This phrase refers to a biblical passage from the Book of Revelation, in which John receives a vision of the holy lamb "open[ing] the seventh seal," making way for the trumpeting of seven angels to herald the end of times (King James Bible, Rev. 8.1). The trumpeting of the first three angels calls forth the physical destruction of the earth. The trumpeting of the fourth angel causes a third of the celestial bodies to cease shining. The trumpeting of the fifth angel heralds the opening of "the bottomless pit," from which locust-like monsters swarm outward to torment those "who have not the seal of God in their foreheads" (Rev. 9.1-4). The sixth angel unleashes four other angels and their armies to slay a third of all men. The last and seventh angel commands that "that there should be time no longer" (Rev. 10.6) and orders John to spread the prophecy of his vision to all of humankind.
In "Signs of the Times," Thomas Carlyle criticizes the contemporary "prophets" who announce the end of times, as if they themselves has witnessed holy lambs with holy scrolls. "The Lamb has the knowledge of the future which proves he is divine," writes Margaret Barker in The Revelation of Jesus Christ, but the Fifth Monarchy Men whom Carlyle scoffs at are only common humans, not holy prophets (146). At the same time, Carlyle takes a stab at Utilitarians and their clamoring for universal happiness. Both parties may sound their alarms for a while, but like most variants of idealist dissent, their cries will merely "dissipate, and die away in space."
Barker, Margaret. The Revelation of Jesus Christ. New York: T&T Clark Ltd., 2000.
"Book of Revelation." Wikipedia. 2009. March 30, 2009.
"Seven Seals." Wikipedia. 2009. March 30, 2009.
The Holy Bible, King James Version. New York: American Bible Society, 1999. 30 Mar 2009.
Last modified 30 March 2009