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The Coming Exodus of the Righteous
When his disciples asked Him “what is the sign of thy coming and the end of the world (or the destruction of the wicked, which is the end of the world)?” Jesus speaks of false Christs, persecutions, betrayal, false prophets, love waxing cold, and the abomination of desolation. He then gives another sign indicating the end of the world—a sign focusing on what will be required of the righteous:
“Then let them who are in Judea flee into the mountains; Let him who is on the housetop flee, and not return to take anything out of his house; Neither let him who is in the field return back to take his clothes; And wo unto them that are with child, and unto them that give suck in those days; Therefore, pray ye the Lord that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day.” (JST Matt 24:13-17)
Jesus clearly prophesied here of a latter-day exodus, a flight into the wilderness for safety and protection. One that we should note does not involve returning, this is a permanent departure. Jesus further notes that this withdrawal of the righteous will be, as it was in the days of Noah, “for until that day that Noah entered into the ark, they [the wicked] were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, and knew not until the flood came and took them all away.” Things will seem normal, business as usual to thew wicked, “then shall be fulfilled that which is written, that in the last days, two shall be in the field; the one shall be taken and the other left. Two shall be grinding at the mill; the one taken and the other left.” (JST Matt. 24:45-48)
Isaiah prophesied a similar scenario, where “The righteous disappear, and no man gives it a thought; the godly are gathered out, but no one perceives that from impending calamity the righteous are withdrawn.” (Isaiah 57:1) Shedding further light on the context of the situation, Isaiah describes the state of things preceding the exodus: “Their watchmen are altogether blind and unaware; all of them are but dumb watchdogs unable to bark, lolling seers fond of slumber. Gluttonous dogs, and insatiable such indeed are insensible shepherds. They are all diverted to their own way, every one after his own advantage. Come, they say, let us get wine and have our fill of liquor. For tomorrow will be like today, only far better!” (Isaiah 56:10-12) He likens sleeping seers to watchdogs unable to bark who are drunk with falsehood, and prophesying peace.
Many are pacified by these assertions that “tomorrow will be like today, only far better” and are thus lulled “away into carnal security” saying “all is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth.” (2 Nephi 28:21) Those subscribing to this mindset believe they will never have to leave their homes; that they are already living in a free country that is safe; that things will simply continue uninterrupted as they are without ever coming to an end. Peter prophesied of such people, declaring “there shall come in the blast days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming?…all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” He further observed “For this they willingly are ignorant” that God in the time of Noah cleansed the wicked from the earth by water, and that “the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word…reserved unto fire against the day of judgment.” (2 Peter 3:3-7) There are also many who recognize that something is wrong with society, yet think the wicked will somehow be cleansed from among them, and that Jesus will just appear one day without all scriptural prophecies being fulfilled—especially those involving destruction and flight.
The pattern we find in scripture is that when a society reaches a tipping point when they are “ripe for destruction” (Hel. 13:14), the Lord preserves the righteous by calling them out of the city or society, and leading them to a safe place, or into the wilderness.
Consider the examples of Enoch whose city was literally called up out of the world, Noah whose family was called out into the ark where they were protected while “the flood was forty days upon the earth…and all flesh died that moved upon the earth…and every living substance was destroyed.” (Gen. 7:17-23) For his safety and preservation Abraham was told by the Lord “get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee.” (Abr. 2:3) Lot and his family were taken out by angels before the destruction of Sodom & Gomorah by fire, an event Isaiah uses to depict the end-time destruction. To Lot and his family the angels said: “escape for your lives; look not behind you, neither stay you in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest you be consumed.” (Gen. 19:25 JST) The children of Israel were led out of bondage by Moses into the wilderness and dwelt in tents for forty years. The Jaredites were led out of a wicked society into the wilderness, and eventually sailed to the promised land.
The Book of Mormon begins with its own callout as Nephi records his family’s departure from Jerusalem into the wilderness prior to the Babylonian invasion. Concerning this story, Avraham Gileadi wrote: “Considering to whom he is writing—his own people and the Gentiles of the latter days—his account is not merely a history but also a type and shadow of what will take place before the Lord’s coming to reign on the earth. . . he enables his latter-day readers to some day liken his exodus to themselves. Having seen our day, he adapts his writing to what will be of most worth to his readers.” (Gileadi, Studies in the Book of Mormon, p. 6)
If, as a record, the Book of Mormon is the ultimate type and shadow for us in the last days, then why would it start with this story if we could never expect to experience something similar in the end-time? The exodus of the early Latter-day Saints across the plains to Salt Lake City cannot be the fulfillment of this type as the Babylonians were a foreign invading army that breached the walls of the promised land, pillaging, plundering, and taking many captive. The Saints were victims of political persecution within their own nation.
Yet, Mormon’s sacred record has more. The Book of Mormon contains many instances where the righteous leave into the wilderness before destruction and danger. Here are just a few:
Lehi and his family left Jerusalem to the promised land of America (1 Nephi 2)
Nephi and his people fled from his brethren. (2 Nephi 5:5)
The people of Zarahemla left from Jerusalem and journeyed to the promised land as well. (Omni 1:15-16)
Alma and his people fled from King Noah into the wilderness. (Mosiah 18:34)
The people of Limhi departed into the wilderness and escaped the bondage of the Lamanites. (Mosiah 22:2)
Alma and his people, escaped into the wilderness after they had been brought into bondage. (Mosiah 24:20)
The people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi are led out into the wilderness. (Alma 27:12, 14, 25)
Converts depart into the wilderness and join the people of Ammon. (Alma 35:13-14
Concerning a future calling out, Heber C. Kimball prophesied: “When the time comes that the Lord says, “Arise, and to your tents, O Israel,” then men must be pure inside and out; they must be for God, or they will have no part in the blessings conferred upon the righteous.” (JD 9:151) In His latter-day commentary on the parable of the wheat and the tares, the Lord foretold that the tares would “choke the wheat and drive the church into the wilderness.” (D&C 86:3)
It is clear we have a pattern here where the Lord calls out the righteous from the wicked; and this pattern will continue to play out in the end-time, as Jesus himself prophesied. I close with Hugh Nibley’s commentary on that prophecy of Jesus’ we began with: “There is no point to foretelling woes from which there is no deliverance, and the Lord does not leave the people helpless but tells them specifically what they are to do. In the first place, [they] were to do what they had always done in such an emergency: they were to flee to the mountains.” (Hugh Nibley, The Prophetic Book of Mormon, p. 470-471)
Suggestions for application:
Study the scriptures further on your own to become familiar with, and gain a testimony of, this pattern.
Pray and ask the Lord directly if there will be an exodus in the coming days similar to those described in the scriptures
Begin preparing mentally, emotionally, and spiritually to one day leave your home in order to receive deliverance and preservation.
Begin making temporal preparations as inspired by the Lord through the Spirit.