Heavenly Signs

Wonders Fulfilling Scripture Predictions

     Of the use that was made, both in England and America, of these wonders seen in the heavens, we may learn by reading from the Exposition of the Twenty-fourth of Matthew, by Sylvester Bliss, published in Boston in 1843. After quoting some of the above accounts, he says:-  

     "Thus the 'great signs' and 'fearful sights' that are predicted in the Scriptures of truth, seem to be all fulfilled, as well as those which the Saviour declared should precede his coming.  

     "As sure as the leaving out of the trees is an indication of summer, just so sure, on the fulfillment of these signs, are Christians to know that the coming of Christ is near, even at the doors. It is not a mere permission to know it, but our Saviour commands them to know it." 5

1905 JNL, GSAM 117

Wonders in the Heavens

     The Lord through the prophet Joel says: "I will show 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 terrible day of the Lord come." 4 The Adventists believed and taught that the aurora borealis of the last centuries (commonly called northern lights) was the "fire and pillars of smoke" that meets the specification of the prophet; and from the best information to be obtained from history (we refer to the Edinburg Encyclopedia as testimony), it had rarely been seen previous to this period.  

     So, while the message of the Lord's speedy coming was going to the remotest parts of the earth, signs were hung out in the heavens which gave edge to the truth, and arrested the attention of the people 

     On Jan. 25, 1837, there was a most magnificent display of the fiery aurora borealis, which seemed to lead the minds of many directly to the prophet Joel's prediction of what was to precede the great day of the Lord. The following description of the scene is from the New York Commercial Advertiser of Oct. 22, 1839. It agrees exactly with the scene as the writer witnessed it in Victor, Ontario County, N.Y.  

The Fiery Aurora of 1837

     "On the evening of Jan. 25, 1837, there was a remarkable exhibition of the same phenomena [meaning the aurora borealis] in various parts of the country, as our readers will doubtless recollect. Where the ground was covered with snow, the sight was grand and 'fearful' in a most unprecedented manner. In one place, situated near a mountain, the people who witnessed the scene, informed us that it resembled 'waves of fire rolling down the mountain,' and generally, so far as learned, the snow covering the ground appeared like fire mingled with blood, while above (as the apostle says), 'the heavens being on fire,' resembled so much the prophetic description of the last day that many were amazed; the children beholding it were affrighted, and inquired if it were the coming of the judgment; and even the animals trembled with much manifest alarm."  

     It was not alone in America that this sign of the prophet Joel was displayed, but as the doctrine of the Lord's coming was gaining publicity in Great Britain, the same sign was hung out in the heavens in that country. The New York Commercial Advertiser of Oct. 22, 1839, quotes the following from London papers concerning a remarkable phenomenon witnessed in that country on the night of September 3:-  

         The Aurora of 1839

     "LONDON, SEPT. 5 [1839].-Between the hours of ten on Thursday night and three yesterday morning, in the heavens was observed one of the most magnificent specimens of these extraordinary phenomena, the falling stars and northern lights, witnessed for many years past. The first indication of this singular phenomenon was ten minutes before ten, when a light crimson, apparently vapor, rose from the northern portion of the hemisphere, and gradually extended to the center of the heavens, and by ten o'clock or a quarter past, the whole, from east to west, was one vast sheet of light. It had a most alarming appearance, and was exactly like that occasioned by a terrific fire. The light varied considerable; at one time it seemed to fall, and directly after rose with intense brightness. There were to be seen mingled with it volumes of smoke, which rolled over and over, and every beholder seemed convinced that it was 'a tremendous conflagration.'  

     "The consternation of the metropolis was very great; thousands of persons were running in the direction of the supposed awful catastrophe. The engines belonging to the fire brigade stations in Baker Street, Farringdon Street, Watling Street, Waterloo Road, and likewise those belonging to the west of London stations-in fact, every fire engine in London, was horsed and galloped after the supposed 'scene of destruction' with more than ordinary energy, followed by carriages, horsemen, and vast mobs. Some of the engines proceeded as far as High Gate and Halloway [about four miles] before the error was discovered. These appearances lasted for upwards of two hours, and toward morning the spectacle became one of grandeur. 

     "At two o'clock in the morning the phenomenon presented a most gorgeous scene, and one very difficult to describe. The whole of London was illuminated as light as noon-day, and the atmosphere was remarkably clear. The southern hemisphere, at the time mentioned, though unclouded, was very dark; but the stars, which were innumerable, shone beautifully. The opposite side of the heavens presented a singular but magnificent contrast; it was clear to extreme, and the light was very vivid; there was a continual succession of meteors, which varied in splendor-they appeared formed in the center of the heavens, and spread till they seemed to burst. The effect was electrical. Myriads of small stars shot out over the horizon, and darted with such swiftness toward the earth that the eye could scarcely follow the track; they seemed to burst also, and throw a dark crimson vapor over the entire hemisphere. The colors were most magnificent.  

     "At half past two o'clock the spectacle changed to darkness, which, on dispersing, displayed a luminous rainbow in the zenith of the heavens, and round the ridge of darkness that overhung the southern portion of the country. Soon afterward columns of silvery light radiated from it. They increased wonderfully, intermingled among crimson vapor which formed at the same time, and when at full height the spectacle was beyond all imagination. Stars were darting about in all directions, and continued until four o'clock, when all died away."  

Strange Appearances in the Sun

     While the living preachers were setting forth the truth of the Lord's coming, many and varied wonders in the heavens were seen in various parts of the world. Of these our space will permit only the representation of the appearance of the sun in Norwich, England, in December, 1843. A similar one occurred in New Haven, Conn., Sept. 9, 1844, for two hours before and after noon, and was witnessed by thousands of people.  


     The small inner circle represents the sun. It was of a light orange hue. The outer part of the two circles at unequal distances from and surrounding the sun, appeared of the same hue; but the inner part of these circles was a deep yellow, the sky within those circles appearing of a dusky brown color, and the three large circles passing through and below the sun, appeared as of distinct bright light.  

     Of the occurrence in England we read, in a letter from E. Lloyd, London, Jan. 3, 1844, as follows:- 

     "There has been a remarkable 'sign in the sun,' seen by the principal citizens of Norwich and the surrounding country, such as has never been seen in England before. It was seen in December last, about 12 o'clock at noon, and continued for two hours. It very much alarmed the inhabitants. It occurred just before Brethren Winter, Burgess, and Routon opened their mission in that city. It seemed to prepare the way for the truth, so that they met with good success there."  

     The account of the phenomenon as it occurred in New Haven, Conn., is given in the Midnight Cry of Oct. 10, 1844, and was taken from the New Haven Palladium of Sept. 10, 1844. In the account in the Cry the editor says, "No philosopher has been able to give an explanation of the cause of this phenomenon which satisfies himself." 

     An account of this sight which appeared in connection with the sun in New Haven, Conn., Sept. 9, 1844, was also published in the Hartford Courant of Sept. 12, 1844, and reads as follows:-  

     "The rings around the sun on Monday, Sept. 9, 1844, for two hours before and after midday, appear to have been generally observed by our citizens with much interest, and have awakened an intelligent curiosity to learn more respecting appearances of the same kind and their cause.  

     "The present halo was remarkable for its duration, and afforded favorable opportunities for observation. About midday it consisted chiefly of two complete rings, one about forty-five degrees in breadth, encircling the sun at its center, and the other about seventy-two degrees broad, having its center in the zenith, while its circumference passed through the sun. The smaller circle was accompanied by an ellipse of the major axis, and of small eccentricity. Directly opposite the sun, and thirty-six degrees north of the zenith, the large circle was intersected by two other circles of nearly or quite the same diameter, forming at the point of intersection a bright spot, such as would naturally result from the combined light of three luminous rings. The ring that encircled the sun exhibited the colors of the rainbow, frequently with much vividness and beauty. The other rings were white and fainter, as they were more distant from the sun. Small portions of circles, however, with prismatic [rainbow] hues, appeared at different times, both in the east and west. . . . Such uniformity of structure must depend on some law which regulates the formation of halos; but the nature of the law is not fully developed. . . . Not much difficulty has been experienced in accounting for the production of the ring that encircles the sun, since the cause is somewhat similar to that which produces the rainbow, but to explain the origin of the ring which has its circumference in the sun's center, has been found more difficult." 

1905 JNL, GSAM 112-116