stars of heaven fell to the earth
Stars is ἀστέρες [asteres] from which we get the word asteroid. The word is also used of the supernatural manifestation which led the magi to the babe (Mtt. Mat. 2:2), Christ who is the morning star (Rev. Rev. 2:27+; Rev. 22:16+), angels (Rev. Rev. 1:16+; Rev. 2:1+; Rev. 3:1+; Rev. 9:1+), and astronomical objects (Mtt. Mat. 24:29; Mark Mark 13:25; 1Cor. 1Cor. 15:41; Rev. Rev. 6:3+; Rev. Rev. 8:10+). Here and in Revelation Rev. 8:10+ stars are said to fall to the earth. It seems best to understand these as asteroids or meteors for even the smallest sun would consume the entire planet should it ever fall to earth.1
The stars proper are certainly still found in their places after the fulfilment of this vision. (See Rev. Rev. 8:12+.) And remembering that the Scriptures often speak in the common language of men, without reference to the distinctions of science, and that even science itself still popularly speaks of falling stars, when it means simply meteoric phenomena, it appears but reasonable that we should understand the apostle to be speaking of something of the same sort.2
The most likely identification of these particular falling stars is that of a great swarm of asteroids that pummel the earth. Such an event has never occurred in historic times, but scientists have long speculated about the probability of either past or future earth catastrophes caused by encountering a swarm of asteroids.3The sixth seal presents a disturbance of nature so vast that we naturally seek to explain it as hyperbole,4 but this is not merely hyperbolic language.5 (See Interpreting Symbols.) These are the very signs that Jesus predicted would attend the period preceding His return:
Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. (Mtt. Mat. 24:29-30 cf. Mark Mark 13:24-25; Luke Luke 23:44-45; Rev. Rev. 1:7+) [emphasis added]Isaiah had been shown this fearsome time:
Behold, the day of the LORD comes, cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and He will destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of heaven and their constellations Will not give their light; the sun will be darkened in its going forth, and the moon will not cause its light to shine. I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will halt the arrogance of the proud, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. I will make a mortal more rare than fine gold, a man more than the golden wedge of Ophir. Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth will move out of her place, in the wrath of the LORD of hosts and in the day of His fierce anger. (Isa. Isa. 13:9-13) [emphasis added]In these judgments, God is shattering the puny pillars of support which men trust in when they turn away from Him.
See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven. Now this, Yet once more, indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. (Heb. Heb. 12:25-28) [emphasis added]The increasingly severe judgments which fall during this period are specifically designed to remove hope in all else but God so that all creatures recognize their utter dependence upon the Creator. Hope placed anywhere else is idolatry. God now begins a systematic destruction of the natural order (sun, moon, stars, earth) which men have often deferred to in place of the Creator.6 In its failure to recognize the Creator, environmentalism eventually fails in its effort to preserve the creation.
1 Some believe these stars could refer to fallen angels. Rev. 12:7-12+ with Rev. 12:3-4+).Monty S. Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John (Dallas, TX: 3E Ministries, 1987), Rev. 6:13.
2 J. A. Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), 154.
4 Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John, Rev. 6:13.
5 As we forewarned the reader in our discussion concerning The Genre of the book of Revelation, many interpreters part ways here from the Golden Rule of Interpretation in favor of subjective apocalypticism. The details of this dramatic description of a universe in turmoil are drawn from the common stock of current apocalypticism. They are not to be taken with complete literalness. Those who first read Johns description would not have bothered to debate whether or not the details were to be taken literally. They were part of a well-established tradition that went back through contemporary apocalyptic literature to the early prophetic portrayals of the day of the Lord.Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1977), 161. We might ask who decides what complete literalness means? Which parts are literal and which parts are not? Are the men literal? But not the stars? The suggestion of combining symbolic and literal (Mounce) is fraught with hermeneutical difficulty.Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1-7 (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1992), Rev. 6:12. Also: how would God convey these events if they were literal? The Anti-supernatural Bias of these interpreters makes it nearly impossible for God to tell us of catastrophic events because they always get recast as apocalyptic and therefore not literal.
6 Concerning worship of heavenly bodies: Gen. Gen. 11:4; Deu. Deu. 4:19; Deu. 17:3; 2K. 2K. 17:16; 2K. 23:5, 2K. 23:11; 2Chr. 2Chr. 33:3; Job Job 31:26-28; Isa. Isa. 47:13; Jer. Jer. 8:2; Jer. 10:2; Jer. 19:13; Acts Acts 7:42; Rom Rom. 1:25.