Latter-day Saint Life

‘When shall these things be?’: What we should remember when studying the Second Coming

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As Latter-day Saints, many of us would like to know when the Second Coming is going to happen. After all, it is the latter-days, so we know the event is closer than it ever has been before. But when will it actually take place?

It turns out that we aren’t the only dispensation in history that has wanted to know the answer to this question. Elder M. Russell Ballard explained in a 1996 message in the Ensign that when Christ was on the earth, His followers were concerned about the exact same thing:

“Toward the end of the Savior’s ministry, His disciples came to Him with several questions centered on one key prophetic event: ‘Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?’” (Matthew 24:3).

Isn’t that interesting? Before Christ had completed His ministry—before He had even left the earth—His followers wanted to know when He’d be back. And the Savior’s response to that question, Elder Ballard said, is very significant:

“Take heed that no man deceive you” (Matthew 24:4).

That warning from the Savior might fill us with a sense of foreboding—it’s hardly a happy thought that some people will try to lead us astray with their words. But it can also be comforting to know that Lord foresaw this problem we’d face and that He wants to help us so we don’t become confused. With that in mind, here are some important things to remember as we look forward to the Second Coming.

Look to Those with Priesthood Keys

“Some Latter-day Saints may not be aware of it, but there are ‘false prophets’ rising within and without the Church,” Elder Ballard said. “They believe they have had revelations, that they know something the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles don’t know. We need to be very careful of such people. Members who are ever approached by anyone claiming special authority or revelation from God outside the sustained priesthood authority should turn and run from them as fast as they can. The Savior said that in the last days even the very elect could be pulled away from the truth by such false prophets.”

In contrast, the Lord’s chosen servants—His apostles and prophets—bring people to the truth as they govern the Church through priesthood keys. All priesthood keys, the New Era explains, “ultimately come from Heavenly Father through His Son, Jesus Christ.” The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles hold all the keys “that pertain to the kingdom of God on the earth” and they council together to receive revelation on complex matters. President Nelson has explained that when they discuss those matters and reach “complete accord, the unifying influence of the Holy Ghost is spine-tingling!”

It’s inspiring to think that Christ leads the Church through those who have been called of God. In regard to revelation, Elder D. Todd Christofferson has taught, “‘we believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God’ (Articles of Faith 1:9). This is to say that while there is much we do not yet know, the truths and doctrine we have received have come and will continue to come by divine revelation.”

If we want to know when the Second Coming will take place, all we need to do is look to the apostles and prophets with all the priesthood keys and listen to the revelation they give us. They will not lead us astray.

Look to God’s Revealed Word

So what has been revealed about when exactly the Second Coming will happen? The truth is, it hasn’t been revealed. A gospel topics essay explains that “the Lord has not revealed exactly when He will come again: ‘The hour and the day no man knoweth, neither the angels in heaven, nor shall they know until he comes’ (Doctrine and Covenants 49:7).”

From this scripture, we see that not only does no one on earth know exactly when Christ will come again—not even the angels in heaven know. Still, it might be a little tempting to try to pinpoint some kind of date. After all, many signs of the times have already occurred, like the Apostasy, the Restoration, and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. And there are signs that are currently happening, like wars and natural disasters. Suppose we really can guess when the Second Coming is? Elder Ballard explained that it doesn’t work like that.

“Can we use this scientific data to extrapolate that the Second Coming is likely to occur during the next few years, or the next decade, or the next century? Not really. I am called as one of the Apostles to be a special witness of Christ in these exciting, trying times, and I do not know when He is going to come again. As far as I know, none of my brethren in the Quorum of the Twelve or even in the First Presidency knows. And I would humbly suggest that if we do not know, then nobody knows, no matter how compelling their arguments or how reasonable their calculations. … I believe that when the Lord says ‘no one’ knows, He really means that no one knows. We should be extremely wary of anyone who claims to be an exception to divine decree.”

Think about it—the Lord really means what He says. Isn’t that refreshing? In a day and age where it seems we are bombarded by information that we can’t trust, we can take the Lord at His word that no one knows exactly when He will come again. But while that specific information is unknown, we can—and should—study the Second Coming so we are prepared whenever it happens.

Look to What We Do Know

Gospel Principles explains, “Before the Savior comes, the people of the earth will experience great trials and calamities. Our Heavenly Father wants us to be prepared for these troubles. He also expects us to be spiritually ready when the Savior comes in His glory. Therefore, He has given us signs, which are events that will tell us when the Savior’s Second Coming is near.”

So as we look forward to a time of peace and joy when the Savior reigns on the earth again and pray that day is hastened, let us be prepared and recognize the signs of His coming. But let us choose our sources wisely: When we pick up a book about the Second Coming, may we turn to trusted materials, like recent Church-produced publications, that rely on the scriptures and prophetic teachings. And as previously mentioned, may we avoid sources that make false promises claiming to know when that great day will happen, listening instead to our apostles and prophets with the proper authority. During April 2022 general conference, Elder Dale G. Renlund spoke about how revelation comes to the apostles and prophets, which can be a powerful reminder about the Second Coming:

“Ever since God appointed prophets, they have been authorized to speak on His behalf. But they do not pronounce doctrines fabricated ‘of [their] own mind’ or teach what has not been revealed. … Demanding revelation from God is both arrogant and unproductive. Instead, we wait on the Lord and His timetable to reveal His truths through the means that He has established.”

Look For Ways to Help Prepare the World

Now let’s consider what our prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, has taught about the Second Coming. In the April 2020 Liahona, he wrote that “the fulness of Christ’s ministry lies in the future. The prophecies of His Second Coming have yet to be fulfilled. We are just building up to the climax of this last dispensation—when the Savior’s Second Coming becomes a reality.”

He then explained that a prelude for the Second Coming is the gathering of Israel on both sides of the veil through missionary work and serving in the temple. He also said that the greatest gift we can give the Savior is to be worthy of entering His holy house and that in doing so we will have the peace and security of knowing we are worthy to meet Him.

“Spiritual security will always depend upon how one lives, not where one lives,” he wrote. “I promise that if we will do our best to exercise faith in Jesus Christ and access the power of His Atonement through repentance, we will have the knowledge and power of God to help us take the blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people and to prepare the world for the Second Coming of the Lord.”

May this prophetic council be a reminder to us of what a blessing it is to be alive in this day and age before the Lord’s Second Coming. We have a great responsibility, and there is a marvelous work to do as we spiritually prepare ourselves and others for that glorious day when He comes again to rule and reign.

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