198. Where the Lord talks to His disciples about the end of the age, that is, the last time of the church, He says, at the close of His predictions respecting its successive changes of state:
Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun shall be darkened, 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 wail, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He shall send forth the angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from the end of the heavens even to the end thereof (Matt. 24:29-31).
When understood spiritually this does not mean that the sun and moon would be darkened, that the stars would fall from heaven, and that the sign of the Lord was to appear in the heavens, and that they were to see Him in the clouds, and also angels with trumpets; but by each particular word here something spiritual pertaining to the church is meant, the state of the church at its end being here treated of. For in the spiritual sense "the sun" that shall be darkened means love to the Lord; "the moon" that shall not give her light means faith in the Lord; "the stars" that shall fall from heaven mean knowledges of what is true and good; "the sign of the Son of man in heaven" means the appearing of Divine truth in the Word from Him; that "the tribes of the earth shall wail" means a failing of all truth pertaining to faith, and of all good pertaining to love; "the coming of the Son of man in the clouds of heaven with power and glory" means the Lord's presence in the Word and revelation; "the clouds of heaven" signify the sense of the letter of the Word, and "glory" signifies its spiritual sense; "angels with the great sound of a trumpet" mean heaven from whence comes Divine truth; "the gathering together of the elect from the four winds, from the end of the heavens even to the end thereof" means a new heaven and a new church formed of those who have faith in the Lord and who live according to His commandments. That this does not mean the darkening of the sun and moon and the falling of the stars to the earth, is very clear from like statements in the prophets respecting the state of the church, when the Lord was about to come into the world; as in Isaiah:
Behold the day of Jehovah shall come, cruel and of the burning of anger. The stars of the heavens and the constellations thereof shall not give their light; the sun shall be darkened in its rising, and the moon shall not make its light to shine. I will visit malice upon the world (13:9-11; 24:21, 23).
The day of Jehovah cometh, a day of darkness and of thick darkness; the sun and moon shall be blackened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining (2:1, 2, 10; 3:15).
I will cover the heavens, and make the stars thereof dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not make her light to shine. All the luminaries of light will I make dark, and I will set darkness upon the land (32:7, 8).
By "the day of Jehovah" the coming of the Lord is meant, which took place when there no longer remained in the church any good of love or truth of faith, or any knowledge of the Lord; therefore it is called "a day of darkness and of thick darkness."