When Stars Sing (Reprise)

Rev 12 Sign Reprise

This September 23, a wonderful sign will unfold in the heavens. Opposing camps have formed around its significance. Here’s my attempt to shed some light on the issue.

I posted a few weeks ago about the Revelation 12 Sign (When Stars Sing) and I suppose I haven’t stopped talking about it since! But as September 23, the date of the “great sign,” approaches, it becomes apparent there are definite “camps” on this one—and frankly, major and vitriolic divisiveness. So I’d like to take a moment to clarify which “camp” I’m in, and why.

First, let me get straight to my bottom line.

  1. We’ve been told the heavenly bodies were created for signs. (Gen 1:14)
  2. We’ve been told by Jesus, Joel, Peter and John that signs in the heavens will herald the “great and awesome day of the Lord.” (Luke 21:11,25, Joel 2:30-31, Acts 2:19)
  3. We’ve been told very specifically by John about this sign. (Rev 12:1-2)

Therefore, I believe the unique, one-time event that is going to take place in less than three weeks’ time is one of many evidences that we are in the very last of last days.

Time is short. “Let him who has ears to hear” hear…

Now, about those camps…

 

 

Camp #1 I’m NOT In: The “Date-Setters”

There is a vocal group out there declaring with certainty that September 23, 2017, will mark the Rapture. I’m not in this camp, although “rapture now” would be all right with me! Neither is Scott Clarke in this camp, or most of the other prophecy mavens I’ve been following on this. So assuming we’re all still here on 9/24 I will not feel I have egg on my face. 😊

Here is what we’re told.

A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; and she was with child; and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth. (Rev 12:1-2).

We’re told it’s a “great sign,” but we’re not told precisely what it portends. Yes, later in verse 5, the child is “caught up to God,” but that occurs only after another sign that plays out in verses 3-4.

Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems. 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. (Rev 12:3-5)

So if the sign in verses 1-2 isn’t necessarily the rapture of the church, what does it mean? There are a few different views. For what it’s worth, here’s the one I like. Based on Micah 5:2-4, the sign may indicate a change in dispensation. The Age of the Gentiles / Church Age is ending. We believe (and certainly hope and pray!) we will be raptured before the new dispensation begins in earnest. Will the Rapture happen the exact day / month / year that occurs? Only the Father knows! And His concept of time is rather different than ours. (2 Pet 3:8)

Other possibilities that have been put out there include the revealing of the Two Witnesses, the start of the Great Tribulation, the start of war of Gog-Magog or the Psalm 83 War, and more.


Camp #2 I’m NOT In: The “Nothing to See Here” Detractors

There’s also a large and established detractors camp. Many of these are well respected authorities. Pastors of large churches. Authors of popular books on prophecy.

But frankly, many of the arguments I’ve seen put out there for why the September 23 sign isn’t valid strike me as, well, rather easily defeated. Rather than looking at the question objectively, some in this camp at least appear  to be invested in finding reasons it can’t be true.

God is moving so mightily in our day, bringing Jewish people and Muslim people to faith in stunning and miraculous ways, and we’ve gained so much understanding through their insights! Today’s believers need to be Bereans and be prepared to challenge what they learned in seminary, and maybe even what they wrote in their own books a decade ago, in light of what we’re learning about the context of key Biblical passages!

Here are a few key points the detractors raise.


Objection 1: God Doesn’t Speak to Us through the Stars

… Seeking messages in the stars is forbidden in scripture and is the domain of the occult.

This is a knothole I had to pull myself through a bit, too. That’s why I spent quite a bit of time on it in my initial “When Stars Sing” post.

A blog post critical of the Revelation 12 Sign phrased the objection this way:

“…they all struggled with a biblical paradox: the Bible’s forbidding of astrology (Leviticus 19:26-28,31; 20:6; and Isaiah 47:13) versus Jesus commanding Christians to be watchful of the signs in the heavens that herald His Second Coming (Matthew 24:29-31,44).”

So… I’m not sure what translation the author of this blurb is using, but in Lev 18 through 20 my translation says exactly nothing about astrology or the stars! Nor do I see it in the Hebrew.

The Levitical verses the author lists do strictly forbid a number of occult practices including “divination.” The Hebrew word literally connotes hissing or whispering and figuratively refers to fortune-telling. The Bible also warns in the clearest terms against “worshiping or serving the host of heaven” (Deut 4:19).

So yes, the astrology column in the newspaper is forbidden, if it’s still a thing. Not because it’s about the constellations, but because it attempts to use them for “divination.” It’s also a form of worship, as it ascribes to the stars a power to dictate our circumstances they don’t possess.

The only place in scripture where I see studying the stars (literally, “star-gazing”) explicitly forbidden is in Isaiah 47:13. Again, the context is occult practice.

Meanwhile, we’re told in at least a dozen places that the heavens declare God’s glory, that God created the heavenly bodies for signs, that God Himself named the stars, and that signs from heaven will herald the “great and awesome day of the Lord.” And the magi (who were apparently scholars from ancient Persia) in Matthew used knowledge of the stars to arrive at an accurate foreknowledge of Messiah’s first coming!

So what’s the Biblical directive here? To me, the “paradox” seems obvious. Don’t fall prey to the Romans 1:23 syndrome of worshiping the creation rather than the creator. Do let the glory and majesty of the heavens function as God’s word tells us it was designed to do—draw us to worship God and reveal key truths about His prophetic timeline.

For a more systematic discussion of this topic with more Biblical references, (and for some just plain interesting material if you happen to love the stars) please see my earlier post.

God does nothing without a purpose. Today the idea of looking to the stars, if you are not dealing with the science of astronomy, is called astrology. The word itself means “the word about the stars.” But in our culture it is no longer that at all. It has become a reflection of our attempt to be as God, actually, and we think the astronomical signs are about us. This is entirely perverted. But you can’t have a perversion unless something was right and straight and true to begin with.
– Barry Setterfield, Genesis Science Research


Objection 2: Identity of the Child

…The “male child” is understood to represent the Christ and can’t possibly represent the Church. So the sign in Revelation 12 is just a symbol of something that already took place.

I’ve prayed and studied this through and I would challenge this objection on many, many points.

  • One assertion you hear quite a bit is that the child being Christ (and not His Church) is the consensus traditional view. This is, at best, an exaggeration! This article quotes fifteen famous theologians, including giants such as Poole, Henry, Wesley, Darby, Stanley, and Ironside, who agree in essence that: “…We may then, on the authority of Scripture itself, safely affirm that the man-child represents the one New Man who is to rule the nations with a rod of iron—Christ, the Head, and the church, His body…. We have seen that the man-child symbolizes both Head and body—the complete Christ.” (Henry Allen Ironside)
  • But even if it were true… Just because a teaching represents traditional orthodoxy doesn’t mean it’s correct. Church tradition has handed us a lot of things that are just plain wrong, yes?
  • One of the things we’ve come to appreciate from our Messianic Jewish brethren is that the Hebrew mindset is different than our linear Western mindset. Many things in the Bible are not strictly chronological as we expect, and most things have multiple fulfillments. Why does the man-child in Rev 12 have to symbolize either the Messiah or the Church? Why can’t the symbol represent both? In rising from the dead, Christ “became the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep…. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.” (1 Cor 15:20-23).
  • Q: When did John write the Book of Revelation? A: Decades after Christ’s resurrection and ascension. So when John wrote down his vital revelation of “the things which must soon take place” (Rev 1:1), Christ (who is God) was already in heaven, with (and as) God. So why would John’s vision, with great drama, reveal a sign about something that had already happened? Keeping that bit of context in view, how do you think a late-first-century reader would interpret the bit about the child being “caught up into heaven to God” given that Christ is already up there?
  • Also, bear in mind that in John’s day Christianity had a very Jewish flavor and was viewed as a sect of Judaism. So the picture of a womanly Israel giving birth to the Church would not have felt like a stretch. (It’s a shame it feels like such a stretch today!)

Some state that the text in Rev 12:5 (“who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne”) seems unlikely to represent the Church and sounds more like Jesus Christ. However, this argument turns on itself quickly.

  • “…who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron”—this exact language is used in Rev 2:26-27, of overcomers (the true Church) to whom Christ will impart this authority.
  • “…her child was caught up to God.” The verb there is harpazo, which is the word that got Latin-ized into “Rapture.” That verb is never used with reference to Yeshua’s ascension. Paul uses the verb of himself, when he is “caught up” into Paradise 2 Cor 12:2-4, and of the Church in 1 Thes 4:17.
  • Is it just a little odd that the Christ would be “caught up to God” when He is God? Not saying the Bible never uses language like that, but Father / Son is the more normal way to refer to the two members of the Godhead in the same breath.

So it seems to me that the language in Rev 12:5-6 actually fits the true Church better than it fits Christ, if we look at it without prejudice.

I’ve even seen a claim that identifying the male child strictly as Jesus Christ represents the “plain-sense interpretation” of the passage. Umm? It would be “plain sense” if the passage stated, “Hey, we’re talking about the Christ here.” Which it doesn’t. So to decide the child represents the Christ is an interpretation, not the plain sense meaning.

What the passage does state in plain language is that “a sign will appear in heaven.” So interpreting the passage as referring to a sign in heaven is, in fact, the plain sense meaning! (A much-quoted maxim of Biblical interpretation: “Where the plain sense makes sense, seek no other sense.” Well?)

I could go on. Here’s another assertion from a post that appeared on a respected prophecy blog:

The traditional interpretation of Revelation 12’s symbols can be derived from other passages. The imagery is taken directly from Joseph’s dream in Genesis 37. The Woman is Israel, who birthed the male Child—the Messiah.

Yes, Joseph’s dream included the sun, moon and twelve stars, but it lacked the woman and her child, the key players in the Rev 12 drama! Remember, Joseph himself is the figure to whom all the others bow in his dream. So perhaps I’m really missing something, but I fail to see how Genesis 37 can tell us who the child in Rev 12 represents.

So with due respect, the hermeneutics from the “Detractors Camp” seem more than a little strained to me. We’re being strong-armed into agreeing there’s only one way to view this passage. But it seems to me that it doesn’t hold up so well under examination.


Objection 3: The Sign Is Showing Up Out of Order

This, in my view, is much more valid. Doesn’t Rev 12 mark the midpoint of the tribulation period? We haven’t seen the Two Witnesses or many of the other events that appear in earlier chapters of Revelation yet, so how can the Sign show up already?

That bothered me too. But it’s only an issue if you assume Revelation is written as a single chronological progression. As mentioned before, the Hebrew mindset is less married to a linear timeline than ours. Check out Genesis. Gen 1:1 through 2:4 give a chronological record of the first seven days. And then in Chapter 2, the account sort of jumps back to Day 6 and zooms in on how God made Adam and formed Eve from his rib, leading on to the events of the Fall.

Prophecy mavens suggest that something similar has happened in Rev 12. That we’ve jumped up to a birds-eye view and are now getting a fresh timeline that shows us the entire sequence of the tribulation events in summary. If you read the chapter from that perspective it really does seem to fit.

 

Objection 4: The Sign Won’t Be Visible from Earth

True, although I wish it weren’t! I’d love to see this with my own eyes! But scripture never said it would be visible to us on earth. “A sign appeared in the heavens,” it says. And where was John positioned when he “saw” the sign? In the heavens.

Clearly, a constellation “clothed with the sun” was not designed to be visible here on the ground. That’s just what is so.


Objection 5: The Sign Isn’t Unique

Invariably, the person advancing this objection points out that individual elements of the sign occur regularly—e.g., the sun moves through Virgo every year.

Yes, but that misses the point. The entire sign as described in Rev 12, all four elements together, has never happened before.

Rev 12 Sign 9/23/17

The Rev 12 Sign, 9/23/17. Virgo, “clothed with” the sun, with the moon at her feet, with the “king planet” in her birth canal, and with Leo’s nine stars plus a beautiful alignment of three planets providing a crown of twelve stars. Source: Google Sky Map.


At the Proverbial End of the Day…

So here’s the honest truth. The moment a friend directed my attention to the blog post I quoted in a couple of places above, the Lord started equipping me with counterarguments I wasn’t even looking for.

The article with the list of prominent historic theologians that support the interpretation of the Rev 12 child as including the church? That showed up when I hadn’t even searched for it, when my phone “coincidentally” decided to open a link I didn’t think I had pressed!

A single quick Olive Tree search pulled up Rev 2:26-27 and punched a hole in the logic that “rule with a rod of iron” in Rev 12:5 “rules out” the church.

I think the real objection is against perceived “date setting.” And I agree with that concern. I don’t know that the Rapture will happen this September and I’m deeply concerned that a number of people are declaring it with such certainty.

I am cautiously confident the Rapture will happen on the Feast of Trumpets*! This year? Next year? In a decade? The Father knows! But I honestly think our generation will see that day.

(*I’ll give you the full rationale for the Feast of Trumpets in my next post. Could I be wrong about it? Of course I could!)

Another thing Jesus told us about the last days is that there would be a strong spirit of deception! (Matt 24:4-5) Satan loves sowing uncertainty about the coming judgment.

Yes, there are “camps” in terms of Biblical / prophetic teaching. And sadly, while I certainly can’t know motives, at least some of the camping out appears to be tied to self-interest. Ah, the Church of Laodicea. We’re living it, friends! (Rev 3:17)

So… don’t follow anyone without question. Not your pastor—especially if he’s uber-successful! Not some prominent teacher on the web. And certainly not me!

My encouragement to you? Be a Berean. Search your Bible like never before and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you what He wants you to do with what He shows you there.

According to 1 John 2:27, we do not need human teachers. The Holy Spirit “teaches us concerning all things”! That flies in the face of my experience, as I’ve found human teachers to be tremendously helpful—including the ministry that published the blog post I quoted a few times above!

But at the end of the day, I’m accountable for meditating on God’s word and for following the Spirit’s leading as He applies it to my circumstances. That’s the sum of it, I think.

Again…

  • We’ve been told by Jesus, Joel, Peter and John that signs in the heavens will herald the “great and awesome day of the Lord.” (Luke 21:11,25, Joel 2:30-31, Acts 2:19)
  • We’ve been told very specifically by John about this once-in-human-history sign.

I’m not sure exactly what it means, but I can state this with absolute assurance. The Rev 12 Sign joins a long list of indicators that tell us God’s prophetic timeline is very much in motion, and the end of our age is near! Rather than scoffing at it, why aren’t we all praising God for the integrity and consistency of His Word? And His faithfulness and mercy in being willing to forewarn us in so many incredible ways?

If we gave Him the glory with a unified voice, maybe more people would listen.

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Rev 3:22

 

If you’ve never opened God’s free gift of salvation through Jesus (Rom 3:23, 6:23), please please please be persuaded to do it now! It’s simple. Just tell God from your heart that you admit you’re a sinner that needs a Savior (“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Rom 3:23), that you’re done running your own life, and that you’re ready to make Jesus Lord of your life.

If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” (Rom 10:9-11)

The decision that saves you is that simple!

Simple… But no one said living it out will be easy. Especially now.

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6 Comments

  1. Shelly Azgour says:

    Thank you Lindafor weighing out what we know and supporting it always with scripture. We do not worship the sign or worship departure rather we want to open our hearts fully to what God is saying and not suppress information because it does not fit into our paradigm of contrived theology. It is as it has always been from the beginning, enough light on the word is shown to walk in it yet it will be your faith that causes us to continue in it by the spirit as we look to God in our hearts not to another man. Thank you for your well supported conclusions and your discussion to help us understand the different camps.

  2. rose says:

    Amen to what Shelly Azgour says so well, Linda. I believe you are truly open to what God’s Spirit is saying, and without trying to make it say what others think. I look forward to more articles by you on this subject UNTIL the King of Kings and Lord of Lords comes to reign on this earth! Like you, I hope and pray it will be soon!

  3. I go around and around with folks about this. One article I read from a Creation Scientist used lots of bad information, a chain of straw man arguments, then knocked them down. One example is he listed all “similar” signs, four or five, throughout history. Yeah, but not with all the elements. Then he told us the Ptolemy thinks there are more stars in Leo. The Romans think this about Jupiter. The Greeks think that… Who Cares! The Mormons think Jesus is the brother of Lucifer and the JW’s think Jesus is Michael the Archangel. Do we throw Jesus out because of fallacious ideas? What does the Mazzoroth say about the Lion of Judah… the Mazzoroth that the Lord Himself referenced in Job that HE put into motion. The Bible is about the Lord and what HE thinks!

    I agree, the sign is a sign and, as I say, not necessarily the destination, any more than parking at the freeway exit sign means you have arrived. It means, Coming Soon! What it DOES tell us is that the time in question addressed in Revelation is soon upon us, and it ALSO probably marks off the beginning of the final War In Heaven. Don’t you think? We don’t know how long that lasts, but at what marks of the Mid-Trib, Michael casts Satan down once and for all. Clips his wings, so to speak. Satan in his wrath and rage enters Antichrist and goes after God’s people and His city.

    One Question I have been posing that so far has shut down every conversation and thread: Okay, if what we see in the sky (and it is visible from earth early in the morning before sunrise in Jerusalem) is not what is described in Revelation 12, then tell me, what do YOU think the Revelation 12 will look like? *crickets*

    I am ready to come back with the truism that eternal and sovereign God planned out all, including our very redemption before the Foundation of the World (Ephesians 1, etc) and set the stars and planets, the moon and sun, for His divine appointments (Gn 1:14) but he did not set Wormwood in motion? Not the Revelation 12 sign? They are afterthoughts? Or if He did set them in motion and this September 23 sign is not it, what WILL it look like and WHEN because the NASA software reveals nothing else like it out for hundreds of years at least. So what will the Revelation 12 Sign look like when it happens?

    But I have not yet been able to ask that last paragraph. But I am waiting…

    • Thanks for the comment, Dave! Yes, I’ve been frustrated, too, and at a loss to explain why so many are locking arms and repeating what appear to me to be some very loose arguments for why the sign can’t be so! The very people who are most adamant that you shouldn’t spiritualize away scripture are happy to spiritualize away this! Why?? I may not be an exalted teacher of Bible prophecy, but I can tell when an argument has holes!
      Fortunately, it’s not a salvation issue. The key point is–be ready!
      I really like your point about the final war in heaven. 🙂

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