ARTICLE 10-We believe that Christ will reign personally upon the earth;
First and Second Advents-The facts of our Lord’s birth in the flesh, of His thirty and three years of life among mortals, of His ministry, sufferings, and death, are accepted as attested history. Not alone do the records regarded distinctively by the Christian world as sacred and inspired bear testimony concerning these facts, but the history written by man, and in contrast called profane, is in general harmony with the Biblical account. Even those who reject the doctrine of Christ’s divinity and refuse to accept Him as their Redeemer admit the historical facts of His marvelous life, and acknowledge the incalculable effect of His precepts and example upon the human family.
In the “meridian of time” Christ was born to earth, amid humble surroundings-in obscurity, indeed, to all except the faithful few who had been watching for the promised event. His coming had been heralded through the previous centuries, even from the dawn of human existence; prophets of God had borne record of the great events that were to characterize His advent. Every important incident connected with His birth, life, death, triumphal resurrection, and ultimate glory as King, Lord, and God, had been predicted; and even circumstantial details were given with exactness. Judah and Israel had been told to prepare for the coming of the Anointed One; yet when He came to His own they received Him not. Persecuted and despised, He trod the thorny path of duty, “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief”; and finally condemned by His people, who clamored to an alien power for authority to execute their own unjust sentence upon their Lord, He went to death by the torturing crucifixion prescribed for malefactors.
To human judgment it must have appeared that the mission of Jesus Christ had been nullified, that His work had failed, and that the powers of darkness had triumphed. Blind, deaf, and hard of heart were those who refused to see, hear, and comprehend the purport of the Savior’s mission. Similarly benighted are they who reject the prophetic evidence of His second coming, and who fail to read the signs of the times, which declare the event, at once glorious and terrible, to be near at hand. Both before and after His death Christ prophesied of His appointed return to earth; and His faithful followers are today waiting and watching for the signs of the great fulfilment. The heavens are flaming with those signals, and the burden of inspired teaching is again heard-Repent, repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Christ’s Second Coming Predicted and Signs Described; Biblical Prophecies-The prophets of the Old Testament and those of Book of Mormon record who lived and wrote before the era of Christ, had little to say regarding the second coming of the Lord, little indeed in comparison with their numerous and explicit predictions concerning His first advent. As they looked into the sky of futurity their vision was dazzled with the brilliancy of the meridian sun, and saw little of the glorious luminary beyond, whose proportions and radiance were reduced by distance. A few of them saw and so testified, as the following passages show. The Psalmist sang: “Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him.” These conditions did not attend the coming of the Babe of Bethlehem, and are yet future.
Isaiah cried: “Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense; he will come and save you.” Aside from the evident fact that these conditions were not characteristic of the first coming of Christ, the context of the prophet’s words shows that he applied them to the last days, the time of restitution, the day of the “ransomed of the Lord,” and of the triumph of Zion. Again Isaiah spake: “Behold, the Lord God will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.”
The prophet Enoch, who lived twenty centuries before the first of those whose words are given above, spoke with vigor on the subject. His teachings do not appear under his own name in the Bible, though Jude, a New Testament writer, cites them. From the Writings of Moses we learn concerning the revelation given to Enoch: “And the Lord said unto Enoch: As I live, even so will I come in the last days, in the days of wickedness and vengeance, to fulfil the oath which I have made unto you concerning the children of Noah.”
Jesus taught the disciples that His mission in the flesh was to be of short duration, and that He would come again to earth, for we find them inquiring in this wise: “Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” In reply, our Lord detailed many of the signs of the latter times, the last and greatest of which He thus stated: “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.” With great clearness, Jesus spoke of the worldliness in which the children of men had continued to indulge, even to the eve of the deluge, and on the day of the fiery destruction which befell the Cities of the Plains, and added: “Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.”
Another of our Lord’s predictions concerning His second coming is as follows: “And they [the disciples] asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? And what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass? And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: Go ye not therefore after them. But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by. Then said he unto them, Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven. But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake. And it shall turn to you for a testimony. Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer: For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist. And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake. And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; 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 then shall they see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.”
Many of these dire predictions were realized at the destruction of Jerusalem; and the oft-quoted twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew undoubtedly has a double application-to the judgment brought upon Israel in the complete overthrow of the Jewish autonomy, and in the events now current immediately preceding the Lord’s coming, when He shall take His rightful place as Ruler.
Again, by way of warning, the Lord said: “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
At the time of the ascension, as the apostles stood gazing into the firmament where a cloud had hidden the resurrected Lord from sight, they became aware of the presence of two visitants in white apparel, who said: “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” Paul instructed the churches in the doctrines of Christ’s second advent, and described the glory of His coming. So also did others of the apostles.
Among Book of Mormon Prophecies concerning our present subject, it is sufficient to consider here the personal assurances of Christ at the time of His ministrations to the Nephites in His resurrected state. To the multitude He explained many matters, “even from the beginning until the time that he should come in his glory.” In promising the three disciples the desire of their hearts, which was that they might be spared in the flesh to continue the work of the ministry, the Lord said to them: “Ye shall live to behold all the doings of the Father unto the children of men, even until all things shall be fulfilled according to the will of the Father, when I shall come in my glory with the powers of heaven.”
The Word of Modern Revelation is no less sure regarding the appointed advent of the Redeemer. To servants, specially commissioned, instructions were given to this effect: “Wherefore, be faithful, praying always, having your lamps trimmed and burning, and oil with you, that you may be ready at the coming of the Bridegroom-For behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, that I come quickly.” And further: “Cry repentance unto a crooked and perverse generation, preparing the way of the Lord for his second coming. For behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, the time is soon at hand that I shall come in a cloud with power and great glory.”
In a revelation to the people of the Church, March 7, 1831, the Lord speaks of the signs of His coming, and counsels diligence: “Ye look and behold the fig-trees, and ye see them with your eyes, and ye say when they begin to shoot forth, and their leaves are yet tender, that summer is now nigh at hand; Even so it shall be in that day when they shall see all these things, then shall they know that the hour is nigh. And it shall come to pass that he that feareth me shall be looking forth for the great day of the Lord to come, even for the signs of the coming of the Son of Man. And they shall see signs and wonders, for they shall be shown forth in the heavens above, and in the earth beneath. And they shall behold blood, and fire, and vapors of smoke. And before the day of the Lord shall come, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon be turned into blood, and the stars fall from heaven. And the remnant shall be gathered unto this place; And then they shall look for me, and, behold, I will come; and they shall see me in the clouds of heaven, clothed with power and great glory, with all the holy angels; and he that watches not for me shall be cut off.”
A distinctive characteristic of the revelations given in the present dispensation, regarding the second coming of our Lord, is the emphatic and oft-repeated declaration that the event is near at hand. The call is, “Prepare ye, prepare ye, for that which is to come; for the Lord is nigh.” Instead of the cry of one man in the wilderness of Judea, the voice of thousands is heard authoritatively warning the nations and inviting them to repent and flee to Zion for safety. The fig-tree is rapidly putting forth its leaves; the signs in heaven and earth are increasing; the great and dreadful day of the Lord is near.
The Precise Time of Christ’s Coming has not been made known to man. By learning to comprehend the signs of the times, by watching the development of the work of God among the nations, and by noting the rapid fulfilment of significant prophecies, we may perceive the progressive evidence of the approaching event: “But the hour and the day no man knoweth, neither the angels in heaven, nor shall they know until he comes.” His coming will be a surprise to those who have ignored His warnings, and who have failed to watch. “As a thief in the night” will be the coming of the day of the Lord unto the wicked. “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of Man cometh.”
Christ’s Reign; The Kingdom-We have seen that, according to the words of holy prophets ancient and modern, Christ is to come in a literal sense and so manifest Himself in person in the last days. He is to dwell among His saints. “Yea, even I will be in the midst of you,” He declared to the people on this continent, whom He promised to establish in the land of the New Jerusalem; and similar assurances were given through the prophets of the east. In this prospective ministration among His gathered saints, Jesus Christ is to be at once their God and their King. His government is to be that of a perfect theocracy; the laws of righteousness will be the code, and control will be administered under one authority, undisputed because indisputable.
The scriptures abound with declarations that the Lord will yet reign among his people. To this effect sang Moses before the host of Israel after their miraculous passage through the Red Sea: “The Lord shall reign forever and ever;” and the psalmist echoes the refrain, “The Lord is King forever and ever.” Jeremiah calls Him “an everlasting king” before whose wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations yield; and Nebuchadnezzar, humbled through tribulations, rejoiced in honoring the King of heaven, “whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation.”