There have been quite a few murmurs — and even fears — among some cohorts over an impending date: September 23. Why, you ask? Well, some believe the day will usher in events of “great prophetic significance.”
It’s become such a prevalent topic in some circles that Answers in Genesis, a Christian ministry, decided to address it in a blog post earlier this year, explaining what, exactly, is sparking so much interest in what would generally be deemed a regular Saturday.
“On this date, the sun will be in the constellation Virgo (the virgin), along with the moon near Virgo’s feet. Additionally, Jupiter will be in Virgo, while the planets Venus, Mars, and Mercury will be above and to the right of Virgo in the constellation Leo,” Answers in Genesis explained. “Some people claim that this is a very rare event (allegedly only once in 7,000 years) and that it supposedly is a fulfillment of a sign in Revelation 12.”
Before we continue, perhaps it’s prudent to look at Revelation 12 to see what language, if any, might lead people to assume that there’s some sort of end-times connection to this celestial happening. A quick look at the chapter does reveal some interesting text:
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. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth.
With all of this in mind, the central claim is that the alignment of the constellations, sun and moon will somehow be a celestial representation of what’s described in Revelation 12. Creation.com recently tackled this issue and skeptically questioned why so many people find the need to try and tie specific and definitive events with prophecy and the biblical end times.
The website cited Matthew 24:36, a verse that reads, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only,” and said the following:
So what would the woman be? Apparently Virgo, the virgin, the second-largest constellation by area in the sky (after Hydra). However, there is no historical relation between the constellation and the virgin Mary or any other biblical woman until the Middle Ages. Long before that time, the Greeks and Romans mostly identified the constellation with Demeter/Ceres, the goddess of harvest. Other candidates include the Roman virgin goddess of justice, Justitia; or the Greek virgin goddess of purity, Astraea. So there is no indication that the writer of Revelation had this constellation in mind. So we don’t agree with ‘Gospel in the stars’ ideas for that reason, also because of its implicit denial of the sufficiency of Scripture.
The above should be enough to exercise proper biblical discernment, but what about other claims? First, the sun will be in Virgo. But since Virgo is part of the Zodiac, this happens once per year by definition—the sun spends about a month ‘in’ each of the 12 signs! The Zodiac is the sky around the ecliptic, the apparent path the sun traces in the sky, or under the correct geokinetic model, the plane of the earth’s orbit around the sun.
Another supposed sign is the moon at the ‘feet’ of Virgo. But since the moon orbits the earth once per month, and the sun ‘stays’ a month ‘in’ each it’s not surprising that one or two days every year, both the sun and moon will be ‘in’ Virgo.
Both Answers in Genesis and Creation.com concluded that likely nothing is slated to happen on September 23 and that “biblical prophecy,” in the eyes of those ministries, isn’t likely to come to fruition on that day.
“Christians need to be careful about being drawn into such sensationalist claims,” Creation.com warned.
And Christopher Graney, writing for Earth Sky, noted that, the “woman clothed with the sun with the moon at her feet” is just as common in September as is Labor Day due, in part, to the Earth’s orbit, so this arrangement isn’t exactly rare.
Graney wrote, “There is always a day or two every year when the sun is in Virgo and the moon is just to the east of Virgo (just past the ‘feet’).” He continued:
But what of the crown of 12 “stars,” comprised of three planets and the nine stars of Leo? The response to this question is another question — why nine stars in Leo? There are many more than nine stars in Leo. Those nine are just brighter ones that are often depicted as comprising the general outline or shape of the constellation. But in fact there are scads of stars in Leo and surrounding the “head” of Virgo. […]
And yes, multiple planets being at Virgo’s head while Jupiter is in Virgo’s center and the moon is at Virgo’s feet is somewhat unusual. But it is not that unusual. The period of Jupiter’s orbit is a little less than 12 years, and therefore Jupiter will be in Virgo (with the sun there, too, and the moon at the feet) once every 11 or 12 years.
In the end, the arrangement has happened more frequently than the once in 7,000 years that some are claiming. In fact, the it happened in 1827, 1483, 1293 and 1056 — all in the month of September.
We should also note that some of these September 23 theories also appear to revolve around “Planet X” (also known as Nibiru). NASA has actually covered the topic on its website, considering that the purported planet has been discussed in the past as the potential catalyst for Earth’s destruction.
“The story started with claims that Nibiru, a supposed planet discovered by the Sumerians, is headed toward Earth,” NASA noted back in 2012. “This catastrophe was initially predicted for May 2003, but when nothing happened the doomsday date was moved forward to December 2012 and linked to the end of one of the cycles in the ancient Mayan calendar at the winter solstice in 2012 – hence the predicted doomsday date of December 21, 2012.”
Clearly, the Earth didn’t end on any of those dates, though a new book titled, “Planet X – The 2017 Arrival,” written by author David Meade, is being credited with helping fuel speculation once again about the purported planet. The book’s description reads:
This book is a compendium of information from every sphere—astronomical, scientific, the Book of Revelation and geopolitics. It contains absolutely amazing revelations that direct us to one precise point in time in 2017. Planet X is a cryptogram and this book contains the keys necessary to decode it. When everything is considered together, it fits together perfectly like a watch. The existence of Planet X is beyond any reasonable doubt, to a moral certainty. We examine proofs of its existence. … I have seen Planet X on the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) through WorldWide Telescope. This is a NASA infrared-wavelength astronomical space telescope, launched in December 2009. It is currently in the constellation Pisces, and is clearly marked as an Unidentified Object (but quite plainly visible dark red star) known as IC 5385.