In The Apocalypse Code, Hank Hanegraaff says that references to falling stars in the Book of Revelation are allegorical language. On page 136 he writes, “While the language [of the sun, moon and stars] finds ultimate fulfillment in the second coming of Christ, it is inaugurated in the Jewish holocaust of A.D. 70. To suppose that stars are literally going to fall from the sky is nonsense. One star alone would obliterate the earth.” Is stars falling from the sky “nonsense”?
We have to beware of basing what we believe on what is possible. In Joshua 10:12–13 we are told that Joshua commanded the sun and the moon to stand still, and they actually did. Are we to say that this never really happened and that it is a lot of nonsense because of the drastic tidal and climatological effects that would ensue?
Are we to deny that there ever was a literal talking snake in the Garden of Eden who addressed Eve because snakes don’t have vocal organs and therefore can’t speak? Are we to argue against the virgin birth of Christ because virgins don’t normally conceive? And what about the star followed by the wisemen from the East (Matthew 2:2)? Was that really not a star, but simply a reflection off of the Sea of Galilee? On the basis of such reasoning, Mr. Hanegraaff would have to call the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead “nonsense.”
Luke 21:25–26 is another prophetic passage that certainly suggests that these stars are real. “And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear.”
If there is going to be distress and perplexity on the earth, and the oceans raging, these must be literal phenomena.
Could these “stars” be something other than “stars” as we define them?
Yes, they could be asteroids. In fact, the word translated star is aster. You can hear aster in the word “asteroid,” a word that could refer to any heavenly body, such as stars, comets, and asteroids. But this doesn’t really change the meaning of the text. There are literally stars, or asteroids, that come out of the sky. People will be frightened out of their wits. The tides will be affected. It’s all very literal. So whether aster means “star” or “asteroid” this is a literal event that takes place at some future time.
So is everything in the Book of Revelation literal?
Absolutely not. All scripture uses figurative language. Everything in the Old Testament and in the Gospels is not literal. We are told in Revelation 1 that the seven stars represent seven angels and that the seven lampstands represent seven churches.
However, we need to notice that when the Book of Revelation uses figurative language we are given a clear clue to that fact in the text. In Revelation 11:8 Jerusalem is called “Sodom and Egypt.” But we are told that this is its spiritual name. The text gives us warning that this is not literal. It is the city “where also our Lord was crucified.” Jerusalem will persecute the two witnesses just as Sodom and Egypt persecuted the people of God in the Old Testament.