The topic of the second coming of Jesus Christ is and has been of interest to Christians since He ascended into heaven. The apostles saw Him leave and received a promise. “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11) After 1,975 years, are we in those last days? This is a lengthy subject, one that I cannot cover definitively here, but I’d like to cover the basics, the principles and major events that will lead up to Christ’s return.
Prior to the second coming, the world must be prepared thoroughly according to the Lord’s standards. He has dictated that His gospel and all revelation must be restored to the earth through angels (Rev. 14:6, Acts 3:21) and preached to the entire world (Matthew 24:14). The dispensation of the fullness of times (Eph. 1:10) opened with a heavenly visitation of the Father and the Son to a boy in 1820 (Read here for details). That boy, Joseph Smith, was called to be a prophet to God’s children on earth so that we could catch a glimpse of the mind of God and be prepared for what is to happen (Amos 3:7). Through Joseph Smith, the Lord restored His priesthood keys by sending His angels, including the prophet Elijah (Mal. 4:5-6; D&C 110:13-16)and built up His church again on the earth, which will never be destroyed (Dan. 2:44-45).
With an increase of goodness, knowledge, and light on the earth, Satan has increased his efforts in equal measure. Christ warned His apostles,
“Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: … and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. … Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you … And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” (Matthew 24:4-13)
This grim prophecy refers to our time. Evil in the world is bound to increase up until Christ comes. But as He said, “He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” We needn’t fear what the world may do or whatever may happen, if we are faithful to the Lord, we will be spiritually safe.
There are many, many other signs given, particularly those written in the book of Revelation. The moon shall be red as blood, the sun will be blackened, the stars will fall from heaven, the earth will reel like a drunkard, the waters will be poisoned, and gigantic hail will fall from the sky. There will be death, fire, war, destruction and likely much more (lengthier lists of canonical, apocryphal, and anecdotal signs exist. Lists and articles can be found here and here). It will all lead up to what is described as the great and terrible day of the Lord; great for those who anticipated and prepared for it and terrible for the unprepared and unworthy.
The greatest events for the righteous will occur during that time. The saints of God and the 12 tribes of Israel will be gathered together spiritually (Isaiah 52:8) and physically. The Lord will then bring again Zion, the New Jerusalem, down from heaven (Rev. 21:2; Moses 7:62-63). This New Jerusalem is distinct from the old one and both will exist as places where Christ’s people will live.
The forces of evil will also gather to fight against Jerusalem and Zion. When the Jews in Jerusalem are overpowered, they will flee and find refuge at the Mount of Olives, upon which Christ will set foot and it will divide in two (Zech. 14:4). When they see Him, they will ask Him, “What are these wounds in thine hands?” to which He will answer, “Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.” (Zech. 13:6) They will come to know that Jesus is their long awaited Messiah and will be forgiven. Christ will fight their battles and will soon publicly show Himself to the entire world in all His glory dressed in red robes (Isaiah 63:1). Once the forces of evil have been defeated and Satan bound (Rev. 20:2), Christ will reign personally on the earth in some kind of divine government based in Jerusalem and Zion (Micah 4:2) for a thousand years.
As interesting as all this may be, it seems to have little application to the daily life of a Christian. How it all connects to the individual, however, is in Christ’s statement, “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.” (Matt. 24:44) We do not know when the end will be nor do we know when our individual lives will end. It is our responsibility to be ready for either eventuality so that He doesn’t find us unprepared to meet Him. But don’t take my understanding of the sign of the times just as it is. Study it our for yourself and pray to God for understanding. Read scriptures in the Old and New Testaments and compare them for a broader view. As you begin to see fulfillment of prophecy, let it add to your faith in Christ to better endure to up and coming trials.