Second Coming of Jesus Christ

Question: Can prophecies about the Savior’s Second Coming help me face the future with faith?

Answer: It can be unsettling to read about the events leading up to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, but when Jesus prophesied of these events, He told His disciples to “be not troubled.” (Joseph Smith–Matthew 1:23)

Joseph Smith–Matthew 1:23-37

23 Behold, I speak these things unto you for the elect’s sake; and you also shall hear of wars, and rumors of wars; see that ye be not troubled, for all I have told you must come to pass; but the end is not yet.

24 Behold, I have told you before;

25 Wherefore, if they shall say unto you: Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: Behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not;

26 For 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.

27 And now I show unto you a parable. Behold, wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together; so likewise shall mine elect be gathered from the four quarters of the earth.

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28 And they shall hear of wars, and rumors of wars.

29 Behold I speak for mine elect’s sake; for nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.

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.

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Richard Neitzel Holzapfel:

Today I would like to talk about the Second Coming, but I would like to talk specifically about two aspects that I call related but separate issues. The first aspect is the timing of the Second Coming and the second is the emphasis we sometimes place on the prophecies that tend to highlight the terrible days and tribulation that lie ahead for the generation who will witness this long-prophesied event...

The Timing of the Second Coming

It has not been unusual for nearly every generation who has lived on the earth since the mortal ministry of Jesus Christ to believe they might witness the terrible events immediately preceding the Second Coming and be present at His coming. Apparently even some first-century Saints thought they lived in the “last days”; they believed His coming was imminent...

The proliferation of popular books, tapes, and firesides among the Latter-day Saints during the last 25 years of my adult experience demonstrates how fruitful our imaginations have been when we have attempted to interpret current affairs in light of ancient and modern prophecy without proper historical context and the prophetic and ordained authority to do so...

Even today I encounter scores of people who believe they will witness the Second Coming in their lifetime. For my part, I am now somewhat reserved and wiser. I teach my students these guiding principles: prepare a will, buy life insurance, put funds away in a retirement program, and, if they really want to be nice to their family, purchase a pre-need funeral program that includes a cemetery plot! For many of my students, this last bit of advice is a little morbid, but it makes my point. Live today as if you will meet Jesus this evening, but plan your life as though you will live to be 100 years old...

Hope in Our Day and in the Future

Another aspect related to the Second Coming is the pessimism often associated with the events immediately preceding the coming of the Lord. According to one dictionary, pessimism is “an inclination to take the least favorable view (as of events) or to expect the worst...” In popular speech, one who is pessimistic is one who sees the proverbial glass as being half empty. During my life I have encountered students, friends, and associates who have often shown various degrees of pessimism when discussing the Second Coming...

I am no Pollyanna. I know something has gone terribly wrong with our planet, and I believe that the only ultimate hope for humankind is Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, I believe we need to be optimistic about the present and what lies beyond the horizon. A bright future still awaits all of us as we approach the Second Coming...The Lord certainly expects that the proper teaching about events surrounding the Second Coming should provide comfort to us...

My generation and the one that has followed—your generation—I call “the Fast-Food Generations.” We need stimulation about every two minutes or we lose interest...So the exciting and highly violent nature of certain prophecies regarding the Second Coming tends to capture our imagination, whereas other topics seem boring. Speakers and teachers who desperately want to keep the attention of their students, often resort to Second Coming themes as a way to hold their audience. In this I believe we do ourselves a great disservice...

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I am not sure how many times I have read Nephi’s words describing his vision concerning the last days, but they are legion. Nephi stated: “And it came to pass that I beheld the church of the Lamb of God, and its numbers were few, because of the wickedness and abominations of the whore who sat upon many waters” (1 Nephi 14:12)...

I, however, want to pay close attention to this comment from the scriptures: “and its numbers were few.” In seeing the glass as half empty, I have tended to emphasize the negative aspects of our times: The Church is small because there are so many ungodly people doing ungodly things—and things will only get worse.

It may be difficult for some students here today to visualize a church of only two million members, yet I vividly recall that day not too far in our past. The Church membership has certainly grown beyond my wildest imaginations, and I have had to readjust my thinking on this topic. What does it mean to be small? . . .

Now let us reread the text. Instead of seeing the glass as half empty, let us see it as half full: “And it came to pass that I beheld the church of the Lamb of God, and its numbers were few, because of the wickedness and abominations of the whore who sat upon many waters; nevertheless, I beheld that the church of the Lamb, who were the saints of God, were also upon all the face of the earth” (1 Nephi 14:12; emphasis added).

Notice the wording: “nevertheless, I beheld that the church of the Lamb, who were the saints of God, were also upon all the face of the earth.” Now that provides a whole new way of looking at things. Relatively speaking, the membership of the Church could be considered small with 100, 250, or even 600 million members when compared with the world population. The key to interpreting this verse may well be exploring it with the idea that the Church’s membership will be “upon all the face of the earth.”...

It seems reasonable to suppose that the Lord has a much larger plan than we sometimes see. Because we tend to be myopic when it comes to God’s continued and deep abiding love for others, we subconsciously assume that He has saved us and that is all that really matters. Let us return for a moment to the October 1831 revelation in Doctrine and Covenants 65. Following a brief but powerful introduction, the Lord says something quite marvelous:

The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth. [D&C 65:2] Of course the imagery here is based on the ancient prophecy found in the Old Testament. Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a colossal image was revealed to Daniel...

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Since 1831, when section 65 of the Doctrine and Covenants was received, some members of the Church have continually struggled to capture the large vision of the kingdom’s destiny. An example of this is found in a story Wilford Woodruff related about the earliest days of the Church: “On Sunday night the Prophet called on all who held the Priesthood to gather into the little log school house they had there. It was a small house, perhaps 14 feet square. But it held the whole of the Priesthood of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who were then in the town of Kirtland. . . . the Prophet said, ‘Brethren I have been very much edified and instructed in your testimonies here tonight, but I want to say to you before the Lord, that you know no more concerning the destinies of this Church and kingdom than a babe upon its mother’s lap. You don’t comprehend it.’ I was rather surprised. He said, ‘It is only a little handfull of Priesthood you see here tonight, but this Church will fill North and South America—it will fill the world.’” [Wilford Woodruff, Conference Report, April 1898, 57]...

In my lifetime I never imagined that China, Africa, and Greece would ever have congregations of Saints worshiping the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, ironically, we still believed that the Second Coming was imminent. We simply did not comprehend the Lord’s timetable in this matter or the scope of His intended work during the time preceding the Second Coming...

Conclusion

There is another important scripture that I believe will help us see the glass of the future as half full instead of half empty. It is found in the book of Revelation, chapter 7. John saw those who will be saved in heaven and observed, “And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel” (Revelation 7:4).

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But that is not all who are saved, as verse 9 continues: “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands” (Revelation 7:9)...

Certainly we are mortal. We do face challenges. We need to be realistic about the effects of a fallen world; nevertheless, we need to see the glass as being half full. Recalling the words of Elder Neal A. Maxwell might help us put future events in context:

“Yes, there will be wrenching polarization on this planet, but also the remarkable reunion with our colleagues in Christ from the city of Enoch. Yes, nation after nation will become a house divided, but more and more unifying Houses of the Lord will grace this planet. Yes, Armageddon lies ahead—but so does Adam-ondi-Ahman!” [Neal A. Maxwell, Even As I Am (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1982), 121]

Elder Maxwell added, “His work proceeds forward almost as if in the comparative calmness of the eye of a storm. First, He reigns in the midst of His saints; soon, in all the world” (Even As I Am, 121)...

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Source: Come, Follow Me–For Individuals and Families, p. 83; Excerpts from “The Glass Is Half Full: The Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ,” by Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, July 10, 2001, BYU Devotional.