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Week 21: Joseph Smith-Matthew 1, Matthew 24


Verse 1: Richard Draper notes that 'henceforth' is better understood and translated as 'from now on' (The Pearl of Great Price: A Verse by Verse Commentary, p. 303). Jesus goes onto prophecy of His coming in great glory. It appears that at this time this is when many of the disciples understood that Jesus was to come again after he had been glorified in the presence of the Father.

Verses 2-3: The disciples approach Jesus wanting to know more about his prophecy about the destruction of the temple. The wording of Jesus' response in verse 3 is similar to Nephi's response to Laman and Lemuel's questioning in 1 Nephi 15. In other words, the plainness of the meaning is lost on them because a spirit of revelation is needed. Richard Draper comments on the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple:
"All but James lived to see the fulfillment of this prophesy. Under the direction of the Roman general Titus, all the buildings on the more than forty-acre platform were destroyed, and the rubble was pushed into the Tyropoean and Kindron valleys. He then ordered the area plowed and salted, thus assuring it's uselessness." (PoGPC, p. 304)
Verse 4: Jesus ascends the Mount of Olives. The peak of the Mount is about 743 feet higher than the peak of the temple. This puts Jesus' sermon to his disciples about the events of coming days and last days in the context of a temple setting, in my opinion.

Verse 5: Taking heed that no man deceive us is a reference for the need for personal revelation and a spirit of discernment in our lives.

Verses 6: Continuing on the theme of verse 5, It is good to remember that Christ is a title and not a name. Many individuals will come among the elect claiming a messianic status. Examples of this are found in Acts 5:36, Acts 21:38, and 1 John 2:18. False Christs can come and claim salvation either politically or spiritually.

Verse 7: The phrase "they shall deliver you up" might hint at apostates in the Church itself rising up and afflicting their fellow Church members. An example of this is found in the epistle of 3 John. According to Richard Draper, that epistle was written partly because a lower church authority defied John and in 2 Timothy 4:14 we find that a church member helped keep Paul imprisoned (PoGPC, p. 306). These types of things are written fairly extensively about in the Book of Mormon. I write a little bit about it here.

Verse 8: This continues on the theme of those of the covenant betraying one another. The ancient historian Hegesippus wrote how Christians would accuse other Christians of being Christian so as to get them executed.

Verse 9: We get a transition from the false Christs and apostates within the fold into the concept of false prophets. False prophets could fall into the same category as apostates and false Christs. I am not sure, yet, as to the distinction false prophets have compared to apostates and false Christs. McConkie comments:
"One of the surest and most certain signs of the times is the near-omnipresence of false prophets. "There shall also arise . . . false prophets," saith the holy word. (JS-M 1:22.) It is now almost as though every fool or near-fool, and every person filled with self-conceit and a desire to be in the spotlight of adulation, fancies himself a prophet of religion or politics, or what have you. On every hand there are those who suppose they know how to save society, to save nations, to save souls. They preach all sorts of gospels -- a social gospel; a racial gospel; a gospel of freedom or communism, of socialism or free enterprise, of military preparedness or reliance upon the wispy promises of foreign foes; a gospel of salvation by grace alone or of this or that doctrine. Streets and stadiums and temples are overrun, as the ancient prophets foretold, with the false ministers and teachers and politicians of the latter days. And all this shall continue until the greedy, the power hungry, and the self-called preachers go the way of all the earth when He comes to rule whose right it is both to instruct and to govern." (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith)
 Verse 10: This verse can be interpreted in a few ways, but it mainly comes down to the cause and effect iniquity has upon our ability to keep the two great commandments. Iniquity can cause us to try and redefine love so as to help justify us in our sins. Iniquity can cause our hearts to harden so we become almost oblivious to the needs of those around us and our dependence on heaven.

Verse 11: Joseph Smith changes the word 'endure' from Matthew 24:13 to 'steadfast' here. Draper points out that this word change suggests that one's attitude must be right as well. In other words, it is not too productive to just be gritting your teeth until the end. We must keep both hands on the rod AND still have a sense of wonder and awe about Christ and His Gospel if we want to avoid deception.
Even further, Draper has this wonderful insight into the phrase "the same shall be saved":
"The Saviors words are interesting in that he promised only individual salvation, not the salvation of the Church institution." (Draper, p. 309)
This is consistent with the themes found in the previous verses.

 Verse 12-19: The Savior begins to get more specific in his prophecy about the coming days and the last days. He speaks of "the abomination of desolation" that will occur among the Jews. In clearer terms, Wayment translates that phrase as "the desolating sacrilege" (NTTFLDS, p. 52). The desecration of a holy place is implied and it occurred, according to Maccabees 1:54, when Antiochus IV Epiphanes desecrated and destroyed the temple. The Roman army also came in and massacred the Jewish nation. McConkie comments:
"Hunger exceeded human endurance; blood flowed in the streets; destruction made desolate the temple; 1,100,000 Jews were slaughtered; Jerusalem was ploughed as a field; and a remnant of a once mighty nation was scattered to the ends of the earth. The Jewish nation died, impaled on Roman spears, at the hands of Gentile overlords." (DNTC, digital copy, p. 565)
Jesus then gives a prophetic warning and council in verses 13-15. They are to flee whenever they see these things happen into the mountains. Those who did this fled to a place called Pella in Jordan. These people were spared probably because they heeded Jesus words here.

Since these prophecies are supposed to have a duality of meaning, we might expect a similar "abomination of desolation" or a "desolating sacrilege" in our day. In fact, later on it is prophesied of happening again verses 31-32. We will revisit this idea when we reach those verses.

Verse 20: Draper points out that the Greek suggests that it is the goodness of the elect that shortens the days instead of the days being shortened for the good of the elect. This makes "according to the covenant" more interesting. It is the covenant that spares them. Draper further suggests here that the elect most specifically refers to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In other words, it was the goodness of the Patriarchs of Israel that spares them of destruction, God continues to honor the faith and covenants of the ancients (p. 311). We find this theme littered about in scriptures.

Verse 22: We return to the theme of false Christs and false prophets. We are told plainly that they will deceive even the very elect. McConkie comments:
“False Christs! False Redeemers, false Saviors! Will there actually be men who will claim to fulfill the Messianic prophecies and who will step forth to offer their blood for the sins of the world? Is it possible that some will say, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life come unto me and be ye saved’? Or that others will profess to return in glory bearing the wounds with which the true Christ was wounded in the house of his friends?
“True, there may be those deranged persons who suppose they are God, or Christ, or the Holy Ghost, or almost anything. None but the lunatic fringe among men, however, will give them a second serious thought. The promise of false Christs who will deceive, if it were possible, even the very elect, who will lead astray those who have made eternal covenant with the Lord, is a far more subtle and insidious evil.
“A false Christ is not a person. It is a false system of worship, a false church, a false cult that says: ‘Lo, here is salvation here is the doctrine of Christ. Come and believe thus and so, and ye shall be saved.’ It is any concept or philosophy that says that redemption, salvation, sanctification, justification, and all of the promised rewards can be gained in any way except that set forth by the apostles and prophets.” - Bruce R. McConkie (The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man 1982, 47-48)
Verses 23-25: It appears that Jesus is focusing on a point where he wants us to get. All the things prophesied will come to pass, but we need not be troubled. Why? The end is not yet. It is my opinion that we get too focused on the Second Coming being so soon that we neglect many other and important details that still need to happen in order to build the Kingdom of God. I have pondered on writing an exclusive blog post on this topic, therefore, I have pretty strong feelings about it.

Verse 26: Jesus transitions into a time where he finally comes again. McConkie comments:
“All people shall see it together! It shall spread over all the earth as the morning light! … Surely this is that of which Isaiah said: ‘And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.’ (Isa. 40:5.) Surely this is that of which our revelation speaks: ‘Prepare for the revelation which is to come, when the veil of the covering of my temple, in my tabernacle, which hideth the earth, shall be taken off, and all flesh shall see me together.’ (D&C 101:23.) Surely this is that day of which Zechariah prophesied: ‘The Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark: But it shall be one day which shall be known to the Lord, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light. … And the Lord shall be king over all the earth.’ (Zech. 14:5–9.)” (The Millennial Messiah, 419–20).
 Verse 27: If I am reading this right, it appears that verse 26 appears to be a forecast into the future and then verse 27 is us returning to the prophetic timeline of events in the last days. The Savior gives a very brief parable in this verse that is somewhat puzzling. Hugh Nibley comments:
"What happens when there is a carcass in the desert, or anywhere else? The eagles come, or the vultures, or the buzzards (whatever they are going to be) from all directions. All of a sudden they appear out of nowhere. It's quite miraculous to see. How do they know? How can they see? Their eyesight is absolutely fabulous. From miles away you see the specks coming, and where the carcass is they gather in a mysterious way from all directions (in a way that can't be explained). This is the way the Saints are going to be gathered in the last days." (Ancient Documents and the Pearl of Great Price, edited by Robert Smith and Robert Smythe [n.p., n.d.], 9.)
Verse 28: As further evidence that verse 26 was a detour into the actual Second Coming, the Savior repeats the wars and rumors of wars prophecy. The timeline is therefore back in position for us to follow along. Verse 27 speaks of the gathering of the elect from the four quarters of the earth and the wars and rumors of wars will occur during and after the time of this global missionary effort.

Verse 29: There will be famines and pestilences in divers places. It is my opinion that this helps us pinpoint this prophecy on the timeline better. Joseph Smith once said:
“I have asked of the Lord concerning His coming; and while asking the Lord, He gave a sign and said, "In the days of Noah I set a bow in the heavens as a sign and token that in any year that the bow should be seen the Lord would not come; but there should be seed time and harvest during that year; but whenever you see the bow withdrawn, it shall be a token that there shall be famine, pestilence, and great distress among the nations, and that the coming of the Messiah is not far distant.” (Smith, Joseph. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Joseph F. Smith, 1976., pp. 340-41)
We learn that elsewhere that the symbol of the rainbow is to remind mankind of the City of Enoch and others who have been taken up. It is a reminder that Zion must look upward before Zion above can descend downward. The rainbow disappearing should pinpoint this prophecy to a time after the New Jerusalem has been established and the City of Enoch has descended back.

Verse 30: Draper suggests that the phrase "And again" is the Savior noting the duality of what happened before in Jerusalem shortly after His death and what will happen in the last days.

Verse 31: The Gospel must be preached in all the world, but this does not mean that every person must hear it. Draper comments:
"Indeed, according to D&C 45:50-54, the heathen nations will not be redeemed until the millennial era. The leaders of nations, however, must be forewarned. If they do not respond, they must take responsibility for their people and suffer the consequences." (p. 315)
In this verse, also, we get a definition of 'the end'. It is the destruction of the wicked. This suggests, at least in this context, that there are many people who will not have heard the gospel that are not a part of the wicked.

Verses 32-33: Another abomination of desolation will take place (or the Desolating Sacrilege) in the last days. There is a fair amount of speculation about this. Some people attach it directly to the slaughter of the two special witnesses in Jerusalem (see Revelation 11). Others attach it to the larger siege of Jerusalem during the Battle of Armageddon. McConkie comments:
"In the coming reenactment of this "abomination of desolation," the whole world will be at war, Jerusalem will be the center of the conflict, every modern weapon will be used, and in the midst of the siege the Son of Man shall come, setting his foot upon the mount of Olives and fighting the battle of his saints. (Zech. 12:1-9.) Speaking of these final battles which shall accompany his return, the Lord says: "I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city." However, the final end of the conflict shall be different this time than it was anciently. "Then shall the Lord go forth," the prophetic record says, "and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, ... and the Lord shall be king over all the earth." (Zech. 14.)" (DNTC, digital copy, p. 580)
Some have suggested that the sun will be darkened and the moon not able to give her light because of the destruction; perhaps from a nuclear holocaust? Either way, the Nephites experienced great destruction on their land that resulted in a vapor that darkened the land for hours and days.

Verse 34: The Savior appears to be talking to two different generations. The first is the one alive at Jerusalem at this time during the Savior's ministry and the second one being those who will witness the siege upon Jerusalem in the last days.

Verse 36: The sign of the Son of Man in Heaven is the glory of the Lord lighting up the world as "the morning cometh out of the east" (HC 5:337).

Verse 37: Lots of great things in this verse. Treasuring up the Lord's words refers to the scriptures, but also has a deeper meaning. Russell M. Nelson explains:
"In a coming day, only those men who have taken their priesthood seriously, by diligently seeking to be taught by the Lord Himself, will be able to bless, guide, protect, strengthen, and heal others. Only a man who has paid the price for priesthood power will be able to bring miracles to those he loves and keep his marriage and family safe, now and throughout eternity." (The Price of Priesthood Power, April 2016 General Conference)
It could be those who are not deceived are those who have diligently tried to become acquainted with him. The angels that are sent to gather the elect has a reference to the 144,000 missionary force that will include previous apostles and prophets. The term angel is used almost universally in scriptures to denote those who have received all the temple ordinances and have entered into the Lord's Divine Council through the Holy of Holies. The gathering is to the lands of their inheritance and into the garner of the Holy Temple.

Verse 40: Joseph Smith gives additional insight into this verse:
"Christ says no man knoweth the day or the hour when the Son of Man cometh. This is a sweeping argument for sectarianism against Latter-dayism. Did Christ speak this as a general principle throughout all generations Oh no he spoke in the present tense no man that was then liveing upon the footstool of God knew the day or the hour But he did not say that there was no man throughout all generations that should not know the day or the hour. No for this would be in flat contradiction with other scripture for the prophet says that God will do nothing but what he will reveal unto his Servants the prophets consequently if it is not made known to the Prophets it will not come to pass." - Joseph Smith (Words of Joseph Smith, p. 180-181)
Verses 41-43: The general populace before the Lord's return is compared to those who were alive at the time of the Great Flood. Verse 42 may give us an insight into the kind of people who will fall at the last day. Those who are drinking but also marrying and giving into marriage. President Joseph Fielding Smith might give us an idea of what this means:
"Because the daughters of Noah married the sons of men contrary to the teachings of the Lord, his anger was kindled, and this offense was one cause that brought to pass the universal flood. You will see that the condition appears reversed in the Book of Moses. It was the daughters of the sons of God who were marrying the sons of men, which was displeasing unto the Lord. The fact was, as we see it revealed, that the daughters who had been born, evidently under the covenant, and were the daughters of the sons of God, that is to say of those who held the priesthood, were transgressing the commandment of the Lord and were marrying out of the Church. Thus they were cutting themselves off from the blessings of the priesthood contrary to the teachings of Noah and the will of God." (Answers to Gospel Questions (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 1:136–37)
In short, it appears that many of the covenant, like in the days of Noah, will fall away and participate in forms of marriage not sanctioned by the Lord. It appears to correct this issue the Lord sends a flood or fire.

Verses 44-45: These verses are speaking of what sectarian Christians call 'the Rapture'. D&C 88:95-98 speak of it. The simple implication is that many will be taken off the earth to be spared of the fiery cleansing.

Verse 46: Draper notes that the beginning of this verse is a transition that might give what has been discussed previously more meaning:
"Up to this point, all the Lord’s comments about the last days have been directed to the elect. He now broadens his sweep and gives a sound warning to all those living in the last days." (Draper et al., p. 321)
Verses 51-54: Theses verses can be scary when we consider that only a believer can say "My lord delayeth his coming". This person will turn against the Saints and invoke violence. He will participate in the drinking and false forms of marriage like those who lived in Noah's day. The Lord returns at the last day and sends those who apostatized to a place where weeping and gnashing of teeth exists. This is either a reference to Hell in the spirit world or a reference to Outer Darkness. Either interpretation works.


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