Updated: May 15, 2019
Is the Sign of Revelation 12 of any real prophetic significance this September 23?
The date of 23 September 2017 is another one of those speculations some have grasped hold off believing it has some prophetic significance regarding the End Days. Much of the foundation of this kind of thinking stems from the belief that in the past, before Moses committed God’s words to writing, YHWH used the sun, moon and stars as the basic means by which He would communicate His fundamental truths to His people. So along with the emerging oral tradition went “signs” in the celestials, which could be decoded to reveal God’s purposes.
The assumption at the moment is that the Revelation 12 sign depicts an apocalyptic event which will initiate the End Times tribulation period (also known as Jacob’s Trouble) beginning on 23 September this year. This is based on the passage in Revelation 12:1 about celestial constellations aligning to herald that event.
“And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.”
The popular assumption of how this seemingly lines up with astronomy is outlined as follows: On 23 September 2017 the sun will be in the zodiac constellation of Virgo (the Virgin) — “a woman clothed with the sun”. At the same time the moon will be at the feet of Virgo — “with the moon under her feet”. Then the nine stars of the zodiac constellation of Leo, plus the three wandering planets of Mercury, Venus, and Mars, will be at the head of Virgo — “on her head a crown of 12 stars”. The planet Jupiter will be in the centre of Virgo, and as the next weeks pass Jupiter will leave Virgo heading east, past the Virgin’s “feet”, inferring — “She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she laboured to give birth”. Jupiter being the largest of the planets, is often referred to as the “king” of the planets, hence — “She gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod”.
I must admit that when this assumption began to become popular recently, I took a breath and sighed deeply. “Here we go again” I thought. We’ve had the Blood Moon Tetrads, and then the Shemittah year theory, and last month the Total Solar Eclipse in the US – all of which have been eagerly grabbed by some people seeking understanding of the days we live in. None of those “signs” amounted to anything; prophetically speaking they all failed miserably. I shudder to reflect on how much time, energy and money was poured into trying to legitimize those futile speculations; and how many believers were once more led astray after investing considerable spiritual and emotional vigour (let alone prayer) into all this.
Sadly there have been many prophetic theories over the years that have caused the saints to become disappointed, and for some, even to abandon studying Scripture at all to discern the times. I’ve been a Pastor for over 40 years and been interested in End Time events for almost 30 years of that period; and I must admit there have been quite a few occasions when false theories have high-jacked my thinking. But still I press on knowing that we can know something solid and true about how the end will work out. It’s also caused me to be wary and more discerning about popular End Time teachings based on spurious “signs” and “events”. We need more than that.
So what follows is (I hope) a fairly straightforward overview of why I believe the September 23 sign is NOT of any lofty prophetic significance.
At face value the above text does seem to fit because on September 23 the sun will actually be in the constellation of the Virgin (Virgo) with our moon near her feet. Also the planet Jupiter will be in Virgo’s constellation with the three planets of Venus, Mars and Mercury to the right of Virgo in the neighbouring constellation of Leo. The proponents of this theory claim this and some other associated celestial occurrences are highly “unusual” or even “very rare”, a once in 7000 years happening.
I wonder if by using the “rarity” card the supporters of this theory think it may convince others of its validity. You may recall the “rare event” card was also used to support the Blood Tetrad Moon assumption too; and look what happened – nothing! Just because something seems to be “rare” or “unusual” is NOT enough to claim the theory to be true to Scripture.
In fact there’s nothing either “unusual” or “rare” about some of this. According to astronomers (www.stellarium.org www.skyandtelescope.com/online-resources/) as the earth orbits the sun each year, the sun does appear to move through the 12 constellations of the zodiac, spending about a month in each. Nor is it unusual to find the moon near the feet of Virgo because for one or two days every month the moon indeed appears near the feet of Virgo. Therefore for a day or two every September or October, the sun comes into view in Virgo with the moon resting at her feet - so this is not that remarkable.
The period of Jupiter’s orbit is a little less than 12 years and so Jupiter will be in Virgo (with the sun and the moon at the “feet”) once every 11 or 12 years. So you can see that the sun in Virgo, with the moon at her “feet” and Jupiter in the constellation, is in fact quite a regular occurrence.
So what is it that makes this regular occurrence a seemingly “rare” one? It’s because this year Jupiter will be near what is supposedly the “womb of Virgo” apparently representing “the child” that the woman is about to give birth to (see Rev 12:1-2 and 5-6). The theory goes that as Jupiter exits the lower part of the Virgin’s “womb” 42 weeks later, we can see a prophetic representation of the approximate length of the human gestation period – validating the scriptural text “She (the virgin) gave birth to a son, a male child…” (Rev 12:2 and 5). This symbol of a woman in labour is found in both Jewish and Christian scriptures and it’s those texts together with the End Time association which proponents suggest is valid evidence for the September 2017 alignment's importance.
The supposed connection to Rosh Hashanah
As if to further support this there’s the rather flimsy connection to the festival of Rosh Hashanah (Head of the Year/New Year). That name as such is actually not used in Scripture but is referred to as Yom Ha-Zikkaron (Day of Remembrance) or Yom Teruah (Day of Sounding of Shofar/Trumpet). See Lev 23:24-25.
In attempting to make the Revelation 12 sign seem more legitimate some have tried to identify it with the Feast of Trumpets, as if that will make it more prophetically acceptable. The Feast of Trumpets is the first of the autumn Feasts of YHWH and its timing is based on the first sighting of the new moon (from Jerusalem) which in 2017 is expected to begin on the evening of September 21 or 22 and end on the evening of the 23 (when the sign is supposedly fulfilled). Rosh Hashanah/Feast of Trumpets in Jewish tradition is believed to be a day when the dead will be resurrected and YHWH begins His judgment.
Many Christians believe the period describes the tribulation period (Jacob’s Troubles) found in Revelation. Some are bold enough to say that the Rapture could well take place about this time! This of course makes the whole acceptance of this Revelation 12 “sign” as very urgent indeed, because if you don’t accept the proposition you might just miss out on the Rapture! This is nothing more than emotional and spiritual blackmail.
Not that unusual after all
But this celestial event isn’t that unusual as it also happened on 4 other occasions within the past 1,000 years, in the Septembers of 1056, 1293, 1483 and 1827. So if we want to be consistent we need to ask why those past 4 occurrences (let alone others before that) didn’t have the same significance people are attaching to it for this year. Saints, we need some honest accountability in this please.
Now the issue here is that we cannot take a text out of its surroundings and its general, common-sense meaning, let alone any literal meaning it might have. True, symbolism raises another issue, but you still can’t isolate it from its surroundings. Even symbolism (or Typology as it’s more accurately known) has its own way of adhering to its neighbouring phrasing. And you certainly shouldn’t take a verse away from the previous and following verses. In other words, please don’t ignore or whitewash the framework or even the “straight forwardness” of the text.
So here we go! What do the following verses say?
(Rev 12:4-5) “And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child. And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne.”
Now depending on your doctrinal slant, you’ll either believe this “male child” to be Jesus (with faithful OT Israel being the woman bringing forth the Messiah), or the mature and fully perfected sons of God (the last day’s church/christianity/religion being the woman out of who comes a last day’s unflawed remnant).
I take it to refer to Jesus; the latter belief is connected to the false teaching of the Latter Rain (aka Manifest Sons of God) doctrine of early Pentecostalism. I was once caught up in this Latter Rain teaching but after some years of trying to make it realistically fit with Scripture I came to see it was in error. Not all my time was wasted while holding to it, because I did learn some very valuable lessons regarding discernment, sticking to the Word, and not taking things out of their obvious uncomplicated context. It all took some time but the Holy Spirit led me through it and then out of it!
The above verses clearly and straightforwardly point to the “woman” giving birth to Jesus, with His mother (Miriam/Mary) being the symbolic righteous woman of Israel. And quite plainly we see Satan tried to “devour” the child just after His birth when Herod attempted to purge the new-born king from amongst the young babes (Mtt 2:13 and 16).
“Now when they had gone,