The GREAT Sign
In 2007 a man by the name of Frederick Larson released a documentary called The Star of Bethlehem that would quickly become an international phenomenon. With the help of The Passion of the Christ and Braveheart co-producer Stephen McEveety the message spread far and wide and soon Larson was doing speaking tours on the subject in Europe and elsewhere. Building on prior scholarship from Craig Chester and Ernest Martin, Larson discovered that anyone with access to astronomy software like Starry Night, Stellarium, or Celestia could actually find and witness the biblical Star of Bethlehem and even the possible dates for Christ's conception, birth, greeting by the magi, and crucifixion. We describe some of his findings here, which you can also find on the official website under The Study.
Following its release, amateur Christian astronomers worldwide began probing the skies with Stellarium and similar software looking for more possible signs in the heavens. Discoveries that once would have taken men like Johannes Kepler or Edwin Hubble a lifetime of research, could now be made in weeks or even days. Soon a pattern of blood moons (lunar eclipses) falling on biblical feast days and coinciding with significant events in Jewish and Israeli history was discovered, which led to a storm of media coverage. Pastors across the nation and worldwide were now pointing their congregations' attention to the skies and to numerous Scriptures that describe future "signs in the heavens".
And then, around 2011, an astonishing and even greater discovery was made: on September 23rd, 2017, an unprecedented astronomical alignment will appear in the sky over Israel that seemingly fulfills a literal word-for-word reading of Revelation 12:1-2 and Revelation 12:5. The passage describes a heavenly sign where a pregnant woman appears covered in the sun, with the moon at her feet, and crowned with 12 stars. The woman gives birth to a male child who is "caught up" to God. For nearly two millennia biblical scholars have speculated on what this pivotal chapter in Revelation describes, but it may be that our generation is privy to seeing for ourselves. A literal reading of the text tells us seven things that must all be true for a proper and complete fulfillment of the prophecy:
1. It is a heavenly sign, not an earthly occurrence.
2. The sign includes a woman.
3. The woman is pregnant and giving birth to a male child.
4. The male child is royalty.
5. The woman is clothed with the sun.
6. The moon is under the woman's feet.
7. The woman is crowned with 12 stars.
Understanding that the biblical writers did not distinguish between stars and planets as we do today, except that planets were called "wandering stars", the reason there appears to be a perfect fulfillment of Revelation 12 on September 23rd, 2017 is as follows:
Visible over Israel the constellation Virgo (which represents a virgin woman), lying prone, becomes "clothed" with the sun as the sun hovers over the constellation. The new moon rests just below her feet. Her head, which is always crowned by the nine fixed stars of the constellation Leo, becomes crowned with the three "wandering stars" of Venus, Mercury, and Mars to make a crown of 12 stars. Exiting her womb is the planet Jupiter, which in ancient pantheons represented the chief male deity. It is also widely known as the "King Planet". To complete the picture, Jupiter has exited the womb of Virgo after undergoing an extremely rare nine month, or 42-week retrograde motion within the constellation's womb - the exact length of a long pregnancy.
How rare is this sign? Well if biblical chronologies are accurate and the earth is roughly six thousand years old then the sign has actually never happened before. And in fact it won't happen again supposing a future 1,000 year reign of Christ on earth. There was a near fulfillment in 3915 BC, but even that year failed to portray a nine month pregnancy. Only September 2017's alignment appears to fulfill all seven requirements given in the biblical text and amazingly, Jupiter, the very star that represents the male child, is the same star that Larson had previously identified as Christ's star in The Star of Bethlehem. Fittingly, Jupiter, like Christ, is known for its prominent stripes that cover the whole planet (Isaiah 53:5, John 19:1) and its Great Red Spot like Christ's own spear wound (John 19:34, John 20:27).
The sign of Revelation 12 stands out from other biblical signs because the text actually calls it "a great sign" - contrasting it with perhaps "lesser" signs. It is intriguing that when describing the time shortly before His return Jesus also predicted "great" signs in the heavens:
There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. - Luke 21:11
Could Jesus have perhaps been referencing this very sign - the sign that John saw in Revelation 12?
In the last few months even more pieces of the puzzle have been falling into place as it was discovered that the image of the woman in labor is routinely employed throughout Scripture as the chief symbol of the coming Day of the LORD - the Tribulation (Micah 5:1-3, Isaiah 13:6-9, Isaiah 26:16-21, Matthew 24:8, 1 Thessalonians 5:3; see also Romans 8:22 and Genesis 3:15-16). And now, as of just a few weeks ago, the woman is finally pregnant and only months away from giving birth to the child.
How incredible is it that this possible sign occurs in the very year that will be 120 years from the First Zionist Congress (Genesis 6:3), 100 years from the Balfour Declaration (Genesis 21:5), 70 years from the U.N. decree to reestablish Israel (Psalm 90:10, Jeremiah 29:10), and 50 years from the Israeli conquest of Jerusalem (Leviticus 25:10-11)?
Genesis 6:3 - God warns that 120 years remain until the Flood begins.
Genesis 21:5 - Abraham was 100 years old when the son of promise (Isaac) was finally born.
Psalm 90:10, Jeremiah 29:10 - A generation is 70 years long and the Israelites were in captivity for 70 years.
Leviticus 25:10-11 - The Year of Jubilee in the fiftieth year, which is the year the captives go free.
We've discussed at length the sign itself, but what might the sign mean? While not addressing the sign's possible occurrence in 2017, Dallas Theological Seminary scholar Michael Svigel argues at length that the sign in Revelation 12 was always the original and preeminent symbol of the pre-tribulational rapture of the Church.
The entire Revelation 12 passage describes a woman, a child, and a dragon. A superficial reading of the text instantly brings to mind Mary, Christ, and satan, which is certainly a significant, prophetic parallel, but there is more to it than that. The sign represents both individuals in a historical context, but also larger, corporate entities. Biblical scholars have always understood the woman to represent Mary as an individual, but corporately the nation of Israel. Likewise, the dragon clearly represents satan as an individual, but also the entire world system opposed to God. However, while the same scholars have observed that the male child is a symbol of Christ, they've missed the pattern. Just as the woman and dragon have corporate meanings, the male child does, too - it is the collective body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12). An important clue to this parallel meaning is that the child in Revelation 12 is described as being raptured (harpazo in the Greek; same as 1 Thessalonians 4:17), whereas Jesus ascended - two very different meanings. Harpazo has at its core the meaning of a sudden and violent seizure by force to remove someone from harm's way. Svigel gives more light to this:
The Male Child is “Snatched Up.” The word in Revelation 12:5 is the word for “rapture,” harpazo, and always means a sudden removal, a snatching. In contrast, for the ascension of Christ, the New Testament uses terms such as “to be lifted up,” epairo (Acts 1:9), “to ascend,” anabaino (John 20:17; Ephesians 4:8-10) and “to take up,” analambano (Mark 16:19; Luke 1:11). These are neutral terms meaning a removal from one place to another. Revelation 12:5 has the male child being suddenly snatched away from the dragon, who wants to devour the child. The ascension of Christ was gradual (Acts 1:10), not sudden. Also, Revelation 12:5 is a context of “rescue” from the threat of the dragon. The word “rapture,” harpazo, is appropriately used in the New Testament for a rescue in Acts 23:10 and Jude 23. In His ascension to heaven, Christ was not rescued, but ascended victoriously and was in no danger from the devil or anybody else. The term “rapture,” harpazo, is never used of Christ’s ascension to heaven. Thus, the use of harpazo in a rescue context like Revelation 12:5 is completely inappropriate to describe the ascension of Christ, but is completely appropriate to describe the rapture of the church as a rescue from Satan’s emerging efforts to destroy the church as we approach the end times.
It seems then that Revelation 12:5 describes the rapture of the Church and therefore the possible sign in September 2017 could indicate that the rapture of God's children is imminent. Could the rapture actually happen on September 23rd? Perhaps, or perhaps shortly before or after. This is speculative, but it is also very hard to ignore just how accurately this alignment appears to fulfill the words in John's vision.
September 23rd also happens to be Rosh Hashanah, The Feast of Trumpets, which begins around sunset the day before. There are seven biblical feasts (Leviticus 23:4-44) and Jesus fulfilled the first four in order:
The Feast of Passover - fulfilled by His death
The Feast of Unleavened Bread - fulfilled by His sinless life and burial
The Feast of First Fruits - fulfilled by His resurrection
The Feast of Pentecost - fulfilled by Jesus sending the Holy Spirit to indwell the Church
The very next feast in chronological order is The Feast of Trumpets, which happens to fall on September 22nd and 23rd in 2017 - when the possible sign occurs. On top of all this, other reasons have been given why the Tribulation might possibly run from 2017 to 2024 including the fact that this time period is demarcated by two total solar eclipses. This is certainly the season of Christ's return and the signs appear to be plentiful.
There is also speculation that God is signaling His people: first because of a strange chain of events that began occurring shortly after the pregnancy began (when Jupiter entered Virgo's womb) and secondly because of the strange circumstances surrounding the election of Donald Trump.
Time will tell. Be prayerful. Be ready.