NEW TESTAMENT - LESSON 21
Matthew 24 / Joseph Smith--Matthew
- Jesus foretells the impending destruction of Jerusalem.
- Jesus describes the signs that will precede the Second Coming.
A study of this lesson will help us recognize the signs that will precede
the Savior's Second Coming and encourage us to prepare for this great event.
The Impending Destruction of Jerusalem
- Jesus' final teaching in the temple.
JS-Matthew 1:2-4: "And Jesus went out, and departed from the
temple; and his disciples came to him, for to hear him, saying: Master,
show us concerning the buildings of the temple, as thou hast said--They
shall be thrown down, and left unto you desolate.
- READ MATTHEW 23:37-39. Jesus laments over doomed
- Bruce R. McConkie on verse 38: "The House of the Lord, constructed
to meet Mosaic needs, is no longer needed in the eternal scheme of things.
Jesus is establishing new ordinances--sacramental emblems instead of sacrificial
offering, among others--and the need for the old temple is over. He is
now giving it back to men; it is no longer 'my house,' but 'your house'."
(Mortal Messiah, 3:408)
"And Jesus said unto them: See
ye not all these things, and do ye not understand them? Verily I say unto
you, there shall not be left here, upon this temple, one stone upon another
that shall not be thrown down.
"And Jesus left them, and went
upon the Mount of Olives. And as he sat upon the Mount of Olives, the disciples
came unto him privately, saying: Tell us when shall these things be which
thou hast said concerning the destruction of the temple, and the Jews;
and what is the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world, or the
destruction of the wicked, which is the end of the world?"
- Bruce R. McConkie: "Upon that holy mount, east of Jerusalem
-- from which the Risen Lord shall soon ascend unto his Father, and where
at the day of his glorious return he shall again place his feet -- there
Jesus and the Twelve rested quietly after an arduous day in the wicked
city below them. Alone there, apart from the maddening throngs of Passover
pilgrims and separated from the cursed leaders of a damned people, Jesus
was prepared to teach and the Twelve to receive the mysteries of the kingdom.
Thoughts of the doomed temple and of the Lord's return to receive the glad
acclaim, 'Blessed is he who cometh in the name of the Lord, in the clouds
of heaven, and all the holy angels with him,' are uppermost in the minds
of the spiritual giants there seated. They propose to the Lord two questions:
"1. 'Tell us, when shall these
things be which thou hast said concerning the destruction of the temple,
and the Jews?'
"2. 'And what is the sign of
thy coming, and of the end of the world? (or the destruction of the wicked,
which is the end of the world.)'" (The Mortal Messiah, 3:424)
- This discourse on the Mount of Olives is also known as the Olivet Discourse.
The discourse comprises Matthew 24 and 25. Matthew 24 contains answers
to the questions raised by the Twelve. Matthew 25 contains parables related
to the Last Days, including the Parable of the Ten Virgins.
- "Over time, the verses in this chapter have been changed and
rearranged, making it sometimes difficult to understand which event a particular
verse describes. Fortunately, as part of his inspired translation of the
Bible, Joseph Smith clarified the two prophecies and restored additional
information. His inspiried translation of Matthew 24 is found in Joseph
Smith--Matthew in the Pearl of Great Price." (Teacher's Manual,
- We will use Joseph Smith--Matthew in our discussion.
The Dispensation of Persecution & Martyrdom
- WHAT DID JESUS PROPHESY ABOUT THE TEMPLE IN JERUSALEM AND THE CITY
READ JS-MATTHEW 1:5-10. Signs to precede the destruction
- That "there shall not be left here, upon this temple, one stone
upon another that shall not be thrown down" (v3).
- V12 refers to the "abomination of desolation" or the
destruction of Jerusalem (spoken of by Daniel).
READ JS-MATTHEW 1:11-15. How to avoid destruction.
- WHAT SIGNS DID THE SAVIOR PROPHESY WOULD PRECEDE THE DESTRUCTION OF
- It is important to note that in verses 5-10, Jesus is prophesying about
the events that would precede the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jews.
- Verse 7 refers to the early Christians. This description of the suffering
of the early Christians in Rome was written: "Covered with the
skins of wild beasts, they were doomed to die by the mangling of dogs,
or by being nailed to crosses; or to be set on fire and burnt after twilight
by way of nightly illumination." (see Mortal Messiah, 3:428)
- WHAT BEHAVIORS AND ATTITUDES ARE COMMON IN A GENERATION WHERE INIQUITY
- "many shall come in my name, saying--I am Christ--and shall
deceive many" (v6).
- "then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another,
and shall hate one another" (v8).
- "iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold"
- Though these signs were prophesied to precede the destruction of ancient
Jerusalem, these signs should serve as a warning in all ages. Do we see
these signs in our own day?
Jerusalem and the Abomination of Desolation.
- WHAT DID JESUS TELL HIS FOLLOWERS TO DO TO AVOID DESTRUCTION?
- Remain steadfast (v11).
- Stand in holy places (v12).
- Flee rapidly from Judea (v13-15).
- THE LORD COUNSELED HIS PEOPLE, WHEN THEY SAW THIS DESTRUCTION, TO STAND
IN THE HOLY PLACE. WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
- Bruce R. McConkie: "The counsel that the saints should then
'stand in the holy place' means that they should assemble together were
they could receive prophetic guidance that would preserve them from the
desolations of the day. The place of their assembly became holy because
of the righteousness of the holy ones who comprised the Lord's congregation."
(Mortal Messiah, 3:429-430)
- HOW DOES THIS APPLY TO US IN THIS DAY?
- When we gather together as "righteous" saints to hear the
counsel of the Lord's servants we also stand in holy places. We stand in
"the holy place" when we gather in Sunday meetings and conferences
to learn the will of the Lord. Standing in "the holy place" arms
us against the rising tide of wickedness that leads to eventual destruction.
- D&C 115:5-6: "Verily I say unto you all: Arise and shine
forth, that thy light may be a standard for the nations;
"And that the gathering together
upon the land of Zion, and upon her stakes, may be 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."
- JS-Matthew 1:18-19: "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."
- Bruce R. McConkie: "Whatever may be said of the sufferings
and sorrows and death of the Lord's saints in the age of martyrdom, it
was but a type and a shadow of the vengeance and slaughter destined to
be poured out upon the Jews of that generation. The synagogues in which
apostles were scourged would soon be drenched in the blood of those who
wielded the lash. The currents of hatred that swept many of Jesus' disciples
to untimely deaths would soon become a great tidal wave of anger and animosity
against the Jewish people that would destroy their city, overrun their
nation, and scatter their people. Those who with Roman hands crucified
their King at Jerusalem would soon themselves be hanging by the thousands
upon Roman crosses in that same benighted area." (Mortal Messiah,
- The ancient Jews did not believe that their great city and temple could
be destroyed. As noted by Elder McConkie, the Lord's prophecies were fulfilled.
In 66 A.D. the Jews revolted against the Romans. They believed the Messiah
would come and help them in battle. By 70 A.D. the Romans had destroyed
the entire city.
What happened to the ancient Jews should
serve as a warning to us in our day. I once read that the reason history
repeats itself is because no one listened the first time. The Lord will
not allow wickedness to continue. The ancients of the Old Testament and
Book of Mormon times stand as witnesses of this fact. "And thus
we see that the Lord did visit them in the fulness of his wrath, and their
wickedness and abominations had prepared a way for their everlasting destruction"
Today (May 21) was a beautiful Northwest
spring day. As I walked home from the bus this afternoon, I walked through
a small stretch of woods and through a quiet neighborhood. As I made my
way home, I wondered how such things as happened to the Jews could happen
in our time. It just doesn't seem possible that such a thing could happen
in our time and to our society. And, I suppose, that is what these ancient
Jews thought. And, yet, the Lord has spoken to us in our time and issued
the warning, "And thus, with the sword and by bloodshed the inhabitants
of the earth shall mourn; and with famine, and plague, and earthquake,
and the thunder of heaven, and the fierce and vivid lightning also, shall
the inhabitants of the earth be made to feel the wrath, and indignation,
and chastening hand of an Almighty God, until the consumption decreed hath
made a full end of all nations" (D&C 87:6).
We must not take the Lord's warning lightly.
We must do as he has instructed, "Wherefore, stand ye in holy places,
and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come; for behold, it cometh
quickly, saith the Lord" (D&C 87:8).
Signs To Precede The Second Coming
- In verse 21, Jesus makes the transitition from the ancient time to
the Last Days, the time preceding the Second Coming.
- V22: "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."
V23: "Behold, I speak these things unto you for the elect's
sake; and you also shall hear of wars, and rumors of wars; see that ye
be not troubled, for all I have told you must come to pass; but the end
is not yet."
- WHAT EVIDENCE DO WE SEE THAT THIS PROPHECY IS BEING FULFILLED?
- Bruce R. McConkie: "False Christs are false systems of religion,
false ways of worship, false claims as to how and in what manner men may
be saved, all of which are taught by false ministers who are false prophets.
And such is the state of modern Christendom." (A New Witness for
the Articles of Faith, p626)
- Bruce R. McConkie: "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." (A New Witness
for the Articles of Faith, p626)
- HOW CAN WE PROTECT OURSELVES FROM BEING DECEIVED BY FALSE PROPHETS?
- "And whoso treasureth up my word, shall not be deceived"
V27: "And now I show unto you a parable. 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.
- V28: "And they shall hear of wars, and rumors of wars."
- WHAT EVIDENCE DO YOU SEE THAT THIS PROPHECY IS BEING FULFILLED?
- THE LORD SAID THAT WE SHOULD "BE NOT TROUBLED" BY ALL OF
THIS. HOW CAN WE FIND PEACE DURING TROUBLED TIMES?
- D&C 6:34-36: "Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good;
let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock,
they cannot prevail.
"Behold, I do not condemn you;
go your ways and sin no more; perform with soberness the work which I have
"Look unto me in every thought;
doubt not, fear not."
- M. Russell Ballard: "Although the prophecies tell us that these
things are to take place, more and more people are expressing great alarm
at what appears to be an acceleration of worldwide calamity.... Admittedly
we have ample reason to be deeply concerned because we see no immediate
answers to the seemingly unsolvable problems confronting the human family.
But regardless of this dark picture, which will ultimately get worse, we
must never allow ourselves to give up hope!...
"...The Lord is in control. He
knows the end from the beginning. He has given us adequate instructionn,
that if followed, will see us safely through any crisis. His purposes will
be fulfilled, and someday we will understand the eternal reasons for all
of these events. Therefore, today we must be careful not to overreact,
nor should we be caught up in extreme preparations; but what we must do
is keep the commandments of God and never lose hope!
"But where do we find hope in
the midst of such turmoil and catastrophe? Quite simply, our one hope for
spiritual safety during these turbulent times is to turn our minds and
our hearts to Jesus Christ.... Armed with the shield of faith, we can overcome
many of our daily challenges and overpower our greatest weaknessed and
fears, knowing that if we do our best to keep the commandments of God,
come what may, we will be all right." (Ensign, Nov. 1992, pp31-32)
V29-30: "Behold I speak for mine elect's sake; for nation shall
rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there shall be famines,
and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
- James E. Talmage: "The 'body,' as that of the Church, is rendered
'carcase' in both authorized and revised versions." (Jesus
The Christ, p532)
- Bruce R. McConkie: "And so we see the eagles of Israel
scattered by the four winds from one end of heaven to the other. We see
them flying in the skies of all nations in search of spiritual food, waiting
for a day when life-assuring morsels will come into view. They are free,
independent thinkers, anxious to escape the darkness of the night and to
soar into the dawn of a new day. The creeds of men do not feed their souls.
They are not at rest in the lands of their scattering. They yearn for that
which their fathers enjoyed in the days of their ancient glory.
"Then the food that will feed
their souls is made available. The gospel is restored; the Book of Mormon
comes forth; the gifts and graces enjoyed by the ancients are again found
on earth. It is time for Israel to come home. The eagles are invited to
feast upon the good word of God. They seek the food that satisfies the
soul. They descend from their lofty heights of worldliness and feast upon
those things of which men may eat and never hunger more. The gospel gathers
Israel, and where it is, there the eagles of Israel shall be found."
(The Millennial Messiah, p352)
- V31: "And again, this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached
in all the world, for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end
come, or the destruction of the wicked."
- HOW ARE THESE PROPHECIES BEING FULFILLED TODAY?
- The fulfillment of these verses began after the organization of the
Church when the first brethren went on mission to preach the good news
of the Restoration. What we see today is a quickening of what began nearly
170 years ago. Consider this quickening.
Membership: In the year of my birth, the
membership of the Church stood at just over 1 million members. When I went
on my mission in 1971, membership surpassed the 3 million mark. At the
end of 1998, membership stood at 10,354,241.
Stakes: In the month of my birth (December
1951), the 191st stake of the Church was created. About a year before my
mission, the 500th stake was organized. At the end of 1998, there were
2,505 stakes in the Church.
Temples: I believe there were 8 working temples
at the time of my birth. By the time I went on my mission there were 5
more, with 2 under construction. At the end of 1998, there were 53 temples
in operation and 45 more underconstruction or announced.
The above are indicators of growth. What
is even more significant in fulfilling this prophecy is how the face of
the Church and missionary work has changed. The number of missionaries
serving has quadrupled since I left on my mission in 1971. In the year
of my birth, the vast majority of the Church membership lived in the intermountain
west. Now, more than half of the membership lives outside of the United
States. There are now branches of the Church in such exotic places as the
Ukraine, Ghana, India, Thailand, Peru, etc. What is significant, is that
so much of this change has taken place in the past few years. The Lord's
prophecy is rapidly being fulfilled.
"And again, because iniquity
shall abound, the love of men shall wax cold; but he that shall not be
overcome, the same shall be saved."
- WHAT EVIDENCE DO WE SEE THAT THESE PROPHECIES ARE BEING FULFILLED?
- As we have seen a quickening in the extension of the gospel to the
inhabitants of the earth, we have also seen a quickening in the fulfillment
of verses 29 and 30. As we approach the close of the 20th Century, we can
look back at a century that was the most brutal in the history of mankind.
Two great wars were fought causing the deaths of 10s of millions of people.
Hundreds of smaller wars and conflicts have been waged and continue to
The numbers and intensity of natural disasters
seem to be increasing. Elder Ballard, in his October 1992 conference address
indicated disastrous earthquakes have increased in every decade of this
century over the previous decade, except for the 1940s. The intensity of
storms seems to be increasing as we view the power of hurricanes like those
of Andrew and last year's Mitch and the recent super tornado that did so
much damage in Oklahoma.
Iniquity seems to be growing as we see evidenced
in the media culture. What we see in the movies today, was not believed
possible only a few years ago. The television brings into our homes a culture
that is the antithesis of what righteous people stand for. Brutality is
glorified. Immorality is made to look desireable. It is becoming increasingly
evident around us. There is amble evidence that the love of men continues
to wax cold when we see disasters such as the Oklahoma bombing and our
youth shooting each other in their own schools.
- Bruce R. McConkie: "Ours is the dispensation of desolation
and war that will be climaxed by a worldwide Armageddon of butchery and
blood at the very hour of the coming of the Son of Man. Jesus speaks thus
for the elect's sake; none ohters can read the signs of the times. Carnal
men will consider war as a way of life and a norm of society, not as a
scourge sent of God to cleanse the earth preparatory to the return of his
"Nor is war all we face; as the
crusades of carnage increase, so will the plagues and pestilence. Famine
and disease will stalk the earth. And for some reason, as yet undiscovered
by modern geologists, earthquakes will increase in number and intensity.
These are the last days, and the judgments of God are at hand.
"All this will be because iniquity
abounds. Sin is the father of all the ills poured out upon mankind."
(Mortal Messiah, 3:441)
- HOW CAN WE PREPARE FOR THE CHALLENGES BROUGHT ON BY THE FULFILLMENT
OF THESE PROPHECIES?
- As previously discussed, the Lord taught his followers to "stand
in the holy place".
- WHAT ARE SOME HOLY PLACES IN WHICH WE MAY STAND? HOW WILL THESE
PLACES PROTECT US DURING THE DIFFICULTIES OF THE LAST DAYS?
- Ezra Taft Benson: "Holy men and holy women stand in holy places,
and these holy places include our temples, our chapels, our homes, and
the 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'."
- Consider these notes from Old
Testament Lesson 48:
- If we have studied the scriptures and the words of the prophets, we
know that difficult times are ahead. Brothers Blaine and Brenton Yorgason
wrote a wonderful book entitled Spiritual Survival In The Last Days.
In the first section of the book the Yorgason brothers outline some of
the difficulties that will challenge us as we approach the time of the
Second Coming. They then list some practices that will enable us to spiritually
survive through these difficult times. These include:
- Gaining a personal testimony and what we need to do to accomplish that..
- Sincere and humble repentance.
- Following the Lord's living prophets, which includes:
- Food storage.
- President Wilford Woodruff: "Lay up your wheat and other provisions
against a day of need, for the day will come when they will be wanted and
no mistake about it. We shall want bread, and the Gentiles will want bread,
and if we are wise we shall have something to feed them and ourselves when
famine comes." (JD, 18:121)
- Avoiding debt.
- President Gordon B. Hinckley: "I am suggesting that the time
has come to get out houses in order....
"I urge you, brethren, to look
to the condition of your finances. I urge you to be modest in your expenditures;
discipline yourselves in your purchases to avoid debt to the extent possible.
Pay off debt as quickly as you can, and free yourselves from bondage."
(Ensign, Nov. 1998, pp53-54)
- Living the Word of Wisdom.
- Sexual purity.
- Temple attendance.
- Receive personal revelation.
- Strive to rear spiritually unified families.
- D&C 38:28-30: "And again, I say unto you that the enemy
in the secret chambers seeketh your lives.
"Ye hear of wars in far countries,
and you say that there will soon be great wars in far countries, but ye
know not the hearts of men in your own land.
"I tell you these things because
of your prayers; wherefore, treasure up wisdom in your bosoms, lest the
wickedness of men reveal these things unto you by their wickedness, in
a manner which shall speak in your ears with a voice louder than that which
shall shake the earth; but if ye are prepared ye shall not fear."
The Second Coming
- The abomination of desolation at the Second Coming.
The glories attending our Lord's return.
- READ JS-MATTHEW 1:33-36. Sign of the Son of Man.
- Bruce R. McConkie: "Jerusalem, this time besieged by the armies
of the earth, shall be direly desolated. But this time there will be a
different destiny. The Lord himself will come to fight her battles; a remnant
of the people will be saved; and the Gentile Jerusalem will become again
a Jewish Jerusalem. Sodomic influences will be consumed with devouring
fire, and the New Jerusalem will become, in all her glory and magnificence,
the spiritual capital of the world." (Mortal Messiah, 3:447)
When will the Son of Man come?
- READ JS-MATTHEW 1:37. Jesus to return heralded
Watch, Pray, Take Heed, Be Ready!
- READ JS-MATTHEW 1:38-48.
- Bruce R. McConkie: "So shall it be with the destruction of
the wicked, which is the end of the world. Such shall come without warning,
as a thief in the night, where the wicked and ungodly are concerned. But
with the elect of God, it is quite another matter. Though they do not know
the day or the hour, yet the season and the generation are clearly revealed.
It shall be the season and the generation in which the signs of the times
are manifest." (Mortal Messiah, 3:455)
- READ JS-MATTHEW 1:49-50. Blessed are those busy
in doing good.
- WHAT CAN WE DO TO PREPARE FOR HIS COMING?
As I conclude preparation for this lesson,
it is a warm spring Northwest morning. It is easy on such a day to forget
that here in the Pacific Northwest, the rain will return. Inhabitants of
this region need to pay attention to the weather forcast and keep an eye
on the sky or they may be caught in the rain unprepared.
A few years ago, I took my daughter and a
friend on a planned bicycle ride of about 50 miles in preparation for riding
in the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic. When we left home, the sky
was overcast, not untypical for late spring and early summer. These overcast
days do not necessarily mean rain. We left home without preparing sufficiently
for rainy weather. Less than halfway into the ride it started to drizzle.
We continued on and so did the rain. Eventually, we became so cold that
we had to call home for a ride.
Another time, my son and I were preparing
for a cross-country bicycle ride and set out for a 100 miler. It had been
raining, but it had stopped and the sky was starting to clear. The forcast
was for improvement. What we failed to check was the weather for the entire
route. We ended up riding into a cold spring rain woefully unprepared.
We thought we could ride through it. Again, we became so cold that we dared
not continue further. In fact, we were so cold that we didn't dare wait
for a ride from home (at least a couple hours) so we returned to the nearest
town and checked into a motel for the night. Fortunately, the weather did
clear and we continued our ride the following day.
Most of us have had experiences of getting
caught in inclement weather unprepared because we either failed to check
the forecast or we failed to heed it. In the Olivet Discourse, the Savior
has given us the forecast. We need to, from time to time, compare the forecast
to current conditions and make adjustments in our preparation. It is one
thing to get caught unprepared in the rain, it will be quite another if
we are caught unprepared as the events of the last days continue to unfold.
While making the above bicycle trips we were seeking out dry places to
give us shelter from the storm. The great storm described by the Master
has started and we need to seek out "holy places" to give us
refuge from latter-day conditions.
It is frustrating to me, as I have prepared this lesson, to go through
Matthew 24 (Joseph Smith-Matthew) and spend so little time. And yet this
is already the longest outline I have prepared in over a year. There is
so much information contained in this chapter. It would be interesting
to gather more statistics regarding the events of the last days. I we could
certainly discuss in greater detail how to prepare for these events. It
behooves each of us to go beyond these brief lessons and do more in individual
and family study.
One final note, in summary. Over the past year, I have become a student
of the year 2000 computer problem. The potential consequences of the Y2K
bug have persuaded my wife and I to renew our effort in bringing our family
food storage program in compliance with the teaching of the Brethren. We
are not "caught up in extreme preparations" as Elder Ballard
described it. But the signs of a potential problem have persuaded us to
redouble our efforts in temporal preparation. The Master has provided us
with a forecast for the Last Days. As we see these events begin to accelerate,
we need to redouble our efforts in filing our spiritual storerooms. It
temporal preparation is important, then spiritual preparation is vital.
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