Saturday, November 19, 2011

Signs of the Times and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ

by Harry Anderson

Every year the course curriculum in the Church calls for these two lessons. I've taught both numerous times in my life in the Church. What never seems to disappoint whenever these topics come up is the number of Latter-day Saints who are clueless in their comments. Words like, "The Second Coming could happen any day." Or another favorite: "If we are more righteous, we will hasten the day." Or, "All the signs have been fulfilled, it's just a matter of how much longer the Lord waits."

These days I normally sit back and take it all in. I've all but given up trying to re-position the conversations back to the scriptures. It's just not helpful to the teacher.

Because we've been travelling around to various wards for events involving grandchildren, no one will guess the ward of which I speak here. The instructor opened the Gospel Principles manual, cited the lesson title, then closed that book and opened Bruce R. McConkie's Mormon Doctrine, and proceeded to read the 51 signs of the times cited therein by the author. He got to number 19 before the time expired.

The pattern continues, much to my dismay. A few weeks ago, same experience. Topic: The Postmortal Spirit World. Approach: Cite the lesson topic, then turn to Duane Crowther and someone (a non-member of the Church), who claimed to have been to the spirit world and back. Amazing.

Only one single scripture was cited in last week's lesson on the Signs of the Second Coming, so let us begin there: "And unto you it shall be given to know the signs of the times, and the signs of the coming of the Son of Man;" (D&C 68:11).

It would have been nice just to get the context of that one isolated verse, but it wasn't to be. The context is that the verse of scripture cited was a revelation given through the Prophet Joseph Smith while the Church was still in its infancy (November 1831) -- only eighteen months after it was organized. It was a call for "all the faithful elders of my church" to be involved in missionary work. It was a clarion call to "Go ye into all the world, preach the gospel to every creature, acting in the authority which I have given you, baptizing in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. And he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned. And he that believeth shall be blest with signs following, even as it is written." (D&C 68:8-10).

The "signs following" spoken of here include the signs that follow all believers in Jesus Christ -- they emulate the teachings and works of the Savior in their daily walk in discipleship. Those are perhaps the most compelling signs of the times: The miracle of the change of one heart at a time in the midst of all the wickedness is routinely undervalued.

Despite all the wickedness in the world today there are people who believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior, and they not only talk the talk, but they walk the walk. Make no mistake, it is a daily struggle to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. It is a daily walk in faith that He was who He said He was -- the Redeemer of Israel who is mighty to save because He alone atoned for our sins. Believing that, His disciples today mirror His image in their countenance. The evidence of the existence of His disciples is everywhere. That's a sign of the times you can take to the bank.

The sequel lesson tomorrow, "The Second Coming of Christ," is the one I get to teach. From the moment Christ was taken up into heaven in the company of many witnesses on the Mount of Olives forty days after He was resurrected, speculation about the timing of His return has abounded. The expectation was chiseled into granite by two angels standing beside the Apostles who queried, "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go." (Acts 1:11). All through sacred writings since that moment the anticipation has been that at any moment He could return.

Many years ago I spotted a bumper sticker: "Jesus is coming and he's pissed." It was a six-word memoir before they were even in vogue. The righteous will welcome Him, the wicked will tremble in fear. A Great and a Dreadful Day. Another six-word anomaly.

The lesson tomorrow suggests He will do five specific things when He comes again:

by Del Parson
1. He will cleanse the earth. Whenever something bad happens, people immediately jump to the conclusion that the Savior's return is imminent. I've written before about the reaction to 9/11. Many in our community thought it was the trigger for the much-anticipated Battle of Armageddon. He will come in great power and great glory. There will be no mistaking His identity this time. He will be clothed in garments of red, suggesting He trod the wine press alone, drenched in His own blood for the sins of mankind. (D&C 101:24-25; 133:42-62, also given in November, 1831): "And the Lord shall be red in his apparel, and his garments like him that treadeth in the wine-vat. And so great shall be the glory of his presence that the sun shall hide his face in shame, and the moon shall withhold its light, and the stars shall be hurled from their places. And his voice shall be heard: I have trodden the wine-press alone, and have brought judgment upon all people; and none were with me; And I have trampled them in my fury, and I did tread upon them in mine anger, and their blood have I sprinkled upon my garments, and stained all my raiment; for this was the day of vengeance which was in my heart." While artists continue to represent the Savior in white (see above), the scriptures are clear. When He comes again His garments will be stained with the blood of the wicked instead of His own as they were in Gethsemane. (See D&C 19:16-19). "The end of the world," is interpreted to be the "destruction of the wicked." (See JS-M 1:4).

2. He will judge His people. The separation of the sheep from the goats, as foretold in Matthew 25:31-46 and D&C 63:54 will occur. The time for dithering and fence sitting will come to an end in an instant. The separation between the righteous and the wicked will be complete, judgment will be rendered. The same thing happens when we die and go through the veil -- a partial judgment between light and dark, good and evil, and righteousness and wickedness. (See Alma 40:11-14). I suspect the anticipation for the Second Coming on this side of the veil might be akin to the anticipation of the resurrection on the other side. (D&C 138:50). In the destruction, some of the righteous will perish right along with the wicked, suggesting that how we live our lives determines our eternal inheritance, not the timing or whether or not we survive destruction that is coming. (See TPJS, 162).

3. He will usher in the Millennium. For 1,000 years after His Second Coming, Jesus Christ will come to reign upon planet Earth. Those who are alive on the Earth at the time of His coming will be "caught up" (meaning resurrected) to meet Him at His coming. This event is what is described as the "morning of the first resurrection" in sacred places. (See D&C 88:96, a revelation given the day after Christmas, 1832, known as the "olive leaf. . . plucked from the Tree of Paradise, the Lord's message of peace to us"). It is really a continuation of the general resurrection that happened when He became the "first fruits" of the resurrection during his meridian ministry. Then those who have died and been faithful during their mortal probation between the time of His resurrection and the Second Coming, those who have become heirs of the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom, will also be "caught up" to meet Him at His coming. In other words, the morning of the first resurrection will be here.

President Brigham Young
President Brigham Young captured the essence of what will be happening during the Millennium in these words:

In the Millennium, when the Kingdom of God is established on the earth in power, glory and perfection, and the reign of wickedness that has so long prevailed is subdued, the Saints of God will have the privilege of building their temples, and of entering into them, becoming, as it were, pillars in the temples of God [see Revelation 3:12], and they will officiate for their dead. Then we will see our friends come up, and perhaps some that we have been acquainted with here. If we ask who will stand at the head of the resurrection in this last dispensation, the answer is — Joseph Smith, Junior, the Prophet of God. He is the man who will be resurrected and receive the keys of the resurrection, and he will seal this authority upon others, and they will hunt up their friends and resurrect them when they shall have been officiated for, and bring them up. And we will have revelations to know our forefathers clear back to Father Adam and Mother Eve, and we will enter into the temples of God and officiate for them. Then man will be sealed to man until the chain is made perfect back to Adam, so that there will be a perfect chain of Priesthood from Adam to the winding-up scene. (Discourses of Brigham Young, 116).

4. He will complete the First Resurrection. As we mentioned above, there is a specific order to resurrection. The faithful come forth from the graves first. (See D&C 88:97-98). The wicked who are destroyed at His coming remain in their graves until the end of the Millennium. Why? So they may have every possible opportunity to accept and embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ and to repent fully of their sins. It is the merciful part of "the great plan of happiness." The keys of resurrection will be in the hands of faithful patriarchal heads to each family. Who more than they would want to allow for every chance for their posterity to accept and embrace the gospel? All of our Heavenly Father's children will be given ample chances to see things as they really are, and to pierce the fogs of deception that have held them bound. This quote from Gospel Principles (p. 260) sums up:

"After Jesus Christ rose from the dead, other righteous people who had died were also resurrected. They appeared in Jerusalem and also on the American continent. (See Matthew 27:52–53; 3 Nephi 23:9–10).This was the beginning of the First Resurrection. Some people have been resurrected since then. Those who already have been resurrected and those who will be resurrected at the time of His coming will all inherit the glory of the celestial kingdom (see D&C 76:50–70).

"After the resurrection of those who will inherit celestial glory, another group will be resurrected: those who will receive a terrestrial glory. [I suggest the word "after" is when they are "ready" and not before, perhaps also as long as at the end of the Millennium, having settled their eternal station in their own minds and their righteous fathers before them having done all they could to affect the outcome in love, persuasion and long-suffering]. When all these people have been resurrected, the First Resurrection will be completed.

"The wicked who are living at the time of the Second Coming of the Lord will be destroyed in the flesh. They, along with the wicked who are already dead, will have to wait until the last resurrection. All of the remaining dead will rise to meet God. They will either inherit the telestial kingdom or be cast into outer darkness with Satan (see D&C 76:32–33, 81–112, emphasis mine)."

5. He will take His rightful place as King of heaven and earth. The "intrigues between the nations," all the "wars and rumors of wars" were all foreseen in a revelation on Christmas Day, 1832, known as D&C 87. We learn "with the sword and by bloodshed the inhabitants of the earth shall mourn; and with famine and plague, and earthquake, and the thunder of heaven, and the fierce and vivid lightning also, shall the inhabitants of the earth be made to feel the wrath, and indignation, and chastening hand of an Almighty God, until the consumption decreed hath made a full end of all nations." (Emphasis mine). It is a worthy goal to pray for "peace on earth," but there will be no peace on earth until He comes again. Peace has been taken from the earth because of the unrighteous exercise of moral agency among the inhabitants. When Christ comes again He will come in triumphant glory to rule and reign, a complete reversal of His first birth in an obscure manger in Bethlehem. He will come this time as "Lord of lords, and King of kings." The epic words of Handel's Messiah, taken from Revelation 17:14, will finally be fulfilled: "Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6).

It is almost a "rite of passage" for members of the Church to speculate on the timing of the Second Coming. I know it was a passion of mine at one point in my life. When one is immersed in the study of the Word, it seems events could be accelerated and timing could be imminent. However, age, experience and hopefully some acquired wisdom along the way tempers such pursuits about timetables. I know I have been tempered in my life.

President Boyd K. Packer
We need look no further than the most recent General Conference to the words of the chief Apostle today, President Boyd K. Packer, for a clue about the timing of the Second Coming. Said he,

Sometimes you might be tempted to think as I did from time to time in my youth: “The way things are going, the world’s going to be over with. The end of the world is going to come before I get to where I should be.” Not so! You can look forward to doing it right — getting married, having a family, seeing your children and grandchildren, maybe even great-grandchildren. ("Counsel to Youth," Boyd K. Packer).

I would add one more valuable perspective for your consideration from President Lorenzo Snow, who stood in the Tabernacle over 100 years ago to open the 70th Annual General Conference. It was the first conference after the turn of the century in 1900, and it culminated a period of great trial and tribulation for the Church. Total Church membership then was approaching 300,000, with the majority of those members living in Utah.

President Lorenzo Snow
On Friday, April 6, 1900, President Snow said: “The Lord has prospered us amazingly, and we are doing large things at the present time. . .  Now that we are approaching our seventy-first year, the Lord expects that we will do something — something that will cause the nations to marvel, as what we have done has caused them already to wonder.”

Then this thought-provoking statement: “Now, Latter-day Saints, how is it with us? We have received the Gospel. We have received the kingdom of God, established on the earth. We have had trouble; we have been persecuted. We were driven from Ohio; we were driven from Missouri; we were driven from Nauvoo; and once we were driven for a time from this beautiful city. Many have lost thousands of dollars; lost their homes and all they had, and some of the brethren have seen their wives and children lay down their lives because of the hardships they had to experience. . . The people have looked with astonishment at the willingness of the Latter-day Saints to suffer these things. Why do we do this? . . . What is it that enables us to endure these persecutions and still rejoice?”

President Snow then answered his own question. I suggest his answer still reverberates in the hearts of all true disciples over 100 years later: “It is because we have had revelations from the Almighty; because He has spoken to us in our souls and has given to us the Holy Ghost. . .  This Church will stand, because it is upon a firm basis. It is not from man; it is not from the study of the New Testament or the Old Testament; it is not the result of the learning that we received in colleges nor seminaries, but it has come directly from the Lord. The Lord has shown it to us by the revealing principle of the Holy Spirit of light and every man can receive this same spirit.” (Conference Report, April 1900, 2–3, emphasis mine).

President Gordon B. Hinckley
President Gordon B. Hinckley, while touring the missions and stakes in Africa, made this assertion in 1998: "It isn't who we are and where we live. It is our attitude, our love and testimony, our faith and our conviction that make a difference in turning membership in this great and sacred Church."

He said that the membership [of the Church] will grow, "where there are now hundreds, there will be thousands, there will be tens of thousands. This gospel is true; it will spread over the earth.

"With 10 million members we've only begun. We've barely scratched the surface of what will come. I haven't the slightest doubt of that." (As reported 02/28/98 by John L. Hart, Church News staff writer, emphasis mine).

The take away from today's post? I hope it is this: You have time to live your lives in faith and anticipation for the Second Coming in the spirit of hope. There is still much to do before that day comes. So much, in fact, that it is a very long list of unfulfilled events waiting to transpire as we build Zion together.

Mormon eschatology is (or should be) clearly defined in our minds with no uncertainty.


  1. In regards to Boyd K. Packer's comments in the last general conference... And in the uttermost respect and correct me if I’m wrong. I’ am not entirely sure he knows how close the Second Coming is. I thought Only Christ and His Father knew. In that vein, I think the substance of what he was saying was wether the Lord returns in ten years or 100 years, we need not fear the future. Obviously, He’s not coming tomorrow because comets have not fallen, the Anti Christ has not been unleashed and ZION has not been redeemed. To be honest I would be saddened if Christ did not return within fifty years, how long will the blood his saints cry from the ground for vengeance? [The poor and needy etc].

  2. Thanks for your comments. I would not presume to speak for President Packer, nor to try to suggest what he is thinking. His words speak for themselves. However, I can tell you EXACTLY when the Second Coming will occur. (gasp!)

    In D&C 1 we are promised, "Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled. What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same." (Verses 37-38).

    When they are, the Second Coming will occur, not a moment before. My study of the scriptures informs my conclusion that there is so much left to be fulfilled it will be a long time from now.

    Study Revelation 6 and 7 carefully, and cross-reference D&C 77. The sixth seal earthquake will set the stage, and we haven't seen that event yet. When it occurs it will trigger the expectation that the Second Coming has happened, but there is much to accomplish even after that event. For what it's worth, search for "Zion" on this blog page, and you'll find a complete compilation on all the scriptures related to the events foretold in the establishment of Zion that precedes the Second Coming. When I begin to see construction on the Jewish temple in Jerusalem on the Temple Mount and the temple complex in Independence (24 temples), THEN you can talk to me about how close the Second Coming might be. Until then, I will live the gospel and resist evil to the degree I am able. All the rest will take care of itself.

    Here's the bottom line: "Being prepared" reduces to living the gospel. The nearness of the Second Coming can only accurately be measured in terms of the fulfillment of the events that precede it, not by the calendar, our hopes, our desires it might be sooner, our righteousness, or any other factors.

    Love and blessings. . . and Merry Christmas!

  3. I agree, appreciate your comments. Merry Christmas to you and your family.