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.
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…
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.
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.
… 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
…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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.