Revelation 12 describes a heavenly sign of a ’woman clothed with the sun’ at the time of Jesus’ birth. A theory gaining popularity states that the same constellation sign is coming Sept 23, 2017 and not ever again for a hundreds of years. Is it right? What does it mean - the rapture, the Great Tribulation, the abomination of desolation or what? Let’s examine the evidence and understand the epidemic of theories just like this better...
Revelation 12 In The Sky Again?
I decided to write this article after several people asked me regarding speculation that September 23, 2017 is prophetically significant. For example, one person sent me a link to an article entitled, "What Is The Revelation 12 Sign In 2017 Telling Us?" with the following question:
In two years, there will be what seems to be exactly what Revelation 12 is picturing in the constellations. This is extremely rare, even more rare than the blood moon tetrads. I think this has only happened one other time in history, which is at the birth of Jesus. What do you think this says, if it's too late for the 70th week to have started?
Ahh, the "it's very rare" card... It's fitting he mentions the four blood moons/tetrads theory because rarity was the main argument of legitimacy for that theory, too. Many people believed in the four blood moons based on that rationale. However, once the last blood moon passed, the theory was relegated to the same trash heap where all invented prophecy theories have ended up. They all fail to predict anything specific in any specific timeframe because men cannot accurately predict the future, even when improvising from a Biblical basis.
What about this one? Is being "even more rare" rare enough to make it significant and worthy of belief? Let's take a look.
Revelation 12 - September 2017 Theory
Although it does not give credit, the article referenced above is just another take on previous Revelation 12 speculation. I first saw it in a Scottie Clarke video in 2013 on his "Eternal Rhythm and Flow" YouTube channel and website. (I was informed by Mark Chiswell that Luis Vega put out the theory earlier.)
Whoever originated the theory, what it gets right is that the constellation of Virgo (the virgin) fits the heavenly woman spoken of in Revelation 12:
Revelation 12:1 — 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.
The woman being clothed by the sun with the moon at her feet makes sense literally when you understand the woman as Virgo the constellation of a woman. It's a literal reference to woman (rather than an allegorical one—as Christians usually interpret Revelation). Every year somewhere from mid-August through mid-September the sun is mid-body to Virgo and the new crescent moon is at the bottom of Virgo. It literally happens in the sky just as Revelation 12 depicts.
But what about her "crown of twelve stars?" According to Clarke there are nine stars from the constellation Leo above. The other three stars are supplied by a conjunction in Leo of Venus, Mars, and Mercury, aligned with Regulus. And "Scott has looked for this formation in other years and cannot find it"(!).
Problem #1: Ignoring The Very Next Verse
There are many problems with this theory we can discuss. The very first one is typical of these theories and another one it has in common with the blood moon and shemitah theories of 2015: It's ignoring the context. Look at the very next verse tying the Woman sign to a birth:
Revelation 12:1-2 — 1 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. 2 She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth.
If we doubt that the birth is meant literally, the next few verses dispel that. They show Satan wants to kill the son who is clearly identified as a very well-known historical figure:
Revelation 12:4-5 — 4...And the dragon [Satan] stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child. 5 She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne
This "male child" that comes from the woman is depicting the birth of Jesus. Who is also the one person in history destined to rule all nations (Mt 28:18; Rev 19:16; Eph 1:21) and who has ascended to heaven (Jn 3:13) as verse 5 also says.
"Caught Up" vs "Ascended?"
If you want to reject this idea because Revelation says the male was "caught up to heaven" not "ascended" like Jesus predicted of himself, then don't stop there. Consider the actual gospel record of the event Jesus referred to beforehand in John 3:13 above:
Luke 24:50-51 — When Jesus had led them out as far as Bethany, He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.
Mark 16:19 — After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God
"Depart From Me, I Never Knew you!" - Jesus
Jesus' predicted he will tell many sincere believers basically to "get lost" instead of welcoming them into the Kingdom. So...who are they and what did they miss or do wrong? In this study, get those answers and the one requirement for salvation Jesus taught (that Christianity misses) so that you can make sure you don't hear these dreaded words yourself!
Acts 1:9 — After He had said this, they watched as He was taken up, and a cloud hid Him from their sight
As you can see, Jesus really was "taken up" just like it says the male child was. Yes, different Greek words are used, but the meanings are equivalent and Revelation and Luke were not written by the same author anyway nor at the same time. Jesus was the male child of Mary who was taken up to Heaven. No shoehorning needed here.
Therefore, this all connects the Woman directly to the birth of Jesus in the first century. Jesus' mother was Mary, a woman of faith from Israel. As the chapter progresses the Woman is more fully defined, as the entire the faithful church, founded starting with Israel in 30 AD, but not limited to saints with that heritage. The woman represents the bride of Christ of all nations as we know it expanded to (Gal 3:28; Joel 2:32).
"Revelation Can Only Cover Things 'After This', Not In the Past" / Revelation 4:1!
Some doubt that Mary is the woman giving birth, confused over a past event being found in a prophecy book like Revelation. They often note how John records early on in the book that an angel told him would be shown things "that must happen after this" (Rev 4:1). They expect this rules out anything in Revelation happening before John's time (90AD), such as Mary giving birth to Jesus (1 B.C. supposedly).
My response to that is twofold. First, it does not say "I will ONLY show you things coming after" The major content of book is of course future, but it does not preclude showing past events, too, which is why in Rev 1:19 John was told to write down the past, present and future from his viewing.
Revelation 1:19 — Therefore write what you have seen, what is, and what will take place after this.
Secondly, this is a book of revelation, not "future prophecy." There is much in the past that is a mystery which could also be revealed, including the key players of the righteous vs Satan and the work of Christ. This revelation from the past establishes the characters for the future part of the revelation. In other words, for John to be shown the key things in the future, some explanatory revelation of the past is appropriate and reasonable to facilitate that.
Speaking of the past, scholars have found that the sky on September 11, 3 BC to show the exact picture of Revelation 12:1, pointing to the birth of Christ on that day:
The Star of Bethlehem conjunctions before 3 BC led the Magi to depart in time to come see the baby Jesus. For more on Jesus' birth in Rev 12 and the Star of Bethlehem before that, see Ernest Martin's excellent free book.
Scottie Clarke's theory, like all invented prophecy theories, depends on taking a verse like this out of its context and re-purposing it to serve some new theory. When you ignore the context of a verse, you are likely to misinterpret it. That's how you turn a solid, reliable Bible prophecy into an unreliable quasi-biblical man-made prophecy detached from the original.
Is it any wonder that all predictions based on this approach fail?
Could Revelation 2:26 Indicate the Church is the Male Child?
I'm adding this section after a couple of people raised an objection to the above identification of Jesus as the male child of the Woman who rules all nations with an iron scepter. The following passage made them doubt this:
Revelation 2:26-27 — And to the one who is victorious and continues in My work until the end, I will give authority over the nations. 27 He will rule them with an iron scepter ...—just as I have received authority from My Father
The confusion comes from how it says the saints will rule with "iron scepters" over "nations" making Jesus not the only one to fit the scepter-wielding aspect the male child's profile in Rev 12:5.
But if the church is what is intended, why does the Greek go out of its way to say the child is "male?" The church in other human metaphors is given a female sex, as in the "bride of Christ," right in Revelation itself (Rev 21:2). For this to be clear and defensible, it should have left it as "child" of unspecified sex, at least. The male adjective clashes with the church interpretation, directing you to look elsewhere for the identity. Call me crazy... but how about it being a male person like a man?
Another issue is that there is no rapture in the Bible before the Great Tribulation. Therefore Revelation 12:5 cannot be the rapture (of anyone) when the 3½ year Great Tribulation (Rev 12:14) comes later chronologically in the narrative. As a reminder, the Great Tribulation is which Satan tries to attack the church (Rev 12:13-16). Put another way, only a pretrib rapture theorist could ever entertain this theory. Those who know the rapture comes post-tribulation would have to reject this theory based on the Great Tribulation still being future both in Revelation 12 and September 2017.
The other conflict in this interpretation is what to make of the Woman who continues on after the supposed rapture of the "male child church." How does the male child "church" go on to heaven and then this righteous faithful Woman continue on earth to receive the favor of protection during the 3½ year Great Tribulation (Rev 12:14)? Is she forgotten or is the Woman is actually the entire faithful church, rather than the male child? The church giving birth to the church and splitting between heaven and earth makes no sense.
The simplest explanation for all this is that the Woman is the faithful church of God among and from whom Jesus, a male individual, was born (through blessed Mary). Jesus ascends to heaven and the faithful continue on the earth for centuries until and through the Great Tribulation.
Of course, the church later does receive the promise of glory with him "ruling the nations" (Rev 2:26) which is why Jesus is "King of kings and Lord of lords" (Rev 19:16). We are the kings and lords that he is King and Lord over once he returns from his throne in heaven (Rev 12:5) he is still on to this day (Acts 3:20-21).
Problem #2: Adding to the Bible
For me the next problem is how Clarke has added elements to the biblical text that are not there, allowed for by problem #1 in ignoring verse 2 and 5.
When he says this may be the rapture or second coming you would rightly ask, where does it say this in Revelation 12? Nowhere. It's an addition.
Why do we tolerate people adding to the Bible? Especially when it plainly warns in the same book against doing that (Rev 22:18-19). I understand why. It's mainly because they sound authoritative. Appearing on video helps. Putting your ideas in images helps. Also we assume they know more than us and who are we to disagree with someone who studies more than us? (Yes, we can thank YouTube for making so many tenuous theories that would languish in print spread wildly.)
Remember that we're called in NT to question and judge what those in the church proclaim, even when they are recognized prophets (1 Cor 14:29), proving or disproving them by Scripture (Acts 17:11). This is what I did above with my first objection to the theory.
Problem #3: The Woman's Crown Already Has 12 Stars (and More)
I think Scottie Clarke was so excited to find something (allegedly) "extremely rare" to combine with a Bible prophecy (namely, those three planets appearing in Virgo) that he missed something huge. There are already always twelve stars crowning Virgo, depending who you ask such as in the constellation called "Berenice’s hair."
Ernest Martin in his book The Star That Astonished the World cites the twelve stars as follows:
And note: Professor Thorley who reviewed the first edition of my work has shown that there are exactly twelve stars surrounding the head of Virgo as we see them from earth. And indeed there are. If one will look at Norton’s Star Atlas, twelve visible stars will be seen around Virgo’s head. They are (according to astronomical terminology): (1) Pi, (2) Nu, (3) Beta (near the ecliptic), (4) Sigma, (5) Chi, (6) Iota — these six stars form the southern hemisphere around the head of Virgo. Then there are (7) Theta, (8) Star 60, (9) Delta, (10) Star 93, (11) Beta (the 2nd magnitude star) and (12) Omicron — these last six form the northern hemisphere around the head of Virgo. All these stars are visible and could have been witnessed by observers on earth
There is no need for a "rare" conjunction of three planets to fill out the crown of twelve stars of Revelation 12. This is again another invention that is not indicated or required by the text.
Why would someone miss or ignore this fact? Because unlike the stars, the three planets are not always aligned there, which makes this event more rare. Rareness of the event you're basing your invented prophecy theory on is critical to getting people to see any significance to it (as the next section explains).
Problem #4: "It's Extremely Rare" Is Not A Scriptural Basis (or Even Accurate)
Contrary to what clearly a large contingent of prophecy news watchers accept, something being rare does not make it miraculous, divine or prophetically significant. Yes, miracles are rare and sometimes rare events are significant. But rare events like conjunctions are not miraculous or supernatural. They happen quite naturally, as rare as they are.
Importantly, the Bible never instructs the saints to look for rare events or rare signs in the heavens or rare signs of the rapture in the heavens. Some will say in response "what about the Star of Bethlehem? Wasn't that a unique event they spotted in the sky and acted on?"
It's true that the Star of Bethlehem must have been a rare event. It had to be for the Magi to see it and know it was the time to pick up and travel hundreds of miles to meet Jesus. But I can assure you they did not risk that dangerous journey just because they saw something rare or unique in the sky and decided by themselves what it meant (like our modern Christian prophecy speculators do justifying this by taking Genesis 1:14 out of its "day, month, year/calendar signals" context to make it about a "heavenly billboard of prophetic signs").
The magi must have had some authentic prophet tell them exactly what to look for in the sky and exactly what it meant: the Messiah's birth. If I knew a sign in the sky meant the Son of God was on earth, I'd make the trek to meet him, too. But how many of us would decide to leave the country because we saw something unique in the sky that no one had explained to us before?
To be sure, the Magi had much more revelation about Christ's birth sign in the sky than we have recorded in Revelation 12 to make the journey they did in response bringing treasure for a king. They had a lot more solid revelation to go on and not just weird speculation like this September, 23 2017 theory offers.
Ignore the unscriptural "rarity" argument for this and all prophecy theories. (Heck, just forget invented end time sign theories completely and listen to what Jesus said was the one precursor end time sign in Mt 24:14).
"Once in 7000 years"? No, Not Rare
You'll be glad you did ignore it when it turns out, as it often does, that the rarity claims are bogus. The four blood moons were not rare as were claimed, the same with this Sept 23 conjunction.
A (real) professor of physics and astronomy at investigated the rareness claims just going back 1000 years and concluded that there’s nothing unusual or unique about the constellation Virgo, sun, moon and planets on September 23, 2017. This same conjunction has happened at least four times already, in 1827, 1483, 1293, and 1056 (and no doubt more before then). He wrote:
So the sun in Virgo, the moon at Virgo’s “feet”, and Jupiter in the constellation are regular occurrences. This leaves the planets at the “head” (the number depending on the number of stars granted to Leo) as the determining factor in making a “momentous” celestial arrangement. Indeed, while various Internet sources speak of the specific celestial arrangement here as being “unique in human history” or “once in 7000 years”, in fact it is not unique to September 23, 2017. This basic arrangement happened before—in September 1827, in September 1483, in September 1293, and in September 1056. These are all shown at the end of this post. I only searched back one thousand years, from 2017 to 1017—there are undoubtedly other examples outside of that time period, and probably a couple examples that I missed within that time period.
You see, this alignment is not rare. Again, even if it was, this means nothing.
Problem #5: The Sun Does Not "Clothe the Woman" on Sept 23, 2017
As the picture above shows, the position of the sun does not match Rev 12:1 which says the sun clothes the woman. As the image above shows, the sun is over her left shoulder. For the sun to clothe the woman, it would be on her body. Not at her head like the crown; not at her feet like the moon. In the middle where her body is; where clothing goes.
If you want to see what it should look like, compare that to the picture of the sky on September 11, 3 BC when (I and many think) Jesus was born:
How could Scott Clarke miss this? I think the proximity of the timing of the conjunction of those planets to the Jewish holiday of Rosh HaShanah was too tempting to pass up. He stretched the definition of "clothed with the sun" to include Rosh Hashanah in his rapture theory, a huge rapture magnet always.
Problem #6: Rosh HaShanah Is Not Biblical
By focusing on Rosh HaShanah, Clarke makes the same mistake that Jonathan Cahn, Mark Biltz, John Hagee and so many pretrib rapture theorists have made. They take Rosh HaShanah to be significant prophetically when it's just as much a manmade invention as their own theories are.
Rosh HaShanah means literally "head of the year" in Hebrew. It's a two day holiday celebrated in Judaism on the first and second day of the 7th lunar month as their new year's day. That specific holiday is not in the Bible (although Rosh HaShanah does appear in Ezekiel 40:1, it is not a holiday nor indicated to be in the fall).
There is a similar phrase used when God informs Israel that the "month of the aviv" shall be the "head of the months" (Rosh Chodashim) (Ex 12:2), or first month. Aviv comes six months before the 7th month. This means that the Jewish Rosh HaShanah departs from Scripture by declaring a New Year's day in the fall instead of the spring.
Worse, this invented holy day masks the real holy day of the start of the 7th month that is found in Scripture: Yom Teruah/Day of Trumpets (Lev 23:23-25). Despite sharing the same lunar date of 7/1, these days hardly ever coincide in reality. That's because they use different calendars. The Jewish calendar is based on precalculated month starts, much like the Gregorian calendar does. The Biblical calendar uses the sighting of the crescent moon to determine months and leap months added when the barley is still not mature at the end of the 12th month. (The first month of the year requires ripe barley for the wave sheaf ceremony mentioned in Leviticus 23:11-12). This results in the true first day of the biblical 7th month (Day of Trumpets) coming in most years a day or two after Rosh HaShanah is celebrated as the first day of the Jewish 7th month.
In other words, when the rapture really does come on Day of Trumpets (1Cor 15:52=Rev 11:14-19) it will be a day or two past when people watching Rosh HaShanah are looking one or two days earlier! That's the case in 2017 with Rosh HaShanah starting on Sept 20th evening and the Yom Teruah crescent moon starting on the evening of Sept 21st. (Note that Rosh HaShanah ends on Sept 22nd evening, before the Sept 23 "sign" is supposed to be, so Rosh HaShanah does not even apply in this case if it ends before the date of this "sign.")
So you see, Rosh HaShanah is certainly not worthy of adjusting ones prophecy theories to. I will grant that it sounds good to most people who have not learned how the Jewish calendar is a counterfeit corruption of the ancient biblical calendar.
Problem #7: Jupiter in Womb of Woman 9 Months? (Try 5-6 in a Row, and 11-12 Total Not In a Row)
Another big claim for this theory is that "Jupiter is in the womb of the Woman for nine months," implying a perfect depiction of a human birth before the man child comes forth. Again, you won't find this in the text. Instead the text implies the woman is already pregnant when the scene in the heavens forms. Can you imagine a sign of a woman in the heavens clothed in the sun with the moon at her feet lasting nine months?
Don't worry, you don't have to. Author Joel Richardson is another person like the astronomer I quoted above who took the time to fact check the astronomy work of Scottie Clarke. He compared the claim to what the astronomy software results (skip to 34:00 mark). He found "9 months" was a gross misrepresentation. Jupiter actually goes in in November, 2016 and stays in the Woman only until May, 2017 = five or six months! After Jupiter exits it returns around three months later. If you are generous and allow a baby going in and out of a womb and add up the entire time that Jupiter is near or in the woman consistently by the lines of the body, you come up with a period of eleven or twelve months, not nine months. Hardly the representation of human gestation.
So...What Does It Mean?
In the end, what does this September, 2017 sign tell us? If this event is only a sign because a Christian says so, then it tells us more about Christians than it does about when to expect the rapture or anything else prophetic.
What we have, once again, is yet another example of how Christian prophecy thinkers can't seem to resist taking something from Scripture and combining it with something extra-biblical they subjectively and/or arbitrarily view as rare or significant. A Jewish holiday. A (brief) historical pattern of economic downturns. A (not so) "rare" conjunction. Or three more blood moons. =)
Speaking of the four blood moons, if you get nothing else from this article, the one point I want you to take away is the same point I made about that prophecy theory. The demonstrable rarity of an event does not equate with divinity or prophetic significance! That is the underlying false assumption of both the failed four blood moons theory of 2015 and this Revelation 12 theory for 2017. Nowhere does the Bible tell us to look for rare events for signs of the end. Instead, it tells us specific events that will start the end, which have nothing to do with Revelation 12 showing us only events from the latter half of the 70th week (Satan coming down and chasing the saints who God gathers to a place prepared for 3½ years).
Therefore, what this Sept 2017 "sign" tells us is that "the time is near!" (Lk 21:8) Christian speculation engine is still alive and well. The failed blood moon speculation just two years earlier is ignored. In fact, as someone who has been interested in prophecy since before the Internet broke out in 1995, I am a witness to that speculation increasing. More theories catch on, spread and worry people than ever before thanks to social media and YouTube. (September 2015 even saw two different biblical prophecy theories converge, a first in my recollection.)
It will either make you fed up with prophecy or make you wiser—in both cases faster than ever before. =)
Oh, and by the way, several people have mentioned a fear of dismissing rapture dates, citing the Parable of the Ten Virgins and the desire to have "oil in their lamps" when the time came. However, as this article on the Ten Virgin Parable shows, it has nothing to do with being ready by being open minded to prophecy theory inventions!
Now, if you want to know what Revelation is really predicting through the woman, see my article on the 144,000 and the Woman.
If you want to know the one precursor sign given by Jesus before the end comes, see my supporter study on Mt 24:14 The Last Sign of the End: The Gospel of Jesus Returns!
9/12/2017 Update - Wikipedia Citation
Thank you to those reading here that came from the Wikipedia article on the "Revelation 12 Sign" that quotes me from this article. I am thankful for such exposure. It helps me reach more people with the truth about these increasingly common invented, false prophecies spread on YouTube which worry believers (you should see the emails I get). This article will help you to be able to see that the "Revelation 12 sign" theory is invented and unscriptural and therefore not predictively useful. If you can get out of anxiety and fear from it now, without having to wait for September 24th, that's a win.
Some few of you will build your discernment even further with the articles on this site to be able to recognize that these signs are not just false and empty. Worse is how they distract us from the one true precursor "sign of the end" given quite plainly already in the Bible. I am referring to the one Jesus gave about the good news of the kingdom returning "and then the end shall come" (Mt 24:14). No invention is required; it says this is the global event before the end comes. Yet it does take wisdom which is hard to find to understand it. (It's easier to just invent a new sign off a verse than to understand Mt 24:14, believe me. Hence the "end time sign in the heavens" theories of recent years.)
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