The blood red lunar eclipse generated a lot of buzz about the Savior’s Second Coming. The buzz lends perfectly to review the description of latter-day signs Jesus Christ gave His disciples in Matthew 24. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often inadvertently called Mormons), believe that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, will return in great glory to the earth at the end of times—initiating mankind’s time of judgment and also a time of peace called the Millennium.
Jesus derided wicked, scheming people when they asked Him to “shew them a sign from heaven” by asking, “Can ye not discern the signs of the times?” (Matthew 16:1-4). The Lord promised His servants, “Unto you it shall be given to know the signs of the times, and the signs of the coming of the Son of Man” (Doctrine and Covenants 68:11).
President Joseph Fielding Smith taught
As used in the scriptures, signs are the recognizable events or occurrences which identify present and which portend future events. They are omens, prodigies, wonders, and marvels of abnormal occurrence. Times means the age, era, period, or dispensation involved. Thus the signs of the times for our age or dispensation are the marvelous events-differing in kind, extent, or magnitude from events of past times—which identify the dispensation of the fullness of times and presage the Second Advent of our Lord. (‘Signs of the Times’; Doctrines of Salvation, vol 3, pg 19).
Matthew 24 is a beautifully concise listing of many of the signs preceding the Savior’s second coming. Latter-day Saints believe the Prophet Joseph Smith’s translation of Matthew 24 places events in a more easily understood order of things: the destruction of Jerusalem that would happen near the time of His death and then signs associated with the end of the world.
“Blessed is he who cometh in the name of the Lord, in the clouds of heaven, and all the holy angels with him. Then understood his disciples that he should come again on the earth, after that he was glorified and crowned on the right hand of God” (Matthew 23:39; Joseph Smith-Matthew 1:1).
The Temple will be destroyed—“there shall not be left here, upon this temple, one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down” (Matthew 24:3; Joseph Smith-Matthew 1:2).
Jewish uprising against Roman rule in 70 A.D. resulted in fulfillment of the Savior’s prophecy that the temple and Jerusalem would be destroyed. Historian Flavius Josephus recorded the horrific and complete annihilation, estimating 1,100,000 Jews perished,
“While the temple blazed, the victors plundered everything that fell in their way and slaughtered wholesale all who were caught. No pity was shown for age, no reverence for rank; children and greybeards, laity and priests, alike were massacred; every class was pursued and encompassed in the grasp of war. … There were the war-cries of the Roman legions sweeping onward in mass, the howls of the rebels encircled by fire and sword, the rush of the people who, cut off from above, fled panic-stricken only to fall into the arms of the foe. … You would indeed have thought that the temple-hill was boiling over from its base, being everywhere one mass of flame, but yet that the stream of blood was more copious than the flames and the slain more numerous than the slayers” (Josephus, The Jewish War, trans. H. St. J. Thackeray, Loeb Classical Library [Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1928], 257).
Signs of the Savior’s Second Coming
False Christs, Apostasy from truth, False Prophets—“For many shall come in my name, saying—I am Christ—and shall deceive many; 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 arise, and shall deceive many. For in those days there shall also arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch, that, if possible, they shall deceive the very elect, who are the elect according to the covenant” (Matthew 24:5, 9-11, 23-24; Joseph Smith-Matthew 1:6-9, 22).
Jesus clearly warned His disciples to cling to His teachings prior to His second coming. One way Mormons believe that is possible is by maintaining a relationship with God, following promptings of the Holy Ghost, and through the enabling power of Jesus Christ’s atonement. God promised that He would follow a pattern to reveal His truths: through prophets, through two or more witnesses, through priesthood authority and church organization.
President Joseph F. Smith counseled
“‘We can accept nothing as authoritative but that which comes directly through the appointed channel, the constituted organizations of the priesthood, which is the channel that God has appointed through which to make known His mind and will to the world. … And the moment that individuals look to any other source, that moment they throw themselves open to the seductive influences of Satan. … Whenever you see a man rise up claiming to have received direct revelation from the Lord to the Church, independent of the order and channel of the priesthood, you may set him down as an impostor’ (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. , 42)” (“Beware of False Prophets and False Teachers,” Ensign, Nov. 1999, 62).
Flourishing sin causes Love to was cold—“And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matthew 24:12; Joseph Smith-Matthew 1:10, 30).
As sin invades our lives, we tend to grow more selfish and self-centered, viewing those around us as obstacles and opponents to our happiness. Our sinful self-interest does not allow for compassion or empathy, until finally love extinguishes.
Elder M. Russell Ballard said,
“Much adversity is man-made. Men’s hearts turn cold, and the spirit of Satan controls their actions. In foreseeing the day of suffering in our time, the Savior said, “The love of men shall wax cold, and iniquity shall abound”. Violence, immorality, and other evils run rampant on the earth. Much adversity has its origin in the principle of agency.
We tend to think of agency as a personal matter. If we ask someone to define “moral agency,” the answer will probably be something like this: “Moral agency means I am free to make choices for myself.” Often overlooked is the fact that choices have consequences; we forget also that agency offers the same privilege of choice to others. At times we will be affected adversely by the way other people choose to exercise their agency. Our Heavenly Father feels so strongly about protecting our agency that he allows his children to exercise it, either for good or for evil” (“Answers to Life’s Questions,” Ensign, May, 1995).
Abomination of Desolation at Jerusalem—“When you, therefore, shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, then you shall stand in the holy place; whoso readeth let him understand. Then let them who are in Judea flee into the mountains…” For then, in those days, shall be great tribulation on the Jews, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, such as was not before sent upon Israel, of God, since the beginning of their kingdom until this time; no, nor ever shall be sent again upon Israel. All things which have befallen them are only the beginning of the sorrows which shall come upon them. And except those days should be shortened, there should none of their flesh be saved; but for the elect’s sake, according to the covenant, those days shall be shortened (Matthew 24:15-16; Joseph Smith-Matthew 1:12-13, 18-20).
The Bible Dictionary defines the abomination of desolation:
“Daniel spoke prophetically of a day when there would be ‘the abomination that maketh desolate’ (Daniel 11:31; 12:11), and the phrase was recoined in New Testament times to say ‘the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet’ (Matthew 24:15).
“Conditions of desolation, born of abomination and wickedness, were to occur twice in fulfillment of Daniel’s words. The first was to be when the Roman legions under Titus, in A.D. 70, laid siege to Jerusalem (Matthew 24:15;Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:12).
“Speaking of the last days, of the days following the Restoration of the gospel and its declaration ‘for a witness unto all nations,’ our Lord said: ‘And again shall the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, be fulfilled’ (Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:31–32). That is, Jerusalem again will be under siege.
“In a general sense, abomination of desolation also describes the latter-day judgments to be poured out upon the wicked wherever they may be. And so that the honest in heart may escape these things, the Lord sends His servants forth to raise the warning voice, to declare the glad tidings of the Restoration, lest ‘desolation and utter abolishment’ come upon them [Doctrine and Covenants 84:114]” (Bible Dictionary, “Abomination of desolation”).
Mormons believe in standing in holy places for refuge against the storms prior to Jesus Christ’s second coming. Of holy places, President Ezra Taft Benson said,
“holy places consist of our temples, our chapels, our homes, and stakes of Zion, which are, as the Lord declares, ‘for a defense, and for a refuge from the storm, and from wrath when it shall be poured out without mixture upon the whole earth’ (Doctrine and Covenants 115:6)” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson , 106).
Wars and Rumors of Wars—“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” (Matthew 24:6-7, Joseph Smith-Matthew 1:28-29).
President Gordon B. Hinckley said,
“We live in a season when fierce men do terrible and despicable things. We live in a season of war. We live in a season of arrogance. We live in a season of wickedness, pornography, immorality. All of the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah haunt our society. We have never seen more clearly the lecherous face of evil. And so, my brothers and sisters, we are met together in this great conference to fortify and strengthen one another, to help and lift one another, to give encouragement and build faith, to reflect on the wonderful things the Lord has made available to us, and to strengthen our resolve to oppose evil in whatever form it may take.
We have become as a great army. We are now a people of consequence. Our voice is heard when we speak up. We have demonstrated our strength in meeting adversity. Our strength is our faith in the Almighty. No cause under the heavens can stop the work of God. Adversity may raise its ugly head. The world may be troubled with wars and rumors of wars, but this cause will go forward.
You are familiar with these great words written by the Prophet Joseph: “No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done” (History of the Church, 4:540)” (“Living in the Fulness of Times,” Ensign, November 2001).
Restoration of the Lord’s Church in the latter days– “Behold, wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together; so likewise shall mine elect be gathered from the four quarters of the earth ” (Matthew 24:28; Joseph Smith-Matthew 1:27).
The re-establishment of the Lord’s Church after its apostasy, or falling away, occurred in 1830 under Jesus Christ’s direction to the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie said
“In the parable, as here given, the carcass is the body of the Church to which the eagles, who are Israel, shall fly to find nourishment” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 1:648).
Famines, Pestilences, and Earthquakes in divers places—“there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places” (Matthew 24:7; Joseph Smith-Matthew 1:29).
President Joseph Fielding Smith explained the purposes of calamities preceding the Savior’s second coming:
“We believe that these severe, natural calamities are visited upon men by the Lord for the good of his children, to quicken their devotion to others, and to bring out their better natures, that they may love and serve him. We believe, further, that they are the heralds and tokens of his final judgment, and the schoolmasters to teach the people to prepare themselves by righteous living for the coming of the Savior to reign upon the earth” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith , 393).
Gospel preached to all the world—“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 24:14 Joseph Smith-Matthew 1: 31).
An important responsibility for every disciple of Christ, and especially felt by Latter-day Saints, is to spread the Gospel throughout the world before Christ’s second coming.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said,
“There is a way for everyone … to participate in this great work. We can each find a way to use our own particular talents and interests in support of the great work of filling the world with light and truth.”
President Henry B. Eyring said,
“Whatever our age, capacity, Church calling, or location, we are as one called to the work to help Him in His harvest of souls.”
President Thomas S. Monson said,
“Wishing will not make it so. The Lord expects our thinking. He expects our action. He expects our labors. He expects our testimonies. He expects our devotion.”
Sun will be darkened, moon will not give its light, stars fall from heaven—“the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven shall be shaken” (Matthew 24: 29; Joseph Smith-Matthew 1: 33).
Signs in the heavens are another visible witness the Lord gives to His saints to help them prepare for His second coming.
President Ezra Taft Benson said,
“I realize this is an unpleasant topic on which to dwell. I take no delight in its portrayal, nor do I look forward to the day when calamities shall come with increasing number upon humanity. But these words are not my own; the Lord has spoken them. Knowing what we know as his servants, can we hesitate to raise a warning voice to all who will listen that they may be prepared for the days ahead? Silence in the face of such calamity is sin!
“But to an otherwise gloomy picture there is a bright side—the coming of our Lord in all his glory. His coming will be both glorious and terrible, depending on the spiritual condition of those who remain” (“Prepare Yourselves for the Great Day of the Lord,” in Brigham Young University 1981 Fireside and Devotional Speeches , 66–67).
The Savior’s coming will be like the rising sun, then the sign of the Son of man will appear in heaven—“For as the light of the morning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west, and covereth the whole earth, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together the remainder of his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:27, 30-31 ; Joseph Smith-Matthew 1:26, 36-37).
The restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ started as a small speck on the horizon, and now fills the sky as the rising sun with truth about Diety. The Savior has returned to the earth again, as witnessed by few, but at the end of times, the whole world will witness His coming.
The Prophet Joseph Smith said,
“Then will appear one grand sign of the Son of Man in heaven. But what will the world do? They will say it is a planet, a comet, etc. But the Son of Man will come as the sign of the coming of the Son of Man, which will be as the light of the morning cometh out of the east” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 252–53).
Caveats to Prepare for Christ’s Second Coming
His word shall be fulfilled—“Although, the days will come, that heaven and earth shall pass away; yet my words shall not pass away, but all shall be fulfilled” (Matthew 24:35; Joseph Smith-Matthew 1:35).
No one knows the day or hour—“But of that day, and hour, no one knoweth; no, not the angels of God in heaven, but my Father only” (Matthew 24:36 ; Joseph Smith-Matthew 1:40).
A Precedence—“But as it was in the days of Noah, so it shall be also at the coming of the Son of Man; For it shall be with them, as it was in the days which were before the flood; for until the day that Noah entered into the ark they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage; And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:37-39; Joseph Smith-Matthew 1:41-43).
Be ready—“And what I say unto one, I say unto all men; watch, therefore, for you know not at what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, if the good man of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to have been broken up, but would have been ready. Therefore be ye also ready, for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of Man cometh.” (Matthew 24:42-44 ; Joseph Smith-Matthew 1:46-48).
Be not troubled– “Be not troubled, for all I have told you must come to pass” (Matthew 24:6; Joseph Smith-Matthew 1:23).
President Thomas S. Monson said
“Though the storm clouds may gather, though the rains may pour down upon us, our knowledge of the gospel and our love of our Heavenly Father and of our Savior will comfort and sustain us and bring joy to our hearts as we walk uprightly and keep the commandments. There will be nothing in this world that can defeat us.
“My beloved brothers and sisters, fear not. Be of good cheer. The future is as bright as your faith” (“Be of Good Cheer,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2009, 92).
Elder Dallin H. Oaks encouraged us to be prepared always for the Second Coming:
“While we are powerless to alter the fact of the Second Coming and unable to know its exact time, we can accelerate our own preparation and try to influence the preparation of those around us. …
“What if the day of His coming were tomorrow? If we knew that we would meet the Lord tomorrow—through our premature death or through His unexpected coming—what would we do today? What confessions would we make? What practices would we discontinue? What accounts would we settle? What forgivenesses would we extend? What testimonies would we bear?
“If we would do those things then, why not now? Why not seek peace while peace can be obtained? If our lamps of preparation are drawn down, let us start immediately to replenish them” (“Preparation for the Second Coming,” 8–9).
Click here to view a comprehensive list of the signs of the Savior’s Second Coming: Signs of the Times