How should we interpret Rev. 12 and the Sept. 23 sign?
In our last article we discussed the history behind the Sept. 23 sign and the opinion of several noted scholars. If you haven’t read that previous article please start there first. As we learned in that article, opinions vary as to the validity of the sign of Sept. 23.
Let me recall some of the reasons many don’t think the Rev. 12 sign of Sept. 23rd is a sign at all:
- First, because it occurs with the rising sun, no one is really going to see it. What is the value of a sign no one sees?
- Leo, which is thought to make up the crown of 12 stars with 3 planets, is said by those who favor the sign to only have 9 stars. But most sky charts depict Leo with 10 to 13 stars.
- Because Virgo is “clothed with the sun” and has the moon at her feet nearly every September, this aspect of the crown of 12 stars is very important. It’s the only thing that sets this Sept 23rd appearance of the sign apart. So if this alignment of Leo and 3 planets isn’t the crown of 12 stars that Rev. speaks of, it isn’t a sign.
- The sun is actually on the shoulder of Virgo not fully clothing her.
- Those who believe this is THE sign claim it occurs only once in 7000 years. That is not true. It also occurred in 3BC (we’ll talk about this later) and also in 1827, 1483, 1293, and in 1056. The astronomer from Earth/Sky who examined this sign, only looked at the last 1000 years so there may be even more occurances. It seems to happen 3 or 4 times every thousand years. None of those were the rapture .
These are very significant reasons to consider that it might not be a sign at all. Personally, I keep an open mind. I am strongly convinced this is not the sign preceding the rapture, and despite the strong evidence that it might be nothing, there is other evidence that says it could be something. With that attitude, let’s continue to analyze it.
Rev. 12 and the Sept. 23 Sign
In order for us to understand the “sign,” we have to properly interpret Rev. 12 first. If this is truly a “biblical sign,” it can only make sense in light of the what the Bible says about it! This should be obvious to all, but shockingly, I haven’t seen anyone approach this issue that way; by interpreting Rev. 12 first.
So we will begin by trying to make sense of the sign in light of that interpretation. To me that seems the obvious approach. The challenge, however, is that Rev. 12 is difficult to interpret correctly.
The Woman is defined by scripture.
Now he had still another dream, and related it to his brothers, and said, “Lo, I have had still another dream; and behold, the sun and the moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” He related it to his father and to his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have had? Shall I and your mother and your brothers actually come to bow ourselves down before you to the ground?” (Gen. 137:9-10)
This is one of Joseph’s dreams. The twelve stars are the twelve tribes of Israel. So the woman is crowned by the twelve stars. Zechariah speaks of Israel as gems (stars) in a crown:
Then the Lord will appear over them, and His arrow will go forth like lightning; and the Lord God will blow the trumpet, . . . And the Lord their God will save them in that day as the flock of His people; for they are as the stones of a crown, sparkling in His land. (Zech. 9:14, 16)
Paul extends this metaphor to Christians:
For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming?
So the Woman wears a crown of Israel and Christians. We learn later that her children include Christians. This verse from Galatians identifies the Woman:
But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother. (Gal. 4:26)
The Woman is the New Jerusalem, the Bride of Christ, crowned with the 12 tribes (and Christians).
The Dragon is clearly defined as Satan.
And as we proved in this PREVIOUS ARTICLE, the son, a male is Jesus.
A Macro View of Rev. 12
Second, let’s look at Rev. 12 from a macro level, from far above it looking for clues to interpret this complex passage. To me Rev. 12 is a separate vision from the main story line of Revelation just as Rev, 10, 11, 13 and 14 are. Rev. 12 is the story of the Woman and the Dragon; why the Dragon hates her, and how he tries to persecute and kill her and her children.
The first thing I notice are the similar phrases in various portions of the prophecy:
|Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon (v. 3)||And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon (v. 7)|
|And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth (v. 4)||He was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. (v.9)|
|The dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child. (v. 4)||He persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male. (v. 13)|
|Then the woman fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God, so that there she would be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days. (v. 6)||She could fly into the wilderness to her place where she was nourished for a time, times, and half a time. (v.14)|
This parallelism is striking and cannot be accidental. So the first part of Rev. 12 is paralleled by the second half. But what does this mean?
Interpretation of Rev. 12
There are differences in the two halves of the prophecy. In the second half, the “son, a male,” which we now know is Jesus, has already been born, in the first half, the woman gives birth. To me, this is the clue. Rev. 12:1-5 are the events that occurred in the first century. Rev. 12:6 thru the end of the Chapter are events during the 70th Week of Daniel.
The First Century events were:
- The sign of the woman appears in the sky of Yom Teruah, 3BC, perhaps this was immediately followed by the sign of the Dragon (Rev. 12:1-3) although I haven’t seen any evidence of this. (vv. 1-3)
- Perhaps these signs were in the spiritual heaven and not in the visible heavens at all
- Jesus (the son, a male) is born (v.5)
- The Dragon pursues the son, a male for his entire life until he leaves the domain of Satan and is harpazoed or snatched up (ascends) to the Throne of his Father. (v. 5)
- A gap of 2000 years occurs before the Woman resurfaces
- In the end times the Woman flees into the wilderness during the reign of Antichrist (v. 6)
The Parallel Events in the End Times
- Michael fights Satan and throws him and his angels down during the end times. (vv. 7-9)
- Satan pursues the woman only to have God supernaturally protect her in the wilderness for 1260 days (vv. 13-14)
- Satan then turns his wrath on the Christians (v.. 17)
So a big question at this point is why would this prophecy in Revelation (arguably about the future) contain part of a vision that had already happened previous to John’s writing? (the birth of Jesus)
The answer to me is two-fold. First, the first century events describe why the dragon hates the woman. It shows that this battle has been an ongoing 2000 year old battle. Second, one or more of the heavenly signs in the first century may be repeated in the end times. This may be what we will be seeing in the skies shortly. We need to keep an open mind about this issue.
Timing of End Time Events
The end time events in this vision begin with Michael’s war in heaven with Satan. We know that after this war, the Woman flies into the wilderness for Time, Times, and Half a Time (1260 days), which is the length of time the Antichrist is given authority to wear down the saints (Dan. 7:25). From this fact we know that the latest that Satan and his angels can be thrown down is the midpoint of the 70th Week of Daniel. It may be earlier than that.
A possible second reference to this war is given in Daniel 12:
Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever . . . “How long will it be until the end of these wonders?” I heard the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, as he raised his right hand and his left toward heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever that it would be for a time, times, and half a time; and as soon as they finish shattering the power of the holy people, all these events will be completed. (Dan. 12:1-3, 6-7)
Notice the same time period is mentioned “Time, Time, and half a Time.” Michael is also mentioned. What is he arising from in Dan. 12? In Dan. 10, we learn that he was restraining the Prince of Persia, a demonic figure. Might he rise from that task to lead the war against Satan and his angels? That is my thought, and the opinion of many other biblical teachers.
After Michael arises to fight the war we see that the Great Tribulation begins, a time of great distress that will never be equaled. Jesus quoted this verse when describing the great tribulation in Matt. 24.
Then after the great tribulation, will come the resurrection. And believe it or not the transformation into “resurrection” bodies is listed as well (“Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven”).
So we know that the time of the shattering of the Holy people is 1260 days. But when does Michael and Satan’s war begin and when are Satan and his angel’s thrown down from heaven?
We know the latest this can happen is the midpoint of the 70th Week of Daniel – and this is the assumption of most biblical scholars. But frankly, we don’t know when the war begins, how long it lasts, or when Satan and his angels are permanently thrown out of heaven. It could be earlier than this point. The war could be raging right now.
Many believe Michael is the restrainer of 2 Thess. 2. (See this article). If that is true, then it is more likely that the war is short, and the timing of it is right around the time of the revealing of Antichrist which is the midpoint. However, we aren’t told explicitly.
Are the Sign of the Woman and the Dragon End Time Signs as Well?
This is the million dollar question. Are the signs of the Woman and the Dragon repeated in the end times and are they astronomical? We don’t know. Only God knows.
However, we can speculate. In the next article we will do just that.