Having read Revelation for the nth time, there’s a thought that keeps stirring in my head: is this book some sort of prophetic clock? It’s obvious enough that time is routinely discussed in the book. We hear of hours (Rev. 3:3, 10), five months (Rev. 9:5), 42 months (Rev. 11:2), 1,260 days (Rev. 11:3; 12:6), time, times, and half a time (Rev. 12:14), and 1,000 years (Rev. 20:1–7). But is there something more to it then just a discussion of time? Might the book itself be some sort of time-keeping device or timer?
I don’t have a grandiose exposition to unpack here, more just puzzle pieces banging around in my head that might be connected by someone else later. The basic premise I’m working with is that Revelation is full of images, symbols, and astronomical features that sure look a lot like a grand calendar or clock.
Now before I share some of these thoughts, I want to be clear: we always start with the prima facie, plain sense of Scripture. We take Scripture at face value. Most of Revelation is to be interpreted literally because we’re given no warrant otherwise. Some things can be interpreted symbolically because the text itself allows for that (e.g., Rev. 1:20; 17:9–12). You can read more about right exegesis here, under the section “A Theology of Everything.” So what I’m suggesting isn’t meant to overturn the literal interpretation of the text, but is an added layer to what is already there.
So here it goes…
The 24 elders: a heavenly sundial or 24-hour analog clock. Sundials typically have notches for each hour of the day. The sun shines down on the gnomon (the standing wedge in the middle) and casts a shadow across the circular disc, identifying what hour of the day it is. Jesus, the Son of God, is the Lamb shining brightly from the middle of this heavenly clock. The elders and their thrones may represent the hour marks of the day.
And around the throne [are] twenty-four thrones, and sitting on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders, having been clothed in white garments, and on their heads golden garlands. . . (Rev. 4:4, LSV)
The Seven Spirits (Sevenfold Spirit): moving inward in the heavenly throne room scene, next we see a depiction of the Holy Spirit as seven lamps of fire. There are seven days in a week. The seven-day week was instituted at the beginning of creation as seen in Genesis 1:1–2:3, and on the very first day of the creation week the Spirit is seen (Gen. 1:2).
. . . and out of the throne proceed lightnings, and thunders, and voices; and seven lamps of fire are burning before the throne, which are the Seven Spirits of God. . . (Rev. 4:5, LSV)
Now anyone familiar with Revelation knows well that the number seven features prominently throughout the book. There are seven candlesticks representing the seven churches and seven stars representing the seven angels of the churches. There are are also seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls of wrath. Not only is the week a period of seven, but so is the sabbatical cycle (seven years) and the whole period of human history from Genesis 1 to the end of the Bible (seven thousand years).
Revelation is primarily about the unveiling of Christ and the onset of the Day of the LORD. The entire Tribulation period is revealed in the book (Rev. 6–19). It’s a period of seven years. The seven years of the Tribulation have been foreshadowed by the seven days Noah and his family remained in the ark before the flood came, the seven-year famine in Joseph’s day, the seven-year Maccabean Revolt (167–160 BC), the seven-year First Jewish-Roman War (66–73 BC), and, counting from the invasion of Austria in 1938, the seven-years of World War II (1938–1945).
The Maccabean Revolt and First Jewish-Roman War both featured midpoint events (164 BC and 70 AD, respectively) reminiscent of the upcoming Abomination of Desolation foretold by Daniel the prophet and Jesus Himself. These are clear patterns in history.
My conjecture is that the repeating theme of “seven” in Revelation is an affirmation that this whole ordeal covers a period of seven years in the midst of the seven-thousand year history of mankind in its fallen state.
Now the Tribulation itself, which is seven years in duration, features 21 judgments (seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls of wrath). The last two verses of the Bible are 20 and 21 (Rev. 22:20–21). Are these subtle hints pointing to 2021 as the starting pointing for the seven-year Tribulation?
The four living creatures (likely cherubim; cf. Ezek. 1, 11): moving further inward, the next entities are the four living creatures. There are four seasons in the year: spring, summer, fall, and winter. Separating the four seasons are two equinoxes and two solstices.
. . . and before the throne—a sea of glass like to crystal, and in the midst of the throne, and around the throne—four living creatures, full of eyes before and behind. . . (Rev. 4:6, LSV)
Now here’s where things get interesting: the first living creature is like a lion (Leo), the second living creature is like a calf or ox (Taurus), the third living creature has the face of a man (Aquarius), and the fourth living creature is like an eagle in flight. The first three living creatures mentioned in Revelation 4:7 have unmistakable representations in the biblical Mazzaroth (the 12 signs). They are equidistant, representing three of the four corners of the ecliptic!
The fourth living creature is like an eagle in flight. The constellation Aquila (Latin for “eagle”) is just outside the ecliptic, right above Capricorn and Sagittarius. It appears as an eagle with wings fully outstretched—as if in flight!
All of these constellations were well known at the time John wrote Revelation. Their depictions haven’t changed. And in terms of the seasons, Leo represents the last month of summer, Taurus the last month of Spring, and Aquarius the last month of winter. Aquila coincides with January, the first full month of winter.
As has been aptly shown many times, the opening verses of Revelation 12 are a clear reference to the constellations Virgo and Leo. And not only that, but they refer to an alignment that could only happen at a particular time—namely, when the sun is in Virgo and the moon is under her feet. This only occurs in the late summer and early fall. The entire alignment was precisely fulfilled on September 23–24, 2017.
We learned something profound this past decade: Revelation speaks of astronomical events, at least some of which can be predicted with precision. The Revelation 12 Sign showed just that. But as we studied further, we also learned that other passages in the book speak of things that can be represented in the sky just as the woman in labor was. For instance, the image of seven stars in Jesus’ hand (Rev. 1:16, 20) is easily comparable to a close conjunction of Venus and the Pleiades, one of which occurred on April 4, 2020. Jesus identifies Himself with Venus (Rev. 22:16). The Pleiades appear to be a tight grouping of seven stars and were known as such in John’s day.
As a reminder, I’m not speaking literally here, but only pictorially. Jesus is not actually the planet Venus, but Venus represents Him per His own words. So let’s summarize what might be astronomical representations in Revelation:
Venus = Jesus in His glory
Jupiter = Jesus in His humanity, as well as the body of Christ (the Church)
Pleiades = the seven stars
Virgo = the woman in labor representing heavenly Zion, as well as Israel on earth
Leo = the main part of the crown of 12 stars, as well as the living creature with the face of a lion; it represents Judah, as well as Jesus as the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Rev. 5:5)
Taurus = Jesus returning in rampage (Rev. 19), as well as the living creature with the face of an ox or calf; note that living creatures are likely cherubim per Ezekiel 1 and 11 (cf. Ps. 18:10; 2 Sam. 22:11)
Aquarius = the living creature with the face of a man
Aquila = the living creature like an eagle flying
Sagittarius = the rider on a white horse given a bow and garland (the first seal)
Corona Australis = the garland given to the first rider; it happens to be right next to Sagittarius and contains 10 stars like the 10 crowns on the beast of Revelation 13; note also Corona Australis is always depicted as a wreath or garland, not a royal crown, which is exactly what the Greek conveys in Revelation 6:2
Orion and Orion’s Sword = the rider on a red horse given a sword (the second seal); note that Orion is always depicted in combat; the asterism Orion’s Sword was known at the time Revelation was written and is situated right below his belt; it was called ensis, Latin for “sword”; also note that God will bind the Pleiades (i.e., a prophetic picture of gathering the Church) and loosen/open/release the cords of Orion in Job 38:31; it is the Lamb in Heaven who is removing the restraint of each of the riders following the rapture event (cf. 2 Thess. 2:3, 7)
Libra = the scales in the hand of the rider on a black horse (third seal)
Centaurus = directly below the constellation Libra is the constellation Centaurus—the third seal rider holding the scales (Libra)
Ara = right between Sagittarius and Centaurus, and directly below Scorpius, is the constellation Ara, which is Latin for “altar”; the fifth seal martyrs are gathered under the heavenly altar in Revelation 6:9—stung by the tail of death/the tail of Scorpius (Rev. 9:5) and attacked by Sagittarius and Centaurus
Serpens = the seven heads of the dragon right below the feet of the woman waiting to devour the child of Revelation 12; Serpens has seven stars
Corona Borealis = the seven crowns on the heads of the dragon; Corona Borealis is directly adjacent to Serpens and contains seven stars; Corona Borealis is always depicted as a royal crown, rather than a garland, and sure enough, Revelation 12:3 describes the dragon’s seven crowns as diadems rather than garlands
Hydra = the tail of the great red dragon
Lynx and Draco = the body of the great red dragon
Hercules and Ophiuchus = where the necks of the dragon diverge; these signs are depicted as men in combat with a dragon or multi-headed serpent; Serpens terminates at Virgo’s feet, just beyond Ophiuchus; many have noted the striking similarity between Ophiuchus and the prophecy of Genesis 3:15
Returning to the idea of the prophetic clock: I can almost imagine Revelation 4–5 being a picture of God the Universal Timekeeper opening the door to the universe’s clock tower and allowing the reader to step inside. That’s exactly what the Church will get to do.
It’s interesting that the listing order in Revelation 4:4–6 of elders, flames, and living creatures corresponds to the right order of increasing time measurements: hours, days, and seasons (or months).
Many of us believe the length of a generation is intimately connected with the reestablishment of the nation of Israel in 1948—now 73 years ago. Intriguingly, the very last verse before the Tribulation period is described (Rev. 6–19) is Revelation 5:14:
And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and they worship Him who is living through the ages of the ages.
Israel became a nation on 5/14/1948. The season (represented by the four living creatures) and the hour (represented by the 24 elders) is upon us. May 14, 1948 was the starting gun and now the race is almost over as can be clearly perceived given the specific convergence of signs right now.
A final possible time marker that has caught my attention is the very explicit mention of 1,000 years in Revelation 20. It’s on the basis of a literal interpretation of Scripture that we call ourselves premillennialists. Revelation 20 leaves no room for allegorical maneuvering. The future 1,000-year banishment of Satan and 1,000-year reign of Christ is mentioned six times (once in each verse between vv. 2–7). While the plain sense is that each reference is pointing to the same future period of time, the fact that one thousand years are mentioned six times is another subtle reminder we are nearing the end. Anyone familiar with the Masoretic Text knows well that we are the very generation that will cross the 6,000th year from creation. No other generation can say the same.
The 6,000 years of man’s fallen self-government is in reality God’s act of recreation. It’s a repeat of the creation week. God made the world in six days and ceased from His work on the seventh day. This was before sin entered the world. But His act of recreation has been an arduous 6,000-year labor. The next 1,000 years is the sabbath rest when Christ and His Church rule with a rod of iron.
And do not let this one thing be concealed from you, beloved, that one day with the LORD [is] as one thousand years and one thousand years as one day; the LORD is not slow in regard to the promise, as some count slowness, but is long-suffering to us, not intending any to be lost, but all to come to conversion, and it will come—the Day of the LORD—as a thief in the night. . . (2 Pt. 3:8–10a, LSV)
. . . but you, brothers, are not in darkness, that the Day may catch you as a thief; you are all sons of light, and sons of day; we are not of night, nor of darkness. . . (1 Thess. 5:4–5, LSV)
God is the Universal Timekeeper and He is revealing the time to His children more and more.
“No One Knows” Revisited Yet Again
I’ve written extensively on the subject of Jesus’ statement in the Olivet Discourse that “no one knows the day or hour.” My view is that timing and context are typically missed in Christian interpretation of the passage. Jesus was speaking of something that was true then, not something that will always be true. This is pretty much common sense, as Jesus now knows the day and hour and has even revealed a lot more of the prophetic picture to the Church via the post-Pentecost epistles and John’s Revelation.
Furthermore, the precise application of Jesus’ statement is debated. Might He have been referring to the destruction of the present heavens and earth as the immediate context suggests (Mt. 24:35)? Might He have been referring to His second coming, which is the general context of the passage? If either of these are true, then His statement can’t be taken to mean the Church will remain in darkness about the day and hour forever. In fact, other Scriptures seem to say just the opposite of what the common Christian interpretation is (e.g., Mt. 24:48–51; Jn. 16:13; 1 Thess. 5:2–4; Heb. 10:25; Rev. 1:1; 3:3; 22:10).
At the same time, and this is key—Jesus’ statement does introduce enough ambiguity that sweeping declarations of certainty about the day and hour can be dismissed out of hand. This is why I’m seeking a middle ground between the common head-in-sand approach and the Millerite/Camping/1988-type certainty. I think the scriptural middle ground is humble, watchful speculation. And judging by the convergence of signs right now, the fact that the world has become a de facto police state during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the fact we’ve just witnessed a great sign in the heavens and a plausible scenario for the last seven years of the fig tree generation, I’d say it’s time to watch like you mean it.
With this in mind, consider some of these verses about knowing and not knowing from the perspective of timing and audience: (Click to Source)
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