Are the sun, moon, and stars in Revelation in reference to the literal sun, moon, and the stars (Revelation 6:12, 8:12, and 12:1)?
B. Hodge, Biblical Authority Ministries, May 27, 2020
The context indicates something that yields a metaphorical nature. Here are the verses in question:
Revelation 6:12 I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood.
Revelation 8:12 Then the fourth angel sounded: And a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them were darkened. A third of the day did not shine, and likewise the night.
Revelation 12:1 Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. (NKJV)
Phrases such as the “woman clothed with the sun”, the “moon became like blood”, the “sun became black”, a “third of the sun was stuck and it only shown a third of the day”, help us realize that this needs to be interpreted by other Scriptures and not in a “wooden” literal sense.
Acts 2:20 nearly mimics where the “the sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood”. The Gospel accounts in the context of tribulation and the Temple’s and Jerusalem’s destruction say:
Matthew 24:29 "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.
Mark 13:24-25 "But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; "the stars of heaven will fall, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
Luke 21:25 "And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; (NKJV)
But this is still not the first metaphorical use of Sun, Moon, and Stars. Such things were prophesied previously by Joel in 2:10; 2:31; and 3:15. Other prophets use this imagery as well such as Isaiah in 13:10. So where is this imagery from? The answer is in Genesis. The first use of a metaphorical nature of the Sun, Moon, and Stars is:
Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, "Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me." So he told it to his father and his brothers; and his father [Israel] rebuked him and said to him, "What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you?" (NKJV)
This image of Israel (i.e., Jacob and the twelve tribes) were seen as the sun, moon, and stars collectively. So the meaning reveals itself that Israel will be darkened (e.g., Matthew 21:33-44, Matthew 23:31-39) and turned to blood as Jesus indicated would happen with their destruction.