Sunday, April 11, 2010

Behold, I Come Quickly

When speaking of His Second Coming, Christ often admonishes, "Behold, I come quickly" (Revelation 3:11; Revelation 22:7,12, 20; D&C 33:18, 34:12, 35:27, 87:8, etc.). This admonition is often received by members of the Church as a reference to time or speed, suggesting that Christ will come again very soon. This common understanding of this phrase is appropriate and I am certainly not the one to discount it. I can, however, suggest an alternate meaning may also be intended.

In the Bible Dictionary, the word "quick" is defined as "living" or "alive". Similar definitions are found in older dictionaries where "quickly" is defined much more closely to the word "quicken," as in, "quickened by the spirit" or "made alive by the spirit". If we accept this alternate definition, Christ is not declaring the time of His Coming, rather the manner or way in which He will come. Christ will return full of life-- resurrected and powerful. He will come quickly, or as a vibrant, living being.

Accepting this definition also changes another frequent phrase in the Doctrine and Covenants. The Lord often says we should, "give heed unto my word, which is quick and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword" (D&C 6:2, 11:2, 27:1, etc.). Again, our new (or actually, very old) definition changes the meaning from a statement of timing to a statement of vibrancy. His word is alive and powerful. His word is vibrant.

Each of these examples correctly point to Christ as the source of life. Christ has said that he is the life (John 11:25, 14:6), the living water (John 7:38) and the God of the living (Matthew 22:32). We live by His word (Deut. 8:3, Matt. 4:4, D&C 84:44), or we have eternal life through His gospel and obedience to His commandments. We obtain the life of which Jesus speaks when we are baptized, or born again, as Christ told Nicodemus (John 3:3). Through this covenant, we become the children of Christ, or those to whom He gives life.

Jesus Christ will come again. He will come as a glorified, vibrant, powerful and resurrected being. We will see the prints of the nails on his hands and in his side, but He will be living flesh. We can secure eternal life for our souls as we have faith in Christ and His atonement, repent of all of our sins, make and keep sacred baptismal covenants, receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost and continue to endure faithfully. As we do so, we may go quickly to the place prepared for us in the kingdom of God.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Don't Be A Goat

In Matthew 24, Christ outlines several of the signs of his Second Coming. This chapter is significant enough to our day that the Joseph Smith translation of Matthew 24 is published in the Pearl of Great Price as Joseph Smith--Matthew.

The very next chapter, Matthew 25, contains three parables used to teach the same principle of preparedness. Just as we see Matthew 24 as a significant chapter at least partially because of its repetition, the repetition of the principles taught in Matthew 25 should be seen as an indication that these principles are significant to our salvation.

The first of these parables is the parable of the ten virgins. Elder Oaks pointed out in 2004 that these virgins were all invited to the feast, an indication that these virgins are symbolic of the members of the Church prior to the Second Coming of Christ. Of ten virgins waiting for admittance to a wedding feast, only five of the virgins in the parable were prepared with enough oil for their lamps to enter the feast when the bridegroom came. The other five, who had gone to get more oil, were denied entrance upon their return. This parable concludes with the warning to, "Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh" (Matthew 25:13).

The second parable is the parable of the talents. In this parable, a man gives each of his three servants a respective number of talents. When he returns, he is pleased to find that two of his servants have doubled their allotment. The third, unprepared servant had done nothing with the talents he had been given and is chastised for not even collecting the interest on the investment given to him. The talent of the third servant is then given to the first with the warning that unprofitable servants will be cast into outer darkness.

Finally, we read that Christ shall come again he will divide the sheep from the goats. The sheep, as metaphors for the faithful who were prepared for Christ at his coming, will then inherit the kingdom of God while the unfaithful, unprepared goats will go away into everlasting punishment (v. 34, 46).

In the third parable encouraging us to be prepared for the Second Coming, Christ teaches us what we must do. That is, Christ teaches us how to be a sheep instead of a goat. After teaching that he will separate the sheep from the goats and put the sheep on his right hand, he says:

Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 

This is, then, the key. Service to Christ is how we can be prepared for the wedding feast, multiply our talents and be counted with the sheep. To be absolutely clear, Christ continues:

Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

The point here is one with which we are all familiar. Those who will be saved in the Kingdom of God will not be the selfish, but the servants. As we are willing to serve Christ by serving those around us, we will be prepared for the Second Coming of Christ and will be on his right hand. This is a task that is within our grasp-- if you just have the wisdom to not be a goat.