What is happening at the present time is commanding the intense interest of everyone everywhere. Rulers and statesmen in high office are watching what is already happening in the world, and they fear what will come next. The world is already in a terrible crisis, so what will be in the future? Who will lift the veil that keeps people in the dark, despite the advancement of knowledge made in the twentieth century? Does anyone know what tomorrow will bring and how it will affect each person?
The limited reasoning powers of mortals have always striven to understand the works of the Eternal One. To the most learned and cultured, as well as to the foolish and ignorant, the Supreme One and His actions are mysterious, particularly within the human realm. Therefore, no one should doubt the word of God, for it explains the mysteries of every action and interaction. The existence of God, His character, and the truthfulness of His word are supported by abundant evidence that reaches the mind of every thinking individual.
The holy Bible presents the truth in such a simple, clear way that it fulfills men’s needs and amazes and delights the minds of scholars, while showing the way of life to those who are not well educated. The sublime, infinite mysteries appeal to human reason and inspire veneration and faith in those who seriously search the source of truth.
The “Book of books” is the oldest, most extensive history that humanity possesses. That revelation came from the Creator of eternal truth (John 5:39), and the divine hand has preserved it in its purity for all time. In that holy word, God lifts the veil so that man can see above and through all the fabric and interweaving of human interest, power, and affection, the hand of the All-Merciful, who calmly, patiently executes the counsel of His will. The history that the great “I Am” has written in His word tells us where we are in the course of time and what we can expect hereafter. It also reveals an exact picture of our days. The series of events that it presents reveals the final scenes of the earth’s history–events that cast a shadow over every human endeavor, causing men’s hearts to tremble with fear.
What we see shows that we are on the brink of solemn, earth-shaking events. Right before our eyes, prophecies connected to Christ’s second coming are being fulfilled, urging mankind to cling all the more to the prophetic word, “whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.” 2 Peter 1:19.
This much-despised element of God’s word, as in the days of Noah (Genesis 6), Abraham (Genesis 18:7), Daniel (Daniel 9), and the early Christians, penetrates the darkness that envelops humanity and dispels unbelief. Isaiah 60:1-12. We, too, will do well to pay attention to this great beacon so we are not taken as prisoners of the kingdom of darkness. “… What shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world?” Matthew 24:3. This question of His disciples led Jesus to list the events and situations that would be seen by the last generation and to proclaim what would precede the end of this earth’s history of sin and its results.
The Lisbon earthquake
In fulfillment of the Saviour’s powerful prophecy, the most frightening earthquake occurred in 1755. Although generally referred to as the Lisbon earthquake, its impact reached most of Europe, Africa, and America. It was felt in Greenland, in the Antilles, on the island of Madera, in Norway, in Sweden, in Great Britain, and in Ireland, covering at least 6.2 million square miles. Its shocks were almost as violent in Africa as in Europe. Much of Algiers was destroyed; and a short distance from Morocco, a town of eight to ten thousand people disappeared into the abyss. An enormous tsunami swept the coasts of Spain and Africa, submerging cities and causing great destruction.
Spain and Portugal took the brunt of the violence. In Cadiz, the wall of water reached nearly sixty feet. Some mountains, “being some of the largest in Portugal, were impetuously shaken, as it were from their very foundations; and some of them opened at their summits, which were split and rent in a wonderful manner, huge masses of them being thrown down into the subjacent valleys. Flames are related to have issued from these mountains,…”
In Lisbon “A sound of thunder was heard underground, and immediately afterwards a violent shock threw down the greater part of that city. In the course of about six minutes, sixty thousand persons perished. The sea first retired and laid the bar dry; it then rolled in, rising fifty feet above its ordinary level….
“The most extraordinary circumstance which occurred at Lisbon during the catastrophe, was the subsidence of a new quay, built entirely of marble, at an immense expense.
A great concourse of people had collected there for safety, as a spot where they might be beyond the reach of falling ruins; but suddenly the quay sank down with all the people on it, and not one of the dead bodies ever floated to the surface.” –Sir Charles Lyell, Principles of Geology, in The World’s Best Essays, from the Earliest Period to the Present Time, by vol. 7, by David Josiah Brewer, p. 2695.
“‘The shock’ of the earthquake ‘was instantly followed by the fall of every church and convent, almost all the large public buildings, and more than one fourth of the houses. In about two hours after the shock, fires broke out in different quarters, and raged with such violence for the space of nearly three days, that the city was completely desolated. The earthquake happened on a holyday, when the churches and convents were full of people, very few of whom escaped.’ –Encyclopedia Americana, art. ‘Lisbon’ note (ed. 1831). ‘The terror of the people was beyond description. Nobody wept; it was beyond tears. They ran hither and thither, delirious with horror and astonishment, beating their faces and breasts, crying, “Misericordia! the world’s at an end!” Mothers forgot their children, and ran about loaded with crucifixed images. Unfortunately, many ran to the churches for protection; but in vain was the sacrament exposed; in vain did the poor creatures embrace the altars; images, priests, and people were buried in one common ruin.’ It has been estimated that ninety thousand persons lost their lives on that fatal day.” –The Great Controversy, p. 305.
The Dark Day
Christ mentioned the signs in heaven and on earth, which Joel wrote about in chapter 2:30, 31–“blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke”–and told when they would come. “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.” Matthew 24:29, 30.
Christians were severely persecuted during the Dark Ages in 1773 by the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). The Saviour’s words of prophecy were fulfilled, and history records the signs that occurred in nature: “In the Saviour’s conversation with His disciples upon Olivet, after describing the long period of trial for the church– the 1260 years of papal persecution, concerning which He had promised that the tribulation should be shortened–He thus mentioned certain events to precede His coming, and fixed the time when the first of these should be witnessed: ‘In those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light.’ Mark 13:24. The 1,260 days, or years, terminated in 1798. A quarter of a century earlier, persecution had almost wholly ceased. Following this persecution, according to the words of Christ, the sun was to be darkened. On the 19th of May, 1780, this prophecy was fulfilled.
“‘Almost, if not altogether alone, as the most mysterious and as yet unexplained phenomenon of its kind,… stands the dark day of May 19, 1780–a most unaccountable darkening of the whole visible heavens and atmosphere in New England.’ –R.M. Devens, Our First Century, page 89….
“The intense darkness of the day was succeeded, an hour or two before evening, by a partially clear sky, and the sun appeared, though it was still obscured by the black, heavy mist. ‘After sundown, the clouds came again overhead, and it grew dark very fast.’ ‘Nor was the darkness of the night less uncommon and terrifying than that of the day; notwithstanding there was almost a full moon, no object was discernible but by the help of some artificial light,…–The Great Controversy, pp. 305-307.
“The description of this event, as given by eyewitnesses, is but an echo of the words of the Lord, recorded by the prophet Joel, twenty-five hundred years previous to their fulfillment: ‘The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come.’ Joel 2:31.
“Christ had bidden His people watch for the signs of His advent and rejoice as they should behold the tokens of their coming King.” –The Great Controversy, pp. 305-308.
“Dark Day, The, May 19, 1780, so called on account of a remarkable darkness on that day, extending over all New England. In some places, persons could not see to read common print in the open air for several hours together…. The true cause of this remarkable phenomenon is not known.” –Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, in Explanatory and Pronouncing Vocabulary, art. Dark Day (Bible Readings for the Home Circle, p. 39).
Regarding Revelation 6:12, Dr. Joseph A. Seiss, in his work The Apocalypse: An Exposition of the Book of Revelation, p. 153, says the following: “On the 19th of May, 1780, a wonderfully dark day was experienced throughout the northeastern portion of this country. The witnesses of it have described it as supernatural and unaccountable. It was not an ordinary eclipse, for the moon was nearly at the full. It was not owing to a clouded condition of the atmosphere, for the stars were visible. Yet it was so dark from nine o’clock in the morning throughout the usual hours of sunshine, that work had to be suspended, houses had to be lit with candles, the beasts and fowls went to their rest as in the nighttime. And though the sun was visible, it had the appearance of being shorn of all its power of illumination.”
Regarding the inability of scientists to explain this phenomenon, the famous astronomer Herschel said: “The dark day in Northern America was one of those wonderful phenomena of nature which will always be read with interest, but which philosophy is at a loss to explain.” –Ellet J. Waggoner, Prophetic Lights: Some of the Prominent Prophecies of the Old and New Testaments, p. 124.
“‘The night succeeding that day (May 19, 1780) was of such pitchy darkness that in some instances horses could not be compelled to leave the stable when wanted for service.’ –Stone’s History of Beverly (Massachusetts)
“The darkness of the night was supernatural as that of the previous day, from the fact, as stated by Dr. Adams, that ‘the moon had fulled the day before.’” – Bible Readings for the Home Circle, p. 39.
Falling of the stars
“The stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.” Matthew 24:29. “In 1833,… the last of the signs appeared which were promised by the Saviour as tokens of His second advent. Said Jesus: ‘The stars shall fall from heaven.’ Matthew 24:29.
And John in the Revelation declared, as he beheld in vision the scenes that should herald the day of God: ‘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.’ Revelation 6:13. This prophecy received a striking and impressive fulfillment in the great meteoric shower of November 13, 1833. That was the most extensive and wonderful display of falling stars which has ever been recorded; ‘the whole firmament, over all the United States, being then, for hours, in fiery commotion! No celestial phenomenon has ever occurred in this country, since its first settlement, which was viewed with such intense admiration by one class in the community, or with so much dread and alarm by another.’ ‘Its sublimity and awful beauty still linger in many minds…. Never did rain fall much thicker than the meteors fell toward the earth; east, west, north, and south, it was the same. In a word, the whole heavens seemed in motion…. The display, as described in Professor Silliman’s Journal, was seen all over North America…. From two o’clock until broad daylight, the sky being perfectly serene and cloudless, an incessant play of dazzlingly brilliant luminosities was kept up in the whole heavens.’ –R.M. Devens, American Progress; or, The Great Events of the Greatest Century, ch. 28, pars. 1-5 (The Great Controversy, pp. 332, 333).
This was the last of the signs of His coming about which Jesus said to His disciples: “… When ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.” Matthew 24:33.
“After these signs, John beheld, as the great event next impending, the heavens departing as a scroll, while the earth quaked, mountains and islands removed out of their places, and the wicked in terror sought to flee from the presence of the Son of man. Revelation 6:12-17.” –The Great Controversy, p. 334.
The greatest meteoric shower occurred in North America in 1833, and in 1866 a similar phenomenon occurred in Europe as well, thus giving a warning to millions of people. All of these phenomena were considered signs that God’s great day was soon to come. Some said that the final judgment had come; others, that the end of the world was near. The celebrated astronomer and meteorologist, Professor Denison Olmstead, of Yale College, recorded that almost everywhere, as early as 11 p.m., the meteor shower began to attract the people’s attention; their number and brightness increased until 4 a.m., at which time they began to decrease, disappearing completely in the daylight. The meteorites did not fly haphazardly in the heavens but seemed to come from a certain point next to the star “Gama (Leonid),” in the curvature of the “sickle.” The shower spread over much of the land and was visible from a line located in the middle of the Atlantic, in the East, to the Pacific Ocean, in the West; and from the northern coast of South America to northern regions of the British, with the very same characteristics everywhere. It should be called a celestial phenomenon.
On the night of November 12, 13, 1832, shooting stars and balls of fire were observed in Switzerland and France. Coming from the constellation “Alpha Leonis,” 34,640 stars were seen in a single hour coming from a height and distance that showed them to be cosmic, non- terrestrial bodies.
J. Kelber’s work Viene el fin contains 24 different phenomena occurring in Europe. A celestial event was described as taking place on November 25, 1833, that was visible everywhere. “It was believed to be masses of fire, falling like clouds from the sky.” Horses reared in the streets, and many inhabitants of the place were terrified, some kneeling down to pray, while others were overcome by sudden illness. The brightness was so extraordinary that the eye could not bear to look at it. It was followed by several claps of thunder.
A number of books published in that era described various phenomena that were considered the fulfillment of prophecy. Professor Höpfner of the University of Leipzig wrote a Biblical contemplation called Heavenly Signs in 1831 and 1832. In addition, Jakob Warnelaut edited a book called Vergleichungen der Zeichen unserer Zeit mit biblischen Weissagungen vom Antichrist (Comparisons of the Signs of Our Time with Biblical Prophecies of the Antichrist). In his interpretation of Matthew 24, published in 1843, Silvestre Bliss says (retranslated): “Thus the great signs and frightening phenomena prophesied in the Holy Scriptures seem verified in connection with what the Saviour says would precede His coming. Just as the buds of the tree announce the coming of summer, so the Christians recognize in the fulfilling signs that ‘the coming of Christ is near.’ Matthew 24:32- 34.”
Actually, at the time of the end, as Daniel the prophet called the time of the last generation (Daniel 8:17), God touched the hearts of men through the powerful messages of numerous phenomena in nature.
After the revival and reformation that came about in the sixteenth century, formalism arose. The fear of God and living faith died. As in the days of Noah, “surfeiting and drunkenness” dominated society, along with the desire for pleasure. Luke 21:34-36. “… The day of the Lord is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?” God therefore announced ahead of time that the great and terrible day of the Saviour’s coming is near; only in this way can men know about and prepare for that magnificent event. Joel 2:11.
By Carlos Kozel
Source: Sabbath Watchman