Welcome to Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me podcast. We’re Scot and Maurine Proctor and this week the lesson is called “The Son of Man Shall Come” covering Joseph Smith-Matthew 1; Matthew chapter 25; Mark chapters 12-13; and Luke chapter 21. Will you tell your friends about this podcast? Word of mouth is the only way people will learn about it. Especially if you have friends in English-speaking countries around the world. We’d like to help people study the scriptures.
Joseph Smith considered doing his translation work on the Bible “a branch of his calling”, an important part of his stewardship as the prophet ushering in the last dispensation. It’s significant that Matthew 24 should be the chapter where Joseph Smith made the most changes and additions because this is the chapter where Jesus sits with His apostles on the Mount of Olives telling two dismal and critical things that they must know. While Joseph has made several important changes in other chapters of the New Testament, this was a topic that demanded special revelation. Matthew 24 in the King James Version contains 1,050 words, while Joseph Smith—Matthew contains some 1,500.
By the way, Maurine, Elder Bruce R. McConkie said of the Joseph Smith Translation: “Of course the revealed changes made by Joseph Smith are true—as much so as anything in the Book of Mormon or the Doctrine and Covenants.. Of course we have adequate and authentic original sources showing the changes—as much so as are the sources for the Book of Mormon or the revelations. Of course we should use the Joseph Smith Translation in our study and teaching. Since when do any of us have the right to place bounds on the Almighty and say we will believe these revelations but not those.” (The Joseph Smith Translation, The Restoration of Plain and Precious Things, Edited by Monte S. Nyman and Robert L. Millet, Vol 12 in the Religious Studies Center, p. 14).
Most of these changes have to do with clarity and organization so this very important message is not lost on us.
His disciples had come to Him saying “Tell us about the destruction of the temple and the Jews and what is the sign of thy coming and of the end of the world?”
From verse one in Joseph Smith—Matthew 1 the Lord tells these dear friends, those who will have to carry forth the kingdom, that henceforth they will not see Him, but He said, “I am he of whom it is written by the prophets. With these words He is proclaiming that He is the Messiah, and as the prophets had foretold He would suffer for the sins of the world, and that at the end of the world there would be a glorious Second Coming. All the holy angels would be with Him, many who would be preparing the earth for His coming, and as we learn in the book of Revelation, sound trumps at strategic times.
Then, until verse 21, the Lord specifically teaches His apostles about the destruction of Jerusalem. Jesus said, “There shall not be left here, upon this temple, one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down.”
That Jerusalem and particularly the magnificent temple could be destroyed must have been nearly impossible for his apostles to comprehend.
This temple was made of massive stones, including one that was one of the heaviest objects ever lifted by humans without the assistance of machinery. It is about 45 feet long and weighs 570 tons. The pillars supporting the porches were 37-1/2 feet tall and it is said that when the Romans destroyed and ploughed Jerusalem six days of battering failed to dislodge these mighty stones. Yet the temple was finally leveled to the ground. Only a western wall of the platform the temple stood and would remain echoing across the silence of the centuries.
Jesus told his apostles that it was false Christs and false prophets who would arise who would deceive the people. He said that many shall be offended, and shall betray and shall hate one another. Iniquity shall abound and the love of many shall wax cold. It is precisely what happened.
Jerusalem was divided in factions that warred against each other by the time the Romans came with an eye to destruction. We know what happened in great detail at this desolation because of the writings of the ancient historian Josephus who witnessed the event.
Here in the words of author Simon Sebag Montefiore is a description.
“On the 8th of the Jewish month of Av, in late July AD 70, Titus, the Roman Emperor Vespasian’s son who was in command of the four-month siege of Jerusalem, ordered his entire army to prepare to storm the Temple at dawn. The next day happened to be the very day on which the Babylonians had destroyed Jerusalem over 500 years before.”
Since it was the very day that the first temple had been destroyed, the people read it as a sign that God had withdrawn from them.
“Now, Titus commanded an army of four legions—a total of 60,000 Roman legionaries and local auxiliaries who were eager to deliver the final blow to the defiant but broken city. Within the walls, perhaps half a million starving Jews survived in diabolical conditions: some were fanatical religious zealots, some were freebooting bandits, but most were innocent families with no escape from this magnificent death-trap. There were many Jews living outside Judaea—they were to be found throughout the Mediterranean and Near East—and this final desperate struggle would decide not only the fate of the city and her inhabitants, but also the future of Judaism and the small Jewish cult of Christianity—and even, looking forward across six centuries, the shape of Islam.
“The Romans had built ramps up against the walls of the Temple. But their assaults had failed. Earlier that day, Titus told his generals that his efforts to preserve this “foreign temple” were costing him too many soldiers and he ordered the Temple gates set alight. The silver of the gates melted and spread the fire to the wooden doorways and windows, thence to the wooden fittings in the passageways of the Temple itself. Titus ordered the fire to be quenched. The Romans, he declared, should “not avenge themselves on inanimate objects instead of men.” Then he retired for the night into his headquarters in the half-ruined Tower of Antonia overlooking the resplendent Temple complex.
“Around the walls, there were gruesome scenes that must have resembled hell on earth. Thousands of bodies putrefied in the sun. The stench was unbearable. Packs of dogs and jackals feasted on human flesh. In the preceding months, Titus had ordered all prisoners or defectors to be crucified. Five hundred Jews were crucified each day. The Mount of Olives and the craggy hills around the city were so crowded with crucifixes that there was scarcely room for any more, nor trees to make them.
“No other city, reflected the eyewitness Josephus, “did ever allow such miseries, nor did any age ever breed a generation more fruitful in wickedness than this was, since the beginning of the world.” The young wandered the streets “like shadows, all swollen with famine, and fell down dead, wherever their misery seizedthem.” People died trying to bury their families while others were buried carelessly, still breathing. Famine devoured whole families in their homes. Jerusalemites saw their loved ones die ‘with dry eyes and open mouths. A deep silence and a kind of deadly night seized the city”.
That’s quite a description from Josephus. In New Testament times they spoke of Daniel’s prophetic view of the future as “the abomination of desolation”—and this was to occur twice. The first was this destruction of Jerusalem and the second would follow the Restoration and be a pouring out of the judgments upon the wicked wherever they might be.
So that the honest in heart may escape these things, the Lord sends His servants forth to raise a warning voice and to declare the glad tidings of the Restoration.
It is the pattern, in fact, that we see in scripture, that before there is great destruction, the Lord sends a prophet to warn the people. Those who will listen and repent are led away. This is the event that kicks off the action in the Book of Mormon. In 600 BC, Jerusalem is about to be destroyed by Babylon, and so Lehi and other prophets are called to warn the people and plead with them to repent so the Lord can fulfill His covenant promise to protect them. Instead of listening, they turn on Lehi and threaten his life. He and his family are led away into the wilderness and escape the destruction.
In 70, we learn from early Church Fathers, the Christians who lived in Jerusalem were not there to be killed by the Romans. Why? Because they remembered what Christ had said,
13 Then let them who are in Judea flee into the amountains;
14 Let him who is on the housetop flee, and not return to take anything out of his house;
15 Neither let him who is in the field return back to take his clothes;
Believing the words of the Lord, the Christians living in Jerusalem had fled to Pella, in Jordan, which was 17 miles away. They were safe.
So the Roman siege was the first warning, then came the second.
Now in Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:22-37, Jesus described for His disciples the events that would occur before His Second Coming at the end of the world. The end of the world is defined as the end of wickedness. Part of what Jesus described sounds very similar to the conditions leading up to the fall of ancient Jerusalem.
22 For in those days there shall also arise false aChrists, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch, that, if possible, they shall deceive the very elect, who are the elect according to the covenant.
False Christ’s and false prophets would abound. Now we think we have a clear picture of what that would look like—somebody claiming to be a false Christ. I remember walking across the campus yard in college and seeing a man who claimed he was the Savior passing out pamphlets to the students. (And no, this was not at BYU.) Not one person that I could see was taken in by him. He was clearly a marginalized and deluded person. So what kind of false Christ and false prophet would excite interest and deceive even the very elect?
Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “True, there may be those deranged persons who suppose they are God, or Christ, or the Holy Ghost, or almost anything. None but the lunatic fringe among men, however, will give them a second serious thought. The promise of false Christs who will deceive, if it were possible, even the very elect, who will lead astray those who have made eternal covenant with the Lord, is a far more subtle and insidious evil.
“A false Christ is not a person. It is a false system of worship, a false church, a false cult that says: ‘Lo, here is salvation; here is the doctrine of Christ. Come and believe thus and so, and ye shall be saved.’ It is any concept or philosophy that says that redemption, salvation, sanctification, justification, and all of the promised rewards can be gained in any way except that set forth by the apostles and prophets” (The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man , 47–48).
Any false system of thought that demands allegiance and claims to have the power to save the world is a false Christ or a false prophet. We are swimming in them today.
These false systems often demand allegiance and punish those who don’t comply.
During the evening and night when the Savior was with his disciples and had the Last Supper with them—just before all He would go through to bring about the Atonement, He said to them, “Let not your heart be troubled…” (John 14:1). What a thing to say to His little flock just before His time in the Garden of Gethsemane, His arrest, His brutal trial, His scourging, His carrying the cross and then His crucifixion!
In that same pattern, as He stood with His disciples upon the Mount of Olives and talked of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and the coming wars and rumors of wars, He said calmly, “see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass.” (Matthew 24:6)
We live in such troubled times and they will get worse. President Nelson just counseled the saints in the South Pacific with these words: “Now here’s a warning for you: There’s trouble ahead. Prepare for attacks from the Adversary. He will attack you through your God-given appetites. Please protect yourselves from Satan’s traps.” (May 25, 2019, Papeete, Tahiti)
Here’s another warning from President Nelson:
Now, as President of His Church, I plead with you who have distanced yourselves from the Church and with you who have not yet really sought to know that the Savior’s Church has been restored. Do the spiritual work to find out for yourselves, and please do it now. Time is running out. (“Come Follow Me”, April 2019 General Conference. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2019/04/46nelson?lang=eng)
“There are difficult days ahead,” the 94-year-old prophet said at an outdoor devotional in Samoa. “Please protect your children. Help them to know the Lord and love Him and keep His commandments and be free from the shackles of addiction and bondage.”
He also said:
“The battle with sin is real. The adversary is quadrupling his efforts to disrupt testimonies and impede the work of the Lord. He is arming his minions with potent weapons to keep us from partaking of the joy and love of the Lord.
We Can Do Better and Be Better.” –Russell Russell M. Nelson
And in his major talk on revelation in the first general conference when he spoke as President of the Church, he said:
“I am optimistic about the future. It will be filled with opportunities for each of us to progress, contribute, and take the gospel to every corner of the earth. But I am also not naive about the days ahead. We live in a world that is complex and increasingly contentious. The constant availability of social media and a 24-hour news cycle bombard us with relentless messages. If we are to have any hope of sifting through the myriad of voices and the philosophies of men that attack truth, we must learn to receive revelation.
“Our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, will perform some of His mightiest works between now and when He comes again. We will see miraculous indications that God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, preside over this Church in majesty and glory. But in coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.”
(Revelation for the Church, Revelation for our Lives. President Russell M. Nelson, April 2018, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2018/04/revelation-for-the-church-revelation-for-our-lives?lang=eng)
We of all people should be the most prepared for troubled times ahead. One of the ways we can be prepared is by knowing the signs of the times and prophesies of the last days. And it will be especially helpful for us to follow the counsel of the Lord to NOT let our hearts be troubled.
When we bring groups of Latter-day Saints to the Holy Land we always teach them about the signs of the times and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ right on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. It’s almost overwhelming to think about all the things that must take place before He comes again.
I think that’s one of the things that was frustrating to the Jews at the time of the Savior’s mortal ministry. They were all looking for the signs and deliverance and destructions foretold in the Lord’s SECOND Coming and they were underwhelmed by the quiet FIRST Coming of the Lord.
Let’s look at some of the things that must happen before His Second Coming:
There will be a great apostasy from the gospel truth that Jesus taught (Matt 24: 9-12 and 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3) The Lord Himself affirmed this apostasy in the First Vision: “… the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight…they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.” (JS History 1:19) That’s certainly a quick overview of the definition of apostasy.
The Gospel is to be restored. We have learned recently from President Russell M. Nelson that the Restoration is continuing to unfold and there is much more to come.
Priesthood keys were to be restored. Much of this has taken place—but there are yet more keys to come—including those of creation and resurrection.
Of course, the Book of Mormon was to come forth in the latter days. And we are also promised numerous other records that will come forth, including the records of the Lost Tribes of Israel. (see 2 Nephi 29:13) I am so looking forward to that!
There shall be wars and rumors of wars. (Matt 24:6) Do we see that today? The 20th Century was the bloodiest century in the history of the world—with an estimated 108 million people killed by cause of war. We certainly live in these troubled times. Doesn’t that say something about the Lord’s personal trust in all of us—that He would send us here during such times?
The gospel will be preached to all the world. How are we doing in this category? We have certainly made tremendous strides in many countries, but we have hardly scratched the surface in others. We were on a cruise recently, floating down the Yangtze River in China and we realized that 5.2% of the world’s population lived along the shores of this River and its tributaries! That’s more than 400,000,000 people! And almost none of them have heard anything about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
We know there will be earthquakes in divers places.
There will be fires and vapors of smoke.
There will be great pollutions on the earth.
We know that the moon will be turned to blood and the sun will be darkened.
The stars will fall from heaven.
The whole earth will be in commotion.
Men’s hearts shall fail them.
The love of men shall wax cold.
Iniquity shall abound.
There will be an overflowing scourge and a desolating sickness which shall cover the land.
There will be great secret combinations.
We know that the Jews shall be gathered to their homelands. We certainly see that every year in Israel as we visit.
We know from the text of the Book of Mormon that the plates of Brass will go forth to all nations, kindreds, tongues and people and that the Father will do a mighty work and show forth His power. (See Alma 37: 3-19)
We know that the gathering of Israel will take place from every nation.
We know that there will be a day and a night and a day wherein there will be no darkness (again—just like in the days of the Nephites). (See Zechariah 14: 6, 7)
We know that the Ten Tribes will return from the North by a great highway cast up from the deep. (See D&C 133: 26-33)
We know that the New Jerusalem will be built and it shall be full of the glory of the Lord and a place of safety.
We know that the City of Enoch will return and will be joined with the New Jerusalem.
We assume that the complex of 24 temples that were shown to the Prophet Joseph Smith will be built in Independence, Missouri.
Two prophets will preach in Jerusalem and face down the whole world who will have turned against Israel. Their ministry will last exactly forty and two months then they will be killed and their bodies will lie in the streets for 3 and ½ days. (See Revelation 11: 3-12)
There are scores more prophesies we could include. These are just some that come immediately to mind.
These are many signs and I used to try and figure out the order of events, or think maybe I had missed something because I wasn’t clear. But the reality is we don’t have a chronology about what comes first. We don’t have a complete schedule of events by time frame. Periodically there are people who try to boil this information down and say that there is a day when the Lord is returning. Their efforts will always be in vain. Frankly, many of these things are happening simultaneously and some things could be completed in a very short time.
What the Lord does tell us in Joseph Smith Matthew is
38 Now learn a parable of the afig tree—When its branches are yet tender, and it begins to put forth leaves, you know that summer is nigh at hand;
39 So likewise, mine elect, when they shall see all these things, they shall know that he is near, even at the doors;
40 But of that day, and hour, no one aknoweth; no, not the angels of God in heaven, but my Father only.
41 But as it was in the days of aNoah, 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 aflood; for until the day that Noah entered into the ark they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage;
43 And aknew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be.
45 Two shall be grinding at the mill, the one shall be taken, and the other left;
46 And what I say unto one, I say unto all men; awatch, therefore, for you know not at what hour your Lord doth come.
Let’s talk briefly about the Second Coming itself.
There are multiple visits which comprise what we call the second coming.
He will come to Adam-ondi-Ahman. This will be the greatest meeting in the history of the world. This place is being prepared.
He will come to his Temple, both in Missouri and in Jerusalem (which means a temple has to be built in Jerusalem).
He will come to Jerusalem itself, according to Rabbinic tradition, to the Temple Mount, and there He will show Himself to the Jews.
6 And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.
(Zechariah 13: 6)
A more complete description of that visit is given to us in the 45th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, verses 51 and 52:
51 And then shall the Jews look upon me and say: What are these wounds in thine hands and in thy feet?
52 Then shall they know that I am the Lord; for I will say unto them: These wounds are the wounds with which I was wounded in the house of my friends. I am he who was lifted up. I am Jesus that was crucified. I am the Son of God.
He will set his foot on the Mount of Olives and there will be a great earthquake.
(see Zechariah 14:4)
He will come in the clouds of Glory with all the Holy Angels where all will see Him at once.
ALL OF THESE VISITATIONS TOGETHER COMPRISE THE SECOND COMING.
The Lord promises, “he that shall not be overcome, the same shall be saved.” So how do we prepare? The Lord gives us two parables to teach us.
Parable of the Ten Talents-Luke 19: 12-26
Jesus also told a parable of a certain nobleman that went into a far country and gave each of his servants a pound to see what they would do in his absence.
We know the story. The first servant turned his one pound into ten and the Lord was pleased saying “because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities. The next had turned his one pound into five, and he, too, was commended, but the third returned his one pound which he had kept hidden away, “laid up in a napkin” for he feared the master. This displeased the master who took that one pound and gave it instead to the man with ten pounds. “For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away.”
What is the lesson here? The Lord has given gifts to each one of us and wants us to develop and share those, which takes courage and work. Unused talent frustrates and pains us, especially if we have been bottled up because of fear. Yet, there is something more, too. Our testimonies of Jesus Christ are talents and should not be buried because we are afraid. It is our covenant responsibility to share our testimony which is also our talent.
In the Doctrine and Covenants 60:2, the Lord talks to the elders who have gone to Jackson County and now will be returning to Ohio. On that journey they are to preach, “But with some I am not well pleased,” said the Lord, “for they will not open their mouths, but they hide the talent which I have given unto them, because of the fear of man. Wo unto such, for mine danger is ekindled against them.”
“And it shall come to pass, if they are not more faithful unto me, it shall be ataken away, even that which they have.” This is a direct parallel to the parable of the talents in the New Testament.
When we read this story, we feel superior to that servant who hid his pound, until we see that we may be doing the same thing. Those of us who have the gospel were born with a responsibility that we pledged we would take—to share it.
We think we have good reasons to withhold our testimony from others. We don’t want to offend them. We don’t want to look overbearing. We think they will judge us. We put our trust in the world rather than in the Lord, although the Lord is the only one who is trustworthy. We have to open those well-kept napkins where our talents are buried.
Most importantly we need to remember what the Lord gave to us in the Section 45 of the Doctrine and Covenants, verses 56 and 57:
56 And at that day, when I shall come in my glory, shall the parable be fulfilled which I spake concerning the ten virgins.
57 For they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived–verily I say unto you, they shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire, but shall abide the day.
So, we have to:
- Be wise
- Receive the truth
- Take the Holy Spirit for our guide and
- Be not deceived.
All these things will keep us on the right path to be prepared to meet Him when He comes again.
Let us be wise and receive the truth and let us daily take the Holy Spirit for our guide and not be deceived!
Thanks for listening. Next week’s lesson is: “Continue Ye in My Love” and includes the sublime material recorded in John chapters 13-17.
Thanks again to Paul Cardall for the beautiful music.
Can’t wait to meet with you again next week! So long!