In this lesson, we find Nephi continuing to comment (pesher) on the teachings of Isaiah, using them to make sense of his own people as a lost tribe of Israel and its relationship with Christ and the forthcoming Gentile world.
Destruction for the Nephites
2 Nephi 26
Nephi begins by paraphrasing something that Malachi would also state centuries later in the Bible.
“Wherefore, all those who are proud, and that do wickedly, the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of Hosts, for they shall be as stubble” (2 Ne 26:4, Malachi 4:1).
Malachi foresaw the destruction of the world, as well as the destruction of the Jews in Jerusalem for rejecting Christ. Nephi would also make this statement in regards to his own people. When the people rejected the mortal Christ, destruction would befall not only the Jews, but also Nephi’s descendants.
“And they that kill the prophets, and the saints, the depths of the earth shall swallow them up, saith the Lord of Hosts; and mountains shall cover them, and whirlwinds shall carry them away, and buildings shall fall upon them and crush them to pieces and grind them to powder.
And they shall be visited with thunderings, and lightnings, and earthquakes, and all manner of destructions, for the fire of the anger of the Lord shall be kindled against them, and they shall be as stubble, and the day that cometh shall consume them, saith the Lord of Hosts.
O the pain, and the anguish of my soul for the loss of the slain of my people! For I, Nephi, have seen it, and it well nigh consumeth me before the presence of the Lord; but I must cry unto my God: Thy ways are just” (2 Ne 26:5-7).
For the righteous, however, they will largely be saved from such destruction, and be in place to see the glorified and resurrected Savior visit the remnants of the Nephites. In so doing, Nephi also shows a template for our own day. When the end of days occurs, there will also be great natural and man-made destructions. The wicked will burn as stubble for rejecting the prophets, both those in the scriptures, as well as the living ones. In this instance, it may denote not just LDS prophets, but any inspired person who is a warning voice to the world to return to faith, repentance and obedience in Christ. The telestial people will be destroyed, while the celestial and terrestrial will be rescued by Christ.
Interestingly, the destructions Nephi describes includes mountains rising up and burying people, and tornadoes carrying them off. It also notes that many will die because their buildings will fall upon them and crush them. In modern days, we see such destruction occurring during earthquakes (like the great earthquake in Haiti), most died when buildings collapsed upon them. Imagine an earthquake large enough to topple sky scrapers in New York and elsewhere.
God always sends human voices to warn of destruction prior to the voice of disaster itself. Destruction is not thrust upon mankind because God is jealous or angry, but because he is just and merciful. To allow the world to continue in wickedness means allowing innocents to be born into evil times. God uses the concept of creative destruction. He destroys chaos, so that he may reinstate order, peace, love and joy.
“But the Son of Righteousness shall appear unto them; and he shall heal them, and they shall have peace with him, until three generations shall have passed away, and many of the fourth generation shall have passed away in righteousness” (2 Ne 26:9).
After the destructions in the last days, we too will have a Millennial experience, dwelling with the Savior in peace and healing. Nephi provides the template for us to understand and to apply in our own time.
At the end of the Nephite Millennium, Satan is loosed and many return to their evil ways. Through their pride, they embrace wickedness and selfishness. Because they sell their salvation for a mess of pottage (“for naught”) they ripen for destruction. So it will be at the end of the great thousand year Millennium we look forward to. Satan won’t be loosed because God lets him loose, but because men will again become prideful and seek their own solutions and ways. They will let him into their lives, and it will quickly grow like wildfire. That is how it works today. Evil becomes popular, and everyone wants their own part of that popularity and power.
Again, the world of the Nephites (and the whole world at the end of the Millennium), will be ripe for final destruction. Having known the resurrected Christ and his apostles, many will have become sons of perdition, knowingly and joyfully rejecting the Savior and embracing evil. Mormon will later describe how wretched many will have become, resorting to torture, cannibalism and murder as tokens of honor (Moroni 9). Loving Satan more than God, they will proclaim themselves “Master Mahan” (perhaps meaning: Master Destroyer), for the riches and power of their enemies will have come to them (Moses 5:28-33).
Such destruction leaves the land readied for a new people. After the Millennium, the world will be cleansed and become a place for the celestial. After the end of the Nephites, the promised land will become the place for a new and humble people, the Gentiles.
But Nephi sees that the Gentiles would also become proud and wicked. While they will have many churches, they will reject revelation and miracles. They will believe of Christ, but reject Christ’s greatest gifts and powers. As Isaiah noted, they would honor God with their lips, but their hearts would be far away. Because of this, God would have to bring about a “marvelous work and a wonder” in the last days of the Gentiles (Isaiah 29).
Nephi made a list of things mankind should do to follow God. Interestingly, it begins with the concept of serving God rather than seeking money or getting gain. Selfishness and pride, priestcraft, are the beginning of all evil. People are to be charitable, which is the antonym of pride and selfishness (2 Ne 26:29-32).
“For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile” (2 Ne 26:33).
God wishes to break down all divisions among men. Satan, through priestcraft, wishes to cause division and contention. Satan wishes to force mankind to do his bidding. God invites man to his table, to eat of his banquet, denying none who will believe in Christ and repent.
Restoration and Continued Apostasy
2 Nephi 27-29
Nephi takes the words of Isaiah 29 and makes them his own. Where Isaiah sees Jerusalem besieged by Assyrians and Babylonians, Nephi sees the destruction of his own people. Where Isaiah sees the destruction as a warning to future generations to repent and follow God, Nephi sees it as the literal unfolding of the Restoration in the last days, wherein the Lord will deliver the gold plates to Joseph Smith to translate.
It becomes a “marvelous work and a wonder” because for Isaiah, the people will be restored via the words of prophets, such as Daniel, Zechariah, and Malachi, but primarily through Jesus Christ. As you can review in lesson 1 regarding the Deuteronomist changes made to Judaism, many spiritual things were removed from the faith. Many Jews would disbelieve angelic visitations, miracles, etc., but the restoration of ancient concepts would sound familiar to the humble.
So it is with the restoration of the gospel. The words of the Book of Mormon sound familiar to the humble reader. Still, with the restoration would come more churches and organizations that would seek their own answers. Instead of seeking divine revelation, many seek the philosophies of men with scripture mingled into it. As Isaiah would explain, they do honor God with their lips, but their hearts are far removed. Why? Because they seek God on their own terms, rather than on God’s terms.
And what terms are those? “A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible” (2 Ne 29:3). They insist on having only a part of God’s word, which they can neatly fit into their own belief systems and creeds. Horizontal religion has replaced vertical religion, as justifications are made to interpret the Bible in a particular way.
Such competing philosophies as Armenianism vs Calvinism; baptism by sprinkling, immersion, or none at all; God as an incomprehensible Trinity or as a Godhead; Gifts of the Spirit or no gifts for Christians today; and many other concepts that divide mankind from their God and true worship.
It is clearly understandable to see why the young Joseph Smith determined the contention and conflicts could not be settled by an appeal to the Bible. Since Joseph’s day, many other Christian religions have sought to increase their vertical connection with God via personal experiences with the Holy Spirit. Still, it is a very far cry from the concept of modern prophets and apostles who can speak in God’s name in an authoritative manner - an official and authoritative priesthood, as well as the “priesthood of all believers” who can be personally guided by the Spirit..
“...that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world;
That faith also might increase in the earth;
That mine everlasting covenant might be established;
That the fulness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world, and before kings and rulers” (D&C 1:20-23).
That the restoration of the gospel has revealed ancient concepts that were at one time lost, is undeniable. Whether it is “proof” that the LDS Church is true, is another issue, as evidence does not necessarily connote proof. Such can only be settled by an appeal to the Lord in personal prayer. Still, many on earth close their minds and ears to the possibility that the Lord would deliver more of his word to the world. They rely upon the warnings of their preachers or a quick review of Mormonism to determine its validity. However, for those who have studied it and compared it to ancient concepts for decades, we see that it can be and must be seriously measured through deeper study and prayer.
The Coming Millennium
2 Nephi 30
Nephi explains Isaiah’s vision of the final destruction of the wicked, and the blessings of the period of righteousness that will follow.
“And it shall come to pass that the Lord God shall commence his work among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, to bring about the restoration of his people upon the earth.
And with righteousness shall the Lord God judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth. And he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth; and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.
For the time speedily cometh that the Lord God shall cause a great division among the people, and the wicked will he destroy; and he will spare his people, yea, even if it so be that he must destroy the wicked by fire”
God will actually cause, or allow a great division to occur between the righteous and the wicked. It is at this time that one will be able to tell the difference between the wheat and the tares. The wicked will be those who insist that their wickedness is righteousness, and seek to impose it upon others. We see this occurring today in the United States on issues like: endless wars, abortion, sexual promiscuity, rampant debt, and the decay of government programs (Medicare, Social Security, VA, highways and bridges, Inner city education, deficit, etc).
Sadly, they will have convinced themselves that their philosophies are good, and that God either approves of them, or should approve of them if he is to be a righteous God. A good god, in fact, would celebrate them in their sins and pride! But as with Sodom and Gomorrah, God has shown patience with the wicked, awaiting their destruction until the very end, when they seek to force their evils upon society. God didn't destroy them for their personal wickedness and sexual perversity. God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for seeking to impose their sin on the righteous. We see this today, as government is used to impose others' views on those who disagreed. As unpopular as it may sound in a day like ours, people need to repent and toss aside their sinful actions and beliefs. Sodomites rejected the prophets of their day, seeking to rape and abuse the two prophet/angels sent to them. Today, the wicked seek to impose their sexual sins on the world, and there seems to be no place left to escape to. However, in the last day, the wicked will literally be burned at his coming, because of the greatness of Christ’s glory on his return. In doing so, the righteous will be saved.
It will be like the days of Sodom and Gomorrah, when the righteous will be led out from among the wicked. And it will be as the days of Israel in Egypt, when after all the warnings from Moses and all the destructions of warning they received, there was a final destruction of the first born of Egypt and Egypt’s army - or its future posterity and its power will be torn down. Finally, it will be as in the days of the Nephites at Jesus’ death. There will be great upheavals and destructions, and only the righteous will survive.
When the Millennium arrives, we will see:
“And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.
And then shall the wolf dwell with the lamb; and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf, and the young lion, and the fatling, together; and a little child shall lead them” (2 Ne 30:8-12).
The Millennium will be a time of peace for all God’s creatures who have not rebelled against him. With sin, error and the wicked destroyed, the righteous will finally have their peace and joy.