They shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.1
When speaking of the Second Coming, we often consider the Lord's coming to be a single event. But as we have seen from the previous chapters, the Savior will visit the earth on several different occasions to teach and meet with certain groups of people, and these appearances will occur before the great and glorious Second Coming in which He returns in triumph and majesty before the whole world.
The Savior’s First Two Appearances
The Savior will first appear to the righteous Saints in the land of America, as the Prophet Joseph Smith and President Brigham Young both prophesied. In April 1834, the Prophet Joseph declared:
“This church will fill North and South America---it will fill the world. It will fill the Rocky Mountains. There will be tens of thousands of Latter-day Saints who will be gathered to the Rocky Mountains, and there they will open the door for the establishing of the gospel among the Lamanites, who will receive the gospel and their endowments and the blessings of God. This people will go into the Rocky Mountains; they will there build temples to the Most High. They will raise up a posterity there, and the Latter-day Saints who dwell in these mountains will stand in the flesh until the coming of the Son of Man. The Son of Man will come to them while in the Rocky Mountains.”2
And President Young also stated:
“When He comes again He will not come as He did when the Jews rejected Him; neither will He appear first at Jerusalem when He makes His second appearance on the earth; but He will appear first on the land where He commenced His work in the beginning, and planted the garden of Eden, and that was done in the land of America.”3
After the Saints have had the opportunity to meet the Savior, He will then visit the Jews. The second appearance of the Savior will take place when He manifests Himself in glory at Jerusalem as the beleaguered Jewish people are under assault by massive armies of wicked men. He will rescue them from these forces, and rain down fire and hailstones upon the wicked until they are destroyed or they flee for their lives.4
These two appearances will fulfill the prophecy that “after He has manifested himself [at His First Coming] unto the Jews and also unto the Gentiles, then He shall manifest himself [at His Second Coming] unto the Gentiles and also unto the Jews, and the last shall be first, and the first shall be last.”5
All of Mankind Will See the Savior at His Awe-Inspiring and Glorious Second Coming
Neither of these two appearances to the Saints and the Jews constitutes His final and triumphant Return to the earth.6 We might assume that the Savior’s appearance at Jerusalem is the Second Coming, but several important events must still take place after the Savior rescues the Jews from the armies of the wicked at Jerusalem. The city of Jerusalem and the temple will need to be repaired from the damage caused by the marauding armies and the earthquake. As the Prophet Joseph said:
Judah must return, Jerusalem must be rebuilt and the temple, and water come out from under the temple, and the waters of the Dead Sea be healed. It will take some time to rebuild the walls of the city and the temple, etc; and all this must be done before the Son of Man will make His appearance.”7
When the Second Coming finally occurs, it will be seen by all of mankind, in all regions of the globe.8 The Prophet Joseph taught us:
“As the lighting up of the morning or the dawning of the morning cometh from the east and shineth unto the west---so also is the coming of the Son of Man. The dawning of the morning makes its appearance in the east and moves along gradually; so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. It will be small at its first appearance, and gradually becomes larger until every eye shall see it.
“Shall the Saints understand it? Oh yes. Paul says so. [See 1 Thessalonians 5:1-8.] Shall the wicked understand? Oh no, they attribute it to a natural cause. They will probably suppose it is two great comets coming in contact with each other. It will be small at first and will grow larger and larger until it will be all in a blaze so that every eye shall see it.”9
The Sun Will Be Darkened and the Moon Turned to Blood Shortly Before the Second Coming
There will be several important signs in the heavens that will precede the Second Coming and tell us of the coming of the great day of the Lord.
In February 1843, the Prophet Joseph read in a local newspaper that a man from Illinois had recently reported seeing the sign of the Second Coming early one morning. When the editor of the paper challenged the Prophet about this, Joseph sent his reply in a letter to the Church newspaper. He wrote:
“Notwithstanding Mr. Redding may have seen a wonderful appearance in the clouds one morning about sunrise (which is nothing very uncommon in the winter season), he has not seen the sign of the Son of Man, as foretold by Jesus; neither has any man, nor will any man, until after the sun shall have been darkened and the moon bathed in blood.”10
There are many scriptures that tell us “the sun shall be darkened, and the moon be turned into blood; and the stars shall refuse their shining.”11 This darkening of the sun, moon and stars might be similar to what happened to the Nephites after the Lord’s crucifixion, when they were immersed in complete and utter darkness for three days.12 Isaiah tells us:
“For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine.”13
The prophet Enoch learned that a veil of darkness would cover the earth, which would cause the sun to become darkened. The Lord told him:
“And the day shall come that the earth shall rest, but before that day the heavens shall be darkened, and a veil of darkness shall cover the earth; and the heavens shall shake, and also the earth; and great tribulations shall be among the children of men, but my people will I preserve.”14
This veil of darkness that covers the earth could be caused by ash and debris in the atmosphere, or it could be caused by interstellar dust clouds that block the light of the sun and stars from reaching the earth. The Savior told His Apostles in Jerusalem that the sign of a darkened sun, moon and stars would occur shortly before His Return:
“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. . . . 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.”15
In many of the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord repeated this message, telling us that these signs in heaven would take place a short time before the Second Coming. He even indicated that the sun would withhold its brightness because of His glory at the time of His Return. He told the Prophet Joseph:
“But before that great day [of the Second Coming] shall come, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon be turned into blood; and the stars shall refuse their shining, and some shall fall, and great destructions await the wicked.”16
“The earth shall tremble and reel to and fro as a drunken man; and the sun shall hide his face, and shall refuse to give light; and the moon shall be bathed in blood; and the stars shall become exceedingly angry, and shall cast themselves down as a fig that falleth from off a fig-tree.”17
“And they shall see signs and wonders, for they shall be shown forth in the heavens above, and in the earth beneath. And they shall behold blood, and fire, and vapors of smoke. And before the day of the Lord shall come, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon be turned into blood, and the stars fall from heaven.”18
“But, behold, I say unto you that before this great day shall come, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall be turned into blood, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and there shall be greater signs in heaven above and in the earth beneath.”19
“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.”20
The Prophet Joseph told the Saints that these events will testify that the Second Coming is here, but he warned them that many of the people would misunderstand the signs of the times:
“There will be wars and rumors of wars, signs in the heavens above and on the earth beneath, the sun turned into darkness and the moon to blood, earthquakes in divers places, the seas heaving beyond their bounds; then will appear one grand sign of the Son of Man in heaven. But what will the world do? They will say it is a planet, a comet, etc. But the Son of Man will come as the sign of the coming of the Son of Man, which will be as the light of the morning cometh out of the east.”21
The Prophet Joseph also warned us that we need to be prepared for these events by gathering with the Saints and sanctifying our lives:
“The time is near when the sun will be darkened, and the moon turn to blood, and the stars fall from heaven, and the earth reel to and fro. Then, if this is the case, and if we are not sanctified and gathered to the places God has appointed, with all our former professions and our great love for the Bible, we must fall; we cannot stand; we cannot be saved; for God will gather out His Saints from the Gentiles, and then comes desolation and destruction, and none can escape except the pure in heart who are gathered.”22
Other Signs in the Heavens Will Appear
There will also be other important signs in the heavens before the Second Coming. When Wilford Woodruff was serving a mission in the Southern states, he had a singular experience that he later related in the October 1881 General Conference of the Church. He told the Saints:
“I was in Tennessee in the year 1835, and while at the house of Abraham O. Smoot, I received a letter from Brothers Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, requesting me to stay there, and stating that I would lose no blessing by doing so. Of course, I was satisfied. I went into a little room and sat down upon a small sofa.
“I was all by myself and the room was dark; and while I rejoiced in this letter and the promise made to me, I became wrapped in vision. I was like Paul; I did not know whether I was in the body or out of the body. A personage appeared to me and showed me the great scenes that should take place in the last days. One scene after another passed before me.
I saw the sun darkened; I saw the moon become as blood; I saw the stars fall from heaven; I saw seven golden lamps set in the heavens, representing the various dispensations of God to man---a sign that would appear before the coming of Christ.”23
The sign of the seven golden lamps that was shown to Wilford Woodruff is one of the signs of the Second Coming the Lord might have spoken of in a revelation to the Prophet Joseph:
“And angels shall fly through the midst of heaven, crying with a loud voice, sounding the trump of God, saying: Prepare ye, prepare ye, O inhabitants of the earth; for the judgment of our God is come. Behold, and lo, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. And immediately there shall appear a great sign in heaven, and all people shall see it together.”24
The Celestial Saints Will Be Resurrected
According to the scriptures, it will be shortly before the Second Coming that the graves of the righteous will be opened, and they will come forth in resplendent glory as resurrected beings.25 They will rise to meet the Savior as He returns in triumph and majesty. They will join with the heavenly procession of angels declaring the wonder and glory of His Return to the earth. The Lord told the Prophet Joseph Smith in two separate revelations:
“The graves of the saints shall be opened; and they shall come forth and stand on the right hand of the Lamb, when He shall stand upon Mount Zion, and upon the holy city, the New Jerusalem; and they shall sing the song of the Lamb, day and night, forever and ever.”26
“The face of the Lord shall be unveiled; and the Saints that are upon the earth, who are alive, shall be quickened and be caught up to meet Him. And they who have slept in their graves shall come forth, for their graves shall be opened; and they also shall be caught up to meet Him in the midst of the pillar of heaven---they are Christ’s, the first fruits, they who shall descend with Him first, and they who are on the earth and in their graves, who are first caught up to meet Him; and all this by the voice of the sounding of the trump of the angel of God.”27
The Triumphant Return of the Son of God
After the Saints have been resurrected, the Savior will descend to the earth in power, majesty and glory. All of mankind will be struck with awe, and some of them will be filled with terror, as they view this glorious sight. The Savior told His faithful Apostles of Judea:
“As the light of the morning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west, and covereth the whole earth, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be. . . . 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.”28
“And the remnant shall be gathered unto this place [Jerusalem]; and then they shall look for me, and, behold, I will come; and they shall see me in the clouds of heaven, clothed with power and great glory; with all the holy angels; and he that watches not for me shall be cut off.”29
On that momentous day, those who have purified and cleansed their lives will enjoy the Savior’s presence. They will not shrink back in fear and terror, but will welcome Him with open arms and hearts full of gratitude. As the Lord told the early Saints, “the day soon cometh that ye shall see me, and know that I am; for the veil of darkness shall soon be rent, and he that is not purified shall not abide the day.”30
When the Savior returns in majestic glory, it will cause the wicked nations to tremble for fear of the almighty power of God. The Lord has told us:
“For behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, the time is soon at hand that I shall come in a cloud with power and great glory. And it shall be a great day at the time of my coming, for all nations shall tremble.”31
"For when the Lord shall appear He shall be terrible unto them, that fear may seize upon them, and they shall stand afar off and tremble. And all nations shall be afraid because of the terror of the Lord, and the power of His might.”32
The prophets have told us that many of the people on the earth will not be prepared for the Second Coming. Many will procrastinate their repentance, doubting that the Savior will actually return someday. President Brigham Young said that they will be just as unprepared for the Second Coming as the ancient Jews were at the First Coming of the Savior:
“When He again visits this earth, He will come to thoroughly purge His kingdom from wickedness, and, as Ruler of the nations, to dictate and administer to them as the Heir to the Kingdom; and the Gentiles will be as much mistaken in regard to His second advent as the Jews were in relation to the first.”33
For the righteous, the Second Coming will be a day of rejoicing and happiness. It will be the fulfillment of their heart-felt dreams, and the consummation of the lifelong yearnings of the Lord’s prophets, both ancient and modern. The Lord has declared:
“It hath gone forth in a firm decree, by the will of the Father, that mine Apostles, the Twelve which were with me in my ministry at Jerusalem, shall stand at my right hand at the day of my coming in a pillar of fire, being clothed with robes of righteousness, with crowns upon their heads, in glory even as I am, to judge the whole house of Israel, even as many as have loved me and kept my commandments, and none else.
“For a trump shall sound both long and loud, even as upon Mount Sinai, and all the earth shall quake, and they shall come forth---yea, even the dead which died in me, to receive a crown of righteousness, and to be clothed upon, even as I am, to be with me, that we may be one.”34
This will be a truly magnificent day. We will be able to commune with our Savior, to thank Him personally, with our tears, for His atoning sacrifice on our behalf. We will meet our dearly departed ancestors and loved ones, and delight in their presence. We will visit and rejoice with them, as we are filled with gratitude and immersed in the merciful glory of the Lord. What wonderful blessings are in store for the righteous!
The Earth Is Cleansed by the Burning of the Wicked
While the righteous are surrounded by happiness, joy and felicity, the wicked will be experiencing the fullness of the wrath of Almighty God. The earth will be cleansed by fire, and those who have filled their lives with pride and sin will be destroyed. The Lord has repeatedly warned the wicked that they will be burned as stubble that is left in a harvested field.35 He has said on different occasions:
“For the hour is nigh and the day soon at hand when the earth is ripe; and all the proud and they that do wickedly shall be as stubble; and I will burn them up, saith the Lord of Hosts, that wickedness shall not be upon the earth.”36
“All the proud and they that do wickedly shall be as stubble; and I will burn them up, for I am the Lord of Hosts; and I will not spare any that remain in Babylon.”37
“For behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble; and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of Hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.”38
Just as the earth was cleansed of wickedness by the waters of the Flood in the days of Noah, the earth will be cleansed again by fire at the Second Coming. President Brigham Young stated:
“The Lord has said that He will never again destroy the world by a flood. What will the next great catastrophe be? It will be fire. He will cleanse the earth as by fire, and will purify and make it holy, and prepare it for the habitation of His Saints.”39
Heber C. Kimball also prophesied:
“The day will come when the Lord our God will empty the earth of all her wicked inhabitants, for He is going to cleanse this earth from wickedness and prepare it for the abode of the righteous; and you may rest assured that it will take a tremendous shaking and an unprecedented great fire to purify this earth, ready for the Saints of light.”40
The Angels of God Will Burn the Wicked
When the prophet Moroni first appeared to the seventeen-year-old Joseph Smith to tell him about the sacred record hidden in the Hill Cumorah, he quoted many prophecies about the last days from the scriptures. Quoting Malachi, he gave us an important clarification that helps to explain how the wicked will be destroyed by fire at the time of the Second Coming. He said:
“For behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly shall burn as stubble; for they that come shall burn them, saith the Lord of Hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.”41
It is the angels who accompany the Lord at His Return who will destroy the wicked. These unrighteous men and women will be left with “neither root nor branch.” All family ties to their ancestors and descendants will be severed. They will have merited a place in the terrestrial or telestial kingdoms, where no one can enjoy the blessings of the sealing power of the priesthood.42
The Lord has told us what type of wicked people will be destroyed at this time:
“And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, [and oppress] the widow and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger, and fear not me, saith the Lord of Hosts.”43
The Tares of the Church Will Also Be Destroyed
The burning of the wicked at this time will also result in the destruction of the tares who tried to corrupt the wheat of the Church. By this time the tares will have been bound and prepared for their destruction by fire. The Lord taught His disciples:
“In the time of harvest, I will say to the reapers, ‘Gather ye together first the wheat into my barn; and the tares, are bound in bundles to be burned.’ . . . As, therefore, the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so shall it be in the end of this world, or the destruction of the wicked.
“For in that day, before the Son of Man shall come, He shall send forth His angels and messengers of heaven. And they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity, and shall cast them out among the wicked; and there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. For the world shall be burned with fire. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.”44
Satan’s Dominion Will Come to an End
As the tares and the wicked are destroyed from off the face of the earth, Satan’s dominion among mankind will come to an end, as the prophet Nephi explained:
“For behold, saith the prophet, the time cometh speedily that Satan shall have no more power over the hearts of the children of men; for the day soon cometh that all the proud and they who do wickedly shall be as stubble; and the day cometh that they must be burned.”45
Even though it may seem tragic for all of these wicked people to lose their lives, it is actually part of the Lord’s purposes. This will bring peace throughout the world, as the prophet Malachi poignantly described:
“All the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble; and the day that cometh shall burn them up. . . . But unto you that fear my name, shall the Son of Righteousness arise with healing in His wings; and ye shall go forth and grow up as calves in the stall. And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the Lord of Hosts.”46
With the wicked removed from the earth, the glorious Millennium will envelop the planet in peace and security. Satan will be bound. Wickedness will no longer exist. The Saints will grow in knowledge, glory and righteousness, surrounded with all things necessary for their salvation.
1 . Joseph Smith---Matthew 1:36.
2 . Quote from Joseph Smith as related by Wilford Woodruff in G. Homer Durham, ed., The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1990), p. 39; emphasis added.
3 . Brigham Young, December 23, 1866, Journal of Discourses 11:279.
4 . D&C 45:48-53; Ezekiel 38:22, 39:2; Joel 2:20.
5 . 1 Nephi 13:42; see also Ether 13:12-13.
6 . Charles W. Penrose, “The Second Advent,” Millennial Star (September 10, 1859) 21:583-584.
7 . History of the Church 5:337.
8 . Joseph Smith---Matthew 1:26.
9 . The Words of Joseph Smith, p. 181; spelling and grammar have been corrected.
10 . History of the Church 5:291; emphasis added.
11 . Isaiah 13:10; Joel 3:15; D&C 29:14, 34:9, 45:40-42, 88:87, 133:48-49; Moses 7:61; Joseph Smith---Matthew 1:33-36.
12 . 3 Nephi 8:19-23.
13 . 2 Nephi 23:10; Isaiah 13:10.
14 . Moses 7:61; emphasis added.
15 . Joseph Smith---Matthew 1:33, 36.
16 . D&C 34:9.
17 . D&C 88:87; emphasis added.
18 . D&C 45:40-42.
19 . D&C 29:14.
20 . D&C 133:48-49; emphasis added.
21 . History of the Church 5:337.
22 . History of the Church 2:52.
23 . Wilford Woodruff, October 8, 1881, Journal of Discourses 22:333; emphasis added.
24 . D&C 88:92-93; emphasis added.
25 . D&C 43:18; 45:44-47.
26 . D&C 133:56.
27 . D&C 88:95-98.
28 . Joseph Smith---Matthew 1:26, 36.
29 . D&C 45:43-44.
30 . D&C 38:8; emphasis added.
31 . D&C 34:7-8.
32 . D&C 45:74-75.
33 . Brigham Young, July 8, 1860, Journal of Discourses 8:115.
34 . D&C 29:12-13.
35 . Isaiah 10:16-19; Malachi 4:1; Revelation 17:16; 1 Nephi 22:15; D&C 29:9; 45:50; 63:34, 54; 64:24; 101:24-25; 133:41, 64.
36 . D&C 29:9.
37 . D&C 64:24.
38 . 3 Nephi 25:1; Malachi 4:1.
39 . Brigham Young, April 17, 1870, Journal of Discourses 13:314.
40 . Heber C. Kimball, December 16, 1860, Journal of Discourses 8:258.
41 . Joseph Smith---History 1:37; emphasis added.
42 . Theodore M. Burton, Conference Report, October 1967, p. 81.
43 . 3 Nephi 24:5.
44 . JST Matthew 13:29-45.
45 . 1 Nephi 22:15.
46 . 3 Nephi 25:1-3; Malachi 4:1-3.