What Is the Morning Star?
“Please explain this passage: ‘I will give him the morning star’ (Revelation 2:28). What is the ‘morning star’?”
This passage embraces one of the seven promises from Christ to those who “overcome” (the trials and temptations of life), and thus remain loyal to him to the end (see: 2:7,11,17,26; 3:5,12,21). To the church at Thyatira, the Lord Jesus therefore says (regarding the one who overcomes): “I will give him the morning star.”
Some scholars consider the reference to be to Christ himself. Professor Andrew Hill has written: “Jesus Christ is described as the ‘morning star’ in 2 Peter 1:19 (phosphoros) and in Revelation 2:28 (aster proinos), and He identifies Himself as ‘the bright morning star’ (ho aster ho lampros ho proninos) in Revelation 22:16” (413). He goes on to point out that this “star” symbolism reflects the Old Testament and inter-testament emphasis on the “celestial” nature of the coming Messiah (cf. Numbers 24:17; Malachi 4:2).
William Barclay suggested several ideas. He thought the expression could signify the coming resurrection of the righteous. Just as the “morning star” breaks forth from the darkness of night, so the Lord’s people will break out of the darkness of the grave (1957, 67). Later, however, he came to a different conclusion. He was “quite certain” that the “correct interpretation” is this. The “morning star” is Christ himself. “If the Christian is true, when life comes to an end he will possess Christ, never to lose him again” (1959, 140).
Some have objected to this view on a couple of bases. It is alleged that since the evil “king of Babylon” is called “day-star, son of the morning” (Isaiah 14:12; Lucifer, KJV — no reference to Satan), the same symbol would not be appropriate for the Lord Jesus. The objection is nullified by the fact that Christ is unequivocally called “the bright, the morning star” in Revelation 22:16. Bible symbols are frequently used in a variety of ways, sometimes quite diversely, depending upon the context.
Again, it has been argued that since the Christian already “has” Christ, it would be meaningless to say that we somehow will “be given” him when we have overcome. This presents no real problem when we understand that many blessings come incrementally. We are in the kingdom now (Colossians 1:13), but there is a more glorious phase to yet be entered (2 Peter 1:11). We enjoy salvation presently (Mark 16:16), but there is a greater dimension, a heavenly salvation, to be received at death (2 Timothy 4:18). There is a sense in which we are with Christ now (Matthew 18:20; 26:29; 28:20), but there is a more exalted state in which we will be with him ultimately (Philippians 1:23; 2 Corinthians 5:8).
Splendor and Victory
Lenski thought that the imagery had to do with the “royal splendor” of Jesus. “The adjective ‘of the morning’ suggests unfading, glorious brilliance both for Jesus in 22:16, and here [2:28] for us. The Victorious King Jesus is the brilliant Morning Star in royal splendor; and he gives to every faithful believer the gift to be like him in royal splendor” (pp. 124-125). The idea would be that the Lord’s people will partake of his victory “glow” in the heavenly realm.
Another scholar, Professor Robert Wall, says “it would seem likely that ‘the morning star’” is a symbol of the situation of those Christians who “overcome,” by pointing to their “future participation in the triumph of God’s rule over all those secular and materialistic pretenders to the Lord’s throne” (79).
Similarly, Frank Pack suggested: “The victorious Christian shares in Christ’s glorious triumph and authority, and possesses Christ as an everlasting treasure” (48).
It is easy to see that there are several reasonable options as to the significance of “morning star” in Revelation 2:28, each of which is entirely consistent with information elsewhere in the biblical record. One need not feel compelled to “tie down” to a specific view, so long as that view is not in conflict with other clear teaching of scripture. To refrain from dogmatism, when there is room for reasonable dissent, is the careful and courteous path for the devout Christian student.
- Barclay, William. 1957. Letters to the Seven Churches. Abingdon: Nashville, TN.
- Barclay, William. 1959. The Revelation of John. Vol. 1 Westminster: Philadelphia, PA.
- Hill, Andrew E. 1986. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia — Revised. G. W. Bromiley, ed. Vol. 3. Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, MI.
- Lenski, R. C. H. 1963. The Interpretation of St. John’s Revelation. Augsburg: Minneapolis, MN.
- Pack, Frank. 1984. The Message of the New Testament — The Revelation — 1. Vol. 1. Biblical Research Press:Abilene, TX.
- Wall, Robert. 1991. New International Biblical Commentary — Revelation Hendrickson: Peabody, MA.