Last Day Tokens, Chapter Two
Among the events to transpire, as the great day approaches, the prophet speaks of that which he compares to the unrestrained march of a devastating army. This army the Lord designates as the locust, canker-worm, caterpillar, and the palmer-worm.  Before these destructive agencies come upon the land, He says, it “is as the Garden of Eden,” but “behind them a desolate wilderness.” This is undoubtedly in the time mentioned by the prophet Isaiah when he says, “The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth.”
These visitations of the curse, as we approach the end, are the visible evidences that the earth and atmospheric heavens are waxing old as does a garment, and that they are soon to be folded up and changed. 
While the curse is thus resting more heavily upon the earth, the prophet shows that earthquakes will increase, and the signs appear which our Savior said would show that His coming was even “at the door.” He says: “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 executes His word. For the day of the Lord is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?”
In comparing the above with the language respecting the sixth seal, there is seen a striking similarity both as to the events introduced and as to the question raised. Here are the signs in the sun, moon, and stars; and then as the voice of God shakes the heavens and the earth, and rocks are flying in every direction, men call to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?”
This “voice of God” before His army, which rends mountains, is in that time when the seventh and last plague is poured out, and Christ comes to a warned yet unprepared world as a thief in the night.  The prophet Joel proceeds to show the necessity of an earnest, humble seeking of God, a rending of the heart before Him, and that to such He will give the “latter rain” of His Spirit - the same that the apostle James declares the Lord is waiting to bestow upon His people when “the coming of the Lord draws nigh.” Having carried us past this “latter rain,” the prophet presents the final consummation in these words: “My people shall never be ashamed.”
The prophet then refers back to that prediction which the apostle Peter said began its fulfillment on the day of Pentecost,  and carries us down to the “great day of the Lord” again: “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out My Spirit. And I will show and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke [Septuagint, “pillars of smoky vapor”]. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come.”
WONDERS IN THE HEAVENS
It appears from the order of events here introduced, that before the signs in the sun and moon, there were to be “wonders in the heavens,” and such, too, as would have the appearance of “blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.”
About the middle of the sixteenth century there appeared a wonder in the heavens that finally, in the fore part of the eighteenth century, assumed the exact appearance of that predicted by the prophet Joel. It is the aurora borealis, first seen in a fiery display in Great Britain in 1716, and in America for the first time, three years later, in 1719. From the middle of the sixteenth century there have been witnessed, from time to time, in increasing magnitude, “spears of red light in the heavens,” and “shooting stars;” but up to A. D. 1716 no fiery display is recorded.
As the first authority for these statements, a quotation is given from the Edinburgh Encyclopedia, published about the year 1804. From that work we quote the following paragraphs:-
“The most unaccountable of all the circumstances respecting the aurora borealis is that it is not much more than a century since this phenomenon has been observed with any degree of frequency in our latitudes. We find, indeed, atmospheric phenomena recorded by the ancients, which may be regarded as examples of this meteor; but, with trifling exceptions, the whole of antiquity is absolutely silent on this subject.
“Dr. Halley, of London, England, informs us that he had begun to despair of witnessing this beautiful phenomenon, when the remarkable aurora of 1716 made its appearance. This philosopher has given us a historical detail of the several observations of this meteor, in which he says the first of it on record in an English work is a book entitled ‘A Description of Meteors,’ by W. F., D. D., reprinted at London, in 1654, which speaks of burning spears being seen Jan. 30, 1560. He says, in this book, that the next appearance of a like kind is recorded by Stow, and occurred on Oct. 7, 1564. In 1574, according to Stow and Camden, an aurora was seen for two successive nights, viz., the 14th and 15th of November.
The same phenomenon was twice seen in Brabant, in 1575, on the 13th of February and the 28th of September, and the circumstances accompanying it were described by Cornelius Gemma, who compares them to spears, fortified cities, and armies fighting in the air. In 1580 and 1581, this phenomenon was repeatedly observed at Backrang, in the county of Wurtemburg, in Germany. But from this till 1621, we have no such phenomenon on record, when it was seen all over France on September 2, and is particularly described by Gassendi, in his ‘Physics,’ under the title of ‘Aurora Borealis.’
“In November, 1623, another was seen all over Germany, and is particularly described by Kepler. Since that time, for more than eighty years, we have no account of any such phenomenon being observed. In 1707, Mr. Neve observed one of short continuance in Ireland, and in the same year a similar appearance was seen by Romer at Copenhagen, while during an interval of eighteen months, in the years 1707 and 1708, this sort of light had been seen no less than five times.
“The aurora of 1716, which Dr. Halley particularly describes, was remarkably brilliant. It was also visible over a prodigious tract of country, being seen from the west of Ireland to the confines of Prussia and the east of Poland, extending nearly thirty degrees of longitude [about 1,800 miles east and west] and from the fiftieth degree of north latitude, over almost all the north of Europe [about 800 miles north and south], and in all places, exhibiting, at the same time, appearances similar to those observed in London.
“It appears then to be certainly established that the aurora was of rare occurrence in our latitude till about a century ago; for it can not be supposed that so beautiful and striking a phenomenon would have passed unnoticed and unrecorded during the two preceding centuries, while men of science, and particularly astronomers, were so busily employed in examining every remarkable appearance of the heavens, or that the philosophers of Greece and Rome would have remained silent concerning so beautiful a meteor, had it been in any degree familiarly known to them. It is in vain to account for their silence by saying that they inhabited latitudes which are scarcely ever visited by these appearances, for the Romans not only visited, but long resided, in the north of Germany and Britain, where the aurora is now frequently seen in great splendor.”
The above details from the encyclopedia show that the aurora, especially in its crimson and fiery display, is of modern date.
INCREASE MATHER’S TESTIMONY
Increase Mather, father of Cotton Mather (both eminent and learned divines of the Congregational Church, Boston, Mass.), in a book of five sermons on “Fearful Sights and Great Signs Shall There Be from Heaven,” published in 1680, made no reference in his sermons to any fiery display of aurora. He said he had searched all history, both ancient and modern. He referred to fiery comets, one of which was visible when he preached his fifth sermon. He had found in history accounts of several blazing stars, which he supposed had sufficiently the appearance at times of “blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke” in the heavens to be in fulfillment of the word of the Lord by the prophet Joel.
In a book published in London, about one hundred and twenty years ago, entitled “Dictionary of Arts and Sciences,” is an account of the fiery aurora of 1716. This book states expressly that “the oldest inhabitants there, at that time, had never seen nor heard of the like before.”
J. B. FELT’S TESTIMONY
In Dr. J. B. Felt’s history of Salem, Mass., is an account of the first appearance of the aurora in America: “The aurora borealis was seen for the first time in America, Dec. 17, 1719. It filled our country with great alarm. It was dreaded, as being the precursor of the judgment fires which were to consume the world. It had a similar effect on the people of England in 1716.”
TESTIMONY OF WILLARD’S HISTORY
A description of the aurora borealis, on page 146 of “Willard’s Abridged History of the United States,” published in 1869, is as follows: “A phenomenon, singular at the time, and not yet satisfactorily explained, alarmed the people of New England in 1719. This was the ‘aurora borealis,’ first noticed in this country on the night of the 17th of December. Its appearance, according to the writings of the day, was more calculated to excite terror than later appearances of the same kind.”
A writer in the New York Evening Post, about the year 1864, speaking of the effect of these wonderful sights in the heavens, on the people, says: “It prompts some to a more constant study of the heavens, others to a more reverent feeling of dependence upon Him by whose command all things were made that were made, and terrifying others by the threatening approach of those latter days - those times prophesied of by Joel - when wonders should be shown in the sky, and when, according to St. Luke, ‘fearful sights and great signs’ from heaven should appear.”
AURORA IN 1789
In a work called “Percy Aneedotes,” we have an account of the aurora as witnessed in Virginia in 1789: “On that day I stopped in Portsmouth to spend the evening at a house where there was a large party of both sexes. All at once our ears were assailed by loud murmurs outside. We rushed to the door, and were much astonished to find the whole population of the place in the street, the greater part of them on their knees, and uttering the loudest lamentations. Attracted by the brilliancy of the heavens, I raised my eyes upward, and observed a very vivid aurora borealis, casting its coruseations over more than one half of the hemisphere. On turning round I saw the whole company on their knees, and evidently in great trepidation. The scene was certainly awful. . . . Toward midnight the aurora disappeared, as did the fears of the good people of Portsmouth. On crossing the ferry to Norfolk, I saw that the same species of alarm had also existed there to a considerable extent, and was happily extinguished.”
This record is of itself conclusive evidence that the aurora was a new sight to the people of Virginia in 1789.
AURORA OF JANUARY 25, 1837
In a work entitled “Modern Phenomena of the Heavens” are two accounts of the wonderful fiery aurora of Jan. 25, 1837. The first reads: “Another instance of this phenomenon was extensively witnessed in this country [America] early in the evening of Jan. 25, 1837, when, as described by many, the very heavens, for a short time, seemed to be on fire, and when the snow upon the ground much resembled blood and fire, which was so alarming in appearance as to cause the solemn inquiry with some who were out at the time, if the day of judgment had come, and also to cause the animals to tremble with fear. In one place, near a mountain, the people informed me that on the snow there was the appearance of ‘waves of fire rolling down the mountain.’“
The second statement from the above work is respecting the aurora of Jan. 25, 1837, as it appeared in the state of Massachusetts: “A clergyman of Massachusetts gave me the following account of the same phenomenon, as he and others witnessed it in one of the towns of Cape Cod, in that state.
He was sitting with another minister in the pulpit, who had just commenced a discourse on the subject of the final judgment to a crowded audience of a protracted meeting, when suddenly, through the windows, the whole house was filled with a most vivid and fiery light, so alarming in its appearance that several of the audience shrieked aloud. All was disorder and commotion. Many rushed for the doors, and all prospect for further worship, for the time, seemed to be lost, till one from without, perceiving the consternation within, forced his way through the astonished crowd, up to the desk, with an account of the aurora phenomenon, just witnessed by those out-of-doors. Then this clergyman, as he said, called attention, and informed the audience that they had ‘more cause for admiration than alarm, and that the appearance they had just witnessed was but a beautiful and unusually splendid exhibition of the aurora borealis, which the Lord had been giving them.’“
A friend has kindly furnished a picture of the house and the snowy hillside at Victor, Ontario Co., N. Y., where both the friend and the writer witnessed the fiery display just described.
AURORA IN LONDON, 1839
A most graphic description of a display of the aurora as it appeared in Great Britain from 10 P. M., Sept. 11, to 4 A. M., Sept. 12, 1839, was written by an eye-witness, and published in a number of the New York Christian Advocate and Journal of the same year. The article was dated, London, Sept. 13, 1839, and reads: “Between the hours of ten on Tuesday night and three yesterday morning, in the heavens was observed one of the most magnificent specimens of those extraordinary phenomena - the falling stars and northern lights - witnessed for many years.
The first indication of this singular phenomenon was about ten minutes before ten, when a crimson light, 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 heavens, 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 considerably; at one time it seemed to fall, and directly after rose with intense brightness. There were to be seen with it volumes of smoke, which rolled over and over, and every beholder seemed convinced that it was a tremendous conflagration.
“The consternation in 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, Waterloo Road, Watling Street, Farringdon Street, and likewise those belonging to the West London station, - 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 Highgate and Holloway before the error was discovered. The appearances lasted for upward of two hours, and toward morning the spectacle became one of more grandeur.
“At two 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 noonday, and the atmosphere was remarkably clear. The southern hemisphere at the time mentioned, although 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 varied and was very vivid.
There was a continual succession of meteors, which varied in splendor. They appeared 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 that swiftness toward the earth that the eye could scarcely follow the track. They seemed to burst also, and to 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, in dispersing, displayed a luminous rainbow on 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 every direction, and continued until four o’clock, when all died away. During the time that they lasted, a great many persons assembled on the bridge over the Thames, where they had a commanding view of the heavens, and watched the progress of the phenomenon attentively.”
AURORA OF NOVEMBER 14, 1837
On Nov. 14, 1837, the fiery aurora of the 25th of January of that year was repeated on a still grander scale. In a work published at the close of the first century of American independence, called “Our First Century,” we read of this extraordinary display:-
“Years of observation, covering many countries and embracing all latitudes, give no record of any display of auroral glories equal in sublimity and magnificence and extent to the aurora borealis of Nov. 14, 1837. . . . So extensive was this magnificent celestial phenomenon that it exhibited its wonderful splendors contemporaneously to the inhabitants of Europe and America. . . . It was such a sight as fills the mind with wonder and awe; and in America, at least, was the most marvelous of the kind ever known.”
AURORA OF MARCH, 1852
There have been other occurrences of this phenomenon, in various countries, since those already mentioned. It was the privilege of the writer to observe one in March, 1852, among the Alleghany Mountains, in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania. When preaching there I had occasion to refer to the fiery aurora as a fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel respecting the same. A skeptic, who was attending the meetings, said to me, “The fiery aurora is not the prophecy of Joel.”
One night when we came out of the meeting room the whole heavens were ablaze with a grand display of fiery aurora. It came up from the horizon to the zenith in the north, and from two thirds of the way down in the southern heavens. Overhead it looked exactly like vast columns of smoke tumbling together. My skeptical friend stood with both hands on his loins, cheeks pale as ashes, staring up at the sight. After about two minutes he turned to me, and said: “Elder, I give it up. That is the prophecy of Joel exactly.”
AURORA IN AUSTRALIA IN 1900 AND 1909
Near the first of October, 1900, in South New Zealand and Australia there was an exhibition of this phenomenon, and the people declared that it was “the first of the kind ever known in that country.” The Public Journal at the time said it must be that “the northern lights were coming down in the southern climate,” or words to that effect.
Again, I learn by a communication from Box Hill, Victoria, Australia, that in the month of September, 1909, there was on one night, from 10 P. M. to 3 A. M., “a fiery aurora that covered the whole heavens, for all this period, and that the heavens were entirely free from clouds.”
One of the most wonderful of these appearances is that seen in McMurdo Sound, by those on the steamer Nimrod in its south pole expedition, under the command of Lieutenant Shackelton, in the year 1909. Of this we give a cut, as drawn by Mr. W. E. A. Wilson, the artist who accompanied the Nimrod.
This picture was drawn by this artist on the spot, and a facsimile of it was placed in an album of the Royal Society of Great Britain. The copy here given I obtained at Hobart, Tasmania, from a weekly paper entitled
Every Saturday, in its issue of March 13, 1909. That paper entitled it “a marvel of the Antarctic;” and in a subhead, “auroral curtains.” The editor says of this scene that they call it auroral curtains “because of their resemblance to great folds of drapery in the sky.” Their appearance can hardly fail to call to mind that verse in the 104th Psalm: “O Lord, . . . . Thou art clothed with honor and majesty. Who covered Thyself with light as with a garment: who stretches out the heavens like a curtain.” And in Isaiah, again, “It is He . . . that stretches out the heavens as a curtain, and spreads them out as a tent to dwell in.” Isaiah 40:22. Of this and other such appearances in the heavens, this writer frankly admits that “no completely satisfactory explanation of the auroral lights, or of any such phenomena, has yet been offered.”
Various indeed have been human speculations as to the cause of the aurora, or northern lights.
After advancing different theories, like the above writer all are obliged to admit, “The cause is unknown.” In the face of this, the student of the prophetic word declares, “This phenomenon is produced by the direct power of the Lord, in fulfillment of His prediction made through the prophet Joel (Joel 2:30), and is a sure token that we are nearing ‘the great and terrible day of the Lord.’“
1. Joel 2:1
2. Joel 2:2-11,25
3. Joel 2:3
4. Isaiah 24:5,6
5. Hebrews 1:11
6. Joel 2:10,11
7. Revelation 6:16,17
8. Revelation 16:15-21
9. James 5:7,8
10. Joel 2:27
11. Acts 2:16
12. Joel 2:28-31