And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to make a distinction between day and night; and they will act as signals and will be used for seasons for both the days and the years. And they will be lights in the expanse of the heavens, to shed light on the earth,” and so it was done. And God made two great lights: the greater light to rule by day and the smaller light to rule by night; and the stars. And God placed them in the expanse of the heavens, to shed light on the earth.
We cannot understand the identity of these great lights very well unless we first know what the essence of faith is and how it develops in those who are being created anew.
The actual essence and life of faith is the Lord alone. No one who lacks faith in the Lord can have life, as he himself said in John:
Those who believe in the Son have eternal life, but those who do not believe in the Son will not see life; instead, God’s anger will rest on them. (John 3:36)
The progress of faith in those who are being created anew is as follows. Initially such people are without any life, as no life exists in evil or falsity, only in goodness and truth. Afterward they receive life from the Lord through faith. The first form of faith to bring life is a memorized thing—a matter of fact. The next is faith that dwells in the understanding—faith truly understood. The last is faith in the heart, which is faith born of love, or saving faith.
In verses 3–13 the things that had no living soul represent factual faith and faith truly understood. Faith brought alive by love, however, is represented by the animate creatures in verses 20–25. Consequently this is the point at which love and the faith that rises out of it are first dealt with, and they are called lights. Love is the greater light that rules by day; faith springing from love is the smaller light that rules by night. And because they must unite as one, the verb used with “lights” is singular, “let it be” rather than “let them be.”
Love and faith work the same way in our inner being as warmth and light work in our outer flesh and are therefore represented by warmth and light. This is why the lights are said to be placed in the expanse of the heavens, or our inner being, the greater light in our will and the smaller in our understanding. But they only seem to be present there, just as the light of the sun only appears to be in physical objects. It is the Lord’s mercy alone that stirs our will with love and our understanding with truth or faith.
The fact that the great lights symbolize love and faith and that they are named sun, moon, and stars can be seen in many places in the prophets. In Ezekiel, for instance:
When I blot you out I will cover the heavens and black out their stars; the sun I will cover with a cloud, and the moon will not make its light shine. All the lamps of light in the heavens I will black out above you, and I will bring shadow over your land. (Ezekiel 32:7, 8)
This passage is directed at Pharaoh and the Egyptians. In the Word, these people stand for sensory evidence and factual information, and the idea here is that they used both things to blot out love and faith. In Isaiah:
The day of Jehovah [comes] to make the earth a desolation, since neither the stars of the heavens nor their Orions will shine their light. The sun has been shadowed over in its emergence, and the moon will not radiate its light. (Isaiah 13:9, 10)
The day of Jehovah has come, a day of shadow and darkness. Before him the earth trembles, the heavens shake, the sun and moon turn black, and the stars hold back their rays. (Joel 2:1, 2, 10)
from Regeneration, Pages 133-135