By Frank M. Keele
You have no doubt either heard or read the phrase “and the last shall be first, and the first shall be last” but do we understand that this is a reference to the order of the Lord’s ministering both in the meridian of time and in the fullness of times…
In 1 Nephi 13 we read:
42 And the time cometh that he shall manifest himself unto all nations, both unto the Jews and also unto the Gentiles; and after he has manifested himself unto the Jews and also unto the Gentiles, then he shall manifest himself unto the Gentiles and also unto the Jews, and the last shall be first, and the first shall be last.
On the surface this looks to be a pretty straight forward but when we dig deeper into the word we find that there is much more to this sequence… it wasn’t long after the Lord had finished his ministering among the Jews that he appeared to the Nepites here on the American continent and taught them about his other sheep, from 3 Nephi 15 we read:
1 And verily, verily, I say unto you that I have other sheep, which are not of this land, neither of the land of Jerusalem, neither in any parts of that land round about whither I have been to minister.
2 For they of whom I speak are they who have not as yet heard my voice; neither have I at any time manifested myself unto them.
3 But I have received a commandment of the Father that I shall go unto them, and that they shall hear my voice, and shall be numbered among my sheep, that there may be one fold and one shepherd; therefore I go to show myself unto them.
The Lord also made it clear that this round of ministering was to include the ten tribes, from 3 Nephi 17 we read:
4 But now I go unto the Father, and also to show myself unto the lost tribes of Israel, for they are not lost unto the Father, for he knoweth whither he hath taken them.
It should be apparent to all that this in person ministry to the Nephites, who were Israelite, those designated as his “other sheep” and to the “the lost tribes of Israel” is not just a side bar to the above sequence… it occupies the central position!
And it was the reason for the delay or passage of time between the Lord’s crusifiction and the vision he gave to Peter, telling him that it was time to take the gospel to the gentiles. It was essential that the ministering among the house of Israel come before the gentiles, otherwise the gentiles wouldn’t have been last, right?
All that we have discussed so far points us to the Lord’s ministering among the house of Israel here in the fullness of times because we know that it will unfold in exactly the reverse order that it did in the meridian of time. We know form verse 42 above that “the last shall be first, and the first shall be last” but what will that look like? How will it come about? The scriptures teach that it will be millennial and in conjunction with the Lord’s first appearance.
The fiery and calamitous end of the day of the gentiles will usher in the coming of the Bridegroom and with him, the New Jerusalem, “And the Lord, even the Savior, shall stand in the midst of his people, and shall reign over all flesh. And they who are in the north countries shall come in remembrance before the Lord; and their prophets shall hear his voice, and shall no longer stay themselves; and they shall smite the rocks, and the ice shall flow down at their presence.” (D&C 133:25-26)
As Israel hears “his voice” and gathers to the New Jerusalem they will not only find peace and protection form the warring nations but they will quite literally be coming unto Christ who will dwell there… and they too shall experience the love, peace, power and perfections of Christ in a very literal way, just as their forefathers had.