One of the most commonly misunderstood passages in scripture has to do with the end of the world and the Lord’s Second Advent. What is rather amazing about this particular misconception is that it is so universally accepted. Ask anyone within the Church, high or low and you are very likely to get the same answer. The passage that I’m referring to is JS Matthew verse 31, which reads:
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;
A very likely interpretation of this passage that you might get from most members of the church would be something like, “The Second Coming won’t happen until the gospel has been taken to all nations.” However, the fact is that there is no justification for such an interpretation.
If this verse were to read something like, “And again, this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations, and then shall I come in my glory”, then I’d be in total agreement with the rest of the Church. But guess what, it doesn’t say that! It says, “and then shall the end come”.
So if we are going to get to the bottom of all the confusion we need to find out what the phrase “and then shall the end come” has reference to.
To begin our explanation, lets review a bit more in this same chapter. (JS Matthew) We read about the Lord’s Second Coming in these words:
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;
Now we fast-forward to the end of the chapter, where we read:
55 And thus cometh the end of the wicked, according to the prophecy of Moses, saying: They shall be cut off from among the people; but the end of the earth is not yet, but by and by.
Now we begin to see the light… “the sign of the Son of Man” is given and the peoples of the earth “shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven… but the end of the earth is not yet, but by and by.”
Wow, now that changes things a bit… When Christ makes his first appearance as the bridegroom, it apparently isn’t “the end of the earth”, “but the end of the earth is… by and by.”
So if you used to believe that the gospel had to preached to all nations before the Second Coming, these passages flip that whole argument on it’s head. Apparently, the gospel will continue to be preached among the nations even after the Lord’s first appearance. Eventually, “by and by”, that preaching will be completed and we shall see “the end of the earth”.
Now lets review again what Ezra Taft Benson had to say about the sequence of the Lord’s Second Coming:
“His first appearance will be to the righteous Saints who have gathered to the New Jerusalem. In this place of refuge they will be safe from the wrath of the Lord, which will be poured out without measure on all nations. . . .
The second appearance of the Lord will be to the Jews. To these beleaguered sons of Judah, surrounded by hostile Gentile armies, who again threaten to overrun Jerusalem, the Savior-their Messiah-will appear and set His feet on the Mount of Olives, “and it shall cleave in twain, and the earth shall tremble, and reel to and fro, and the heavens shall also shake. (D&C 45:48)
The Lord Himself will then rout the Gentile armies, decimating their forces (see Ezek.38,39). Judah will be spared, no longer to be persecuted and scattered. . . .
The third appearance of Christ will be to the rest of the world. . . .
All nations will see Him “in the clouds of heaven, clothed with power and great glory; with all the holy angels. . (Ezra Taft Benson, New Era, Dec. 1980, pp. 49-50)
For now we shall focus on the Lord’s second appearance by going to D&C 45 where we read:
43 And the remnant shall be gathered unto this place;
44 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.
45 But before the arm of the Lord shall fall, an angel shall sound his trump, and the saints that have slept shall come forth to meet me in the cloud.
46 Wherefore, if ye have slept in peace blessed are you; for as you now behold me and know that I am, even so shall ye come unto me and your souls shall live, and your redemption shall be perfected; and the saints shall come forth from the four quarters of the earth.
47 Then shall the arm of the Lord fall upon the nations.
48 And then shall the Lord set his foot upon this mount, and it shall cleave in twain, and the earth shall tremble, and reel to and fro, and the heavens also shall shake.
49 And the Lord shall utter his voice, and all the ends of the earth shall hear it; and the nations of the earth shall mourn, and they that have laughed shall see their folly.
50 And calamity shall cover the mocker, and the scorner shall be consumed; and they that have watched for iniquity shall be hewn down and cast into the fire.
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.
53 And then shall they weep because of their iniquities; then shall they lament because they persecuted their king.
54 And then shall the heathen nations be redeemed, and they that knew no law shall have part in the first resurrection; and it shall be tolerable for them.
When this great event unfolds it will be an awakening moment for the Jews as a people and as a nation, we read “And then shall they weep because of their iniquities; then shall they lament because they persecuted their king.” What a great moment in the history of planet earth this shall be and if you are righteous you shall have a front row seat! (Perhaps the subject of a future blog.)
Of course salvation is in Christ and so as the Jews accept the Lord as their long awaited Messiah they will of necessity have to receive the preaching of the restored gospel along with the ordinances of salvation. So we must of necessity suppose that “the end of the earth” is still “not yet, but by and by”.
In verse 54 above we read “And then shall the heathen nations be redeemed”… What? The heathen nations have to be taught the restored gospel as well? Goodness… that’s going to set back “the end of the earth” a few years at least, don’t you think?
When Christ comes “with power and great glory” to the Jews and “the arm of the Lord fall upon the nations” it will surely have a powerful influence on the heathen. We read from Ezekiel 38:
16 And thou shalt come up against my people of Israel, as a cloud to cover the land; it shall be in the latter days, and I will bring thee against my land, that the heathen may know me, when I shall be sanctified in thee, O Gog, before their eyes….
23 Thus will I magnify myself, and sanctify myself; and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the Lord.
We have reference to the teaching of the heathen nations in D&C 90 where we read:
9 That through your administration they may receive the word, and through their administration the word may go forth unto the ends of the earth, unto the Gentiles first, and then, behold, and lo, they shall turn unto the Jews.
10 And then cometh the day when the arm of the Lord shall be revealed in power in convincing the nations, the heathen nations, the house of Joseph, of the gospel of their salvation.
11 For it shall come to pass in that day, that every man shall hear the fulness of the gospel in his own tongue, and in his own language, through those who are ordained unto this power, by the administration of the Comforter, shed forth upon them for the revelation of Jesus Christ.
So the gospel goes “unto the Gentiles first… and then… unto the Jews”. And in this day “when the arm of the Lord shall be revealed in power” to the Jews, it shall also be unto the “convincing the nations, the heathen nations… of the gospel of their salvation”. In “that day, that every man shall hear the fulness of the gospel in his own tongue, and in his own language”.
There are many more passages of scripture that could be brought to bear in order to make the point of this blog. Which is that the preaching of the gospel continues on even after the Lord has appeared the first two times. Surely none of you out there is still of the opinion that we have to wait for the preaching of the word to all nations before Christ comes. Right?
As to what is meant by the phrase “but the end of the earth is not yet, but by and by”, I think we shall address that in a future blog. If you would like to read such a blog, please take a moment to like us on Facebook, share a link or subscribe to this blog! Until next time, God Bless…