Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Last Judgment

                    I had the opportunity in recent weeks to study the Revelation of John in the New Testament.  I found the book to be very interesting.  John, the writer of this book, was an Apostle of the Lord, Jesus Christ, and he came from a culture that used symbolism extensively in its language and literature.  Many people have difficulty understanding the symbolism in John's writing, and the book of Revelation can seem strange and confusing if we interpret the images literally.  We can find the book easier to understand if we remember that many of the images are symbolic and represent people, things, or concepts with which we are already familiar. 

                    Six hundred years before the time of Jesus Christ and His Apostles, an ancient American prophet named Nephi also had a vision where an angel gave him a "tour" through history and showed him many of the same things that John saw.  After showing Nephi some of these things, the angel told Nephi:  "Look!
                    "And I looked and beheld a man, and he was dressed in a white robe.
                    "And the angel said unto me:  Behold one of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
                    "Behold, he shall see and write the remainder of these things; yea, and also many things which have been.
                    "And he shall also write concerning the end of the world.
                    "Wherefore, the things which he shall write are just and true; and behold they are written in the book which thou beheld proceeding out of the mouth of the Jew [Bible]; and at the time they proceeded out of the mouth of the Jew, or, at the time the book proceeded out of the mouth of the Jew, the things which were written were plain and pure, and most precious and easy to the understanding of all men.
                    "And behold, the things which this apostle of the Lamb shall write are many things which thou hast seen; and behold, the remainder shalt thou see.
                    "But the things which thou shalt see hereafter thou shalt not write; for the Lord God hath ordained the apostle of the Lamb of God that he should write them.
                    " And also others who have been, to them hath he shown all things, and they have written them; and they are sealed up to come forth in their purity, according to the truth which is in the Lamb, in the own due time of the Lord, unto the house of Israel.
                    "And I, Nephi, heard and bear record, that the name of the apostle of the Lamb was John, according to the word of the angel."  (See Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Nephi 14:18-27; italics added.)

                    John was one of the original Apostles of the Savior and was one of the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ in his day.  He was banished by the Roman government to Patmos, a small island off the west coast of present-day Turkey, because he bore testimony of Jesus Christ.  While he was on the island, an angel visited John and gave him a revelation.

                    The book of Revelation is written primarily in symbolic language.  Its theme is that "there will be an eventual triumph on this earth of God over the devil; a permanent victory of good over evil, of the saints over their persecutors, of the kingdom of God over the kingdoms of men and of Satan….  The details about the beasts, the wars, the angels, the men, etc., contribute to the development of this theme.  By a little study, the theme can be perceived even if the details are not completely identified" (Bible Dictionary, "Revelation of John," 762).

                    The book of Revelation is divided into sections.  The first three chapters are introductory; they record John's testimony of the truthfulness of the revelation, John's instructions from the Lord, and John's counsel to the seven branches of the Church in Asia.  Chapter 4 records John's vision of heaven, and chapters 5-20 record his vision of the triumphant destiny of God's kingdom.  This vision shows the battles against Satan's kingdom, the destruction of Satan's kingdom, and the final scenes in the world's history.  Chapter 21 contains a vision of the new heaven and new earth - the world in its celestial state (21:1-5).  The book of Revelation concludes with the angel's testimony and additional counsel from the Lord.

                    Chapters 5 and 6 in the Revelation use the symbol of a book that is "sealed with seven seals" 5:1).  According to Doctrine and Covenants 77:6-7, each seal represents a thousand-year period of the earth's temporal existence.  The first five seals are covered in 11 verses, the sixth seal is covered in 14 verses, and the seventh seal is covered in 226 verses.  It is obvious where John put the emphasis because he gave the most attention to the events of our time period and the one to come.  The book of Revelation was written for our day, and our lives will be blessed as we study it and prepare for the Second Coming of the Savior.

                    Revelation 6 tells us that Satan has fought against the righteous people throughout the history of the earth.  Satan used violence and warfare (6:4, 8) as well as hunger and famine (6:5-6, 8) to gain control over mankind according to Revelation 6:4-11.  He uses those same problems in our day - contention, riots, uprisings, etc.

                    President Gordon B. Hinckley stated:  "That war, so bitter, so intense, has gone on, and it has never ceased.  It is the war between truth and error, between agency and compulsion, between the followers of Christ and those who have denied Him.  His enemies have used every stratagem in that conflict.  They've indulged in lying and deceit.  They've murdered and destroyed and engaged in every other unholy and impure practice to thwart the work of Christ….
                    "[Opposition] has been felt in the undying efforts of many, both within and without the Church, to destroy faith, to belittle, to demean, to bear false witness, to tempt and allure and induce our people to practices inconsistent with the teachings and standards of this work of God….
                    "The war goes on.  It is waged across the world over the issues of agency and compulsion.  It is waged by an army of missionaries over the issues of truth and error.  It is waged in our own lives, day in and day out, in our homes, in our work, in our school associations; it is waged over questions of love and respect, of loyalty and fidelity, of obedience and integrity.  We are all involved in it.
                    "We are winning [the war against Satan], and the future never looked brighter" (Ensign, Nov. 1986, 42, 44-45). 

                    We can maintain hope and have a positive outlook as we fight the war against Satan by using the resources given to us.  Some of the resources that can strengthen us against the power of Satan and his followers are prayer, scriptures, the teachings of living prophets, priesthood authority, temples, and association with other God-fearing people who have the same beliefs.

                    In Revelation 8-16, John identified many plagues, wars, and judgments that will occur before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.  In Revelation 19, he described the coming of the Lord and symbolized it by a marriage supper (19:7-9).  The bride of the Lamb represents members of The Church of Jesus Christ.  The symbol of the marriage supper, with Christ as the bridegroom and the Church as the bride, suggests that the relationship between the Lord and His Church should be much like an ideal marriage.  In order for us to be invited to his marriage supper, we must be willing to accept the Lord's invitation.

                    Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained:  "The elders of Israel are now issuing the invitations to the marriage supper of the Lord; those who believe and obey the gospel thereby accept the invitation and shall sit in due course … at the marriage feast" (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:563-64).

                    The First Resurrection - or the resurrection of the just - will begin at the Savior's Second Coming.  (See Revelation 20:1-4.)  Those who will receive a celestial or terrestrial reward will come forward in this resurrection.  (See Doctrine and Covenants 88:98-99.)  The Second Resurrection - or the resurrection of the unjust - will not begin until the end of the Millennium.  Those who will receive a Telestial reward and the sons of perdition will come forward in this resurrection.  (See Doctrine and Covenants 88:100-102.)  Revelation 20:8 tells us that the "unjust" includes the fearful and unbelieving [those without faith in Jesus Christ] and those who are abominable, murderers, whoremongers, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars.

                    The Second Coming of Jesus Christ will usher in the Millennium, a thousand-year period when Christ will reign personally upon the earth.  According to Revelation 20:1-3, Satan will be bound during the Millennium and will have no power over the hearts of the people because the Lord will reign on the earth and the people will be righteous.  (See Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ, 1 Nephi 22:26.)  Children will grow up during the Millennium without sin unto salvation.  (See Doctrine and Covenants 45:55, 58.)  We can limit the power of Satan in our lives right now by keeping the commandments of God and being righteous.

                    At the end of the Millennium, Satan will be loosed for a "season" when he will go about the earth and use lies and deceit to recruit people to his army, which will be numbered like the sands of the sea.  Then one last great battle will be fought between the armies of God and the armies of Satan.  (See Revelation 20:7-8; Doctrine and Covenants 88:111-13.)  This battle is sometimes called the battle of Gog and Magog.

                    The result of this great battle will be victory for the armies of God.  Revelation 20:9-11 tells us that fire will come down from heaven and devour the hosts of Satan.  The devil will be cast into a lake of fire and brimstone to be tormented day and night forever.  Doctrine and Covenants 88:114-15 tells us that Michael - known as Adam on earth - will lead the armies of God and overcome Satan and his armies who will be cast away where they cannot have power over the saints any longer.  Since we already know the result of the final battle, we might as well accept responsibility now to live righteously.

                    President Ezra Taft Benson said:  "Each day the forces of evil and the forces of good enlist new recruits.  Each day we personally make many decisions showing the cause we support.  The final outcome is certain - the forces of righteousness will win.  But what remains to be seen is where each of us personally, now and in the future, will stand in this battle - and how tall we will stand.  Will we be true to our last days and fulfill our foreordained missions?"  ("In His Steps," Ensign, Sept. 1988, 2).

                    The final judgment will take place after the last great battle.   "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened:  and another book was opened, which is the book of life:  and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
                    "And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works."  (See Revelation 20:12-13.)

                    Revelation 21:3-7 lists the blessings that come to those who are judged to be righteous:  1) They will dwell in the presence of God (21:3); 2) They will no longer experience death, sorrow, crying, or pain (21:4).  3) They will inherit all things as sons and daughters of God (21:7).  We can gain great strength and comfort as we face difficulties in mortality if we remember the great blessings reserved for the righteous.

                    Revelation 21;10-22:5 describes the celestial glory of the earth and the city in which those who have attained celestial glory will reside.  There will be no temple in the celestial temple because the Father and the Son are the temple.  (See 21:22.)  The purpose of the temple is to bring us closer to God and teach us of His plan.  Temples will no longer be necessary to those who live in God's presence.  In order to be worthy to enter the gates of the eternal city, we must keep the commandments of God and earn the right to the tree of life.  (See Revelation 22:14.)

                    President David O. McKay told of a vision in which he saw a beautiful city, many people dressed in white, and the Savior:  "The city, I understood, was [the Savior's].  It was the City Eternal; and the people following him were to abide there in peace and eternal happiness.
          "But who were they?  As if the Savior read my thoughts, he answered by pointing to a semicircle that then appeared above them, and on which were written in gold the words:  These Are They Who Have Overcome the World - Who Have Truly Been Born Again!"  (Cherished Experiences from the Writings of President David O. McKay, 60).

          The New Testament and the book of Revelation ends with a message of great hope.  Prophets like John the Revelator have seen the things that are to come and have told us of the blessings we will receive if we remain righteous and endure to the end.  Because of the testimonies of Nephi, John, and other prophets,  I know that the righteous will triumph at the end of the world.  We can all take courage and hope from this knowledge as we stand against wickedness and seek to overcome the obstacles of this life.

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