How can I understand the symbols used to teach about the Second Coming?
The hard events of the last day are a witness of God’s love for us and that His promises are about to be fulfilled. He says the same things about trials that come to each of us individually. He says these things are for our our good and to help us grow.
Is that a weird concept that awful things are for our own good?
How can these horrible world events give us hope?
We know, based on what we are witnessing, that Christ's return is near. It can strengthen our testimony that God is speaking to his prophets. We also can know that God is aware and watching.
The events of the last day also have a way of getting people's attention and give us opportunities to share our hope in Christ with them.
The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares
24 ¶Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:
25 But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.
26 But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.
27 So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?
28 He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?
29 But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.
30 Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
What is he describing about how wheat grows? What is a tare?
A tare is a weed that looks like wheat when it is young. Because of their similarity it makes it difficult to pull out the tares when they are young and before they get all entangled in the wheat. Otherwise wheat might get pulled out by accident thinking it was a tare.
What is he saying about the last days with this parable?
Doctrine and Covenants 86:1-7
1 Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servants, concerning the parable of the wheat and of the tares:
2 Behold, verily I say, the field was the world, and the apostles were the sowers of the seed;
3 And after they have fallen asleep the great persecutor of the church, the apostate, the whore, even Babylon, that maketh all nations to drink of her cup, in whose hearts the enemy, even Satan, sitteth to reign—behold he soweth the tares; wherefore, the tares choke the wheat and drive the church into the wilderness.
4 But behold, in the last days, even now while the Lord is beginning to bring forth the word, and the blade is springing up and is yet tender—
5 Behold, verily I say unto you, the angels are crying unto the Lord day and night, who are ready and waiting to be sent forth to reap down the fields;
6 But the Lord saith unto them, pluck not up the tares while the blade is yet tender (for verily your faith is weak), lest you destroy the wheat also.
7 Therefore, let the wheat and the tares grow together until the harvest is fully ripe; then ye shall first gather out the wheat from among the tares, and after the gathering of the wheat, behold and lo, the tares are bound in bundles, and the field remaineth to be burned.
The Second Coming will come as a thief in the night.
1 Thessalonians 5:2-8
2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.
3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.
4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.
5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.
6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.
7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.
8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.
In Ephesians Paul talks about the breastplate of righteousness and the helmet of salvation.
If we have been learning how to use our armour and been using it every day to fight the adversary we will already be prepared at each step closer to the second coming. If we are constantly watching and observing the conditions around us and reviewing the information that God has given us, then we will not be caught off guard and many thing that would not make sense will make sense because we have already witnessed many thing necessary to understand.
2 Peter 3:10-14
10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,
12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?
13 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
14 Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.
Peter records that to prepare for the second coming we need to be in holy conversation and godliness. Why is this important? Is it going to be uncomfortable if we slip up in our language in front of the Savior or righteous resurrected beings, how would that feel? Developing good ways of speaking now is a good way to prepare for the second coming and to be a person of good character at all times.
Doctrine and Covenants 106:4-5
4 And again, verily I say unto you, the coming of the Lord draweth nigh, and it over taketh the world as a thief in the night—
5 Therefore, gird up your loins, that you may be the children of light, and that day shall not overtake you as a thief.
JS Matthew 1:46-48
46 And what I say unto one, I say unto all men; watch, therefore, for you know not at what hour your Lord doth come.
47 But know this, if the good man of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to have been broken up, but would have been ready.
48 Therefore be ye also ready, for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of Man cometh.
Each watch was a period of several hours. We do not know the hour which the Savior will return, but we know that he will come in the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times. When is that dispensation? When did it start?
So a dispensation might be compared to a month in which we don’t know exactly how many days are in that month is the month August or February and is it a leap year. We don’t know. We know that he is coming at the end of this dispensation, but we don’t know how long the dispensation is going to be. As we look at what the Lord has revealed about the work that needs to be done and things that are going to happen preceding the second coming I think it is safe to say that, figuratively speaking, we are in the last few hours before the second coming. I think we are in the last watch or right before the last watch. Many things are happening right now. Things are happening that are at a more increasing rate separating the wheat from the tares.
The tares are being separated from the wheat in the Church, but are we having to make some potentially hard choices about things in our lives that we might call separating the wheat from the tares? Determining what things are wheat that we want to cultivate and have them sustain us and things or ideas that are tares that would choke out or spoil our supply of wheat.
In decades past the hard things were maybe justifying to people why we don’t drink alcohol or coffee and why the Church practiced polygamy for a time or why at one time not every man could have the priesthood.
Today we have issues constantly in our faces about why can’t women have the priesthood and why doesn’t Church recognize a gay marriage as a marriage. The world would try to convince us that the Church is being unfair and it can be a hard thing to explain to someone that doesn’t have all the facts or rejects some of the facts it is not unfair and God knows what is best for us, so what man perceives as unfair is the protection of a loving Father.
A young child might perhaps cry that you are being mean as you make a rule that they can not touch a wood burning stove. You know that sometimes that thing is really hot and could severely damage them. You also know that the bricks in front of the stove can be tricky for little legs to navigate without tripping and running into the into the pointed edge or hard metal of the stove, even if the stove is cool.
Heavenly Father knows how life works and the rules he sets are to help us be who we need to be to have what he has. The arguments the world makes today in favor of some of these social issues are much more compelling and harder to get people to understand than convincing people that alcohol should not have a place in our lives. The arguments are also much harder to not get ourselves confused by.
JS Matthew 1:38-39
38 Now learn a parable of the fig tree—When its branches are yet tender, and it begins to put forth leaves, you know that summer is nigh at hand;
39 So likewise, mine elect, when they shall see all these things, they shall know that he is near, even at the doors;
If we had no calendar we could notice winter possibly coming to a close as we see days getting warmer. It could just be a warm spell and might get cold again, but as we watched we might see it trending even warmer and we might see buds on the trees. Sure we could have a late frost and make a mess out of things, but the fact that the trees started to bud gives us a pretty certain indication that we are in spring or it is really close. The same is true of the second coming. When we see the things of preparation coming then we can know it is true.
We can see wars and rumors of wars, but we can also see the pace of the work of the Lord rocketing forward. Younger and more missionaries than every before going out. The standards for those missionaries have also been raised. We see temples being built in many diverse places around the world at a pretty quick rate considering the cost of each table and the manpower needed to staff open houses and to staff operating temples.