As promised last week, I’m stepping back into Revelation 12 to look at what this section tells us about the birth of Christ. Most of the material below is taken from my book Still Here! The Apocalypse is Now.
So, take a moment to read the verses from Revelation 12. It would seem clear that the woman in these verses is Israel and that the child is Jesus. Curiously, the story in verses 1-5 takes Jesus directly from His birth to His ascension.
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. 3 And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. 4 His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. 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, 6 and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days. [Rev 12:1-6 ESV]
After that, the woman flees to the wilderness to be nourished for a time, times, and half a time, or 42 months (Revelation 12:14). That she is carried by a great eagle is reminiscent of Exodus 19 where God bore Israel on eagle’s wings away from the Egyptians, thus seeming to confirm that the woman here is Israel. However, this is the New Testament (NT) and John wrote this, with his penchant for changing metaphors. Here the woman is thought to be the church, which will find both testing and provision in the wilderness. Similarly, that the dragon’s tail swept down “a third of the stars of heaven” is not believed to refer to fallen angels. Instead, two possible options exist. Those fallen could be angels and true saints with whom the devil has battled and who have seemingly died at his hand, just as Jesus appeared to die. The alternative is that these “stars” represent believers who have fallen away because of the devil’s deceptions.
The dragon is a symbol of those nations that persecuted Israel throughout the OT. The word is also used to describe Leviathan, that sea monster that symbolically stands for the nations that persecuted God’s people and represented chaos, the sea. In v12:3, the dragon represents Satan as the persecutor of God’s people. Throughout the Old Testament (OT)—in Isaiah, Ezekiel, Micah, Jeremiah, and more—we see this term, and similar ones, portraying Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon as the primary oppressors of Israel. We’ve been reading a lot of Exodus and plague imagery. Soon, we’ll see that John uses Babylon to symbolize the world’s humanistic culture that comes against the church.
The dragon goes after the woman, but the earth comes to the rescue of the woman. A flood was a common symbol in both Jewish and Gentile lore for persecution. And we’ve seen the earth swallow those who come against God before, in the story of Korah’s rebellion. In his anger, the dragon goes to make war on the rest of her offspring. While futurists say that only ethnic Jews are going through this tribulation, v17 contradicts that idea by identifying those offspring:
17 Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.
Ethnic Jews would not hold to the testimony of Jesus, and messianic Jews would have been raptured away under the futurist account. Of course, the futurist will counter by saying that these are Jews who have come to know the Lord during the tribulation. That might comprise a minuscule portion of believers but not “the rest of her offspring.”
The idealist perspective, however, looks at the woman figuratively as the people of God. Israel was the people of God in the OT, and they produced the Messiah, but the church represents the people of God in the NT. Since we believers are the temple of God (2 Corinthians 6:16), the reference to the Gentiles trampling the outer courts can also be seen as persecution of His people, us. The two witnesses, again representing the church, oppose that persecution but ultimately appear to succumb to it. And then we have the woman, who is borne on eagle’s wings to a place of refuge, signifying a supernatural deliverance.
The Preterist view will say that all of this was fulfilled in 70 A.D. However, while there are historical reports of some supernatural happenings at that time, nowhere in historical writings (to my knowledge) are there reports of the Jews, the “people of God,” being supernaturally delivered. In reality, the opposite seemed to occur. Yes, there are reports by Eusebius, Epiphanes, and Josephus that early Christians had left Jerusalem because of Christ’s warning in Luke 21:20-24. They did so after the Roman governor, Cestius Gallus, ended his brief siege of the city in 66 A.D. They were not in the city when Vespasian started his siege a short while later. They reportedly fled to a town called Pella across the Jordan; however, modern-day archaeological digs at that site have not turned up any significant evidence to support an early Christian presence there. Since they simply took heed to a prophetic warning, I’m not sure this qualifies as the supernatural deliverance spoken of in Revelation 12.
The question remains. When? Dr. Boccaccini, previously mentioned, believes this three-and-a-half-year period ends the final years of this era, before the final judgment, using the Zadokite calendar. According to him, going the extra 30 days takes us through Passover, or in our case, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. The next 45 days take us to Shavu’ot, celebrating the final harvest and the Great White Throne judgment.
I’m still not convinced of this scenario. After all, weren’t the spring feasts fulfilled by Christ’s first advent? Aren’t we waiting for the fulfillment of the fall feasts by His second coming? I made the argument previously that Yom Teruah/Rosh Hashanah seems likely to be the day of the parousia. By the nature of its timing, it is the feast where no one knows the day or hour of its coming since its beginning relies upon confirmation of the new moon. Only the High Priest (the Father) could announce its start. Plus, it’s a feast that calls for the blowing of trumpets and celebration. I guess the panmillenialists will see how it pans out after all.
As we review all of this, we see that there is great persecution of the church for a three-and-a-half-year period, but that God miraculously delivers His people. During the exodus, God took His people into the wilderness where He provided water, manna, and quail. Should we be fearful that he would do less for us? In my earlier book, Still Here! Surviving the End Times, I wrote of Jehovah Machaçeh, the Lord our Refuge, and pointed to Psalm 91 in detail. I urge you to read that Psalm again and truly focus on what He said through David. And just as early Christians in Jerusalem trusted God’s Word for guidance and deliverance, we must do the same.
Something else about the first five verses of the chapter leads me to suspect there’s more to the story. The astral aspects of this description have led reliable researchers to pinpoint the birth date of Jesus.
I’ve mentioned before that some scholars believe that John’s title as a seer points to his practice of watching the stars, the signs in the heavens. In fact, “astral theology” was a prominent aspect of the religious life of the Jews and early Christians. This is the belief that what was going on in the heavens were signs of God’s will or His intent to do something. This had nothing to do with determining an individual’s fate, as in astrology as we know it today.
In v12:1-5 we find the woman clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet, and a wearing a crown with twelve stars. The heavens also showed the dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, standing before the woman ready to devour her child upon her giving birth. In astral terms, the woman is the constellation Virgo, based upon Isaiah 7:14. John describes the dragon as red and says its tail swept away a third of the stars. The dragon is also said to be coming out of the abyss. Both the red color and the abyss (another constellation) point to a southern constellation. Draco is near the north pole, so Hydra is a better option. It sits in the southern sky, closer to Virgo than Draco, near the abyss, and there’s a void of stars near its tail. Corvus and Crater sit above Hydra, and one has seven stars and the other ten. These two constellations together form the ark of the covenant in astral theology as well. The virgin’s crown would be Leo, which with its nine bright stars, plus the planets Mercury, Venus, and Mars, would appear to have 12 stars.
Astronomically, what does this mean? Virgo is a broad constellation that rises above the horizon in spring, traverses the heavens, and begins its descent to the horizon in late summer. The sun follows an imaginary path called the ecliptic, which holds its course 24/7. The ecliptic runs through the night sky as well, showing the sun’s position on the other side of the earth. The ecliptic runs through every zodiacal constellation on a yearly schedule, which takes it through Virgo from roughly September 16 to October 30. However, to say she is clothed with the sun would imply its being in her midst, which only occurs for roughly 20 days during this time span. Because the moon travels the ecliptic once every month, it passes to the east of Virgo (sits at her feet) more than once during those six weeks. However, for the moon to sit at her feet while the sun is in her midst takes us to a roughly 90-minute time window during that 20-day period. Taken as is, this combination isn’t that unique and has occurred four times in the past 1,000 years, the most recent being September 23, 2017.
However, the scripture gives us more information, and if we were magi watching the skies for signs of the Messiah, we would be aware of other celestial pointers. The magi were, after all, trained by Daniel, who was chief of the magi in his day, to watch for the Messiah. The magi would no doubt associate Leo, the lion, with the tribe of Judah from which the Messiah would come. (Genesis 49:9-10). Leo is dominated by the star Regulus, known by astronomers as the “King star.” Also, astronomers call Jupiter the “King planet.”
At one unique point in history, the stars lined up and Jupiter went into conjunction with Regulus. That conjunction began on September 11th, 3 B.C. and continued through September 14th. Jupiter continued along its path until December 1, 3 B.C. when it appeared to stop for a while before beginning its retrograde path. On February 17, 2 B.C., it again joined in conjunction with Regulus. That conjunction on September 11th could account for the “star” of Bethlehem. The magi would have seen this and ascertained that something wonderful had happened, particularly if they were aware of Isaiah’s prophecies about the Messiah. Yet, they would require almost two years to prepare and to get to Jerusalem, thus Herod’s decision to kill every male child two years old and under.
September 11th, 3 B.C. works as Jesus’s birth date for other reasons. The timing perfectly fits with the birth of John the Baptist, calculated using his father’s time of service in the temple, six months earlier. Also, September 11th was the Feast of Trumpets that year. Tishri 1, or Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Jewish civil new year, was the traditional day of Judean kings’ inaugurations, as shown in the account of Solomon, as well as in Jeremiah and Ezra. And per Jewish tradition, this celebrates the day on which man (Adam and Eve) was created, the first day of the human calendar. Finally, from the flood account, we find Noah opening the ark to discover the earth had dried. Jewish tradition also discerns from that account that Noah’s birthday was Tishri 1, a belief celebrated by Jews. John likely included this celestial pointer to Christ’s birthday because many Jews would believe that the Messiah would share a birthday with Noah.
There are those who refute this date. Some insist that December 25 is accurate, but there would have been no shepherds or sheep in the fields in December. Some argue for Passover, but Passover was one of the three pilgrimage feasts and Joseph and Mary would have been expected to go to Jerusalem, not Bethlehem. Some argue for 1 Nisan 6 BC, two weeks before Passover, but 1 Nisan was not a God-ordained feast day, and they use 6 BC with the understanding that Herod died in 4 BC. More recent research shows that Herod most likely died in 2 BC. To me, Yom Teruah 3 BC remains the best date.
Plus, I have this nagging feeling that these celestial signs are there for more than that, for eschatological reasons. Why else was this account included here, in Revelation, and not in John’s gospel?
So, Jesus was born on September 11th, 3 B.C. There’s more to this story available in Earnest L. Martin’s The Star That Astonished the World.
This is another reason why I believe our Lord will return on Yom Teruah, the Feast of Trumpets. Isn’t it fitting that He would return on the anniversary of His first advent? And, as I pointed out in my post, The Beasts, the Mark, and 666, there are precisely 42 months between Easter/Passover in 2021 and Yom Teruah in 2024. Are we truly less than a year away from our Lord’s return? Maranatha!
 Bourke, S. (2013). The Christian Flight to Pella: True or Tale? Biblical Archaeology Review, 39(3), 31–39, 70–71.
 Thiele, E. Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1983, pgs. 28, 31, 161, and 163