Thursday, February 7, 2008

End Times in LDS Thought

I recently received this email from one of my readers:

"Andrew

How about a post on LDS Eschatology?

Do Mormons believe in things similar to evangelical 'end times' scenarios like....
A Rapture - 7 year tribulation with the beast/antichrist ruling a one world government - ending in Armageddon - and culminating in a millennium rule of Christ on earth.

Or more like...Christ returns - resurrection of the dead - millennial rule - eternity?

Thanks"

Thanks for the question. I must first say I've been very busy this week and haven't had the time I need to gather together much information on the topic. However, I will do my best to answer these questions in a straight-forward way.

Rapture and Tribulation

I have never read anything in LDS literature (or in the Bible for that matter!) that supports this concept of a rapture. As I understand this teaching, some Christians believe that 7 years (some 3 1/2 years) before Christ's coming, the saved will be taken off of planet earth while the devil is allowed free reign. This period will be accompanied by war, pestilence, disease, death, terrible wickedness and destruction. The anti-Christ will then reign over the earth under the direction of the devil. This will be brought to an end when Christ returns to earth, destroys the wicked, and begins his 1000 year reign with the saved.

This idea is often based on Matt. 24:41:

Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.


In this belief system, those who are here "taken" are the righteous who are taken up to heaven before the tribulation. This is reflected in bumper stickers that I've seen that say "Caution, this car will be without driver at the rapture" or similar things.

Can Matt. 24:41 be interpreted this way correctly? Absolutely not. Why not? Like so many scriptures, the context makes it's meaning clear.

"But of that day [the second coming of Jesus] 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. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left" (Matt 24:36-41).

The comparison is clear: in the days of Noah the flood "took [the wicked] all away" and at the second coming of Jesus, the wicked "shall be taken." In an ironic twist, it is the righteous that remain and are not taken. In other words, the reference to being taken refers to the fact that the Lord will destroy the wicked when He comes to rule and reign on earth.

Second Coming and Resurrection

Latter-day Saints believe that Christ will literally return to earth with the same body that he took up from the tomb in Jerusalem. His second coming is soon at hand, but how soon no one knows. At the time of his return, they "who are Christ's" will be resurrected and will come with him to reign on earth. The saints who are yet alive will also be caught up to meet him and come with him at his coming. At this time the earth will be burned, the wicked destroyed, and the world purified.


Latter-day Saints also believe that Jerusalem will be redeemed and the temple restored before Christ's coming under the direction of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in conjunction with the converted of Judah. New Jerusalem will also be built with it's temple in Jackson County, Missouri. These things will happen before Christ comes. LDS interpret Isaiah 2:2 as having reference to the redemption of Jerusalem and the building of New Jerusalem ("Zion") and a day when the ecclesiastical authority will be based in Jerusalem while the political center will be based in the USA.

I realize this isn't very thorough. Your comments, questions, and so forth are more than welcome.

I'd refer you to these important LDS writings on the topic for more information:

Doctrine and Covenants 29

Doctrine and Covenants 45

Doctrine and Covenants 77

Doctrine and Covenants 133

Preperation for the Second Coming

Dallin H. Oaks: The Second Coming of Christ

The Gathering of Scattered Israel

Joseph Smith on The Second Coming and the Millennium

Brigham Young on The Last Days, Millennium, etc

Joseph F. Smith: Preparing for the Second Coming of Christ

Wilford Woodruff: Preparing for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ

7 comments:

Bryce said...

Interesting post!

I believe that the LDS view of rapture is as McConkie put it:

"Of all the resurrections that ever have been or ever will be upon this earth, the most glorious—the one that transcends all others in power, grandeur, and might—will be the resurrection that attends the return of the Lord Jesus. He will come with ten thousands of his saints, all of them resurrected persons from ages past. He will call forth from their graves and from the watery deep ten thousands of his other saints, all of them righteous persons who have lived since his mortal ministry. Those among his saints on earth who are faithful will be caught up to meet him in the clouds of glory, and they will then return to earth with him to live out their appointed days on the new earth with its new heavens." (Millenial Messiah)

Andrew Miller said...

bryce,

Thanks for your contribution. I checked out your blog too. Pretty cool!

Joseph Antley said...

Excellent post. I've always been confused about how Evangelicals view the end times. I've had several explain it to me differently so I don't know that there's any huge consensus.

The whole rapture idea never really made sense to me in terms of scripture anyway.

chad said...

I am going to start using the term neo-evangelical to describe the fundametalist branch of Protestant Evangelicalism & they (neo's) do have a number of end time scernerios in which they differ. All however are based on a 7 year 'tribulation' on Earth with a millenial rule following - mostly the arguements are over the timing of the rapture in relation to the aforementioned tribulation...

Anyway...Andrew this is a good post thanks for putting it up here - I will spend the next night or so looking over the text you linked to it...

Andrew Miller said...

joseph,

As chad indirectly pointed out, it depends on the "evangelical" that you're talking to as far as what they believe. I've heard some that absolutely refuse the concept of "the rapture" like we do. Others buy into it. I have a hard time, however, finding any scriptural support for such an idea. Thanks for coming by!

Chad, I hope you enjoy the readings. If you'd like more narrow topics such as the resurrection, or the nature of the millennium, the gathering of Israel, the building of Zion, etc, I'm sure I could find more for you.

matt b said...

Andrew - you've got the wrong rapture scripture. While fundamentalists sometimes use Matthew in that way, the primary text here is 1 Thessalonians 4:16-7 (NKJV):

16For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:

17Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

Andrew Miller said...

thanks, matt b. From an LDS standpoint, that scripture doesn't mention anything about a rapture, but simply is mentioning as I explained in my post that the righteous dead will be resurrected and the righteous living will be caught up to meet Jesus when he comes and not before he comes as taught by those who espouse the rapture theory.