Signs and Times of the Lord's Return
By James E. Bishop, High Priest and Missionary
On the question of the time of the Lord’s return to earth there is much scripture that requires a detailed and prayerful study. The fact that such scriptures have been, and are misinterpreted, is not evidence that sometime and somewhere the right interpretation may be had. Further, the fact that some men in their zeal have dated the time of the return of Jesus, is likewise not evidence that all students are going to do that. In fact the careful student will not do that, for to Latter Day Saints has come the following: "But the hour and the day no man knoweth, neither the angels in heaven, nor shall they know until he comes" (Doctrine and Covenants 49:2). It is equally true that the desire, on the part of men to have general understanding of the signs preceding the return of Jesus, is treated with respect, sympathy, and with a desire and an effort to reveal that to them by Divinity. See Doctrine and Covenants 45, Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21, and a multitude of other statements in the New Testament, which make that glorious event basic to sundry admonitions to faithfulness, etc. One of the great themes of the Old Testament is the "Day of the Lord" which is to be preceded with signs and great events— events that are superhuman and involve the direct intervention of God.
At this time we wish to give a summary, only, of what is found touching the question of the return of Jesus Christ and the signs preceding that event.
Section 45 of the Doctrine and Covenants identifies the actual events connected with the restoration of the gospel as coincident with the "time of the Gentiles" which has come in. This would seem to indicate a sort of an opening up of an unusual opportunity. It also plainly says, "And in that generation shall the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled." The word "time" is first singular and next plural. This section then goes on to describe the events preceding the Millennium and events within that period; and then declares, "And now, behold, I say unto you, It shall not be given unto you to know any further concerning this chapter (this section seems to be a sort of review and expansion of Matthew 24), until the New Testament be translated, and in it all these things shall be made known; wherefore I give unto you that you may now translate it." This evidently refers to the Inspired Version (see "An Introduction to the Inspired Version," Zion’s Ensign, October 30, 1930). To that book students of the question of the return of Jesus Christ turn, and when it is associated with Section 45 and the general scripture in the Bible, we find light and inspiration. From what we have gleaned we summarize:
The length of a generation is likely to be as long as there is a representative of that generation living.
There are two generations in the last days indicated in the general Scriptures.
There are three comings of Jesus Christ taught in the Scriptures. The first was in the meridian of time—His earthly mission when He offered the great and absolute sacrifice. The third is when He will come and set up the thousand years’ reign. The second is when he "shall suddenly come to his temple." This coming is preceded by, "I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people" (Revelation 14:6).
The preaching of the gospel is associated with the redemption of Zion: "So shall they fear the name of the Lord from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him. And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the Lord" (Isaiah 59:19–20; see also... Revelation 19:7–9).
Latter Day Saints believe that a Temple would [will] be erected in Independence, Missouri, and that Jesus would [will] come to that Temple and to His Zion, and thus fulfill Malachi and Isaiah and other prophecies.
The Temple has not yet been built, but the promise of the Lord is that it will be built. When the word comes to build that Temple, which will come in God’s own way, which is a way of order, it is bound to have a unifying effect on all people who have any appreciation of God moving among men. There will, in all likelihood, be scoffers who, like the opponents of the Latter Day Saints around Kirtland, called the Temple that the Saints built there "The Mormon Folly." The scoffers are dead. The Kirtland Temple still stands. It is admired by multitudes that come each year to look it over.
The times of the Gentiles are being fulfilled. The period of deterioration may take many years. During this period of deterioration of civilization there are many events, spoken of as signs in the Scriptures, to be made manifest. Among them we list:
- Complete filling of the times of the Gentiles (Luke 21:24–33).
- Again—the abomination of desolation (Matthew 24:33).
- Destruction of Gentiles in last days (Matthew 21:55–56).
- Gospel to go to Jews in power (Doctrine and Covenants 87:3–4).
- Darkening of sun, falling stars, etc. (Matthew 24:34–35).
- Zion [to] flourish on the hills (Doctrine and Covenants 49:5).
This will be the true Temple, built in the future on the designated site as the result of a direct commandment from God. (Vision 33:16)
Now these things he spake unto them, concerning the destruction of Jerusalem. And then his disciples asked him, saying, Master, tell us concerning thy coming?
And he answered them, and said, In the generation in which the times of the Gentiles shall be fulfilled, there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations with perplexity, like the sea and the waves roaring. The earth also shall be troubled, and the waters of the great deep; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth. For the powers of heaven shall be shaken.
And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up and lift up your heads, for the day of your redemption draweth nigh. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud, with power and great glory.
And he spake to them a parable, saying, Behold the fig tree, and all the trees. When they now shoot forth, ye see, and know of your own selves, that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.
Verily I say unto you, this generation, the generation when the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled, shall not pass away till all be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
And again shall the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, be fulfilled.
And when the Lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, he will destroy those miserable, wicked men, and will let again his vineyard unto other husbandmen, even in the last days, who shall render him the fruits in their seasons.
And then understood they the parable which he spake unto them, that the Gentiles should be destroyed also, when the Lord should descend out of heaven to reign in his vineyard, which is the earth and the inhabitants thereof.
And again, verily I say unto thy brethren Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams, their sins are forgiven them also, and they are accounted as equal with thee in holding the keys of this last kingdom as also through your administration the keys of the school of the prophets, which I have commanded to be organized, that thereby they may be perfected in their ministry for the salvation of Zion, and of the nations of Israel, and of the Gentiles, as many as will believe, 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; 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.
For it shall come to pass in that day, that every man shall hear the fullness 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.
And immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven shall be shaken.
Verily I say unto you, this generation, in which these things shall be shown forth, shall not pass away until all I have told you shall be fulfilled.
But before the great day of the Lord shall come, Jacob shall flourish in the wilderness; and the Lamanites shall blossom as the rose. Zion shall flourish upon the hills, and rejoice upon the mountains, and shall be assembled together unto the place which I have appointed.
Behold, I say unto you, Go forth as I have commanded you; repent of all your sins; ask and ye shall receive; knock and it shall be opened unto you: behold, I will go before you, and be your rearward; and I will be in your midst, and you shall not be confounded; behold, I am Jesus Christ, and I come quickly. Even so. Amen.
Vision is published quarterly by Price Publishing Company. The purposes of Vision are to preserve and proclaim the original doctrines and practices of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, to support the Restoration branches which consider themselves to be a part of the RLDS Church, and to encourage the Saints. Vision contains testimonies, Church news, and articles on Church issues, doctrine, and history. You may purchase Vision subscriptions and back issues at the Restoration Bookstore and online.