Going Supernova


SN 1994D (bright spot on the lower left), shines nearly as brightly as the adjacent NGC 4526 galaxy. Image credit: NASA/ESA“A supernova is an astronomical event that occurs during the last stellar evolutionary stages of a massive star’s life, whose dramatic and catastrophic destruction is marked by one final titanic explosion…Supernovae play a significant role in enriching the interstellar medium with the heavier atomic mass chemical elements. Furthermore, the expanding shock waves from supernova explosions can trigger the formation of new stars.” (Wikipedia)

Supernova explosions are among the most dramatic events witnessed in the night skies. In the throes of death, a massive and expanding star suddenly collapses. Gravity forcefully slams the star’s celestial substance into its stellar core to produce a high-energy shock wave and grand, explosive finale. A brilliant light suddenly appears in the sky, rendering our usual assortment of evening stars dim in contrast. A once giant star goes out, quite literally, with a bang. Its starlight will only linger a few months but its stardust will be distributed over great distances in the vastness of space, interacting with worlds far away for unknowable eons of time.

When visible from Earth, a supernova arrests the attention of those who realize its significance. Even those supernovae that go unrecognized, however, distribute various heavy metals to other planets. Most of Earth’s inhabitants do not realize that nearly the full complement of naturally occurring elements found in our periodic table were deposited here by multiple supernovae, each occurring at a particular time and place in relationship to our developing planet. The ashes of once giant stars provide the atomic building blocks for the life we experience and the advanced technologies we employ.


In Scripture, we find a similar phenomenon. Sometimes a person transitions from being merely massive in their impact on the world around them to shining as a ultra-bright light with eternal influence. Samson is an example. He was renowned for the great military feats of his youth, but he also suffered greatly as he bore the consequences of sin. Yet he did not bear these consequences forever. He still had time to “go supernova.” He will ever be remembered for his final strategic attack on the Philistines (Judges 16: 28-30), and he is recorded among those who are known for their lives of faith (Hebrews 11:32).

In the New Testament we find other characters with different stories but similar stellar testimonies of faith in their final days and moments. Paul, for example, was the quintessential Pharisee, keeping every letter of the Law, minding every jot and tittle — yet struggling against the One he claimed to serve (Acts 9:1-19). He was a big star in his little world but yet to actually ignite. Eventually Paul was to be consumed by a ministry that would explosively shine the light of the Gospel beyond the world he knew and divinely distribute the inspired letters he penned throughout the Earth for millennia to follow.

Stephen, on the other hand, seemed to have lived a respectable and admirable life all along. The early church made him a deacon, but God made him a supernova light in the darkness around him. His face glowed with a transcendent radiance as he testified (before an unconverted Paul, still known as Saul) in his final, mortal moments (Acts 6:8-7:60). A larger-than-life character collapsed, reduced to ink on paper, but even now his story bursts forth from the pages of Scripture into the awareness of its readers for all time.

Throughout the Bible, many other “stars” have shone brightly for a brief time then quietly distributed their life-essential messages to far away places. They permeate not only space but also time for their words disseminate spiritual elements that edify the faith of those who come after them.

Even a guilty and dying thief made his way into the Holy Scriptures as he confessed the deity of Christ from a cross (Luke 23:32-43). Regardless of what our lives have yielded to this point and irrespective of the wrongs we have committed, let us pray to go supernova in the end — demonstrating God’s brilliant glory to a watching world even with our final breath.

trackMake your own tracks…
Learn more about your world and others in “Why the Universe Is the Way It Is” by Hugh Ross. “Starkindler” by Michael Card provides the perfect soundtrack as you start your exploration.

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