Chapter 19 - The Pre-mortal Legacy of the House of Israel
In the prior chapter, we learned of the trials and struggles that will befall the Jews in Jerusalem at the hand of the antichrist. Once he is driven from America, he will attack the Jews with tremendous ferocity. The Jews will not be left defenseless. They will have two mighty prophets the Lord will have endowed with great power, with the intent of preserving the Jews until He comes. We learned that ultimately the antichirst will prevail upon these two prophets and they will be killed, only to be resurrected three and a half days later.
John’s revelation now pauses and jumps back in time to the pre-mortal councils of the Father. From this section, we obtain beautiful insights into the pre-mortal House of Israel. It is a thrilling insight into our own past, as well as the uniqueness of the world upon which we live, and the inhabitants who have called it their home. It is one of my favorite chapters in scripture.
John vision of the pre-moral council begins as follows:
And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: and she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. (Rev 12:1-2)
This part of John’s vision opens with a wonder in heaven – a woman, beautifully adorned with the sun, and a crown of twelve stars, with the moon at her feet. This woman is in the throes of labor pains, and is about to give birth to a son. John does not identify the woman, but we learn her identity from the vision of Israel’s birthright son – Joseph.
Joseph had many dreams. Interestingly, he was able to interpret the dreams of others, but the meaning behind his own dreams seemed to elude him. Had he known their meaning, he might have kept them to himself, rather than sharing them with his family, who became offended by them. Consider Joseph’s recounting of one such dream to his father Jacob and Jacob’s interpretation of it:
Jacob’s immediate interpretation of this dream was that he was represented by the sun, Joseph’s mother by the moon, and the stars his children, the twelve tribes of Israel. It is not insignificant that we are given the meaning of this symbolic dream by the great patriarch Jacob himself. Other modern “scholars” have provided more convoluted interpretations of this sign to calculate specific dates. To do so they have associated the woman with the movements of the constellations, and planets. These contrived dates have come and gone with no fanfare, as such dates usually do. Therefore, it is the interpretation provided by the father of Israel, Jacob, that I will base my analysis upon, and none other. As such, the woman represents the embodiment of Jacob’s family – the House of Israel.
Nevertheless, there is meaning behind the fact that heavenly bodies are being used to represent the House of Israel. It was prophesied that a portion the House of Israel would be scattered to the uttermost parts of heaven, and would be gathered back to the earth from thence in the latter days. Nehemiah reminds us of this fact.
The Lord depicted the House of Israel by using stars for a very meaningful reason. He scattered the main body of the House of Israel amongst them. He did this for a wise purpose, but His reasons for doing so would not be understood by His saints until the last days. To understand that purpose we must turn to the great prophet Isaiah. In the following passage, the Lord is tenderly addressing the House of Israel. It will be seen that the manner in which the Lord is addressing the House of Israel, is in the same context of this chapter. This context is the House of Israel living on a hostile prison planet that is occupied by Satan and his vast hosts whose primary objective is to destroy them. In the following verses the Lord reveals His plan for countering Satan’s terrible fury:
The above passages are packed with information. As this chapter unfolds, you will see how the things John sees will mirror these passages. For now, the primary point in sharing this passage is to demonstrate to the reader that the Lord promised to plant the heavens with the Exiles of Israel – the Lost Ten Tribes. The use of stars to symbolically represent the House of Israel is a reminder of this promise. There is another reason that the House of Israel is thus represented, but it will not be touched upon until later in John’s vision. John’s vision continues:
The red dragon of this dream is an obvious representation of Lucifer and the third part of the host of heaven that chose to follow him. The symbolism behind the dragon’s seven heads, ten horns, and seven crowns has not yet been revealed but will be later, as John’s vision progresses. The man-child is, of course, the Savior, Christ the Lord.
Christ was born through the lineage of the House of Israel upon this earth. Satan did everything in his power to destroy the Savior while He was upon Satan’s prison planet. He convinced King Herod to kill all the children in the region around Bethlehem below two years of age, in an attempt to devour the King of kings. Satan tempted Christ incessantly, trying to make Him fall short through sin:
For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. (Heb 4:15)
Satan hardened Israel’s heart against their Savior, and He became a stone of offense and a stumbling block for them. As such, the Jewish leadership turned against their Savior and they advocated His crucifixion and death. Satan then relentlessly persecuted Christ’s apostles and disciples, until all but John were dead, and the fullness of truth was removed from the earth because of the Nicolaitan schemes. The world fell into apostasy and the Jews were utterly destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. The Jewish historian Josephus said that ninety percent of the inhabitants of Jerusalem were slain, and the remnant was carried off in chains into Rome – to be sold as slaves. At this point, the Jews ceased to be a nation and were scattered to the four corners of the earth.
Approximately 792 years earlier, the Northern Kingdom of Israel had also been destroyed, and its inhabitants carried off into captivity, and then subsequently planted in the heavens as Isaiah prophesied above. The main body of these tribes will not be seen upon the earth again until John restores them in these latter days.
After the fall of the Jews, only Joseph remained as an identifiable Israelite nation upon the earth. It held fast in the faith for several hundred years more. In fact, during the next two centuries that followed, not a single soul was lost among the children of Joseph in the Americas. However, by the 231st year after the birth of Christ things began to change, consider the following:
From the two passages above it would seem that the House of Joseph lost its identity as a nation-state of Israel during this period. Within twenty-five years from this time, the Nephites became extinct. This is the symbolism behind the woman fleeing into the wilderness for 1,260 years. From 360 AD forward, there was not a nation on earth that affiliated itself with the God of Israel.
With this in mind, a curious timeframe appears when you add John’s 1,260 years of Israel’s absence to the period of time over which the last nation-state of Israel existed we get the following timespan - 1491 to 1620. This timeframe should raise the reader’s eyebrows. It was in 1491 that Queen Isabella of Spain sponsored a man named Christopher Columbus to conduct an ocean voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. This incredible journey resulted in the rediscovery of the American continents.
Columbus was observed by Nephi in vision, as being a man upon whom the spirit of God descended. In Columbus’s own words, he described the hand of the Lord in his life:
With a hand that could be felt, the Lord opened my mind to the fact that it would be possible to sail from here to the Indies, and He opened my will to desire to accomplish the project. This was the fire that burned within me when I came to visit Your Highnesses.
All who found out about my project denounced it with laughter and ridiculed me…only your majesties had faith and perseverance. Who can doubt that this fire was not merely mine, but also of the Holy Spirit who encouraged me with a radiance of marvelous illumination from His sacred Holy Scriptures, by a most clear and powerful testimony from the forty-four books of the Old Testament, from the four Gospels, from the twenty-three Epistles of the blessed Apostles – urging me to press forward? Continually, without a moment’s hesitation, the scriptures urge me to press forward with great haste. (Book of Prophecies, translated by Delno C. West and August Kling)
What scriptures did Columbus identify as encouraging him onward in his great journey? John 10:16 - “other sheep I have that are not of this fold”, and Isaiah 14:1-2 which reads as follows:
For the Lord will have mercy on Jacob, and will yet choose Israel, and set them in their own land: and the strangers shall be joined with them, and they shall cleave to the house of Jacob. And the people shall take them, and bring them to their place: and the house of Israel shall possess them…
There can be no doubt that Columbus was moved upon by the Holy Ghost to instigate the gathering of Israel. This period of discovery changed the world. The scales began to fall from the world’s eyes, and the darkness of the 1,260 years of Israel’s absence began to lift. In 1517, the Lord moved upon a German scholar named Martin Luther to vocalize his concerns with the teachings of the Catholic Church. He did so by nailing 95 false doctrines taught by the Catholic Church to his chapel door. This action caused a frenzy that soon swept across the whole of Europe and started the period known as the Reformation.
Martin’s actions would ultimately result in thousands of pilgrims fleeing Europe’s religious oppression for America’s hallowed shores. The pilgrims saw themselves being delivered from subjugation in their homelands as a modern-day Exodus story. They firmly believed in Israel’s God and risked all that they had to worship Him according to the dictates of their own hearts. Remarkably, the first pilgrims landed in America in 1620 AD, exactly 1,260 years after the Nephites nation rejected the God of Israel. Do you believe that this timeline can be a coincidence?
The people born of pilgrim’s pride would go on to found the first nation – under the banner of the God of Israel since the Nephites rejected Him in 360 AD. The culminating event of their labors occurred when George Washington placed his hand upon an open Bible, to be sworn in as the first President of these United States. As George Washington did so, his hand lay upon the 49th chapter of Genesis. Consider the significance of this chapter from the following passages taken from it:
There is no way that this was a coincidental occurrence. The Book of Mormon teaches us that America is the birthright of Joseph. Within 31 years of George Washington’s inauguration, the Father and the Son appeared to the boy, Joseph Smith in Palmyra, NY. Interestingly enough, the year 2020, the year this book was published, is exactly four-hundred years after the pilgrims landed in 1620, and two-hundred years after Joseph’s first vision.
The Lord is moving amongst His people. He is involved in the details of our lives. America is the birthright land that the Lord promised to the children of Joseph. The New Jerusalem, the “City of Refuge” will be built here. In accordance with prophecy, as Joseph was the last to be scattered, it was the first to be gathered. The Jews were the second to be scattered, and the second to be gathered. The Lost Ten Tribes were the first to be lost and will be the last to be restored. Thus, “the first shall be last, and the last shall be first.”
Now John’s vision jumps from Israel’s 1,260 years of hiding in the wilderness back the events of the pre-earth life. The revelation continues:
This was not a war of the rank and file; it was a war of leadership. It was about the manner in which the children of Heaven would be redeemed. The leadership, known as the Noble and Great Ones, were divided into two camps. The first camp was led by Michael and his followers. Lucifer – the son of the Morning, led the second group and was supported by those that were faithful to him.
The Doctrine and Covenants define those that were included among the noble and great ones in the pre-earth life:
I observed that they were also among the noble and great ones who were chosen in the beginning to be rulers in the Church of God. (D&C 138:55)
Note that the Church of God mentioned in this verse is not the earthly church known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is speaking of the heavenly church, known as The Church of the First Born. The noble and great ones had been elevated to positions of leadership in this pre-mortal Church. The leadership of this Church, therefore, represents a smaller subset of the much larger whole. The membership of this pre-mortal church would have consisted of all the hosts of heaven.
With this in mind, consider the following account from the Pearl of Great Price that discusses these pre-mortal events John is witnessing:
Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences [the entire host of Church of the First Born] that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones [the leaders of the Church of the First Born]; and God saw these souls [the noble and great ones] that they were good, and He stood in the midst of them, and He said: These I will make my rulers; for He stood among those that were spirits, and He saw that they were good; and He said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born. (Abraham 3:22-23)
In the above passages, the Father singles out a subset of the innumerable hosts of the premortal Church of the First Born. These were chosen because of their goodness. We are told that the Father intended to make this group His leaders. Alma taught that these were classified as noble and great ones, “according to the foreknowledge of God” and “on account of their exceeding faith and good works” in the premortal realms. Alma went on to teach that at the time of their creation all of the Host of Heaven were created equally, but that these distinguished themselves through their faith and agency. – (see Alma 13:3-5.)
The account from the Pearl of Great Price continues:
And there stood one among them [the noble and great ones] that was like unto God, and He said unto those who were with Him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon [the noble and great ones] may dwell; and we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them; and they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever. (Abraham 3:24-26)
From this account, we learn that this earth was specifically created as a proving ground for the noble and great ones. The events that took place here are unique. Because of who was being tested here, the conditions of this world would be unique, so that the Father’s decision to magnify the faithful would be justified. This is a key point of understanding. Without this understanding, the magnitude of the latter portion of John’s writings will be missed. It is therefore to this group of noble and great ones that the Father directs His next question:
And the Lord said: Whom shall I send? (Abraham 3:27)
The Father was asking this question specifically to the noble and great ones, not the whole host of heaven. Remember, the noble and great ones represent the leadership of the pre-mortal Church of the First Born. The decision will be made among this group, and then taken to the larger body of the Church of the First Born. When the Lord makes a decision in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, He does so by counseling with the First Presidency and the quorum of the twelve, not the whole body of the church. These then present the plan to the body of the church who is free to accept or reject it. The same thing is happening here. What happens next brings us current with John’s vision:
Lucifer’s proposal was not based upon free agency. Under Lucifer’s plan, all of the noble and great ones that would come to this earth would be under his control. They would need to be mindless half-wits, otherwise, they might think for themselves and choose to break the commandments. Under such conditions, Satan could ensure that not a single soul would be lost. He and his minions would oversee every last detail of the process. They would have experiences and increase in knowledge, but nobody else would. If his plan worked, he would present all of the noble and great ones back to the Father, but they would not really be much better for the experience. In return, Satan and his minions required that the Father’s glory to be shared amongst themselves as they saw fit. A terrible plan.
The whole purpose of the Father’s plan was to exalt His children. They had learned everything that they could as spirits. What they needed was experience and to make choices that would bring them to the Savior and help them to be like Him. Satan’s plan robbed them of that. Michael and his angels readily saw this. They sided with the Father’s plan and His choice of Jesus Christ as the Redeemer. Michael and his angels were able to cast Satan and his followers down to the earth, through the strength of Jesus Christ, and their testimonies of Him – their belief that He could and would do what was required of Him. They trusted in the merits of He Who Is Mighty to Save enough to put everything on the line both premortally and in mortality.
As one star differs from another star in brightness, so the faithfulness of those that followed Michael varied. There was another subgroup among these, and this subgroup was known as the House of Israel. Consider the following teaching from Bruce R. McConkie:
Israel was a distinct people in pre-existence. Many of the valiant and noble spirits in that first estate were chosen, elected, and foreordained to be born into the family of Jacob…(Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 2:284)
According to Elder McConkie, Israel was a separate and distinct group, even among the noble and great ones. Of course, the noblest and faithful of all the Father’s children was Jesus Christ. As such, Christ would be the God of Israel and would be born of her lineage. Furthermore, those that would be born into the House of Israel, would have the sacred obligation of joining Christ in the work of salvation.
The House of Israel was to become Saviors on Mount Zion. These were to be a light, example, and blessing to all the nations of the earth. Any that would listen and obey the gospel, which would come to the world through them, would be adopted into the royal lineage of Israel, and thereby the Household of God. All of these, the subgroup of the noble and great ones would be called upon to live out the days of their probation upon the prison planet whereupon Satan and his minions had been banished. This is the status of things as John resumes his vision.
The revelation continues:
Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. (Rev 12:12)
Note that the heavens rejoiced, and all that dwelt in them, when Satan was cast down. These are the innumerable host of the Church of the First Born. Their number is beyond reckoning:
And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten. (Moses 1:33)
While Jesus would live out His mortal life upon this earth, the atonement He would make would redeem the entire Church of the First Born. This is why the heavens rang with joy; they would never have to deal with Satan and his terrible demons again. As noted earlier, Alma taught that the noble and great ones had proven themselves because of their faith and good works in the pre-earth life. These others had not been as faithful as the noble and great ones. As such, Satan constantly brought their faults to the attention of God, as if their shortcomings magnified his own goodness. This is what John meant when he saw the noble and great ones say the following: “for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.” (Rev 12:10) With Satan being bound to this prison planet, their circumstances were much more favorable for them to learn and progress.
The same cannot be said for this world. This is why the inhabitants of this world had great cause to mourn. Satan and his minions would live among us. They hate us, and their every thought is bent on our destruction. As Samuel the Lamanite lamented: “we are surrounded by demons, yea, we are encircled about by the angels of him who hath sought to destroy our souls.” (Hel 13:37)
Satan and his demons hate and envy us, and they blame us for their demise. This is why the conditions upon this earth are so horrendous. It is also why the Lord only sent His noble and great ones here. Still, seeing the suffering of His noble and great ones caused the Father, the greatest of all to weep with sorrow:
This is what we signed up for because we are the Lord’s elite. Nobody came to this earth, who did not qualify for the honor, and it is a GREAT honor! We were not alone in our risk. Jesus Christ came here, the worst hellhole in the galaxy, and He overcame it. Because of Him, we have HOPE! The Father’s plan is a plan of salvation. He is not looking for ways to condemn us, He is looking for ways to exalt us!
Upon this earth, death is possible, real death, the kind that you never return from – the second death. Satan wants nothing more than to administer it to us. Because of the tender mercies of God, there will be very few that fall victim to that terrible curse. Those that do not fall to the second death, will receive an inheritance in a kingdom more glorious than our mortal minds can possibly fathom. Even those receiving their inheritance in the lowest of these kingdoms will be magnificent beyond comprehension. It will all be alright in the end. We knew what we were doing and in whom we were placing our trust when we signed up for this. The Father is for us. His Son is our Savior. How can we fail so long as we do not abandon our faith?
This is where the vision continues:
And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man-child. And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. (Rev 12:13-14)
In the vision, the dragon is bent on destroying the woman, (i.e. the House of Israel.) The woman, representing the main body of the House of Israel, was given the wings of an eagle so that she could escape from before the dragon. This is something different than the 1260 years in the wilderness. The only way to escape the dragon’s prison plant is to be planted in the heavens, beyond the confines of the vineyard.
We have seen elsewhere in this book, that the four beasts before the altar of God, had faces that match the four standards of the camps of Israel. These beasts also had wings that we were told meant they had special powers to move. Ezekiel saw these same four faces representing the House of Israel with flying wheels, which could move like lightning, and rise high above the earth. All of these things are consistent with what John is seeing here.
I believe that Zenos’ Allegory of the Olive Tree, contained in Jacob chapter 5, further illustrates this point. In this chapter, we are told the story of the House of Israel. The story takes place in a vineyard that represents the world upon which the noble and great ones reside. The Master of the vineyard represents the Father. The Master has a Servant that represents His Son. A tame olive tree in the vineyard represents the House of Israel. Other olive trees and branches represent the remaining body of the noble and great ones that were selected to live their mortal lives upon this world. In the allegory, the Father scatters the branches of the tame olive tree to remote locations throughout the vineyard.
The first branch to be grafted is grafted into the worst place of the vineyard. The grafting of the branches occurs in the order in which the corresponding constituents of Israel were physically moved. Therefore, the first graft corresponds to the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel. Remember, they carried away in 722 BC, as such they were the first to be grafted elsewhere. Consider Zenos’ description of their grafting:
There are two branches associated with the first grafting. One of these was grafted into the poorest location in all the land of the vineyard - meaning the poorest location in the world. Then the Master of the vineyard points out that a sister grafting was grafted into an even poorer place than the worst spot in the vineyard. There is only one way this is possible – the second location is not on the earth. So it is that the woman that was given the wings of an eagle to fly away from before the face of the dragon.
Now we need to discuss the curious time which John associated with the woman’s absence. John was told that the woman was gone for times, and time, and the dividing of time. This is a very curious time frame indeed. It is so curious that its singular nature becomes its identifier. The only other time that this description is used is to describe when the saints would be delivered from the oppression of the anitchrist. Consider the following:
And [the antichrist] 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 [the saints] shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time. (Daniel 7:25)
The anitchrist’s power over the saints ends at the fulfillment of this peculiar time frame, which also corresponds with the woman returning from the wilderness. In other words, the children of Joseph will be delivered when Lost Ten Tribes return.
And now for the last passage of this portion of John’s revelation:
And the dragon was wroth with the woman [that escaped], and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Rev 12:17)
The dragon is furious that a large body of the House of Israel was removed beyond his power. Living beyond the power of Satan does not mean you are beyond the struggle of opposition. Weakness is inherent in the flesh. Children under the age of eight are beyond Satan’s ability to tempt, and yet even without Satan’s influence young children make very bad choices, and often exhibit selfish behavior. Nevertheless, living without Satan for over 2,700 years has surely been a blessing to our long lost brothers and sisters, and has enabled them to progress in ways that will facilitate our deliverance.
Judah and Joseph constitute the bulk of the remnant that was left behind. There are also scattered individuals from all other tribes upon the earth, but they simply do not exist in the same numbers as Judah and Joseph. These remnants were scattered in the wilderness for 1,260 years, but they remained here upon Satan’s prison planet. From then till now, Judah and Joseph have borne the heavy burden of Satan’s wrath. All his resources have been deployed to ensure our destruction, and he certainly knows his business. He will yet overcome many more. But like the 7,000 Israelites that did not bend the knee to Jezebel’s false gods, so too will we remain true to the faith. We will honor and keep the covenants we have entered into with the God of Israel. We will bear the lash upon the back for “a very little while” and then the rod of the Assyrian will be lifted from us, and we will be delivered from Egypt as our forefathers were. Hold Fast! The night is coming, but there will be great joy in the morning! To this end were we born!