As difficult as the Book of Revelation is to understand, it evokes fear and awe among those who study it, for it prophesies of the horrible tribulations that will precede the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Many Christians expect the most bitter of the tribulations to last 7 years, and some Evangelical groups expect a “pre-tribulation rapture,” during which the righteous will be taken up, never experiencing the worst of times.
Safety in Times of Tribulation
Mormon doctrine does not accept a pre-tribulation rapture and does not consider the idea to be biblical. In the Doctrine and Covenants, a collection of modern revelations to prophets of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often inadvertently called the Mormon Church), it says,
I have sworn in my wrath, and decreed wars upon the face of the earth, and the wicked shall slay the wicked, and fear shall come upon every man;
And the saints also shall hardly escape; nevertheless, I, the Lord, am with them, and will come down in heaven from the presence of my Father and consume the wicked with unquenchable fire.
And behold, this is not yet, but by and by (Doctrine and Covenants 63:33 – 35).
Although there will not be a pre-tribulation rapture, the Saints and the righteous who flee to them for protection will be gathered and protected:
Wherefore, seeing that I, the Lord, have decreed all these things upon the face of the earth, I will that my saints should be assembled upon the land of Zion;
And that every man should take righteousness in his hands and faithfulness upon his loins, and lift a warning voice unto the inhabitants of the earth; and declare both by word and by flight that desolation shall come upon the wicked (Doctrine and Covenants 63:36, 37).
Along with most Christians, Mormons believe the righteous will be caught up at the moment of the Second Coming to meet Christ in the air, and that the graves of the righteous dead will be opened to yield them up to the first resurrection.
The Seven Seals
As he records in the Book of Revelation, John sees the opening of the six seals, and then the seventh, undone by the Savior Jesus Christ Himself, the seventh seal representing the “millennium,” 1000 years of peace with Christ as King (Revelation 19:1–9; 20:1–11). The seals each represent 1,000 years of the Lord’s doings with the inhabitants of the earth. The works of men are exposed and judged.
Understanding the Book of Revelation
Joseph Smith, the first prophet of this, the last dispensation of time before the Second Coming of Christ, had questions about some of the symbolism in the Book of Revelation, and he took them to the Lord. The questions and answers are recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 77.
Joseph learned that the sea of glass and fire is the earth in its celestial state as the final dwelling place for those who inherit the highest kingdom of heaven. He learned that the four beasts are figurative, describing heaven, the paradise of God, the happiness of man and beasts, both spiritual and temporal. The eyes of the beasts represent light and knowledge, while their wings represent power to move and to act. The 24 elders seen by John represent leaders of the 7 churches who are now in the paradise of God (in the Spirit World). John saw that the book with the 7 seals contains the “mysteries, and the works of God; the hidden things of his economy concerning this earth during the seven thousand years of its continuance, or its temporal existence.”
The four angels have been assigned to the four corners of the earth with the power to save and destroy. They also take the everlasting gospel of Christ to the world and exercise judgment over mankind. The angel ascending in the east holds back the four destroying angels until the work of the gospel has been completed — “…is Elias which was to come to gather together the tribes of Israel and restore all things.” The Lord told Joseph that these things would be accomplished just after the opening of the sixth seal.
Joseph then asked about the 144,000, and the Lord replied,
We are to understand that those who are sealed are high priests, ordained unto the holy order of God, to administer the everlasting gospel; for they are they who are ordained out of every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, by the angels to whom is given power over the nations of the earth, to bring as many as will come to the church of the Firstborn (Doctrine and Covenants 77:11).
In other words, these will be last-days missionaries.
Joseph learned that the doings explained in the ninth chapter of the Book of Revelation will occur just after the opening of the seventh seal. Joseph also asked about the two witnesses discussed in the 11th chapter of Revelation.
They are two prophets that are to be raised up to the Jewish nation in the last days, at the time of the restoration, and to prophesy to the Jews after they are gathered and have built the city of Jerusalem in the land of their fathers (Doctrine and Covenants 77:15).
We Live in Perilous Times
In the Book of Revelation we learn that Satan has always fought against the children of God with pestilence, famine, and sword. But he will fight especially hard as the coming of the Son of God is at hand. Late Mormon prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley stated:
“That war, so bitter, so intense, has gone on, and it has never ceased. It is the war between truth and error, between agency and compulsion, between the followers of Christ and those who have denied Him. His enemies have used every stratagem in that conflict. They’ve indulged in lying and deceit. They’ve employed money and wealth. They’ve tricked the minds of men. They’ve murdered and destroyed and engaged in every other unholy and impure practice to thwart the work of Christ. …
“[Opposition] has been felt in the undying efforts of many, both within and without the Church, to destroy faith, to belittle, to demean, to bear false witness, to tempt and allure and induce our people to practices inconsistent with the teachings and standards of this work of God. …
“The war goes on. It is waged across the world over the issues of agency and compulsion. It is waged by an army of missionaries over the issues of truth and error. It is waged in our own lives, day in and day out, in our homes, in our work, in our school associations; it is waged over questions of love and respect, of loyalty and fidelity, of obedience and integrity. We are all involved in it” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 55–58; or Ensign, Nov. 1986, 42, 44–45)
After making the comments quoted above, President Hinckley added, “We are winning [the war against Satan], and the future never looked brighter” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 58; or Ensign, Nov. 1986, 45).
John identified many plagues, wars, and judgments that would occur before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (Revelation 8–16). Then, in Revelation 19, he described the coming of the Lord, symbolized by a marriage supper (Revelation 19:7–9). The bridegroom is Jesus Christ, and he will “be married” to the righteous who will form His church. The Second Coming of Jesus Christ will usher in the Millennium, a thousand-year period when Christ will reign personally upon the earth. After the Millennium, Satan will be loosed for a season, and one last great battle will be fought between the armies of God and the armies of Satan (Revelation 20:7–8; Doctrine and Covenants 88:111–113). This is sometimes called the battle of Gog and Magog.
President Ezra Taft Benson said:
Each day the forces of evil and the forces of good enlist new recruits. Each day we personally make many decisions showing the cause we support. The final outcome is certain—the forces of righteousness will win. But what remains to be seen is where each of us personally, now and in the future, will stand in this battle—and how tall we will stand. Will we be true to our last days and fulfill our foreordained missions?” (“In His Steps,” Ensign, Sept. 1988, 2).
The Glorious City
Revelation 21:10–22:5 describes the celestial glory of the earth and the city in which those who have attained celestial glory will reside. While Mormons are building temples to dot the earth, and in which Christ walks, when we live with Him again, temples will no longer be necessary, because we will be in His presence and every place will be holy. Late prophet David O. McKay had a vision of the glorious city:
He saw a beautiful city, many people dressed in white, and the Savior:
The city, I understood, was [the Savior’s]. It was the City Eternal; and the people following him were to abide there in peace and eternal happiness.
But who were they?
As if the Savior read my thoughts, he answered by pointing to a semicircle that then appeared above them, and on which were written in gold the words: These Are They Who Have Overcome the World—Who Have Truly Been Born Again! (Cherished Experiences from the Writings of President David O. McKay, comp. Clare Middlemiss , 60).
The “Curse” in Revelation 22
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.
Some Christians who fight against Mormonism use these verses to try to prove that Mormons are cursed because they have added books to scripture. But, 1) the books of the Bible are not organized chronologically, and to not add any scripture after Revelation would remove several books of the New Testament, including the gospel of John; 2) The Church of Jesus Christ has neither added to nor taken away anything from the Holy Bible; 3) such “curses” were commonplace in manuscripts and served as warnings to the copyists who transmitted scripture before the advent of the printing press; 4) the same warning occurs in the Book of Deuteronomy (See Deuteronomy 4:2), and that would exclude all the rest of the Old and New Testaments, and 5) as in the bolded text above, the statement refers to the Book of Revelation, and Mormons use the King James Version, nothing changed.