Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Jesus's comparison of Noah’s day, Lot’s day, and the day of the 2nd coming with JST

26 And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.
 27 They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.
 28 Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded;
 29 But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.
 30 Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.
 31 In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back.
 32 Remember Lot’s wife.
 33 Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.
 34 I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left.
 35 Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
 36 Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.  And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord, shall they be taken.
37  And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is gathered; or, in other words, whithersoever the saints are gathered, thither will the eagles be gathered together; or, thither will the remainder be gathered together.
38  This he spake, signifying the gathering of his saints; and of angels descending and gathering the remainder unto them; the one from the bed, the other from the grinding, and the other from the field, whithersoever he listeth.
39  For verily there shall be new heavens, and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
40  And there shall be no unclean thing; for the earth becoming old, even as a garment, having waxed in corruption, wherefore it vanisheth away, and the footstool remaineth sanctified, cleansed from all sin.
(Luke 17:26-27, JST verses 36-40 added)

I have a number of thoughts on these verses. 

First, I notice that when Jesus compares the days before the Second Coming to the days of Noah and Lot, He says that the very day Noah entered the ark and the very day Lot left Sodom, destruction hit the wicked.  I think this makes the point that as soon as the righteous are taken to safety, the wicked will no longer escape destruction. 

Second, it is curious that although we know the days of Noah and the city of Sodom were wicked, we see that very innocuous activities are attributed to the wicked in verses 27-28.
They were:

  • Eating and drinking
  • Marrying and giving in marriage
  • Buying and selling
  • Planting
  • Building

We might gain some insight if we ask ourselves some questions.  What were these people eating and drinking?  Who was marrying and giving in marriage?  What was bought and sold and on what terms?  What was planted?  What was built? 
We can only conclude that their wickedness was so great that it was even corrupting those very basic activities of life, and that it was completely ignored and defended with the claim that they were good people too who did normal things just like anyone else.  Yet normalized wickedness is not excusable just because it is pervasive throughout society.

Verses 34-36 tell us some very interesting things about the time close to the Second Coming.  They show how mixed the righteous will be with the wicked.  The image of two men in one bed (ignoring modern connotations) with one taken and the other left conveys the idea of how there will be very righteous people and very wicked people in the same household, essentially living cheek by jowl until the righteous are separated.  (No doubt they will grate on each other.)  The image of two women grinding together and two men in the same field evokes the idea that the righteous and wicked will be working right alongside each other until the day when the righteous are separated.  But that separation will come.

The JST tells us how that separation will come—angels will take the righteous out from among the wicked and gather them together with the main body of the saints, and then will come the destruction of the wicked, as we know from the parable of the wheat and the tares. 

Now, I’ve saved the verses 31-33 to talk about last because to me they seem a little tricky. 

 31 In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back.
 32 Remember Lot’s wife.
 33 Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.

When I consider that the surrounding verses are about the days of the Second Coming, these verses at first seem out of place.  Verses 31-32 reminds me of words Christ said elsewhere about how the former day saints were to escape the destruction of Jerusalem that occurred in 70 A.D., and it may be that those words were only applicable then and not applicable to the Second Coming.  But... it struck me that they may also apply to the days just before the Second Coming when the angels come to take the righteous to safety.  It is a matter of how we envision this rescue.  If it is something like “the Rapture” that Christians always talk about, it doesn’t make sense. (I don’t want to say that being caught up into heaven isn’t going to happen because there are some scriptures that say that it will.)  But if it is something like how Lot was warned to leave Sodom, then verse 31-32 make a lot of sense.   Do we envision angels coming down and just grabbing us and carrying us away to the refuge of the saints?  (It’s kind of a nice thought, isn’t it?)  But ask yourself this—will angels take people who are not willing to go?  No, I don’t think so; the Lord respects our agency, and so angels must too.  Which means it will be something like how Lot was saved—a warning brought, directions given, choices to go (or stay or return) made, immediate travel required with almost no preparation or supplies…  It is another physical gathering comparable to that which took place at the beginning of this dispensation, but with incredible urgency, and since we still have the New Jerusalem to build, we know where the gathering will be.

Joseph Smith Matthew says something similar:

37 And whoso treasureth up my word, shall not be deceived, for the Son of Man shall come, and he shall send his angels before him with the great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together the remainder of his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other….
41 But as it was in the days of Noah, so it shall be also at the coming of the Son of Man;
 42 For it shall be with them, as it was in the days which were before the flood; for until the day that Noah entered into the ark they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage;
 43 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be.
 44 Then shall be fulfilled that which is written, that in the last days, two shall be in the field, the one shall be taken, and the other left;
 45 Two shall be grinding at the mill, the one shall be taken, and the other left; (Joseph Smith Matthew 1:37,41-45)

In D&C 63 we also find this:

53 These things are the things that ye must look for… even in the day of the coming of the Son of Man.
 54 And until that hour there will be foolish virgins among the wise; and at that hour cometh an entire separation of the righteous and the wicked; and in that day will I send mine angels to pluck out the wicked and cast them into unquenchable fire. (D&C 63:53-54)

That “entire separation” is something we haven’t seen quite yet, but I believe it will happen as promised.D&C 63 highlights the flip side from the righteous being saved.

You may be wondering whether to believe this or not.  You may ask yourself, “Why haven’t we heard about this in Sunday School?”  Well, Sunday School has very limited time and has to get through each of the standard works in only 52 weeks, so they try to use the time available on the most important principles.  Stuff not discussed may be good to learn (and the interest of time only prevents it from coming up) or bad to learn (and would never be mentioned anyway).  Instead, the responsibility is on us to study more.  President Harold B. Lee spoke in conference in October 1972 about places in the scriptures we can study to learn in plainness what the events will be.  He mentioned Matthew 24 (and Joseph Smith Matthew), Doctrine and Covenants 45, 101, 133, and 38.  These sources are reliable with unquestionable motives. (This blog, on the other hand, is just my own opinion and not official or authoritative to any extent.)

Now, back to Luke 17.  After we are adjured to remember Lot’s wife, we are warned:

Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it. (Luke 17:33)

Considering the surrounding block of verse is about saving the saints, this verse really can muddy the waters.  While we’ve been told how we can save our lives, here we are told that if we seek to save our lives we will lose it!   I think that it is meant to refer  to those difficult days leading up to the Second Coming.  It seems to be a reminder that there is more than one way to save your life, and saving our spiritual life by staying pure regardless of the consequences matters more than saving our bodies from death.  Some saints may be saved at the Second Coming, and other saints may be saved through martyrdom. 


Ramona Gordy said...

Great post Micheala
We (the collective we of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) spend a lot of time "preparing", but most of it in the temporal realm. These records of which you write about teaches us about preparing spiritually. The scriptures warn us to not be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds to what is that acceptable will of God. What is the will of God, "his work and glory"is to bring immortality to all men ". Alma warns us that"this life became a probationary state; a time to prepare to meet God" I know some people who find these records "hard, scary, in the distant future. One friend said that she hoped that she would be dead at that time. Whether alive at his coming, or dead, the objective remains the same. The man of God should endeavor to prepare spiritually and temporally for the coming of the Savior.
I really appreciate your blog Micheala,it may not be a "Mormon Blog", but nontheless,you attempt to speak the word and teach it in this forum and I believe that a purpose is served.

Avtar Ram Kaur said...

Fascinating stuff. Thank you for your insights; I think I may have to study this topic in depth myself.

Rozy Lass said...

Really good post. Especially about studying the scriptures for ourselves. It is in personal study that the Lord speaks directly to us and impresses on our minds and hearts the things we need to do to bring ourselves into conformity to his will. You are absolutely right about spiritual preparation, filling our lamps as the parable says and having extra. We live in exciting times seeing prophecy fulfilled.

Bonnie said...

Nice post. I've been writing a post on stretching ourselves to greater discipleship and this segues nicely. I appreciate your thoughts, especially since one of the blogs for which I write makes much of the wheat and tares growing together - good to be mindful that they won't always. Thanks again.

Michael W. Towns, Sr. said...

Great stuff. Thank you for your wonderful scriptural explication!

Michaela Stephens said...

Ramona, it is not surprising that these records are considered "hard, scary, and in the distant future." Yet the Lord promises that we will mention the loving kindnesses of the Lord forever, which I think means we will be talking about and exulting over the victory of the Second Coming forever into the eternities, just like sports fans love to talk about fantastic games, like the Miracle Bowl. ;-)

Thanks for your kind words about my blog, Ramona, I think one of the purposes that is served with my blog is that it helps me to learn. To me it is also a witness and a reminder of how merciful the Lord is to help me understand things in the scriptures better. 500+ posts is a lot of mercy and hopefully it will continue for a good long time.

Raisin4Cookies, that's the ticket! Make sure you check out those D&C sections. They are pretty amazing!

Rozy Lass, I agree that we live in exciting times seeing prophecy fulfilled. I worry sometimes that I might not be recognizing signs as I should.

Bonnie, I'll have to check out that post you're working on. Make sure you send me a link to it! It is natural to feel to wring one's hands about the tares growing with the wheat, but at least we know that God knows all about it and told us ahead of time. I too take comfort in the knowledge that the wheat will someday be separated from the tares.

Bonnie said...

Well, it's up! Both at Wheat & Tares and my own blog: http://bonnieblythe.wordpress.com/2012/09/07/which-side-of-the-lines-wheat-or-tares-choose/

Michaela Stephens said...

Bonnie, that was definitely worth reading! Hope everyone else can take some time to read Bonnie's post. She'll singe your eyebrows in the most satisfying way!