Friday, February 20, 2015

Signs in the Heavens - Part 3

Onward with our "Signs in the Heavens."

First, let's backtrack just a second. Just to make very, very clear - this is NOT astrology. Astrology, by definition is "the study of the movements and relative positions of celestial bodies interpreted as having an influence on human affairs and the natural world." If you think the stars are influencing you, you are basically worshiping the creation instead of the Creator.

God DOES use the heavens for His purposes, though. Besides giving light to the earth, that's exactly why He made the stars to begin with:
Genesis 1:14 Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; 15 and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so.
 That word "sign" is 'owth in Hebrew. It means, just like you'd think, "sign, signal, a distinguishing mark, a banner, remembrance, a miraculous sign, an omen, a warning."

It's the same word used here:
Genesis 4:15 And the Lord said to him, “Therefore,[a] whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him.
Genesis 9:13 I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.
God uses the stars for signs. In fact, the Bible records a time He did exactly that:

Wise Men from the East

Matthew 2:1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”
When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:
‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.’[a]
Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”
When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
12 Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.
These "wise men" were, of course, the Magi, and chances are, we are all guilty of thinking about them like the stories we've heard more than the Bible actually says. We know a bit about them from Matthew, here, but also from Daniel. They were from Babylon (and then Persia). It's from their name that we get the word "magician." They were certainly not a biblical bunch -although that probably changed for a time when Daniel was made leader over them after he interpreted Nebuchadnezzar's dream about the statue:
Daniel 2:48 Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts; and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon.
So, some things to remember. Daniel knew the Torah, the books of Moses, very well. He also had prophecies of his own that he recorded. He knew of the coming Messiah, and he knew the Messiah was important not just for his own people, but for all the world. He certainly would have communicated the importance of that to this group of people he was in charge of. I imagine he spoke often of this coming "King of the Jews" during his lifetime. He knew from this prophecy that a literal star was expected:
Numbers 24:17“I see Him, but not now;
I behold Him, but not near;
A Star shall come out of Jacob;
A Scepter shall rise out of Israel. . .
He knew from his own prophecies when that would take place. He may even have been alive when the "go" for that countdown began, but even if he wasn't, the Magi would have been watching for it and making record of it:
Daniel 9:25 “Know therefore and understand,
That from the going forth of the command
To restore and build Jerusalem
Until Messiah the Prince,
There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks;
The street[c] shall be built again, and the wall,[d]
Even in troublesome times.
So, they knew to watch for a star, and they knew about when it would appear. We think of the "Star of  Bethlehem" as being this big, blazing thing moving through the sky like a spaceship, but remember, Herod didn't even know when this "star" had appeared. He (and Jerusalem through him) didn't get upset until the whole thing was explained to him.

Among other things, the Magi were astronomers. They didn't have telescopes, but they kept track of the stars and planets (which they called "wandering stars.") I won't defend it here (watch for a post on it soon, though), but the constellations and names of the stars tell the story of Messiah. Daniel would have known this, and through him, the Magi would certainly of known in what part of the sky to watch for that special star.

Now, the rest of this is primarily from the study posted at (with my own flavoring, because of course, I can't help myself from doing that) They give a very good, very plausible, biblical presentation, and honestly, I think they're on to something.

The constellation "Leo" is the king constellation - the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Within that constellation is the star "Regulus", known as the king star. Regal is from the same word. It has been known as the king star from antiquity. Jupiter is the king planet. Even in the corrupted version, Jupiter was the "king of the gods" in both Roman and Greek mythology.

So, the Magi certainly kept track of  Regulus and Jupiter. In September of 3 BC, Jupiter did something remarkable. It makes a relatively close pass by Regulus every 12 years. To our eyes on earth, Jupiter does not have a smooth forward motion through the sky. That's because the earth moves more quickly around the sun than Jupiter does. When the earth "passes" Jupiter (like a car passing another car in the fast lane), to us, it appears that Jupiter goes backward in the sky - just like it seems like the car we're passing on the highway is going backward. That's called "retrograde motion."

Well, in September of 3 BC, Jupiter had a conjunction (very close, according to our eyes) with Regulus - THREE times. The Magi must have been very excited to see that and probably kept very careful track of Jupiter, night after night. Was the star they had been watching for coming soon?

Nine months later, in June of 2 BC, they were rewarded when Jupiter made a conjunction with Venus that no one had seen before or since. Jupiter came so close to Venus that they appeared to be one star, but each with its full brightness. This would have been the brightest "star" they had ever seen in the heavens.

The following chart is from the site and shows the times that Venus and Jupiter have had a close conjunction. That "elongation from the sun" is how close this is from the sun so that you could actually see it. As you can see, all of them are pretty close to the sun, except the one in 2 BC.

It would be spectacularly bright - but the thing is, just like eclipses last only a short time, this would have lasted only about 2 hours - not weeks. 

from the Sun
Venus, Jupiter Diameters
Geocentric Separation
2 BC17 Jun 17:53 UT45oW26",32",28"Very Large Elongation
Occurs over Middle East
121017 Sep 10:35 UT7oW10",31", 0"Too Close to the Sun
Central occultation
15705 Feb 7:47 UT25oW11",31",18"Occurred over South Atlantic, Argentina
No Historic Record
18183 Jan 21:51 UT16oW10",30",12"Occurred over Far East
No History Record
Over Unpopulate Area

206522 Nov 12:47 UT8oW10",29",14"Too Close to the Sun
212314 Sep 15:26 UT16oE10",29", 6"Occurs over the Pacific Ocean
All the other Venus occultations of Jupiter have similar restrictions

When the Magi saw that star, they knew that was what they'd been looking for, and so they set off to find the "King of the Jews" that had been born. We're not talking three guys on camels, though - we're talking an entourage - with lots of people, including guards capable of fighting.

But, if they followed the star west - and the Venus/Jupiter conjunction had only lasted a couple hours, what were they following? They were following Jupiter as it moved westward through the sky. When they came to Jerusalem, they lost sight of it for a time - but when they left Jerusalem, they were filled with joy to see it ahead of them, exactly above the road to Bethlehem. So, what did it mean when it "stopped" over Bethlehem? It went into retrograde motion again, and did literally stop.

Here are a couple of articles on the Magi:
     Who were the Magi? By Chuck Missler
     Who were the Magi? Grace to You from John MacArthur

Be sure and check out the written study at There's also this video on the same subject, by the same folks:

Here's the direct link, in case you can't see that:

So, what's the point of all this? That God DOES use the stars as signs, and that He is about to use the same part of the sky as a sign again.  To keep this from being terribly long, I'll continue in one last post.

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