Wednesday, December 9, 2020

For My LDS Readers: Revelation Chapter 12

(Source)
    The text of Revelation 12, in the King James Version, is as follows:

1 And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:

2 And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.

3 And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.

4 And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.

5 And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.

6 And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.

7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,

8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.

9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.

11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

12 Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.

13 And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.

14 And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.

15 And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.

16 And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.

17 And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Initial Comments:

    Just a few points before I start into this. First, even though I will be relying on the Biblical text and will include ideas from non-LDS sources, I will obviously be approaching this from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

    Second, if it is not clear whether a part of John's vision is to be taken figuratively or literally, I will tend to interpret it literally. If I select a figurative interpretation, I will attempt to explain my reasoning for rejecting the literal interpretation. This is probably going to be different than what you see in other LDS commentaries on the Book of Revelation, which tend to operate on the premise that the imagery is figurative or symbolic rather than literal. 

    Third, we are living in the Last Days. This presents the "can't see the forest for the trees" problem, including that some events that were in the future from John's perspective may now be in our past.

Structure of the Chapter:

    As Nelson Walters--a non-LDS scholar--points out in a video presentation of this chapter, the chapter is organized as a chiasmus: "a sequence of elements of a sentence or verse, paragraph, chapter or even book which are then repeated and developed – but in reverse order. It is sometimes called introverted parallelism." As Walters demonstrates, the chiasmic structure of Revelation 12 is:

    The Dragon pursues the woman and child (vs. 1-5)

        The woman is nourished 1260 days (vs. 13-16)

            Michael overcomes the dragon (vs. 7-8)

                The dragon is cast out of heaven (vs. 9-10)

            The saints overcome the dragon (vs. 11-12)

        The woman is nourished for "time, times, and half a time" (vs. 13-16)

    The dragon pursues the woman's other children (v. 17).

Walters, you will note, had to rearrange the chapter a bit to show the chiasmic structure. The Joseph Smith Translation (JST) of Revelation 12 follows the chiasmic structure as it likely was originally written:

1 And there appeared a great sign in heaven, in the likeness of things on the earth; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.

2 And the woman being with child, cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.

3 And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up unto God and his throne.

4 And there appeared another sign in heaven; and behold, a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman which was delivered, ready to devour her child after it was born.

5 And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she had a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore years.

6 And there was war in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought against Michael;

7 And the dragon prevailed not against Michael, neither the child, nor the woman which was the church of God, who had been delivered of her pains, and brought forth the kingdom of our God and his Christ.

8 Neither was there place found in heaven for the great dragon, who was cast out; that old serpent called the devil, and also called Satan, which deceiveth the whole world; he was cast out into the earth; and his angels were cast out with him.

9 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ;

10 For the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.

11 For they have overcome him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; for they loved not their own lives, but kept the testimony even unto death. Therefore, rejoice O heavens, and ye that dwell in them.

12 And after these things I heard another voice saying, Woe to the inhabiters of the earth, yea, and they who dwell upon the islands of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.

13 For when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man-child.

14 Therefore, to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might flee into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.

15 And the serpent casteth out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.

16 And the earth helpeth the woman, and the earth openeth her mouth, and swalloweth up the flood which the dragon casteth out of his mouth.

17 Therefore, the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

And, as Walters also points out, you will note that the first half of the chapter deals with things in the heavens, the latter half pertains to events on the Earth, and the central section--that of Satan being cast out of Heaven and to the Earth--deals with both Heaven and Earth.

The Characters:

    There are four characters discussed in the Chapter: the Dragon, the Child, the Woman, and Michael.

    The Dragon:

    Determining the identity of the Dragon is straightforward because John specifically tells us in verse 9 (KJV) that Dragon is "that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world". We learn here that not only is Satan the Dragon in the vision, but he is also the serpent which deceived Eve as recorded in Genesis 3. His being cast from Heaven is the fulfillment of Genesis 3:14 where the serpent was cursed to crawl on his belly. 

    The Dragon has seven heads, each with a crown, and a total of 10 horns. The Dragon's crowns are διάδημα (diadéma): "properly, a royal crown: 'a narrow filet encircling the brow,' a 'kingly ornament for the head'." Thus, they represent the Dragon's authority, perhaps his power over political kingdoms on Earth.

    The Dragon is also described as the entity whose "tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth[.]" This seems to be a description of the event recounted in Jude 1:6: "And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day." Note that in both verses, it is not God that compelled the "stars of heaven" or "angels" to leave, but it was Satan and the angels that made the choice. Similarly, we also have a choice whether to accept Christ and His Gospel or to reject it.

    In D&C 29:36–38 we read of Satan's motivation to rebel against God:

    And it came to pass that Adam, being tempted of the devil—for, behold, the devil was before Adam, for he rebelled against me, saying, Give me thine honor, which is my power; and also a third part of the ghosts of heaven turned he away from me because of their agency; And they were thrust down, and thus came the devil and his angels [i.e., messengers or emissaries]; And, behold, there is a place prepared for them from the beginning, which place is hell.

    The Child:

    The Child is likewise straightforward to interpret. In verse 5 we read: "And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne." This is an obvious reference to Christ and his political kingdom. 

    The phrase "man child"--literally, a male son of man--is reminiscent of or derived from Isaiah 9:6 (underline added): "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." (See also Luke 1:35, where Mary is told she shall bear a "holy child" that is "the Son of God").

    The reference to ruling with a rod of iron is also a reference to Christ. The language is taken from Psalm 2:9, a Messianic verse, which reads: "Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel." It is further mirrored in Revelation 2:27, "And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father." And in Rev. 19:15: "And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God."

    And what is the rod of iron? That is also easy to interpret by reference to scripture. In 1 Nephi 8, Lehi had his vision of the tree of life and the darkness that came upon the world to prevent people from making their way to the tree of life. Those that made it to the tree did so by grasping a rod (i.e., a staff or scepter) of iron which then led them to the tree of life. That rod, as is explained later, was the word of God. (1 Nephi 15:23-24). (For a more detailed discussion of the rod, see "The Rod of Iron in Lehi’s Dream" by Zachary Nelson, Religious Educator Vol. 10 No. 3 · 2009).

    But the Child is not just Christ but also a reference to his earthly political Kingdom that will be established. Christ did not establish his Kingdom on the Earth at the end of his ministry because, as we know, he immediately ascended to heaven without forming his political kingdom. We know that this is reference to the political kingdom of Christ because of the reference to breaking "them" apart as a potter's vessel. We see similar imagery in Daniel Chapter 2 where Daniel interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream. There, as you may remember, Nebuchadnezzar had dreamed of an image of a man made of different materials representing a succession of earthly empires of men. The feet of the image--representing the final great empire--was made of a mixture of clay and iron. (Dan. 2:33). Then a rock was cut out or shaped, but without human hands--i.e., divine in origin, and struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them, causing the destruction of the whole edifice after which the rock grew into a mountain that filled the whole earth. (Dan. 2:34-35). As Daniel explains, the rock was the kingdom of God: "And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever." (Dan. 2:44). 

    We also know that the child is Christ because of the reference to being caught up into heaven and unto God's throne. As we read in Mark 16:19: "So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God." (See also, e.g., Luke 22:69; Luke 24:51; Act 2:33; Acts 7:55; and Heb. 1:3). Moreover, the specific phrase "caught up" is the Greek word "harpazo" (ἁρπάζω) meaning "catch up, take by force, catch away, pluck, catch, pull". (This same word, in Latin, is the source of the term "rapture" to denote being caught up into heaven). As Walters notes in his video, this specific Greek word is used in the Septuagint in Hosea 5:14-15 in reference to the Messiah being caught up and going away. 

    In short, then, the child is, as Joseph Smith expressed it, "the kingdom of our God and his Christ".

    The Woman:   

    The Greek word used here for woman is γυνὴ (gynē) which, according to Strong's, means a woman, wife, my ladyIn verse 1 of Chapter 12, the woman is described as being "clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars." The crown of the Woman is not the same type of crown as those worn by the Dragon. The Dragon's crowns are διάδημα (diadéma), i.e., a royal crown. The crown worn by the Woman is a στέφανος (stephanos) or a victor's crown or garland. This is reminiscent of 2 Timothy 4:6-8:

For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

    The identity of the woman is the most debated of the three characters in Chapter 12. There are various theories espoused: that she is Mary, that she is the church (speaking of the body of believers generally rather than a particular church or sect), and that she is Israel. I am going to suggest that the woman is a little of the church, a little of Israel, and something more.

    I do not believe that the Woman is Mary the Mother of Christ, although that is a popular theory with some. It is true that Mary is the woman that literally gave birth to the baby Jesus. But in a broader sense, she did not birth the Kingdom of God. Moreover, there is no incident where Mary was borne away for three and half years on eagles wings while a flood sent after her was swallowed up by the Earth. One could argue that this might represent Mary and Joseph and the Christ child fleeing to Egypt for safety after being warned by the angel, but then who are the other children of Mary upon who the Dragon turns his wrath? 

    The church (speaking of the body of believers as a whole) is another possibility. The church has been described as the bride of Christ, and so the fact that the Greek word for "woman" can mean "wife" is certainly suggestive. One of the primary objections raised to this theory is that it was not the church that gave birth to Christ, but rather that Christ beget the church. Moreover, there is the problem of verse 17 stating that after the Woman was carried away into the wilderness, the Dragon turned on "the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." Obviously, if there is a remnant of her seed that are believers, the Woman cannot represent the church in the sense of the whole of all Christian believers.

    Israel, as a nation or people, is another possible interpretation.  The crown or garland of 12 stars immediately brings to mind Joseph's dream in Genesis 37:9 where he saw the sun (his father), moon (his mother), and 11 stars (his brothers) bow down to him. This suggests that the 12 stars represent the twelve tribes of Israel. But they could also represent the twelve apostles. (See 1 Nephi 1:10--"And he also saw twelve others [i.e., the apostles] following him, and their brightness did exceed that of the stars in the firmament."). 

    While it is tempting to try to apply the rest of the imagery from Joseph's dream to the interpretation--the clothing of the sun and the moon as a footstool--I do not believe this is correct. Instead, if we look to 1 Corinthians 15:40-41, we are told there are differing glories, and (in verse 42) that the dead will be resurrected into these different glories. The most glorious of these is the celestial glory, or glory of the sun. This represents the direct glory of God, and I believe that is what clothes the woman. Her foot on the moon then would represent dominion over the lesser glory of the moon which is but a reflection of the glory of the sun (or God). In further support, see Revelation 21:23 which, describing the New Jerusalem, states: "And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof."

    Many Christian commentators refer to this light as the Shekinah Glory, "a visible manifestation of God on earth, whose presence is portrayed through a natural occurrence. The word shekinah is a Hebrew name meaning 'dwelling' or 'one who dwells.' Shekinah Glory means 'He caused to dwell,' referring to the divine presence of God." From the same Christianity.org article, it goes on to explain:

    The etymology of “Shekinah” is from the Hebrew word shākan, which means“to reside or permanently stay.”

    The rabbis used the term Shekinah to describe the following to the Jewish people:

- The presence of God amongst His people ( Exodus 19:16-18; Exodus 40:34-38; I Kings 6:13)

- The glory of God dwelling in the Temple (2 Chronicles 7:1)

- How God dwells in the mountain (Psalm 68.16-18; Joel 3:17)

* * *

    The divine presence of God on earth is depicted through the following:

- As a cloud (Exodus 24:16-18; Exodus33:9; 1 Kings 8:10-13)

- As a pillar of smoke and fire (Exodus 13:21-22)

- As fire and a burning bush (Zechariah 2:5; Exodus 3:2)

* * *

    The divine presence of God is also found in the New Testament:

“An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.”(Luke 2:9)

“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”(2 Corinthians 3:18)

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”(Revelation 21: 3)

Wikipedia similarly explains that "[t]he shekhinah (Biblical Hebrew: שכינה‎ šekīnah; also Romanized shekina(h), schechina(h), shechina(h)) is the English transliteration of a Hebrew word meaning 'dwelling' or 'settling' and denotes the dwelling or settling of the divine presence of God." BibleStudyTools.com explains:

[T]he Shechinah Glory is the visible manifestation of the presence of God. It is the majestic presence or manifestation of God in which He descends to dwell among men. Whenever the invisible God becomes visible, and whenever the omnipresence of God is localized, this is the Shechinah Glory. The usual title found in Scriptures for the Shechinah Glory is the glory of Jehovah, or the glory of the Lord. The Hebrew form is Kvod Adonai, which means ‘the glory of Jehovah’ and describes what the Shechinah Glory is. The Greek title, Doxa Kurion, is translated as ‘the glory of the Lord.’ Doxa means ‘brightness,’ ‘brilliance,’ or ‘splendor,’ and it depicts how the Shechinah Glory appears. Other titles give it the sense of ‘dwelling,’ which portrays what the Shechinah Glory does. The Hebrew word Shechinah, from the root shachan, means ‘to dwell.’ The Greek word skeinei, which is similar in sound as the Hebrew Shechinah (Greek has no ‘sh’ sound), means ‘to tabernacle.’. . . In the Old Testament, most of these visible manifestations took the form of light, fire, or cloud, or a combination of these. ...

While God's presence had been with Israel at times, it has not been constant; and, obviously, by their knowing rejection of the Lord as their Messiah, the Shechinah glory was removed from the Temple in Jerusalem as demonstrated by the tearing of the veil in the Temple upon Christ's death. (Matthew 27:50-51). Thus, I do not believe that the Woman is Israel, per se

    Rather, in Galatians 4:26, we read that "[b]ut Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all." Consequently, if the heavenly Jerusalem is the mother of the believers, then the Woman must be that heavenly Jerusalem. The heavenly Jerusalem goes by various names. In Hebrews 12:22, Paul tells the early saints that "ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels." In other words, the heavenly Jerusalem is also (or equivalent to) the city of the living God, and Mount Zion (Sion). Knowing this, we can then look at other scriptures that confirm our identity. For instance, Paul tells us in Romans 11:26 that "... as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob". The Deliverer is Christ, so this scripture provides an independent confirmation that the woman is, in fact, the heavenly Jerusalem or Zion. We also know that at the beginning of the Millennium, the Heavenly Jerusalem will descend out of Heaven and physically reside on the Earth. (See Revelation 21).

    The ancient Hebrew word Tsiyon (Zion) literally means "fortress." But it is more than that, because it denotes where the Lord dwells, including places on Earth. Thus, in Ezekiel 48:35, the city is called "the Lord is there" and in Psalm 9:11, David proclaims: "Sing praises to the Lord, which dwelleth in Zion: declare among the people his doings." (See also D&C 97:15-16 (indicating that the Lord will dwell in his temples) and Psalm 2:6 ("Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion")). This is consistent with the woman being clothed in the Shekinah Glory.

    But that is not the only place that Christ dwells. In Ephesians 3:16-17, Paul prays that Christ "would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man...." (See, also, 2 Corinthians 13:5; Romans 8:10; 2 Corinthians 4:6-7; Galatians 1:15-16; Galatians 2:20) (all indicating that we, as individuals, can be places where Christ's spirit can dwell). In other words, "for this is Zion—the pure in heart". (D&C 97:21). Again, consistent with the concept of the woman being clothed with the Shekinah Glory.

    You may have noticed in the Joseph Smith Translation (JST) that Joseph Smith stated that the Woman "was the church of God." (vs. 7). Although the JST is not Church canon as is the KJV Bible, The Book of Mormon, and other scripture, it is persuasive authority. I believe that the Church of God is as good a description of Zion as any other. Thus, just as the JST got the chiasmic structure correct, the JST has correctly identified the Woman.

    In short, then, the woman represents Zion, which is the Heavenly Jerusalem: the Church of God. 

    Michael:

    The forth character is Michael, the Archangel. Note that there is no sign for Michael. The name "Michael" (Μιχαήλ) is a transliteration of the Hebrew מִיכָאֵל (Mikael) meaning "who is like God?" Michael is considered the guardian angel of the Israelites (Daniel 12:1; Daniel 10:13, 21; Jude 1:9). In his mortal existence, he was Adam, but before and since, he has been the angel Michael, chief of the angels.


The constellation Virgo on September 24, 1827, according to Stellarium (source)

Two Great Signs In The Heavens:

    The Chapter begins by directing our attention to two signs in the heaven:

1 And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:

2 And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.

3 And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.

 The word "great" (μέγα) designates something of large appearance, e.g., of important significance. "Wonder" is better translated as "sign." According to Barnes' Notes:

The word "wonder" - σημεῖον sēmeion - properly means something extraordinary, or miraculous, and is commonly rendered "sign." See Matthew 12:38-39; Matthew 16:1, Matthew 16:3-4; Matthew 24:3, Matthew 24:24, Matthew 24:30; Matthew 26:48; Mark 8:11-12; Mark 13:4, Mark 13:22; Mark 16:17, Mark 16:20; in all which, and in numerous other places in the New Testament, it is rendered "sign," and mostly in the sense of "miracle."

This sign is seen in "heaven": οὐρανός (ouranos), meaning "the visible heavens: the atmosphere, the sky, the starry heavens" but which can also mean "the spiritual heavens." Moreover, per the JST, what John is being shown is "in the likeness of things on the earth." In other words, the signs in the heaven mirror literal events that occurred on the Earth.

    That the sign is seen in the sky or the heavens indicates that it is likely some sort of astronomical or astrological sign. This is not without precedent. Obviously, we have the star that appeared at Christ's birth. In addition, in Acts 2:17-19, Peter proclaimed (underline added):

And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; ...

Thus, the signs are something that will visible in the heavens to both believer and unbeliever. 

    The First Sign

    John provides a description of the sign: it is "a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up unto God and his throne." In other words, the sign is an image or representation of a woman who gave birth to a man child that was later caught up into heaven.

    Fortunately, the heavenly sign of the woman is easy to identify: obviously it would have to incorporate the constellation Virgo the Virgin (or, in Hebrew, the constellation Betulah which also means a virgin or a maiden) inasmuch as the Church is the virgin bride of Christ. (See Revelation 21:2,9-10; Ephesians 5:22-33). And, in fact, there are times when the constellation Virgo has the moon at the bottom of the constellation (i.e., at its feet) at the same time the sun will also be in Virgo (i.e., clothing Virgo in the sun) and Jupiter (which traditionally represents royalty or kingship) will appear in the middle of Virgo (i.e., just as if Virgo is giving birth to the "male child") and Virgo will appear crowned with stars and planets. Virgo is the second largest constellation and hence truly "great".

    The last such conjunction of events was in September 23, 2017, and there were many Christian writers excited about it because they believed it would mark the Second Coming of Christ, the rapture of the Church and the beginning of the tribulation. Secularists dismissed the importance of this event because, while not common, it has occurred several times in the last 1,000 years. And, of course, neither the Second Coming nor the rapture occurred in September 2017.

    But perhaps a different time was meant. One theory is that it refers to a similar conjunction in 2 B.C. and may, therefore, reference the birth of the Christ child. The heavenly sign of the birth of Christ was a new "star", however, so this is not a sign of Christ's birth. In fact, it would be moot if such was the sign because Christ had already been born. John was trying to communicate a sign that would be seen by contemporaries or others in the future.

    Kevin Prince, in the video below, suggests that an 1827 conjunction was the one from John's vision. He notes that all of the events necessary to comprise the sign, including Jupiter exiting Virgo after a 9 month period, has only occurred twice since John's prophecy: in 2017, as discussed above, and in 1827.

    Prince's argument for the 1827 conjunction is essentially this: the conjunction occurred on September 22, 1827, which not only was date of the Feast of the Trumpets, but was also the date that Joseph Smith was allowed to take the Golden Plates for translation, thus inaugurating the return of the Church and the gathering of Israel. Prince dismisses naysayers by pointing out that none of the other conjunctions within the past 1,000 years (or the 2 B.C. conjunction for that matter) match up with the other signs, including Jupiter staying in the sign for 9 months due to retrogradation (mimicking the term of pregnancy).  I believe that Prince's argument has a lot of merit.

    That it occurred on the Feast of the Trumpets is significant:

    The Feast of Trumpets is the herald of the last days and signals our final opportunity to repent. Occurring at a new moon, sabbatical and jubilee years are calculated from the Feast of Trumpets.

    After the long, dry season, it is finally time to start praying for rain. The final harvests are being gathered in, and wedding imagery dominates the season. It is time to welcome the Bridegroom. This is the time to certify the worthiness of the bride, the Church.

    At this time, the wish of the celebrant to to be worthy of abiding in the midst of the “community of the saved.” During the month of Elul, previous to the Feast of Trumpets, celebrants recite the attributes of God, hoping to emulate them—”The Lord, the Lord, God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth; keeping mercy unto the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin; and acquitting” (Winter, The High Holy Days).

    The overriding message of the Feast of Trumpets is to call men and women everywhere to awake, arise, and gather, because the righteous are about to be separated from the wicked. The signal for us to awake and arise was sounded from the temple, the blowing of the ram’s horn (shofar) accompanied by silver trumpets blown by over 100 priests.

    This is a final call to repentance, ushering in the Days of Awe (10 days of national repentance, the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and the final judgment (Feast of Tabernacles). Once the righteous are gathered and approved, their names are written in God’s Book of Life. Hence, the standard greeting during the Feast of Trumpets is chatimah tovah, good signature.

Or, as we are elsewhere instructed (footnotes omitted):

    The Hebrew name used today for the Feast of Trumpets is Rosh Hashanah, which is the Jewish New Year. But this was not its original name, though the day does signify a new beginning. One of its original names was the Day of Remembrance. This name arose because the Lord commanded Israel to blow trumpets on this day for remembrance.

    According to tradition, it was on this day that the Israelites were remembered and freed from slavery in Egypt, prior to the completed Exodus. Also, it was on this day that the Lord remembered Israel and granted them spiritual renewal after their return from captivity in Babylon. For it was on the first day of the seventh month that Ezra read from the book of the law, and the people rejoiced because he “gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading” (see Neh. 8:1–12).

    As a result of their banishment, the Jews had lost many of the Lord’s truths, which they were now hearing again in clarity. Their spiritual remembering and renewal led to the making of new covenants (see Neh. 9:38; Neh. 10). Their escape from Babylonian bondage was a foreshadowing of our modern-day escape from worldly Babylon. In our time, the Book of Mormon has been a major factor in leading millions of people away from worldly falsehoods and back to spiritual truths.

    Many Judaic writers teach that the major theme of the Feast of Trumpets is remembrance: God’s remembrance of His covenants with Israel and the need for Israel to remember their God. The prayers of the day plead for this remembrance. They ask God to remember His covenants with the ancient patriarchs that He would regather His people.

    The Jewish scriptures that are read on this day promise such remembrance and speak of the trumpet as signaling it. For example, Isaiah 27:13 says: “And it shall come to pass in that day [the time of regathering], that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt.”

    Another example is Zechariah 9:14: “And the Lord God shall blow the trumpet,” which accompanies pronouncements that Ephraim would help raise up God’s covenant people (see Zech. 9:13) and that those of Israel’s blood would again become His flock (see Zech. 9:16).

    These and other scriptural connections are sufficiently strong that throughout the centuries various Jewish writers, in explaining the purpose of the trumpets’ sound on the Feast of Trumpets, have taught that this day would eventually signal Israel’s return from worldwide scattering.

    Also read during this feast are scriptures telling of biblical women becoming fruitful after barrenness. In fact, Jewish tradition is that God fulfilled His promises to Rachel, Hannah, and Sarah on this special day. The overtones of these events are impressive. For after Rachel was remembered, she was blessed with Joseph, from whom came Ephraim and Manasseh. From Hannah’s barrenness came the boy prophet Samuel and a return to righteous priesthood.

    For these and other reasons, this day has been seen by some Jewish writers as the day when God would eventually move from His seat of judgment concerning Israel and sit instead upon the seat of mercy. Thus, layer upon layer this holy day symbolizes the new beginning Israel would experience as God has mercy upon them in their exile, remembers His covenants with their fathers, and begins to restore them as His people. As a result, their barrenness would be removed, and they would become again a fruitful tree (see 1 Ne. 10:14).

    This anticipated new beginning was to be initiated with the sounding of the trumpet (a shofar, or ram’s horn, is still used in modern practice). One Jewish commentator has said, “Expectantly, we await the sounding of the [Trumpet] of Liberation, when Zion will be free to receive its exiled children from all parts of the earth.”

    On 22 September 1827, Israel’s trumpets sounded throughout the world; it was the day the Prophet Joseph Smith received the golden plates, which would help fulfill God’s promise to remember Israel in the latter days.  

The night sky on November 12-13, 1833 (source: Stellarium)

    The Second Great Sign:

    After the sign of the Woman, John sees "a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads" whose "tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born." 

    This sign could be represented by the constellation Serpens (serpent) which is found immediately below the feet of Virgo. "It is unique among the modern constellations in being split into two non-contiguous parts, Serpens Caput (Serpent Head) to the west and Serpens Cauda (Serpent Tail) to the east." 

    The more likely candidate, however, is the constellation Hydra. It is the largest constellation and just to Virgo's left side (i.e., the sinister side): it looks like it could be confronting her. It represents the Lernaean Hydra from the Greek myth of Heracles’ (Hercules') Twelve Labors--a multi-headed beast--and, curiously enough, the constellation contains seven named stars. "The Greek constellation of Hydra is an adaptation of a Babylonian constellation, the MUL.APIN which includes a 'serpent' constellation (MUL.DINGIR.MUŠ) loosely corresponding to Hydra," and sometimes under the name Bašmu or BashmuThe constellation of the serpent is associated with the Babylonian god Ningizzida (Ningishzida), who is the god of the underworld.  The Hercules legend may echo a Babylonian legend in which the hero Gilgamesh killed a seven-headed monster.  The Hydra is also supposed to be a water snake or sea serpent, which will bear some significance when we look at the Beast of Revelation in a later post.

    Has this sign yet appeared? Maybe. November 12-13, 1833, saw the greatest meteor shower in history:

On the night of the 12th, many sky watchers noticed that there seemed to be an unusually high number of meteors in the sky heading into the morning of the 13th. Suddenly, as if someone turned on a switch, the sky filled with meteors to the tune of, according to some estimates, over 200,000 per hour! That translates to over 3,000 per minute or, even more mind boggling, 50 meteors per second. All across North America, people were woken by their bedrooms suddenly becoming filled with light thanks to the light of all the meteors. Now, the kicker: this lasted for 4 hours until the Sun started to rise.

    This meteor shower is believed to have been one of the Leonid meteor showers, getting that name because they originate in the constellation of Leo; i.e., between one end of Hydra and Virgo where, if Hydra's tale were to curl it might collect stars. 

The Dragon Confronts the Woman:

    After the introduction of the Woman, the Child, and the Dragon, we read:

4 And his [i.e., the Dragon's] tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.

5 And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.

6 And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.

    Per the sign, Satan confronted the Woman after he (Satan) has cast the stars to the Earth, after the Child was born, but before the Child was raptured to heaven. Subsequently, Satan is banished to the Earth. In this reading, his plan to "devour her child as soon as it was born" could be interpreted as the early persecution of the Church, which resulted in the Child (i.e., God's Kingdom and its Christ) being taken up into heaven. 

    The JST reads slightly differently since it follows the chiasmic structure: 

3 And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up unto God and his throne.

4 And there appeared another sign in heaven; and behold, a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman which was delivered, ready to devour her child after it was born.

5 And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she had a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore years.

    I do not believe that this changes how the passages should be read. Although in the JST the Child appears to be drawn up into heaven before the confrontation, the Child being drawn up into heaven is not just an event, but also a description. That is, it is not the act of the Child being drawn up, but rather that it is a description: the Child who is drawn up into heaven. Thus, in both the KJV and the JST, the Dragon confronts the Women in preparation of devouring the Child upon its birth, but the Child is raptured (drawn up into heaven) and the Woman flees into the wilderness.

The Spiritual Flight Into The Wilderness:

    Next, John relates in verse 6, "the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days." 

    The Greek word translated as "fled" is  φεύγω (pheugó), meaning, per Strong's, "To flee, escape, shun." "Wilderness" is ἔρημος (erémos) meaning "solitary, desolate" and used as "deserted, desolate, waste; hence: the desert, to the east and south of Palestine; of a person: deserted, abandoned, desolate." (Bold added).

    The logical conclusion here is the flight into the wilderness is the Great Apostasy--the believers have deserted or abandoned the Church of God. Amos appears to have foretold this in Amos 8:11 which states: "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord[.]" The latter phrase probably does not refer to the loss of scripture, since the Bible was eventually compiled from the various books and letters that existed, but rather the loss of a prophet to guide the saints.

    Similarly, i2 Thessalonians 2:1-3, we read:

1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,

2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.

3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;

(Underline added). According to Strong's Concordance, the phrase "a falling away" is from the Greek word apostasia (ἀποστασία) meaning defection, apostasy, or revolt. Thus, an apostasy of the Church is a prerequisite to the revealing of the man of sin (failure) and son of perdition (destruction). Chapter 2 of 2 Thessalonians further relates: 

Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, ...

(vs. 5-9). Thus, "man of sin" and "son of perdition" is a reference to the Antichrist of Revelation.

     It is significant that Zion or the Church of God is not pulled up into heaven but instead flees to the wilderness (that is, is abandoned). This militates against this scriptural passage supporting a "rapture" of the Church as argued by many non-LDS commentators.

The 1260 "Days":

    The next consideration is that the Woman is fed (or nourished or made to grow, in some translations of the New Testament) while in the wilderness for 1260 days. The 1260 days presents somewhat of a conundrum. It is approximately 3-1/2 years. (In actuality, 3-1/2 years is 1,277.5 days; 1260 days is only 3-1/2 years when using the Prophetic Year of 360 days). But does it mean literal days, or is this an example of the Day-Year Principle where a "day" should be interpreted to mean a year?

    If the correct interpretation is 1260 days rather than years, the period could refer to the Christians fleeing from Jerusalem in late 66 A.D. to escape the Roman siege that decimated Jerusalem in 70 A.D. This seems unlikely, however, as this is a past event relative to John's vision, and the John seems to be referring to future event. In fact, Revelation 4:1 makes clear that John is only be shown "things which must be hereafter." Another option is that it could be referring to a 1260-day period during the Tribulation period.

    But there are good reasons to believe that the Day-Year Principle should be applied. We know that in Daniel's 70-week prophecy in Daniel Chapter 9, the "week" referred to a period of 7 years. In that case, "week" is used similarly to how we use the term "decade" (our word "decade" is derived from the Greek δεκάς (dekas) simply meaning a group of 10 without any inherent requirement that it only refer to 10 years). In fact, some translations of the Bible use "sevens" instead of "week". So, each "day" of the "week" was a 360-day year, and each "week" was seven of those years. 

    As Sir Robert Anderson explained in his book, The Coming Prince, the 70-Week prophecy gave a specific way to date when the Messiah (Jesus) would present himself in Jerusalem and his crucifixion. Specifically, the angel Gabriel told Daniel (underline added):

Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.

(Daniel 9:24-27). As Anderson explains in his book, it was 69 weeks ("seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks") of years, or 483 Prophetic Years from when the Jews were given authority to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem (which was necessary in order to rebuild the temple) to the year that Christ presented himself in Jerusalem and was crucified (that is, "cut off" or executed). (Anderson claimed an accuracy down to the day, but I don't believe that the prophecy necessarily calls for such accuracy). 

    The question is whether John's vision should be interpreted in the same manner. Some certainly believe so, and that is what Joseph Smith indicated when he substituted "year" for "day" in the JST set out above. So, what is the starting date and the ending date of this prophecy?

    Various theologians and scriptorians, both LDS and non-LDS, have taken the position that the beginning of this period is the secularization of the early church--e.g., when the Pope began to exercise secular authority in addition to his ecclesiastic authority. The reasoning behind these theories seems to be that because Christ is to personally establish his Kingdom, the assertion of secular authority by the Pope (or other religious authority) is a form of blasphemy and a usurpation of Christ's political authority. As noted in Wikipedia, "Historicists usually believe the '1,260 days' spanned the Middle Ages and concluded within the early modern or modern era."

    For instance, one (non-LDS) author observes that in 533 A.D. the Emperor Justinian formally recognized the Pope (i.e., the Bishop of Rome) as the head over all churches, and in 538 A.D., when Belisarius liberated Rome from the control of the Ostrogoths, the Pope was freed to increase his power. 1260 years later, in 1798, Napoleon's troops captured Rome, arrested the Pope, and proclaimed the rule of the Pope to be finished.

    In the book, A Marvelous Work and a Wonder: The Gospel Restored by Daniel Macgregor, the author (a member of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints or "RLDS") delves into this type of analysis using solar years (365.25 days per year), lunar years (~354/355 days in length) and the 360 day Prophetic Year. He notes several historians, political philosophers, and theologians, including Machiavelli, that mark 570 A.D. as the time when the Popes took up the mantel of political power. He also noted that 570 A.D. is the year that Mohammed was born. And, of course, if you add 1260 years to 570, that brings you to 1830 A.D. 

    But Macgregor does not leave off there. He points out that in A.D. 607, Emperor Phocus issued an edict confirming the Pope's supremacy over all Christendom. Adding 1260 lunar years to 607 again brings us to 1830 A.D. And he observes that in 588 A.D., John, the patriarch of Constantinople, took the title to himself of Universal Bishop, beginning a schism that eventually resulted in the complete separation of the Eastern and Western Churches. Adding 1260 Prophetic Years of 360 days to this date again brings us to 1830 A.D.

    Similarly, in The Book of Revelation: Plain, Pure, and Simple, the author, M. R. Smith, writes:

An article in the Church newspaper in Nauvoo, Illinois, states: "We are informed by the renowned historian, Whelpley, as also in the Revolutions of Europe, that the church of Jesus Christ was overrun, and driven into the wilderness, A.D. 570, and John the Revelator informs us it must remain their 1260 years, which makes exactly the time, the year 1830, that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized, with the gifts and blessings" (Times and Seasons, 5:732).

    Are there factors other than the ascendancy of the Pope or his Orthodox rival that could be used? Perhaps doctrinal issues? 

    Because little or no records remain from the early church, it is mostly impossible to track changes in doctrine. The one exception is that we know that Christianity gradually shifted away from an interpretation of Christ being the literal son of God--i.e., distinct from the Father--and toward a view of the Godhead where Christ was simply an avatar of God and adoption of other pagan elements. You can see this progression when you consider the process documented by the Nicene Creed adopted in 325 AD and later confirmed and amended in 381, as well as the Apostles' Creed from about the same time; the Council of Chalcedon in 451 ADthe Second Council of Constantinople in 553; the Third Council of Constantinople in 680-81; until we reach the Second Council of Nicaea in 787 AD, which confirmed the "veneration" (i.e., worship) of icons (i.e., graven images), the connection with the early Church was completely gone. Thus, something occurred in that period that fundamentally changed the nature of the Church and its relationship with God and his Son, Jesus Christ.

    During the same time we see Christianity moving away from and suppressing what is referred to a Arianism, which had at one time been the dominant view of the Godhead in Christianity. As Wikipedia describes it (footnotes omitted):

Arianism is a nontrinitarian Christological doctrine which holds that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who was begotten by God the Father, and is distinct from the Father (therefore subordinate to him), but the Son is also God the Son but not co-eternal with God the Father. Arian theology was first attributed to Arius (c. AD 256–336), a Christian presbyter in Alexandria of Egypt. The term Arian is derived from the name Arius and, like the term Christian, it was not what they called themselves, but rather a term used by outsiders. The nature of Arius's teachings and his supporters were opposed to the theological views held by Homoousian Christians, regarding the nature of the Trinity and the nature of Christ. The Arian concept of Christ is based on the belief that the Son of God did not always exist but was begotten within time by God the Father, therefore Jesus was not co-eternal with God the Father.

The death knell of Arianism appears to have been when Visigothic Spain converted to Nicene Christianity at the Third Council of Toledo in 589. Adding 360 Prophetic Years to 589 brings us, again, to 1830. 

    Now I'm not saying that Arianism was the Church of God, but it does represent the overwhelming forces arrayed against any sect that was not considered part of the Catholic Church, and illustrates at least one doctrine that was lost.

    Whatever the matter, the fact shows that Christianity began a downward spiral thereafter due to the spread of Islam. Mohammad, the founder of Islam, is said to have been born in 570 AD; his alleged vision of Gabriel was in 610 AD; and in 613, Mohammad began preaching his new religion. Islam then exploded across areas that had been strongly Christian, including the Levant:

In 638, Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, handed over the keys of the city to Caliph Umar's Muslim forces. The Muslim authorities in Jerusalem were not kind to their Christian subjects, forcing them to live a life of "discrimination, servitude and humiliation". 

The Muslims went to work on changing Jerusalem. "[T]he Islamization of the Temple Mount climaxed at the end of the seventh century, with the construction of the Dome of the Rock in the early 690s when Abd al-Malik was developing his program of Islamization. It was built over the Foundation Stone, the site of the historic Jewish Temple." The Caliphate system that was established by the Muslim invaders "lasted for centuries and eventually evolved into the Ottoman Empire, which controlled large regions in the Middle East from about 1517 until 1917, when World War I ended the Ottoman reign."

    But perhaps the speculation as to the triggering date is irrelevant since the sign appeared in 1827, and marked the beginning of the end of the Woman's time in the wilderness.

The War In Heaven And The Expulsion Of The Devil:

    We next read in Chapter 12 of Revelation, verses 7-10:

And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.

    While it is tempting to equate this to the pre-mortal war in heaven where the third of the host was case down, as we saw above, the Dragon gathering and flinging a third of the heavenly host was part of a description of the sign of the Dragon, not the actual event. This seems to be something different. 

    We know from scripture that Satan is the great accuser.  In Revelation 12:10, it relates that the heavenly hosts celebrate Satan being forced from heaven "for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night." The word for "accuser" is κατηγορέω (katégoreó) meaning "to make accusation" and used in the sense of making an accusation or prosecuting a legal case. In Job 1:6-7, we read: "Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan [i.e., the Adversary] came also among them. And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it." Thus, it appears that Satan still had some access to heaven in order to make accusations even after the pre-mortal period.

    When Michael casts Satan and his angels out, this access allowing Satan to accuse people before God ceased. This event is important because, per verse 10: "Now is come [γίνομαι--"ginomai": to come into being, to happen, to become] salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ[.]" The foregoing list are all things obtained through Christ's atonement.  

    Additionally, the JST adds: "For they have overcome him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; for they loved not their own lives, but kept the testimony even unto death. Therefore, rejoice O heavens, and ye that dwell in them." In other words, the victory over Satan was possible because of the atonement of Christ and the works and faith of the early Christian martyrs, including the Apostles. 

Events On The Earth

    Remember that in verse 1 of the JST, it added that the signs were "in the likeness of things on the earth." Thus, the remaining verses in the prophecy and vision related to events that occur on the Earth. While heaven celebrates Satan being cast out, we are warned in verse 12 of the KJV: "Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time." 

The Persecution of the Woman:

    The first thing we see is a repeat of what is shown in the signs in the heavens. In verse 13, it states: "And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child." This verse is straightforward, representing the persecution of the Apostles and the early Church; remember, though, that the Woman is not all of Christendom, but a subset making up the Church of God. 

    In D&C 86:1-3 in fact indicates that it was via the Whore of Babylon that Satan attacked the Church, stating:

    Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servants, concerning the parable of the wheat and of the tares: Behold, verily I say, the field was the world, and the apostles were the sowers of the seed; And after they have fallen asleep the great persecutor of the church, the apostate, the whore, even Babylon, that maketh all nations to drink of her cup, in whose hearts the enemy, even Satan, sitteth to reign—behold he soweth the tares; wherefore, the tares choke the wheat and drive the church into the wilderness.

The Flight Into The Wilderness Or The Great Apostasy:

   Next we read in verses 14-17:

And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

    The first thing to note is that the Woman was given the wings of an eagle "that she might fly into the wilderness." The word translated as "fly" is πέτομαι ("petomai") which means to fly as in a bird flying. "Wilderness" is ἔρημος (erémos), the same word as used earlier in the chapter.

    The gift of eagle wings is reminiscent of the rapid flight of Israel from Egypt, of which the Lord later said: "Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself." (Exodus 19:4). Elsewhere we read: "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." (Isaiah 40:31). Thus, at a minimum, John is telling us that the Lord will bear up the Woman--that is, giving her strength, endurance and speed--and provide her the means to escape the Dragon. 

    The phrase "a time, and times, and half a time" is interpreted by most Biblical scholars to mean "a year, two years, and half a year," or, in other words, 3-1/2 years, or 1260 days using the Prophetic Year. I have to admit when I started writing this, I was firmly of the opinion that this second period related to a period in the latter-days, probably during the Tribulation. But the more I studied and reflected on the matter, I realized that this was an incorrect view. Since the signs were "in the likeness of things on the earth," I believe that what is being shown here is the earthly flight of Church into the wilderness mirroring the 1260 year period discussed earlier. That is, this is not a different 1260 day/year period, but the same one as discussed above, but from an earthly or mortal perspective. 

Satan Pursues The Church:

    We next read: "And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth." 

    The word "flood" is ποταμός (potamos) meaning a river, torrent (of water) or stream. This may be literal or an idiom (such as when we say flooding an area with pamphlets, flooding the airways, etc.). For instance, in Daniel 11:10 and Daniel 11:22 it describes armies moving as or like a flood, i.e., as an idiom representing an irresistible force. But I do not believe that is the case here as it very specifically indicates that it is a flood of water.

    The phrase "swallowed up" is καταπίνω (katapinó) meaning to drink down, and is can be used to represent drinking something, swallowing, devouring or consuming something. We have seen similar phrasing used in the Old Testament, including Exodus 15:12 where Moses, singing a song of praise to the Lord for their deliverance from Egypt, relates that the Lord caused the earth to swallow Israel's enemies (referring to the drowning of the Egyptian chariots, although Josephus recorded that there was an earthquake at the same time that the waters were separated). Later, in Numbers 16:32 a group of Israelites that had rebelled against Moses, led by Korah, were swallowed up by the earth: "And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods."

     I have tried to find a literal flood event in the 585-588 A.D. period, but was unsuccessful. The closest I found was the Tauredunum event of 563 A.D., which was a tsunami on Lake Geneva (then under the Frankish territory of the Kingdom of Orleans) which devastated communities and churches along the shoreline of the lake and caused by a massive landslide and/or subsidence of the lake bed. Given the paucity of records from the period, it is likely that a flood event may have occurred elsewhere without being recorded.

The Persecution Of Believers

    Finally, frustrated by his inability to destroy the Church, Satan turns his attention on Christians generally. In verse 17, we read: "And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ."

    This verse is one of the most clear signals, I believe, that this chapter does not refer to a rapture of the church (speaking of the whole body of believers) and those left behind. Notice that those left are described as those who "keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." These are not people that have questionable or faltering faith such as envisioned of those left behind. 

    I'm going to take some exception to the New Testament Student Manual on this point. The manual indicates that this remnant "includes the latter-day Church restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith." This does not fit. We are not a "remnant" left after the Apostasy, but saints of the restored Church after the Woman returns. Moreover, Satan attacks this remnant after the Apostasy occurs, which means that the attacks began during the 1260 year period. Thus, I believe that the "remnant" is a reference to believers generally: Christendom, or at least the more righteous part of Christendom. Satan's attacks obviously includes the attacks on Christianity by Islam and the Caliphate. What we should keep in mind here is that even though not all believers belong to the Church of God--meaning that they do not have possession of the fullness of the Gospel, the holy ordinances and a prophet to lead them--they nevertheless include very righteous people with a strong testimony of the Lord as their Savior. And, because I have been somewhat harsh on the early Catholic Church leadership as possible actors in the Great Apostasy, I will also make the specific point that the righteous members of the Catholic faith are part of this remnant. In short, the righteous Christian believers, whatever their sect or faith, are truly remnants of the seed of the Woman.

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