His Return

Summary: The second coming of Christ is one of the most anticipated events among believers in Christ, and the scriptures tell us that he will come in the last days. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints confidently declares that we are living in the last days when there shall be a restoration of all things. They further declare that this restoration began in 1830 when God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith. However, there is much, much more that still needs to be restored before Christ can come again. This article examines what else need to happen.

One day, while Jesus sat on the mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem, he explained to his disciples that there would come a day when the Son of man would come “in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory, and he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds” (Matthew 24:30,31). And “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen” (Revelation 1:7).

When this day comes, those who have believed on his name, both the living and “the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:52) and shall be caught up to meet him in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17). This is known as the first resurrection, and then the earth will be burned with fire, cleansing it of all wickedness. After that, there will be “a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away” (Revelation 21:1). When that happens only the righteous will dwell on the new earth (2 Peter 3:13), and Christ will rule and reign over the entire earth as its supreme king for the next thousand years (Revelation 20:6).

Jesus went on to explain that when he comes, he shall “gather all nations and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divided his sheep from the goats. And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left. Then shall the king say unto them on his right hand, Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world… Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me ye cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angel: (Matthew 25:32-34, 41)

When his disciples wanted to know when this glorious event would happen, Jesus explain saying that before that day comes “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 24:14). This is why , just before he ascended into heaven, Jesus commanded his disciple to “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:19,20).

The second coming of Christ is one of the most anticipated events among the believers in Christ, and since he will come in the “last days,” meaning at the end of the world as we know it, every generation has believed that they were living in the last days.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints confidently declares that we are truly living in the last days, which is also known as “the dispensation of the fulness of times,” when Jesus will “gather in one all things in Christ, both which is in heaven, and which are on earth, even in him” (Ephesians 1:10). However, they also teach that this is a process that will unfold over a long period of time rather than it happening all at once in one sudden moment.

The scriptures tell us that before this great and dreadful day of the Lord arrives, Elijah the prophet must first be sent (Malachi 4:5), and that he must come “and restore all things” (Matthew 17:11). As already mentioned, the gospel of the kingdom of heaven must be preached to all the world and all things must be gathered together in Christ, both in heaven as well as on earth before Jesus can return in glory. In addition to this, the kingdom of Israel must also be restored (Acts 1:6) and many other things need to happen prior to Christ coming. Therefore, “the last days” refers to the period of time during which a number of things must first take place in order for the earth to be prepared to receive her king.

The apostle Paul wrote “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition” (2 Thessalonians 2:3).

When Jesus first came to earth as a mortal man, he went about preaching his message of salvation, he called twelve men to take that message into all the world and he gave them power and authority to speak in his name and to administer the ordinances of salvation. He also organized a church with apostles as its leaders and with priesthood offices such as deacons, elders, and teachers.

But after all the original apostles had died, the church was left leaderless, and as a result it slowly began to drift into apostacy. In time, the doctrines that Jesus taught were changed and became corrupted, the church organization Jesus had created was changed, and the power of the priesthood was lost through corruption among those who held it.

Then, in 1820, God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ appeared to a young boy named Joseph Smith and began the process of restoring all that was lost. They revealed an ancient record known as the Book of Mormon, which was translated by the power of God, that restored many of the precious truths that had been lost during the previous centuries. They restored the priesthood with its divine authority to act in the name of God. They restored the organization of the church that Jesus had originally established, they restored the knowledge of our true relationship to God as his spirit children, why we are here on earth, and where we are going after death, Elijah the ancient prophet of God was sent to restored the keys that would turn the hearts of the children to their fathers and makes it possible for families to be sealed together forever.

All of this happened over several years and has been referred to by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as “the restoration of the gospel.” To many Latter-day Saints, this is seen as having completed all that was needed be restored, but this is not so. Instead, it is just the beginning of that restoration process. There is still much, much more that needs to be done. Here are just some of the things that must happen before Christ can come again.

The twelve tribes of Israel had been one people for nearly a thousand years but then after the death of their King, Solomon, the house of Israel split into two separate nations, with ten tribes forming the kingdom of Israel, and the remaining two tribes becoming the kingdom of Juda, whose people are known as the Jews.

But in 722 BC, the kingdom of Israel was conquered and its people taken captive, where they were eventually scattered among the other peoples of the world. Because no one knows exactly where they are anymore, they’ve become known as the lost tribes of Israel.

Around 600 BC, the kingdom of Judah was conquered and its people enslaved, but forty years later some of them returned to their homeland and reestablished their national identity. This situation lasted until 68 AD when the Jewish nation was once more conquered and scattered among the nations of the earth, until 1948 when they were able to reclaim their old homeland and reestablish themselves as an independent and sovereign nation.

On the title page of the Book of Mormon it states the book’s purpose as being for “the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ.” It didn’t say that it was to convince everyone that Jesus is the Christ. It specifically says it’s to convince both the Jew and the Gentile, and there is a reason why its purpose is stated this way.

From the beginning of the Book of Mormon to its last book, there is a constant message that runs throughout it, including quoting from the book of Isaiah, which is that although God will scatter Israel, he will someday gather them all together again into one united family.

When the resurrected Jesus appeared to the Nephites, one of the things he told them was that when their posterity shall see the things he is telling them – which they made a record of – come to them from the hands of the Gentiles, “It shall be a sign unto them that they may know that the work of the Father hath already commenced into the fulfilling of the covenant he hath made unto the people who are of the house of Israel… And then shall the work of the Father commence at that day, even when this gospel shall be preached among the remnant of this people. Verily I say unto you, at that day shall the work of the Father commence among all the dispersed of my people, yea, even the tribes which have been lost, which the Father hath led away out of Jerusalem” (see 3 Nephi 21:-17,26).

The covenant that Jesus is referring to is that he will someday gather together all of Israel – not just the Jews – and bring them back again into one people. Although the Jews have always maintained their national identity, the other ten tribes are scattered among the Gentile nations. Thus, the stated purpose of the Book of Mormon is to convince the Jews and the other tribes of the house of Israel who are living among the Gentiles that Jesus is their Messiah who they’ve been waiting for.

The restored Church of Jesus Christ lists twelve statements of what they believe, known as the Articles of Faith, and in the tenth Article it states, “We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.”

From this we learn of three things that still must be restored. We’ve already discussed the restoring of the house of Israel. Although that is currently a work in progress, it hasn’t been completed. When Enoch lived upon the earth, he established a city named Zion, whose people were so righteous that the city was taken from off the earth. Therefore, another part of the restoration of all things is that Zion must be restored to the earth.

Jesus created this world and it therefore belongs to him. However, an enemy has taken it over and has established himself as the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4). Therefore, Jesus has to be restored to his rightful place as the God of this earth but, before that can happen, the enemy of all righteousness must be defeated. And the way that will happen is when people throughout the world reject the ways of the devil and accept Jesus and his ways. As Isaiah prophesied concerning the last days, “for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). That process is ongoing but hasn’t been completed yet.

When God made the earth, he pronounced it to be “good,” but since the fall of Adam the earth has groaned under sin (D&C 84:49). Therefore, another part of the restoration process necessary for Christ to return is that the earth must be restored back to its paradisiacal glory.

When Adam and Eve lived in the garden of Eden, they were able to walk and talk with God face to face, but because of sin, God and man are now separated. Because of this, another part of the restoration that needs to take place is that the original relationship that God had with man needs to be restored so that when Christ returns, man and God will once more be able to live and mingle together in the flesh.

What all of this shows is that there is still much that needs to be restored in “the last days” to prepare the world for Christ’s return in glory. It should be noticed that the term “last days” is plural, not singular. The last days refers to a period of time leading up to and preparing the way for the final event when Jesus returns. to rule and reign over the entire earth.

But there is another aspect to the restoration process that is perhaps the most important of all.

A kingdom is made up of primarily three things. The first is you have to have a king who rules over his kingdom. The second and most important element necessary to having a kingdom is people who willing accept the king as having the right to rule over them. If people refuse to obey the decrees of their king, then it becomes difficult for him to govern. But the more people love their king, the more willing they are to obey him, serve him, and be loyal to him.

The scriptures talk about the “kingdom of heaven” because in heaven there is a king and those who live there willingly and gladly obey, serve, and are loyal to him.

The third thing that is needs for a kingdom is a defined geographical boundary. That is to say, only the people living within that boundary are required to obey the king. But what if a king wants to enlarge the borders of his kingdom? For example, in the 1500s the King of Spain ruled over the people who lived within a clearly defined boundary in Europe. But then, one day he decided to send some men 3,000 miles across the ocean to a newly discovered land we now call South America, and these men went in and conquered it for Spain. For this reason they were known as conquistadors or conquerors. When that happened, parts of South America then became part of the kingdom of Spain, because the King of Spain now ruled over or had the authority to direct the affairs of the people living in that part of the world.

In the same way, if the King of Heaven wanted to expand his authority beyond the borders of heaven, he would do the same thing. If, for example, he wanted to make our earth a part of his kingdom, he would send some of his people to earth to conquer it and bring its inhabitants under his rule and subject them to his authority. If he was able to do this, then earth would become part of the territory included within the boundaries of the kingdom of heaven.

When John the Baptist began his ministry, his message was “Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2), and it wasn’t long afterwards that the Son of the king of heaven came to earth and mingled among its inhabitants. His goal was to conquer the people of earth and bring them into subjection to him, but instead of doing this through the use of force, he won them over through persuasion. And when people came to accept Jesus as their king, they acknowledged his right to rule over them, that he had full sovereignty over their lives, and that they were willing to do whatsoever he told them. When they did that, they became subjects or citizens of the kingdom of heaven.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints boldly declares that it IS, literally, the kingdom of heaven here on earth. At the time we are baptized we make two commitments. The first is that we accept Jesus as our Lord and Master. That means, we accept him as our king and that he has the right to be our sovereign ruler. The second commitment we make is that we will keep the commandments he gives us, and in so doing, we are pledging our loyalty and obedience to him.

When someone immigrates to America and wants to become a citizen of this country, they take an oath to renounce their citizenship to their former country and pledge their allegiance to the government of American, which includes promising to obey its laws. When a person willingly does this, they are proud to call themselves an American.

At the time of our baptism, we make the same pledge to the king of heaven and proudly take upon us his name, meaning that we are proud to call ourselves a Christian. When we do that, we proclaim ourselves to be citizens of the kingdom of heaven and become fellow citizens with the other saints of God (Ephesians 2:19).

As part of our duty and responsibility as citizens of heaven, we are required to help our king build up his kingdom here upon the earth, and the way we do that is by doing what Jesus did. We take the message that Christ taught and teach it to others so that they too come to feel the desire to accept Jesus as their sovereign king. And it’s in this way that the borders of the kingdom of heaven expand as more and more people become obedient and loyal subjects of its king.

The scriptures tell us that when Christ comes again in glory, that the earth will be burned by fire and all the wicked will be destroyed (Matthew 13:40; 2 Peter 3:10). This is what happened among the Nephites shortly before Christ appeared to them. When he finally did show himself, it was only to those who already believed on him, and they were the only ones still alive when he came among them.

Right now, there are almost eight billion people in the world. Imagine if, when Christ comes again to rule and reign on the earth, that there are only one million people in the entire world willing and eager to greet him as their king. That would be a pretty small kingdom. Therefore, to build up the kingdom of heaven requires that God’s subjects go throughout the world teaching others about Christ and inviting them to accept him as their king and to pledge their allegiance and loyalty to him. That’s what it means when we are baptized (see “When we are Baptized”).

The purpose of doing this is so when Jesus comes again, there will be large throngs of people in every part of the world who will be ready to greet their king when he arrives. When we build temples, we refer to them as the House of the Lord, and we dedicate them to him. These are literally his homes. When he comes to rule and reign on the earth, no matter where he goes, there needs to be a temple where he can stay. Thus, temples need to literally dot the earth so there will be no place Jesus can go where there is not a house for him to stay in.

As stated earlier, the express purpose of the Book of Mormon is to help fulfill the covenant God made that he would someday gather together in one, the house of Israel, but how is that going to happen? When Joseph Smith published the Book of Mormon, he didn’t open up a book store and put out a large banner saying, “Book of Mormon on Sale!” Rather, he had people go out to individuals and gave them the Book of Mormon to read. When they did so and became convinced that it was from God, they were then invited to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and when they accepted that offer, they willingly choose to become citizens of the kingdom of heaven.

The purpose of the Book of Mormon is to “convince both the Jew and the Gentile that Jesus is the Christ. The Jews are only one tribe of the house of Israel. The other tribes are scattered among the gentiles, therefore, when they read the Book of Mormon, it’s purpose is to convince them to accept that Jesus is the God that their fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob worshipped, and when that happens, they will be gathered together into God’s kingdom, thereby fulfilling the covenant he made to their fathers..

We’ve also been told that this effort is not confined just to the living but. “for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit” (1 Peter 4:6). However, when people who are of the house of Israel accept Christ while in the spirit world, they can only go so far in joining his kingdom because salvation consists of saving both the spirit and the body.

Since the dead no long possess a physical body, when they accept Christ’s offer of salvation in the world of spirits, their salvation can only be half completed. Therefore, when we, the living, do work in the temples of the Lord for those who have passed onto the next world, we are using our physical body to stand as a proxy for those who have died. In this way, doing temple work for our departed relatives is assisting the missionary work that is going on in the spirit world, and are therefore assisting in building up and expanding the kingdom of heaven there.

The scriptures tell us that when Christ comes again that the graves will be opened and “the dead in Christ shall rise to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:16,17). Thus, the kingdom of heaven isn’t just in heaven alone but exists on earth, both among the living and among the dead.

Our part in the continuing restoration is necessary in order to restore the King of heaven to his rightful place over the earth. As soldiers in the army of God, our duty is to go forth and conquer the world for our king, and the most important way we do that is by helping to build and expand his kingdom on earth in preparation for his return.

 

 

Related articles can be found at The Nature of God

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