Chapter 33: The Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ

The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, (1979), 272–79


Map Chp. 33

The First and Second Letters of Paul to the Saints at Thessalonica, ca. A.D. 52–53

Written from Corinth During Paul’s Second Missionary Journey (1 and 2 Thessalonians)

1 Thessalonians

2 Thessalonians

Gospel Comes in Word and Power

1:1–10

Ungodly Damned at Second Coming

1:1–12

Paul’s Example in Thessalonica

2:1–12

Apostasy to Precede Second Coming

2:1–12

Faith and Patience of the Converts

2:13–20

Persevere for Eternal Glory

2:13–17

Timothy’s Mission to Thessalonica

3:1–13

Pray for Triumph of the Gospel

3:1–5

Live in Holiness and Charity

4:1–12

Withdraw from Apostates

3:6

The Saints Saved at Second Coming

4:13–18

Stand Against Idleness

3:7–18

Saints Know Season of Second Coming

5:1–11

 

Be Considerate Saints

5:12–28

 

Interpretive Commentary

First Thessalonians

(33-1) 1 Thessalonians 1:1. Why Did Paul Write to the Thessalonians, and When Were the Letters Written?

The missionaries were driven from Thessalonica by angry Jews (Acts 17:5, 10). Paul went from there to Berea, then to Athens, and on to Corinth where Silas and Timothy joined him. Paul then sent Timothy back to Thessalonica to check on conditions in the branch.

While Timothy was with the Thessalonian saints, observing conditions of the novice branch, he probably counseled and comforted the members and reminded them of their gospel duties and commitments. Thereafter, he returned to Corinth and reported to Paul. From Timothy’s report, and because of Paul’s prior experience in Thessalonica, the apostle was able to write to the saints and praise them for their Christian examples.

He wrote them a message of consolation and encouragement, that they might be able to continue to endure persecution and trials and to remain steadfast in their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Written to members, most of whom prior to their baptism appear to have been gentiles and not Jews, the book calls attention to problems which probably were peculiar to gentile converts. Questions of social solidarity, sexual purity, and honest labor were three problems faced by the converts in Thessalonica. Had most of the Thessalonian saints been Jewish converts, it would seem that they would not have had the same problems to such a degree. Why? Because the Jews had enjoyed a background in the law of Moses which encouraged social and especially family ties, discouraged sexual sin, and emphasized the virtue of six days of labor.

The letters to the Thessalonians were, as nearly as can be determined, written from Corinth several months after Paul had left Macedonia, probably near the close of A.D. 52.

(33-2) 1 Thessalonians 1:1. Who Were Silvanus and Timotheus?

Silvanus is another form of the name Silas; this man is thought to be the same who accompanied Paul in the second missionary journey. (See the commentary on Acts 15:40.)

Timotheus is Timothy. (See biographical sketch in the introduction to section 11.)

(33-3) 1 Thessalonians 1:10. How May the Saints Escape the Wrath to Come?

The Prophet Joseph Smith said:

“It seems to be deeply impressed upon our minds that the Saints ought to lay hold of every door that shall seem to be opened unto them, to obtain foothold on the earth, and be making all the preparation that is within their power for the terrible storms that are now gathering in the heavens, ‘a day of clouds, with darkness and gloominess, and of thick darkness,’ as spoken of by the Prophets which cannot be now of a long time lingering. …” (Teachings, p. 141.)

The “wrath to come” is “the desolation of abomination which awaits the wicked, both in this world and in the world to come.” (D&C 88:85.)

(33-4) 1 Thessalonians 2:2. What Is Meant by Speaking the Gospel “with Much Contention”?

It has been suggested that the word contention in verse 2 ought to translate from the Greek as “conflict”—referring to any struggle, outward or inward. Sometimes the word opposition is used in place of contention. Whichever interpretation is used, what seems to be clear is the fact that Paul was able to preach the gospel only by enduring much conflict with antagonistic Jews and gentiles, by struggling mightily with mental trials, and by experiencing great hardships. Like Paul, missionaries today must endure much hardship and opposition—antagonistic nonmembers, self- and devil-imposed doubt and temptation, and even physical and financial hardships. And like Paul, missionaries today overcome and endure in the same way: by perseverance born of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

(33-5) 1 Thessalonians 4:3–5. What Does It Mean to Possess One’s Vessel in Sanctification and Honour?

The word vessel in this passage has been interpreted to mean “body.” Men and women are to control their bodies, to respect their bodies as temples of God, and to treat them with honor. They are not to use them as instruments for lustful self-gratification.

“To be sanctified is to become clean, pure, and spotless; to be freed from the blood and sins of the world; to become a new creature of the Holy Ghost, one whose body has been renewed by the rebirth of the Spirit. Sanctification is a state of saintliness, a state attained only by conformity to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. The plan of salvation is the system and means provided whereby men may sanctify their souls and thereby become worthy of a celestial inheritance.” (McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 675.)

(33-6) 1 Thessalonians 5:2. “For Yourselves Know Perfectly That the Day of the Lord So Cometh as a Thief in the Night”

“I do not know when he is going to come. No man knows. Even the angels of heaven are in the dark in regard to that great truth. [See Matthew 24:36, 37.] But this I know, that the signs that have been pointed out are here. The earth is full of calamity, of trouble. The hearts of men are failing them. We see the signs as we see the fig tree putting forth her leaves; and knowing this time is near, it behooves you, and all men upon the face of the earth, to pay heed to the words of Christ, to his apostles and watch, for we know not the day nor the hour. But I tell you this, it shall come as a thief in the night, when many of us will not be ready for it.” (Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3:52–53.)

Paul compares the coming of the Lord to the coming of a thief in the night. In other words, it will come—

  1. 1.

    Unexpectedly.

  2. 2.

    Without warning. See also D&C 106:4, 5.

But the effect it will have on people will vary because there are two basically different classes of people. Continuing the analogy of night and day, Paul titles these two classes as follows:

The Children of the Night

These are the people of the world who dwell in darkness. Therefore they will not “see” the signs which herald the approach of this great event. The “day of the Lord” shall be a dreadful day for them.

The Children of the Day

These are those who dwell in light and truth. They “see” the warning signs and therefore are spiritually prepared for the coming of Jesus. For them, the “day of the Lord” shall be a great day.

Paul does not further describe or discuss the children of the night, for it takes no special preparation or qualification to be classed as one of these. But he defines clearly how a person may become a child of the day: Those who are the children of the day will be sober; that is, they will recognize the deeply serious nature of life and the need for spiritual preparation. They will let “the solemnities of eternity” rest upon their minds. (See D&C 43:34.) Children of the day will also clothe themselves in three great attributes, namely, faith, love, and the hope of salvation (1 Thessalonians 5:8). In addition they will strive to improve their relationships with both God and man. Paul lists seven specific ways to do both.

Review 1 Thessalonians 5:11–15 and list the steps a Saint should take to improve his relationship with his fellowmen.

Review 1 Thessalonians 5:16–22 and list the steps a Saint should take to improve his relationship with his God.

Paul’s promise is that if we do this, then God will sanctify us. Such sanctification, or cleansing, then makes it possible for our “whole spirit and soul and body [to] be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23.)

(33-7) 1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13. “Know Them Which Labour among You, and Are over You in the Lord”

Members of the Church are to highly esteem the ecclesiastical leaders who preside over them. Criticism, faultfinding, backbiting, and gossip should be done away with; and an attitude of helpfulness, honest praise, kindness, and forbearance should prevail. This same respect and honor is to be given to all who labor to build up the kingdom. How is such honor for those who bear the priesthood to be obtained? For the men in the Church the following advice is of great value: “If you will honor the Holy Priesthood in yourself first, you will honor it in those who preside over you and in those who administer in the various callings throughout the Church.”

For the women of the Church, a corollary is equally true, according to President Smith: “If you will honor the Holy Priesthood in [your husbands and fathers and sons], you will honor [that priesthood and its callings] in those who preside over you and in those who administer in the various callings throughout the Church.” (Joseph F. Smith, as quoted in F. W. Otterstrom, “A Journey to the South,” Improvement Era, Dec. 1917, p. 106.)

(33-8) 1 Thessalonians 5:14. “Comfort the Feebleminded”

The word feebleminded is perhaps better written as “fainthearted.” The admonition is to comfort those who lack courage or resolution to live the gospel. (See McConkie, DNTC, 3:58.)

(33-9) 1 Thessalonians 5:19. “Quench Not the Spirit”

“In the true Church there will always be powerful manifestations of the Spirit of God. Inclinations to bridle and submerge these is of the world.” (McConkie, DNTC, 3:58.)

(33-10) 1 Thessalonians 5:26. What Does Paul Mean by the Expression “Greet All the Brethren with an Holy Kiss”?

This verse in the Inspired Version reads: “Greet all the brethren with a holy salutation.”

Second Thessalonians

(33-11) 2 Thessalonians 1:9. What Is “Everlasting Destruction”?

To experience everlasting destruction is to partake of spiritual death, “which is to be cast out of the presence of God and to die as pertaining to the things of righteousness.” (McConkie, DNTC, 3:61.)

(33-12) 2 Thessalonians 2:2. What Is the Meaning of “Nor by Letter as from Us”?

The Inspired Version reads: “That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled by letter, except ye receive it from us; neither by spirit, nor by word, as that the day of Christ is at hand.” (Emphasis added.)

(33-13) 2 Thessalonians 2:3. What Is the “Falling Away” Which Must First Take Place before the Second Coming?

The Greek word Paul uses is apostasia, the word from which we derive the words apostasy, apostatize, and apostate. The literal meaning of the word is to revolt; but in secular Greek usage it meant political revolt or the changing of governmental forms. The passage in Thessalonians is a reference to the apostasy that was to occur before the Lord returns to the earth to rule and reign in majesty and power.

(33-14) 2 Thessalonians 2:3. Who Is “the Son of Perdition”?

Satan and those with him who rebelled against God in heaven and were cast out are known as sons of perdition. These rebellious spirits “chose evil by choice after having had the light. While dwelling in the presence of God they knowingly entered into their rebellion. Their mission on earth is to attempt to destroy the souls of men and make them miserable as they themselves are miserable.” (Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 2:219.) The word perdition is derived from the Latin perditus, meaning “to destroy,” and was a title given to Satan (D&C 76:26). Therefore, in this passage Paul refers to Satan.

(33-15) 2 Thessalonians 2:7. What Is the Mystery of Iniquity?

“The seemingly obscure expression, ‘he who now letteth will let,’ may be more readily understood by remembering that in the older style of English ‘let’ had the meaning of ‘restrain’ or ‘hinder.’ The passage therefore may be understood as a declaration that the spirit of iniquity was already active though restrained or hindered for a time; and that later even this restraint would be removed and the evil one would be in power. In the Revised Version of the New Testament this passage is rendered thus: ‘—lawlessness doth already work: only there is one that restraineth now, until he be taken out of the way.’

“Just who or what is referred to as exercising a restraint on the powers of iniquity at that time has given rise to discussion. Some writers hold that the presence of the apostles operated in this way, while others believe that the restraining power of the Roman government is referred to. It is known that the Roman policy was to discountenance religious contention, and to allow a large measure of liberty in forms of worship as long as the gods of Rome were not maligned nor their shrines dishonored. As Roman supremacy declined ‘the mystery of iniquity’ embodied in the apostate church operated practically without restraint.

“The expression ‘mystery of iniquity’ as used by Paul is significant. Prominent among the early perverters of the Christian faith were those who assailed its simplicity and lack of exclusiveness. This simplicity was so different from the mysteries of Judaism and the mysterious rites of heathen idolatry as to be disappointing to many; and the earliest changes in the Christian form of worship were marked by the introduction of mystic ceremonies.” (Talmage, The Great Apostasy, pp. 41–42.)

According to the Inspired Version, the statement “until he be taken out of the way” refers to Satan, who was and still is causing misery, unhappiness, and sin throughout the world. He will continue to do so until he is bound by the Lord at the beginning of the Millennium. (See McConkie, DNTC, 3:63.) The Inspired Version reads: “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work, and he it is who now worketh, and Christ suffereth him to work, until the time is fulfilled that he shall be taken out of the way.”

(33-16) 2 Thessalonians 2:9. Does Satan Have Power to Work Signs and Wonders?

Satan has great power to produce false signs and wonders. He has the ability to imitate the miracles of God—witness the efforts of the magicians in Pharaoh’s court when they imitated the miracles of Moses and Aaron (Exodus 7, 8). Satan has power over the elements. He is a master of deceit. He can appear as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). He is an orator. He has the gift of tongues. Many are the powers of Satan which he uses to lead men astray. Those spirits who followed Satan have these same capacities in lesser degrees (Revelation 16:14). In all this, “the power of the devil is limited; [and] the power of God is unlimited.” (Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 68.)

(33-17) 2 Thessalonians 2:11. Does God Seek to Delude Men?

God does not attempt to delude men, for he is a God of truth and he cannot deceive (D&C 62:6; Deuteronomy 32:4). He does allow men to believe as they please. If they choose to accept untruth, he does not force them to think or do otherwise.

“… If man is to be rewarded for righteousness and punished for evil, then common justice demands that he be given the power of independent action. A knowledge of good and evil is essential to man’s progress on earth. If he were coerced to do right at all times, or were helplessly enticed to commit sin, he would merit neither a blessing for the first nor punishment for the second. …

“God is standing in the shadow of eternity, it seems to me, deploring the inevitable results of the follies, the transgressions and the sins of His wayward children, but we cannot blame Him for these any more than we can blame a father who might say to his son, ‘There are two roads, my son, one leading to the right, one leading to the left. If you take the one to the right it will lead you to success and to happiness. If you take the one to the left it will bring upon you misery and unhappiness and perhaps death, but you choose which you will. You must choose; I will not force either upon you.’ …” (McKay, Pathways to Happiness, pp. 90–91, 93.)

So Paul is suggesting that God allows men to be deluded because they “received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” (vs. 10.)

(33-18) 2 Thessalonians 3:6. Are We Really Supposed to Withdraw Our Fellowship “from Every Brother That Walketh Disorderly”?

“Enemies from within, traitors to the Cause, cultists who pervert the doctrines and practices which lead to salvation, often draw others away with them, and added souls lose their anticipated inheritance in the heavenly kingdom. When cultists and enemies become fixed in their opposition to the Church, and when they seek to convert others to their diverse positions, the course of wisdom is to avoid them, as Paul here directs, and to leave them in the Lord’s hands.” (McConkie, DNTC, 3:66.)

(33-19) 2 Thessalonians 3:8. What Is Meant by “Neither Did We Eat Any Man’s Bread for Nought”?

“Even Paul and his ministerial associates, who were in fact entitled to temporal help from the saints, chose to set an example of self-support. There are perils in a paid ministry.” (McConkie, DNTC, 3:67.)

(33-20) 2 Thessalonians 3:16. How May the Lord “Give You Peace Always”?

“The peace of Christ does not come by seeking the superficial things of life, neither does it come except as it springs from the individual’s heart. Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. …’ (John 14:27.) Thus the Son of Man, the executor of his own will and testament, gave to his disciples and to mankind the ‘first of all human blessings.’ It was a bequest conditioned upon obedience to the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is thus bequeathed to each individual. No man is at peace with himself, who transgresses the law of right either in dealing with himself by indulging in passion, in appetite, yielding to temptations against his accusing conscience, or in dealing with his fellow men, being untrue to their trust. Peace does not come to the transgressor of law; peace comes by obedience to law; and it is that message which Jesus would have us proclaim among men.” (David O. McKay in CR, Oct. 1938, p. 133.)

Points to Ponder

If You Are Prepared, You Need Not Fear

Sometimes there are people who have great fears about the second coming of the Lord. They are heard to say, “There are so many terrible events prophesied, I hope I die before the Lord comes again!” Are such feelings justified? Is there any hope for the righteous who may live to see the Second Coming?

(33-21) Those Who Follow the Prophets Need Not Fear

“My text today is from a revelation of the Lord to Joseph Smith, the Prophet, at a conference of the Church January 2, 1831, as follows: ‘… if ye are prepared ye shall not fear.’ (D&C 38:30.)

“In section 1 of the great Doctrine and Covenants, a volume of modern scripture, we read these words: ‘Prepare ye, prepare ye for that which is to come. …’ (D&C 1:12.) Further in this same revelation are these warning words: ‘… I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth …’ (D&C 1:17.)

“What are some of the calamities for which we are to prepare? In section 29 the Lord warns us of ‘a great hailstorm sent forth to destroy the crops of the earth.’ (D&C 29:16.) In section 45 we read of ‘an overflowing scourge; for a desolating sickness shall cover the land.’ (D&C 45:31.) In section 63 the Lord declares he has ‘decreed wars upon the face of the earth. …’ (D&C 63:33.)

“In Matthew, chapter 24, we learn of ‘famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes. …’ (Matt. 24:7.) The Lord declared that these and other calamities shall occur. These particular prophecies seem not to be conditional. The Lord, with his foreknowledge, knows that they will happen. Some will come about through man’s manipulations; others through the forces of nature and nature’s God, but that they will come seems certain. Prophecy is but history in reverse—a divine disclosure of future events.

“Yet, through all of this, the Lord Jesus Christ has said: ‘… if ye are prepared ye shall not fear.’ (D&C 38:30.)

“What, then, is the Lord’s way to help us prepare for these calamities? The answer is also found in section 1 of the Doctrine and Covenants, wherein he says:

“‘Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments:

“‘And also gave commandments to others. …’ (D&C 1:17–18.) He has also said: ‘Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled.’ (D&C 1:37.)

“Here then is the key—look to the prophets for the words of God, that will show us how to prepare for the calamities which are to come. For the Lord, in that same section, states: ‘What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.’ (D&C 1:38.)

“Again, the Lord warned those who will reject the inspired words of his representatives, in these words: ‘… and the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people.’ (D&C 1:14.)” (Ezra Taft Benson in CR, Oct. 1973, p. 89.)

(33-22) Our Only Safety Is Obedience

“Now the only safety we have as members of this church is to do exactly what the Lord said to the Church in that day when the Church was organized. We must learn to give heed to the words and commandments that the Lord shall give through his prophet, ‘as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; … as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.’ (D&C 21:4–5.) There will be some things that take patience and faith. You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory.’ (D&C 21:6.)” (Harold B. Lee in CR, Oct. 1970, p. 152.)

What does giving heed to the living prophets mean? Does it simply mean doing what they say when calamities strike?

Only the spiritually prepared shall endure without fear in the days ahead. The General Authorities of the Church give much counsel that, while not directly related to preparing for calamities, is directly related to spirituality. Evaluate honestly in your own heart the following questions:

  • Do you accept and follow the counsel of living prophets?

  • Does this acceptance apply to such things as the dating, dress, and moral codes as well as to doctrinal teachings?

  • Though such decisions may yet be future, have you already firmly determined that you will heed the counsel of the prophets about working mothers? the limiting of the family size for reasons of convenience, education, or increased income? or other counsel that at times causes some of the young members of the Church to murmur?

(33-23) The Present-Day Welfare Program Is One Way to Be Prepared

“For the righteous the gospel provides a warning before a calamity, a program for the crises, a refuge for each disaster.

“The Lord has said that ‘the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven …’ (Mal. 4:1), but he assures us that ‘he that is tithed shall not be burned. …’ (D&C 64:23.)

“The Lord has warned us of famines, but the righteous will have listened to prophets and stored at least a year’s supply of survival food.

“The Lord has set loose the angels to reap down the earth (see Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, p. 251), but those who obey the Word of Wisdom along with the other commandments are assured ‘that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. …’ (D&C 89:21.)

“The Lord desires his Saints to be free and independent in the critical days ahead. But no man is truly free who is in financial bondage. ‘Think what you do when you run in debt,’ said Benjamin Franklin, ‘you give to another power over your liberty.’ ‘… pay thy debt and live …’ said Elisha. (2 Kings 4:7.) And in the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord says, ‘… it is my will that you shall pay all your debts.’ (D&C 104:78.) …

“From the standpoint of food production, storage, handling, and the Lord’s counsel, wheat should have high priority. Water, of course, is essential. Other basics could include honey or sugar, legumes, milk products or substitutes, and salt or its equivalent. The revelation to store food may be as essential to our temporal salvation today as boarding the ark was to the people in the days of Noah.

“President Harold B. Lee has wisely counseled that ‘Perhaps if we think not in terms of a year’s supply of what we ordinarily would use, and think more in terms of what it would take to keep us alive in case we didn’t have anything else to eat, that last would be very easy to put in storage for a year … just enough to keep us alive if we didn’t have anything else to eat. We wouldn’t get fat on it, but we would live: and if you think in terms of that kind of annual storage rather than a whole year’s supply of everything that you are accustomed to eat which, in most cases, is utterly impossible for the average family, I think we will come nearer to what President Clark advised us way back in 1937.’ (Welfare conference address, October 1, 1966.)

“There are blessings in being close to the soil, in raising your own food, even if it is only a garden in your yard and/or a fruit tree or two. Man’s material wealth basically springs from the land and other natural resources. Combined with his human energy and multiplied by his tools, this wealth is assured and expanded through freedom and righteousness. Those families will be fortunate who, in the last days, have an adequate supply of each of these particulars.” (Ezra Taft Benson in CR, Oct. 1973, pp 90–91.)

Some young adult members of the Church may not be in a position as yet to implement fully Elder Benson’s suggestions. Even so, consider the following in determining what can be done to prepare yourself:

  • If you are single, or even newly married, it is unlikely that you have the means for purchasing and storing a year’s supply of food. But are you doing all that is possible for you to do in your present situation? Have you encouraged your family to prepare themselves and helped them to do so? What place on the priority list will food storage take for you in the near future?

  • Is there any plot of land, however small, available to you for the planting of vegetables or fruit?

  • Debt and living within one’s income are things that you can directly control. Are you free from debt? If not, is becoming so one of the important goals of your life? Do you rationalize your indebtedness by insisting that you must have a nicer mode of transportation, a more luxurious place to live, or various recreational equipment? Have you determined that when you are married debt shall be incurred only for necessities that cannot be obtained otherwise? Are you committed to the idea that unresolved debts are just another form of theft? Even though these concerns may be somewhat removed from you at this stage in your life, there are other steps of temporal preparation that you can take.

  • It is said that today’s generation lives in the knowledge explosion. There is hardly any basic skill that cannot be studied in readily available books, or learned in classes held around us. Sewing skills, cooking and dietary knowledge, basic mechanical abilities, farming know how—all of these can be learned and will be invaluable to you and those around you in times of crisis or shortage. You need not wait for marriage or economic independence to gain these priceless assets. And imagine the self-satisfaction that you would feel if you could say in time of crisis, “Even though I was not able to collect a complete food supply, I have the knowledge to produce food. Even though I have little in terms of temporal goods, I have skills and abilities to contribute to the common cause.”

What will your decision be? Will you follow the counsel of God’s prophets and thus become a child of light?