Joseph Herrin (01-24-2013)
Great Comet of 1861
Yahweh is gracious to supply multiple witnesses of what is coming to the earth. These witnesses are from widely varying sources. The Father gives words of prophecy, signs on the earth, dreams and visions, and a host of other testimonies, that His sons and daughters might recognize the hour they live in, and prepare their hearts to stand in a day of trouble. One profound witness Yahweh has often used to denote profound events on the earth is signs in the heavens. One of the most famous heavenly signs has become known as the star of Bethlehem that announced the birth of the Messiah.
Now after Yahshua was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east, and have come to worship Him."
Christians today give little attention to heavenly signs. Some have come to equate signs in the heavens with astrology and the occult. This is error. Christians who forsake heavenly signs will be throwing away one of the means by which Yahweh communicates to mankind. The Son of God told His disciples that His return would be preceded by signs in the heavens.
And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars and upon the earth, dismay among nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world...
From ancient times comets have been perceived among the nations as harbingers of woe. They typically are interpreted as indications of warfare and bloodshed, for they appear as swords that are stretched out over the earth.
Comets have inspired dread, fear, and awe in many different cultures and societies around the world and throughout time. They have been branded with such titles as "the Harbinger of Doom" and "the Menace of the Universe."
They have been regarded both as omens of disaster and messengers of the gods. Why is it that comets are some of the most feared and venerated objects in the night sky? Why did so many cultures cringe at the sight of a comet?
Image: Types of cometary forms, illustrations from Johannes Hevelius' Cometographia (Danzig, 1668)
Others thought that the elongated comet looked like a fiery sword blazing across the night sky, a traditional sign of war and death. Such a message from the gods could only mean that their wrath would soon be unleashed onto the people of the land. Such ideas struck fear into those who saw comets dart across the sky.
Many have relegated such interpretations as superstition, not recognizing that the God who rules over the affairs of men also rules the heavens. The plan of God has been established from ancient times, and the heavens were set in motion with a precision that is difficult to fathom. At the appointed time the star appeared over Bethlehem, having been set on its course far back in the dimmy past. So too has the Father set the comets, these “dirty snow balls” of ice, rock, and dust, on their trajectories with precision that they might appear at the right moment to serve as signs of events upon the earth.
“For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying,'My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure'; Calling a bird of prey (a raven?) from the east, the man of My purpose from a far country (Barack Hussein Obama?). Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it.”
The ancients have referred to comets as “celestial swords.” Yahweh has used comets as heavenly harbingers, announcing warfare and times of great destruction. In the year A.D. 66, a great comet was observed over Jerusalem, remaining visible as an outstretched sword for an entire year. Astronomers believe this was an appearing of Halley’s Comet, which appears every 76 years. This comet varies greatly in appearance from one pass to another. In the year A.D. 66 its visage was spectacular. It was the year that the Jews sought to cast off the yoke of Rome, resulting in the destruction of Jerusalem and the slaughter of a million Jews by A.D. 70.
The year A.D. 66 is considered by astronomers one in which Halley’s comet made an appearance; they base their conclusion on at least two contemporary Chinese observations. That was the year in which the Jews of Judea launched their Great Revolt against Rome. The Jewish historian Josephus (Wars of the Jews, Book VI) blamed the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of its holy Temple on the misinterpretation by the Jews of the heavenly signs that preceded the revolt: “a star resembling a sword which stood over the city, a comet that continued a whole year.”
The wood carving above is attributed to Josephus and depicts Jerusalem during the time of the Roman siege. Note the image of the comet, appearing like a drawn sword over the city.
Moving forward to more recent times, another spectacular comet was observed in 1861. It was described as a “Great Comet,” an expression reserved for the most spectacularly visible comets. This comet’s appearance coincided with the beginning of the American Civil War which is dated from April 12, 1861 to May 9, 1865.
The Great Comet by Jeremy Johnson
The Great Comet of 1861 was discovered by John Tebbutt in Australia on May 13th, 1861.
A “great comet” is one that can not only be seen from Earth, but is also exceptionally bright. Also, it doesn’t refer to the comet in so far as it refers to a particular appearance of a comet. For example, when Halley’s Comet visited the Earth in 1910, it was bright enough to be considered a “great comet.” However, in 1986 it was not bright enough to be considered a “great comet.” The most recent great comet event is McNaught Comet’s close approach in 2007, but the most famous one that happened relatively recently was Hale-Bopp in the 1990s.
While there were several great comets in the 19th Century, the 1861 comet was the most noteworthy. It was one of the brightest comets of all time, outshining all the stars in the sky, just barely excepting the Sun. In addition, the Earth passed so close to the comet that it physically entered its tail for two days. This bright period occurred in late-June/early-July of 1861, but it was at least visible in the sky without a telescope from May to August of that year.
It passed into the northern hemisphere on the 29th of June. On the Fourth of July, a soldier from the Second Wisconsin wrote this about the body:
“We have been visited for a week past by a very large comet which at full day appears very bright and transparent; late at night the tail stretched nearly to the Zenith while the star was near the horizon.” (In other words, it stretched from the nearly very top of the sky to the edge of the horizon. - Jeremy)
The comet soon became a significant sight for the American audience, and in turn it was used in period media referencing the impending Civil War. This is not surprising, as comets – particularly great comets – were seen as harbingers of death and destruction for millennia. In this case, the comet was an accurate predictor of upcoming events, as it was still visible in the sky as troops came up to line near the Bull Run tributary.
America’s citizens in 1861 made the connection between this comet and the onset of war. A cover for Vanity Fair magazine depicted the comet with Union General Winfield Scott’s head appearing where the nucleus would be. Scott advocated that war was the only way in which to bring the secessionist states back into the Union. In the image his hair, the comet’s tail, is fashioned of bayonets.
There has never been a bloodier period of American history. More men were slain in this war than all other American wars combined. That a spectacular comet accompanied the onset of war was certainly a divine testimony of the great slaughter to come. Some list the number of those killed on both sides to be more than 800,000 with another 300,000 wounded. It was truly a time of deep divide as brother fought against brother. Following are two accounts of the spectacular comet that appeared at the beginning of the war. The first is from an observer in England.
As the long midsummer Sunday drew to a close, there was noticed a strange appearance in the sky. E. J. Lowe, at Beaston, said, "The sky had a yellow, auroral, glare-like look, and the sun, though shining, gave but a feeble light…in our parish church the vicar had the pulpit candles lighted at seven o'clock, a proof that a sensation of darkness was felt even with the sun shining." J. R. Hind, in London, told the Times; "there was a peculiar phosphorescence or illumination of the sky, which I attributed at the time to an auroral glare; it was remarked by other persons as something unusual." Even before the sun set, the comet became visible. E. J. Lowe saw it first at 7.49 p.m. (GMT), when it had no tail, and looked like "Jupiter in a fog, only much larger." By 9 p.m. the tail was visible, and by 10.30 it was 45° long, rising vertically and spreading out until it was three times the diameter of the Moon.
Julia Taft Bayne, a playmate of the Lincoln children in the White House, recalled seventy years later how, while watching the comet’s pyrotechnics, a Negro woman of Washington predicted:
You see dat big fire sword blazin’ in the sky? De handle’s to’rd de Norf and de point to’rd de Souf and de Norf’s gwine take dat sword and cut de Souf’s heart out. But dat Linkum man, chilluns, if he takes de sword, he’s gwine perish by it...
On the Fourth of July, the New York Herald ran this:
The present is a year productive of strange and surprising events. It is one prolific of revolution and abounding in great and startling novelties. Our own country is resounding with war’s alarms, and half a million of Northern and Southern men are preparing to engage in a deadly conflict. And meanwhile all Europe is threatened with one tremendous revolution, growing out of our own, which will shake thrones to their foundations. The premonitory symptoms of change are already observable here and there. Even Russia will not escape; for the troubles in Poland and the emancipation of the serfs have already made her empire ripe for revolt. In China and Japan, too, the hand of revolution is also busy. This is indeed a wonderful year; for while all the world is more or less filled with apprehension and commotion, a luminous messenger makes its appearance in the heavens, to the consternation of astronomers... That we are entering, to say the least, upon a new and important epoch in the history of the world, all these wars and rumors of wars, these miracles on earth and marvels in the sky, would seem to indicate.
Pictured above is a photographic print of the Great Comet of 1861. You can readily imagine two swords drawn, arising from the same source, reflecting the situation upon the earth as brother drew sword against brother, and a nation was plunged into a bloody civil war.
In recent posts I have written of impending civil strife arising once more on American soil. That the powers behind the government of the nation are preparing for massive unrest is readily observed. I have made mention of signs on the earth, and prophetic experiences among the saints, announcing a great conflict to come. America will once again experience a time similar to the period when Lincoln was President. The witnesses to what is approaching are numerous, including for the first time ever a Super Bowl that will feature two brother as head coaches of opposing teams facing off against one another before a worldwide audience.
These signs would not be complete, however, without a confirming sign in the heavens. There are two comets set to make a close approach to the Earth in 2013. Read the amazing description of the Comet known as ISON.
Spectacular heavenly show expected this year
Comet ISON to pass through asteroid belt, sidestep Mars
Later this year, Comet ISON will pass through the asteroid belt, enter the Inner Solar System and sidestep Mars on its way past Earth, putting on what scientists expect will be a spectacular heavenly show that is not to be missed.
Astronomers are calling it the “comet of the century.”
Comets offer one of the most spectacular celestial scenes the unaided human eye can see. By November or December, ISON is expected to be brighter than a full moon. Some believe it will be up to 15 times brighter.
While ISON may prove to be brighter than any other comet of the last century, this trip may also be its swan song, as it is projected to end its flight in a fiery death in the sun.
Comets are made of several parts. The core, or nucleus, is a solid snowball of dust and ice. As the comet nears the sun, the nucleus heats up, releasing the mixture of gas, called the coma, and dust, which forms the tail. There is also a plasma ion tail, which can be several hundred million miles long.
Occasionally, a comet is dislodged from its orbit and makes its way toward Earth.
Comet ISON, currently in the vicinity of Jupiter, was discovered by two Russian amateur astronomers, Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok, using a 16-inch International Scientific Optical Network telescope in Vitebsk, Belarus. The comet possibly came from the Kuiper Belt, a region of icy small bodies beyond Neptune.
ISON, for the moment, is a faint object, visible only in sophisticated telescopes, but that will change in the next few months.
British astronomer David Whitehouse, in the London Independent, reports that by the end of summer, it will become visible in small telescopes and binoculars.
By October, the comet will pass close to Mars, and it will start to become exciting. The surface of the comet will begin to shift as it nears the sun. As it continues to warm, the surface will crack, releasing small puffs of gas from its core, forming the comet’s tail. Slowly at first, but with increasing energy, the gas and dust will reflect even more of the sun’s light
By autumn, the view should be remarkable.
Astronomers have calculated that the comet will not impact Earth, however, it will pass less than 800,000 miles away from Earth, making it easily visible...
Note: The statement above about the comet passing 800,000 miles from earth is incorrect. It will pass approximately 800,000 miles from the surface of the sun. Its closest approach to earth will be approximately 39 million miles distance.
Looking into the names of the two Russian men who discovered this comet, I found that Vitaly is derived from the Latin Vitalis (Life), and was the name of a number of prominent Christian martyrs of the early church. The name Artyom is derived from the Greek Artemis, the goddess of war. A heavenly harbinger indeed. (See the website www.behindthename.com for name origins.)
Image Projection of Comet ISON on December 6, 2013 Looking East
Comets are notoriously hard to predict. A comet could melt completely as it passes the sun, or for unknown reasons simply fail to provide much of a spectacle. Astronomer David H. Levy, who became a household name after discovering the comet Shoemaker/Levy that struck the planet Jupiter in 1994, made the following statement about comets and their unpredictability.
"Comets are like cats; they have tails, and they do precisely what they want."
If Comet ISON even approaches the level of spectacle some astronomers are predicting, being brighter than the moon and visible during daylight hours, it would certainly serve as a foreboding sign of that which is to come to the earth.
We need not wait until late fall to begin comet watching, however. The Comet PANSTARRS will make its presence known earlier. It should become visible beginning in March of this year (if it becomes visible at all to the unaided eye.)
Image Projection of Comet PANSTARRS for April 9, 2013
There are more reasons than one for the saints to keep their focus upon the heavens at this time as we approach the end of the age and the soon appearing of Christ.
May you be blessed with peace and understanding in these days.
Addendum: A brother in Christ sent me the following link about the Harbaugh brothers after reading yesterday's post. I want to pass it on as it is striking in its relevance to the present topic.
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