Question: Does Revelation 12:1-2 refer to a literal astronomical “sign” in the heavens and, if so, what does the sign mean and how would people recognize it? (The reader would do well to read Bible Gems #116, “Christmas in the Stars” as background for this present article.)
As we saw in Part 1 & 2, the imagery in Rev. 12:1-2 accurately depicts an astronomical alignment of stars and planets, and also represents an astronomical “sign.” Further, the interpretation of the passage itself portrays Satan’s desperate and failed attempt to claim God’s throne by killing Jesus, the Son of God, and destroying Israel and all of Jesus’ followers.
The final question, therefore, is: What does God want to convey to mankind through this periodically recurring sign in the stars? Does it have any significance for us today and, if so, how are people expected to recognize it?
Let's review the astronomical event itself described in Revelation 12:1-2.
At the writing od this article, the planet Jupiter can be found in the “womb” of the constellation Virgo (Latin for “Virgin”), from which it exits, after 9 ½ months, on September 23rd, 2017. During this nine-month period the sun rises directly behind the “head” of Virgo, and the moon is located at Virgo’s feet. Crowning Virgo’s “head” at this time are "twelve “stars”—the normal nine stars of the constellation Leo, plus three planets: Mercury, Venus and Mars. All this is easily verified at any number of astronomy sites online.[i]
Who is it in today’s world that will be paying any attention to the changing alignment of stars and planets? Typically, it will be astronomers (professional and hobbyists), and astrology enthusiasts (who incorrectly believe the heavenly bodies influence human events) who are most interested. A few others who study the Bible on such matters will sense that God is communicating something, but most will not understand what that something is.
Jesus pointed this out after highlighting the future events that would precede His Second Coming:
Mark 13:28-29 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door.”
This recurring “sign” in the sky depicted in Revelation 12:1-2 that portrays God’s victories throughout history over Satan’s attempts to destroy Israel, the Messiah and the followers of Jesus is the Gospel in the stars. It is a continual reminder to all who will take notice that the baby born of the virgin—Jesus Christ—has overcome the world. It may even be “the sign” that appears one last time immediately before Christ’s Return:
Matt. 24:30 “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.”
In any case, such signs are intended to keeps us alert to God’s calendar:
Matt. 24:42, 44 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. …So also you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”