I think its fair to say that most members of the church expect that the Lord’s Second Advent will just suddenly appear out of the blue and that the world will get no warning. This preconceived notion is largely responsible for many LDS scholars being a bit confused and bewildered over what John tells us about the the 6th seal in Rev. 6. We read:
12 And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;
13 And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.
14 And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.
The phrase that causes so much difficulty for so many is, “And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together”. Now, I get it that this sounds more than just a little bit out of place, and more like something we would expect to see after the opening of the 7th seal. In fact, some have even proposed that the 6th and 7th seals overlap in an attempt to make sense of parts of John’s revelation.
However, I think its time we just accept what John says, if we can do that we may find that there is a good reason for events unfolding as foretold. In verses 15-17 we learn how many of earth’s inhabitants will react to heaven departing as a scroll, we read:
15 And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;
16 And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:
17 For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?
So here we are still in the 6th seal and “the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man… said… hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb”. So we need to accept this as absolutely scriptural, the people of the earth are going to know that something’s coming and they’re going to know who it is!
JST Rev. 6:14 reads, “And the heavens opened as a scroll is opened when it is rolled together; and every mountain, and island, was moved out of its place.” So although Joseph Smith gives us somewhat different wording, the meaning remains essentially the same. One more reason to accept what John says as authentic and applicable!
Apparently, there is going to be a very impressive and revealing prelude to the coming of the Bridegroom which shall unfold at the end of the 6th seal. Joseph Smith said:
“It is not the design of the Almighty to come upon the earth and crush it and grind it to powder”. (History of the Church, 5:336–37)
The truth is that the Lord’s Second Advent is designed not only to meet out justice and give the wicked their due, but more particularly, to extend mercy to all whos hearts are still open to his offer of redemption! The prelude certainly will get messy for the wicked but it will also serve to awaken and warn the honest in heart and those who have not known where to find the truth, that they might yet turn to Christ.
Certainly, this concept applies to scattered Israel, to whom the Lord says “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” However, the great day of their gathering shall not come until “the Lord, even the Savior, shall stand in the midst of his people, and shall reign over all flesh”. (See D&C 133:25-26)
Now, we’re going to backtrack for just a minute because I think there is a point in this process or a point in the prelude that will certainly catch the world totally off guard, (abomination of desolation) for the scripture saith:
24 Behold, vengeance cometh speedily upon the inhabitants of the earth, a day of wrath, a day of burning, a day of desolation, of weeping, of mourning, and of lamentation; and as a whirlwind it shall come upon all the face of the earth, saith the Lord. (D&C 112)
The sequence of the prelude, though not exhaustive, is documented for us quite well in D&C 88 where we read:
84 Therefore, tarry ye, and labor diligently, that you may be perfected in your ministry to go forth among the Gentiles for the last time, as many as the mouth of the Lord shall name, to bind up the law and seal up the testimony, and to prepare the saints for the hour of judgment which is to come;
85 That their souls may escape the wrath of God, the desolation of abomination which awaits the wicked, both in this world and in the world to come. Verily, I say unto you, let those who are not the first elders continue in the vineyard until the mouth of the Lord shall call them, for their time is not yet come; their garments are not cleanfrom the blood of this generation…
87 For not many days hence and 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.
Please note how closely and in what order the “desolation of abomination”, the earth trembling (earthquake), the sun being darkened, the moon being turned to blood and the stars casting themselves down are presented here!
The desolation of abomination leads the sequence and shall come “as a whirlwind” or suddenly and without warning. In the second part of this sequence, we have the duplicate 6th seal events that John referenced when he said, “the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together”. So it shall surely remain a part of the sequence!
There is something about this particular event that shall make it very clear that great change is coming, we also learn that the audience is to be very inclusive, for John says, “the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man” shall understand that “the great day of his wrath is come”!
In the following verses the Lord expounds further regarding the diversity of “testimonies” that shall be a part of the prelude, we read:
88 And after your testimony cometh wrath and indignation upon the people.
89 For after your testimony cometh the testimony of earthquakes, that shall cause groanings in the midst of her, and men shall fall upon the ground and shall not be able to stand.
90 And also cometh the testimony of the voice of thunderings, and the voice of lightnings, and the voice of tempests, and the voice of the waves of the sea heaving themselves beyond their bounds.
91 And all things shall be in commotion; and surely, men’s hearts shall fail them; for fear shall come upon all people.
92 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.
93 And immediately there shall appear a great sign in heaven, and all people shall see it together.
Verse 91, which tells us that “fear shall come upon all people” is a parallel to Rev. 6:15 where we learn that so many “hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains”.
In verse 92, we not only have a declaration that “angels shall… sound the trump of God” and that “the judgment of our God is come” but it includes a directive to the elect, instructing them… “Behold, and lo, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him”! As Ezra Taft Benson has said of Christ’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. . . . (Ezra Taft Benson, New Era, Dec. 1980, pp. 49-50)
And so there shouldn’t be any question in anyone’s mind as to where the saints must “go… to meet him”. From D&C 103 we read:
17 For ye are the children of Israel, and of the seed of Abraham, and ye must needs be led out of bondage by power, and with a stretched-out arm.
18 And as your fathers were led at the first, even so shall the redemption of Zion be.
19 Therefore, let not your hearts faint, for I say not unto you as I said unto your fathers: Mine angel shall go up before you, but not my presence.
20 But I say unto you: Mine angels shall go up before you, and also my presence, and in time ye shall possess the goodly land.
In the above passage, the Lord makes it quite clear that the saints “are the children of Israel, and of the seed of Abraham… And as your fathers were led at the first, even so shall the redemption of Zion be.” and that “Mine angels shall go up before you, and also my presence, and… ye shall possess the goodly land.”
So, it appears that the Lord will come to his saints and personally lead them back to “the goodly land”. In support of this idea, we quote Joseph Smith who said:
“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.” (Wilford Woodruff, Conference Report, April 1898, p. 57.)
Now, in as much as these events are a part of the prelude, should we be surprised if our migration back to Jackson County were to garner the attention of the world at large? Would such an event not serve as a further warning that the Bridegroom shall soon appear? Of this event, Orson Pratt said:
“I expect that when the Lord leads forth his people to build up the city of Zion, his presence will be visible. When we speak of the presence of the Lord we speak of an exhibition of power. …
“We shall go back to Jackson County. Not that all this people will leave these mountains, or all be gathered together in a camp, but when we go back there will be a very large organization consisting of thousands, and tens of thousands, and they will march forward, the glory of God overshadowing their camp by day in the form of a cloud, and a pillar of flaming fire by night, the Lord’s voice being uttered forth before his army. Such a period will come in the history of this people. … And his people will go forth and build up Zion according to celestial law.
“Will not this produce terror upon all the nations of the earth? Will not armies of this description, though they may not be as numerous as the armies of the world, cause a terror to fall upon the nations? The Lord says the banners of Zion shall be terrible. … When the Lord’s presence is there, when his voice is heard, and his angels go before the camp, it will be telegraphed to the uttermost parts of the earth and fear will seize upon all people, especially the wicked, and the knees of the ungodly will tremble in that day, and the high ones that are on high, and the great men of the earth.” (In Journal of Discourses, 15:364.)
So to review, section 88 gives us a prophetic sequence that shall unfold as follows…
- The abomination of desolation. Note: JS Matthew 32-36 informs us that “immediately after the tribulation of those days… they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven”. So this is obviouslya very tight timeline!
- The Rev. 6:12-13 sequence unfolds. Sun darkened, moon turned to blood, stars fall from heaven, also “Andthe heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together”.
- “the testimony of earthquakes, that shall cause groanings in the midst of her, and men shall fall upon the ground and shall not be able to stand”.
- “the testimony of the voice of thunderings, and the voice of lightnings, and the voice of tempests, and the voice of the waves of the sea heaving themselves beyond their bounds”.
- “all things shall be in commotion; and… fear shall come upon all people”.
- “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.
- The command is given “Behold, and lo, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.” And when the saints shall have arrived at the appointed location….
- “immediately there shall appear a great sign in heaven, and all people shall see it together” which is undoubtedly the sign of the Son of Man.
Now, there are many more scriptures and quotations that could have been included in today’s blog. For example, Joseph Smith’s comments about the year with no rainbow or what D&C 29 says about “a great hailstorm sent forth to destroy the crops of the earth” etc. Both of these would also have applied, however, in the intrest of keeping it simple and staying on point we shall not make an effort to be exhaustive here.
However, the central ideas and sequence presented above are but a mirror of the Lord’s appearance to the Nephites. In that case, destruction and divine pronouncements from the heavens were followed a few months later by the Lord’s appearance and ministering in the land of Bountiful. It’s easy to see the Lord’s appearance to the Nephites established a pattern that shall soon be repeated!
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