Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Some thoughts on Signs before the Second Coming from Joseph Smith--Matthew

30 And again, because iniquity shall abound, the love of men shall wax cold; but he that shall not be overcome, the same shall be saved.
31 And again, this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come, or the destruction of the wicked;
32 And again shall the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, be fulfilled.
33 And immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven shall be shaken.
34 Verily, I say unto you, this generation, in which these things shall be shown forth, shall not pass away until all I have told you shall be fulfilled.
35 Although, the days will come, that heaven and earth shall pass away; yet my words shall not pass away, but all shall be fulfilled.
36 And, as I said before, after the tribulation of those days, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken, then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven, and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn; and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory;
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.(Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:30-37)

These verses describe a sequence of events to watch for:
1)    Iniquity abounding, causing love to turn cold,
2)    The gospel preached to all nations
3)    The destruction of the wicked, the abomination of desolation
4)    The sun and moon darkened, stars falling from heaven, powers of heaven shaken
5)    All fulfilled in a generation
6)    Christ comes in heaven

One thing that would confuse me about this sequence is that I would read about the destruction of the wicked (v31-32) and automatically assume that was because Christ came and destroyed them. Then, it would puzzle me that Christ’s coming is mentioned apparently again in v36 as though it hadn’t happened yet.

I have since figured out that Christ’s coming is not at the destruction of the wicked described in v31-32. The destruction happens because the wicked will be destroying each other. This follows a pattern that is seen in history when the gospel is preached and rejected. Mormon observed the wicked Nephites in his day who rejected the truth were destroyed by wicked Lamanites. (Christ didn’t have to come to do that.) The wicked Jews were destroyed by the Romans in 70AD; Christ didn’t have to come to do that.

It’s kind of a scary thing to think about, but I think v34 gives some comfort when it says these things will happen in the space of one generation. Depending on how long a generation is defined, that is 30-60 years.

Something else I notice from these verses is that the gospel is preached to all nations, but by the time Christ comes, all the tribes of the earth mourn. So nations will have been broken down into tribes by all the destruction and tribulation, much like the Nephite government was broken into tribes.

Along with these difficult things, I think it is worthwhile to point out what we are told we need to do. I like noticing the counsel because it helps me feel less powerless and more hopeful that the tribulations can be survived and turn for our good, like a refiners fire.

Verse 30 tells us that while iniquity abounds and love waxes cold, “he that shall not be overcome, the same shall be saved.”  It is going to be a struggle for everyone, but if we don’t give up and don’t allow ourselves to be overcome, we’ll be all right.  So whatever you do, don’t give up!

Verse 31 tells us the gospel will be preached as a witness to all nations. That implies being a part of missionary work will help us. We can be good examples, stand for the right, testify to how living gospel principles has blessed us, and share the gospel.

Verse 32 seems scary because of talking about the abomination of desolation, and it doesn’t seem to have instruction about what to do there, but I notice that there is a similar prediction in v12 that does have something applicable, and it may help in the future as well.

When you, therefore, shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, then you shall stand in the holy place; whoso readeth let him understand. (v12)

So when we see the abomination of desolation, stand in the holy place.  To me that means that the more uncivil and murderous people become, the more we need to resist the anger and be kind, and seek out our refuge in the temple, and make our homes sacred places, and meet with the Saints.  Countering the anger and violence with peace and kindness is not easy. Here in the United States we’ve seen lots of incivility surrounding our last election and “abomination of desolation” evokes so much worse than that. But goodness has to be counter-cultural.

Verse 35 assures us that Christ’s words will all be fulfilled, so we will have much to look forward to, watching for those signs and events to take place.

Verse 37 tells us that whoso treasures up Christ’s word will not be deceived, so reading and cleaving to the principles and doctrines found in the scriptures will save us from being beguiled by the ways of the world that would flatter us away to destruction.

So our safety comes from:
·      Not giving up
·      Participating in missionary work
·      Stand in the holy place
·      Watch for the signs of Christ’s coming
·      Treasure up Christ’s word