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Revelations of John

by Gerald N. Lund

The apostle John, sometimes referred to as John the Beloved and John the Revelator, and scriptural texts linked to his name are esteemed highly by Latter-day Saints. Modern scripture adds to an understanding of the man and his writings in three important areas: John as a translated being, an additional record of John, and clarification of the book of Revelation.

JOHN AS TRANSLATED BEING. In April 1829 the Prophet Joseph Smith received a revelation (D&C 7) that clarified the Savior's statement about John's tarrying on earth until Jesus returned (John 21:22). This revelation teaches that John requested that he receive power over death so that he could bring more souls to Christ (3 Ne. 28:6-11); that the Lord promised him that he could tarry "until I come in my glory"; and that John is a translated being whose state is "as flaming fire and a ministering angel" (D&C 7:1-3, 6). (See Translated Beings)

ADDITIONAL RECORD OF JOHN. In another revelation to Joseph Smith on May 6, 1833, an excerpt of eleven verses appears from what is called the "fulness of the record of John" (D&C 93:7-18). Important similarities exist between these verses and the opening verses of John's gospel (John 1:1-34), but links to the experiences of John the Baptist are also apparent (cf. D&C 93:15; John 1:32-34). Since Doctrine and Covenants 93 mentions only the name John, without annotation, it is unclear whether John the Beloved or John the Baptist is meant (cf. McConkie, 1979, Vol. 1, pp. 426-27).

Whatever the source, these few lines from the "record of John" bear important witness of the Savior, reaffirming that Jesus is the Word, "even the messenger of salvation" (D&C 93:7-8); that he is the light and the redeemer of the world and the spirit of truth (93:9-10); and that he did not receive the fulness at first, but continued "from grace to grace" until he received "all power, both in heaven and on earth" (93:11-17).

BOOK OF REVELATION. Two Book of Mormon passages underscore the importance of the Revelation of John for the latter days. The prophet Nephi1 (c. 600 B.C.) saw in vision many future events, but he was forbidden to write them, "for the Lord God hath ordained the apostle of the Lamb of God that he should write them…. [And] the name of the apostle of the Lamb was John" (1 Ne. 14:25, 27). Further, speaking of the last days, the Lord said, "Then shall my revelations which I have caused to be written by my servant John be unfolded in the eyes of all the people" (Ether 4:16).

In this connection, three important sources aid the interpretation of the Apocalypse.

1. Doctrine and Covenants section 77. Received by Joseph Smith while working on the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible (JST), this revelation contains fifteen questions and answers about the book of Revelation. "This Revelation [D&C 77] is not a complete interpretation of the book. It is a key…. It unlocks the door through which an entrance may be gained, but after the key has been turned, the searcher for treasure must find it for himself" (Smith, p. 478).

2. The Joseph Smith Translation. In addition to the questions and answers in section 77, Joseph Smith made significant revisions to the text of Revelation in the JST.

3. Other scriptural and prophetic writings. Much of the Apocalypse is couched in imagery. Both latter-day scripture and the writings of General Authorities provide interpretations that help unlock this imagery. Examples include the "rod of iron" as the word of God (Rev. 2:27; cf. 1 Ne. 15:23-24), the "beasts" of chapter 13 as the degenerate kingdoms of the world (TPJS, p. 289), and Babylon as the symbol of spiritual wickedness (Rev. 17:5; cf. D&C 133:14).

In brief, the book of Revelation is divided into two major segments—the letters to the seven churches of Asia (chaps. 2-3) and the vision of "things which must be hereafter" (4:1; see chaps. 4-22).

The seven letters written to churches in Asia are important to Christians of all ages. They outline beliefs and practices that the Lord found commendable, as well as those which displeased him. In capsule form, these chapters summarize blessings that await the faithful.

The vision of the future (Rev. 4-22) revolves around a "book," sealed with seven seals, which was in God's hand (5:1-8). According to Doctrine and Covenants section 77, that book represented God's plan for this earth during the seven thousand years of its "temporal existence," each seal representing a thousand years (D&C 77:6-7). "By the seven thousand years of temporal existence is meant the time of the earth's duration from the Fall of Adam to the end of time, which will come after the Millennium" (Joseph Fielding Smith, in Smith and Sjodahl, p. 474).

The first five seals highlight, in two or three verses (Rev. 6:1-11), each of the first five thousand years (see also McConkie, 1973, Vol. 3, pp. 476-85). In the sixth seal, representing the sixth Millennium, John saw four angels holding the judgments of God (Rev. 7:1; D&C 77:8) and another angel who represented the work of the restoration (Rev. 7:2-3; D&C 77:9-11; McConkie, 1973, Vol. 3, pp. 489-94).

The seventh seal opens in chapter 8. But the prediction of Christ's return does not occur until chapter 19. Thus, a major portion of the book focuses on the time just prior to Jesus' second coming (cf. D&C 77:13). Peter declared that Christ would not come again "until the times of restitution of all things" (Acts 3:21). It is central to this latter-day restitution that angelic ministers (Moroni2, John the Baptist, Peter, James, John, Moses, etc.) brought back not only the fulness of the everlasting gospel and its keys and ordinances but also the "sealing power," which is the power to bind things on earth and have them be binding in heaven (Matt. 16:19; see Sealing). The restoration of the gospel and the power of sealing are important conditions for Christ's coming. During this period three characteristics will prevail: judgments, the kingdom of Christ versus the kingdoms of the world, and the destruction of latter-day Babylon.

As trumpets sound and "vials" of destruction are poured out, one devastating scourge follows another, including vast pollutions, rampant wickedness, and the battle of Armageddon (Rev. 8-11, 16). In the midst of these judgments allowed by God, a voice declares that "the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ" (Rev. 11:15). Chapter 12 portrays the Church of Christ and the kingdom of God (JST Rev. 12:7; McConkie, 1973, Vol. 3, p. 516). In chapter 13, Satan's kingdoms oppose the Saints and the work of God. Chapter 14 then shows the triumph of Christ's kingdom and what leads to that victory. Christ comes to Mount Zion with his servants (14:1-5), and an angel, having the everlasting gospel to preach to the earth, flies through the heavens (14:6-7). (Verse 6 provides the inspiration for the well-known angel Moroni statue placed atop some LDS temples.) Then the fall of Babylon is announced (14:8-11). Like the angel from the east (Rev. 7:2), this angel is interpreted to represent the work of the restoration (McConkie, 1973, Vol. 3, p. 530). It is this work, directed by Christ and his servants, which brings about the eventual destruction of all worldly kingdoms. The fall of Babylon (Rev. 16-18) is so dramatic that all the hosts of heaven spontaneously shout, "Alleluia" (Rev. 19:1-6).

After Christ's coming (Rev. 19:7-21), the vision concludes in quick succession with the Millennium (Rev. 20:1-6), the loosing of Satan for a "little season" (Rev. 20:7-10; D&C 88:111-115), the great Judgment (Rev. 20:11-15), and the celestialization of the earth (Rev. 21:22-5). Thus, the Revelation of John shows that in spite of all of Satan's efforts to the contrary, God's work will triumph and Christ will come again to reign with his Saints for a thousand years during the Millennium and throughout eternity.

(See Basic Beliefs home page; Scriptural Writings home page; The Holy Bible home page)

Bibliography

Lund, Gerald N. "Insights from the JST into the Book of Revelation." The Joseph Smith Translation, ed. M. Nyman and R. Millet. Provo, Utah, 1985.

McConkie, Bruce R. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, Vol. 3, pp. 476-85, 489-94, 516, 530. Salt Lake City, 1973.

McConkie, Bruce R. "Understanding the Book of Revelation." Ensign 5 (Sept. 1975):85-89.

McConkie, Bruce R. The Mortal Messiah, Vol. 1, pp. 426-27. Salt Lake City, 1979.

Smith, Hyrum M., and Janne M. Sjodahl. Doctrine and Covenants Commentary, rev. ed. Salt Lake City, 1951.

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