Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Christmas, And Signs In The Sky—Part 3

Biblegems #291

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.”

[i] See:;; etc.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Christmas, And Signs In The Sky — Part 2

Biblegems #290

As we saw in Part 1, the imagery in Rev. 12:1-2 accurately depicts an astronomical alignment of stars and planets, and also represents an astronomical “sign”:
         Rev. 12:1-2  A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.

To understand the “sign” it is essential to understand the meaning of the passage itself.

John’s vision of the woman and the dragon in Revelation 12 is the story of Satan’s failed war designed to destroy the Messiah and the people of God. Here is a brief interpretation of the text:

The pregnant “woman” (v.1) represents Israel, the "mother" of the Messiah. “Clothed with the sun”(1) represents Israel and the child-Messiah she carries as the light of the world. The “moon under her feet “(v.1) demonstrates how the Messiah triumphs over darkness (evil). The “twelve stars on her head (v.1) are Israel’s twelve tribes or twelve patriarchs, as seen in Joseph’s dream in Genesis 37:9-10. The labor pains (v.2) describe Israel’s agony under foreign rule in waiting for the Messiah.

The “dragon” (vv. 3-4) represents Satan, his demons, and world governments under his control. This blood-red, seven-headed dragon sweeps a third of the stars (angels—and, perhaps an astronomical display as well) from the sky to the earth, revealing Satan’s power and influence over human affairs. The dragon’s “seven heads” represent a future confederacy of world governments under the authority of the Antichrist in the Last Days. Likewise, the “ten horns” represent ten nations during this same time frame, three of which will work in cooperation with this confederacy until the Antichrist overpowers them and absorbs them into it. The “seven crowns,” therefore, are the seven leaders of those governments.

The prophet Daniel called this powerful alliance of world governments a “beast”—the world’s final superpower—under the control of the “little horn,” the Antichrist. John’s vision is another view of Daniel’s vision of these “Last Days” events (Dan. 7:7-8, 23-24: 8:9-10).

In Revelation 12:5 Jesus is born, and Satan’s effort to have him destroyed as a child is unsuccessful. Verse five then skips ahead to Jesus’ Millennial reign, following His ascension (“snatched up”) into heaven.

In response, Satan seeks to destroy God’s Chosen People Israel during the Great Tribulation (1,2060 days / 31/2 years), but God protects her (Rev. 12: 6-17; Dan. 12:11).

The point of John’s vision is that Satan truly believes that he belongs on God’s throne and has committed himself to that hopeless cause, destroying all who oppose him.

That’s why it is imperative that we put our faith in Jesus. This is war, where people get injured, maimed and killed. But Jesus has already won, and He offers us eternal life and a place in His eternal Kingdom where we will enjoy an eternity of peace, security, joy and perfect health after the war is over.

         John 16:33 “I have told you these things (Jesus said), so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Christmas, And Signs In The Sky PART 1

Biblegems #289

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.)

The passage in Revelation reads:
         Rev. 12:1-2  A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.

This question has several components: (1) Does Revelation 12:1-2 refer to a literal astronomical event? (2) Is such an astronomical event a “sign”? (3) If it is a sign, what does it mean? (4) How would people know to recognize such an obscure astronomical event as a sign? This post, therefore, will be Part 1 on this topic.

Does Revelation 12:1-2 refer to a literal astronomical event?
John’s vision portrays a specific astronomical alignment of the sun, moon stars set in relation to “a woman” (v.1) in the night sky. If this “woman” is a constellation, the only candidate would be Virgo. In the ancient mythology of many cultures Virgo went by different names but was always associated with fertility, and often as a goddess of fertility.

The apostle John, who certainly did not accept the popular mythology, still knew the constellations by their sometimes mythological names, even as we do today. Not only so, but the astrological  / mythological interpretations themselves were distortions of God’s intended purpose of the heavenly bodies serving humanity as “signs.” It is God, not man, who gave the stars and their groupings in constellations their names and meanings for “signs and seasons” (Ps. 147:4).

In the Book of Numbers God revealed the birth of the Messiah to Balaam by indicating a “sign” that would appear in the night sky:
Num. 24:17 I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the sons of Sheth.
Hundreds of years later, the Magi in Persia saw the appearance of the star predicted by Balaam and understood its meaning.
Matt. 2:1-2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

Likewise, John’s vision seems to depict a specific astronomical event: the constellation Virgo, with “the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head,” plus another celestial body traveling through this constellation, soon to exit. This extremely specific alignment is in fact scheduled to occur throughout the nine-month period from November 20, 2016 to September 23, 2017 (see graphic above). According to the interactive astronomy site,  “”, the planet Jupiter, among the brightest objects in the sky, enters the constellation Virgo on November 20th and exits 9 ½ months later in September with the sun rising behind it. The heavens, indeed, declare the glory of God!

(Look for the next installment on this topic, where we will consider if this astronomical event is a “sign” and, if it is, what it means and how people would recognize its significance.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Head Coverings For Christians?

Question: Some accuse Christians of being hypocritical in their attitude toward Muslim women wearing burkas, since 1 Corinthians
7:2-16 seems to teach that Christian women should also wear head coverings: But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved” (1 Cor. 7:5).

What does the Bible teach concerning head coverings for men and / or women?

Answering this question requires that we look not only at the content of 1Cor. 7:2-16, but also at the context and culture surrounding this instruction to Christians.

1 Corinthians 7:2 – 14:40 gives teaching and instruction specifically concerning the church in worship: (Head Coverings, 11:2-16; The Lord’s Supper, 11:17-34; and using the Spiritual Gifts, 12-14). Since that is the focus, the instructions do not necessarily become principles for Christian behavior beyond the worship setting.

Verse two distinguishes between “traditions” passed on and the principles behind those traditions. A tradition is not a Law. A specific “tradition” may change over time while still faithfully communicating the principle it represents. With the Lord’s Supper, for example, the “bread” and the “cup” shared by believers across time and cultures changes in various ways, yet without losing their significance in memorializing Christ’s sacrificed body and shed blood.

The use of a veil or head covering by NT women in the worship setting (v.5) is one such “tradition.” Veils (head coverings) were a common practice among Jewish women, especially during public worship, as a symbol of respect to their husbands and to God. This was not the case among the Gentile women. Consequently, when the Gentile believers mingled with the Jewish believers for worship the Jewish women would be easily offended by Gentile women who prayed and prophesied without veils. To Jewish eyes, these unveiled women were flaunting their sexuality rather than showing modesty and humility in worship.

1Cor. 11:2-16 teaches a three-fold spiritual principle:
(1) Headship: God has established an administrative hierarchy of roles:
         1Cor. 11:3 But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.

(2) Equality Under God:
         1Cor. 11:11-12 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.

(3) As Male and Female, Honor God:
         1Cor. 11:14-15   Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering.

Out of respect and honor to God, women should neither hide their femininity nor seek to look male (“have her hair shaved”, v. 6)—that would be a “disgrace” (v.6)—nor flaunt their femininity in corporate worship (her long hair is her God-given glory—v. 15).

That’s why, in that cultural setting, “…if a woman does not cover her head…it is a disgrace” (v.6). For the same reason, men were to keep their heads un-covered during corporate worship, and not have feminine-looking hair (“it is a disgrace to him” — v.14).

For men and women alike, worship is about honoring Christ, their head, even as Christ honors God who is His head (vv. 3-5). Both the context and content show that the “tradition” of women wearing head coverings was not required outside of the corporate worship setting, nor was it intended as a “law” for all time.

Likewise, the tradition of a head covering during corporate worship was an appropriate means in that culture for reinforcing the spiritual principles of headship, equality, and giving glory to God.