A Sign For The Times

is the Zodiac in the Bible? What about astrology? Maybe what Revelation speaks of isn’t what we have been taught after all.

He couldn’t believe what he saw. As he looked into the night sky he could make out a storm building in the north. Within this storm, he saw the likeness of metallic lighting and fire that burned in its core. But that’s not even touching the surface of what makes the visions shown to Ezekiel so impressive. No, that trophy would go to the living creatures with wings that stretched one to another as they hovered adjacent to their own large wheel that touched down upon the earth. Each one described as a “wheel within a wheel”.

If you listened to our last episode, or if you enjoy reading the stranger corners of the Bible, you would already be aquatinted with this story. It is by and large one of the more puzzling accounts we find ourselves attempting to decipher as we progress through the scripture. But more than that, it offers us a glimpse into a world that had a deeper respect for the sky that covers us overhead. After all, Ezekiel had been spending quite a bit of time in Chaldea: a land ruled by the stars and who followed their patterns quite closely. 

Throughout the Bible, we have accounts of God-fearing men and women looking into the night’s sky and having visions of prophetic instances God revealed to His people. And while I do not doubt for one minute that God was tugging at Ezekiel’s heartstrings to stir up His nation, I like to look just a bit deeper. You see, we always address the why but hardly ever look at the how. And in my mind, God did not throw Ezekiel into some holy trance and show him his latest angelic creation, no I believe God speaks a bit more subtle than that. What I think Ezekiel was witnessing was something a bit more cosmic; something that was written in the stars.

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What Ezekiel saw that night sounds terrifying to say the least, but I’d like to take some time to unpack this and demystify a few practices along the way.

Educated people in Biblical times were masters at reading the stars. The Babylonians built an observatory in the center of their city to draw closer to the heavens, map the sky, and attempt to decipher their secrets. In Persia, the Zoroastrian magicians watched the stars to predict seasonal shifts and map history. And in my opinion, Ezekiel was doing something similar which lead him to the Devine revelation that plays out through the rest of his book. Oh, and this practice has a name: Astrology.

Now, don’t freak out on me just yet. This isn’t some form of astral alignement chart that supposedly dictates your compatibility with the person who might be giving you passing glances this evening at your local watering hole. And yes, I know all the Bible verses that supposedly forbid astrology. But let me take a second to clear the air.

The word we translate into “astrology” is the Hebrew word, ‘ashshaph. This word doesn’t just mean the practice of astrology but rather, using the stars as a form of divination. So if you are looking to the stars to find your long lost soul mate or to see if that big investment is going to pay off, sorry mate, you might be barking up the wrong tree. But the other side of Astrology is still being used to this day. As a matter of fact, you’ve probably already partaken in it before you left your house. Because Astrology is also the study of the positions of celestial bodies to calculate a calendrical system or to tell time. This is the same system people have been using to navigate the open seas since humans carved out a tree and shoved it in the water.

So no, astrology isn’t all bad. As a matter of fact, it is all around us. And biblically God reveals Himself in the heavens as well. In Genesis 1:14 we find the very creation of the heavens where God is quoted as saying, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years,”. And then we have the account in Amos where he declares, “He who made the Pleiades and Orion, who turns midnight into dawn and darkens day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out over the face of the land— the LORD is his name”. In the book of Job, we actually find a handful of accounts where Job declares the mighty works of God as he assembled the constellations. See, even God’s humble servant Job acknowledged the zodiac.Which, to tie this all together, is what I believe Ezekiel was referencing in his vision from God.

In order for any of this to make sense, we first have to take a look at what Ezekiel claims to have seen. In this order, he saw: a storm in the sky, four living creatures with four faces, each one with wings that stretched out to touch one another, and they each sparkled like burnished bronze. He goes on to describe how each of their legs were out straight and each one went straight forward when it moved and never turned. Each of the creatures faces were that of a human at the top, a lion on the right, an ox on the left, and an eagle to the bottom. Then of course, we come to the wheel within the wheel that was composed of eyes in between the rims.

This is quite the spectacle but to someone educated in astrology, it honestly makes way more sense than our haphazard attempts to transform every biblical narrative into a literal experience. Starting with the wheel: have you ever looked at a zodiac dial? it’s devided into twelve segments, each containing a constellation. As a matter of fact, it looks a lot like the rim of a chariot except in between each spoke there lies a constellation. And what does a cluster of stars look like? Well, it looks a lot like a bunch of eyes if you think about it. And if that blew your mind, just wait.

If you look at a compass, you will see that there are four cardinal directions: North, South, East, and West. Within the zodiac, there are also four cardinal signs; each one spaced evenly around the dial to show a yearly calendar. On the first day of Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring, the sun will pass into that respective sign. And what are those signs might you ask? Well, that would be the signs Aquarius, Leo, Taurus, and Scorpio, which just so happens to be symbolized as a man, a lion, a bull, and an eagle. And yes I know most people associate scorpio with a scorpion but in Babylonian tradition, the sign, scorpio was represented as a scorpion if it was said to be bad and an eagle if it was good. This aligns perfectly with our living creatures Ezekiel mentions.

To take it one step further, you can even look at the wings on the creatures and how each one touched, just as how there are who signs to both sides of each of the cardinal signs before reaching the next. Does any of this mean God didn’t speak to Ezekiel? Well, not exactly. But what it does mean is that God revealed Himself to Ezekiel through His creation and if we look a bit further, we will soon realize this wasn’t the first time God used the heavens to show His plans. And it for sure wasn’t the last.

Most of us have no idea what it would be like to be exiled to die in isolation. But what seems like a nightmare was the reality John the Apostle had found himself in. The Roman Emperor, Dometian was on a crusade to cool the coals of Christianity before they got enough oxygen to ignite and John, being a figurehead for the gospel’s propagation was a prime target. They needed him silenced and since trying to boil him alive in a vat of scalding oil didn’t do the trick they were left with only one real choice: to ship him off where no one could hear his message.

Of course, this was seemingly all part of God’s plan. Patmos served as the perfect place to get John away from the noise to hear the voice of God. And on one fateful day, he not only heard a voice, he received a vision that he was instructed to write down and send out to the seven churches. Jesus, the savior of humanity was coming back and this was something everyone needed to know. So John began scribbling down what was revealed to him and thanks to his writings, we now have the final book of the Bible.

Revelation is a unique text. Most of the new testament is either a historical account of events, commands for the structure and propagation of Christ’s church, or a fulfillment of Old Testament laws – but Revelation is different. Like the prophets of old, John had been given a vision, like a video played out in his mind’s eye to proclaim what was to come. Unlike historical accounts or commandments, visions come with a certain level of mysteriousness; not because they aren’t truthful but because they are an interpretation of what a single individual saw. There is only comparisons and allegory. It’s like me trying to explain to you Van Gogh’s Starry Night” without you having ever seen it. I could describe to you the swirling navy skies and dollops of yellowish light. I might even compare the towering structure in the foreground to the likeness of a vine or blades of grass waving in the wind as it fills your view masking a village below. This is all fine, but it is nothing more than a description of a true image. A mere copy of a copy in which my expressions are the foundation for your imagination. This is exactly what we have here as John writes what he saw.

It’s my belief that much of what John witnessed that night was not a literal telling of what was to happen here on earth, but more a “sign for the times” so to speak. Just as Genesis 1 proclaims the heavens to be symbols of the seasons here we have on the complete opposite end a fulfillment of that very idea.

It is important to remember that John was a fisherman by trade. And fisherman, among many other professions, were experts at looking into the heavens to predict what was about to come. Have you ever heard the adage, “red sky at night, sailers delight. Red sky in morning, sailers take warning”? The life a fisherman wasn’t the safest of professions to claim and observations like this could be the difference between life or death. So it is no surprise that John would have an extensive understanding of the stars, their positioning for navigational purposes, and even what they meant. That’s why, at least within the confines of the perspective we are looking at today, it is very probable the events in Revelation were less “God’s creepy home movies” and more “Van Gogh’s Starry Night”.

In Revelation chapter 4, we see a strikingly similar portrayal of the living creatures we previously mentioned in Ezekiel. This time, instead of a wheel within a wheel, we see a throne positioned directly in between the creatures, one facing each of the cardinal directions. Sound familiar? These creatures are said to be made entirely of eyes which once again sounds a lot like stars to me. And then there is the ancient belief that the Sun is a symbol of the creator, which also happens to be a huge misconception in Christian teachings by the way. No, most ancient religions did not worship the sun, they saw the sun as a symbol for the Devine creator. And of course, if you look in the center of the zodiac dial you will find none other than the sun, sitting on its throne between all the creatures of the heavens.

Just a verse or two down, we are introduced to the twenty-four elders. Each one casting their respective crowns down to the feet of Jesus as the beasts cry Holy, Holy, Holy. But if this were literal it would pose a couple of problems. I mean, how do these elders keep getting crowns? Do they pick them up and throw them again? Are they growing new ones? Or maybe the crowns aren’t actual crowns at all. Maybe they are stars. And maybe these elders are representations of time itself, each one signifying one of the twenty four hours of the day. As each hour sets it bows down casting its division of the zodiac, those crowning stars down to the creator who is the center of all. And the cycle continues for all of time itself. Every day reveals a new aspect of God to worship. Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God almighty who was and is and is to come.

And then we have all the jewels and colors around the throne itself. The one who sat on the throne had the appearance of Jasper and Carnelian, both gems which have symbolic ties to the astrological signs, Leo and Taurus. And then we see a rainbow that radiated green like an emerald. This could be a reference to the planet, Mercury which is symbolized in ancient astrology as an emerald and also happens to be the fastest orbiting planet around the sun. In Greek mythology, Mercury was even known as the “messenger of the Gods”. Seems fitting.

And then we come to the Son of man pouring out his spirit upon the earth as eternally captured by the sign, Aquarius, the man pouring out water from his never ending pitcher. And all this is fitting, being that here we are, now officially in the age of Aquarius, where we will be for the next 2,100 years or so.

What we have discussed today is just the tip of the celestial iceberg. We haven’t even began to touch the possible explanations for the beast, the harlot, the witnesses, or much else of what Revelation contains. And that will have to be a conversation for another day.

The interwoven existence of the stars and their rolls played upon our lives is at this point native to us. They are what dictates every hour that ticks by, every date on our calendars, and even some of our religious experiences. We will visit this more on our next episode where we will be talking about how an astrological anomaly and a group of astrologers validated the birth of Jesus Christ.

We so often fear what we don’t understand. When we use terms like “astrology” and “zodiac” we often first associate those things as taboo. But how many of us have walked outside and asked God to show us a shooting star just to prove He’s listening. And while that might seem a bit silly, maybe even childish to us now, it’s not outside the realm of possibility. Even in Revelation chapter 1 when Jesus appeared to John He told him that He held the stars in His hands and they were a representation of what He was about to show him. It seems that asking God for a shooting star might just be one of His favorite ways to reveal himself after all.

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