I’m sure you are thinking what a strange post title. “What could Christmas and the End Times possibly have in common?” In our stylized Western way of thinking about Christ’s first coming, not much. But if you carefully read the Bible, God has woven pictures of what is to occur during his second coming into the nativity story.
A Revelation Christmas
Revelation 12 gives us just such a picture of the relationship between Jesus’ first coming and his second coming. The Chapter begins:
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 NASB)
First please notice God’s Word calls this a great sign. Not an average sign or a mediocre sign, but a great sign we should pay close attention to. The verse tells us that the sun, moon and stars are involved in this sign, so “spiritualizing” it as something happening before God’s throne only is not correct. The sun, moon and stars are physical objects and the clear reading of scripture is that they should be read as physical objects. The meaning of this sign is something that occurred in the skies.
In our last post, Did Daniel Provide the Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh for the Magi?, we have seen that this sign was associated with a group of conjunction events in 2 -3 BC that in totality probably made up the “Star of Bethlehem.” In that post we learned that the “woman” was the constellation Virgo, part of what westerners call the zodiac. The Bible refers to these constellations as the Mazzaroth and God’s plan of redemption is symbolically written in these 12 pictures in the sky! You can read more about the Mazzaroth in the post The Fig Tree or in the book by Tim Warner The Mazzaroth. On Yom Teruah (Rosh Hashanah) 3 BC, the sun was “in” Virgo or was “clothing” the constellation and the new moon was at its feet. The astronomer Thorley has shown there are exactly 12 stars encircling the head of Virgo! Additionally on that night, September 14, 3 BC, the King Planet Jupiter was in conjunction with what the Jews called the Messiah Star Regulus in Leo the Lion (of the tribe of Judah!)
The symbolism here is awesome. The twelve stars can be nothing else but the twelve tribes of Israel, her crown. The sun in Virgo is Jesus within his mother’s womb and the new moon at her feet is the church who reflects the light of the sun! The moon (church) is dark (a new moon) because it has not yet come into being. (The symbols of the sun, moon and stars are also explained in the creation story found in the post Declaring the End from the Beginning.)
Now that we understand the symbols, it is clear that the woman is Israel crowned with the 12 tribes. In a very limited sense she is also Mary but she is not primarily Mary. Mary was not crowned with the 12 tribes. The woman is Israel who has given birth to Messiah.
The next character enters the story in the next verses:
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. (Rev. 12: 3-6 NASB)
In Rev. 12: 9 we learn that the Red Dragon is Satan. We see he swept a third of the stars and threw them to the earth. Thes are the fallen angels. We also notice the Dragon has 7 heads. These are the seven world empires that Satan has used to try to destroy God’s redemptive plan. They are Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome and Islam. (My new book due in stores in early 2015 Are We Ready for Jesus? explains these “heads” in great detail.) These are the same seven heads that appear on the Beast in Rev. 13 since it is a reflection of Satan. Here the crowns are on the heads of the Dragon. In Rev. 13 on the Beast, the crowns move to the 10 horns which are the 10 kings which will initially rule the Beast Empire before giving their authority to the Antichrist.
We notice that the Dragon was anticipating the birth of Messiah and was waiting to devour him. This is the spiritual picture of Herod’s pursuit of the Christ child. Matthew’s gospel records the physical record of this encounter:
Now when they (the Magi) had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord *appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.” So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt. He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called My Son.” Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi. Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; and she refused to be comforted, because they were no more.” But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord *appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said, “Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child’s life are dead.” So Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. (Matt. 2: 13-21 NASB)
A story of unbelievable horror linked to a story of unbelievable glory and beauty. In Revelation we learn the death of the innocents was not just the act of a madman but rather Satan was the force behind it.
The Prophetic Meaning
The hint that this event was prophetic is found in the next passage in Revelation:
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. Then the woman fled into the wilderness where she ha(s) a place prepared by God, so that there she would be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days. (Rev. 12: 5-6 NASB)
This passage is where the historic changes into a future view of events. Prophetically we call this a near/far fulfillment; the passage applies both to the near event (first century) and the end times. The key to this understanding is the word translated “had.” The actual word in the Greek is present tense “has” but this confused the translators of the NASB. They translated it “had” and left a note that the actual word was “has” because they probably failed to see the near/far fulfillment. The time the woman is in the wilderness should catch prophecy students attention as well: 1260 days. This is the reign of the Antichrist. This is a picture of the flight of the righteous (Israel and the Church.) We discuss this flight in THE SIXTH SIGNPOST: THE ABOMINATION and in Midpoint of the Tribulation: Earth’s Perspective.
Mary and Joseph’s flight to Egypt then is a prophetic picture of the flight of the righteous out of Israel at the Midpoint of the Tribulation. The important factors in the prophetic aspect of the story are that they are provided for in their flight, Angels assist them and that in the wake of their escape, Satan kills the innocent in his rage. We can expect all these things to occur in the final fulfillment.
At Christ’s first coming, the Holy family was provided for by means of the Magi’s gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. We should expect to be provided for as well. Both the Magi and Joseph were alerted by angels that they were to flee. As a church we should be alert to warnings to flee. I fully expect that when the time comes, Angels will assist us. Additionally, many innocents will die at the hand of the Antichrist just as the babies in Bethlehem did. At the end of the 1260 days, the righteous return to Israel after the one seeking their lives (Herod) has died. After Jesus destroys the Antichrist, the righteous will return to Israel as well.
Revelation continues the story with the spiritual view of the flight of the righteous in subsequent verses.
And when the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child. But the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, so that she could fly into the wilderness to her place, where she *was nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent. And the serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, so that he might cause her to be swept away with the flood. But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and drank up the river which the dragon poured out of his mouth. So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. (Rev. 12: 13- 17 NASB)
At the beginning of the passage we see that two wings of a great eagle are given to the woman. The word translated “eagle” is the same Greek word translated Vultures in Matthew 24: 28. In Vultures and a Corpse we show how this word actually means “angels” throughout the New Testament so this re-enforces the angelic assistance that will be given the righteous. Also notice that the 1260 days is restated here as “time, times and half a time” as per Daniel’s prophecy in Dan. 12. This proves the end times application of these verses.
When the woman (Israel) initially goes into flight, the Christians will have responsibility to care for her. It will be our great privilege to do so and to help show them who their Messiah truly is!! We discuss this in depth in my new book and briefly in HOUSEHOLD SERVANTS on this site.
Jesus was a refugee. He understands what it will be like for us as we flee from the wrath of Satan. His nativity story is a picture of what lies ahead.