From Ezekiel 34 to the end of his book, Ezekiel focuses on the latter days, emphasizing events far in the future, removed from his world of 600 B.C. His focus narrows on the restoration of the house of Israel both physically and spiritually, the reunion of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel, the opposition that will arise from this gathering (Satan’s host will not be idle), the destruction of the wicked, and the coming of Jesus Christ to reign as king of kings on earth.
A Valley of Dry Bones
These subjects are the very same topics Moroni addressed when he appeared to the 17 year old prophet Joseph Smith in September 1823 (see Kent P. Jackson, “Moroni’s Message to Joseph Smith,” Ensign, August 1990, p. 13-16). For this reason, Ezekiel’s message is relevant to the youth of the Church today. Joseph Smith has finished his work, but the Lord needs every young person to do their part to make Ezekiel’s words come to pass. Using the imagery of a valley filled with dry bones, Ezekiel 37:1-14 deals with the restoration of the House of Israel – a literal resurrection, together with a restoration to their lands and a renewing of their hope. The youth of the Church are a manifestation of the hope of Israel being restored on the earth today. They are the future of the kingdom of God. We see the land of Israel today- a gathering of the Jews to their lands is but one part of the gathering for them- they are physically being gathered, but the gathering is not complete until they are brought to a knowledge that Jesus is the Christ.
The prophecy of the two sticks has reference to the power of the Book of Mormon (stick of Joseph) and the Bible (stick of Judah) working together to gather the House of Israel. The Savior himself spoke of the prophet Moroni as the keeper of the record of the stick of Ephraim (D&C 27:5). The Lord stated that when we see the Book of Mormon come forth that it will be a great sign that the gathering will commence and that his coming is near.
“And verily I say unto you, I give unto you a sign, that ye may know the time when these things shall be about to take place—that I shall gather in, from their long dispersion, my people, O house of Israel, and shall establish again among them my Zion; And behold, this is the thing which I will give unto you for a sign—for verily I say unto you that when these things which I declare unto you, and which I shall declare unto you hereafter of myself, and by the power of the Holy Ghost which shall be given unto you of the Father, shall be made known unto the Gentiles that they may know concerning this people who are a remnant of the house of Jacob, and concerning this my people who shall be scattered by them; Verily, verily, I say unto you, when these things shall be made known unto them of the Father, and shall come forth of the Father, from them unto you… Therefore, when these works and the works which shall be wrought among you hereafter shall come forth from the Gentiles, unto your seed… And when these things come to pass that thy seed shall begin to know these things—it shall be a sign unto them, that they may know that the work of the Father hath already commenced unto the fulfilling of the covenant which he hath made unto the people who are of the house of Israel (3 Nephi 21:1-7 emphasis added)
Keith Meservey wrote a great article on Ezekiel’s prophecy of the two sticks. From his article we read:
After Ezekiel had acted out the unification of records, uniting Judah’s writing board with Joseph’s, he prophesied that the Lord “will take the children of Israel from among the [Gentiles], … and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land. … So shall they be my people, and I will be their God.” (Ezek. 37:16, 21, 23.) No wonder, then, that when the time came for the gathering to take place that Moroni, the keyholder “of the record of the stick of Ephraim” (D&C 27:5) appeared to Joseph Smith. He introduced himself as “an angel of God, sent to bring joyful tidings that the covenant which God made with ancient Israel was at hand to be fulfilled.” (History of the Church, 4:537.) No wonder that, within one twenty-four hour period, Moroni had quoted and explained to Joseph Smith four different times how God was about to “set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people” from the various nations where they were scattered and how he should “set up an ensign for the nations, and … assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the corners of the earth.” (Isa. 11:11–12; see JS—H 1:40.) What a message for a mere lad, who would soon learn, from the same angel, about the record of Joseph that would make all this possible! (Keith Meservey, Ezekiel’s Sticks and the Gathering of Israel, Ensign, February 1987)
The Message of Ezekiel 37
The central message of Ezekiel’s revelation is the restoration of the house of Israel. His revelation includes the gathering of the dispersed of Israel (Ezekiel 37:21), their reestablishment to their promised lands (Ezekiel 37:21-22, 25), the restoration of Israel and Judah back into one nation (Ezekiel 37:22), the restoration of the temple/sanctuary among his people (Ezekiel 37:26-28), the restoration of their status as a covenant people before the Lord (Ezekiel 37:23-24, 26-28), and the restoration of the Lord Jesus Christ as Israel’s rightful king (Ezekiel 37:22, 24-25). These constitute the central focus of Ezekiel 37. For all of these messages the Lord provided a specific sign: the bringing together of the Book of Mormon and the Bible into “one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand” (Ezekiel 37:19).
Ezekiel 38-39 The Battle Ushering in the Second Coming
The beginning verses of chapter 38 cover nations that will attack Israel at some future time. Ezekiel uses names in Ezekiel 38:1-6 from the table of nations in Genesis 10. Ezekiel specifically tells us where Gog, the great military and political leader would come from and with whom he would be allied in the war against Israel. He used names that were current in Old Testament times, though many of these names are not commonly known among modern readers. Magog, Meshech, and Tubal were in northern Asia Minor (Ezekiel 38:2). Persia was in eastern Asia Minor, and Ethiopia and Libya (Cush and Phut) were in Africa (Ezekiel 38:5). Gomer and Togarmah have been associated with peoples in Asia Minor and Europe (Ezekiel 38:6; see Hastings, Dictionary of the Bible; Fallows, Bible Encyclopedia; Encyclopaedia Judaica; Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 9:2:159–60 read online here.) That these nations would come from north and south, east and west, represents the idea that all nations will fight against Israel before the Savior comes (see Zechariah 14:2).
Students will usually ask about their circumstance at this point. It is useful to spend some time in D&C 45:62-69 to discuss what activities the Saints will be engaged in during this time. By actively participating in the building of Zion, we not only have peace, but we avoid the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets. I have always found seminary students very much engaged when we talk about these verses in the Doctrine and Covenants. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the young people of this Church seeing the connection between their attitude towards building Zion and having peace in this life. The realities of the last days prophecies bring home the importance of building Zion.
It is important to show that the Savior comes to the defense of Israel. Those defending Jerusalem are saved. From the text we read:
And it shall come to pass at the same time when Gog shall come against the land of Israel, saith the Lord God, that my fury shall come up in my face…and all the men that are upon the face of the earth, shall shake at my presence, and the mountains shall be thrown down, and the steep places shall fall, and every wall shall fall to the ground. And I will call for a sword against him throughout all my mountains, saith the Lord God: every man’s sword shall be against his brother. And I will plead against him with pestilence and with blood; and I will rain upon him, and upon his bands, and upon the many people that are with him, an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone. Thus will I magnify myself, and sanctify myself; and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the Lord. And I will send a fire on Magog, and among them that dwell carelessly in the isles: and they shall know that I am the Lord. So will I make my holy name known in the midst of my people Israel; and I will not let them pollute my holy name any more: and the heathen shall know that I am the Lord, the Holy One in Israel. Behold, it is come, and it is done, saith the Lord God; this is the day whereof I have spoken (Ezekiel 38:18-23; 38:6-8 emphasis added).
Ezekiel makes the point several times that everyone on the earth will know that the Lord is in charge. In the New Testament we read:
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phillipians 2:10-11).
In my next post I will put a chart with 60 signs of the second coming and how these signs are illustrated in the events leading up to the Savior’s coming to the Nephite nation in the Book of Mormon. I believe that if we want to understand the signs leading up to the second coming, the events in the Book of Mormon are a great place to start. The parallels are striking.