As I've studied Revelation 12 and whether or not the astronomical alignment on September 23rd, 2017 fulfills the heavenly sign that the Apostle John saw, I've tried to poke as many holes in it as I can. An argument is only strong if it can withstand continual scrutiny. I've heard dozens of supposed rebuttals and arguments against it and I've even prayed that if this isn't the sign for God to show me where we went wrong in identifying it as such. Yet after dozens of objections falling flat I find my confidence in this theory only growing. More details are coming out virtually every week that seem to substantiate it even more.
I don't think I can ever get to the point where I can emphatically state this is the fulfillment of the sign John saw because I am no prophet and God hasn't audibly spoken to me anything about this. I'm just studying His Word, listening to a myriad of other Believers seeing the same thing, and comparing what I see in the Bible with what I see in present-day reality, and it just seems to fit. Perfectly.
I want to share with you my most recent approach to disproving this thing, which was to list out a series of simple questions that would have straightforward and unequivocal biblical answers. The September alignment would have to pass muster on all of these questions to be the sign for sure.
1. In the Book of Revelation did the Apostle John say that he saw a sign in the sky or not?
He says he saw a sign. No question about it:
And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. - Revelation 12:1
The inclusion of the sun, moon, and stars just drives home the point even further. Those are real astronomical objects you can look up and see with your own two eyes. He is not talking about clouds or comets or a one-time mysterious apparition. John lists very specific objects that appear in the sky day after day. God created these objects for signs according to Genesis 1:14.
2. Does the text say the sign that John sees is only figurative?
No. As a matter of fact nowhere in the passage did John say what he saw was a parable or mere symbol. If we are going to trust God's Word then we have to be silent where it is silent and speak where it speaks. John says he saw a sign in the sky, so he literally saw a sign in the sky. In my humble opinion, we have no more right to discount the real astronomical aspect of this sign then we do to discount the real death and resurrection of Christ.
We know that this sign has a real and tangible meaning because of a myriad of Scriptural cross-references including some in the passage itself (the woman is Israel about to enter the Tribulation, the dragon is satan and his world dominion, and the child is the Church in union with Christ), but first and foremost it is an actual sign in the sky according to the text. Elsewhere in the Bible when a passage is merely a symbol or parable, the text itself says so - and usually in the very same passage.
3. Is Revelation primarily about historical events or is it primarily about future events?
The very first verse in the Book of Revelation says:
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John. - Revelation 1:1
Revelation was written when John was an old man, exiled to the island of Patmos. It was written years after the other events recorded in the New Testament. There is also near-unanimous scholarly consensus that it was written between 90 AD and 100 AD. The very first verse tells us that the contents of the vision are largely unfulfilled. Revelation 1:19 is a minor caveat speaking either of the few preceding verses or of the first three chapters, but the eschatological basis for the book is futurism.
Preterist interpretations of the Book of Revelation run dead-end into three major exegetical issues:
First, as said above, the very first verse of the book places its contents largely in the future.
Second, preterist interpreters take huge and unjustifiable liberties in interpreting the text - suggesting the bulk of its contents mean things contrary to what the text plainly says.
Third, in attempting to allegorize most of its contents, key details are neglected and even ignored entirely. Words and details matter. At first glance this would seem to be a concerning violation of the warning given in the book's last chapter:
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. - Revelation 22:18-19
4. What elements would God use to show this sign in the sky?
Genesis 1:14 and Revelation 12:1 give us the straightforward answer: the sun, the moon, and the stars. Genesis 1:14 tells us that two of the key purposes for the creation of the sun, moon, and stars is for signs and marking appointed times. The Bible lists no other objects as created for signs in the Genesis creation account. Only the sun, moon, and stars serve this purpose.
Revelation 12 actually tells us which specific heavenly objects are involved in the Great Sign: the sun, the moon, and twelve stars. The only guesswork left for us is to identify the woman and the male child and what constitutes the twelve stars.
5. What object in the sky would represent the woman?
According to the International Astronomical Union there are 88 constellations in the sky. Many of these are actually modern inventions. Of those 88, only three represent women. In theory any of those three could represent the woman in Revelation 12, but the Bible gives us three key details that weed out two of the three: she is clothed with the sun, has the moon under her feet, and is giving birth to a male child. The only way these key details can be fulfilled is if the woman we are looking for resides along the ecliptic - the apparent path that the sun appears to traverse each year.
There is only a single constellation in the entire sky that fits the bill: the constellation Virgo. Virgo is Latin for "virgin" or "maiden". In virtually all ancient Middle Eastern cultures she represented the woman and still today represents a woman - even in ancient Israel as this Jewish mosaic from the 6th century shows.
The Bible says that God made the stars for signs and constellations are widely-recognized groupings of stars. The Bible says that God Himself is the one who brings out the constellations of the Zodiac night after night (called the Mazzaroth in the Bible: Job 38:31-32) and He is the Creator of the constellations themselves (Job 9:9, Amos 5:8).
Virgo is the one and only object in the entire sky that could represent "the woman".
6. What object in the sky would represent the male child?
There are at least three definite conditions that have to be met for this object:
First, it must be something that can enter and exit the constellation Virgo. This seems obvious enough. A baby begins his life in the womb of his mother and then around nine or ten months later comes out of the womb.
Second, it must be something that can reside in the constellation's "womb" for the length of gestation (usually 37-42 weeks, although sometimes pregnancies reach 44 weeks). Since the sign is given to humans, for humans, and the text explicitly says the woman is pregnant, then this condition is a must. God's Word is either true or it isn't.
Third, since there are only three types of objects in the sky that the Bible says were given for signs (the sun, moon, and stars according to Genesis 1:14) and Revelation 12:1 says this is a sign in the sky that we're looking at, we can venture to say that the male child must also be either the sun, moon, or a star.
Revelation 12:1 already assigned separate roles to the sun (clothing the woman) and the moon (under her feet). On top of that, the sun can only reside in Virgo's womb for about five or six days, while the moon can only reside in her womb for about one day. There is no way to fit the pregnancy with either of those.
This only leaves us stars to consider. Stars as we know them today remain fixed in the rotating field of stars in our celestial sphere. They all appear to rotate and move together and no star as we define them today could enter Virgo's womb and then leave nine or ten months later. However, the Bible calls planets stars as well using the same Greek word ἀστήρ. For example, planets are generally called wandering stars in Jude 1:13 as a comparison to the unrighteous and in Revelation 2:28 and Revelation 22:16, the planets Venus and/or Jupiter are called stars as a comparison to Christ. A variety of ancient extra-biblical sources say the same thing: planets were considered to be wandering stars.
Also, planets are the only objects in the sky, besides the sun and moon, that can appear to enter and exit Virgo's womb. They are also the only objects that can reside there for the length of a pregnancy - specifically one planet, Jupiter. All the planets appear to pass through Virgo's womb because she resides along the ecliptic, but only Jupiter can reside in her womb for the needed length and only when it undergoes what we call retrograde motion, and it happens very rarely.
There are two reasons this is so rare. The first is because planets are usually moving in the same direction along the ecliptic and sometimes Jupiter passes right through Virgo's womb in as short a time as about one and a quarter months. The second is because even when Jupiter does undergo apparent retrograde motion in Virgo's womb, the planet's path takes it far outside the womb. In other words, retrograde motion happens, but it doesn't line up with the constellation.
You can use deductive reasoning alone to determine that Jupiter is the only object in the sky that can represent the male child. And once you arrive at that conclusion, there are a number of substantiating facts about Jupiter: first, it was likely the Star of Bethlehem, and second, Jupiter was considered to be the king planet, king of the gods, and/or the son of the chief god across ancient cultures.
7. What object in the sky would represent the crown of twelve stars?
In every known depiction of the constellation Virgo, whether ancient or modern, her head is near the star called Zavijava and there is one and only one constellation above her head - the constellation Leo the Lion. Leo is also visible in the ancient Jewish mosaic of the Mazzaroth.
Sources differ on how many stars constitute any given constellation, so which source do we listen to?
For starters, any large constellation like Leo is going to have dozens and dozens of visible stars. If the crown consists of all the visible stars in a given area above Virgo's head, then Revelation 12:1 could never be fulfilled - she could never have a crown of twelve stars. We can deduce from this alone that we're only looking for a meaningful grouping of stars above her head and that only leaves the constellation Leo. Some have suggested the constellation Coma Berenices is her crown of twelve stars, but this constellation is definitely not on her head and it only has three main stars.
As far as which source to listen to regarding the number of stars in Leo, both ancient and modern sources differ one from another. Ancient Egypt differed from ancient Babylon which differed from ancient Greece and so forth. Some ancient and modern sources even show Leo with thirteen or fifteen stars - too many to be the crown.
In my research I discovered that this dilemma is easy to resolve. The most prevalent depiction (by far) shows Leo with nine stars. You can find this nine-star depiction in virtually any astronomy software except for Google Sky (Stellarium, Starry Night, Neave, among others). The nine-star arrangement is found in the Western sky culture, which is considered to be the most common and traditional arrangement of the constellations. Additionally, the nine stars in question are found in all the various arrangements from all the different sources. In other words, the common denominator across all depictions of Leo are these nine stars.
Since we can pretty emphatically say that Leo is the only object that can be the crown and it cannot have more than twelve stars if it is the crown, then nine stars is definitely the best and most universally understood number of stars within it. That leaves three missing stars. Planets are the only solution to these three missing stars because the Bible also calls them stars. The five visible planets are also very, very bright from earth's perspective compared to most regular stars, so they stand out significantly.
The five visible planets are Mercury, Mars, Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn. Jupiter has already been identified as the male child, so that means three of the stars in Virgo's crown must be from those remaining four. You're not left with many options!
8. Does the alignment in September 2017 fit with the description given in Revelation 12?
Yes. The constellation Virgo is clothed with the sun. The moon is literally under her feet and not just at her feet - it's unusually close by, too. The most commonly and easily identifiable grouping of twelve stars that could be above her head are above her head (Leo plus Mercury, Mars, and Venus). Virgo is pregnant with the only object that could simultaneously represent a male child and reside in her womb for the actual length of a human pregnancy (Jupiter). Jupiter resides in Virgo's womb for the exact length of a human pregnancy. All of these elements appear together at the same time, which hasn't happened since 3915 BC and won't happen again for one thousand years or more into the future.
9. Is there some other celestial event or alignment that could conceivably be a more perfect fulfillment of Revelation 12 that we are overlooking?
I've heard dozens of theories and tried to find alternatives myself, but there is nothing out there. Every alternative theory fails the test and not just on one or two of these questions, but on many of them. I don't know how else to say this, but if God's Word is inerrant then we need to be looking for a perfect fit. September 2017 appears to be a perfect fit to me and many others.
10. Why don't we yet see the Great Red Dragon spoken of in Revelation 12:3-4 and is its seeming absence a critical flaw in this theory?
This is the one and only question that I acknowledge as posing a possible problem. If we agree that the "great sign" of the woman is a sign in the sky because the text says so, we need to humbly acknowledge that the text also says the dragon appears as a sign in the sky, as well. I know that some are trying to put a picture together using some of the constellations below her feet to form the seven-headed dragon and others are suggesting that the infamous "Planet X" is about to make its appearance near Virgo's feet because of a Google Sky cover-up, but I'm not fully convinced by either of these theories. I don't want to discount either or even both theories, but I haven't seen anything yet that looks like an undeniably perfect fit. However, that being said, I want to make a couple points about this:
First, Revelation 12:3 very clearly says the appearance of the dragon is "another sign". They are two different signs and for that reason you could argue the first sign (of the woman) stands on its own evidence and credentials. There are no indications in the text of precisely how the two signs fit together regarding elements or timing except that the dragon is nearby and ready to devour the child upon birth.
Second, the evidence for the first sign in Revelation 12 seems to me to be pretty undeniable. Nothing else fits as far as I know - not only in our lifetimes, but in all of human history going six thousand years back and at least one thousand years into the future. You could make the argument that the alignment in September 2017 is definitely the sign in the sky that John saw and therefore it is irrelevant whether we see or understand the second sign. I wouldn't go quite that far, to say it is irrelevant, but you get the point.
If this is the Revelation 12 Sign, what might it mean? Scottie Clarke addresses this question in a new video that I would encourage you to watch: