Chapter 22: “What Shall Be the Sign of Thy Coming?”

The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, (1979), 150–57


Map Chp. 22

The Week of the Atoning Sacrifice

Matthew

Mark

Luke

John

Third Day, continued

    

Olivet Discourse

24:1–51

13:1–37

21:5–36

 

Parable of the Ten Virgins

25:1–13

   

Parable of the Entrusted Talents

25:14–30

   

The Inevitable and Final Judgment

25:31–46

   

Also read Joseph Smith—Matthew, which is the Prophet’s inspired revision of Matthew 24.

Interpretive Commentary

(22-1) Matthew 24:2. How Was the Prophecy Regarding the Destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem Fulfilled?

“You all know the sequel, how the Jews carried through their awful plot and crucified the Son of God, and how thereafter they continued to fight against his gospel. You remember, too, the price they paid, how in 70 A.D. the city fell into the hands of the Romans as the climax of a siege in which the historian Josephus tells us there were a million one hundred thousand people killed and

“‘… tens of thousands were taken captive, to be afterwards sold into slavery, or to be slain by wild beasts, or in gladiatorial combat for the amusement of Roman spectators.’

“All of this destruction and the dispersion of the Jews would have been avoided had the people accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ and had their hearts changed by it.” (Marion G. Romney in CR, Oct. 1948, pp. 76–77.)

(22-2) Matthew 24:3. What Is the Significance of the Mount of Olives?

It was on the Mount of Olives, or Olivet, where the Lord often held discourse with the apostles and disciples; and here on the slopes of the Mount of Olives was Gethsemane. From this Mount the Lord ascended into heaven. (See Talmage, Jesus the Christ, pp. 540, 569, 611, 697.) To this Mount the Lord will return and make himself known to the Jews. Read D&C 45:48–53.

(22-3) Matthew 24:3. What Is the End of the World Spoken of Here?

“Now men cannot have any possible grounds to say that this is figurative, or that it does not mean what it says: for He is now explaining what He had previously spoken in parables; and according to this language, the end of the world is the destruction of the wicked, the harvest and the end of the world have an allusion directly to the human family in the last days, instead of the earth, as many have imagined; and that which shall precede the coming of the Son of Man, and the restitution of all things spoken of by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began; and the angels are to have something to do in this great work, for they are the reapers. As, therefore, the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so shall it be in the end of the world; that is, as the servants of God go forth warning the nations, both priests and people, and as they harden their hearts and reject the light of truth, these first being delivered over to the buffetings of Satan, and the law and the testimony being closed up, as it was in the case of the Jews, they are left in darkness, and delivered over unto the day of burning; thus being bound up by their creeds, and their bands being made strong by their priests, are prepared for the fulfillment of the saying of the Savior—‘The Son of Man shall send forth His angels, and gather out of His Kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire, there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.’ We understand that the work of gathering together of the wheat into barns, or garners, is to take place while the tares are being bound over, and preparing for the day of burning; that after the day of burnings, the righteous shall shine forth like the sun, in the Kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.” (Smith, Teachings, pp. 100–101.)

(22-4) Matthew 24:15–22, 29, 34, 35. What Is the Abomination of Desolation Spoken of by Daniel the Prophet and the Savior?

There were to be two times when this great tragedy would occur:

“And now the ax was laid at the root of the rotted tree. Jerusalem was to pay the price. Daniel had foretold this hour when desolation, born of abomination and wickedness, would sweep the city. (Dan. 9:27; 11:31; 12:11.) Moses had said the siege would be so severe women would eat their own children. (Deut. 28.) Jesus specified the destruction would come in the days of the disciples.

“And come it did, in vengeance, without restraint. Hunger exceeded human endurance; blood flowed in the streets; destruction made desolate the temple; 1,100,000 Jews were slaughtered; Jerusalem was ploughed as a field; and a remnant of a once mighty nation was scattered to the ends of the earth. The Jewish nation died, impaled on Roman spears, at the hands of Gentile overlords.

“But what of the saints who dwelt in Jerusalem in that gloomy day? They heeded Jesus’ warning and fled in haste. Guided by revelation, as true saints always are, they fled to Pella in Perea and were spared.” (McConkie, DNTC, 1:644–45.)

2. At the Time of the Second Coming

“All the desolation and waste which attended the former destruction of Jerusalem is but prelude to the coming siege. Titus and his legions slaughtered 1,100,000 Jews, destroyed the temple, and ploughed the city. In the coming reenactment of this ‘abomination of desolation,’ the whole world will be at war, Jerusalem will be the center of the conflict, every modern weapon will be used, and in the midst of the siege the Son of Man shall come, setting his foot upon the mount of Olives and fighting the battle of his saints. (Zech. 12:1–9.)

“Speaking of these final battles which shall accompany his return, the Lord says: ‘I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.’ However, the final end of the conflict shall be different this time than it was anciently. ‘Then shall the Lord go forth,’ the prophetic record says, ‘and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, … and the Lord shall be king over all the earth.’ (Zech. 14.)” (McConkie, DNTC, 1:659–60.)

(22-5) Matthew 24:24. How Might the Very Elect Be Preserved from Deception?

“The Prophet Joseph Smith, in his inspired version of that same scripture, added these significant words: ‘who are the elect, according to the covenant.’ This is what has been said, in effect, in this conference: Unless every member of this Church gains for himself an unshakable testimony of the divinity of this Church, he will be among those who will be deceived in this day when the ‘elect according to the covenant’ are going to be tried and tested. Only those will survive who have gained for themselves that testimony.” (Harold B. Lee in CR, Oct. 1950, p. 129.)

(22-6) Matthew 24:28. “Wheresoever the Carcass Is, There Will the Eagles Be Gathered Together”

“In the parable, as here given, the carcass is the body of the Church to which the eagles, who are Israel, shall fly to find nourishment. ‘The gathering of Israel is first spiritual and second temporal. It is spiritual in that the lost sheep of Israel are first “restored to the true church and fold of God,” meaning that they come to a true knowledge of the God of Israel, accept the gospel which he has restored in latter-days, and join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is temporal in that these converts are then “gathered home to the lands of their inheritance, and … established in all their lands of promise.” (2 Ne. 9:2; 25:15–18; Jer. 16:14–21), meaning that the house of Joseph will be established in America, the house of Judah in Palestine, and that the Lost Tribes will come to Ephraim in America to receive their blessings in due course. (D. & C. 133.)’ (Mormon Doctrine, p. 280.)” (McConkie, DNTC, 1:648–49.)

(22-7) Matthew 24:29, 30, 36–39. What Did the Prophet Joseph Tell Us of the Time of the Second Coming and of the Sign of the Son of Man?

“The coming of the Son of Man never will be—never can be till the judgments spoken of for this hour are poured out: which judgments are commenced. Paul says, ‘Ye are the children of the light, and not of the darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief in the night.’ It is not the design of the Almighty to come upon the earth and crush it and grind it to powder, but he will reveal it to His servants the prophets.

“Judah must return, Jerusalem must be rebuilt, and the temple, and water come out from under the temple, and the waters of the Dead Sea be healed. It will take some time to rebuild the walls of the city and the temple, &c.; and all this must be done before the Son of Man will make His appearance. There will be wars and rumors of wars, signs in the heavens above and on the earth beneath, the sun turned into darkness and the moon to blood, earthquakes in divers places, the seas heaving beyond their bounds; then will appear one grand sign of the Son of Man in heaven. But what will the world do? They will say it is a planet, a comet, etc. But the Son of man will come as the sign of the coming of the Son of Man, which will be as the light of the morning cometh out of the east.” (Smith, Teachings, pp. 286–87.)

(22-8) Matthew 24:40. Why Is It That One Is Destroyed and the Other Left Alone When the Lord Returns?

“Thus those who shall abide the day, who shall remain on the earth when it is transfigured (D. & C. 63:20–21), are those who are honest and upright and who are living at least that law which would take them to the terrestrial kingdom of glory in the resurrection. Anyone living by telestial standards can no longer remain on earth and so cannot abide the day.

“Hence we find Malachi listing among those who shall not abide the day the following: sorcerers; adulterers; false swearers; those who oppress the hireling, the widow, and the fatherless in their wages; those who lead men away from the truth; those who do not fear God; members of the true Church who do not pay an honest tithing; they that work wickedness; and the proud. All these, he says, shall be as stubble when the day comes that shall burn as an oven. (Mal. 3; 4; D. & C. 64:23–25.)” (McConkie, DNTC, 1:669.)

(22-9) Matthew 24:45–51. “The Faithful and Wise Servant”

“Jesus speaks here of his ministers, his servants, the holders of his holy priesthood. They are the ones whom he has made rulers in the household of God to teach and perfect his saints. Theirs is the responsibility to be so engaged when the Master returns. If they are so serving when the Lord comes, he will give them exaltation. But if the rulers in the Lord’s house think the Second Coming is far distant, if they forget their charge, contend with their fellow ministers, and begin to live after the manner of the world, then the vengeance of their rejected Lord shall, in justice, fall upon them when he comes again.” (McConkie, DNTC, 1:675.)

(22-10) Matthew 25:1–13. What Is the Meaning of the Parable of the Ten Virgins?

“The purpose of this lesson was to impress upon those called to the ministry and upon his followers and upon the world that there should be an unceasing watchfulness and preparation for the day which he had predicted when the Lord would come again in judgment upon the earth.

“The bridegroom of the parable was the Master, the Savior of mankind. The marriage feast symbolized the second coming of the Savior to receive his Church unto himself. The virgins were those who were professed believers in Christ, because they were expectantly waiting for the coming of the bridegroom to the marriage feast, or they were connected with the Church and the events which were to transpire with reference to it.

“That this parable did refer particularly to the believers in Christ with a warning to them is further indicated by what the Lord has told us in modern revelation in which he said:

“‘These are the things that ye must look for; … even in the day of the coming of the Son of Man.

“‘And until that hour there will be foolish virgins among the wise; and at that hour cometh an entire separation of the righteous and the wicked. (D. & C. 63:53–54.)’ [This] undoubtedly mean[s] a separation of the wicked from the righteous among the professing believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.

“The Lord defines the wise virgins of his parable in still another revelation in which he said,

“‘For they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived—verily I say unto you, they shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire, but shall abide the day. (Ibid., 45:57.)’

“Here is clearly indicated a truth we must all recognize, that among the people of God, the believers in the Savior of the world, there are those who are wise and keep the commandments, and yet there are those who are foolish, who are disobedient, and who neglect their duties.” (Harold B. Lee in CR, Oct. 1951, pp. 26–27.)

(22-11) Matthew 25:14–30. An Explanation for the Parable of the Entrusted Talents

“You know, brethren, that when the Master in the Savior’s parable of the stewards called his servants before him he gave them several talents to improve on while he should tarry abroad for a little season, and when he returned he called for an accounting. So it is now. Our Master is absent only for a little season, and at the end of it He will call each to render an account; and where the five talents were bestowed, ten will be required; and he that has made no improvement will be cast out as an unprofitable servant, while the faithful will enjoy everlasting honors. Therefore we earnestly implore the grace of our Father to rest upon you, through Jesus Christ His Son, that you may not faint in the hour of temptation, nor be overcome in the time of persecution.” (Smith, Teachings, p. 68.)

Points to Ponder

“What Shall Be the Sign of Thy Coming?”

The Savior Was Speaking of Two Specific Events in Matthew 24

Jesus’ disciples asked him two questions: (1) “Tell us, when shall these things be?”; and (2) “What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3.) The first question pertained to both the abomination of desolation which should come upon the Jews, and the destruction of the temple of Herod. The second question had to do with the Lord’s second coming in glory to judge the world. Considering the manner in which these two questions were asked, perhaps the disciples thought these two events would take place at or near the same time. In his reply to the disciples, however, Jesus made it abundantly clear that such was not to be the case at all.

Question

To what did the disciples have reference when they asked Jesus the question, “Tell us, when shall these things be?” (Matthew 24:1–3.)

Answer

Their question referred specifically to the destruction of the temple of Herod, to the overthrow of Jerusalem, and to the slaughter and dispersion of the Jews. (See Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:2–4, and the Interpretive Commentary, 22:1.)

Question

How were ancient Christians deceived and also persecuted as Jesus prophesied they would be? (Matthew 24:3–5, 9–13.)

Answer

False Christs—Simon Magus, Menander, Dositheus, and others (see McConkie, DNTC, 1:640)—and false teachers preaching damnable heresies (see Talmage, The Great Apostasy, pp. 40–47) led many of the early saints to apostatize from the faith. Persecution was widely manifest in a Judaistic persecution which derived from the conflict between Judaism and Christianity: Apostles were put in prison (Acts 5:18); Stephen was stoned (Acts 7:54–60); Herod ordered James, the son of Zebedee, killed (Acts 12:1, 2). Also, the Jews not only sought to persecute those who professed Jesus Christ, but they zealously tried to influence the Romans to oppose the Christian movement. (See Talmage, The Great Apostasy, pp. 57–61.)

Question

What was the abomination of desolation which was to sweep Jerusalem? (Matthew 24:15–22.)

Answer

See the Interpretive Commentary, 22:4.

Question

Was the temple of Herod destroyed, as prophesied? (Matthew 24:1–3.)

Answer

Yes. This occurred on or about Friday, August 9, A.D. 70. See the Interpretive Commentary, 22:4.

What Are the Signs of the Times Which Precede the Lord’s Second Coming?

(22-12) What Is the Key, the Sure Word of Prophecy, That Will Help Us Understand the Signs of the Times?

“There are among us many loose writings predicting the calamities which are about to overtake us. Some of these have been publicized as though they were necessary to wake up the world to the horrors about to overtake us. Many of these are from sources upon which there cannot be unquestioned reliance.

“Are you priesthood bearers aware of the fact that we need no such publications to be forewarned, if we were only conversant with what the scriptures have already spoken to us in plainness?

“Let me give you the sure word of prophecy on which you should rely for your guide instead of these strange sources which may have great political implications.

“Read the 24th chapter of Matthew—particularly that inspired version as contained in the Pearl of Great Price. [Joseph Smith—Matthew 1.]

“Then read the 45th section of the Doctrine and Covenants where the Lord, not man, has documented the signs of the times.

“Now turn to section 101 and section 133 of the Doctrine and Covenants and hear the step-by-step recounting of events leading up to the coming of the Savior.

“Finally, turn to the promises the Lord makes to those who keep the commandments when these judgments descend upon the wicked, as set forth in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 38.

“Brethren, these are some of the writings with which you should concern yourselves, rather than commentaries that may come from those whose information may not be the most reliable and whose motives may be subject to question. And may I say, parenthetically, most of such writers are not handicapped by having any authentic information on their writings.” (Harold B. Lee in CR, Oct. 1972, p. 128.)

“And What Shall Be the Sign of Thy Coming, and of the End of the World?” (Matthew 24:3.)

Questions

Pearl of Great Price and New Testament References

Who will attempt to deceive the very elect, and what tactics will be used? (The elect are the faithful members of the Church.)

JS—M 1:22

Matthew 24:24

What ought to be the reaction of men when they hear of wars and rumors of wars?

JS—M 1:23, 28, 29

Matthew 24:6

When claims are made that Jesus Christ is in the desert or in the secret chambers, what ought to be your response?

JS—M 1:25

Matthew 24:26

To what extent will the light of the gospel spread forth in the earth?

JS—M 1:26

Matthew 24:27

What is meant by this statement: “For wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together.”

JS—M 1:27

Matthew 24:28

(See the Interpretive Commentary, 22-6.)

List the four signs named in Matthew 24:7.

JS—M 1:29

Matthew 24:7

What is meant by this statement: “The love of many shall wax cold”?

JS—M 1:30

Matthew 24:12

Who, then, shall be saved?

JS—M 1:30

Matthew 24:12

When shall the end come (the destruction of the wicked)? And why is the gospel of the kingdom to be preached first?

JS—M 1:31

Matthew 24:14

What is the abomination of desolation which shall occur a second time?

JS—M 1:32

Matthew 24:15

(See the Interpretive Commentary, 22-4.)

After the tribulation of the days of abomination, what four signs will be given?

JS—M 1:33

Matthew 24:29

What is meant in Matthew 24:34?

JS—M 1:34

Matthew 24:34

What is the sign of the Son of Man which will be shown forth in heaven?

JS—M 1:36

Matthew 24:29, 30

(See the Interpretive Commentary, 22-7.)

How, then, may men avoid deception?

JS—M 1:37–40

Matthew 24:31–33, 42, 44

What shall be the attitude of most men prior to Jesus’ coming?

JS—M 1:41–43

Matthew 24:37–39

What is meant by this statement: “Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left”?

JS—M 1:44–45

Matthew 24:40–41

(See the Interpretive Commentary 22-8.)

What is the admonition men must heed?

JS—M 1:46–48

Matthew 24:42–43

What will happen if we fail to prepare?

JS—M 1:49–55

Matthew 24:45–51

For additional insight, read the other scriptures that President Harold B. Lee indicated men ought to study if they want to understand the signs of the times: D&C 45:15–17; D&C 101:11–23; D&C 133:1–25, 36–52, 58–64.

(22-13) How May You Always Be Prepared? (D&C 38:18–22, 39–42)

Brothers and sisters, this is the day the Lord is speaking of. You see the signs are here. Be ye therefore ready. The Brethren have told you in this conference how to prepare to be ready. We have never had a conference where there has been so much direct instruction, so much admonition; when the problems have been defined and also the solution to the problem has been suggested.

“Let us not turn a deaf ear now, but listen to these as the words that have come from the Lord, inspired of him, and we will be safe on Zion’s hill, until all that the Lord has for his children shall have been accomplished.” (Harold B. Lee in CR, Oct. 1973, p. 170. Italics added.)

(22-14) What Are the Implications of President Lee’s Comment?

Is it not that we are provided with a handbook, the conference report, which gives us direction and guidance for each six-month period? By obtaining a copy of the discourses which are delivered by the living prophets each six months at conference and by following the directions given, we may ever be in a state of readiness for the Second Coming.

He Comes!

The tongue of man falters, and the pen drops from the hand of the writer, as the mind is rapt in contemplation of the sublime and awful majesty of his coming to take vengeance on the ungodly and to reign as King of the whole earth.

“He comes! The earth shakes, and the tall mountains tremble; the mighty deep rolls back to the north as in fear, and the rent skies glow like molten brass. He comes! The dead Saints burst forth from their tombs, and ‘those who are alive and remain’ are ‘caught up’ with them to meet him. The ungodly rush to hide themselves from his presence, and call upon the quivering rocks to cover them. He comes! with all the hosts of the righteous glorified. The breath of his lips strikes death to the wicked. His glory is a consuming fire. The proud and rebellious are as stubble; they are burned and ‘left neither root nor branch.’ He sweeps the earth ‘as with the besom of destruction.’ He deluges the earth with the fiery floods of his wrath, and the filthiness and abominations of the world are consumed. Satan and his dark hosts are taken and bound—the prince of the power of the air has lost his dominion, for He whose right it is to reign has come, and ‘the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ.’

“‘The people of the Saints of the Most High’ will dwell on the earth, which shall bring forth her strength as in the days of her youth; they will build cities and plant gardens; those who have been faithful over a few things will be made rulers over many things; Eden will bloom, and the fruits and flowers of Paradise display their loveliness as at the first; Jesus shall reign ‘in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem and before his ancients gloriously,’ and all created things shall ‘praise the Lord.’” (Charles W. Penrose, “The Second Advent,” Millennial Star 21:583 [1859].)

And Blessed Is He Who Watcheth for Me

Have you ever asked yourself why the Lord has given us so much information about his second coming? He indicates one reason in D&C 45:44. According to this scripture, what is your responsibility? How can you best “watch” for the Savior? If the Lord has revealed the signs which men should look for but they don’t watch for them, can they blame him if the cataclysm of the last days overtake them? Why is it necessary for you to prepare yourself and “watch” for the Lord?