The Coming Days of Trial
The millennium will be an incredible period in the earth’s history, one that every prophet who has ever lived upon the earth has looked forward to with anxious anticipation. But before that great day, there will be a time of terrible trial, a sifting of unimaginable magnitude. Daniel described it thus, “there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation…” (Daniel 12:1) Given the troubled times our world has seen, this is a very sobering statement. A quote from President Nelson given during the Sunday session of conference summarized it very succinctly.
In coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.
This statement is bold, prophetic, and more than a bit unnerving. Both Daniel and President Nelson are speaking of the same time period, and that period is drawing nearer with each passing day.
The Saints of God are not strangers to trials and persecutions. The early saints suffered first at the hands of the jealous Sanhedrin, then by the twisted and deranged persecutions of Romans, and then at the crushing hand of a totalitarian church that was more interested in power than discipleship. The Latter-Day Saints also have suffered similar persecutions. Our forefathers were driven from state to state, had their possessions stolen, and laid their dead in shallow graves in barren and foreign landscapes as they fled for refuge beyond the borders of the United States of America.
Notwithstanding the saints’ familiarity with times of trouble, there will be something different about the coming days. The scriptures teach that unless the coming days are shortened, no flesh will remain upon the earth. The Lord has promised that, for the sake of righteous, those days will be shortened. It is frightening to think about such days, but it would be difficult to prepare oneself in the absence of such contemplation. The days ahead will not only hold physical challenges for the Saints of God, they will hold spiritual challenges that will best be described as a near universal crisis of faith.
In every generation, the disciples of Jesus Christ have awaited the Second Coming of the Lord. Even those early saints who were converted by the Savior’s original apostles, looked forward to the Second Coming of Christ. Many hoped that these glorious events would come to pass in their days. Regarding these days Paul, taught:
Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition… (2 Thes 2:1-3)
As a church, most of us are familiar with this passage of scripture, to which we point as evidence of the great apostasy. However, Joseph F. Smith Taught that there would be another falling away that would rival the Great Apostasy. During that first apostasy, even though true doctrine was lost, people continued to exercise faith in Jesus Christ, and in His divinity. However, according to Joseph F. Smith, before the Savior would come again, Christianity would have all but have collapsed on a global scale. Consider the following quote.
I can testify that when the Lord will come, he will find faith upon the earth. That faith, however, which he will find, shall be limited to a very small portion of the inhabitants of the earth, He will not find faith in the nations abroad to any noticeable extent; He will not find faith among the peoples of the earth who have not received the gospel as it has been restored. But there will be faith among those of the House of Israel who have been gathered out from the nations and who have repented of their sins and received the message that came through the Prophet Joseph Smith. (Doctrines of Salvation 3:10)
There are 16.1 million members of the church as of this writing compared to 2.2 billion individuals who identify themselves with the larger Christian community. For such a falling away to take place, you can imagine something incredible will need to take place that will destroy the faith of the masses. What could possibly happen that could have such a devastating impact on followers of Christ? What is it about the days ahead that will be so different?
The difference is in the introduction of the man Paul refers to as the man of sin or the son of perdition. This man is referred to by many other names, some of which are the Stout Horn, the Mouth, the Assyrian, and the Antichrist. For whatever reason, this man is one of the primary reasons that the times ahead will be so challenging.
Well might we wonder what will make this particular individual so different from those that have preceded him. After all, the world is no stranger to antichrists. Whole religions are based upon their teachings. Nehor was a very successful antichrist in America, as was King Jacob, and many others. Clearly these other antichrists were influential. There were many who lost faith in the Son of God because of their doctrine. Such will not be the case with this latter-day antichrist. He will be altogether different. Most of us are familiar with the passages from Paul I quoted above regarding the apostasy . I suspect many of us are less familiar with the passages that follow. Consider what Paul taught regarding this coming “man of sin”.
Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.
Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thes 2:3-4, 9-12)
Does this seem like any of the prior antichrists to you? Of the many antichrists this world has seen, none have been capable of convincing the general populace that they themselves were God. Certainly there have been very small groups of people that have been deceived into following minor antichrists on a smaller scale. This man, however, will be very different. His influence will be so powerful and so convincing that the majority of people on the planet will in fact loose their faith in Jesus Christ, and instead believe that this individual is God. Whatever else can be said of this man, he will be impressive, even godlike in certain aspects, or it would not be possible for him to achieve this level of deception.
The Lord permits this being to come as a means of sifting the world, separating those that love the truth, from those that love it not, and this will happen on an unprecedented scale. The natural question here is why? Why does the Lord allow such a being to deceive the nations - to take the entire globe over the precipice of spiritual destruction, like lemmings over the cliff? Of all the questions that could arise in your heart and mind while reading this article today, this is perhaps the second most critical question you should be asking ask yourself. The most important question is this: will I go over the cliff with the other lemmings? Ponder these questions in your heart.
Returning to Paul’s writings regarding this antichrist, he taught that this antichrist would enter into the temples of God, and claim them as his own. Our temples are sacred spaces, dedicated as the literal houses of the Lord on the earth. However shocking this might be, given this man’s objective, it is a logical step to take. As temples are set up for the worship of God, and he will set himself up as a god, the temples are his – right? What is more shocking than his entering into our holy temples and claiming them as his own, is the apparent fact that we are powerless to stop him. In other words, he dismisses the priesthood of God, and for a time we have no recourse. If this is true, it is not difficult to understand why this will be such a difficult trial of faith.
Paul’s is not the only passage of scripture that describes the incredible nature of this coming antichrist. Consider the following passages from Daniel wherein he sees the events of the last days in vision. In his vision he sees beasts that represent the kingdoms of the earth. The last, or fourth kingdom, is described as a powerful horned beast, and is the same nation that is represented by Ezra’s Eagle. In Daniel’s vision, the horns on the beast represent powerful and conspiring men that are not yet the nation’s recognized leaders, but conspire to be so. Of these conspiring men, the three most prominent, the three heads of Ezra’s Eagle, are supplanted by the antichrist. Consider the following from Daniel:
I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.
And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand… I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them…
Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of [the Lord’s] sanctuary was cast down. And an host was given him against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground; and [he] practiced, and prospered. (Daniel 7:8,25&21; 8:11-12)
Reading these passages, one cannot help but be amazed by this man. He is abnormally powerful, even god-like from this perspective. Even his blasphemy is different. He speaks incredible things against the most High. By this we are to understand that the things he says cause the paradigm shift of faith, whereby faith in Jesus Christ collapses into a smoldering ruin. The things he speaks of are so revolutionary they threaten to redefine history. This is a truly amazing thing to contemplate, what might this new false doctrine be?
Daniel foresaw that the antichrist would fundamentally change our laws--that is to say the very principles upon which our societies and perhaps even our science have been based for millennia. As if all this was not enough, he will wage war against the saints of God, and at least for a time, he will prevail and we will be overcome by him.
What does this mean for us personally? It means exactly what President Nelson told us from the pulpit in conference: it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the Holy Ghost. In this coming day, the pressure on the saints of God will be horrific, the kind of pressure that either destroys or transforms common material into jewels.
The Book of Revelation teaches that those that do not fall in line with the antichrist will suffer specific trials. For example, they will be exclude from participating in the economy, not being permitted to either buy or sell. The book of Second Esdras (Ezra’s Eagle), takes it even further, stating that the Saints of God will forfeit their possessions altogether. Consider the following:
For there shall be in every place, and in the next cities, a great insurrection upon those that fear the Lord [the war against the Saints]. They [the world] shall be like mad men, sparing none, but still spoiling and destroying those that fear the Lord. For they shall waste and take away their goods, and cast them [the Saints] out of their houses. Then shall they be known, who are my chosen; and they shall be tried as the gold in the fire. Hear, O ye my beloved, saith the Lord: behold, the days of trouble are at hand, but I will deliver you from the same. Be ye not afraid neither doubt; for God is your guide… (2nd Esdras 16:70-75)
Wow! This is what the days of trouble will look like for us! What good will physical preparations be? Guns, silver, food storage—for any of these to benefit you, they need to remain in your possession. When such a day comes, will you choose Christ in the face of certain death or poverty? Those will be bleak days to be sure. If we cannot take with us our possessions, it stands to reason that we will be hard pressed to provide for our families and ourselves, and herein is the whole point of the matter. In those days, we will not be able to provide for ourselves, we must rely wholly upon the Lord for our existence, just as the children of Israel did anciently as they wandered in desolate deserts.
God assures us that He will deliver us, and guide us through those troubled days, but our faith must remain strong. How difficult will it be for you to remain faithful when your children are starving? When the only thing keeping you from food, clothing and shelter is your faith in Jesus Christ. Deny the Christ and prosper, follow Him and become destitute. The prospects are truly sobering.
Nevertheless, our pioneer forefathers passed this most difficult of tests. Our Jewish brothers and sisters are no strangers to such brutality. The fact of the matter is that the Lord has tried His saints before, and they have risen to the challenge. Yes, these will be the most challenging circumstances to which the saints of any generation in history will have been subjected. Do not forget, however, that we were reserved to come forth at this time. To this end were we born. We can and will remain faithful, if we prepare ourselves spiritually now. Procrastination will be spiritual death. If you have not already established firmly in the deepest parts of your soul that Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten Son of the Living God, it is highly improbable that you will be able to do so in that great and terrible day, perhaps impossible.
The passages that we have covered so far have been sobering. We have seen that the coming antichrist will be both powerful and persuasive. Just how impressive he will be can only be understood fully in conjunction the teaching of the book of Revelations regarding the topic. John refers to this antichrist simply as the “mouth”. He uses this reference because of the incredible blasphemies which he will speak against the Lord. Consider these passages from the book of Revelation:
And there was given unto [the beast] a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies… and [the antichrist] opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. [Note this was the role previously filled by the three heads of Ezra’s Eagle] And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, and deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast. And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. (Rev 13:5-7;13-15)
What!? Of all the passages so far this is the most incredible to me. No wonder this man will appear god-like to us. Up unto this point, giving life has been the exclusive domain of God. No wonder this man will be able to utter marvelous blasphemes against our Father in Heaven, the things he can do in the sight of all the people are incredible. This is why if you wait until that day to gain a testimony you will not stand a chance.
The most disturbing part about all of this is that John does not describe these miracles as clever cons. Rather John says that the people of the earth are deceived into believing the blasphemies of the antichrist because his miracles are real! The antichrist is certainly empowered by Satan to perform incredible, even miraculous feats. The scriptures say as much. I think there must be something very special about this man, because if Satan could have been doing these kind of things all along - don’t you think he would have? It seems that together Satan and the antichrist will create a synergistic relationship wherein they are stronger than they would be apart.
You are not alone if these things frighten you. Fear is the one thing that will be common among all men in that great and terrible day when men’s hearts fail them because their terror. Incredibly, however, the Lord tells us not to fear. He is in control, and has known these things from the beginning. Among the words of Isaiah, which the Lord has repeatedly commanded us to study, are found these interesting passages, which pertain to the last days, and the conditions that will exist upon the earth just before he fully restores the House of Israel:
Who hath declared from the beginning, that we may know, and beforetime, that we may say, He is righteous? Yea, there is none that sheweth, yea, there is none that declareth, yea, there is none that heareth your words. Shew the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods [referring to Satan and the antichrist’s inability to know the mind of God]: yea, do good, or do evil, that we may be dismayed, and behold it together. Behold, ye are of nothing, and your work of nought: an abomination is he that chooseth you.
Ye [the House of Israel] are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no savior. I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God.
I have raised up one from the north, and he shall come: from the rising of the sun shall he call upon my name: and he shall come upon princes as upon mortar, and as the potter treadeth clay. (Isaiah 41:26,23,24, 43:10-12, 41:25)
Note that the passages above include several usages of the term god or gods with a lower case “g”. This usage acknowledges that this being will be very powerful, however, he will be nothing before the true God of Israel. To reassure us of that fact, and to make us His witnesses, he tells us of these things long before the strange god comes into our lands. Furthermore, he tells us that he has prepared a powerful force to rebuff this wickedness that will come to our rescue from the north (D&C 133:26-35). For those who are familiar with my book, “A Remnant Shall Return – A latter-day study of the restoration of the Lost Ten Tribes”, this group is familiar. For those who have not read that book, I encourage you to do so.
Isaiah is not the only prophet to refer to this coming antichrist as a “god”. The 11th chapter of Daniel refers to the coming of a “strange god” in the latter-days. Also Ezra, in the book of Second Esdras, after describing the shocking events that will happen in the last days, warns the House of Israel in the following way:
Hear now these things and understand them, ye servants of the Lord. Behold, the word of the Lord, receive it: believe not the gods of whom the Lord spake. (2nd Esdras 16: 35-36)
The things the Lord spake with regard to these gods is beyond the scope of this article, but can be read in chapters 15 and 16 of 2nd Esdras. We should understand from all that has been written in this article thus far, that these gods will be VERY convincing. The world will believe them, and take their bait, hook, line and sinker. As such, the world will forsake the faith of their fathers and go after this “strange god”. Nevertheless, regardless of what evidence this “strange god” produces, or whatever the incredible miracles he performs, the Lord has warned His people thousands of years in advance of his coming. If it had not been for this merciful warning, what chance would we have? Thankfully, the Lord has always revealed His secrets to His servants, the prophets, both living and dead.
We have covered a lot of ground in this article, with much to contemplate. In closing, I would like to share an incredible prophesy from the ancient fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls that also pertains to the coming of this strange god, and the ensuing times of trouble. The translation of these fragments is largely academic and therefore lacks the beautiful flowing language of William Tyndale’s King James version of the Bible, but the passages are still very valuable, and for me they ring with truth. In these writings, the antichrist is referred to as Belial king of the Kittim. The author of this scroll begins by describing the forces on both sides of the engagement. On the side of the antichrist the forces are referred to as “the Son of Darkness” and are described as follows:
The first attack of the Sons of Light shall be undertaken against the forces of the Sons of Darkness, the army of Belial: the troops of Edom, Moab, the sons of Ammon, the Amalekites, Philistina, and the troops of the Kittim of Asshur. Supporting them are those who have violated the covenant. (War Scroll Col 1:1-2)
Note that the army of the antichrist is composed of the historic enemies of Israel, including those that have forsaken the covenant. The antichrist is associated with Kittim of Asshur. Elsewhere in the scriptures the ships of Chittim are noted as being unusually powerful instruments of war that decisively turn the tide of battles. They are among the arsenal of the antichrist’s “devices,” which he uses to rise to power. I believe we will know them when we see them. Those opposing the antichrist are described as follows:
The sons of Levi, the sons of Judah, and the sons of Benjamin, those exiled to the wilderness, shall fight against them (War Scroll Col 1:2)
In this phrase, the goods guys are described as being the tribes that made up the ancient Kingdom of Judah, and the modern country of Israel. The Kingdom of Judah was scattered in 70 AD, and was not gathered again into a cohesive body until the re-founding of Israel. This is the group that is being referred to here, but then the writer of this scroll sees that this group will be joined by another, and that the battle will commence when this latter group joins the former. This combining of forces is represented as follows:
…when the exiles of the Sons of Light return from the Wilderness of the Peoples to camp in the Wilderness of Jerusalem. (War Scroll Col 1:3)
This other group of Israelites is described as returning from the Wilderness of the Peoples. This is a description used by Ezekiel to refer to the long awaited day wherein the Lord will gather his people once again after the manner of Egypt (see Ezekiel 20.) Jeremiah taught that in the day that the Lord accomplishes this great work, the world will no longer speak of the Exodus of Egypt, but the day when the Lord brought back the children of Israel out of the north through a highway cast up out of the great deep. This passage refers to that day, and to that group. This is the return of the Lost Tribes of Israel. The scroll continues:
On the day when the Kittim [the followers of the antichrist] fall there shall be a battle and horrible carnage before the God of Israel, for it is a day appointed by Him from ancient times as a battle of annihilation for the Sons of Darkness. On that day the congregation of the gods and the congregation of men shall engage one another, resulting in great carnage. The Sons of Light and the forces of Darkness shall fight together to show the strength of God with the roar of a great multitude and the shout of gods and men; a day of disaster. (Col 1:9-10)
Again, the above passage describes that upon the side of the Sons of Darkness – the Kittim and enemies of Israel, there are both men and gods. I believe that this is what Daniel described regarding the days when the irons legs of Nebuchadnezzar’s statue were broken. In that vision, Nebuchadnezzar beheld a statue comprised of different alloys representing different kingdoms that would arise during the course of the history of the earth. In the latter-days the powerful 4th kingdom was described as legs of iron (America) but that those legs were fractured by the events described in Ezra’s Eagle. He then described the surviving kingdom as the feet of the statue, comprised of both iron and clay. Apparently this mixture of clay and iron is symbolic of a powerful union that will happen in those days. These are the words of the angel as he interpreted this portion of the dream for Daniel :
And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they will not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay. (Daniel 2:43)
The Angel does not specify the identity of the mysterious entity “they” that will come in the days following Ezra’s Eagle. He states only that when they come, they will rise to power by mingling among the “seed of men”, but not cleaving to them. In light of everything we have learned about the antichrist, this passage is very interesting. The imagination can conceive of any number of possible interpretations, but I am confident that when this prophecy is finally fulfilled, we will see it and will understand its meaning with total clarity. This is the context of the gods and men that are combined together to fight against the House of Israel in the last days.
The War Scroll describes that on the side of the Sons of Light, we have the power and strength of God. This latter description is reminiscent of the passage in 1 Nephi 14:14 wherein Nephi saw the power of God descend upon the Saints of God, and upon the Covenant people of the Lord in great power and authority. Nephi was forbidden to describe in his plain and simple words what he saw, but the context was that the Great and Abominable Church (i.e. the secret combinations of our day), made war against the Saints. I believe that what he saw is being described as this scroll continues:
It is a time of distress for all the people who are redeemed by God. In all their afflictions none exists that is like it, hastening to its completion as an eternal redemption. On the day of their battle against the Kittim, they shall go forth for carnage in battle. In three lots the Sons of Light shall stand firm so as to strike a blow at wickedness, and in three the army of Belial shall strengthen themselves so as to force the retreat of the forces of Light. And when the banners of the infantry cause their hearts to melt, then the strength of God will strengthen the hearts of the Sons of Light. In the seventh lot: the great hand of God shall overcome Belial and all the angels of his dominion, and all the men of his forces shall be destroyed forever. (Col 1:11-15)
The day when the Son of God, the King of Kings raises his hand against the antichrist and his forces will result in their total destruction. This is described in detail in Revelations 17. Needless to say it is awesome. Perhaps due to the fragmentary nature of the War Scroll, it does not contain the same degree of detail, but it does say the following:
…and in the seventh lot, when the great hand of God shall be lifted up against Belial and against all the forces of his dominion for an eternal slaughter [missing text] ... and the shout of the holy ones when they pursue the Assyrian [the antichrist is also known as the Assyrian]. Then the sons of Japheth shall fall, never to rise again, and the Kittim shall be crushed without remnant and survivor. So the God of Israel shall raise His hand against the whole multitude of Belial. (Col 18:1-3)
Regardless of how powerful these “gods” will be, and how incredible their accomplishments, they are literally nothing before the power of the Lamb of God. They are crushed before Him. The question that arises in my mind is if the Lord could have destroyed the antichrist so easily, why does he permit these trials to go on as long as He does. He could literally stop it with the raising of His hand, but He does not. The writer of this scroll recognizes this fact, and writes this message to us in the latter-days, who will be called upon to endure this trial.
Righteousness shall rejoice on high, and all sons of His truth shall rejoice in eternal knowledge. But as for you, O sons of His covenant, take courage in God's crucible, until He shall wave His hand and complete His fiery trials (Column 7:8&9)
The days of trail that are coming are meant to refine us. To consume our dross, and to make us holy. I believe that Isaiah says it best:
In that day shall the branch of the Lord be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel. And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem: when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning. (Isaiah 4:2-4)
The millennium will begin immediately after these horrific days of trial. These days of trial are not some inconvenient catastrophe that befalls the Saints in the last days. It is an orchestrated event that has been known by the Lord from the beginning. Its purpose is to purge the earth in preparation of the millennial reign of Jesus Christ upon the earth. We know from the mini-millennial period that occurred in ancient America after the administration of Jesus Christ, that every individual that makes it through the trials of that day will be exalted, not a soul will be lost. This is the reason for the incredible purge that will take place. Only those whose faith in the Son of God is unshakable will abide that day. The reward is too great for those whose faith is insufficient to merit such a rich reward.
Yes the days that are coming will be terrifying. Yes in the eyes of the world we will potentially lose everything: our possessions, our treasure, even many of our loved ones. , If we are able to endure those trials in faith, and despite all of the deception of the incredible antichrist who will come, retain our testimonies in the Son of God, we will have our garments washed clean in the blood of the Lamb, and we will be made to be Holy, as He is Holy.
It is because of the trials of the coming days, and our faithfulness in the face of such trials, that we will be able to stand upon the face of the earth, in the mighty presence of both the Father and the Son, and not be ashamed. It is about perspective. From this perspective, the coming days provide incredible opportunities for the faithful. Again, we were born for this! I say, BRING IT ON!