On This Day: The Night That Stars Fell - November 13, 1833

 Painting of The Great Leonid Meteor Shower in 1833 copyright E. Weiß (ca. 1888).

Imagine waking up one morning and going outside to get some fresh air or some exercise when all of a sudden, you look and… What is this?! You are left speechless, perhaps frightened and amazed at nature’s scene! You just can’t believe your eyes! Stars are falling from the sky! And not just one at the time, but many at once, 60,000 stars per hour. (1) You close your eyes and open them again, but no. This is not a dream, but a real phenomenon! This was similar to the experience of an eye witness of The Great Leonid Meteor Shower that happened on November 13, 1833 in North America. He writes:

“Being up this morning, I witnessed one of the most grand and alarming spectacles which ever beamed upon the eye of man,” he later wrote. “The light in my room was so great that I could see the hour of the morning by my watch which hung over my mantle, and supposing there was a fire near at hand, probably on my own premises, I sprung to the window, and behold, the stars or some other bodies presenting a fiery appearance were descending in torrents as rapid and as numerous as I ever saw flakes of snow, or drops of rain, in the midst of a storm.” (2)

The event left some people speechless and amazed and others frightened and full of questions. An amazing phenomenon of nature! Denison Olmsted, a mathematics professor of Yale college and the man who kick-started the modern science of meteors, wrote: 

“Probably no celestial phenomenon has ever occurred in this country, since its first settlement, which was viewed with so much admiration and delight by one class of spectators, or with so much astonishment and fear by another class.” (3) “Those who were so fortunate as to witness the exhibition of shooting stars on the morning of November 13, 1833, probably saw the greatest display of celestial fireworks that has ever been seen since the creation of the world, or at least within the annals covered by the pages of history.” (4)

John, in the Biblical book of Revelation, wrote that before the Coming of the Lord, “the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind.” (Revelation 6:13, emphasis mine). Matthew and Mark, as well, wrote about this event in their Biblical gospels: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken,” “the stars of heaven will fall, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.” (Matthew 24:29, Mark 13:25, NKJV, emphasis mine). Luke points out in his gospel that before the Coming of the Son of Man, “there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars…” (Luke 21:25, NKJV, emphasis mine). These natural events are to take place before the second coming of Jesus and are to serve as a warning for us that we live in the closing time of this earth. Jesus said: “Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors!” (Matthew 24:33-34, NKJV).

On November 14, 1866, there was another event with falling stars, but it was much less impressive than the one in 1833. The latter one was mostly visible in parts of Europe. Then several others occurred between 1866 and 1966. However, the 1833 Leonid Shower is considered one of the greatest meteor showers recorded in history. (5) This king of events is now understood to be a cycling event happening every 33 years. Why is the 1833 Star Falling event an important event in the prophetic timeline? 

Looking at the timeline of Jesus’s prophetic words this event is to happen “immediately after the tribulation” (Matthew 24:29, NKJV, emphasis mine), which is at the end of the 1260 day/year tribulation prophetic period prophesied of in the book of Daniel and Revelation (Daniel 7:25; Revelation 11:2-3; 12:6; 13:4-5). The prophetic period of the 1260 day/years tribulation started in 538 A.D. and ended in 1798 A.D.. So, some may argue, the falling of the stars should happen after the the year 1798. But the 1260 day/year tribulation period was “shortened”, for the “elect’s sake”, as prophesied in Matthew 24:22, so the tribulation, in terms of active persecution of God’s people, ended before the 1798. 

In the book of Revelation, we have a specific sequence of these events in the last days as outlined below.

  1. The tribulation period (Revelation 6:9-11)
  2. The great earthquake (Revelation 6:12) which is The Great Lisbon Earthquake in November 1, 1755
  3. The darkened sun and the moon like blood (Revelation 6:12) which occurred on May 19, 1780
  4. Falling of the stars (Revelation 6:13) in November 13, 1833

We can find the same sequence of the sun, moon, and stars events in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:24-25; Luke 21:25).

Uriah Smith, writing to answer the skepticism of some in regard the “falling stars” as being the heralds of the second coming of Christ, wrote: 

"We are well aware that the skeptic will say that these showers are shown to occur at "regular intervals, hence are the product of some natural law, and cannot therefore constitute a sign of the near coming of the Son of man. But we ask how it happens that all the principal exhibitions of this kind, even though they do occur at regular intervals, have taken place within less than a hundred years of the present time; none of any importance having occurred previous to the year 1799, The Saviour announced that the stars should fall from heaven as a precursor of his second coming. He did not say that the sign should be confined to one exhibition of the falling meteors; and though there should be a score of such, if they take place this side of the specified time at which they' were to appear as a sign, they must all be taken as omens and heralds of the great day. It may be remarked further, that the great display of 1833, was confined chiefly to this country ; while the present one was visible on the Eastern Continent. Before the wondering gaze of the principal portion of both hemispheres, this sign has now been fulfilled.” (6)

Ellen G. White, quoting the Matthew 24:29 and Revelation 6:13, referred to the “the great meteoric shower of November 13, 1833” (7) as the fulfilling event for the Bible falling of the stars prophecy.

Since I was a young boy looking at the night sky, I was amazed at God’s beautiful and amazing creative power. One of the first things that made deep impression on me that there must be a Creator, and that happened before me reading the Bible, was the beautiful starry sky at night. Many times, I would go outside at night and admire the beautiful sky, counting the stars, and thinking that there must be Someone, who was very creative and powerful to make something like this. Later when I started reading the Bible, I realized that God had spoken to me through nature. The Bible says that: “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork,” and “He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name” (Psalm 19:1; 147:4, NKJV). 

God actually calls us to look up and asks ourselves who created all these beautiful things: “Lift up your eyes on high, And see who has created these things, Who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, By the greatness of His might And the strength of His power; Not one is missing.” (Isaiah 40:26, NKJV). What an amazing Creator we serve! I wish I could have lived to see that prophetic morning when thousands of stars fell from the sky. What an amazing morning it must have been! To wake up to this fascinating natural event and be reminded that we are soon to go home to meet our heavenly Father!

All the falling stars from the The Great Leonid Meteor Shower has a message for us. A warning message that we are living in the closing scenes of the history of this earth. The Lord’s coming is near, “even at the doors” (Matthew 24:33, KJV). Am I ready to meet my Saviour? Are we ready to meet Him? This is the question that each one of us should ask ourselves and make the necessary preparation. Maranatha!





(1) This is the number of falling stars per hour on November 13, 1833. See the source: https://astronomy.com/observing/observe-the-solar-system/2010/04/meteors-and-meteor-showers

(2) The Advent Review, and Sabbath Herald, vol. 3, October 28, 1852, pag. 98.

(3) Denison Olmsted, On the Meteors of 13th November, pag. 363.

(4) William C. Thurman, Sealed Book of Daniel Opened, (Boston, Mass: 1867), pag. 26.

(5) https://blogs.nasa.gov/Watch_the_Skies/2017/08/03/the-greatest-meteor-show-of-all-time/

(6) Adventist Review and Sabbath Herald, Dec. 25, 1866, p. 30

(7) Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 333.


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