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*Reading Time: 7 minutes*

Before reading this brief study, please read the previous articles in this series,

  1. The Meaning of Eschatology
  2. Flashback to the Prophecy of Jesus Christ
  3. The Parable of the Vineyard – Part 1 
  4. The Parable of the Vineyard – Part 2 
  5. The Parable of the Vineyard – Part 3
  6. The Wedding Feast
  7. The Temple – Old and New
  8. The Questions
  9. The Beginning of Signs
  10. Misleading Sign 1 – False Messiahs
  11. Misleading Sign 2 – Wars and Rumours of Wars
  12. Misleading Sign 3 – Nation against Nation & Kingdom against Kingdom
  13. Misleading Sign 4 – Famines
  14. Misleading Sign 5 – Pestilences
  15. Misleading Sign 6 – Earthquakes


Luke 21:11 — “…and there will be sights of terror and great signs from heaven.”

The setting of the Olivet Discourse in Matthew’s gospel is the destruction of the temple, however, we do not find this warning recorded in Matthew’s version of the prophecy; only Luke records this sign. Checking the context, we find Luke giving us the added words of warning: “terrors and great signs from heaven,” which are followed by the identical warning concerning persecutions as recorded in Matthew and Mark.

Ancient cultures often looked to Comets appearing in the heavens as warnings of some approaching calamity. They were often considered bad omens of some pending change in existing political and social structures. These warnings were given by Jesus in advance to His disciples about “terrors” and “signs in the heavens” that would appear in their lifetime that could terrify and mislead them.

DeMar asks a question:

“Were there any ‘signs from heaven’ before A.D. 70 that would be a fulfillment of Luke 21:11?” [DeMar, p. 66]


During the reign of Nero, a comet appeared around A.D. 60 which caused the Romans to form a speculative theory that a change in the political scene was about to take place.

Niger Calder wrote in His book:

“The historian Tacitus wrote: ‘As if Nero were already dethroned, men began to ask who might be his successor.’ [Nigel Calder, The Comet Is Coming!: The Feverish Legacy of Mr. Halley]

Calder once more:

“Nero took no chances as another historian, Suetonius, related: ‘All children of the condemned man, were banished from Rome, and then starved to death or poisoned.’ The policy worked like a charm. Nero survived that comet by several years.”

Another author quotes:

“Nero may have thought that he was finished with warnings from heaven. History records Halley’s Comet appeared in A.D. 66. Soon after Nero committed suicide!”

The Halley’s Comet has been connected by historians not only with Nero’s death but with the destruction of Jerusalem in AD. 70. In Asimov’s Guide to Halley’s Comet, there is a reproduction of a seventeenth-century print that depicts the comet as it passes over Jerusalem.

The caption reads:

“Halley’s Comet of A.D. 66 shown over Jerusalem… The comet was regarded as an omen predicting the fall of the city to the Romans which actually occurred four years later.”[Isaac Asimov, Asimov’s Guide to Halley’s Comet: The Awesome Story of Comets, (New York: Walker and Co., 1985), p. 6.]


Josephus recorded several strange phenomena in the heavens which is a well known historical fact. He records these things other than Halley’s Comet.


“Thus there was a star resembling a sword, which stood over the city, and a comet, that continued a whole year.” [Josephus, Wars, 6.5.3]

Josephus considered these as signs of God’s displeasure with the city and nation and omens of approaching judgment. He writes:

“Thus were the miserable people persuaded by these deceivers, and such as belied God himself; while they did not attend nor give credit to the signs that were so evident, and did so plainly foretell their future desolation, but, like men infatuated, without either eyes to see or minds to consider, did not regard the denunciations that God made to them.”[Josephus, Wars, 6.5.3]

Tacitus also records these events:

“In the sky appeared a vision of armies in conflict, of glittering armour. A sudden lightning flash from the clouds lit up the Temple. The doors of the holy place abruptly opened, a superhuman voice was heard to declare that the gods were leaving it, and in the same instant came the rushing tumult of their departure.”[Tacitus, The Histories, translated by Kenneth Wellesley]


Adding to this, there were other strange phenomena which are described by Josephus:


“Thus also before the Jews’ rebellion, and before those commotions which preceded the war, when the people were come in great crowds to the feast of unleavened bread, on the eighth day of the month Xanthicus, 21 [Nisan,] and at the ninth hour of the night, so great a light shone round the altar and the holy house, that it appeared to be bright day time; which lasted for half an hour. This light seemed to be a good sign to the unskillful, but was so interpreted by the sacred scribes, as to portend those events that followed immediately upon it.”[Josephus, Wars, 6.5.3]


“At the same festival also, a heifer, as she was led by the high priest to be sacrificed, brought forth a lamb in the midst of the temple.”[Josephus, Wars, 6.5.3]


“Moreover, the eastern gate of the inner [court of the] temple, which was of brass, and vastly heavy, and had been with difficulty shut by twenty men, and rested upon a basis armed with iron, and had bolts fastened very deep into the firm floor, which was there made of one entire stone, was seen to be opened of its own accord about the sixth hour of the night. Now those that kept watch in the temple came hereupon running to the captain of the temple, and told him of it; who then came up thither, and not without great difficulty was able to shut the gate again. This also appeared to the vulgar to be a very happy prodigy, as if God did thereby open them the gate of happiness. But the men of learning understood it, that the security of their holy house was dissolved of its own accord, and that the gate was opened for the advantage of their enemies.”


“…a certain prodigious and incredible phenomenon appeared; I suppose the account of it would seem to be a fable, were it not related by those that saw it, and were not the events that followed it of so considerable a nature as to deserve such signals; for, before sun-setting, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armor were seen running about among the clouds, and surrounding of cities.”[Josephus, Wars, 6.5.3]


“… Moreover at that feast which we call Pentecost, as the priests were going by night into the inner [court of the] Temple, as their custom was, to perform their sacred ministrations, they said that, in the first place, they felt a quaking, and heard a great noise, and after that they heard a sound as of a multitude, saying, “Let us remove hence.”[Josephus, Wars, 6.5.3]


“But, what is still more terrible, there was one Jesus, the son of Ananus, a plebeian and a husbandman, who, four years before the war began, and at a time when the city was in very great peace and prosperity, came to that feast whereon it is our custom for everyone to make tabernacles to God in the temple, began on a sudden to cry aloud,

“A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the holy house, a voice against the bridegrooms and the brides, and a voice against this whole people! This was his cry, as he went about by day and by night, in all the lanes of the city. However, certain of the most eminent among the populace had great indignation at this dire cry of his, and took up the man, and gave him a great number of severe stripes; yet did not he either say anything for himself, or anything peculiar to those that chastised him, but still went on with the same words which he cried before.

Hereupon our rulers, supposing, as the case proved to be, that this was a sort of divine fury in the man, brought him to the Roman procurator, where he was whipped till his bones were laid bare; yet he did not make any supplication for himself, nor shed any tears, but turning his voice to the most lamentable tone possible, at every stroke of the whip his answer was, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the holy house, a voice against the bridegrooms and the brides, and a voice against this whole people!

This was his cry, as he went about by day and by night, in all the lanes of the city, at every stroke of the whip his answer was, ―Woe, woe to Jerusalem! And when Albinus (for he was then our procurator) asked him, Who he was? and whence he came? and why he uttered such words? he made no manner of reply to what he said, but still did not leave off his melancholy ditty, till Albinus took him to be a madman, and dismissed him. Now, during all the time that passed before the war began, this man did not go near any of the citizens, nor was seen by them while he said so; but he every day uttered these lamentable words, as if it were his premeditated vow, “Woe, woe to Jerusalem!”

Nor did he give ill words to any of those that beat him every day, nor good words to those that gave him food; but this was his reply to all men, and indeed no other than a melancholy presage of what was to come. This cry of his was the loudest at the festivals; and he continued this ditty for seven years and five months, without growing hoarse, or being tired therewith, until the very time that he saw his presage in earnest fulfilled in our siege, when it ceased; for as he was going round upon the wall, he cried out with his utmost force, “Woe, woe to the city again, and to the people, and to the holy house!, and just as he added at the last, “Woe, woe to myself also! there came a stone out of one of the engines, and smote him, and killed him immediately; and as he was uttering the very same presages he gave up the ghost.”[Josephus, Wars, 6.5.3]

Jesus was instructing His disciples telling them not to be afraid or misled by the things that would be happening in their skies and their surroundings in their day. Jesus said that all these things were the beginning of sorrows. [Matthew 24:8]



[Picture Credit: Infrared, Spitzer Space Telescope, NASA. Optical and Processing – Oliver Czenetz. Web:

All content © Godwin Sequeira, 2019.

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