Matthew 24 contains the Savior’s prophecies about the destruction of Jerusalem and about his Second Coming. Over time, the verses in this chapter have been changed and rearranged, making it sometimes difficult to understand which event a particular verse describes. Fortunately, as part of his inspired translation of the Bible, Joseph Smith clarified the two prophecies and restored additional information. His inspired translation of Matthew 24 is found in Joseph Smith—Matthew in the Pearl of Great Price (LDS Gospel Doctrine Manual, New Testament, p. 86).
A few days before Christ’s crucifixion, His apostles were with Him on the Mount of Olives. They asked Him certain questions. Overlooking the Jerusalem temple complex, Jesus prophesied that the temple would be destroyed. The apostles asked,
Tell us when shall these things be which thou hast said concerning the destruction of the temple, and the Jews; and what is the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world, or the destruction of the wicked, which is the end of the world? (JST).
Concerning the destruction of the temple, Jesus explained the tribulation the Jews would suffer. He counseled that only those who fled to the mountains would be spared. In 66 A.D., the Jews rose up in rebellion against the Romans, and by 70 A.D. Jerusalem and her temple had been destroyed. The siege of Jerusalem under Titus occurred during the Passover, when 2.5 million residents and pilgrims sought shelter inside the walled city only a kilometer square. They began to starve very quickly and were caught in the crossfire of rival radical Jewish factions, as well.
Those who had converted to Christianity were led out of Jerusalem to Pella before the destruction, according to the historian Josephus, and did not suffer the same fate as the resident Jews and Jewish pilgrims. This was the crowning blow to the Jews in the Holy Land, forcing them into diaspora, or exile. (See “The Amazing Christian Escape from Jerusalem,” by George Horton.)
For in those days there shall also arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch, that, if possible, they shall deceive the very elect, who are the elect according to the covenant.
Interestingly, people often accuse Joseph Smith of being a false prophet, when he is the one (with ensuing prophets of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) who is the true prophet of God, foreordained to restore lost truth and authority to the earth.
For they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived—verily I say unto you, they shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire, but shall abide the day (Doctrine and Covenants 45:57).
Jesus also prophesied that wars and rumors of war would fill the earth before His Second Coming. The dispensation of the “fullness of times” began when the Church of Jesus Christ was restored. Since that moment, we have experienced the “last days” leading up to the Second Coming. Joseph Smith prophesied that an impending civil war in America would begin the period of war predicted by the Savior:
Verily, thus saith the Lord concerning the wars that will shortly come to pass, beginning at the rebellion of South Carolina, which will eventually terminate in the death and misery of many souls;
And the time will come that war will be poured out upon all nations, beginning at this place.
For behold, the Southern States shall be divided against the Northern States, and the Southern States will call on other nations, even the nation of Great Britain, as it is called, and they shall also call upon other nations, in order to defend themselves against other nations; and then war shall be poured out upon all nations (Doctrine and Covenants 87:1 – 3, a revelation received in 1832).
Elder Melvin J. Ballard, a General Authority of the Church of Jesus Christ, said the following:
“… The Lord is in control. He knows the end from the beginning. He has given us adequate instruction that, if followed, will see us safely through any crisis. His purposes will be fulfilled, and someday we will understand the eternal reasons for all of these events. Therefore, today we must be careful not to overreact, nor should we be caught up in extreme preparations; but what we must do is keep the commandments of God and never lose hope!
“But where do we find hope in the midst of such turmoil and catastrophe? Quite simply, our one hope for spiritual safety during these turbulent times is to turn our minds and our hearts to Jesus Christ. … Armed with the shield of faith, we can overcome many of our daily challenges and overpower our greatest weaknesses and fears, knowing that if we do our best to keep the commandments of God, come what may, we will be all right” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1992, 41–43; or Ensign, Nov. 1992, 31–32).
Jesus then said that the gospel would need to be preached to the entire world before the destruction of the wicked would occur. (See Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:27 and Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:31.) The missionary force of the Church of Jesus Christ was 58,000 before the 2012 announcement lowering the age at which young men and women may serve as Mormon missionaries. Immediately after the announcement by Prophet Thomas S. Monson, missionary applications multiplied by nearly 500%. With the development of the internet and mass communications, much missionary work also is carried out online. Mormon.org, the introductory website of the LDS Church, received over 650,000 requests for scriptures and missionaries in less than a year.
Jesus prophesied that there would be “famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places” during the end times. We are seeing that today, with chaotic weather patterns and costly disasters. Mormons are counseled to lay aside a year’s supply of food, clothing, and fuel and to be spiritually prepared for these emergencies.
Jesus prophesied that wickedness would increase. Churches set up to get gain will offer their sacraments to those who are unworthy in God’s eyes. Good will be called bad, and bad good. The love of men will wax cold. These things are happening before our very eyes.
Jesus taught the following to help us prepare:
- The parable of the fig tree (Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:38–40).
- The comparison of the Second Coming to the days of Noah (verses 41–43).
- The prophecy of two people working in the field and two people grinding at the mill (verses 44–46).
- The parable of the good man and the thief (verses 47–48).
- The parable of the lord and his servants (verses 49–54).
The Prophet Joseph Smith received a revelation that repeated and clarified the prophecies given to Jesus’ ancient disciples. This revelation is found in Doctrine and Covenants 45.