When thinking about the hope of eternity, a number of biblical images and ideas come to mind. However, one image—that of the Lord Jesus as the bright morning star—has a particular resonance for me. Why is this the case? Over thirty years ago I was a lay member of an Anglican church in Sydney. I was a warden and a nominator. Our previous minister had moved to a new ministry and we were searching for the next man. In this interim period, we had a retired minister as our acting Rector and he asked me to help with the preaching. The first sermon he asked me to prepare was to look at why Jesus is described as the morning star in the New Testament. As I searched, I found three particular references to the morning star (2 Peter 1: 19; Rev 2: 26; Rev 22: 16). The verse from Revelation 22 was the one that I particularly focused on:
I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star (Rev 22:16)
I found the image of Jesus as the bright Morning Star not only an attractive poetic metaphor, but a compelling image of the Christian hope in Christ. The verse comes from the end of the Book of Revelation. Michael Wilcock in his commentary on Revelation describes verses 16 and 17 as God’s final blessing to those who hear and respond to the invitation to ‘come’. In describing himself as the ‘Root and Offspring of David’, the Lord Jesus is saying that He is not only Great David’s greater Son, the long-awaited king, but also David’s Lord, the eternal Son, the one who is before all things. Thus, he is both the ‘root’ and ‘offspring’ of King David, David’s ancestor and descendant. It is a marvellous summation of both the divinity and humanity of the Lord Jesus.
Verse 16 continues by stating that the Lord Jesus is also the bright Morning Star. Why use this metaphor and what is the morning star? The morning star is, in fact, not a star but the planet Venus when it can be seen in the eastern sky in the early morning before sunrise. At its brightest, Venus is the third most brilliant body in the sky after the sun and the moon. In the world of Jesus’ time, it was also known as the ‘Dawn-bringer’, because its presence in the late-night sky signalled the coming of the dawn and the end of the darkness of night. By referring to himself in this way, the Lord Jesus is indicating that he, as the Light in this present time, points to a future time when the darkness shall pass away and there will only be day and no night for those who belong to the Light.
I like reading about the lives of Christians in the past. Some time ago, I came across Andrew Bonar: Diary and Life. I found the book an inspirational read. Andrew Bonar was a Protestant minister in Scotland in the 19th century. He was a friend of Robert Murray M’Cheyne and participated in the revivals of 1839 and 1859. He understood the central importance for him as a pastor of Bible-reading, meditation upon the Scriptures, and prayer. In his later years, when asked to tell a group of young ministers what the secret was of his life of devotion to Christ, he answered simply, “I can only say to my young brethren that for forty years there has not been a day that I have not had access to the Mercy-Seat (of God).” Bonar was a man of prayer who sought to live his life shaped by the Bible. He was also a man whom the hope of glory sustained. He experienced great loss in his life but he held to the hope that was his in Christ. His biographer, John J. Murray, comments that Bonar had “a firm belief in the profound truths of Scripture, but united with them was his joyous and triumphant hope”.
His diary entry on Tuesday 18 June 1849 gives us a glimpse of his ‘joyous and triumphant hope’—“This morning early I had awakened and looked out. It was about four o’clock. The morning star was shining directly before our window in a bright sky. One part of the window was misty with frost; the other part clear, and through the clear part the star shone most beautifully. I thought of Christ’s words, ‘I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star’ (Rev 22:16). Christ is all this to me in this world till the day break. I fell asleep, and when I next awoke the sun was shining through my room. Shall it not be thus at the Resurrection?”
The identification of Jesus as the ‘bright Morning Star’ points us to his return, which he promises repeatedly in the final chapter of Revelation: “Look, I am coming soon!” The one who brought life from death, who turned the darkness of the tomb into resurrection morning, is coming. Nothing is more certain than this.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ (Rev 21: 3 -5)
The darkness of the night will soon pass. The pain and death, sorrow and tears, mourning and crying will come to an end with the coming of the Son. There will be a new heaven and a new earth. Jesus is making all things new. The bright Morning Star heralds the return of the Lord Jesus, the Light of the World. By his identification with the bright Morning Star, the Lord wants us to know this certain hope—the Son and the dawn of eternal day are coming.