The Revelation Chapter Twelve Sign - September 23, 2017
On September 23, 2017, there is going to be a rare planetary alignment that has not occurred in seven thousand years. Even though it has appeared several times since then, it has not appeared with the precision that some claim matches it to the “Great sign” described in Revelation’s Chapter Twelve (Rev. 12:1,2). Many are predicting that the rapture will occur at that time. Just as the Bethlehem star was a clue to the wise men that the Messiah has come, so we could be experiencing a similar celestial nod that something important is on the way. (By the way, I have learned that the Bethlehem star appears every two thousand years and it appeared again in 2015).
Jesus said that no man knows the day or hour of His return, (Matthew 24:36), and I assume that also applies to the rapture. Date setting is an error that should be avoided. We are not to know the precise day or hour, but His bride can know the approximate season. Please do not be deceived into thinking that that Jesus will return or the church will be raptured precisely on September 23, 2017.
The harvest of the first fruits comes nine months from September 23. Jesus was resurrected and ascended to the Father in the spring; it is possible that He could call His bride up during that harvest season, and we are being given a time to prepare our hearts for that event.
God’s Word tells us that He has placed the lights in the firmament of heaven for “signs,” (Genesis 1:14). Jesus said that before His return there would be “great signs from heaven,” (Luke 21:11). We don’t seek after signs, we seek the Lord and when appropriate, and necessary, He will alert His children of His intentions through various means including those prophesied signs in the sky.
The book of Revelation is a dimensional book, meaning that it has applications to every generation; but when we reach the last generation before Jesus returns, then the prophecies in Revelation will apply specifically to the period of time that precedes Jesus’ second coming.
A lot of people are looking at the rare alignment as a prelude to the rapture and that is possible. But if a doctrine is correct we have to look at everything, especially the context, and that’s what we are going to be doing. And I think it’s important to understand the significance of the vision of Revelation’s Chapter Twelve’s placement among the prophecies in the book. If the alignment on September 23 is legitimate, then we are being told exactly where we are standing in Revelation’s timetable.
I have spent many years studying the book of Revelation and one of the things I have learned is that God uses what I call “bridge” Scriptures to transition us from one subject to another. For example, in Revelation Chapter Thirteen, the “bridge” scriptures of verses nine and ten serve to transition us from the description of the beast in verses one through eight to the description of the antichrist in verses eleven through eighteen. Likewise in Daniel Chapter Eleven, we see that bridge verses are used in verses thirty-three through thirty-five to transition us from the description of Antiochus Epiphanes to the description of his modern day counterpart, the antichrist in verses thirty-six through forty-five. Revelation’s Chapter Twelve is a bridge that is used to transition us from the warning period of the seven trumpets in chapters eight through eleven into the tribulation period which begins in Chapter Fourteen.
Now let’s take a tour of the bridge, and It's also very important for us to understand its significance in relation to the previous Chapter Eleven.
The bridge of Chapter Twelve is a parable. On one level it is an historical record; on the second it can be a prophetic prelude that describes the moment in time we are living now.
In the previous Chapter Eleven, the Apostle John is shown the spiritual conditions of Israel and the apostate Christian Church. Among this apostasy there is a remnant represented by two Olive Trees, the Two Witnesses. They are referred to as Candlesticks (Rev. 11:4). Candlesticks, as we are shown in Rev. 1:20 and chapters two and three are churches. Therefore, these two witnesses are churches. In Revelation two and three, the only churches that receive no correction from the Lord are Smyrna and Philadelphia. The two witnesses of Revelation eleven represent the spiritual conditions of those two churches. We note that the Philadelphians are promised to be kept from the hour of temptation, (Rev. 3:10) the apostasy, which in turn keeps them from the hour of God’s judgment, (Rev. 14:7), the great tribulation.
The witnesses are called up to heaven in verse twelve, which is an obvious rapture. The rapture is prophesied in the Apocrypha, 11 Esdras 6:26, where Esdras (Ezra of the Old Testament) is told by the Lord through an angel that “They shall see those who were taken up, who from their birth have not tasted death.”
I want to take a moment here to clarify something, the rapture is a distinct and separate event from the Second Coming. Of course, to those who are raptured, it is the second coming for them, but it is not the event in I Thessalonians 4:16-17. Paul is describing the First Resurrection which occurs after the tribulation as taught by Jesus in Matthew 24:29 - “After the tribulation of those days,” He sends His angels to gather His elect; those who have come to Him during the tribulation, and those who have been left behind (verse 31). This has caused some confusion as we tend to mix the rapture with the Second Coming where Jesus descends to rule and reign with His saints after the great tribulation (Rev. 19).
After the two witnesses are caught up, the seventh and last trumpet sounds (11:15) telling us that time will be no longer, and God’s judgment is about to begin.
John has just shown us what will happen before the tribulation, which actually begins in Chapter Fourteen. Chapter Twelve is giving us the sign in the sky that signifies when these events will begin to take place.
The visions in Revelation can overlap. In other words, the events in the previous Chapter Eleven can be occurring at the same time we begin crossing the bridge toward the tribulation. Twelve can be the road sign that tells us, “be prepared, these things are beginning to happen now.”
The main message of Chapter Twelve is that there is going to be an increase in persecution against the Christian church. When you look at Chapter Eleven, the two witnesses are overcome by the beast system before they go up (11:7). The verse refers us to the system, not the antichrist himself. This is in the early stages of the beast one world government’s development. In Chapter Thirteen we see that the beast rises out of the sea. It’s a process that can take many years.
During this time, many Christian’s will be martyred, others will be protected. They are all martyrs sacrificing all to retain their faith in Jesus, live holy lives and glorify God. They cleave to the Word of God in an age and church filled with apostasy.
So on one level Revelation twelve is historical; it shows us the Messiah Jesus being birthed by Israel, represented by the Virgin Mary. Her man child is caught up to heaven. There is war and the devil is cast out. Previously he had access to the throne as accuser of the brethren (Job 1:6). Jesus’ victory tossed the devil out of God’s presence and the evil one’s role changed from “accuser” of the brethren to “persecutor” of the brethren which is the “seed” of the woman, (12:17), the church. There are more Christians being martyred now than at any other time in history.
Israel flies to her wilderness where she is protected. She becomes a nation and for the first time since Jesus walked the streets of Jerusalem, the Jews have the opportunity to hear the Gospel preached on their own soil. She is protected for a season, 1260 days which can be symbolic of a longer or shorter timeframe, or the first portion of the tribulation (12:6). When the devil comes in like a flood, the flood is swallowed by the earth, (verses 15, 16), meaning God will use nations to protect her for the purpose of her evangelism. When this season is over, she will go into another captivity along with the apostate Christian church. This captivity is prophesied in Zechariah 14:2.
The remnant Candlesticks of Chapter Eleven are ministering now. They are clothed in sackcloth, preaching repentance, for they are repentant, humble servants of the Lord, standing out in an age of apostasy by their selfless devotion to Jesus. They will be shut down and presumed dead (Rev. 11:7-9. Some are literally martyred, others rendered ineffective because the apostasy is so strong, no one will be listening to them. Someone has said that when the church is in apostasy, the truth becomes heretical. This is very true. These two purveyors of “heretical truth” will be an irritating nuisance to complacent Laodicea and a threat to Jezebel and the rest of the compromised church. Note that in Revelation 11:10, people are celebrating and making merry. Sounds a lot like Christmas, or Hanukkah doesn’t it? But the church revives and is caught up (verse 12) just prior to the great earthquake that signifies that the party is over and the tribulation is about to begin as the seventh angel sounds.
Some view the man child being born and caught up to God in Chapter Twelve as the rapture of the church, because we also are to rule the nations with a rod of iron like Jesus (Rev.2:27). The historical parable of Chapter Twelve can also indicate the rapture, shown to us in Chapter Eleven. The prophetic parallel to the historical narrative exists, and the literal sign in the sky of September 23, could be an indication that there is a duel application of the prophecy beginning at this season. Let’s keep in mind that this date of September 23, is showing us that we are entering a period of transition. Again, please do not try to pin-point the rapture at any specific date. It is indicated from Chapter Eleven that it could be after Christmas, but we can’t be certain of the year.
The man child in Revelation twelve is Jesus and not the church as many have assumed. The man child reference first appears in Isaiah 66:8. We note in verse five of that chapter, God is speaking to those who “tremble at His word.” In contrast, those He is addressing in verse four did not respond to God when He called and spoke to them.
In verse five He tells the ones who did respond that, “Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for My name’s sake, said,’ let the Lord be glorified’: but He shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed.”
Here God is making a difference between those who hear Him and obey, and those who do not.
Then we continue on to the verses that correlates to Revelation twelve. –
Before she travailed, she brought forth, before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child (Isaiah 66:7).
In this next verse eight, she travails and brings forth an entire people, a “nation,” that is born at once. The word nation (gowy – go’-ee) refers to a people, and by the usage of the word in Scripture it refers to the Gentiles, the Goyim.
So there are two distinct births being describe in verses seven and eight; the Man Child, and a nation of Gentiles.
The Man Child is Jesus, the Messiah who is birthed first, without travail because the plan of salvation is God’s work. Israel’s designation as the womb through which God would birth redemption for the entire world, has caused the Hebrews much travail through the centuries to maintain her special separation to God for this purpose.
The result of Jesus’ birth instigates the birth of the Gentiles into the kingdom of God as prophesied. The Gentiles would be gathered to the Messiah.
As history records, the Jews rejected their Messiah, which correlates to Isaiah 66:4, the people who did not respond when God called. The Gentiles believed and these are the people God is speaking to in verse five.
Please note that the second birth, where Israel brings forth a nation, produces joy. The following verses from ten through fourteen, describes the bestowing of peace and comfort because of what Jerusalem has birthed; a people who like infants would be nurtured through the first birth of the Messiah.
The verse referring to the Man Child represents Jesus, the second birth is the church. Joy follows in the wake of the second birth of the church. When the church is raptured in the latter days, there will be tribulation in her wake and not joy.
The people born in one day, relates to the second chapter of Acts, verse forty-one, where three thousand people came to Jesus in one day and the church was launched into history. In Peter’s exhortation he refers to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Joel’s prophecy (Joel 2:28,29). The pattern of Scripture in Joel’s prophecy somewhat matches the pattern in Isaiah 66. In Isaiah we see a history of the period of time between Jesus’ birth and His second coming in verses fifteen through twenty-four. In Joel, we see a promise of Pentecost, the latter rain in Joel 2:23 ,29, which is poured out in the season when the church is “birthed” in Acts two. Then from verses thirty through thirty-two, the text in Joel indicates the period of time that precedes the second coming, the “terrible day of the Lord,” with signs in the sky matching the descriptions in Matthew 24, and Revelation.
So where does the rapture fit into all of this? It doesn’t specifically, except for the fact that Revelation twelve directs us to the two births in Isaiah. Because there is a second birth, the church, in Isaiah 66, and the prophecy of Jesus’ birth and ascension described in Rev. 12 has already been fulfilled, the appearance of the Revelation 12 sign in the sky two years after the Bethlehem star’s emergence in 2015, could indicate a second “rapture” birth of the church. The rapture of the two witnesses is in the neighborhood at that season which to me, is the most evidence of a rapture occurring at some point during the bridge’s transition period.
Please keep in mind that it is the remnant church that God gathers at this time, not the apostate church, not the deceptive Jezebels, the complacent Laodiceans, liberal Sardis, the compromised of Pergamos, the loveless, religious Ephesians. Only those who possess the compassion, zeal and devotion of Smyrna and Philadelphia are raptured. We must examine ourselves and pray we are worthy to escape as Jesus has taught us (Luke 21:36).
Those who have not qualified will be refined in the fires of their afflictions and perfected through their trials. They will be among those who do “exploits” as prophesied in Daniel 11:32. They will be the Elisha’s of their day ministering in the wake of the removal of their Elijah predecessors. We see them in victory along with those who have come to faith in Jesus during the tribulation in Chapter Fifteen. And they will be among the elect that are gathered by the angels when Jesus returns as He said, “After the tribulation of those days.” In other words, children, there is always hope in the storm.
For a more detailed verse by verse study of Revelation from Chapters One through Thirteen, please check out our feature
Copyright 2017 by H.D. Shively
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