Humble Thoughts Concerning the Second Coming and the End of the World
With all the chaos and confusion that is happening in our world today, it is of little wonder that so many people are asking the same questions that the disciples asked of the Master centuries ago, “Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3). The Master’s response to them still applies to us during these often turbulent, confused, and chaotic times:
And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. (Matthew 24:4-14)
There are many good hearten people, including some Christians, who are anxiously anticipating the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, even to the point of making futile attempts at guessing the day and the hour when He shall appear. However, scriptures emphatically teach us:
But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. (Mathew 24:36-39)
Scriptures also remind us, “For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. . . .Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.” (1 Thessalonians 5:2,6)
While there are some people who put their trust in chariots, and some who put their trust in horses, I will continue to remember the name of the Lord our God (See Psalm 20:7) and strive to endure to the end.
Therefore, I will no more put my confidence and trust in the speculations of man about the Second Coming of Christ than I will in those who purport that the four “blood moons” signal the end of the world. Instead of being overly concerned and feeding into much of the frenzy of the false and nonsensical teachings about the Second Coming and the end of the age, I choose to make sure that my house is in order, and that I am ready to meet the Savior at any day, at any moment or hour of the day. I choose to keep my lamp filled with oil to be ready when the Bridegroom comes.
Instead of heeding the vain teachings and babbling of men, we would be wise to follow the teachings of the Master Himself as in the “Parable of the Ten Virgins:”
Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh. (Matthew 25:1-14)
O be wise; what can I say more? (Jacob 6:12, Book of Mormon)
People who profess to be followers of the Lord Jesus Christ and adhere to the teachings found in His Word are far more blessed today than members of the early Christian Church in that they are able to possess a copy of the scriptures for themselves. They do not have to rely on an ecclesiastical leader to reveal to them the treasures found in the Word of God which can easily be left to the misguided personal interpretations rendered by said leaders. Also, they do not have to wait to attend a church service to have the scriptures read to them, but they are able to read and study the scriptures for themselves. Furthermore, those who wish to study the scriptures, unlike those in the early Christian Church who were only exposed to certain portions of the scriptures, now have a more complete canon. Many homes have more than one copy of the Bible, and in some cases, different versions and/or translations of the Bible can also be found. And with the rapid increase in technological advances, a person is able to open the scriptures and read them whenever he wants, and wherever he may be in the world.
Reasons for the fall of the Early Christian Church
In his Deseret News article titled “Defending the Faith: The fall of the early Christian church was almost inevitable”, Daniel Peterson exhorts, “The church founded anciently by Christ not only didn’t survive intact but probably couldn’t have.” He notes that there are perhaps several reasons for this. He states that one of the main reasons that Christ’s early Church did not survive intact was because with the expansion of Christianity beyond Palestine to many parts of the world, ancient means of travel and communication, as compared to our standards today, were extremely slow. Peterson also points out that, “the “supply lines” of ancient Christianity were long, fragile, corruptible and dangerously exposed to persecution, human sin and ambition, misunderstanding, forgetfulness and a host of other threats.” Another reason which Peterson states for the descent of the early Church is the fact that there was no New Testament. In his Deseret News article, Peterson commented,
To make things still worse, for at least the first century of Christianity (and, in sense, for much longer than that), there was no New Testament. It was still being written over the initial 30 to 70 years after the ascension of Christ, and, even when they were complete, individual gospels and epistles circulated separately; the “New Testament” hadn’t yet been gathered together, and the canon hadn’t yet been defined. Even after they had been written and put into circulation, copies of scriptural texts, expensive and hand-produced, were extremely rare. Ordinary Christians wouldn’t have had their own private copies of scripture, let alone several of them, as we often do today. (Many of them likely couldn’t read, anyhow.)
The Coming Forth of the New Testament
Christians regard both the Old and New Testaments as sacred scripture. The New Testament in particular deals explicitly with first-century Christianity. As such, as Christianity has spread throughout the world, the New Testament (in part or in whole) has served as a main resource for Christian theology and also as the true north of a Christian’s moral compass. Throughout the ages, the New Testament has had a major influence on religious, philosophical, and political movements in Christendom, and its teachings and doctrines are strongly evidenced in the literature, art, and music of many cultures. In almost all Christian denominations and sects today, the New Testament consists of 27 books. It was originally written by various writers who were early Jewish disciples of Jesus Christ in the first and perhaps second centuries of the Christian era. The language used for the text was Koine Greek, which was the common language of the Eastern Mediterranean from the Conquests of Alexander the Great (335–323 BC) until the evolution of Byzantine Greek (c. 600). All of the writings which were eventually incorporated into the New Testament text were perhaps written no later than AD 150. The New Testament consists of:
- four narratives of the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – collectively referred to as the “Gospels”)
- a narrative of the Apostles’ ministries in the early church called the “Acts of the Apostles” (which is a continuation of the Gospel of Luke and perhaps written by the same author)
- twenty-one letters referred to as “Epistles” in the biblical context, written by various authors, and consisting of Christian doctrine, counsel, instruction, and conflict resolution
- an Apocalypse, the Book of Revelation, which is a book of prophecy, containing some instructions to seven local congregations of Asia Minor, but mostly containing prophetic symbolism about the end times
Peterson further commented in his Deseret News article that “It’s literally a miracle that Christianity survived as well as it did” especially considering the fact that,
Local leaders, who perhaps joined the church after only the briefest of missionary instruction — commonly at the hands of preachers who, themselves, had received no more than a brief oral introduction to the basic Christian story and a few fundamental doctrines — would have had no scriptures to consult, let alone anything like a “general handbook of instructions” when difficult questions arose. And teachers and class members were unable to simply flip through their personal copies of the Bible in order to learn Christian doctrine and practice.
The Inability to Communicate with the Apostles in an Expeditious Manner
What did the early Church leaders do when they were faced with a crisis or dilemma that necessitated immediate attention? During the time of the Apostles, they could send them inquiries for help, but the problem arose in trying to locate them at any given time or in any particular place as they did not have a permanent headquarters. Also there was no way of knowing if they were dead or alive. Even the amount of time that it took to get an inquiry to one of the Apostles was considerably long considering the antiquated means of transportation that had to be used to reach a certain location. And after a message reached one of them, the next major concern was the amount of time it would take to receive a reply. Therefore, in some cases, local leadership may have deliberated important issues for weeks, months, or even years before seeking advice from an Apostle. If an Apostle were to visit an area, how would the people be able to identify him as being who he claimed to be if they had never met him previously? After all, the Apostle Paul had given stern warning against “false apostles” as recorded in 2 Corinthians 11:13-15:
For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.
Peterson concludes his article by stating, “For these and other reasons, as I say, it’s difficult for me to imagine how the ancient church could ever have survived without serious deformation. And we know by divine revelation that, in fact, it didn’t. That is why the Restoration was necessary.” He further points out that all of the modern conveniences and technology that we are afforded today have contributed immensely to the great cause of the Restoration of Christ’s Church.
In my young 56 years of life I have been blessed to read that volume of Holy Writ nine times in its entirety. Each time that I read from its pages, I am forever amazed at how even though I have read the same passages numerous times, I still learn many new and wonderful things. I also find that as I grow older and continue on this pilgrim journey, my understanding of certain passages of scripture is heightened, and my testimony of the Savior about whom the volume is written is confirmed. It is enlightening to experience how different passages take on whole new meanings as I enter different seasons of my life and I continue to liken the scriptures unto myself.
There are some people who may ask why I would repeatedly read the Bible in its entirety. “Isn’t once enough?” they might ask. I answer their question with a question (something that all of my teachers said that I should not do) — Why Not? And as far as once being enough, well, no it isn’t because I am reminded that we are to “Study to shew [ourselves] approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
As I grow older with each passing year I am reminded, “For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away” (1 Peter 1:24). However, the Prophet Isaiah declared, “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever” (Isaiah 40:8). And the Psalmist exhorted, “For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations” (Psalm 100:5).
I bear solemn witness and testimony that the Word of God never grows old. It is always fresh with new insights for all those who will take the time to read and feast upon its words. In the sacred name of Him whose Word is “a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (see Psalm 119:105), our Lord and savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Dr. Ravi Zacharias at Princeton University – Why I’m Not An Atheist
Defining the terms
Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities. Most inclusively, atheism is the absence of belief that any deities exist. Atheism is contrasted with theism, which, in its most general form, is the belief that at least one deity exists.
Theism is the belief in the existence of a god or gods, especially belief in one God as the creator of the universe, intervening in it and sustaining a personal relation to His creation.
Deism is the belief in the existence of a supreme being, specifically of a creator who does not intervene in the universe. The term is used chiefly of an intellectual movement of the 17th and 18th centuries that accepted the existence of a creator on the basis of reason but rejected belief in a supernatural deity who interacts with humankind.
Theology is the study of the nature of God and religious belief.
Ideology, in the Althusserian sense, is “the imaginary relation to the real conditions of existence.” It can be described as a set of conscious and unconscious ideas which make up one’s goals, expectations, and motivations. An ideology is a comprehensive normative vision, meaning that it is a set of standards that are followed by people, government, and/or other groups that is considered the “norm”.
Prior to being baptized and becoming a member of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on 10 March 1998, I told the missionaries who were teaching me that I would not make a decision about baptism until after I had read the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price each in their entirety. I sincerely believe that the Lord’s hand was at work in the matter as I was inspired to develop a 40-Day Reading Schedule to carry out the task at hand.
Believe it, or not, there are some who have been members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints their entire lives and have never read either of these volumes of Scripture in their entirety. It is my hope, my sincere prayer, that once they read them for perhaps the first time in their entirety, they will gain a thirst to want to read them again and again. I have now in my 17 years as a member of the Church read the Book of Mormon 9 times in its entirety, and the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price each 13 times in their entirety. I find that each time I read them I learn something that I did not learn before. I have also read the Bible 9 times in its entirety.
Oftentimes when I am reading and studying the scriptures, I like to use other resources that I have available in my library and look up certain portions of the Scriptures that I am reading or may have questions about for clarification. This proves to be very beneficial especially when I am preparing a talk for Church or writing an article such as this one. Each of us have our own methods of reading and studying the Scriptures. Please understand that I am not in any way saying that one method is better than another, or that a particular method is wrong and another is right.
With that being said, in my humble opinion, I do believe that sometimes we can, if we are not careful, spend more time pondering over what has been written about the Scriptures by others, than actually reading the Scriptures themselves. After all, it is the Word of God, which stands firmly on its own, that is the greatest and last authority. Sometimes I fear that people can get too caught up in becoming concerned about what someone has written about a subject than they do about the real subject at hand. In short, what I am saying is, there needs to be a delicate balance. Again, the Word of God itself should always be our final authority.
I particularly like what President Ezra Taft Benson taught us about this. He said, “Always remember, there is no satisfactory substitute for the scriptures and the words of the living prophets. These should be your original sources. Read and ponder more what the Lord has said, and less about what others have written concerning what the Lord has said.” (Address to educators, Salt Lake City, September 17, 1976.) Those are great words of counsel.
I also agree with the strong counsel of President Romney given to a group of Seminary and Institute coordinators in 1973. He told them:
I don’t know much about the gospel other than what I’ve learned from the standard works. When I drink from a spring I like to get the water where it comes out of the ground, not down the stream after the cattle have waded in it. … I appreciate other people’s interpretation, but when it comes to the gospel we ought to be acquainted with what the Lord says. … You ought to read the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants; and … all the scriptures with the idea of finding out what’s in them and what the meaning is and not to prove some idea of your own. Just read them and plead with the Lord to let you understand what he had in mind when he wrote them.” (Address delivered at Coordinators’ Convention, Seminaries and Institutes of Religion, 13 Apr. 1973.)
The Prophet Joseph Smith gave us this great admonition in 1832. He said:
Search the scriptures—search the revelations which we publish and ask your Heavenly Father, in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, to manifest the truth unto you, and if you do it with an eye single to His glory nothing doubting, He will answer you by the power of His Holy Spirit. You will then know for yourselves and not for another. You will not then be dependent on man for the knowledge of God; nor will there be any room for speculation. … For when men receive their instruction from Him that made them, they know how He will save them. … Again we say: Search the Scriptures, search the Prophets and learn what portion of them belongs to you.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1938, pp. 11–12.)
The beauty of reading the Scriptures is just as J. Richard Clarke once said, “Brothers and sisters, you don’t have to be a natural student to read the scriptures; you just need to love the Lord.” (J. Richard Clarke, “My Soul Delighteth in the Scriptures,” Ensign, November 1982, p.15.)
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints (Ephesians 6:10-18).
The crimson thread of redemption that reveals the infinite love that the Savior has for all humanity flows through the entirety of the scriptures. His story is the GREATEST story ever told. From Bethlehem cradle, to preaching in the temple, to the sermon on the mount, to His last hours with His disciples, to His intercessory prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane and the ultimate betrayal by one of His own, to the mockery of trials that were illegal according to Jewish law and custom, to the cruel Roman cross on Golgotha Hill, to His glorious Resurrection – there was one central message written in RED. That message was simple, yet powerful. That message to us all is “I LOVE YOU!”
On this glorious Easter morning, as we celebrate His Glorious Resurrection, I share my personal witness and testimony:
I bear solemn witness and testimony of a loving Savior who loves all of us so much that he willingly gave His life for us as sin’s final sacrifice. With His very life, He paid a tremendous debt that He did not owe, a debt that none of us would ever be able to pay on our own. He took upon Himself all the sins of humanity – past, present and future. He who knew no sin became sin for us. When He cried “It is finished!” the plan of redemption was fully put into place and because of His vicarious death on that cruel Roman cross on Golgotha Hill, the gulf between sinful man and a loving Heavenly Father was finally bridged providing for each of us a way back home to the arms of a loving Heavenly Father who awaits us. The Good News is that His death upon that cross did not signify finality. Three days later He triumphed over the grave and arose and is alive forevermore seated at the right hand of God the Father. Because of His glorious Resurrection we too look forward to the day when we shall be resurrected and we shall see Him and know Him as He is. He is the Son of the Living God! He is the Christ! Of these things I do so testify and bear solemn witness, in the sacred name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints consider the Book of Mormon to be a sacred volume of scripture that is comparable to the Holy Bible. The Book of Mormon is not intended to replace the Bible,nor does it detract from the teachings of the Bible, but rather its teachings enhance those doctrines and principles that are taught in the Bible.It is exactly as its name declares, Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Therefore, Latter-day Saints testify that the Bible and the Book of Mormon together present an irrefutable testimony of the Divine Redeemer and Savior of the World, and the immensity of His love for all people.
To date the entire book of Mormon has been translated into 85 languages, and selections of the Book of Mormon have been translated into an additional 25 languages. Thus, the volume is made available to many people in their native tongue, but the question that begs an answer is, “How many people have ever read the Book of Mormon or know anything about it?”
In 2014, three returned missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – Kyson Kidd, Jacob Justice and Jake Christensen – set out on a new mission to find an answer to that exact question. The culmination of their quest was the creation of a video called “What is the Book of Mormon?” which was published on YouTube on 1 January 2015, and has already received over 10,000 views.