Signs of the Times: Where Are We in Revelation?

The future has been a subject of great interest for professed holy men for as long as the earth has endured. However, our knowledge that we live in the last days prior to the Lord’s return to earth has a tendency to affect our reading of scriptural prophecy to believe that it all applies to us now and that very little of it has been fulfilled. This is especially the case with the seemingly esoteric and mystic Revelation of St. John the Divine (commonly called the Book of Revelation).

The intention of this presentation is to form a fuller understanding of the content of the Book of Revelation so that we may understand what is going on around us now and, more urgently, what portion of it is left to expect in the coming days.

There could be a lot said about how the Book of Revelation is structured and a deep dive into linguistics could be undertaken to really grasp the information presented there. But I think the point can be made most simply and effectively by noting the two primary sources of interpretive guidance that I have relied upon in producing this presentation:

(1) The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible
(2) The 77th Section of Doctrine & Covenants

Armed with the light and truth imparted from these additional sources, we will be able to decipher the Book of Revelation up to our point in time (the events yet future are admittedly less clear inasmuch as we do not possess the benefit of hindsight to decipher them).

Note: in order to facilitate the most efficient delivery of this message, I will present the decoded information of Revelation in chronological order relative to earth’s history as opposed to chapter and verse order.


The History of the Earth as Seen by John

First, John is taken up into Heaven and sees four beasts surrounding the throne of God in what is ostensibly depicted as a premortal scene. What do these beasts represent? According to Joseph Smith, they are actually creatures saved by God (see Classic Truth: The Revelation of John Vs. Daniel). This accords with D&C 77, which states:

“Q. Are the four beasts limited to individual beasts, or do they represent classes or orders?
“A. They are limited to four individual beasts, which were shown to John, to represent the glory of the classes of beings in their destined order or sphere of creation, in the enjoyment of their eternal felicity” (D&C 77:3).

It’s important here to note that the Greek word used for beast in this instance is ζῷα (zōa), which is different than the word used to denote certain beasts referenced later in the vision (θηρίον [thērio]), which we will come to soon.

The premortal vision continues with a symbolic depiction of Christ’s worthiness to ascend to the position of Savior from among the sons of God.

And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?”

And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon.

And one of the elders saith unto me, “Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.”

And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.

And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne. And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.

And they sung a new song, saying, “Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.”

(Rev. 5:2 – 10)

The Book that only Jesus can open represents the temporal existence of earth, as D&C 77 states:

“Q. What are we to understand by the seven seals with which it was sealed?
“A. We are to understand that the first seal contains the things of the first thousand years, and the second also of the second thousand years, and so on until the seventh” (D&C 77:7)

Therefore without Christ as Savior, the whole notion of this mortal probation would be moot and could never have started. The rest of the vision deals with the history of the world, and Christ’s centrality to it is here emphasized as the very first and most critical aspect to it. This is important to note because the rest of John’s vision fails to even mention Christ’s earthly, yet, according to the symbolism just explored, Christ’s role was obviously predetermined as the most pivotal event in earth’s history.

Joseph Smith added that John’s vision, unless explicitly noted, pertained only to the future:

“John saw that only which was lying in futurity and which was shortly to come to pass…. The book of Revelation is one of the plainest books God ever caused to be written. The revelations do not give us to understand anything of the past in relation to the kingdom of God” (STPJS, pp. 289 – 290).

These statements may incline the latter-day mind to interpret everything in Revelation as pertaining to our day, but it must be remembered that from John’s perspective more than two-thirds of his future (3 of the 7 seals) are from our perspective already the past. In other words, we must recognize the possibility that much of what John saw has already happened.

Each timespan shown is 1,000 years; the blue ones are in the past relative to John’s vision (indicated by the green marker) and the light salmon color are in the future.

This realization is extremely helpful in decoding the portions of the vision yet future, because if we can perceive the mundane events of the past in light of the extravagant symbolism used by John to describe them, we may rightly perceive the future events relative to our day in spite of their apparent subtlety to most observers and those who watch for signs. Christ told his disciples that signs would precede his coming:

“And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? And Jesus answered and said unto them…. Watch…for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh” (Matt. 24:3 – 4, 42 – 44).

But do we know what the signs may look like? Remember that the Nephites similarly watched for signs in their day and, despite the exceptional night without darkness, the other signs were dismissible to the casual observer:

“The people began to forget those signs and wonders which they had heard, and began to be less and less astonished at a sign or a wonder from heaven, insomuch that they began to be hard in their hearts, and blind in their minds, and began to disbelieve all which they had heard and seen” (3 Nephi 2:1)

Applying Occam’s Razor to the Nephite’s waning credence given to signs in the heavens, it is more reasonable to believe that the nature of the signs were simple and natural as opposed to the people becoming jaded by the repeated manifestations of the grand and miraculous. The next verse even says that the wicked considered the signs to possibly have been manmade, perhaps even the result of astronomical predictions made by men.

As we shall see, John’s vision demonstrates that the Lord continues to leverage natural, even mundane, events in producing his signs. Incidentally, most believers in the Book of Mormon if asked how it was possible that a night could have no darkness (as described occurring to the Nephites in 3 Nephi 1) would defend the event by saying that a nearby supernova could have occurred or how that it was probably related to the star seen by the wise men in the east at Christ’s birth, or some other natural explanation. This is not an incorrect thing to assume about that event but it shows that deep inside we know God uses natural means to bring about his purposes. God has even said he placed all the stars and planets in the sky for the purpose of giving us לְאֹתֹת֙ (lə-’ō-ṯōṯ “Signs…. pledges of certain predicted events”):

“And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years” (Gen. 1:14).

And yet if a meteor explodes in the atmosphere or stars or planets align in a certain way, we read of it in the news in purely scientific terms and thus neglect the recognition of the spiritual message in those events. Without eyes to see, or a connection to the spirit to be astonished, we are not so different than our Nephite counterparts. Luckily we have John’s vision to help us demystify the nature of the signs of the times.

The First Four Seals:
4000 BC – AD 0

Going back to John’s vision, we read that after seeing the premortal realm and a book representing earth’s history, John is shown symbolic depictions of events on earth as each seal is opened.

The first seal would, according to D&C 77, represent the first thousand years of man’s history on earth. Many attempts to trace the year that Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden to begin man’s mortal sojourn have come to roughly the same period of 4000 BC.

This means that the symbols of the first seal pertain to the period of 4000 BC – 3000 BC. During this period Adam was alive and presided on the earth personally for most of it. This makes sense given that John sees a man conquering or subduing the world:

“And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals…. And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer” (Rev. 6:1 – 2).

The second seal is the period from 3000 BC to 2000 BC. This was a time of wickedness and violence, the flood occurring during this time to rid the earth of the violence under the wicked reign of the watchers (see Gen. 6:11, 13). This makes sense with the symbolism of John’s vision too as he sees violence:

“And when he had opened the second seal…. There went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword” (Rev. 6:3 – 4).

The third seal is 2000 BC to 1000 BC, the time period of the migration of the Jaredites and pretty much every other clan on the earth due to erratic environmental issues, which seemed to precipitate all the way through Joseph in Egypt’s time with the seven-year famine. John sees for this seal famine. John sees for this seal famine, a δηναρίου (denarius, “penny”) normally being capable of buying eight measures of wheat:

“And when he had opened the third seal…. I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and hurt not thou the oil and the wine” (Rev. 6:5 – 6; see Matt. 20:2).

The fourth seal is 1000 BC to the birth of Christ, the meridian of time (Christ comes at the end, which is not a meridian in terms of scale but in terms of harmonics, the year 0 being at the 5/7 harmonic interval, as noted by Albert Roustit in his book, Prophecy in Music). This period would contain the scattering of Israel, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, and the rise of Rome in their conquests. This is represented by much killing, as John saw:

“And when he had opened the fourth seal…. I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth” (Rev. 6:7 – 8).

The Fifth Seal:
AD 0 – AD 1000

This brings us to the seal depicting the time in which John found himself when he was having the vision, AD 0 – AD 1000. This is represented by the image of the ancient Christian martyrs. Much ado is made, in fact, about this phenomenon of the martyred saints in John’s vision. Why? Because at the time John had his vision, the Saints found themselves under the rule of Rome but had not yet undergone the now famous persecutions and public martyrdoms.

In Daniel’s interpretation of King Nebechenezar’s dream of a statue with different materials making up its body, each successive layer of the statue represented a new world-dominating kingdom or empire beginning with Babylon as the golden head. Rome was represented by the iron legs. This was to be succeeded by not a unified empire but by a mess of fractionated kingdoms that would not bind together ever again. We know today that this is the case with the modern world and that no power has completely conquered and held together the nations of the known world, let alone Europe. The future fall of Rome, and the resultant rise of a set of kingdoms (ruled by a different type of king), becomes the subject of a great deal of John’s writings inasmuch as these things directly affected the saints that then lived.

At the time of the opening of this fifth seal (the time of Christ’s birth), many signs were given in the heavens to herald the coming of the church and the kingdom. The celebrated calendar expert and professor of astronomy, John Pratt, noted that on Monday the 30th of August, 2BC—a date that matched the ancient timing of Passover, a Jewish spring festival—a certain configuration of stars and planets occurred as a sign for those who kept track of such things (a far more common practice by the ancients than we typically suppose). The sign was this:

John Pratt, “Clothed with the Sun

The constellation Virgo, the virgin, was behind the sun, there was a waxing crescent moon at her feet, and three planets congregated near her head where also the 9-starred constellation, Leo the Lion, rests, making a total of 12 stars (the ancient word from which “planet” is derived simply meant “wandering stars” [πλάνητες ἀστέρες planētes asteres]).

This particular alignment, or sign, was seen by John as he described later:

“And there appeared a great sign in heaven in the likeness of things on the earth; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars” (Rev. 12:1, JST).

Note here in the Joseph Smith Translation (JST) the nature of the sign is explicitly stated: it was a sign in heaven after the pattern of ‘things on the earth.’ For example, Virgo is a woman, so as a heavenly sign she is a candidate for what John was shown. According to verse seven of the JST, the woman “was the church of God” (Rev. 12:7, JST). The purpose of the church, whenever it has existed, is to unite with her husband (the priesthood of Christ) and bring forth the kingdom (a political body). Even after Jesus had called the 12 apostles and the 70 disciples and set the church in order in his day, he prayed to God saying, “thy kingdom come,” showing that it had not yet come. This is reflected in John’s vision where he saw that the woman brought forth a child but that it died shortly thereafter, or was “caught up to heaven” (v. 3). Joseph Smith explained that Jesus tried to gather Israel in his day to establish Zion but that the people failed to heed him:

“The reason why Jesus said unto the Jews, ‘How oft would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!’—[was] that they might attend to the ordinances of baptism for the dead as well as other ordinances of the priesthood, and receive revelations from heaven, and be perfected in the things of the kingdom of God—but they would not. This was the case on the day of Pentecost: those blessings were poured out on the disciples on that occasion. God ordained that He would save the dead, and would do it by gathering His people together” (STPJS, p. 310).

The Beasts

After Jesus set up the church, which as we have just seen was heralded several years earlier by the woman clothed with the sun, John sees another sign:

“And there appeared another sign in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was delivered, ready to devour her child after it was born” (Rev. 12:4, JST).

The JST enables us to see that this is the same creature described in the following chapter:

“And I saw another sign in the likeness of the kingdoms of the earth, a beast rise up out of the sea and stood upon the sand of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy” (Rev. 13:1).

Note how these beasts are described in parallel, thanks to the JST, showing that these verses describe the same thing. This shows that the dragon that pursued the early church was a kingdom of the earth. Not only is the beast a sign of a kingdom of the earth, but it comes up out of the sea, which John is later told represents a human population:

“And [the angel] saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest…are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues” (Rev. 17:15).

The foregoing clearly demonstrate that John and the believers in his day would have seen that the beast was no less than Rome. To further understand and confirm this we must consider upon the geography, timeline, and history of Rome.

In Revelation chapter 17 more detail is provided regarding the symbolism of the beast. One thing that is noted is that the 7 heads represent 7 mountains or hills (see Rev. 17:9). This corresponds to the ancient mythos** of Rome’s foundation upon 7 hills:

“The Seven Hills of Rome [was a] group of hills on or about which the ancient city of Rome was built. The original city of Romulus was built upon Palatine Hill (Latin: Mons Palatinus). The other hills are the Capitoline, Quirinal, Viminal, Esquiline, Caelian, and Aventine (known respectively in Latin as the Mons Capitolinus, Mons Quirinalis, Mons Viminalis, Mons Esquilinus, Mons Caelius, and Mons Aventinus)” (“Seven Hills of Rome,” Encyclopedia Britannica).

The Roman scholar, Marcus Terentius Varro, who lived nearly 800 years after the founding of Rome, somehow established the official date of the founding of Rome as the year 753 BC though the actual date is unknown. Supposing a margin of error of a generation to Varro’s estimate, the real date may have spanned anywhere from 810 BC – 690 BC. It is from this date range onward that John’s vision then of the beast coming out of the sea describes the rise of political Rome:

“And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. And he 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” (Rev. 13:5 – 7).

Note that this beastly kingdom reigns for 42 months. It must be noted that this measurement is not in man’s time or God’s time but in prophet’s time. You may recall that prophet’s time is different than man’s time or even angel’s time (see D&C 130:4; in man’s time a day is a day; in angel’s time a day is 1,000 years; and in prophet’s time a day is a year), and so we must ask with each timeline given in Revelation which scale is being used! If we take the 42 months written and we grant each month 30 days, we come to a total of 1,260 days:

According to prophet’s time, this does not mean 1,260 days but 1,260 years. This is in fact confirmed by the JST of chapter 12, which changes 1,260 “days” to 1,260 “years”:

“And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she had a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore years” (Rev. 12:5).

There is a parallel theme between chapters 12 and 13, which is that the saints are killed for refusing to give power to their government overlords, thereby becoming martyrs. “The patience and the faith of the saints” (13:3) and “they [who] loved not their own lives, but kept the testimony even unto death” (12:11) are the early Christian martyrs. From John’s perspective their great persecutions and mass executions as a spectacle for the Romans was yet in futurity and hence occupied a great deal of his vision, whereas to us such slaughters were a mere episode of the distant Christian past, a trial that we know in hindsight does not mark the end of Christianity. And this too John sees as the beast cannot fully kill the woman, the physical forces of Rome apparently being held back by the spiritual forces of Michael:

“Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought against Michael, and the dragon prevailed not against Michael; neither the child, nor the woman, which was the church of God” (Rev. 12:6 – 7, JST).

The parallel structure of verses 5 and 14 show that chronologically the woman fleeing to the wilderness must take place after the beast fails to take down the church because in both verses she is described as going into the wilderness for the same amount of time though the later reference, verse 14, clarifies that this is done explicitly to escape the clutches of the beast, or Rome:

Rev. 12:5, JSTRev. 12:14, JST
“And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she had a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore years.”“To the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might flee 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.”

How does 1,260 years correlate to ‘a time, and times, and a half time’? It is according to the following key:

Times (plural; 2) + Time (singular 1) + A Half Time (.5) = 3.5 years of 360 days, which is 1,260 days (prophetic years).

The failure by the beast, or Rome, to destroy the woman, or the church, is marked in the symbolism of chapter 13 by the wounding of one of its seven heads. How do we know that this attack is the same as the offensive conducted by Michael in chapter 12? By noting the relevant details of both events:

  • The blow is non-fatal, meaning the Roman empire is not ended by it; and
  • The woman does not flee into the wilderness until after this event transpires, as described above, meaning the church of Christ is yet present for this event.

So what was it that saved the woman from the beast and yet did not mark the end of the beast? In the year AD 313, Emperor Constantine adopted Christianity as the state religion of the Roman Empire after having been aided in battle by the God of the Christians (indeed some ancient sources say Michael is one in the same, which is also an early Mormon tenet; see Progression & Probations). As reported by the Christian historian, Eusebius, the God of the Christians intervened to miraculously defeat a tyrant against whom Constantine went up to battle:

“Constantine, who…first took compassion upon those who were oppressed at Rome, and having invoked in prayer the God of heaven, and his Word, and Jesus Christ himself, the Saviour of all, as his aid, advanced with his whole army, proposing to restore to the Romans their ancestral liberty….
“Then, that he might not be compelled to wage war with the Romans for the sake of the tyrant, God himself drew the latter, as if bound in chains, some distance without the gates…[before] both believers and unbelievers, that saw the wonder with their eyes” (Eusebius, The history of the church (translated by Arthur Cushman McGiffert), Chap. 9 vv. 2 & 4, p. 765).

From this event forward, Constantine made public endorsements of Christianity until it became the state religion of the empire. This effectively ended the bodily persecution against the Christians and allowed the church to flourish in an unprecedented way. Owing to its sudden ascent in popularity, however, the church would be from this point forward infiltrated by paganism, and revelation would be slowly supplanted by the precepts of well-intentioned men. This would include Constantine who helped establish the infamous Nicene Creed.

Some people speculate that the adoption by the empire in AD 325 of the Nicene Creed marked the end of Christ’s church in its original form, but according to John’s vision it apparently continued to abide in some semblance until the death of the first beast—the political Roman empire—at which time the church leaves the earth upon eagle’s wings (see Rev. 12:14). The exact date of the fall of the Roman empire is highly debated, but a time in the 6th century AD is generally agreed upon, the Lombards having finally destroyed the old glory of Rome and the medieval or dark ages officially setting in:

“In September of 476 AD, the barbarian commander Odoacer forced the teenaged Western Roman emperor Romulus Augustus to resign his office. The Constantinopolitan chronicler Marcellinus Comes would write in the 510s that when ‘Odoacer, king of the Goths, took control of Rome’ the ‘Western Empire of the Roman people … perished.’ But no one thought this at the time. The fall of Rome in 476 is a historical turning point that was invented nearly 50 years later as a pretext for a devastating war….
“Although everyone from schoolchildren to scholars now learn that the Western Roman Empire fell in 476, 5th century Romans did not see anything particularly special about Odoacer’s coup….
“The Western Roman Empire had clearly fallen by the 560s. Italy was controlled by Justinian, many of its cities were ruined and much of its infrastructure was severely damaged. When later historians looked for the moment when the Western Empire fell, they found Marcellinus and his claim that Rome fell under Odoacer. In the memorable framing by the historian Brian Croke, the fall of Rome in 476 is a manufactured historical turning point that has become an accepted historical fact. But it was Justinian’s invasion, not Odoacer’s coup that decimated Italy and ended the Western Roman state” (Edward J. Watts, “Rome Didn’t Fall When You Think It Did. Here’s Why That Fabricated History Still Matters Today” Time.com, 6 Oct 2021).

This timing for end of the Roman age is noted too in a mathematical sense as noted by the musical theorist, Albert Roustit:

“In the fifth century, the old Latin world crumbles completely under the pressure of barbaric invasions, and no authoritative power is left among its ruins except one, the Church which it had formerly persecuted so cruelly. Those chaotic times, which were to last almost thee centuries, leave us with the greatest gap in the history of the Christian Era traditionally though of as a time when every trace of civilization had disappeared. In actual fact it was only a period of stagnation in which Christian liturgy, far from being stifled by barbaric customs, continued to develop among the different Church communities, and toward the seventh century, this liturgy was unified and its repertory completely renovated under the initiative of Pope Gregory. The Gregorian Chant, named in honor of this pontiff, flourished until the end of the eight century, and tradition has kept it alive until our own day through use in the Divine Offices of the Roman Catholic Church” (Albert Roustit, Prophecy in Music: Prophetic Parallels in Musical History, Paris 1975, pp. 126 – 127).

As a third witness, this date range—specifically AD 570—was also confirmed in a publication of the Times and Seasons in Nauvoo just after the martyrdom of the prophet Joseph Smith:

“We are informed by the renowned historian, Whelpley, as also in The Revolutions of Europe, that the church of Jesus Christ was overrun, and driven into the wilderness, A.D. 570″ (Alphonso Young, Times and Seasons, 1 Dec 1844, 5:732).

This date then is the time when the first beast dies; it is the time when Nebuchadnezzar’s statue fully transitions from the legs of iron to the feet that are an incohesive mixture of clay and iron. The Roman empire and the Old Latin world from this date forward is broken into multiple nations—the kingdoms of the gentiles—never again to be unified into one empire. The year specified in the 1844 Times and Seasons article, AD 570, has not only many historical benefits as this end date for the Roman empire but when we recall that Rome was established as late as 690 BC, the length of time between those dates is exactly 1,260 years, precisely as John was shown concerning the 42 “months” that the first beast would reign and terrorize the true believers of God.

Though it is true that the political empire of Rome fell at AD 570, it was simultaneously spiritually succeeded by the Catholic church, which permeated every kingdom and vassal that proceeded from the political fissuring of Rome. It could well be said that the ancient Roman Empire was succeeded by the Holy Roman Empire. This John was shown as a new beast that would point others back toward the glory, or image, of the first:

“And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed” (Rev. 13:11 – 12).

The two horns appear like a lamb, showing that they pretending to be Christ’s as Christ was shown to John symbolically as the lamb slain before the foundation of the world. The duality of the horns represents the division of the Catholic church into two halves, the Roman Catholic church of Rome and the Greek Orthodox church of Byzantium, each portion having its own pope, or little horn (a horn represents authority). This lamb-like beast, however, despite its looks speaks like the beast before it spoke, and thus it has no other goal in mind than the forced subjugation of all people as the empire that proceeded it.

It is at this critical junction that Christ’s true church is described as being given wings to leave the earth, the priesthood authority finally being eradicated from the possession of earth-bound mortals:

“For when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth [the fall of Rome], he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child. Therefore to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might flee 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).

The fall of political Rome precipitated the final blow against what struggling branches of original Christianity and whatever priesthood had managed to survive in obscure corners of Europe (descendants of Christ and other first-generation Christians are said to have emigrated as far afield as Britain, France, and Spain and may well have continued until AD 570). When the Catholic church becomes the seat of worldly power, the force of subjugation to her becoming mandatory under pope Gregory, any vestiges of Christ’s original church are finally snuffed out. As the respected historian Schaff noted:

“[Gregory] marks the transition of the patriarchal system into the strict Papacy of the middle ages” (Philip Smith, History of the Christian Church [London: John Murray, 1886], p. 398).

Nephi’s Second Witness

The rise of the papacy, and by extension modern Roman Catholicism, as the spiritual continuation of the fallen political Roman empire marks the rise of the second beast shown John in his vision. With this knowledge in mind, we can now easily comprehend the significance of the “great and abominable church” foreseen by Nephi. In fact, the scope of Nephi’s vision in relation to John’s vision now makes more sense:

And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me, saying: “Look!” And I looked and beheld many nations and kingdoms. And the angel said unto me: “What beholdest thou?”

And I said: “I behold many nations and kingdoms.”

And he said unto me: “These are the nations and kingdoms of the Gentiles.” And it came to pass that I saw among the nations of the Gentiles the formation of a great church. And the angel said unto me: “Behold the formation of a church which is most abominable above all other churches, which slayeth the saints of God, yea, and tortureth them and bindeth them down, and yoketh them with a yoke of iron, and bringeth them down into captivity.”

And it came to pass that I beheld this great and abominable church; and I saw the devil that he was the founder of it. And I also saw gold, and silver, and silks, and scarlets, and fine-twined linen, and all manner of precious clothing; and I saw many harlots.

And the angel spake unto me, saying: “Behold the gold, and the silver, and the silks, and the scarlets, and the fine-twined linen, and the precious clothing, and the harlots, are the desires of this great and abominable church. And also for the praise of the world do they destroy the saints of God, and bring them down into captivity….” And it came to pass that he said unto me: “Look, and behold that great and abominable church, which is the mother of abominations, whose founder is the devil.”

And he said unto me: “Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth.”

And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the whore of all the earth, and she sat upon many waters; and she had dominion over all the earth, among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people. And it came to pass that I beheld the church of the Lamb of God, and its numbers were few, because of the wickedness and abominations of the whore who sat upon many waters; nevertheless, I beheld that the church of the Lamb, who were the saints of God, were also upon all the face of the earth; and their dominions upon the face of the earth were small, because of the wickedness of the great whore whom I saw. And it came to pass that I beheld that the great mother of abominations did gather together multitudes upon the face of all the earth, among all the nations of the Gentiles, to fight against the Lamb of God….

There began to be wars and rumors of wars among all the nations which belonged to the mother of abominations, the angel spake unto me, saying: “Behold, the wrath of God is upon the mother of harlots; and behold, thou seest all these things—and when the day cometh that the wrath of God is poured out upon the mother of harlots, which is the great and abominable church of all the earth, whose founder is the devil, then, at that day, the work of the Father shall commence, in preparing the way for the fulfilling of his covenants, which he hath made to his people who are of the house of Israel.”

And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me, saying: “Look!” And I looked and beheld a man, and he was dressed in a white robe. And the angel said unto me: “Behold one of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. Behold, he shall see and write the remainder of these things; yea, and also many things which have been. And he shall also write concerning the end of the world. Wherefore, the things which he shall write are just and true; and behold they are written in the book which thou beheld proceeding out of the mouth of the Jew; and at the time they proceeded out of the mouth of the Jew, or, at the time the book proceeded out of the mouth of the Jew, the things which were written were plain and pure, and most precious and easy to the understanding of all men. And behold, the things which this apostle of the Lamb shall write are many things which thou hast seen; and behold, the remainder shalt thou see. But the things which thou shalt see hereafter thou shalt not write; for the Lord God hath ordained the apostle of the Lamb of God that he should write them.”

(1 Ne. 13:1 – 9; 14:9 – 13, 16 – 25, quote marks and emphasis added for clarity).

Importantly, Nephi is told that John will write ‘many’ of the same things that were shown to Nephi. When we comprehend that the second beast in Revelation chapter 13 is the ‘great and abominable church,’ taking possession of the many ‘nations and kingdoms of the gentiles’ (Europe), the overlap between Nephi’s vision and John’s vision becomes perfectly clear: they both saw the rise of the Catholic Church. This is an amazing second witness to the interpretation of Revelation given us through the Joseph Smith Translation!

Nephi and John are even shown parallel imagery at different points in John’s vision. For example, in contrast to the virgin or maiden woman of the church, John is shown in Revelation chapter 17 that the spiritual successor to the Roman empire is likened to an unvirtuous woman—the whore riding on the back of the first beast, the red beast with seven heads and ten horns (Rome). In other words, she is the perverted church, the bride having spurned her husband, or the priesthood after the Order of the Son of God. This woman desires the riches of the earth and makes merchants rich, exactly as the great and abominable church seen by Nephi is described as a riches-seeking whore:

There came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, “Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.”

So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: and upon her forehead was a name written, “MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.

(Rev. 17:1 – 6, JST, quote marks and emphasis added for clarity)

The whore sits upon the first beast showing that she is another symbol of the second beast, Christendom, having departed from her original teachings and doctrines, replacing Rome as the controller and abuser of worldly power.

It is pertinent here to note that this woman, who is also the second beast, is the author of the highly debated “mark of the beast”:

“And [the second beast or great whore] causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six” (Rev. 13:16 – 18, JST).

Inasmuch as Nephi clarifies that John is here seeing the Catholic church it then stands to reason that the mark is not any one technology or conspiracy of the last days, but—relative to the system of the beast, which builds up wealth at the expense of the innocent—it has been (and will continue to be) any form of coercion, especially on a religious pretext, to force people to align to the authority of men instead of God (who never coerces). Interestingly, this interpretation of Revelation has long been the standard among Seventh-Day Adventists (granted, with a natural slant toward Sabbath perversion). The ‘number of the beast’ then can be easily understood as it was in the early days of the church. Quoting Wilford Woodruff:

“According to the vision of John the Revelator, there are to be ‘six hundred, threescore and six’ false sects of religion: how many of these already exist is a matter of dispute among theologists, but I suppose that the number is nearly complete” (JOD 10:13).

This statement finds an interesting parallel in the taxonomy of Christianity as noted in modern times:

“Christianity can be taxonomically divided into six main groups: the Church of the East, Oriental Orthodoxy, Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, and Restorationism [such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses]” (Wikipedia, “Christian denomination,” accessed: 27 Mar 2022).

Enumerating the proliferation of Christian sects in this way appears to correspond in Nephi’s vision to his observation that eventually the false Catholic church would give rise to many other spawns, including the “daughter churches” of the reformation, which proliferations all suffer the same ultimate failings as their mother church. As the angel told Nephi, ‘whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church.’

A visualization of the words of church names most commonly found in the United States alone

Again, the trait they all share as parts and members of the great and abominable church body, according to the scriptures, is a desire to force beliefs upon others. This wicked principle of coercion is no where more manifest in earth’s history than during the tyrannical conquests of the Catholic church throughout the known world during the Middle Ages, forcing so-called heretics and heathens to join their program or face torture, starvation, or death. Those who submitted to the church’s demands saved their lives temporally, but their minds became symbolically “marked” and intoxicated:

All nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues” (Rev. 18:3 – 4, JST).

The oppression of the beasts has ever been the tyranny of science. In this sense, the image of the beast has manifest in different forms throughout human history. Identifying it is typically as simple as looking for the popular and academic. At the time of the Greeks and Romans it was human knowledge, and those who opposed their self-proclaimed superior knowledge became the enemy of progress. As George Q. Cannon remarked:

“Rome, with her arts, sciences, and warlike instincts, was once the mistress of the world; but her glory faded…. The strongest sayings of Jesus recorded in the New Testament were leveled against the dreadful corruptions practiced in Rome and wherever the Romans held sway” (JOD 13:202).

Then in post-Rome Europe, the image of the beast was the ecclesiastic authority of the Pope, and those who opposed it were labeled heathens or heretics and were subject to conquest. In whatever form the beast takes throughout human history, the Book of Mormon points out that God despises the attitudes of those who worship its image throughout time:

“And whoso knocketh, to him will [God] open; and the wise, and the learned, and they that are rich, who are puffed up because of their learning, and their wisdom, and their riches—yea, they are they whom he [God] despiseth; and save they shall cast these things away, and consider themselves fools before God, and come down in the depths of humility, he will not open unto them. But the things of the wise and the prudent shall be hid from them forever—yea, that happiness which is prepared for the saints”(2 Ne. 9:42 – 43).

The Sixth Seal:
AD 1000 – AD 2000

Under terrible dominion of the second beast, the Catholic Church, the 5th seal closes and the 6th seal opens. The 6th seal correlates to the period of AD 1000 – AD 2000, comprehending the escape from the second beast by some of the gentiles and also the unveiling of the most destructive weapons ever formed by man.

“And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heavens opened as a scroll is opened when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island was moved out of its place. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” (Rev. 6:12 – 17, JST).

We may be tempted to assume that the moon turning to blood and the sun turning to sackcloth have to do with the inexplainable and the miraculous, but—recalling our discussion above about God’s use of natural means to bring about his purposes and signs—we would perhaps look beyond the mark and not recognize the fulfillment of these wonders by so doing. Let it be observed here that if we are now in the seventh seal of earth’s history (commencing in or around the year AD 2000, more on that later), then these strange prophetic items have already been accomplished.

An excellent candidate for these things could be the “year without a summer” as the year AD 1815 was called after Mt. Tambora exploded and the ash it sent into the atmosphere actually changed the climate of the entire earth and caused overcast skies around the globe to the point of obscuring the sun and reducing the glow of the moon to an ominous red. In the United States, this event resulted in the mass failure of crops around the country, forcing many families to relocate in search of better fortunes (including Joseph Smith’s family, who then moved from Vermont to New York where the Book of Mormon was buried).

The Smith family, like many frontier Americans, were the product of ancestors who sought freedom from the second beast, spiritual Rome under the power of the papacy, and emigrated from the dominions of forced religions to the new world where they hoped not to be molested for their beliefs. The history of the establishment of the gentiles in the new world was itself a manifestation of the desire of freedom-loving people to get out of the religious bondage that had been heaped upon them and their ancestors by the beast and its attendant marks. Nephi saw this important migration in his version of John’s vision too, emphasizing its importance in the events of the sixth seal, for without it the woman that represents the church could not come back to the earth:

“I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren [the Native Americans] by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters [the Atlantic ocean], even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land. And it came to pass that I beheld the Spirit of God, that it wrought upon other Gentiles; and they went forth out of captivity, upon the many waters….
“Neither will the Lord God suffer that the Gentiles shall forever remain in that awful state of blindness, which thou beholdest they are in, because of the plain and most precious parts of the gospel of the Lamb which have been kept back by that abominable church…. I will be merciful unto the Gentiles in that day, insomuch that I will bring forth unto them, in mine own power, much of my gospel, which shall be plain and precious, saith the Lamb” (1 Ne. 13:12 – 13, 32, 34).

It will be remembered that we have estimated the time of the woman leaving the earth, or the true church of Christ finally being extinguished, to the year AD 570 when the Catholic church replaced the Roman empire as the controller of the nations of the gentiles under Pope Gregory. It will also be remembered that John tells us that in 1,260 years—or times, time and a half time (see Rev. 12:14)—the woman would end her sojourn. In another place John prophesies of the coming of an angel bearing the fulness of the gospel (see Rev. 14:6). Why? For although an organization claiming to be Christ’s church had taken over the world, the authority of the priesthood had been completely lost, invalidating the claims of that false and corrupted system of religion. But it would only be lost for times, time, and a half time.

Recall how that the JST changed 1,260 days to 1,260 years for the timespan of the woman’s sojourn (see Rev. 12:6). That number when added to the year AD 570 brings us to AD 1830, the year in which the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ was restored to the earth through the instrumentality of the prophet Joseph Smith!

On April 6th, 1830, the Lord through revelation endorsed the timing of this event, saying:

“The rise of the Church of Christ in these last days, being one thousand eight hundred and thirty years since the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the flesh, it being regularly organized and established agreeable to the laws of our country, by the will and commandments of God, in the fourth month, and on the sixth day of the month which is called April” (D&C 20:1).

Further confirmation of these events taking place during the sixth seal include Joseph’s observation that the great Leonid meteor shower of 1833 was a direct fulfillment of things seen by John:

“November 13. About 4 o’clock a.m. I was awakened by Brother Davis knocking at my door, and calling me to arise and behold the signs in the heavens. I arose, and to my great joy, beheld the stars fall from heaven like a shower of hail stones; a literal fulfillment of the word of God as recorded in the holy scriptures as a sure sign that the coming of Christ is close at hand. In the midst of this shower of fire, I was led to exclaim, how marvelous are thy works O Lord! I thank thee for thy mercy unto thy servant, save me in thy kingdom for Christ’s sake: Amen” (DHC 1:439, from Times and Seasons 6, No. 9 [May 15, 1845] History of Joseph Smith, 898.).

According to Albert Roustit, this period was prophetically foreshadowed through the development of music:

“The history of mankind and that of music follow parallel lines because music, the most noble expression of human thought, has always provided the greatest image, the truest reflection of civilization.

“…In the Middle Ages, a false interpretation of the scriptures persuaded religious circles that the year 1000 would see the end of the world—and yet the musical language of the 11th century had scarcely arrived at the stage of the consonance of the fifth, that is the third harmonic.

“Then, in the 16th century, Luther firmly believed that the times of the Apocalypse had arrived. If musicology had been known in his time, he would have seen that the musical language had scarcely reached the consonance of the third, the fifth harmonic, and that, consequently, numerous possibilities remained to be discovered.

“Then it was the year 1844 which gave rise to new fears, since it was announced that the times of the nations were about to be accomplished [times of the gentiles fulfilled]. But nothing happened and so the scriptures were analyzed in an attempt to understand the true interpretation of Daniel’s prophecy. Somewhat late, it was ‘discovered’ that that year, in reality, was designated as the beginning of the end. Music by itself would have sufficed to explain that transition, at that time, it was barely beginning to go beyond the seventh harmonic.
“Finally in our day…musical language has discovered all the harmonics in the series, and therefore has come to the end of its resources….

“The years which separate 1798 and 1844 constitute a time of elaboration which permitted the new Church…completely reformed and finally reestablished in its purity, to blossom forth in the 19th century and into our own time” (Dr. Albert Roustit, trans. Dr. John A. Green, Prophecy in Music: Prophetic Parallels in Musical History [Paris: 1975], pp. 74, 263 – 264, 276).

From the pinnacle of the first half of the 1800s, however, things were destined both spiritually and physically to only go down hill. Before his martyrdom, Joseph Smith symbolically unsheathed his sword and prophesied:

“The sword is unsheathed and shall never return to its sheath again until all those who reject the truth and fight against the kingdom of God are swept from the face of the earth by sword, famine and by pestilence and the judgments of the almighty—which he will pour out from time to time until the earth is cleansed from wickedness and made fit to be inherited by the Saints later” (George Morris, Autobiography (1816-1849), Typescript, BYU-Special Collections).

Soon thereafter peace was taken, and wars have continued on the face of the planet in one place or another to our day, and according to the prophesy in D&C 87 they will continue until “a full end of all nations” (politically speaking) will come about. During this period of constant and evolving warfare, the ability to bombard populations from above with unprecedented ballistic power has led to the development of underground bunkers and shelters, fulfilling another aspect of the prophecies contained in the sixth seal wherein people would hide in dens and ask for mountains to cover them for protection from God’s wrath:

“And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, [in other words, all people] hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” (Rev. 6:14 – 17).

The unrolling of the heavens like a scroll was also seen in connection with these things in the spectacle of nuclear detonations, which literally displaces mountains and islands by its force (for instance, Elugelab island was completely destroyed by the first hydrogen bomb test). This being yet another reason for all classes of the earth seeking shelter underground.

But the good news amidst all the complexities and turmoil of the nations is that the Gospel had been restored to the earth never to be taken away until the return of Christ. John prophesied that Christ would reign on the earth for around one thousand years during the seventh seal:

“I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years” (Rev. 20:4)

According to D&C 77, the earth only has 7,000 years of “temporal existence,” and so the seventh seal must comprehend the fall of Babylon and the beast as well as the triumph of Zion. But if we stick to the pattern heretofore established, the seventh seal must span the time of AD 2000 – AD 3000. Could it be that we are now in the prophesied millennium? To answer that question, we must turn again to John’s vision.

The Seventh (and Last) Seal:
AD 2000 – AD 3000

Right before the opening of the seventh seal a great gathering is seen by John of saints (naturally, saints of the latter days in context):

“I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb…. These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them” (Rev. 7:9 – 10, 14 – 15).

What is the nature of this gesture? The saints are asking God to deliver them, which is the meaning of the word הוֹשִׁ֘יעָ֥ה אָנָּ֣א (hō·wō·šî·‘āh ’ān·nā, Hosannah, lit.“Please grant us salvation!”). It is no coincidence that when latter-day saints dedicate holy places, they do so by waving symbolic palms over their heads while shouting repeatedly this Hebrew word-phrase. Has there ever been an assemblage of saints around the world, as John saw, joining together in this gesture? It has in fact happened a few times in church history, the first global instance of which was in the October General Conference in the year 2000 at the dedication of the Conference Center in Salt Lake City. Could this have been part of what John saw in his vision?

Actual image taken at the October 2000 General Conference when the first hosannah shout was broadcast around the globe and joined in by people ‘of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues.’

The timing is conspicuous and may have marked the closing of the sixth seal. If that was the case, then we are now in the seventh seal of human history. Without knowing the exact time the seal opened, we might assume a window extending from the fall of 2000 to perhaps fall of 2001 (the fall feasts prescribed in the Law of Moses have reference to Christ’s second coming whereas the spring feasts have reference to his first; hence a fall setting for the opening of the seal wherein Christ returns may be appropriate).

From the perspective of the year 2022 (the time of the publishing of this article), we may be apt to doubt this claim since we do not yet see Christ and this last thousand years is supposed to be the prophesied millennial reign of Christ upon the earth. But this is actually in accordance with the vision of John. He sees that when the seal is opened:

“And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour” (Rev. 8:1).

Time in the heavens, as we know, is reckoned according to the rotational period of the celestial worlds (see more here: If You Could Hie to Sirius B), wherein one rotation upon their axes (or one “day”) takes as long as 1,000 orbits of the earth around the sun. Accordingly, the space of a half hour ‘in heaven’ is 20.8 earth years. But of course the vision does not say exactly a half hour but ‘about the space’ of a half hour. A reasonable alternate therefore would be a slightly rounded up period of 21 years, which happens to also be three sabbaticals, or 7-year lengths. Under the Law of Moses, this was a sacred measurement used to mark out the cycling of fields for natural regeneration and the maximum term of a debt. Repetition by threes is scripturally equivalent to emphasis, so three 7-year lengths may mark emphasis by God in warning his people (“Behold, I come quickly!”).

If the seventh seal opened in the fall of 2001, then the silence in the heavens would be due to end somewhere in the vicinity of the year 2022. The three sabbatical divisions then land on the inauspicious years of 2008 (a major recession); 2015 (the year gay marriage was legalized in the United States); and now 2022 (many international calamities are under way). As that is our present time, it should be enquired as to what if any signs could be produced to justify this extraordinary claim? To answer this, we will look to the heavens as the Lord instructed.

Signs of the Times (Now)

On August 21st, 2017, a solar eclipse crossed over the continental United States that was witnessed by millions of people and has come to be known as the Great American Eclipse. Other facts cause this eclipse to stand out historically: it was the first eclipse to cross from coast to coast of the continental United States since the signing of the Declaration of Independence; the penumbra enveloped the entirety of the North American continent; the path of totality crossed directly over Jackson county, Missouri; and it formed the first part of a giant “X”, which will be completed by a second coast-to-coast eclipse 7 years later in 2024 (April 8th, to be exact).

Exactly between the dates of these events was a third sign on the 21st of December, 2020, which was the “Great Conjunction” of Saturn and Jupiter, also called the “Christmas Star” conjunction. Amazingly, this date was no less than the winter solstice for that year. Noted Israeli astrologist, Lorelei Kude, called it one of the greatest heavenly signs of our lifetime. Astrological significance aside, the timing is undeniably and astoundingly significant. But it, like the “X” across the United States, was not a positive sign from heaven.

A visualization of the night sky on the winter solstice of 2020, which was December 21st. Jupiter and Saturn were within 1/10th of a degree from one another, a bright sign dubbed “the Christmas Star.”

To understand the nature of the great conjunction, we must first comprehend the Hebrew meanings of the stars involved. Jupiter in Hebrew is צדק zedek (the same as Melchizedek), which means “righteousness” or “justice” and is often associated with God. Saturn in Hebrew is שבתאי shabbatai (same as the word Sabbath, hence the Sabbath is Saturday, or the day of Saturn), the name of the trickster or deceiver. The conjunction then represents that an evil individual will or has already attempted to portray himself as God. We will return to the significance of the timing of this sign in a moment.

Coinciding with this year, another star has just completed a cycle also not seen since the signing of the Declaration of the United States, namely the Pluto orbital period. Without going into the immense amount of detail there, suffice it to say that it could scarcely be a coincidence that Pluto’s orbits nearly perfectly correlate with Sir John Bagot Glubb’s 250-year empire cycle. The United States will reach that auspicious milestone in 2026.

The solar eclipses, great conjunction, and pluto cycle, etc., all seem to point to a coming end to many things for the people of this continent (and by extension, the world). Of course, this is in perfect alignment with the things seen by John, who noted additional items pertaining to the seventh seal yet future from our perspective. For example, seven angels are described as blowing trumpets (in chapters 8 and 9) that summon great upheavals on the earth. These are described a second time later in the revelation but instead of trumpets the seven angels pour out vials (in chapter 16). The events they describe include the following:

  1. Hail, fire and blood, burning up vegetation. Also described as a terrible sore upon those who have the mark of the beast.
  2. A plague on the sea (“As it were” a burning mountain falling into it), destroying marine life and shipping.
  3. A plague on rivers, springs, and drinking water, caused by a falling star called “Wormwood” (incidentally the Ukrainian word for Wormwood is chernobyl).
  4. Sun, moon and stars partially darkened; men scorched with the sun.
  5. A star falls from heaven and opens a bottomless pit from which emerges creatures whose physical description would possibly suggest modern war machines. Rome is also described as coming out of the bottomless pit, perhaps a reference to the violent imagination of man.
  6. The battle of Armageddon. It involves vast numbers of people, takes place in the Middle East, and is inspired by the beasts. This is apparently the time that the two apostles preach in Jerusalem and are killed in its streets.
  7. Thunder, lightnings, earthquakes, a great hailstorm, and the final end of Babylon (a year without a harvest or rainbow may follow these atmospheric misfortunes).

The timeline of these world cleansing events is not described, so the timing of the coming of the Son of Man that follows them is still unknown. The Lord told Joseph Smith that the seven trumpets represent “the preparing and finishing of his work, in the beginning of the seventh thousand years—the preparing of the way before the time of his coming” (D&C 77:12). Clearly this indicates that Christ does not come at the end of the half hour of silence, but things relative to the preparation for his coming go into accelerated motion, not only for the wicked masses but also for the righteous few. Indeed, D&C 88 indicates that at the end of the half hour of silence, many saints will see the face of the Lord (v. 95). This is a happy thing, and likewise John does not only see bleakness and havoc in his vision but also great spiritual blessings coming down to the righteous. This too was marked out in another very recent astrological sign.

A Sign Repeated

In the afternoon of September 23rd, 2017 (one month after the great American eclipse), the zodiac sign or constellation Virgo, the virgin, was covered by the sun; the moon was in a waxing crescent phase exactly at her feet; Mercury, Mars, and Venus were were nestled closely to her head by her neighboring constellation of Leo, the lion, which is a 9-star constellation, making a total of 12 stars at her head; and, most curious of all, Jupiter—”Righteousness”—was just exiting between Virgo’s legs in a symbolic birth after exactly 42 weeks of entrapment in her torso or womb due to retrograde motion (a visual effect caused by earth overtaking the slower moving planet in its course around the sun). This day was also the last day of the Feast of Trumpets, or Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year held in autumn. Clearly, this was a sacred day.

It was before noted how that a nearly identical arrangement occurred just before Christ’s birth, heralding the coming of Christ through Mary, the virgin or maiden, and heralding the eventual establishment of the bride that is the church. John’s vision saw that she travailed to bring forth a son, a symbol of the Kingdom of God, and in September of 2017, the woman in the heavens literally gave birth.

This animation shows how that Jupiter’s observed retrograde motion resulted in it spending 9 months in the womb of the virgin, Virgo, all while 12 stars were at her head. On the day of the birth, the crescent moon was at her feet and the sun was upon her shoulder as a holy robe.

“And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth” (Rev. 12:1 – 2, ESV).

This places a context for the sufferings notated by the eclipses and great conjunction: we are entering the birth pains of the kingdom. This appears to be a time when the church and the priesthood would bring forth something new and glorious after passing through excruciating and trying circumstances.

This appears to be why the sign of the birth of the kingdom was shortly followed by a sign heralding the appearance of an anti-Christ (the “Great Conjunction” or “Christmas Star” in 2020). This prophetic sequence of events was described by Paul, who said:

“[…]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; 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” (2 These. 2:3 – 4; see also A Sign to This Generation).

So we are to expect in our current day a falling away, according to Paul, associated perhaps with the appearance of the anti-Christ (or the saints joining with one) just as in time past when the woman was forced to flee the earth. Only this time the end result is prophesied to result in glory for the true and faithful.

It is pertinent to note here that the political kingdom of God did manifest upon the earth for a time from roughly 1844 until around 1890. It was known as The Council of Fifty and was set up in the last few months of Joseph Smith’s life. This body was envisioned as the beginning of the fulfillment of the stone “cut out of the mountain without hands” that breaks down Nebuchadnezzar’s symbolic statue in his dream (Dan. 2:45):

“The prophecies of Daniel 2 were frequently cited in Mormon sermons, hymns, and printed texts that identified the church as the kingdom of God or the stone ‘cut out without hands’ that ‘filled the whole earth.’ By 1842 JS was connecting the prophecies of Daniel 2 with the establishment of a theocracy. In July of that year he lectured on ‘the prophecies of Daniel which foretold that the God of heaven would set up a kingdom in the last days.’ Two weeks later the Times and Seasons published an editorial titled ‘The Government of God,’ which recounted historical and biblical forms of government and argued that ‘it has been the design of Jehovah, from the commencement of the world, and is his purpose now, to . . . take the reigns of government into his own hand’ and that only this form of government would alleviate the degraded condition of humankind” (The Joseph Smith Papers: Administrative Records; Council of Fifty, Minutes, March 1844-January 1846, ed. Matthew J. Grow, Ronald K. Esplin, Mark Ashurst-McGee, Gerrit J. Dirkmaat, and Jeffrey D. Mahas [Salt Lake City, UT: Church Historian’s Press, 2016], Footnote 117).

Thus despite connections to the church with the stone made from time to time, it is only partially fulfilled by the existence and spread of the church alone. In Joseph Smith’s day he saw that a literal kingdom would need to established by means of the church in connection with the Priesthood, but which would be a separate, political institution whose highest officers would be priest-kings. Though this body ceased meeting around 1890, the signs in the heavens appear to agree with Joseph Smith’s direction that this separate body should exist to govern the nations during the millennium of peace and that its birth—or re-birth, as the case may be—is imminent and should be accomplished during the time of the seven trumpets.

Conclusion: “I Come Quickly

Peter saw that in our day people would no longer believe the accounts, laws, or commandments written in the scriptures. As an example of the infiltration of the precepts of men that would carefully choke the truth possessed by the restored church, he chose to cite a disbelief in the literalness of the account of Noah and the flood as an example of the refusal to believe the word of God in the last days. Said he:

“In the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth…. They will say, ‘What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again?… Everything has remained the same since the world was first created.’ They deliberately forget that God…used…water to destroy the ancient world with a mighty flood. And…the present heavens and earth have been stored up for fire. They are being kept for the day of judgment, when ungodly people will be destroyed” (2 Pet. 3:3 – 7, NLT).

Nephi understood that the birth pains inflicted in part by the infiltration of false teachings would result in a distinction between the people of the last days: 

The Lord God shall cause a great division among the people, and the wicked will he destroy; and he will spare his people, yea, even if it so be that he must destroy the wicked by fire” (2 Ne. 30:10; see also Mal. 4:1 and Isa. 9:19; 3:5).

Echoing Nephi’s prophecy of this ‘great division,’ the Lord spoke through Joseph Smith saying, 

“The wicked shall slay the wicked, and fear shall come upon every man; and the saints also shall hardly escape; nevertheless, I, the Lord, am with them, and will come down in heaven from the presence of my Father and consume the wicked with unquenchable fire…. And until that hour there will be foolish virgins among the wise; and at that hour cometh an entire separation of the righteous and the wicked; and in that day will I send mine angels to pluck out the wicked and cast them into unquenchable fire” (D&C 63:33 – 34, 54).

“[However, ]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” (D&C 45:57).

Though the saints are not alarmists, we have the benefit of our new, added scripture, wherewith we can see that centuries of prophesied destruction of Biblical proportions prior to the first coming of Christ were all literally fulfilled in the space of about three hours after the crucifixion (3 Ne. 8:19). Directly following the catastrophic, sudden upheavals that occurred in the Americas following Christ’s death, the record explains:

“And thus far were the scriptures fulfilled which had been spoken by the prophets. And it was the more righteous part of the people who were saved, and it was they who received the prophets and stoned them not; and it was they who had not shed the blood of the saints, who were spared.… And now, whoso readeth, let him understand; he that hath the scriptures, let him search them, and see and behold if all these deaths and destructions by fire, and by smoke, and by tempests, and by whirlwinds, and by the opening of the earth to receive them, and all these things are not unto the fulfilling of the prophecies of many of the holy prophets” (3 Ne. 10:11 – 15).

Among those ‘holy prophets’ cited is Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, along with Zenos and Zedock—each of whom lived, prophesied, and died at least half a millennia earlier than the quickly unfolded fulfillment of their warnings against the wicked. And, outside of these foretold destructions, it’s pertinent to add that the majority of Moses and Isaiah’s writings made centuries before Christ’s life were literally fulfilled within the three short years of Christ’s mortal ministry.

Can we imagine that prophecies concerning Christ’s second coming in our latter day could all be fulfilled with similar speed? Do we take literally the Lord’s oft employed adjective describing the manner in which his coming shall be when he says, “Behold, I come quickly”? (see Rev. 3:11; D&C 33:18; etc.). In his own words he explains that his second coming is not to be interpreted as “soon” when compared to his first coming (see D&C 64:23 – 24), but rather that when he does come that the events foretold will transpire in quick successive fashion; in the Book of Matthew, the Lord compared the awareness and actions of people at the time of his return as being comparable to that of the people who died at the time of Noah’s sudden flood, or the flood that came quickly:

“They were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage…and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left” (Matt. 24:38 – 41).

President Harold B. Lee saw the true point of those verses and how they will find a literal meaning in a coming day when he recounted events surrounding the Ancash earthquake of 1970, also known as the Great Peruvian Earthquake, wherein:

“Seventy thousand persons were buried when an earthquake moved an entire mountain over two cities, which were completely destroyed. We had four missionaries laboring there, two in each city. When the earthquake came, they were at the Lord’s business; two of our elders were teaching a gospel lesson on the outskirts of the town and the other two were in a preparation meeting in another city.
“After…three terrifying days of semidarkness from the choking dust, they philosophized that this might be like the time when the Savior…would come again, when two should be grinding at the mill, and one would be taken and the other left; two would be working in the field, and one would be taken and the other one left….
“When an earthquake strikes, every person would be taken as he is then living—if at a movie, or a tavern, or in a drunken stupor, or whatever. But the true servants of God, who would be doing their duty, would be protected and preserved, if they would do as the Lord has counseled: to ‘stand ye in holy places, and be not moved,’ when these days should come [D&C 87:8]” (Harold B. Lee, “Watch, That Ye May Be Ready,” Ensign, Oct. 1971, p. 28).

It calls to mind the words of a scripture concerning a quickly approaching day, as the Lord described: 

“A day of wrath, a day of burning, a day of desolation, of weeping, of mourning, and of lamentation; and as a whirlwind it shall come upon all the face of the earth.… And upon my house shall it begin, and from my house shall it go forth…; first among those among you, saith the Lord, who have professed to know my name and have not known me, and have blasphemed against me in the midst of my house…” (D&C 112:24 – 26).

As we have seen, John’s vision clearly identified many important movements in history relative to Christ’s church. Most of his vision is actually fulfilled, including various manifestations of the mark of the beast throughout time. Yet there are events still future relative to our time, including the seven trumpets marking out the preparation for Christ’s second coming in earnest. Yet to be seen will be the coming forth of the political kingdom of God after the church is cleansed through a ‘day of wrath.’ Even now the priesthood is being assembled by members of the Godhead to prepare for the great culminating work to come.

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