Heralds of the Judgment
As the time of the papal persecutions were coming to
an end, the prophecies of Matthew 24, by our Lord, concerning the moon
and the sun and the stars commenced their fulfillment just as He had
told His disciples they would. Thousands recognized these as the
harbingers of the judgment and second advent and began to preach the
soon return of our Lord Jesus Christ. It was these events that were most
responsible for the great religious awakening of the late eighteenth and
early nineteenth centuries.
"Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall
the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
¶Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:
" Matthew 24:29-30
"And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.
And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;"
"The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining:
And the LORD shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great: for he is strong that executeth his word: for the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?... And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The
sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come.
And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call."
"Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of
Ophir. Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the LORD of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger."
Sign #1: November 1, 1755,
"Lo, there was a great earthquake."
Source: Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica (1961
ed.), Vol. 7, p. 848.
Probably the most famous of all earthquakes is that
which destroyed Lisbon on Nov. 1, 1755. There were three great
earthquakes (the first was the largest) at 9:40 A.M., 10 A.M. and at
noon. The main shock lasted six to seven minutes, an unusually long
duration. Within six minutes at least 30,000 people were killed, all
large public buildings and 12,000 dwellings were demolished. It was a
church day, and great loss of life occurred in the churches. A fire
followed which burned for six days. A marble quay at the riverside
disappeared into the river bottom laden with people. Alexander von
Humboldt stated that the total area shaken was four times that of
Source: G. A. Eiby, About Earthquakes (New York:
Harper, 1957), pp. 141, 142.
By far the most spectacular earthquake of earlier
times was that of Lisbon, in 1755. This has some claim to be regarded as
the greatest earthquake on record. If it is possible to believe reports,
the felt area, which was certainly more than 700 miles in radius,
extended from the Azores to Italy, and from England to North Africa. A
source of confusion in the reports of this shock, which makes it
difficult to judge the real extent of the felt area, was the widespread
occurrence of seiches,...wave movements in ponds and lakes....
Oscillations of this kind were observed in France,
Italy, Holland, Switzerland, and England, and reports of the movements
even came from Norway and Sweden, at a distance of nearly 1800 miles
from the epicentre. In those countries, however, the shock was certainly
In 1755, the damage to Lisbon itself was very great.
At that time, the city had about 230,000 inhabitants, nearly 30,000 of
whom were killed, according to conservative estimates. Great numbers of
people were in the churches, for it was All Saints’ Day, and the time
of the first Mass. The shock was followed by a tsunami (tidal wave:)
about twenty feet in height, and by fire.
The disaster shocked all Europe, and the moralists
and the wiseacres were not slow to make capital of it.
Sign #2: May 19, 1780,
"And the sun became black as sackcloth of hair."
Source: The Boston Gazette and the Country
Journal, May 29, 1780, p. 4.
About eleven o’clock the darkness was such as to
demand our attention, and put us upon making observations. At half past
eleven, in a room with three windows, 24 panes each, all open towards
the south-east and south, large print could not be read by persons of
good eyes. About twelve o’clock the windows being still open, a candle
cast a shade so well defined on the wall, as that profiles were taken
with as much ease as they could have been in the night. About one
o’clock a glint of light which had continued ‘till this time in the
east, shut in, and the darkness was greater than it had been for any
time before, Between one and two o’clock, the wind from the west
freshened a little, and a glint appeared in that quarter. We dined about
two the windows all open, and two candles burning on the table. In the
time of the greatest darkness some of the dunghill fowls went to their
roost: Cocks crowed in answer to one another as they commonly do in the
night: Woodcocks, which are night birds, whistled as they do only in the
dark: Frogs peeped. In short, there was the appearance of midnight at
Source: Samuel Williams (a Harvard professor),
Memoirs of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences: to the End of the
Year 1783 (Boston: Adams and Nourse, 1785), Vol. 1. pp. 234, 235.
[p. 234] People were unable to read common print to
determine the time of day by their [p. 235] clocks or watches dine or
manage their domestic business, without the light of candles. In some
places, the darkness was so great, that persons could not see to read
common print in the open air, for several hours together.
Source: Timothy Dwight, quoted in Connecticut
Historical Collections, compiled by John Warner Barber (2d ed.; New
Haven: Durrie & Peck and J. W. Barber, 1836), p. 403.
The 19th of May, 1780, was a remarkable
dark day. Candles were lighted in many houses; the birds were silent and
disappeared, and the fouls retired to roost. The legislature of
Connecticut was then in session at Hartford. A very general opinion
prevailed, that the day of judgment was at hand. The House of
Representatives, being unable to transact their business, adjourned. A
proposal to adjourn the council was under consideration. When the
opinion of Colonel [Abraham] Davenport was asked, he answered, "I
am against an adjournment. The day of judgment is either approaching, or
it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for an adjournment: if it is,
I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish therefore that candles may be
Source: John Greenleaf Whittier, "Abraham
Davenport," in his Complete Poetical Works (Cambridge ed.; Boston:
Houghton, 1894), p. 260.
‘Twas on a May-day of the far old year
hundred eighty, that there fell
Over the bloom and sweet life of the
Over the fresh earth and the heaven of noon,
A horror of great
Men prayed, and women wept; all ears grew sharp
hear the doom-blast of the trumpet shatter
The black sky, that the
dreadful face of Christ
Might look from the rent clouds, not as he
A loving guest at Bethany, but stern
As Justice and inexorable
Meanwhile in the old State House, dim as ghosts, sat
the lawgivers of Connecticut,
Trembling beneath their legislative robes.
"It is the Lord’s Great Day! Let us adjourn,"
Some said; and
then, as if with one accord,
All eyes were turned to Abraham Davenport.
He rose, slow cleaving with his steady voice
The intolerable hush.
"This well may be The Day of Judgment which the world awaits;
be it so or not, I only know
My present duty, and my Lord’s command
occupy till He come.
So at the post
Where He hath set me in His
I choose, for one, to meet Him face to face,
servant frightened from my task,
But ready when the Lord of the harvest
And therefore, with all reverence, I would say,
Let God do His
work, we will see to ours.
Bring in the candles."
Source: Discourse by eyewitness Elam Potter,
delivered May 28, 1780, in Enfield, Conn., quoted in The Advent Herald,
March 13, 1844, p. 46.
Perhaps some, by assigning a natural cause of this,
ascribing it to the thick vapor in the air, will endeavor to evade the
force of its being a sign, but, the same objection will lie against
earthquakes being signs which our Lord expressly mentions as such. For
my part, I really consider the darkness as one of the prodigies foretold
in the text; designed for our admonition, and warning.
[Note: Any suggestion of a natural cause can in
no wise militate against the significance of the event as a
prophetic fulfillment. The time-honored explanation is that
seventeen and a half centuries before it occurred, the Saviour had
definitely foretold this twofold sign saying, "In those days,
after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon
shall not give her light" (Mark 13:24); and these signs
occurred exactly as predicted and at the time indicated so long
before their occurrence. It has long been pointed out that it is the
fact, and not the cause, of the darkness that is significant in this
connection; as also in the case of earthquakes, falling stars, and
other events seen as signs of the times. When the Lord would open a
path for his people through the sea, he did it by "a strong
east wind." Ex. 14:21. Was it for this reason any less
miraculous? In like manner, to account for the remarkable darkening
of the sun and moon or of the falling of the stars as events in
nature is not to discredit them as merciful signs of the approaching
end of probationary time.]
Sign #3: May 19, 1780,
"And the moon became as blood."
Source: Benjamin Gorton, A View of Spiritual, or
Anti-typical Babylon (Troy [N.Y.]: the Author, 1808), p. 73.
The second is that of the moon’s turning to blood;
this I have not seen, but, from information, I have reason to believe it
did take place between 2 o’clock and day break in the morning of the
same night after which the sun was darkened, which was said to appear as
a clotter of blood; and it is the more probable, as that night, before
the moon appeared, was as dark, in proportion, as the day, and of course
would give the moon an extraordinary appearance-not suffering her to
give her light.
Source: News item from Providence, R.I., dated
May 20, in The Pennsylvania Evening Post (Philadelphia), June 6, 1780,
[Note: This news dispatch refers to a red moon in
certain areas for a three day period.]
Sign #4: November 13, 1833,
"And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree
casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind."
Source: Denison Olmsted, "Observations on
the Meteors of November 13th, 1833," The American
Journal of Science and Arts, 25 ([Jan.?] 1834), 363, 365, 366, 386, 393,
[p. 363] The morning of November 13th,
1833, was rendered memorable by an exhibition of the phenomenon called
SHOOTING STARS, which was probably more extensive and magnificent than
any similar one hitherto recorded. . . .
Probably no celestial phenomenon has ever occurred in
this country, since its first settlement, which was viewed with so much
admiration and delight by one class of spectators, or with so much
astonishment and fear by another class. . . .
[p. 365] The reader may imagine a constant succession
of fire balls, resembling sky rockets, radiating in all directions from
a point in the heavens, a few degrees south-east of the zenith, and
following the arch of the sky towards the horizon. . . . The balls, as
they travelled down the vault, usually left after them a vivid streak of
light, and just before they disappeared, exploded, or suddenly resolved
themselves into smoke. No report or noise of any kind was observed,
although we listened attentively. . . .
The flashes of light, although less intense than
lightning, were so bright as to awaken people in their beds. One ball
that shot off in the north-west direction, and explo- [p. 366] ded a
little northward of the star Capella, left, just behind the place of
explosion, a phosphorescent train of peculiar beauty. . . .
[p. 386] The meteors began to attract notice by their
unusual frequency or brilliancy, from nine to twelve o’clock in the
evening, were most striking in their appearance, from two to five,
arrived at their maximum, in many places, about four o’clock, and
continued till rendered invisible by the light of day
Source: Peter M. Millman, "The Falling of
the Stars," The Telescope, 7 (May-June, 1940), 57.
To understand the use of the word shower in
connection with shooting stars we must go back to the early morning
hours of Nov. 13, 1833, when the inhabitants of this continent [of North
America] were in fact treated to one of the most spectacular natural
displays that the night sky has produced. . . . For nearly four hours
the sky was literally ablaze . . . . More than a billion shooting stars
appeared over the United States and Canada alone.
Source: Denison Olmsted, Letters on Astronomy,
Addressed to a Lady: in Which The Elements of the Science Are Familiarly
Explained in Connexion With Its Literary History (1840 ed.), pp. 348,
The shower pervaded nearly the whole of North
America, having appeared in nearly equal splendor from the British
possessions on the north to the West-India Islands and Mexico on the
South, and from sixty-one degrees of longitude east of the American
coast, quite to the Pacific Ocean on the west. Throughout this immense
region, the duration was nearly the same.
Source: J. T. Buckingham, "The Meteoric
Shower," The New-England Magazine, 6 (Jan.-June, 1834), 47, 48.
Neither language, nor the pencil, can adequately
picture the grandeur and magnificence of the scene. . . . It may be
doubted, whether any description has surpassed, in accuracy and
impressiveness, that of the old negro in Virginia, who remarked "It
is awful, indeed, sir, it looked like ripe crab-apples falling from the
trees, when shaking them for cider."
Source: Garrick Mallery, "Picture-Writing of
the American Indians," [U.S.] Bureau of Ethnology. Tenth Annual
Report . . . to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1888-‘89
(Washington: Government Printing Office, 1893), p. 723. Garrick Mallery,
"Picture-Writing of the American Indians," [U.S.] Bureau of
Ethnology. Tenth Annual Report . . . to the Secretary of the Smithsonian
Institution, 1888-‘89 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1893),
The five winter counts [chronological records in
picture writing naming each year (winter) by an outstanding event] next
cited all undoubtedly refer to the magnificent meteoric display of the
morning of November 13, 1833, which was witnessed throughout North
America and which was correctly assigned to the winter corresponding
with that of 1833-‘34. All of them represent stars having four points,
except The-Swan, who draws a globular object followed by a linear track.
Fig. 1219. It rained stars. Cloud-Shield’s Winter
Count, 1833-‘34. White-Cow-Killer calls it "Plenty-stars
Fig. 1220. The stars moved around. American-Horse’s
Winter Count, 1833-‘34. This shows one large four-pointed star as the
characterizing object and many small stars, also four-pointed.
Fig. 1221. Many stars fell. The Flame’s Winter
Count, 1833-‘34. The character shows six stars above the concavity of
Fig. 1222. Dakotas witnessed magnificent meteoric
showers; much terrified. The- Swan’s Winter Count, 1833-‘34.
Battiste Good calls it "Storm-of-stars
winter," and gives as the device a tipi with stars falling around
it. This is presented in Fig. 1223.
Source: Frederick Douglass, Life and Times of
Frederick Douglass (New York: Pathway Press, 1941), p. 117. (Original
I witnessed this gorgeous spectacle, and was
awe-struck. The air seemed filled with bright descending messengers from
the sky. It was about daybreak when I saw this sublime scene. I was not
without the suggestion, at the moment, that it might be the harbinger of
the coming of the Son of Man; and in my then state of mind I was
prepared to hail Him as my friend and deliverer. I had read that the
"stars shall fall from heaven," and they were now falling.
We now stand between verses 13 and 14 of Revelation
chapter 6. The next event to occur is the end of the world (verses
of Contents] [Previous]