There’s a great deal of chatter surrounding September 23, a date that some believe will be prophetic in nature, with theories ranging from the claim that the skies will point to a coming “rapture” to the fear that something cataclysmic could unfold that day.
Last month, Gary Ray, a writer for Unsealed, a Christian publication, told The Washington Post his take on the matter, noting that he sees the alignment of the stars, sun and moon on Sept. 23 as one of the signs that the rapture — the belief that Jesus will take Christians up into the skies before the terrors of the end times kick into high gear — is coming.
Ray said that the recent Great American Eclipse on Aug. 21 was potentially a prophetic sign as well (we covered this extensively), but it’s the cosmic event on Sept. 23 that is now getting a great deal of attention just days before it unfolds.
“We think it’s God signaling to us that he’s about to make his next move,” Ray said.
So, what exactly will be happening on that day? While much of the speculation can’t be substantiated, there are some facts that can be plainly detailed and discussed, scientifically speaking.
“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,” Christian ministry Answers in Genesis explained in a recent blog post. “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, though, let’s 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.
We’ll dig a bit deeper on that front, but let’s first look at the rest of Ray’s views on the matter. He also sees the 2017 eclipse and the next in 2024 as the potential start and end caps for the seven-year, end-times tribulation period that many believe is detailed in the Bible.
“That time frame is speculative, 2017 to 2024. But it makes a lot of sense,” he told the Post. “There are a lot of things that really point us to that.”
In the end, Ray said that it’s important for people to “just trust God” and to be ready for what’s to come.
There are other theories surrounding Sept. 23 as well. Some ideas 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 evoked in past proclamations about 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.
Pulling back a bit, let’s revisit some of the more benign beliefs and claims about Sept. 23 being a prophetic date of sorts. 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 of specific claims that the stars, moon and sun will reflect the text detailed in Romans 12:
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 mostly likely, nothing will 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.
One final note: Jesus does say in Luke 21:25 that “there will be signs in the sun, moon and stars” when the disciples ask about the end times, which is potentially fueling the quest to decipher purported messages in the skies.