QUESTION 73: OF THE SIGNS THAT WILL PRECEDE THE JUDGMENT
We must next consider the signs that will precede the judgment: and
under this head there are three points of inquiry:
(1) Whether any signs will precede the Lord's coming to judgment?
(2) Whether in very truth the sun and moon will be darkened?
(3) Whether the powers of the heavens will be moved when the Lord shall
Article 1: Whether any signs will precede the Lord's coming to judgment?
Objection 1: It would seem that the Lord's coming to judgment will not be
preceded by any signs. Because it is written (1 Thess. 5:3): "When they
shall say: Peace and security; then shall sudden destruction come upon
them." Now there would be no peace and security if men were terrified by
previous signs. Therefore signs will not precede that coming
Objection 2: Further, signs are ordained for the manifestation of something.
But His coming is to be hidden; wherefore it is written (1 Thess. 5:2):
"The day of the Lord shall come as a thief in the night." Therefore signs
ought not to precede it.
Objection 3: Further, the time of His first coming was foreknown by the
prophets, which does not apply to His second coming. Now no such signs
preceded the first coming of Christ. Therefore neither will they precede
On the contrary, It is written (Lk. 21:25): "There shall be signs in the
sun, and in the moon, and in the stars," etc.
Further, Jerome [*St. Peter Damian, Opuscul. xlix; he quotes St. Jerome,
but the reference is not known.] mentions fifteen signs preceding the
judgment. He says that on the "first" day all the seas will rise fifteen
cubits above the mountains; in the "second" day all the waters will be
plunged into the depths, so that scarcely will they be visible; on the
"third" day they will be restored to their previous condition; on the
"fourth" day all the great fishes and other things that move in the
waters will gather together and, raising their heads above the sea, roar
at one another contentiously; on the "fifth" day, all the birds of the
air will gather together in the fields, wailing to one another, with
neither bite nor sup; on the "sixth" day rivers of fire will arise
towards the firmament rushing together from the west to the east; on the
"seventh" day all the stars, both planets and fixed stars, will throw out
fiery tails like comets; on the "eighth" day there will be a great
earthquake, and all animals will be laid low; on the "ninth" day all the
plants will be bedewed as it were with blood; on the "tenth" day all
stones, little and great, will be divided into four parts dashing against
one another; on the "eleventh" day all hills and mountains and buildings
will be reduced to dust; on the "twelfth" day all animals will come from
forest and mountain to the fields, roaring and tasting of nothing; on the
"thirteenth" day all graves from east to west will open to allow the
bodies to rise again; on the "fourteenth" day all men will leave their
abode, neither understanding nor speaking, but rushing hither and thither
like madmen; on the "fifteenth" day all will die and will rise again with
those who died long before.
I answer that, When Christ shall come to judge He will appear in the form of glory, on account of the authority becoming a judge. Now it pertains to the dignity of judicial power to have certain signs that induce people to reverence and subjection: and consequently many signs will precede the advent of Christ when He shall come to judgment, in order that the hearts of men be brought to subjection to the coming judge, and be prepared for the judgment, being forewarned by those signs. But it is not easy to know what these signs may be: for the signs of which we read in the gospels, as Augustine says, writing to Hesychius about the end of the world (Ep. lxxx), refer not only to Christ's coming to judgment, but also to the time of the sack of Jerusalem, and to the coming of Christ in ceaselessly visiting His Church. So that, perhaps, if we consider them carefully, we shall find that none of them refers to the coming advent, as he remarks: because these signs that are mentioned in the gospels, such as wars, fears, and so forth, have been from the beginning of the human race: unless perhaps we say that at that time they will be more prevalent: although it is uncertain in what degree this increase will foretell the imminence of the advent. The signs mentioned by Jerome are not asserted by him; he merely says that he found them written in the annals of the Hebrews: and, indeed, they contain very little likelihood.
Reply to Objection 1: According to Augustine (Ad Hesych., Ep. lxxx) towards the
end of the world there will be a general persecution of the good by the
wicked: so that at the same time some will fear, namely the good, and
some will be secure, namely the wicked. The words: "When they shall say:
Peace and security," refer to the wicked, who will pay little heed to the
signs of the coming judgment: while the words of Lk. 21:26, "men
withering away," etc., should be referred to the good.
We may also reply that all these signs that will happen about the time
of the judgment are reckoned to occur within the time occupied by the
judgment, so that the judgment day contains them all. Wherefore although
men be terrified by the signs appearing about the judgment day, yet
before those signs begin to appear the wicked will think themselves to be
in peace and security, after the death of Antichrist and before the
coming of Christ, seeing that the world is not at once destroyed, as they
Reply to Objection 2: The day of the Lord is said to come as a thief, because the
exact time is not known, since it will not be possible to know it from
those signs: although, as we have already said, all these most manifest
sings which will precede the judgment immediately may be comprised under
the judgment day.
Reply to Objection 3: At His first advent Christ came secretly, although the
appointed time was known beforehand by the prophets. Hence there was no
need for such signs to appear at His first coming, as will appear at His
second advent, when He will come openly, although the appointed time is
Article 2: Whether towards the time of the judgment the sun and moon will be darkened in very truth?
Objection 1: It would seem that towards the time of the judgment the sun and
moon will be darkened in very truth. For, as Rabanus says, commenting on
Mt. 24:29 "nothing hinders us from gathering that the sun moon, and stars
will then be deprived of their light, as we know happened to the sun at
the time of our Lord's passion."
Objection 2: Further, the light of the heavenly bodies is directed to the
generation of inferior bodies, because by its means and not only by their
movement they act upon this lower world as Averroes says (De Subst.
Orbis.). But generation will cease then. Therefore neither will light
remain in the heavenly bodies.
Objection 3: Further, according to some the inferior bodies will be cleansed
of the qualities by which they act. Now heavenly bodies act not only by
movement, but also by light, as stated above (Objection ). Therefore as the
movement of heaven will cease, so will the light of the heavenly bodies.
On the contrary, According to astronomers the sun and moon cannot be
eclipsed at the same time. But this darkening of the sun and moon is
stated to be simultaneous, when the Lord shall come to judgment.
Therefore the darkening will not be in very truth due to a natural
Further, it is not seemly for the same to be the cause of a thing's
failing and increasing. Now when our Lord shall come the light of the
luminaries will increase according to Is. 30:26, "The light of the moon
shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be
sevenfold." Therefore it is unfitting for the light of these bodies to
cease when our Lord comes.
I answer that, If we speak of the sun and moon in respect of the very
moment of Christ's coming, it is not credible that they will be darkened
through being bereft of their light, since when Christ comes and the
saints rise again the whole world will be renewed, as we shall state
further on (Question ). If, however, we speak of them in respect of the time
immediately preceding the judgment, it is possible that by the Divine
power the sun, moon, and other luminaries of the heavens will be
darkened, either at various times or all together, in order to inspire
men with fear.
Reply to Objection 1: Rabanus is speaking of the time preceding the judgment:
wherefore he adds that when the judgment day is over the words of Isaias
shall be fulfilled.
Reply to Objection 2: Light is in the heavenly bodies not only for the purpose of
causing generation in these lower bodies, but also for their own
perfection and beauty. Hence it does not follow that where generation
ceases, the light of the heavenly bodies will cease, but rather that it
Reply to Objection 3: It does not seem probable that the elemental qualities will
be removed from the elements, although some have asserted this. If,
however, they be removed, there would still be no parallel between them
and light, since the elemental qualities are in opposition to one
another, so that their action is corruptive: whereas light is a principle
of action not by way of opposition, but by way of a principle regulating
things in opposition to one another and bringing them back to harmony.
Nor is there a parallel with the movement of heavenly bodies, for
movement is the act of that which is imperfect, wherefore it must needs
cease when the imperfection ceases: whereas this cannot be said of light.
Article 3: Whether the virtues of heaven will be moved when our Lord shall come?
Objection 1: It would seem that the virtues of heaven will not be moved when
our Lord shall come. For the virtues of heaven can de. note only the
blessed angels. Now immobility is essential to blessedness. Therefore it
will be impossible for them to be moved.
Objection 2: Further, ignorance is the cause of wonder (Metaph. i, 2). Now
ignorance, like fear, is far from the angels, for as Gregory says (Dial.
iv, 33; Moral. ii, 3), "what do they not see, who see Him Who sees all."
Therefore it will be impossible for them to be moved with wonder, as
stated in the text (Sent. iv, D, 48).
Objection 3: Further, all the angels will be present at the Divine judgment;
wherefore it is stated (Apoc. 7:11): "All the angels stood round about
the throne." Now the virtues denote one particular order of angels.
Therefore it should not be said of them rather than of others, that they
On the contrary, It is written (Job 26:11): "The pillars of heaven
tremble, and dread at His beck." Now the pillars of heaven can denote
only the virtues of heaven. Therefore the virtues of heaven will be moved.
Further, it is written (Mt. 24:29): "The stars shall fall from heaven,
and the virtues [Douay: 'powers'] of heaven shall be moved."
I answer that, Virtue is twofold as applied to the angels, [*Cf. FP,
Question , Article , ad 1] as Dionysius states (Coel. Hier. xi). For sometimes
the name of "virtues" is appropriated to one order, which according to
him, is the middle order of the middle hierarchy, but according to
Gregory (Hom. in Evang. xxxiv) is the highest order of the lowest
hierarchy. In another sense it is employed to denote all the angels: and
then they are said to the question at issue it may be taken either way.
For in the text (Sent. iv, D, 48) it is explained according to the second
acceptation, so as to denote all the angels: and then they are said to be
moved through wonder at the renewing of the world, as stated in the text.
It can also be explained in reference to virtue as the name of a
particular order; and then that order is said to be moved more than the
others by reason of the effect, since according to Gregory (Hom. in
Evang. xxxiv) we ascribe to that order the working of miracles which
especially will be worked about that time: or again, because that
order---since, according to Dionysius (Coel. Hier. xi), it belongs to the
middle hierarchy---is not limited in its power, wherefore its ministry
must needs regard universal causes. Consequently the proper office of the
virtues is seemingly to move the heavenly bodies which are the cause of
what happens in nature here below. And again the very name denotes this,
since they are called the "virtues of heaven." Accordingly they will be
moved then, because they will no more produce their effect, by ceasing to
move the heavenly bodies: even as the angels who are appointed to watch
over men will no longer fulfill the office of guardians.
Reply to Objection 1: This movement changes nothing pertaining to their state;
but refers either to their effects which may vary without any change on
their part, or to some new consideration of things which hitherto they
were unable to see by means of their concreated species, which change of
thought is not taken from them by their state of blessedness. Hence
Augustine says (Gen. ad lit. viii, 20) that "God moves the spiritual
creature through time."
Reply to Objection 2: Wonder is wont to be about things surpassing our knowledge
or ability: and accordingly the virtues of heaven will wonder at the
Divine power doing such things, in so far as they fail to do or
comprehend them. In this sense the blessed Agnes said that the "sun and
moon wonder at His beauty": and this does not imply ignorance in the
angels, but removes the comprehension of God from them.
The Reply to the Third Objection is clear from what has been said.