The Last Generation
By Seventy John J. Cornish
Many Time-Consuming Events Must Occur
Before Christ Comes and the Millennium Begins
|Seventy John J. Cornish|
In an article in The Saints’ Herald for March 12, 1919, published four months after the end of World War I, Brother J. J. Cornish explained that many events must transpire before the return of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that it would take years for all the prophecies foretold by the Savior to occur. Over 100 years have passed since Brother Cornish wrote his article. The Jews have gathered to Palestine and the nation of Israel now exixts. War is an ever-present threat, and each day brings the nation closer to the war of "desolation" predicted by Jesus Christ.
Since the commencement of the recent war [World War I], much has been said and written concerning the second coming of Christ, and veiy many say “we are in the last war”— with an additional, “I believe that... [we are] nearer than we are aware of.”
I have also received letters from many of my brethren asking me if I did not think “this is the last war” with an additional [statement], “I believe that whoever lives until 1930 will see Christ in the flesh.” In a social meeting, one stated among other things, “I would not be surprised to see Christ come any minute.” This cannot be. The Savior cannot come until the Scriptures are fulfilled which He declares must be fulfilled before He comes.
I was greatly surprised to hear that one minister said in his discourse, during Conference last April (while many of the hearers assented to the same), that “If Jesus does not come any time between now and 1930. then this thing is a fizzle, and we may as well throw the Books in the fire.”
I hope no minister ever said anything of the kind; especially a minister and servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am sure he does not understand the Scriptures which refer to the last generation, or the second coming of Christ. He is surely mistaken, and those who hear and believe those statements are deceived.
Such expressions as, “I know that the Savior will come within twelve years,” and “the Lord revealed to me that I should live to see the temple built,” etc., are deceiving. The people have died and their fond hopes are not realized. Others, both in and out of the Church, who are still living, are weakened by these statements. And we have to meet this almost everywhere we go.
Also many statements [are] in our papers. I will mention one article only: (Saints’ Herald, volume 65, pages 105–109) “Christ to come again.” The writer says, “Jesus was speaking of the generation which should see all these things fulfilled; that is, which should see the fulfillment of the last of the signs, the falling of the stars, which occurred in 1833 [see The Story of the Church, pages 180–181]. The youngest of those who were living when the stars fell and who are still alive are now 84 years of age; and since ‘this generation shall not pass’ some of those people will still be alive when our Lord comes.” (Page 108, second column.)
How could that fulfill the statement of the Master, when the sun and moon were darkened a generation before the stars fell and it is 84 years since the stars fell? (Another generation.) From the statement of the Savior, it would appear that the darkening of the sun and moon, and the falling of the stars would take place in the last generation, and the article referred to admits the darkening of the sun and moon was in 1780. It is not enough to see the fulfillment of that statement, “of the last of the signs.” The last generation must see the darkening of the sun and moon as well as the falling of the stars. How can one think that the Savior’s word can be fulfilled in that way when part of it happened in 1780, 138 years ago, and the other part of it occurred in 1833, 85 years ago? Yet the writer says, “Thus the last of the warning signs (the falling of the stars) has been fulfilled, and we are now to apply the parable of the fig tree; know that he is near, even at the door” (Matthew 24: 33).
And of the article the editors say, “it is an interesting discussion of a timely topic.”
I will now show that the darkening of the sun and moon, and the falling of the stars mentioned by the Master, as found in Matthew 24 and Mark 13, as well as in Luke 21, have not yet taken place.
What the Lord Said
Not a year after the Church was organized and when many revelations had been given to the Church, and Joseph Smith, Jr., was working at the King James Translation of the Bible, correcting many of the most misleading statements, errors, etc., the Lord said:
Hearken, 0 ye people of my church, to whom the kingdom has been given, hearken ye, and give ear to him who laid the foundation of the earth, who made the heavens and all the hosts thereof, and by whom all things were made which live and move and have a being. (Doctrine and Covenants 45:1)
From the above I think all agree that this is for the people of the whole Church. And in paragraph 2, the Lord says:
Wherefore hearken, and I will reason with you, and I will speak unto you and prophesy, as unto men in days of old; and l will show it plainly, as I showed it unto my disciples, as I stood before them in the flesh, and spake unto them, saying, As ye have asked of me concerning the signs of my coming, in the day when I shall come in my glory in the clouds of heaven, to fulfill the promises that I have made unto your fathers; . . . I will show unto you how the day of redemption shall come, and also the restoration of the scattered Israel. (Doctrine and Covenants 45:2i–I; italics added)
From this we find that we could not understand at that time from any Bible, “how the day of redemption shall come.”
Then in paragraphs 3 to 6, we are told a little more plainly than found in the King James Translation, concerning the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem, and the scattering of Israel, and of the last generation, His coming, etc. Then in paragraph 11, the Lord plainly says, “It shall not be given unto you to know any further concerning this chapter (Matthew 24) until the New Testament be translated, and in it all these things shall be made known” [italics added].
Dear readers of the Herald, don’t forget: This matter is not “made known” in any book we have except the New Testament as corrected by Joseph the Seer.
Now do not go back to Doctrine and Covenants 45:4, to prop up something we have preached and prophesied of, concerning Jesus’ coming so soon, etc., and quote:
And in that generation shall the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled; and there shall be men standing in that generation that shall not pass, until they shall see an overflowing scourge, for a desolating sickness shall come over the land; but my disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved.
This does not say that that is the last generation that shall pass until Christ will come. But it “shall not pass, until they see an overflowing scourge,” etc., which we have, and are seeing [italics added].
Shall Be Made Known
And now, behold, I say unto you, It shall not be given unto you to know any further concerning this chapter, 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, that ye may be prepared for the things to come; for verily I say unto you, that great things await you: ye hear of wars in foreign lands, but, behold, I say unto you, They are nigh, even at your doors, and not many years hence ye shall hear of wars in your own lands. (Doctrine and Covenants 45:11)
This shows us plainly that we have no scripture which makes that matter known to us, neither will we know “until the New Testament be translated.” Then we must go to the New Testament [the Inspired Version] as corrected by the Seer, “And in it all these things (signs of second coming and last generation) shall be made known.” It is not made plain in any other book, hence there should be no question in our minds but that it is the book to take to obtain that knowledge.
From it we learned that the disciples asked the Master four things, namely:
And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be which thou hast said concerning the destruction of the temple, and the Jews; and what is the sign of thy coming; and of the end of the world? (Matthew 24:4, Inspired Translation)
You will notice they have asked him to tell them of some things that will take place in two generations—the one in which the Savior was then living with them, and the last generation in which He would come again. To this He made answer (I will paraphrase to save space): Take heed—deliver you up to be afflicted—kill you—be hated of all nations—false prophets shall arise, etc.
When you, therefore, shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet (Daniel 9:26–27; 12:1), concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, then you shall stand in the holy place. (Whoso readeth let him understand.) Then let them who are in Judea flee into the mountains.
This was all fulfilled in that generation [A.D. 70.], when about 1,100,000 lost their lives and the balance were taken prisoners and scattered into all nations.
Remember the other thing they asked:
And what is the sign of thy coming; and of the end of the world?
And they shall hear of wars, and rumors of wars. . . . For nation shall rise against nation, kingdom against kingdom . . . famine . . . pestilence . . . earthquakes, etc. And again—iniquity. . . . And again, this gospel shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come or the destruction of the wicked. (Matthew 24:29–32)
Sign of the Last Generation
And again shall the abomination of desolation (the next destruction of Jerusalem), spoken of by Daniel the prophet be fulfilled. (Verse 33)
That has not yet taken place! Two prophets are yet to stand up and prophesy for three and one half years in that city [Revelation 11:3–12]. This will not be until they [the Jews] are more fully gathered than they are at the present time, and after the Gentile times are fulfilled, and before that war will take place (Revelation 11). And when the nations go up to take a spoil, it will not be until the spoil is there! It will take years yet before that war takes place (Zechariah 14). And after that “abomination of desolation” takes place (concerning the [second] destruction of Jerusalem), yet to be, Jesus said:
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 the which these things shall be shown forth, shall not pass away until all I have told you shall be fulfilled. [Matthew 24:34–35]
Isn’t that plain? Just as the Lord said, “And I will show it plainly, as I showed it unto my disciples in days of old.”
Saint Mark Says the Same
The disciples asked Jesus two questions, one concerning the destruction of the temple, and the Jews; the other, His coming, and the end of the world. Thus:
Tell us, when shall these things be which thou hast said, concerning the destruction of the temple and the Jews? (That generation.) And what is the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world, (or the destruction of the wicked which is the end of the world)? (Mark 13:8–9)
And as did Matthew, so does Mark tell us what Jesus said.
“That [First] Generation”
Take heed that no man deceive you. There will be false Christs, and false prophets—you will be hated—killed—iniquity shall abound, etc., we are told. When you therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, then you shall stand in the holy place. Then flee—not return—woe to some (under certain conditions). Pray that it does not take place “in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day.” Not because there is any more sanctity on that day, any more than there is in the winter, but because if you had to flee [on] that day, you would likely be punished for breaking theirlaw; or in the winter, because it would be cold, and you would suffer by reason of the inclemency of the weather. So, all that the Master said should take place in that generation, came to pass.
Signs of the Last Generation
Mark clearly shows the first and last generations of the gospel dispensations. Many of those things which will occur in the last generation are only a repetition of the former, or the one in which the Master lived. Concerning the signs of the last generation he records what Jesus said. Do not forget the question: “And what is the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” The Savior said:
And they (who are living then) shall hear of wars and rumors of wars—nation against nation—famine, pestilence, and earthquakes in divers places.
And again, because iniquity shall abound, the love of men shall wax cold. . . . And again this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come, or the destruction of the wicked. And again shall the abomination of desolation (another war and destruction), spoken of by Daniel the prophet, be fulfilled. 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 the which these things shall be shown forth, shall not pass away till all I have told you shall be fulfilled. (Mark 13:35–40)
This is surely as the Lord said (Doctrine and Covenants 45): "And I will show it plainly"—that which we could not know—"until the New Testament be translated, and in it all these things shall be made known."
So then, instead of “Thus the last of the warning signs (the falling of the stars) has been fulfilled,” as stated in the citation in the Herald above mentioned, not one of them have taken place; neither will they take place until  after many more of Israel will return, build up, and inhabit Jerusalem;  after it comes into their possession;  after the two prophets shall finish their testimony; and  after the next destruction—at which time Christ must come and stop the battle and defend Israel. After that, and not before, will appear the “signs in the sun, moon, and stars” (Mark 13:37–39).
Luke Another Witness
Concerning the two generations you will readily see the distinction made in the division of the twenty-first chapter of Luke, in that the first twenty-three verses speak of the generation in which they then lived, and the balance of the chapter down to the end of the thirty-sixth verse speaks of the last generation which shall not pass away until all be fulfilled.
After telling the disciples at Jerusalem about false Christs and false prophets, and great signs that shall be from heaven, and of their being hated, etc., as Matthew and Mark had recorded, Jesus winds up by telling them of the destruction of Jerusalem which would take place in that generation, thus:
And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations; and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the time of the Gentiles be fulfilled. (Luke 21:23)
The Jews are still trodden down of the Gentiles, although during the recent war [World War I], the British have gotten the upper hand of the Turks, but it still is in Gentile hands, and it will be some time yet before the Gentiles cease to hold it, and the Jews have possession of it.
Now to make it clear to all who read this article, and confirm you in the belief that Christ and the disciples are here talking only about the two generations as before mentioned, I quote:
Now these things he spake unto them, concerning the destruction of Jerusalem. (Luke 21:24) (That generation.)
Signs of Last Generation Not Yet Given
If the reader will now read the balance of the 24th verse, it will show that all the disciples asked was concerning the time of His coming. And in His answer you will see that the signs of the last generation are not yet given:
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. (Luke 21: 24–25)
It is not fulfilled, but it is all yet to come to pass. And when these things begin to come to pass (not yet begun), then look up and lift up your heads, for the day of your redemption draweth nigh.
Then he spake the parable of the fig tree and said:
Verily, I say unto you, this generation, the generation when the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled (not yet fulfllled), shall not pass away till all be fulfilled. (Luke 21:32)
“Times” not “time” of Gentiles. The time is [coming] when some of the Gentiles who understand our claims well now [will] reject our message. The time is [coming] when some Gentile nations will not permit us the privileges we enjoy in the United States and Canada. Our work is virtually at a standstill now outside of America.
The time of the Gentiles will come when other doors will be fully opened to us. Another time of the Gentiles will come in when they refuse the gospel. Israel as a people, will not accept the gospel yet.
"Blindness (or hardness) in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in." (Romans 11:25)
Their times are not in. When it is in, Israel will accept it and be saved, and the Gentiles will reject it. Many years yet. Our work is not nearly finished among the Gentiles, and when their times are all in, and Israel becomes a nation again, owning and controlling the land wherein their fathers dwelt, then we must preach the gospel to them; that will also take many years more. When the Gentiles reject the gospel, their times are in, and Israel will begin to rejoice in the Holy One of Israel and fear the God of Jacob. Then those who are alive at that time will see the “signs” in the sun, the moon, and stars fulfilled.
The signs before mentioned as having taken place in 1780 may be counted as signs of the latter days, but not signs of the last generation, and as to the falling of the stars in 1833, some historians say this was periodical. But whatever signs may have appeared may be called signs of the latter days, and not signs of the last generation.
How long is a generation? Webster says: “A single succession in natural descent, as the children of the same parents; hence an age. The people of the same period, or living at the same time. A family; a race; progeny; offspring.” Cruden: “By some of the ancients—100 years—ll0 years; others 33 or 30, and even 20.” American (Popular Dictionary): Same as Webster, Bible Dictionary, William Smith: “Patriarchal age 100 years; subsequently as other civilized nations, 30 to 40 years.” Lee’s Dictionary: “Thirty-three years.” Bible: From Abraham to Christ was forty-two generations, about 48 years to a generation.
In the days of our Savior the gospel was preached to the Jewish nation—the first generation—then it went to the Gentiles, and was preached to the Gentiles from generation to generation.
But as the “first shall be last and the last shall be first,” the Gentiles will get the gospel first (in the latter days), and it will be preached to them from generation to generation, and the Jews will get it last—in the last generation. And in that generation will appear the “signs” in the sun, and in the moon, and the stars shall fall, etc. (Matthew 19:30; Luke 13:30; 1 Nephi 3:199–200; Doctrine and Covenants 108:3–4). But before all this, Israel will be gathering. Two prophets will prophesy for three and one half years, and be killed (Revelation 11:3–12). After these prophets shall have finished their work, are rejected and killed, preparations will be made, and the war take place at Jerusalem. They are about to be overcome when their Messiah and Great Deliverer will come and, defending Israel, stop the battle, etc. (Zechariah 14).
Then a nation will be converted to the Lord. That is the nation. That is the day. We can then preach the gospel to the Jews. They now know that Jesus is the Messiah. It will be easy to get them to understand and obey the gospel, and “a remnant shall be saved” (Romans 9:27).
When the gospel goes to the Jews,
And then cometh the day when the arm of the Lord shall be revealed in power (in their own tongue) in convincing the nations (not half the nations have the gospel yet), the heathen nations, the house of Joseph (Indians—not much will be done among them until the greater power comes), of the gospel of their salvation. (Doctrine and Covenants 87:3–4)
Then the Lord can cut His work short in righteousness.
When the Lord comes to defend the Jews at Jerusalem, it will not be to commence the Millennium, but to stop the war against the Jews which will then be raging at Jerusalem. He must of a necessity come then to defend them, or they will all be exterminated.
We must look at this second coming as Israel should have looked at His first. It will be years after that war, before He comes to reign.
The main thing with us should be to “be ready.” “Pray always.” “Read the Scriptures.”
And what I say unto one, I say unto all. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, and keep my commandments, that ye may be accounted [sic] worthy to escape all these things which shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man when he shall come clothed in the glory of his Father. (Luke 21:36)
“As I live, even so will I come in the last days—in the days of wickedness and vengeance” (DC 36:12 c).
The last generation shall not take place until:
- after the Jews return and possess Jerusalem,
- the two prophets finish their testimony,
- the second destruction of Jerusalem occurs—a war in which Christ comes and stops the battle,
- the Jews are converted to Christ,
- the signs are given of the sun and moon darkening and the stars falling.
Those individuals who see these signs will be a part of the last generation. Not all of them will die before Christ comes in glory at the beginning of the Millennium.
(Vision 24:26–28, 31)
Seventy John J. Cornish was a dedicated missionary for the RLDS Church. Brother Cornish's great faith and humble devotion enabled him, by the power of God, to perform many miracles and baptize 1,500 people. His autobiography, Into the Latter Day Light, relates his conversion to the Church and many of his missionary experiences. You can purchase his book at the Restoration Bookstore or from our online store.