1. The heavens warning, foretell the morning,
The signs are seen in earth and sky.
Events portending, the end descending,
All powers to the battle fly.
Fear grips the nations, men of all stations,
The people sighing, on all sides crying,
Confused and yearning, “Who has the learning?”
Come now and to God’s word draw nigh.
2. This truth consider: Christ’s coming hither,
As King of kings and Lord on high;
The heaven’s rending, angels descending,
In flaming fire and burning sky.
Leaves falling often, announce the autumn;
The winter’s herald, by this is caroled;
So Bible seers, down through the years,
Give signs of Jesus’ coming nigh.
3. The first sign given, was seen in Lisbon,
In sev’nteen hundred fifty five;
A mighty earthquake, that made the world shake,
With fury, earth and sea did strive.
The next sign weighty, in sev’nteen eighty,
Sun, moon, were darken’d, New England hearken’d,
From morn till mid night, a day without light,
All over the Amer’can sky.
4. The last sign nearing, soon was appearing,
In eighteen hundred thirty three;
Stars fell sublimely, like figs untimely,
When mighty winds shake the fig tree.
This meteor shower, of greatest power,
In all directions, and flaming sections,
The scene astounding, like lightning bounding,
All North America did see.
5. With these signs passing, a call to fasting,
A time for us to watch and pray;
No longer sleeping, but turn with weeping,
With trembling, seek the Lord today.
No more backsliding, in business hiding,
But love awaking, all sin forsaking,
Let’s heed the warning, and greet the morning,
When our redemption draweth nigh.
- based on The Great Controversy, ch. 17 “Heralds of the Morning,”, p. 304-308
MP3 – Instrumental (live)
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As a boy, raised in the Roman Catholic church, I sometimes experienced strong urges to search into spiritual matters. We had a St. Joseph’s Bible, and I remember picking it up and reading through Jesus’ prophetic discourse in Matthew 24, as well as the whole of the book of Revelation. At that time, Revelation was a cryptic book, with beasts, heads, horns, and other wild things, and I understood none of the symbolism. Matthew 24 was a bit more accessible, but this passage troubled me:
29 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:
30 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.
That phrase “the stars shall fall from heaven” conjured up wild pictures in my head of huge balls of burning flame crashing to the ground everywhere. At that age, I didn’t know enough about astronomy to realize that literal stars are much larger than the earth, and therefore could not possibly be what the prophecy was referring to! But it stuck in my mind.
It wasn’t until many years later, in my early 20′s, that I heard a Seventh-day Adventist minister explain these prophecies, and they all started to make sense.
Jesus is giving signs by which His people can know that His return is near. First there was to be a period of tribulation, or persecution. Then would come signs:
- Sun and moon darkened
- Stars fall from heaven
- Powers of the heavens shaken
The book of Revelation clarifies these, and adds a few more signs. In Revelation 6, right after mentioning the martyrs (which lines up with Jesus’ mention of “tribulation”), it says:
12 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;
13 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.
14 And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.
15 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;
16 And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:
17 For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?
Here we have a parallel: first there is tribulation/persecution, and then a series of signs by which the saints on earth know that Jesus’ return is near, and finally the appearing of Christ personally, accompanied by the fear (“mourning” in Matthew 24) of the vast number of earth’s people who are not ready to meet Him.
One of the new signs mentioned is a great earthquake. As well, they give us a few more clues as to what the “shaking of the powers of the heavens” would be: “the heavens departed as a scroll.”
So we have the signs as follows:
- A great earthquake
- Sun darkened and moon became as blood
- Stars fall from heaven
- Heavens depart as a scroll
- Every mountain and island moved out of their place
Now when do we start looking for those signs? “After the tribulation”, or after a period when the blood of the martyrs is spilled. This points clearly to the time when the Catholic Church was dominant in Europe, both over the spiritual lives of the people, and by political alliances with the kings of the nations. One has only to pick up Foxes Book of Martyrs, or read a bit about the history of the Albigenses, Waldenses, Vaudois, and persecutions against reformers such as Huss, Jerome, and the many English reformers, and the pages run red with blood. The fathers of the Protestant Churches had no difficulty recognising the Catholic system as that Jezebel and Babylon of prophecy, as that “woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.”
This period of papal persecution was to last 1260 years, or from 538 AD (when the last of the Arian nations opposed to the rule of the Catholic faith were wiped out) to 1798 AD. (when France publicly warred against all church and kingly power during the French Revolution, and inflicted upon the apostate church what is called in Scripture, a “deadly wound”).
This 1260 year period is mentioned no less than seven times in Scripture: Daniel 7:25, 12:7; Revelation 11:2,3; 12:6,14; 13:5. It always refers to the same period, but sometimes under different symbols or descriptions.
So, sometime around the end of this 1260 period we are to look for the signs. We have to allow a short time before the end as well, for Jesus said the tribulation would be “shortened”, that is, most of it would cease before the end of the 1260 years. The first sign is a great earthquake. Was there a mighty earthquake a short time before 1798? Yes! It is called the Great Lisbon earthquake, and took place in 1755.
The next sign would be the darkening of the sun/moon. Did such an event occur around this time? Yes! It is called New England’s Dark Day, and took place in 1780.
The third sign would be the falling of the stars. By this we must not understand literal stars, since that would be impossible, and the whole earth would be consumed! So we must look for a sign which appears like falling stars. Was there such an event? Yes! It was perhaps the greatest meteor shower witnessed, and took place in 1833, over America. Some estimate 100,000 to 200,000 meteors fell every hour.
So those are the three events covered by this song, and which indicate that we are indeed in what the Bible describes (in Daniel 8, 11, and 12) as the “time of the end.” The last two signs, the heavens departing as a scroll, and the moving of the mountains and islands, have not occured yet, but are to take place moments before Jesus visibly appears in the sky.