THE SAVIOR’S PROPHECIES
From the Fall of Jerusalem to the Second Coming
By Richard D. Draper
Reviewed by Catherine K. Arveseth
It is no question that we are living in a world of uncertainty where darkness has settled in too many corners and wickedness has reached its unwanted hand into our communities and even our homes. This darkness, if allowed, could easily paralyze us with fear, but the Lord has counseled us, “If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear” (Doctrine and Covenants 38:30). Richard D. Draper, well-known gospel scholar and Professor of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University, has written this book with a desire for readers to understand the prophecies of the Savior. By studying His prophecies, we can see that the Lord has prepared and will continue to prepare His people for what is to come. The work of the Lord is moving forward, even accelerating with great momentum. By recognizing the signs of the times, we can assist in God’s work as it rolls forward to the millennial reign of Jesus Christ. The Savior’s Prophecies is an intriguing and intense read that will help a student of the scriptures recognize the prophecies of the Lord that have come to pass and those which are yet to be fulfilled.
This is a meticulous study of the prophecy given by the Lord to His disciples two days before His crucifixion. It has become known as the Olivet Discourse. So important were the prophecies He shared with His disciples on the Mount of Olives, that the Lord made sure His words were preserved in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and again reinforced to the prophet, Joseph Smith, in Doctrine and Covenants Section 45. Following the Lord’s prophecy in section 45, He strongly encouraged Joseph to begin translating the New Testament, a large portion of which would be Matthew 24 and 25, the Olivet Discourse. Brother Draper has included an Appendix that allows readers to compare all five locations of the prophecy while noting their similarities and differences.
The Savior’s Prophecies is most effectively applied when read as a complement to personal study of the scriptures. It discusses three distinct periods of time. First – the immediate future of the Lord’s church and its leadership, second – the fall of Jerusalem and the destiny of the Jewish Nations, and third – the events that will precede and dictate the Savior’s Second Coming, including the victory of God’s people in the last days.
Brother Draper examines the Lord’s ability to prophesy. He writes, “An aspect of what this book is all about (is) the ability of the Lord to prophesy.” He continues, ” The Lord’s ability to prophesy. came from His facility to read the souls of people and understand why they acted the way they did. This ability gave Him power to foresee how people would behave under given circumstances. Knowing that, He could divine the outcome of their life. Further, He could see how one person’s acts would combine with and influence those of others. From that, He could see the direction in which a whole course of events would flow.” Brother Draper teaches that because the Lord knows our hearts, He has the ability to prophesy.
The first four chapters of the book outline the history of Jerusalem and the early church following the Lord’s death. “The Lord steeled the apostles for what would come. He gave them no hope of winning the battle, but every hope of gaining eternal life.” Brother Draper paints a troubling picture of the early church drifting into iniquity, heeding false prophets and leaving their God for baser, worldly ways. Through the records of an early Church Historian, Eusebius, and the writings of Josephus, Brother Draper is able to attribute the collapse of true Christianity to a general pervasiveness of iniquity.
“The numbing effect of iniquity set into the early church, making the members unable to feel God’s promptings. As a result, members were unaware that they had abandoned their first love, the Lord, and were following a false god. They left the true church and never even realized it. Iniquity turned Christianity on its head. It bred a kind of myopia in which the people could not see past themselves.” Brother Draper uses word origin and meaning to shed light on the writings of the apostles. For instance, he defines the word iniquity as translated from the Greek to mean “lawlessness” – a “total lack of respect for laws that govern civilized people.” Thus, we can read with increased comprehension the Lord’s prophecy, “iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matthew 24:12). He states that iniquity was not the cause of suffering for church members only; it was also the cause of suffering for the Jews who refused to believe. Brother Draper continues by detailing the prophecy of the Temple and its destruction, the Jewish factions that took control of Jerusalem, the horrific deaths of the apostles, and eventually the complete destruction of Jerusalem at the hand of the Romans.
The scriptures teach, “for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh” (Matthew 25:13). Brother Draper, however, explains that “God tells His prophets what is going to happen and they tell God’s people. It then becomes the Saints’ task to prepare.” He teaches that it is the world that will not know the hour or the day, for “the Lord God.revealeth his secrets unto His servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). For further backing he quotes Joseph Smith, “.if it is not made known to the prophets it will not come to pass.” On this premise Brother Draper has written his book. When the time of the Lord’s coming is nigh, the prophets will know. God’s people will be ready because they will be watching for the signs and the signs will be confirmed by the voice of the prophets.
In the remaining chapters, Brother Draper speaks of several signs of the times that will afflict the world in the last days. These include a general loss of courage, “men’s hearts will fail them” (DC 88:91), “wars and rumors of wars” (Matthew 24:6), and famines, pestilence, and earthquakes (Matthew 24:7). He describes the seduction of materialism as a great spiritual downfall due to its compulsion to use things and people. “When people have drunk too deeply of the wine of selfishness, they care for nothing – not even themselves. They see no value in anything. In fact, they do not see at all; thus, they cannot perceive the Light as it pulsates through God’s people.”
He attributes the spread of deception in the world to false Christs. “For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (Matthew 24:5). He defines these false or anti-Christs as individuals who seek to stand in the place of the Savior. Within the realm of false Christs, he includes concepts or philosophies that attempt to prove salvation through some other way, denying the doctrine of Christ. Such subtle swayings of the Adversary, he says, will have enough verity that they will lead even the very elect into the grasp of the destroyer.
Brother Draper writes that obedience to the commandment of preparedness is an expression of our faith. It will not be enough in the last days to be righteous. We must also be prepared. This principle is reiterated as he recounts three parables the Lord shared at the conclusion of the Olivet Discourse: the parable of the foolish virgins, the unproductive servant, and the parable of the sheep and goats. In the parable of the ten virgins, the Lord describes all the virgins as being righteous. Each virgin brought oil in her lamp to meet the Bridegroom. But only five of the ten virgins brought enough oil to last them through the night. Brother Draper writes, “The foolish virgins, who had done so much, had not watched and stayed prepared. They used the oil they had purchased earlier and thus, were living on dwindling light.” He reminds us how crucial it is that we continually add oil to our lamps. This spiritual preparedness goes hand in hand with physical preparedness, such as food storage.
In conclusion to The Savior’s Prophecies, Brother Draper makes a plea for preparedness by teaching the Lord’s final admonition to all of His disciples, both ancient and modern-day. This admonition is to love God and our fellowmen. “What determines which way a person will go?” Brother Draper asks. “In two words” he answers, “It is – loving service”. “Some over-zealous souls have stressed the importance of obtaining some mystical love relationship with the Savior or the Father. The attempt often causes a quasi-spiritual emotionalism resulting in a search for God through a deep, ortherwordly piety, but that is not what the scriptures teach. They insist that we find God not through mysticism and withdrawal but through love and involvement. There is an organic tie between love for God and love of his children that precludes sinking into the depths of oneself. That tie insists on service to one’s neighbor.”
Brother Draper’s conclusion is humbling. In all our deep studying and pondering over the prophecies of the Savior, he urges us not to lose sight of the true power of the gospel, which is love. With sincere love of God and our fellowmen, we can spiritually prepare for the Lord’s coming. The Savior’s Prophecies should be read and studied by all who are seeking to know the Lord and His counsel for us. It stirs us to become better people and to our surprise, makes us want to rejoice that we are blessed to live in the last days. Although this is a time when terror and fear plague a wicked world, it is also a time when the promises given to God’s people who are prepared are great and good and glorious.
2002Meridian Magazine. All Rights Reserved.