Saturday, March 14, 2015

Reading the scriptures about signs of Christ’s second coming


Lately I’ve found myself really interested in studying the scriptures about signs of the times and signs of Christ’s second coming.

One of the things I’ve noticed as I’ve read is that no one place seems to have the whole picture. 

Our natural urge is to read carefully to try to locate where we are in the prophetic narrative to find what is to happen next, but we are often confounded by the fragmentary nature and the timeline that begins to feel incomplete.

Often we may not know what to think about the things we read, so we look for commentaries by authoritative figures we trust who can give us a clue by interpreting the grand sweep of history and current events through the frame of these prophecies.  Our expectation is, “If they are right, then the things they say should happen next, will.”  This gives us a comfortable feeling of assurance that somehow things are on track.

However, if the commentators turn out to be wrong, then we are suddenly flung out into a deeper pool of uncertainty than we were in before because suddenly we wonder why Heavenly Father didn’t say anything about “all this.”  While we cling to modern prophets, we want something to connect us with the prophecies foretold by ancient prophets as well so that we can have that greater confidence that God is really in charge and has His plan that even multitudes of His enemies can’t destroy.

I’ve written before about how I’ve learned to read Nephi’svision of the tree of life and his angelically escorted view of history andthen to skip to John the Beloved’s view from Revelation  Since then, I’ve also begun to suspect that perhaps Nephi put the large chunk of Isaiah 2 -14 into his writing as a coded way to say through Isaiah what he was forbidden to describe in his own words.  (Those chapters have some helpful things to say that make me think that the difficulties we are having right now and the opposition we face as a church amount to a time of chastisement that is meant to humble and school us.)

I think it is time for us to reexamine all our scriptural accounts of events leading up to the second coming and signs and so on.  There are so many.  Matthew 24.  Joseph Smith Matthew.  Luke 21.  D&C 45.  D&C 87.  2 Nephi 30.  3 Nephi 16.  Also portions of 3 Nephi 20, 21.  Not to mention Nephi’s vision, the book of Revelation, and the various Old Testament prophets.  Even the Book of Mormon itself often seems like a large scale pattern as things move toward 3 Nephi 11.

Even if we can’t arrange things into an all-encompassing and complete timeline of what’s to be expected, we can pick out patterns, and that gives us greater confidence that God knows and has provided for our escape from the evil if we do all in our power to follow His guidance, even if it is to sacrifice all things. 

Also, I find that reading about the signs and being afraid does not help me.  What helps me is to read looking for council about what to do to make it through.  In the former day, the members were warned to leave Jerusalem and book it to the mountains the moment they saw Jerusalem surrounded by armies.  So we need to be aware of what to do to escape the calamities to come, and that will help us not fear.  I suggest that as you read those chapters, highlight text describing things you can do to prepare.