Sunday, December 29, 2019

Come Follow Me - Introductory Pages of BoM

Come Follow Me - Introductory Pages of the Book of Mormon

This lesson begins the background for the Book of Mormon Come Follow Me lessons for 2020.  While the manual will discuss concepts such as the book being the “keystone of our religion”, the witnesses to the Book of Mormon, etc., this lesson will deal with other key points of background, which will help in understanding the world of Lehi and Nephi we will enter into over the next several weeks.

Documentary Hypothesis
The Documentary Hypothesis is a theory that determines from studying the text of the five  books of Moses (Torah or Pentateuch), that the current books as we now have them come from five sources: (J – Jahwist/Yahwist, E – Elohist, D – Deuteronomist, P – Priest, and R – Redactor).

Internal textual evidence of the Torah  suggest that in its current form, the writings come from a variety of sources.  The first two sources, J and E, came about around 850-800BC.  J was possibly written during the time of King Solomon or his son, Rehoboam.  It places within the writings of Moses several temple concepts and a Mosaic Law-centric world.  E was written by an individual in the Northern Kingdom of Israel, after the nation split into two in the days of Rehoboam and Jeroboam. It is not temple-centric.

In Genesis, the Elohist always calls God by the name Elohim or El; while the Yahwist always calls God Jehovah/Yahweh.

The Deuteronomist addition came during the time of King Josiah's reforms.  The young king, raised by the temple priests, ordered the temple refurbished.  The temple workers found a part of the book of the law, normally viewed as Deuteronomy.  While portions of Deuteronomy are old, it is believed by many scholars that the Deuteronomists sought to establish the temple priests’ power by updating the writing of Moses to fit their belief system at that time.  The Priest additions would be added between the time of the Deuteronomists and the collapse of Jerusalem in Lehi’s day (circa 587 BC).  After the return of the Jews from Babylon, the Redactor took the various versions of the sacred writings of Moses and redacted or combined them into one Torah.  The redactor is usually believed to be the scribe Ezra.

The Documentary Hypothesis explains why there are two versions of the Creation story (Genesis 1 and 2).  Richard E Friedman, in his book, “Who Wrote the Bible?” demonstrates many examples of double and triple versions of stories found in the Pentateuch.  Some are even imbedded one within the other, as he shows in the case of Noah’s Flood.  In the story, we have two periods of time (40 days, 13 months), we have animals entering in two by two, but also having seven clean animals entering in.  We also see both a raven and a dove used to determine if the waters have receded enough to disembark from the ark.  Friedman demonstrates that you can literally pull these apart, and have two coherent stories.

Why the differences?  The two Flood stories were written by J and P.  J wrote his version in order to promote the kingships of David and Solomon.  P wrote to promote the Levitical priests’ power within the temple, requiring that Noah do something special regarding clean animals.  For instance, having seven clean animals meant Noah could sacrifice after leaving the ark.  It also meant that a clean dove could be sent out, rather than an unclean scavenger, such as the raven.

The Book of Mormon and the Documentary Hypothesis

So, what does the Documentary Hypothesis have to do with the Book of Mormon?  Modern scholars are using the theory to better understand the beginnings of the Nephite history.
When Israel and Judah divided, E and J became their major Mosaic historians.  Each sought to promote the religious world they dwelt in.  For the Yahwist, it meant focusing on the righteous line of Kings David and Solomon.  They had a divine right, by God, to reign over Israel.  J would promote anything that promoted the Jerusalem temple and the kingdom of David forever more.  This meant reducing Moses’ impact, while promoting David.

Meanwhile, the Elohist wrote the history based, not on David, but on the patriarchs of old.  Lehi will walk away from the temple, and return to the ways of Abraham in the wilderness: living in a tent, sacrificing on altars, and living the nomadic life.

Moses, the last patriarch, would also be exonerated by the Elohist.  The Documentary Hypothesis notes Moses going twice to Meribah in the Pentateuch, and both times obtaining water from a rock.  One story is negative towards Moses, where Moses is chastised for pride, and refused entrance into the Promised Land. However, the Elohist version does not mention any chastising; simply Moses was directed to the appropriate rock by an angel standing over it.

Professor John L. Sorensen suggested that the Brass Plates of Laban may be the original source for the Elohist tradition.  In the Book of Mormon, we find a very strong Elohist position.  In the instance where Nephi mentions Moses getting water from the rock at Meribah, it is the positive event of the Elohist.

Remember, Lehi was a descendant of Joseph.  Joseph, through his sons Ephraim and Manasseh, became a powerful force in Israel.  When the nation divided in the days of Rehoboam and Jeroboam, Joseph went to the Northern Kingdom.  In the Northern Kingdom, they would seek to have a religion that departed from the worship of that in the temple.

In the Old Testament Gospel Doctrine lessons, I suggest that the two calves established by Jeroboam represented Elohim.  Elohim was symbolized by the bull: strong and fertile.  In placing a golden calf on both the northern and southern edges of the nation of Israel, Jeroboam sought to establish the entire land as a temple under Elohim.  If this is the case, then there was an ideological battle between Elohim and Yahweh/Jehovah going on between Israel and Judah.

When the Northern Kingdom was carried off by Assyria, many escaped into the land of Judah.  With them would have come their own version of the Mosaic Law and belief, a different priesthood view, and their own sacred writing: possibly the Brass Plates of Laban.  The Brass Plates would contain writings specifically targeted to the Northern Kingdom, but not necessarily tied to the Kingdom of Judah.  In the Book of Mormon, we find such prophets: Zenock, Zenos, and Neum (1 Ne 19:10).  It is possible that Neum may be the same as the Biblical prophet Nahum, who directed his witness towards the Northern Kingdom.  Of course, Isaiah would also be prominent, being he was a key prophet for both Israel and Judah.

Moses would be the main Lawgiver and person who could do no harm.  Nephi and the other Book of Mormon prophets frequently return to Moses’ teachings and  life, as the one who was able to destroy the Egyptians, turn the Red Sea, and prophesy of Christ. 

The Deuteronomists and Lehi’s Day

As mentioned above, during the reign of King Josiah, the book of Deuteronomy was found in the temple ruins.  At this point, major changes occurred in the temple ordinances, making it very different than the original worship of Solomon’s temple.

According to Margaret Barker, Old Testament scholar and Methodist minister, the changes made were so dramatic that many ancient things were destroyed.  No longer would the temple have a Tree of Life (a literal tree grew in the courtyard of the temple).  Angels and other divine beings would no longer be a part of the temple liturgy, nor would the concept of being directly in the presence of God.  Holy symbols, such as Aaron’s budding rod were destroyed, to disconnect the people from the ancient past, and place them under the power of the temple priests in Josiah’s day. The focus for the temple and people would be almost entirely on the Law of Moses as described in Deuteronomy, and in animal sacrifices.

By the days of Lehi, this practice would become so corrupt that Jeremiah would condemn the Jews and their practices.  He would set forth the Rechabites as the example to follow. The Rechabites were a nomadic group of Jews, who did not build houses, hold large amounts of wealth, etc.  They worshiped in the wilderness in high places (altars) to Jehovah.  Jeremiah brought the Rechabites into the temple, to show the temple goers and priests the true form of worship, which was no longer available in the now corrupted temple.

Jeremiah 35 explains:

“1 The word which came unto Jeremiah from the Lord in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, saying,
2 Go unto the house of the Rechabites, and speak unto them, and bring them into the house of the Lord, into one of the chambers, and give them wine to drink.
3 Then I took Jaazaniah the son of Jeremiah, the son of Habaziniah, and his brethren, and all his sons, and the whole house of the Rechabites;
4 And I brought them into the house of the Lord, into the chamber of the sons of Hanan, the son of Igdaliah, a man of God, which was by the chamber of the princes, which was above the chamber of Maaseiah the son of Shallum, the keeper of the door:
5 And I set before the sons of the house of the Rechabites pots full of wine, and cups, and I said unto them, Drink ye wine.
6 But they said, We will drink no wine: for Jonadab the son of Rechab our father commanded us, saying, Ye shall drink no wine, neither ye, nor your sons for ever:
7 Neither shall ye build house, nor sow seed, nor plant vineyard, nor have any: but all your days ye shall dwell in tents; that ye may live many days in the land where ye be strangers.
8 Thus have we obeyed the voice of Jonadab the son of Rechab our father in all that he hath charged us, to drink no wine all our days, we, our wives, our sons, nor our daughters;
9 Nor to build houses for us to dwell in: neither have we vineyard, nor field, nor seed:
10 But we have dwelt in tents, and have obeyed, and done according to all that Jonadab our father commanded us….
15 I have sent also unto you all my servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them, saying, Return ye now every man from his evil way, and amend your doings, and go not after other gods to serve them, and ye shall dwell in the land which I have given to you and to your fathers: but ye have not inclined your ear, nor hearkened unto me.
16 Because the sons of Jonadab the son of Rechab have performed the commandment of their father, which he commanded them; but this people hath not hearkened unto me:
17 Therefore thus saith the Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring upon Judah and upon all the inhabitants of Jerusalem all the evil that I have pronounced against them: because I have spoken unto them, but they have not heard; and I have called unto them, but they have not answered.
18 And Jeremiah said unto the house of the Rechabites, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Because ye have obeyed the commandment of Jonadab your father, and kept all his precepts, and done according unto all that he hath commanded you:
19 Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not want a man to stand before me for ever” (Jeremiah 35).

Here, Jeremiah takes the nomads into the temple, as an example of what Judah should be doing.  While the Jews worship in the temple, Jeremiah proclaims they are serving other gods!  Why would this be, if the Deuteronomist reforms were a good thing?  Instead, they changed God’s true temple worship into something else.

Prophets versus the Priests

In his book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, Stephen Covey notes the difference between leaders and managers.  He explains that the manager is tasked to cut a road through the jungle. He ensures the machetes are sharpened, the workers are fed, and the progress is consistent and on schedule.  Meanwhile, the leader climbs a tall tree, looks at the big picture.  The leader could ostensibly shout down to the manager, “Wrong Forest!”   Sadly, many managers would yell back, “Shut up! We’re making progress!”

Here we see the difference between the temple priests, whose whole world was designed to manage the dead Jewish religion (even if it meant they eschew revelation, angels, the Messiah, the Tree of Life and many other ancient themes from Solomon’s temple), and the prophet leaders, who can lead us into life eternal.

And so in the next few lessons, we will begin to see the contrasts between the preaching and visions of Lehi and Nephi, and that of the status quo Deuteronomists of the Jewish Temple circa 600 BC.

The ancient religion thus corrupted and replaced by a modern version that empowered the priests, but not the people, would be a theme that would occur again in the days of Jesus.  Jesus would condemn Pharisee and Sadducee for dragging their converts down to hell with them.  They rejected modern revelation, as well as Jesus’ miracles and Messiah-ship. The Savior called them to repent and believe, in order to be saved. Their rejection of their Prophet-Leader led them to crucify our Lord.  Such calls of repentance in 600 BC landed Jeremiah in jail, caused the death of many other prophets, and lead to Lehi’s escape into the wilderness, and into the type of lifestyle lived by the Rechabites, Abraham, and the treasured ancestors of the Elohist tradition.

Key concepts from the keystone of our religion
More things to consider as we prepare for the Book of Mormon year.  For many Latter-day Saints, the Book of Mormon may be stories of Nephites and Lamanites who have lots of wars, and in the end the Nephites end up destroyed.  There are many levels of symbolism and key doctrine involved in the Book of Mormon.  Here are some major points to consider as we go through the year of study, as they illustrate why the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion.

The Book of Mormon as a Prophesy of the Last Days

In general ways, we can see the events within the Book of Mormon as a cycle the world  (and especially the USA) now is going through.

The Book of Mormon tells the story of a people inspired to leave the old world and go to a promised land.  Whether it is Lehi or Christopher Columbus, the Book of Mormon shows inspired men led to find the New World. The Lord blesses the people in the promised land with prosperity, as they remain humble, yet they still must deal with those who hold tightly to the old ways (which include secret combinations).

Various “outsiders” enter into the picture of both the Nephites and America, trying to change the culture from one of righteousness and freedom to one of big government (king men) and wickedness.  We find cycles of righteousness and wickedness.  I recall as a new member in my teens, wondering how the Nephites could switch from good to evil in just a few short years.  Now seeing the world we live in, we can see it occurs in our day, as well.  For example, after the attacks of 9/11, Americans of all faiths and political beliefs humbled themselves, having days of prayer and repentance, united in moving the nation and our communities forward.  However, just a few short years later, Americans were back to greed and making the kind of decisions that led to the housing and bank crash of 2008. Different though, this time (as of Dec 2011) the nation hasn’t seemed to humble itself, but continues on its economic crazy path to bankruptcy and ruin.  Nephites also had periods where it took coming up to the edge of destruction, or at least the destruction of most of the wicked, in order to return to righteousness.

Of course, there are many wars, famines, and crises that occur along the way.  Many of the wars lead to issues of government growth.

With both the Nephites and the world in the last days, the resurrected Jesus will come in his power and glory.  As in the destruction of the wicked leading up to Jesus’ visiting the Nephites, we will have major natural disasters, earthquakes, storms, and the sun will be darkened. When the Savior comes to the remaining people, they repent, accept him, and there is a very long period of righteousness, peace, joy and unity.  We shall find as we study the Book of Mormon that these attributes of a righteous people are taught time and again, including in the Savior’s sermons to the Nephites.  There is a major focus on being One, even as the Godhead is One.

At the end of the Nephite “Millennium”, we find that Satan is loosed, he stirs up the people, and it leads to the final destruction of the wicked Nephites.  This opens up for a new world afterward.  For the descendants of Lehi, it meant a world of striving without God. For the world in the last days, it will mean the end of the old ways, and the final change of earth and heaven into celestial places.

So, we can use the Book of Mormon as a gauge toward events in the last days.

The Book of Mormon as an Ascension Text

As we proceed through the Book of Mormon, we are going to find that the Book of Mormon has much to do with the modern LDS temple.  Both teach us the concepts behind ascending to God’s throne and being in his presence.  Such an event is called a “theophany”. Whether we practice entering the celestial room of the temple and symbolically into God’s presence, or the Brother of Jared seeing Jesus Christ,  We will find many such experiences and teachings throughout the Book of Mormon, beginning in the very first chapter of the book (no fair peeking!), which we will discuss in the next lesson.

For those who have read my postings of both the Old and New Testament, you will see that the concept of ascension and theophany are very important concepts in ancient Judaism and Christianity, even though most modern Jews and Christians may not recognize that truth, as it is now rather foreign to many today.  We will occasionally discuss other ancient ascension texts, such as Revelation and  the Ascension of Isaiah, and how these are evidence of the Book of Mormon, because of the similar experiences and symbols.

Grace and Atonement through Jesus Christ

Perhaps the most important thing the Book of Mormon does for an unbelieving world is testify of Jesus Christ and explain his role in our lives and salvation.

Many traditional Christians think that Mormons believe they must save themselves through obedience and work.  Sadly, many Latter-day Saints also believe this.  Such was an over-emphasis on works and a de-emphasis on salvation through grace.  We are not discussing “cheap grace”, but the real grace that comes through Christ.

From King Benjamin’s sermon, we will find that there is nothing we can do to save ourselves, as we are already in debt to God, and if we do something good, he blesses us and we are paid and remain in debt to him.  In this way, we are less than the dirt we are made of, for we are even made of the earth, yet God made that too.

We learn that all are justified in Christ’s blood through faith and repentance. This saves us from both physical and spiritual death, as we all will be resurrected from the grave, and those who repent and believe will be made guiltless/sinless through the atonement of Christ.  In LDS belief, there are levels of reward in heaven, or what we call degrees of glory.  Whether one is saved in the Telestial, Terrestrial, or Celestial kingdom, we are saved from death and Outer Darkness.  Latter-day Saints believe in a near universal salvation.
Then we learn about sanctification in the Book of Mormon.  Once we are saved from death and hell, we grow in faith and righteousness line upon line.  The more holy or sanctified we become through the atonement and Gift of the Holy Ghost, the greater glory we will receive in heaven.  

As Hugh Nibley once wrote, “work we must, but the lunch is free.”

“Who Wrote the Bible?”, by Richard E. Friedman (major book on the Documentary Hypothesis):

Documentary Hypothesis, Wikipedia:

Kevin Barney on the Documentary Hypothesis in Mormon thought:

John Sorensen on the Documentary Hypothesis:

Jeroboam and the Northern Kingdom’s worship of Elohim the bull:

Important books by Margaret Barker:
    “The Great Angel: A Study of Israel’s Second God”

    “Temple Theology”

Stephen Covey, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”:

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Come Follow Me: Revelation 12-22

Come Follow Me: Revelation 12-22

John’s Revelation is an ascension text.  As with the ancient temple of Solomon, it prepared the initiate to enter into God’s presence.  Chapters 1-4 showed us John’s own ascension and the promises given to the individual who overcame all things.  In the ensuing chapters, the ascension and the events tied to it turn from an individual experience to that of the nation of Israel and of the world, leading to the return of Christ in glory, the establishment of the Heavenly Jerusalem and the Heavenly Temple on the earth.

Battle between Chaos and Order

One of the major themes is the Chaos reigning on earth, and God’s destruction of it in the last day, by Restoring his own Order.  This concept ties in with the ancient Semitic Creation Story.  In the story, the Lord does not create the earth from nothing (creatio ex nihilo), but from pre-existing matter.  Genesis tells us that the earth was void and without form. Darkness was upon it, and waters covered the earth.  Anciently, darkness and waters were symbols of chaos.  In the waters lived the dragon of chaos: Rahab.  To bring order out of chaos, God would have to destroy the dragon, bring light to earth, and establish land.

As I’ve written elsewhere on my blog, Isaiah saw God destroy the sea dragon Rahab in the creation of the world.  He brought forth light, and divided the ordered earth from the chaotic seas.  Yet, we will note that these were not fully destroyed.  Light shared half the day with darkness. The earth still is mostly covered with water.  And chaos still runs rampant on earth, in the form of a second dragon, Leviathan.

The events occurring in Revelation tell of the chaos inflicted on earth by Leviathan the dragon.  The dragon even pre-existed earth life, causing a war in heaven, losing and being cast out upon the earth as Satan (Rev 12:7-9).  During the Millennium, the dragon would be bound, but again released for one last season of chaotic terror, before finally being cast into the eternal flames of Outer Darkness.

Along with the destruction of the dragon, we will see a change in the heavens and earth.  There will be no more chaotic darkness, but light:

“And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever” (Rev 22:5).

“And the city (Heavenly Jerusalem) had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.
And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.
And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there” (Rev 21:23-25).

Even the waters will no more be chaotic:

“ And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.
In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him:
And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads.
And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever” (Rev 21:1-5).

So, in John’s Revelation, we see a continuation of the big theme of the Bible that began with the Creation - overcoming chaos and restoring order.

The Seven Seals

There is a lot of speculation regarding Beasts, 666, and other creatures.  I will not delve into them here, because we lose the most important concepts of John’s Apocalypse, returning individuals and the entire earth into the presence of God.

It is noteworthy to see concerning the seven seals on the book of earth’s history, only one being could open them: the Lamb of God:

“And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals.
And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?
And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon.
And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon.
And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof...
And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;
And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.
(Rev 5:1-5, 9-10).

Only Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, through his atonement, could bring order.  Why?  Because by Adam came the Fall and Chaos, only through Christ could man and earth be restored to Life and Order.

Seals of Chaos and Order

Chapter Six begins the opening of the seals, each describing a being or condition that represents either a form of chaos or order.   In this theme of chaos and order, the being on the white horse going forth to conquer, represents God or Christ, moving forth to destroy the chaos that is upon the earth.  His eventual victory over the various forms of chaos upon the earth ends in perfect order.

The second represents the chaos of war.  The third represent the chaos of famine, as we are to see the shortage of the basics of life (wheat, barley, oil, wine).  The fourth seal opened brings forth the chaos of  Death:

“I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth” (Rev 6:7-8).

The fifth seal shows the martyrs of the ages begging for order to be brought forth to conquer the chaos. With the order, each form will take its proper place on earth, with the eventual destruction of all chaos, whether from nature or man-made.

The sixth seal represents great destruction.  This occurs during time of great wickedness, when mankind is ripe for destruction, whether with Noah’s Flood, the great destructions at Christ’s death upon the Nephite nation, or the final destruction by wars among the Nephites and Jaredites.

We read of earthquakes, stars falling from heaven (asteroids and/or something man-made?), and even the Sun and moon being overcome by the chaos, being darkened by the times.


Chapter Seven brings us to a moment of order among the chaos.  God shall gather 144,000 specially chosen men.  These are described as 12,000 from each of the tribes of Israel, except for the tribe of Dan, who seems to be replaced by the two shares of Joseph in Ephraim and Manasseh. Whether these are literal descendants of ancient Israel, or are through the adoption of baptism (as explained by Paul), we do not know for certain.  These men will be sealed up as servants of God, entering among the group of the divine sons of God, as with the 24 who sit on thrones in God’s presence.  

Some believe that these are the only ones who will be admitted into the full presence of God, but we’ve already discussed other beings who are in God’s presence.  Also, we may note that along with the 144,000 chosen, we find a multitude of people of all nations, who also stand before the throne of God and praise him (Rev 7:9-10).  Clearly, there will be many who through the atonement of Christ who will stand in God’s presence.

Latter-day revelation instructs us that this event will be called Adam-Ondi-Ahman (possibly meaning “the place where Adam met God”), and is based upon an ancient event.  Three years before his death, Adam gathered the righteous of his seed together.  He prophesied of the future, and his children praised him and blessed him. Then, Jesus Christ appeared, returning Adam and his righteous children back into the presence of God (D&C 107:53-57).

In the last days, prior to the glorious 2nd Coming of Christ, this event will occur again.  Traditionally, the event will take place in northwest Missouri, in the hilly farmlands near a place called Adam-Ondi-Ahman.  LDS belief is that while this event will be secret to the world, many righteous will be involved.  How could such an event be secret, if there are tens of thousands of people suddenly showing up in a remote part of the state? Perhaps it will occur as does certain modern sacred assemblies for temple dedications (Nauvoo, Palmyra, etc) have occurred.  In such, those determined worthy by their bishops receive a ticket to observe via satellite broadcast from their chapel.  Hundreds of thousands could watch and be a part of such an event, yet not flood the hilly farmland with so many people there would not be enough food or shelter to manage them all.

Some believe that the 144,000 chosen will be high priests that are sent on a final mission, possibly to the heathen nations (China and other locations that do not allow Christian proselytising) during and after the coming of Christ to Armageddon (D&C 45:51-55).

Prior to the Millennium

We find that until the wicked are finally destroyed and the earth goes through its first change, chaos will reign on earth.  Chapter 8 sees the opening of the seventh seal, which opens up the events leading into and through the Millennium.  The event begins with a “silence in heaven “ for ½ hour. Whether it is a literal ½ hour, or means another period of time (if God’s day equals 1000 years to us, then ½ hour = 21 years in man’s time), we do not know.  What could this event be?  Perhaps there will be some event that knocks out the satellite communications around the world. Maybe the world will get so dangerous that planes will essentially be grounded.  For those wicked who profess Christ with their lips but do not truly serve him, perhaps it means God will no longer hear their prayers.  It will be, after all, during this period that many will “curse God and die” (D&C 45:32)  and “And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them” (Rev 9:6)

John’s Mission
Chapter 10

John receives a book, which he is to eat.  This is symbolic of him reading or internalizing the book, which tells him of the future and his mission to yet preach.  As mentioned in the previous lesson (45), this is a common ascension rite event.  In the Ascension of Isaiah, the prophet is given a book and prophesies as he reads from it.  And in the very first chapter of the Book of Mormon, we find that the prophet Lehi was given a book by the Lord, from which he prophesied of the destruction of Jerusalem in his day (ca 600 BC).  This is one way in which God shows that while there is evil and chaos in the world, he is still the grand chessmaster, and will win the final game.

Two Prophets in Jerusalem
Rev 11

According to John, from beginning to end, Armageddon and the destructions will last about 3 ½ years.  During that time, Jerusalem will be besieged by a litany of nations, primarily described as those lands which now contain the nations of Islam.  Among the destruction and chaos, God will establish order by sending two prophets.  These prophets will minister during the 3 ½ years, performing great miracles and prophesying to the people of the earth.  At the end of their ministry, they will be killed.  The kings of the earth will rejoice and send gifts to one another, leaving the prophets’ bodies to rot in the street.  After 3 ½ days, half of Jerusalem will fall to the enemies of the Jews, and will be on the edge of total destruction.  At that moment, while the world looks on, the two prophets will resurrect, ascend to heaven, and then begins the Lord’s final work to destroy chaos.

We can imagine there to only be one way in which the entire world will see these prophets lay dead in the streets, and then resurrect: it will be on television.

There are those who believe that God’s revelations to mankind ended with the book of Revelation, which we’ll discuss more in-depth at the end of this lesson.  However, this event proves that God’s work is not over. He will call prophets again in the last days, and they will prophesy.  These are just two of the prophets that will be called, as the Lord will call many throughout the world to call the wicked to repentance prior to the final judgment.

The Temple was Opened
Revelation 11:19 to end

At this moment huge earthquakes, a hailstorm that covers the earth, and other disasters. Above all, God opens his heavenly temple, revealing the ark of the covenant.  In the Tabernacle of Moses and in Solomon’s Temple, the ark was the base of God’s Mercy Seat or Throne.  In essence, God now prepares to bring all of earth’s inhabitants into his presence, whether they want it or not.  At this point comes the end of the wicked in a final destruction.

John replays many of the chaotic issues he has seen.  He will portray the Mother of Harlots, an organization that leads people away from an orderly life of righteousness and into believing they can do evil works and still be saved (ch. 17).  Some have believed this to be the Roman Catholic Church, but while an imperfect organization (along with all other organizations on earth), the RCC has done an admirable job of teaching righteous work and faith on Christ.  It would be difficult to imagine Mother Theresa or Pope John Paul II as part of an evil cabal.   I would be surprised if this religion were to change so dramatically as to sell its soul.  Perhaps a greater probability will be that of economic systems that preach economic salvation to mankind, regardless of the sins they may commit.

In chapter 16, we see Christ saving the Jews at Armageddon, and returning in glory, trampling through the wicked of the earth as part of his effort to rid it of chaos.  The dragon (Satan or Leviathan) is bound for the Millennium, eliminating chaos.  As noted before, there would be no more night, no more death, no more disease or destruction.  At least not until the end of the Millennium, when the dragon would be loosed one last time, given the opportunity to spread chaos once again, leading to a final conflagration, where the wicked would forever be cast out.

Babylon falls in chapter 18, along with the Mother of Harlots in chapter 17.  Babylon is symbolic here.  Anciently, King Nimrod, and later King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon sought to create their own heaven. Each desired to be God. Isaiah compared Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylon in this manner:

“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.
Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit” (Isaiah 14:4-23).

Today, we also consider this a prophecy regarding Satan, also called Lucifer.  This ties to the concept of the divine council of heaven, where God Elohim ruled through his divine sons, known as those who were the divine congregation that sat on the north side of God’s mountain.  This ties in with the 24 holy elders sitting in God’s presence that John describes, as well as the 144,000, who would also worship in God’s presence.  The difference is that the wicked seek to overthrow God with chaos.  There is an order in heaven, which the dragon sought to overthrow in his heavenly war, and for which he was cast out, just as the King of Babylon was cast down into obscurity.

In fact, Nimrod built his Ziggurat, an ancient mountain-like temple also known as the Tower of Babel, in order to reach heaven and kick God out!  He literally sought to replace God.  Nebuchadnezzar desired to emulate Nimrod, and even began rebuilding the Tower.

The pattern continues today, as many people seek great power and privilege. They do so not with humility and thanks to the God that provides such things, but because of narcissistic and chaotic self-love.  It is a pattern we see continually today in all economic levels of American life.  

It differs significantly from the humble, yet exalted, experience of the other divine and enthroned beings who are worthy of worship, yet insist all worship goes to God.  In seeing the final return of Christ and the magnificent change from absolute chaos to holy order upon the earth, John fell to worship the mighty angel before him.  Yet, the angel forbade him:

“And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev 19:10).

This angel was John’s “fellow servant” and one of the brethren with a testimony of Christ.  Clearly, angels (Greek for “messenger”) are of the same substance as men.  They are former mortals made holy in Christ, and obviously worthy of worship, even though they will refuse it.

The White Horse again

John 19:11 brings again the being on the white horse that opened the first seal - he would go conquering.  The great being is Jesus Christ, who would conquer chaos and evil.  The earth would change from its present state to one of glory.  Satan, the dragon, would be bound for a thousand years.  The wicked would be destroyed off the face of the earth, for they will not abide order, only chaos.

The Millennium would be a time for goodness upon the earth.  Here, decent men would live in peace and joy, being ruled over by the holy ones who are given thrones to reign with Christ on earth for a thousand years (Rev 20:4).

At the end of the Millennium, Satan would be loosed for a season.  During this time, he shall seek to re-establish chaos on earth, and bid those on earth to follow him. Some will choose to follow him, and wilfully reject Christ.  In a final war, called Gog and Magog, people will have to choose whether they wish to fight for Christ, or fight on the side of the usurper, Satan.  In the final battle, the wicked will finally be destroyed and cast into eternal hell fire.

The final judgment will occur.  The Book of Life will be brought forth.  It will be opened to see if one’s name is found in the Book of Life.  Those within are all who have been made guiltless through the atonement of Christ.  Through this process called justification, all those who shall receive a kingdom of glory will find their names in the book.  These shall all escape the second death, forever to be removed from God’s presence.

Then, we shall be judged by all the other books, “according to their works.”  Through the process of sanctification, the Lord shall see how holy we have become.  For the most valiant in testimony, they shall receive a crown of full glory in the Celestial realm.  Those who were honorable men upon the earth shall receive a lesser, but still great glory in the Terrestrial realm.  Those who only repented because they did not wish to suffer eternally for their sins will receive the least kingdom of glory.  These are all described in detail in D&C 76. (see also 2 Cor 12:1-4).  The wicked will be cast forever into Outer Darkness, the place where chaos always reigns.

At this time, the earth itself will be changed again.  Only the most righteous will dwell on the earth, which has now been celestialized and turned into a heavenly temple itself (see D&C 130:9-11).   The righteous will stand forever in the presence of God, residing in his perfect order in peace and harmony.

John’s final curse
Revelation 22:18-19

“For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book” (Rev 22:18-19).

For many Christians, who understand this from only a modern reading of it, it seems that John is ending the Bible with these last final verses.

However, when we look at it from an ancient viewpoint and with all the data, we see that is not the case.  Let’s look at some of these issues:

1. The Revelation was written around 93 AD, during a time when Gnostics and other Christian sects were on the rise.  Many of these sects wrote their own sacred texts and then placed the names of prophets or apostles on them to give them credence.  Some sects went as far as to change the original text, adding or subtracting information that made the text seem to support their beliefs.  It was common in John’s day to add a curse at the end of a particular book written, in order to prevent others from changing it.

2. The Revelation was written around 93 AD.  Saint Jerome did not compile the Bible into its current canon for about another 300 years.  John could not have been talking about the entire Bible, because it did not yet exist! According to tradition, he had not yet written his epistles or Gospel of John, showing there were still more things to add that would end up in the Bible.  He was only speaking about his own book, the Revelation.

3. John curses any man who would add or subtract from his book.  But he does allow for God to make any changes he would care to make.  Remember, in chapter 11, John foresees two prophets who would make a major prophesy in the last days.  Such prophesies would be important enough to possibly be made part of scripture, otherwise, John would not have noted the prophesy they were to make.  There would be future prophesies made that would not be a part of the Bible, yet still authorized of God.

Conclusion of Biblical Proportions

This ends the lessons for the New Testament.  I hope you have enjoyed them, learned from them, and have found new ways to understand scripture through them. I hope you will  see them not as an end point, or the final word, but only a beginning to searching for the important and deep meanings to be found, line upon line, precept upon precept.  Remember, the Bible begins with mankind in God’s presence, and ends with mankind returning to God’s presence through the atonement of Christ.  This is perhaps the most important message of the Bible.  It also happens to be one of the main messages of the Book of Mormon, which coincidentally happens to be the next study year for the LDS Sunday School Gospel Doctrine course.  I hope to see you here.


Order out of Chaos - Joel’s Monastery blog:

The Book of Revelation as an ascension/theophany text: