Jesus’ Prophecy

Avraham Gileadi

When parting from the Nephites after his first visit to Bountiful, Jesus said to them, “I perceive that ye are weak, that ye cannot understand all my words which I am commanded of the Father to speak unto you at this time. Therefore, go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand, and prepare your minds for the morrow, and I come unto you again” (3 Nephi 17:2–3).

Moments earlier, Jesus had predicted the latter-day conversion of the house of Israel to the gospel, an event that would coincide with the latter-day Gentiles rejecting it (3 Nephi 16:4–16). Jesus had then concluded his prophecy by quoting the words of Isaiah (3 Nephi 16:17–20; cf. Isaiah 52:8–10).

The next day, Jesus repeated essentially the same prophecy, but this time expanding it into two great discourses and going into greater detail about the conversion of the house of Israel and the Gentiles’ apostasy (3 Nephi 20:10–31; 21:1–28). Again, Jesus concluded each discourse by quoting the words of Isaiah (3 Nephi 20:32–45; 21:29–22:17; cf. Isaiah 52:1–3, 6–15; 54:1–17).

Following this, Jesus commanded the Nephites to search the words of Isaiah for the fuller context of what he had just said. He said, “Ye ought to search these things. Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah. For surely he spake as touching all things concerning my people which are of the house of Israel; therefore it must needs be that he must speak also to the Gentiles” (3 Nephi 23:1–2; cf. 20:11).

Before discussing the substance of Jesus’ prophecy, let us one last time revisit the identity of the two groups of people of which Jesus is speaking. Nothing leads to greater confusion in the scriptures than a case of mistaken identities, especially when we impose our own ideas on what the scripture says and then use that for our guide. As Book of Mormon prophet–writers make abundantly clear, by “house of Israel” they mean the Jews, Nephites/Lamanites, and Ten Tribes. By “Gentiles” they mean mainly those European peoples who would migrate to the American continent. These “Gentiles” include the Latter-day Saints.

Nowhere in the Book of Mormon, therefore, are Latter-day Saints called the “house of Israel.” As Nephi notes, however, “As many of the Gentiles as will repent are the covenant people of the Lord” (2 Nephi 30:2). But the expression “covenant people” is not synonymous with “house of Israel.” Both the house of Israel and the Gentiles may become the Lord’s covenant people, while many of either group may not (ibid.).

According to Jesus’ sequence of latter-day events, after the Gentiles have scattered and smitten the house of Israel, and some time after they have received the Book of Mormon, they will reject the gospel, and it will be taken from them and go back to the house of Israel (3 Nephi 16:4–12; 20:15, 27–31; 21:2–11, 20). Those Gentiles who reject the gospel, after first receiving it, will then be smitten and trodden down by the house of Israel (3 Nephi 16:12; 20:15–20; 21:11–21). Those Gentiles who repent, on the other hand, will in that day be numbered among the house of Israel (3 Nephi 16:13; 21:6, 22; cf. 1 Nephi 14:2; 2 Nephi 10:18; Ether 13:5).

These events are thus the reverse of what happened anciently. When the Jews, and later all the house of Israel, rejected or apostatized from the fulness of the gospel, the judgments of God came upon them and the Gentiles accepted the gospel in their place. This time, however, the Gentiles will apostatize from the fulness of the gospel and suffer the judgments of God, while the house of Israel will accept the gospel in their place.

Nevertheless, just as the Jewish apostles and disciples of Jesus anciently ministered the gospel to the Gentiles, so, in the last days, as Jacob reminds us, “nursing fathers” and “nursing mothers” from among the Gentiles will minister to the house of Israel (2 Nephi 6:7; 10:9; cf. Isaiah 49:23). When these things happen, the prophecies of Isaiah will be fulfilled (2 Nephi 6:5–18; cf. Isaiah 11:11; 49:22–26).

According to Jesus, the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecies includes Israel’s watchmen lifting up their voices when the Lord bares his arm in the eyes of all nations (3 Nephi 16:17–20; 20:32–35, 40–41); the Lord’s servant performing his latter-day mission (3 Nephi 20:43–45; 21:8–11); the house of Israel exiting Babylon in an exodus from the four directions of the earth (3 Nephi 16:5; 20:11–13, 41–42; 21:29); the house of Israel gathering to and inheriting the lands of their fathers (3 Nephi 20:11–14, 22, 29, 33, 46; 21:1, 28; 22:1–17); and Zion arising from the dust and being reestablished and divinely empowered in her land (3 Nephi 20:36–38; 21:1; 22:1–17).

Jesus reveals that it is his servant’s bringing forth Jesus’ words to the Gentiles that will cause some to believe them and others to reject them (3 Nephi 21:11). As Mormon notes, however, Jesus’ words are recorded on the plates of Nephi, while the Book of Mormon contains but their abridgment or “lesser part” (3 Nephi 26:6–11). In other words, the great reversal that Jesus predicts will occur when some Gentiles accept Jesus’ words but most reject them. Those who reject them will then be “cut off from among my people who are of the covenant” (3 Nephi 21:11) even while the house of Israel accepts the gospel (3 Nephi 16:4, 11; 20:30–31; 21:3, 5, 7–8, 26–27).

According to Jesus, Nephi, and Jacob, all these events are inextricably linked to their fuller context in the prophecies of Isaiah. Keeping Jesus’ commandment to “search these things diligently” thus becomes crucial to understanding how those events will transpire. Failure to do so, on the other hand, will inevitably result in a misreading of Jesus’ words at the time they come forth and in a likely case of mistaken identities. Indeed, the Gentiles’ negligence of Isaiah’s writings may itself contribute to their rejection of Jesus’ words that the servant will bring forth and to the servant’s marring by those who oppose him (cf. 3 Nephi 21:10–11).

One cannot, therefore, approach these scriptures in linear fashion as we have done in the past, isolating one or two parts of them and applying our favorite interpretations and still expect to understand them. Each scripture is part of a complex web of interconnections that must be taken together in order for that scripture to be understood. Fortunately, as the prophecies of Isaiah have not yet been fulfilled in the latter days, there still remains time to search them.

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