The last shall be first, and the first shall be last…

Frank M. Keele

In the title of today’s blog we have a phrase taken from 1 Nephi 13, it’s one that we are all quite familiar with and think we understand. Ask the average member of the church what that phrase means and the answer might be something like, “In the meridian of time the gospel went to the Jews first and the Gentiles last but in the latter days the gospel goes to the Gentiles first and the Jews last”.

Truth is that there’s nothing wrong with that answer, but it only addresses the tip of the iceberg! We go to 1 Nephi 13 for the full context:

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.

We are told that “he shall manifest himself unto all nations”, quite a broad statement, but then the text goes on to mention only “the Jews and… the Gentiles” specifically. So the question to be answered might be… How and when shall the Lord “manifest himself unto all nations”?

We answer the question by starting at the beginning of the sequence or when the Lord “manifest himself” to the Jews the first time. We recall that his ministry among the Jews ends with his crucifixion and death upon the cross… it is both an ending and a beginning.

From the Book of Mormon we learn that great destruction and darkness came upon the land at the time of the crucifixion. A few months later the Lord appeared to the Nephites and ministered unto them. While among the Nephites he taught:

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. (3 Nephi 16)

These “other sheep” included the lost ten tribes. We go to 3 Nephi 17 and 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.

So we can easily see that this first cycle of ministering starts with the Jews but then continues on until the scattered of Israel, including the ten tribes are also ministered to. This process of necessity had to be complete before the gospel would go to the Gentiles, otherwise they wouldn’t be last, would they?

However, we need to keep in mind that those whom we call “the Gentiles” have been generously blessed with the blood of Ephraim. It was Ephraim’s mission to bring about the restoration and to lead out in preparation for the Second Coming. In a way I think it’s fair to say that this first last… last first thing is very House of Israel centric or dominated. The Jews on the one end and Ephraim (Gentiles) on the other…

When we account for all that had to happen before the gospel went to the Gentiles in this first cycle, it’s easy to understand the apparent lapse of years between the crucifixion and the Lord’s command that Peter should take the gospel unto the Gentiles. (See Acts chapter 11)

Now we turn our attention to the second cycle, that which unfolds in the latter days when “the last shall be first”. This is our day, for we live in “the times of the Gentile” which began with the restoration and establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But the day of the gentiles will soon come to an end, for we are already in the “hastening” according to President Monson. (General Conference, June, 2014)

It was Ezra Taft Benson that gave us the overall sequence of the Lord’s Second Coming, we quote him again here because his statement gives us the context under which the balance of this second cycle unfolds, said he:

“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)

Since the Lord will not minister among the Jews again until after “His first appearance… to the righteous Saints who have gathered to the New Jerusalem” it is apparent that the second cycle will not be complete until we are well into the millennium.

Now we go on to show that the balance of the ministering among the house of Israel, including the ten tribes, will be millennial as well. In 3 Nephi 21we get yet another view of how the end of “the day of the Gentiles” shall come and what immediately follows, we read:

11 Therefore it shall come to pass that whosoever will not believe in my words, who am Jesus Christ, which the Father shall cause him to bring forth unto the Gentiles, and shall give unto him power that he shall bring them forth unto the Gentiles, (it shall be done even as Moses said) they shall be cut off from among my people who are of the covenant.
12 And my people who are a remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles, yea, in the midst of them as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he go through both treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver.
13 Their hand shall be lifted up upon their adversaries, and all their enemies shall be cut off.
14 Yea, wo be unto the Gentiles except they repent; for it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Father, that I will cut off thy horses out of the midst of thee, and I will destroy thy chariots;
15 And I will cut off the cities of thy land, and throw down all thy strongholds;
16 And I will cut off witchcrafts out of thy land, and thou shalt have no more soothsayers;
17 Thy graven images I will also cut off, and thy standing images out of the midst of thee, and thou shalt no more worship the works of thy hands;
18 And I will pluck up thy groves out of the midst of thee; so will I destroy thy cities.
19 And it shall come to pass that all lyings, and deceivings, and envyings, and strifes, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, shall be done away.
20 For it shall come to pass, saith the Father, that at that day whosoever will not repent and come unto my Beloved Son, them will I cut off from among my people, O house of Israel;
21 And I will execute vengeance and fury upon them, even as upon the heathen, such as they have not heard.

In these verses we have a parallel prophecy of what Daniel calls “a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time”. It unfolds immediately after “a time, times, and an half;… when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people”. It is then that “all these things shall be finished.” (Daniel 12: 1,7)
We return to 3 Nephi 21 and read:

22 But if they will repent and hearken unto my words, and harden not their hearts, I will establish my church among them, and they shall come in unto the covenant and be numbered among this the remnant of Jacob, unto whom I have given this land for their inheritance;…
24 And then shall they assist my people that they may be gathered in, who are scattered upon all the face of the land, in unto the New Jerusalem.

The righteous Gentiles (the church) are to “assist my people that they may be gathered in, who are scattered upon all the face of the land, in unto the New Jerusalem” or the place of the New Jerusalem just as President Benson says. It shall be just in time for the coming of the Bridegroom. We continue reading:

25 And then shall the power of heaven come down among them; and I also will be in the midst.
26 And then shall the work of the Father commence at that day, even when this gospel shall be preached among the remnant of this people. Verily I say unto you, at that day shall the work of the Father commence among all the dispersed of my people, yea, even the tribes which have been lost, which the Father hath led away out of Jerusalem.
27 Yea, the work shall commence among all the dispersed of my people, with the Father to prepare the way whereby they may come unto me, that they may call on the Father in my name.
28 Yea, and then shall the work commence, with the Father among all nations in preparing the way whereby his people may be gathered home to the land of their inheritance.
29 And they shall go out from all nations; and they shall not go out in haste, nor go by flight, for I will go before them, saith the Father, and I will be their rearward.

So after the Bridegroom comes to his gathered saints we shall witness a great day of gathering among the house of Israel, to include the return of the ten tribes. It shall be a day of unprecedented and even exponential growth of the Lord’s church. In chapter 22 of 3 Nephi we get more of this sequence, it is expressed in these terms:

1 And then shall that which is written come to pass: Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child; for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the Lord.
2 Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thy habitations; spare not, lengthen thy cords and strengthen thy stakes;
3 For thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left, and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles and make the desolate cities to be inhabited.
4 Fear not, for thou shalt not be ashamed; neither be thou confounded, for thou shalt not be put to shame; for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more.
5 For thy maker, thy husband, the Lord of Hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel—the God of the whole earth shall he be called.
6 For the Lord hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God.
7 For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee.
8 In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment, but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer.
9 For this, the waters of Noah unto me, for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee.
10 For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.
11 O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted! Behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colors, and lay thy foundations with sapphires.
12 And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones.
13 And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children.
14 In righteousness shalt thou be established; thou shalt be far from oppression for thou shalt not fear, and from terror for it shall not come near thee.
15 Behold, they shall surely gather together against thee, not by me; whosoever shall gather together against thee shall fall for thy sake.
16 Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy.
17 No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall revile against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.

In verse one we read “for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife”. That is to say, those who will come into the church will far outnumber those who were already members.

In verses 11 and 12 we get a hint as to where their dwelling place might be, we read:

11 O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted! Behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colors, and lay thy foundations with sapphires.
12 And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones.

Could it be that some will dwell in the New Jerusalem that comes down out of heaven while the earthly New Jerusalem is being built? We go to Rev. 21 to explore the possible connection, we read:

2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God….
9 And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.
10 And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,…
18 And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass.
19 And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald;
20 The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst.
21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.

Earlier in this blog we omitted verse 23 of 3 Nephi 21 because this is a better place to discuss it’s meaning, it reads:

23 And they shall assist my people, the remnant of Jacob, and also as many of the house of Israel as shall come, that they may build a city, which shall be called the New Jerusalem.

Many have interpreted this verse to mean that the earthy New Jerusalem would have to be built before the Lord would come. Personally, I believe that such an interpretation cannot be substantiated anywhere else in scripture.

From the above verse we learn that “they (the Gentiles) shall assist my people, the remnant of Jacob, and also as many of the house of Israel as shall come”. What! “as many of the house of Israel as shall come”? As we have read above, the Lord makes it perfectly clear that the vast majority of the “house of Israel” shall not be gathered until after the coming of the Bridegroom. The Lord says:

25 And then shall the power of heaven come down among them; and I also will be in the midst.
26 And then shall the work of the Father commence at that day, even when this gospel shall be preached among the remnant of this people. Verily I say unto you, at that day shall the work of the Father commence among all the dispersed of my people, yea, even the tribes which have been lost, which the Father hath led away out of Jerusalem.

So we ask the question, how can “as many of the house of Israel as shall come” participate in the building of the earthly New Jerusalem if it is to be built before they are gathered? Will Ephraim build the New Jerusalem all by itself? I do not believe this will be the case.

Insisting that the earthly New Jerusalem will be built before the Lord’s coming only serves to deflect our gaze away from the abundance evidence to the contrary.

Returning to our main theses, let us summarize by saying that the whole sequence from 3 Nephi 21:11 though chapter 22 must unfold before the Lord will finally appear to the Jews. At that day they shall inquire of their long awaited Messiah “What are these wounds in thine hands and in thy feet?” From D&C 45 we read the Lord’s answer:

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.

With the appearance and ministering of Christ to the Jews we are able to see how “the last shall be first, and the first shall be last” and what that all entails. However, we have to go a bit further in order to understand how he shall “manifest himself unto all nations”.

In verse 54 above we read “And then shall the heathen nations be redeemed”. So once this cycle of first last and last first is fulfilled as it applies to the house of Israel, there is still more ministering to be done but this time the “heathen nations” are to be the recipients. We go to Ezekiel 38 and read:

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.

So when the Lord appears to the Jews, the eyes of the heathen nations shall be opened, prepared for a day of ministering among them! We now go to D&C 90 and 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 in “the day when the arm of the Lord shall be revealed in power in convincing the nations”, (See D&C 45:44-45) the heathen nations shall receive the gospel for “in that day… every man shall hear the fulness of the gospel in his own tongue, and in his own language”.

So now we are able to see how this whole process of ministering unfolds. It will take some time to complete the ministering among the heathen nations. Not until that time will the Lord be able to “complete the salvation of man, and judge all things, and shall redeem all things, except that which he hath not put into his power, when he shall have sealed all things, unto the end of all things”. (See D&C 77:12)

In other words, the Lord will not make what Ezra Taft Benson called “The third appearance” until after the ministering among the heathen nations is complete. See the graphic below of the timeline…

One again, thanks for reading… If you have found this information to be of value, please…. Please take a moment to share. Post a link, like us on Facebook or subscribe to this blog. May God bless until the next time!

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