Ever since Malachi 3 (ca 455 BC?), covenant Israel has been waiting for the coming of the Lord. Lest any Christian mistake that Old Testament prophecy of the coming of the Lord in glory was fulfilled in the meridian of time, Christ himself taught that he would return and would at that time bring in the millennial reign and the judgment of men. Only — he said that he’d be coming soon. A thorough reading of the New Testament shows that the early Christians expected Jesus to return within a generation of his death. When he didn’t come back, turmoil ensued and strategies began to be adopted to explain why. Was his coming delayed? Was it already fulfilled and no one noticed? Had the prophecies been misunderstood? Or was the coming of the Lord still forthcoming?
Over the generations, scores of believers have preached Christ’s return. The speculations of Nostradamus placed it far, far in the future (1999), but that date has now come and passed. In 1999 Jerry Falwell predicted that Christ would come within 10 years (2009). Each time a prediction is made and does not come to pass, the wisdom of Matthew 24:36 becomes more and more apparent. Latter-day Saints don’t generally predict specific dates for the Second Coming. But since my youth, I’ve been hearing lessons such as today’s, wherein we recount the many last-days prophecies that have come to pass, and renew our faith in its imminence.
Somehow, the older you get, the less impact these lessons have. When I was in my 20’s, it was easy to believe that the 11th hour was upon us. After all, the moon had turned to blood, the gathering of Israel had begun, and there were wars and rumors of war (the World Wars had taken this to an unprecedented level). But after 50 years pass by, one wonders how long an hour can stretch. If we are part of the generation that Jesus mentioned would not pass away without seeing the coming of the Son of man, or even part of Joseph Smith’s generation, one must do some creative math to work out the sum.
Now, I wouldn’t dare to suggest that the Second Coming of Christ is anything but at the doors. We all know what can happen to those who doubt such a scenario. I’m not going to throw away my year’s supply of wheat. But I don’t take quotes from prophets about the end times as seriously as I used to. I plan for the long term, as I see most of my LDS friends doing. And I confess to watching the recent eclipse of the moon with a bit less fear than I would have as a young adult.
How were the Old Testament prophecies of the Second Coming of Christ presented in your wards today? Are we still being warned that this is the 11th hour? How seriously do Mormons take these warnings?