveal their identity: "We are the stoicheia, rulers of this world of darkness [kosmokratores tou skotous] …our stars in heaven look small, but we are named like gods" (T. Sol. 8:2-4).

Does the word kosmokrator ring a bell?:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12 ESV

"Cosmic powers"—comes from the Greek kosmokrator, which, according to Strongs Concordance means: "a world ruler, an epithet of Satan." Thayer's says it means: "Lord of the world, prince of this age, the devil and his demons." This is its only use in the New Testament, but it is used in Testament of Solomon of spiritual beings.

If we understand the usage of stoicheion by Peter to be the same as Paul's usage in the Scriptures cited above, we can see that Peter was simply reemphasizing what the prophet Isaiah had said about the fate of the spiritual powers aligned against Yahweh. Isaiah stated the "host of heaven" would be dissolved; Peter said that these same "elemental spirits" would be dissolved by fire.

We also have an example in early Judaism where people used Psalm 82 to talk about the judgment of the gods. When they dug up Qumran, they found this text, 11Q. Melchizedek. It uses Psalm 82 to talk about the judgment of the gods. "It is the time of the year of Melchizedek and of his armies, the nation of the holy ones of God of the rule of judgment as it is written about him in the songs of David who said 'God will stand in the assembly of the gods; in the midst of the gods; he judges.'"

This is talking about Christ who is the judge. The 11 Q. Melchizedek text goes on immediately in the next line and says, "To his aid shall come all the gods of justice." And so there's these good gods coming to aid Melchizedek in the destruction of the Belail and other spirits to redeem the people.

Yahweh is saying here that He will judge the disobedient gods and He will take away their immortality. Jeremiah says something similar in Jeremiah 10:

Thus shall you say to them: “The gods who did not make the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens.” Jeremiah 10:11 ESV

We see in Psalm 82, then, that Yahweh reviewed their performance as "gods" and judges of the Gentiles and condemned them for failing to rule justly.

Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations! Psalms 82:8 ESV

Who is the God here? Who is to judge these disobedient gods and the earth? In the LXX, the word "arise" here is anistemi in Greek. This is the term used in the New Testament every time for resurrection. Peter uses this word, anistemi, in Acts 2:

This Yeshua God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Acts 2:32 ESV

“Arise, O God”—is a reference to Yeshua, the resurrected One. He is the God who arises and judges the earth. When Christ was on earth it was clear to the demons that their end was near:

“What have you to do with us, Yeshua of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” Mark 1:24 ESV

This demon understood that Yeshua had come to destroy them.

Can you tell me what a demon is and where they come from? Many theologians and Bible teachers have traditionally taught that demons are simply fallen angels. The Bible never offers a point-blank explanation for where demons come from. But the Dead Sea Scrolls say they are, "bastard spirits." The biblical text read in its ancient context tells us that demons are the disembodied spirits of dead Nephilim. And the Nephilim are the product of the Watchers mating with women. So, demons are second generation divine beings. First Enoch says:

And now, the giants, who are produced from the spirits and flesh, shall be called evil spirits upon the earth, and on the earth shall be their dwelling. Evil spirits have proceeded from their bodies; because they are born from men and from the holy Watchers is their beginning and primal origin; they shall be evil spirits on earth, and evil spirits shall they be called. (Enoch 15:8-10)

This second Temple literature is the context for the New Testament. This is what the Jews of the second Temple period believed.

So, nothing is said in the Bible about the origin of demons, but there is quite a bit of information on their destruction:

And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” Matthew 8:28-29 ESV

The demons understood the mission of Yeshua—to destroy them. Notice the final words in this verse—"the time"—presumably the time of judgment at the consummation of the ages. When does this judgment of the gods take place? The Psalmist and Paul connect it to the resurrection and ascension of Christ:

that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, Ephesians 1:20-22 ESV

Christ has had "all things put under His feet." This is Christ's dominion—His managerial ruling of all things. Peter also speaks of the preeminence of Yeshua over all heavenly beings:

who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him. 1 Peter 3:22 ESV

Yeshua arose from the grave and ascended into heaven. He judged these gods. Verse 8 tells us that when he judged these gods, he inherited all the nations. In Romans 15, Paul also connects the resurrection of Christ to the reclaiming of the Nations:

And again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.” Romans 15:12 ESV

The Nations that Yahweh had given over to the gods are now being reclaimed by Yeshua, starting at Pentecost. Pentecost is the undoing of the scattering of the nations at Babel. Yeshua is victorious over the gods.

Now, I’m sure that you are thinking that if the gods were judged by Yeshua in his resurrection and ascension, why does Paul tell the Ephesians thirty years after the resurrection and ascension that:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12 ESV

Paul, therefore, tells the Ephesian believers round AD 60 that they are in a spiritual battle with divine beings. But if the gods were judged by Yeshua in his resurrection and ascension, why are believes still in a spiritual battle with them 30 years later?

The victory of Christ over the gods was won at Calvary, but it was not consummated until the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Notice what Matthew writes:

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 heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Matthew 24:29 ESV

The "the stars" and "the powers of the heavens" are the same spiritual "cosmic powers" and "spiritual forces of evil" that Paul speaks of in Ephesians 6:12. We know that this is speaking of AD 70 and the destruction of Jerusalem. What began at Pentecost was completed in the holocaust of the AD 70 judgment on Jerusalem. Babel is reversed, and the nations are gathered and ruled by Yahweh.

Glimpse of this battle with the gods in heaven was seen by several in AD 70. Josephus, a Jewish general present at the destruction of Jerusalem, wrote:

Besides these [signs], a few days after that feast, on the one-and-twentieth day of the month Artemisius, [Jyar,] a certain prodigious and incredible phenomenon appeared; I suppose the account of it would seem to be a fable, were it not related by those that saw it, and were not the events that followed it of so considerable a nature as to deserve such signals; for, before sun-setting, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armour were seen running about among the clouds, and surrounding of cities. Moreover, at that feast which we call Pentecost, as the priests were going by night into the inner [court of the] temple, as their custom was, to perform their sacred ministrations, they said that, in the first place, they felt a quaking, and heard a great noise, and after that they heard a sound as of a great multitude, saying, "Let us remove hence." (See Wars of the Jews Archive).

Tacitus, the Roman historian, relating the same events, wrote:

“In the sky appeared a vision of armies in conflict, of glittering armour. A sudden lightening flash from the clouds lit up the Temple. The doors of the holy place abruptly opened, a superhuman voice was heard to declare that the gods were leaving it, and in the same instant came the rushing tumult of their departure” (Histories, v. 13).

Eusebius, the bishop at Palestine (See Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History), wrote this in the fourth century:

“For before the setting of the sun chariots and armed troops were seen throughout the whole region in mid-air, wheeling through the clouds and encircling the cities.

They were given a vision to see the heavenly battle taking place.

In Hebrews 2:5, the author indirectly establishes the rulership of their (prior to AD 70) world by powerful angelic beings:

For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. Hebrews 2:5 ESV

By saying that God will not subject the "world to come" to the rule of angels, the author implies that their current world was being ruled by spirit entities. But that world ended in AD 70, and we now live in the "age to come." Satan and his demons have been defeated:

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Yeshua the Christ be with you. Romans 16:20 ESV

Satan, the Roman heavenly spirit ruler, was destroyed, the battle is over:

and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Revelation 20:10 ESV

The battle is over, Christ is victorious. Those gods who rebelled against Yahweh have been judged.

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