SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS
CHRISTIAN LIVING 21C
“Then God said, ‘Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth;’ and it was so.”
We keep our eyes on the night sky, but living in an urban setting definitely limits the visibility of all but the most prominent heavenly bodies. The planet Jupiter, however, is easily recognizable.
For the past few months, Jupiter has been visible every night when the sky is clear and until recently appeared directly out my office windows.
When a friend emailed last winter with questions about Internet teachers linking Jupiter to a Last Days sign, my interest had already been piqued.
Obviously, there are at least three possible ways to respond:
- Dismiss YouTube observations as sensationalism with no further thought.
- Accept widespread Internet teaching at face value; case closed.
- Investigate the claims in light of Bible prophecy coupled with credible scientific data to determine the relevance for today.
I chose to investigate! My good friend’s questions are valid and deserved due diligence in seeking honest answers.
Is there indeed a connection between Revelation 12 and the referenced astronomical event now observable in the night sky? If so, what relevance does it have for people of faith living in the 21st century?”
I entered the study with set parameters:
- The evidence used by those advocating this teaching must be verified as credible data.
- A literal, historical-grammatical interpretation of the text must corroborate the claims.
- Any inferred relevance of the proposed “sign” must align with pre-millennial eschatology.
Internet teachers use the following Scripture passage recounting the apostle John’s vision as a proof text:
REVELATION 12:1-6 (emphasis added)
“Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth.
And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth.
And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born. She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron.
And her Child was caught up to God and His throne. Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days.”
Reading in context, this portion of John’s vision begins a parenthetical section of the book of Revelation symbolically identifying various personages and entities associated with Last Days scenarios (Rev. 12-14).
There is no question about the symbolic nature of what John saw; he called the revelation a “sign”.
Although some assert the woman in John’s vision is the church, there are decisive reasons to believe the symbolism represents the nation of Israel.
First, the symbolic representations unmistakably parallel the patriarch Joseph’s dream as a young man. In that dream, the sun represented Jacob, the moon Rachel and the stars their sons who became the 12 tribes of Israel (Gen. 37: 9-11 cf. Rev. 12:1).
Second, in John’s vision, the woman gives birth to “a male Child.” The text supplies the identity of the Child as the One who “was to rule all nations with a rod of iron” (Rev. 12:5). The same description of the Messiah occurs in the Hebrew Scriptures as well as two references in the book of Revelation (Rev. 2:27; 19:15; Ps. 2:9). The church did not birth the Child; our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ, came into the world through the nation of Israel.
John reveals another sign—a great fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns and seven diadems on his heads—in conjunction with the birth of the male Child (Rev. 12:3).
The red dragon is identified in the context and again in the next chapter as Satan who empowers the Antichrist and final world government (Rev. 12:9; 13:1; 17:3). Significantly, the final world government as outlined by Daniel is a revival of the same empire—the brutal Roman Empire—that was in power at the time of Jesus’ birth.
Consistent with John’s vision, at the time of our Lord’s First Advent, Satan was truly waiting to devour the male Child to destroy Him.
Remember, the agonizing cry of mothers was prophesied as, “Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted for her children, because they are no more” (Jer. 31:15)? Herod would kill all the babies of Bethlehem in a maniacal attempt to exterminate the male Child (Jer. 31:15 cf. Mt. 2:16-18). Satan also used Roman governor Pontius Pilate to deliver the man he labeled “King of the Jews,” Jesus the Christ (Hebrew: Yeshua Ha’Mashiach), to be crucified (Mt. 27:26 cf. Isa. 53).
Satan was confident of victory. But, rather than being “devoured” by the dragon, “the male Child” ascended into heaven and out of Satan’s jaws (Acts 1:1-5).
As the vision progressed, John saw Satan’s obsession to annihilate the Jewish people. Scripture clearly indicates this will be the objective of the emerging satanically empowered Antichrist during the Great Tribulation.
In the final days of Daniel’s 70th week, however, the Jewish remnant—symbolized by the woman in John’s vision—escapes to a place especially prepared by God for their protection as prophesied (Mt. 24:16; Rev. 12:6 cf. Isa. 33:13-16; Mic. 2:12).
The Bible affirms that Satan’s attempts to destroy Messiah and the Jewish people will categorically fail (Jer. 31:35-36).
Linking John’s vision to the astronomical event calculated to occur in September of 2017, attention is drawn to Virgo suggesting that the constellation represents the woman in Revelation 12.
There are some interesting reasons for this theory. Extrapolation of the astronomical data presents what appears to be an amazing story.
Pouring over available data, I became better acquainted with the astronomical phenomenon scheduled for September 2017.
Like the sign in John’s vision, the constellation Virgo (“the woman”) will indeed have the moon at her feet and the sun in close proximity appearing to clothe her as taught (12:1). This happens every year somewhere between the months of August and September.
On September 23, 2017, however, three planets—Venus, Mars and Mercury—will align with Regulus and the eight other stars in the Leo constellation to seemingly simulate the 12 stars near the head of the woman as depicted in John’s vision. It must be noted that the number of stars used to illustrate the constellation Leo can range from 9 – 13 depending on the atlas; the nine brightest stars are most often represented.
Amateur stargazers like me have already observed the unique position of the planet Jupiter within the constellation of Virgo as it appears in the night sky.
What makes the observation so compelling is the fact that in late November 2016, the planet Jupiter entered the constellation Virgo to remain in the “womb of Virgo” through retrograde motion for approximately nine months. On September 23, 2017, Jupiter will exit the constellation mimicking the birthing process. Jupiter, of course, has a 12-year orbit around the sun and enters Virgo in similar fashion for 9 – 10 months every 12 years.
Although Mercury, Mars and Venus have converged with Leo around the head of Virgo in varied configurations, the alignment with Regulus visible in 2017 has apparently happened only twice.
- The first is said to have occurred during the time of Abraham to whom God promised, “And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3).
- The second is believed to have occurred around 3 B.C. manifested as the sign announcing the birth of “the king of the Jews” to the Magi (Mt. 2:2).
As a matter of interest, if the sign the Magi saw “in the east” was indeed Jupiter in the constellation Virgo, it would have traversed the heavens from southeast to southwest for a period of 9 – 10 months (Mt. 2:2).
The rarity of this astronomical phenomenon associated with the set times of God’s redemptive plan in the past suggests it is an extraordinary event worthy of scrutiny.
Following a rabbit trail, I also discovered that the Hebrew name for the planet Jupiter is Zedek meaning justice or righteousness which many believe holds special significance for the nation of Israel and represents Israel’s Messiah.
Despite exaggerations by some zealous Internet Bible teachers, there most definitely are similarities between Revelation chapter 12 and the astronomical occurrence on September 23, 2017.
Besides the associated astrophysical phenomenon, there are other relevant considerations.
First, God who is sovereign over all creation is certainly able to choreograph the heavenly bodies to cause an astronomical alignment to function as a specific sign.
The opening page of Scripture clearly states, “Then God said, ‘Let there be lights, in the firmament of the heavens . . . and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years’” (Gen. 1:14, emphasis added).
Pastor and 19th century theologian Joseph A. Seiss observes,
“Evil is always perverted good, as dirt is simply matter out of place. It is the spoilation of some better thing going before it. And so there is reason to think that there is, after all, some great original, divine science connected with the stars, which astrology has prostituted to its own base ends, and which is our duty to search out and turn to its proper evangelical use.” (1)
King David’s observation is as relevant today as when recorded in the Book of the Psalms,
“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard” (Ps. 19:1-3, emphasis added).
Rather than writing-off the September 23, 2017 astronomical event with the presupposition that God can’t or doesn’t operate in the realm of the heavens today, we should be cognizant of the reality that God is Sovereign and is not limited by our finite constraints. Even the stars are at His command to communicate the truth, if we are willing to listen.
If God admonished Job to investigate the wonders of the night sky, how much greater is our responsibility living in the technologically advanced environment of the 21st century (Job 38:31-36)?
Second, it seems significant that the constellation Hydra (the Serpent) is located just below Virgo in the night sky.
It’s as though God purposed the heavens to display a permanent visual reminder of the certainty of Satan’s destruction. The very first prophecy of Scripture promises,
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He (Messiah) shall bruise your head, and you (Satan) shall bruise His heel” (Gen. 3:15).
In the Revelation 12 passage, the terms “serpent” and “dragon” are used interchangeably throughout to identify Satan (Rev. 12:15).
Third, the position of Jupiter within Virgo seems to add further significance to this astronomical event as a reminder of Messiah’s ultimate victory over Satan.
Finally, September 23, 2017 is the eve of Rosh Hashannah (Feast of Trumpets) which features the blowing of the shofar or ram’s horn.
The sounding of the shofar serves as a prophetic sign of the restoration and regathering of Israel’s descendants to their ancient ancestral homeland.
In this light, it is significant—that on June 7, 1967 after the Israeli army had successfully advanced into the city of Jerusalem and recaptured the Temple Mount—Army Chief Chaplain Rabbi Shlomo Goren sounded the shofar on the Temple Mount surrounded by hardened soldiers of the IDF with tears streaming down their faces. The significance of this act did not go unnoticed by the Jewish people causing many, “to believe that the day of redemption was near.” (2)
More importantly through the generations, the blowing of the shofar has been a reminder of God’s covenant promises to Israel.
Analyzing the data, it appears that the referenced astronomical event cannot be a sign announcing the Rapture which is imminent with no signs preceding. Nor, is it the sign announcing the Lord’s return (Acts 1:11). The sign of His Second Coming will be preceded by the darkening of the heavenly bodies and will be so spectacular that all of earth’s inhabitants will see it (Mt. 24:29-30).
If this astronomical occurrence is actually a sign related to the Last Days, then the significance more than likely relates specifically to the nation of Israel.
As such, the sign would have two purposes:
The September 23, 2017 astronomical event could very well provide a heavenly confirmation to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that God has not reneged on His promises and will literally fulfill all His covenants with Israel. The coming of Messiah to establish the Messianic Kingdom fulfills every unilateral covenant God made with Israel. In this respect, the astronomical occurrence could be a reminder that despite determined efforts to destroy both Messiah and Israel, Satan will utterly fail.
With that possibility in mind, the heavenly occurrence might indicate that the final week of years in Daniel’s prophetic timetable for Israel will soon be resumed (Dan. 9:24-27). Often referred to as the Tribulation, Daniel’s 70th week is the seven-year period of catastrophic global upheaval during which Satan’s empire on the earth is systematically uprooted and destroyed in preparation for Messiah’s coming to establish the Messianic Kingdom. In that case, the event could be seen as a warning that the Tribulation period may be closer than most people realize. (3)
God’s well-ordered plan as delineated in Scripture includes assurances that Satan’s kingdom and ultimately Satan himself will be destroyed as promised to mankind at the very beginning of human history (Gen. 3:15).
We have an obligation to pass that message to the next generation regardless of whatever else may be indicated.
Why not take a special outing with your family or gather friends on a clear night? Point out the Virgo and Hydra constellations in the southern sky. There are good apps for smart phones to locate the constellations. Identify the position of the planet Jupiter and use this unusual astronomical occurrence as a visual aid to remind that just as the Bible teaches, the seed of the woman (Messiah represented by Jupiter) will indeed crush Satan (symbolized by Hydra the serpent).
Despite Satan’s attempts to eliminate Messiah and the Jewish people through the centuries, it is Satan who will ultimately be destroyed at the end of days just as the Bible predicts.
The convergence of Jupiter with Virgo can be a powerful springboard to share God’s amazing plan of redemption through Jesus the Christ. And, that is the Good News we can’t allow the 21st century world to miss!
Whether or not the astronomical event on September 23, 2017 specifically indicates the nearness of the Tribulation, reality confirms that current world conditions fit prophetic descriptions of the Last Days in unprecedented ways (Mt. 24:6-8; 2 Thess. 2:3; 2 Tim. 3:1-5). Either way, we are closer than ever to the events of the final days before our Lord’s return.
1) Joseph A. Seiss D. D., Primeval Astronomy, (Philadelphia: E. Claxton and Company, 1882) 22.
2) Cashman, Greer Fay, “The man who sounded the shofar”, The Jerusalem Post website, May 10, 2017.
3) A literal, historical-grammatical interpretation of the Bible leads me to believe that the Rapture of the church occurs prior to the Tribulation period.
Charles E. McCracken is an international Bible teacher, long-time friend of Israel and advocate for the Jewish people. With 40 plus years of ministry experience, Rev. McCracken is known for authenticity in communicating biblical truth that makes his presentations relevant for those seeking to understand the significance of Israel and the church in Bible prophecy. He staunchly supports the nation of Israel and the Jewish people’s right to exist and live in peace.
© Charles E. McCracken 2016, devotional comments only. Repost/Reprint with permission from the author via Contact Form under ABOUT. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
1) Starbursts in Virgo. ESA/Hubble & NASA. [Public domain] – Enhancement: MKM Portfolios
2) Constellation Virgo with artist’s representation. With special thanks: Image from Sky Guide by Fifth Star Labs – Enhancement: MKM Portfolios
3) Constellation Hydra with artist’s representation. With special thanks: Image from Sky Guide by Fifth Star Labs – Enhancement: MKM Portfolios
4) Army Chief Chaplain Rabbi Shlomo Goren stands surrounded by IDF soldiers and blows the shofar in front of the Western Wall in Jerusalem on June 7, 1967. Government Press Office
5) Constellation Virgo. With special thanks: Image from Sky Guide by Fifth Star Labs – Enhancement: MKM Portfolios
6) Nighttime view of Israel from space. By NASA Earth Observatory [PD-Hubble], via Wikimedia Commons – Enhancement: MKM Portfolios