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2 Nephi 28
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2 Nephi 28
Attitudes of the Wicked in the Last Days
2 Nephi 28:1–2
1 And now, behold, my brethren, I have spoken unto you, according as the Spirit hath constrained me; wherefore, I know that they must surely come to pass.
2 And the things which shall be written out of the book shall be of great worth unto the children of men, and especially unto our seed, which is a remnant of the house of Israel.
Nephi begins a new chapter after closing the previous chapter when the quoted text from Isaiah ended. His theme shifts from the coming forth of the Book of Mormon to the effect of the words of the book.
Nephi declares that the words of the book will be of great worth to all the children of men, but he singles out his own seed. Nephi sees that much of the purpose of the Book of Mormon is to bring the gospel to his own seed. At this point, he likely includes all his father’s seed so that this promise extends to descendants of the Nephites and the Lamanites. He has already seen, in a vision, that the descendants of the Nephites will be destroyed, but yet declares that the Book of Mormon will be of benefit to his seed, even though it comes long after that prophesied destruction of the Nephites.
2 Nephi 28:3–6
3 For it shall come to pass in that day that the churches which are built up, and not unto the Lord, when the one shall say unto the other: Behold, I, I am the Lord’s; and the others shall say: I, I am the Lord’s; and thus shall every one say that hath built up churches, and not unto the Lord—
4 And they shall contend one with another; and their priests shall contend one with another, and they shall teach with their learning, and deny the Holy Ghost, which giveth utterance.
5 And they deny the power of God, the Holy One of Israel; and they say unto the people: Hearken unto us, and hear ye our precept; for behold there is no God today, for the Lord and the Redeemer hath done his work, and he hath given his power unto men;
6 Behold, hearken ye unto my precept; if they shall say there is a miracle wrought by the hand of the Lord, believe it not; for this day he is not a God of miracles; he hath done his work.
When Nephi was quoting from Isaiah 29, he quoted verse 8 which spoke of a hungry man who was dreaming, and only ate in his dream. In the time when the Book of Mormon is to come forth, there will be churches—but for Nephi they will be like the dreaming man. They will not have the substance.
Nephi is probably also alluding to another verse that he had quoted as part of the long section of Isaiah chapters. In Isaiah 5:21, Isaiah declares: “Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!” The competing churches are placed into that category. Nephi says, in verse 4, that “they shall teach with their learning.”
These statements are also probably part of fulfilled prophecy, for Joseph Smith would have heard many of these arguments as he attended different churches. Each would proclaim its own truth, one of which was that the age of miracles ended with the New Testament. Nephi predicts people saying one to another: “this day he is not a God of miracles; he hath done his work.”
2 Nephi 28:7–9
7 Yea, and there shall be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die; and it shall be well with us.
8 And there shall also be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God—he will justify in committing a little sin; yea, lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this; and do all these things, for tomorrow we die; and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.
9 Yea, and there shall be many which shall teach after this manner, false and vain and foolish doctrines, and shall be puffed up in their hearts, and shall seek deep to hide their counsels from the Lord; and their works shall be in the dark.
The next condemnation of the future churches is that they do not teach the true gospel; they misunderstand the nature of repentance. Where repentance is the essential provision of the atonement which allows us to change and repent, in these future churches the concept will be perverted to a way to whitewash actions without requiring any true change. The idea that “God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved” undermines the reason for the atonement. Given Nephi’s emphasis on the atoning mission of the Messiah, he would have been particularly incensed at this misunderstanding and misapplication of the atonement.
Verse 9 says of those future churches that “their works shall be in the dark.” This is probably an allusion to Isaiah 28:15, which spoke of those who “seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord, and their works are in the dark.” Nephi is particularly sensitive to that phrase. In 2 Nephi 9:9 he condemned the secret combinations who did “secret works of darkness.” In 2 Nephi 10:15 he again condemned “secret works of darkness.”
2 Nephi 28:10–14
10 And the blood of the saints shall cry from the ground against them.
11 Yea, they have all gone out of the way; they have become corrupted.
12 Because of pride, and because of false teachers, and false doctrine, their churches have become corrupted, and their churches are lifted up; because of pride they are puffed up.
13 They rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing; and they persecute the meek and the poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up.
14 They wear stiff necks and high heads; yea, and because of pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men.
Nephi continues to rail against the sins of the future churches who propose to teach the way of the Lord, but which have become corrupted. In verse 11, he says that they “have all gone out of the way.” This may allude to Isaiah 3:12, quoted in 2 Nephi 13:12: “they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.”
Nephi contrasts the pride and worldliness of the churches with the more egalitarian principles that he is teaching his people.
A mention should be made of the harsh condemnation that Nephi extends to the churches. This should not be taken as a blanket condemnation of all churches, nor of all non-Latter-day Saint leaders of churches. Prophecy often has a tendency to condense grays into the more easily understood blacks and whites. These condemnations should be seen as a condemnation of the principles that are antithetical to God’s true gospel, not as a suggestion that no other church might contain good, or truth.
Judgments on the Wicked in the Last Days
2 Nephi 28:15–17
15 O the wise, and the learned, and the rich, that are puffed up in the pride of their hearts, and all those who preach false doctrines, and all those who commit whoredoms, and pervert the right way of the Lord, wo, wo, wo be unto them, saith the Lord God Almighty, for they shall be thrust down to hell!
16 Wo unto them that turn aside the just for a thing of naught and revile against that which is good, and say that it is of no worth! For the day shall come that the Lord God will speedily visit the inhabitants of the earth; and in that day that they are fully ripe in iniquity they shall perish.
17 But behold, if the inhabitants of the earth shall repent of their wickedness and abominations they shall not be destroyed, saith the Lord of Hosts.
Nephi echoes a technique from Isaiah without specific reference to a verse. These are reversals. The wise, learned, and rich are assumed to be esteemed in society, but because of their actions and teachings, they will be brought down. The phrase “thrust down to hell” is found in Luke 10:15, but not in the Old Testament. The meaning of Nephi’s original language would have had a more Old Testament-style meaning. Rather than being thrust down to hell, the image would have simply been to be brought down, an image that recurs in Isaiah.
Verse 16 says: “Wo unto them that turn aside the just for a thing of naught.” This phrase echoes Isaiah 29:21 which contains the phrase: “turn aside the just for a thing of nought.”
This small unit ends with the promise that a “wo” shall fall upon the wicked, but not upon those who truly repent.
2 Nephi 28:18–19
18 But behold, that great and abominable church, the whore of all the earth, must tumble to the earth, and great must be the fall thereof.
19 For the kingdom of the devil must shake, and they which belong to it must needs be stirred up unto repentance, or the devil will grasp them with his everlasting chains, and they be stirred up to anger, and perish;
One of Nephi’s purposes in his expansion and interaction with the Isaiah chapters is to return to his vision that he received of the tree of life. That vision included scenes of the future, and Nephi is using Isaiah to expand and support his understanding of that vision of the future.
At this point, however, he returns specifically to the vision and his own descriptions, rather than interact with Isaiah. When Nephi mentioned the future churches in the previous verses, his intent was to place them as antithetical to God’s true way. This is Nephi’s definition of the great and abominable church. It is not a specific church, but a symbolic church that is the opposite of God’s church.
In the last days, there will be an accounting. Isaiah’s vision of the last days has a triumphant Messiah establishing his rule over all the nations. Nephi’s emphasis is not on the militaristic Messiah, but on the atoning Messiah. Nephi’s emphasis for the final days is the victory of the gospel, not the victory of nations.
The Adversary’s Playbook Exposed
2 Nephi 28:20–24
20 For behold, at that day shall he rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good.
21 And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.
22 And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none—and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance.
23 Yea, they are grasped with death, and hell; and death, and hell, and the devil, and all that have been seized therewith must stand before the throne of God, and be judged according to their works, from whence they must go into the place prepared for them, even a lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment.
24 Therefore, wo be unto him that is at ease in Zion!
In previous verses, Nephi declared that the great and abominable church must be brought down. These verses expand on that which the great and abominable church teaches that must be reversed.
The first, in verse 20, is that it will stir up the children of men “to anger against that which is good.” This alludes to Isaiah 5:20: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil.”
The second, in verse 21, is that humankind will be lulled into a false sense of security. This returns to Nephi’s earlier statement that “God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved” (quoted from verse 8 in this chapter).
Next, in verse 22, we have mention of teaching that “there is no hell.” Although the idea of hell is a later development, the idea that there is a punishment for the wicked is appropriate for Nephi’s time. Thus, the issue is whether or not there are consequences for our actions. Nephi declares that there are, and thus there is danger in the false teaching that there are no such consequences.
Those consequences are defined in verse 23. There is a place prepared for those who are opposed to God. Nephi has used the word devil to indicate an entity antithetical to God, and thus the consequences listed represent the opposite of the rewards awaiting those who are truly faithful to God.
Many Will Reject the Marvelous Work in the Last Days
2 Nephi 28:25–29
25 Wo be unto him that crieth: All is well!
26 Yea, wo be unto him that hearkeneth unto the precepts of men, and denieth the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost!
27 Yea, wo be unto him that saith: We have received, and we need no more!
28 And in fine, wo unto all those who tremble, and are angry because of the truth of God! For behold, he that is built upon the rock receiveth it with gladness; and he that is built upon a sandy foundation trembleth lest he shall fall.
29 Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!
Nephi reprises his comments early in this chapter that the great and abominable church would say that what they teach is sufficient. In verse 6, Nephi had said of the great and abominable church, that it would teach that God is no longer a God of miracles. Nephi declares that to be incorrect and declares: “wo be unto him that saith: We have received, and we need no more!” The day of the need for God’s instruction is not passed. It cannot pass. God continues to keep his covenants with his people, and continues to guide them, if they will but hear.
In verse 29, the context clearly returns to the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. The statement that there will be those who say “we have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God” has been said about the Book of Mormon, and continues to be said about the Book of Mormon.
2 Nephi 28:30–32
30 For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.
31 Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost.
32 Wo be unto the Gentiles, saith the Lord God of Hosts! For notwithstanding I shall lengthen out mine arm unto them from day to day, they will deny me; nevertheless, I will be merciful unto them, saith the Lord God, if they will repent and come unto me; for mine arm is lengthened out all the day long, saith the Lord God of Hosts.
To all of those to whom, in previous verses, Nephi had reported that they will believe that they need no more of God’s word, Nephi promises that God will continue to give to the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept. Nephi is quoting from Isaiah 28:10. This was not a verse that he had quoted before now, so it is a reference that he expects his audience to understand.
Verse 30 also begins a narrative shift. Where Nephi had been speaking in his own voice up to this point, verse 30 declares “thus saith the Lord God.” It will be God’s words reprising what Nephi has already said.
The result of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon will be that there will be a restitution of the wisdom of God, and a reversal for those who denied the truths of the Book of Mormon. The end times will be when things are made right. For Isaiah, it was a military victory. For Nephi, it was a spiritual victory. In both cases, the Lord declares that he will be merciful to the truly repentant.
The idea that the Lord’s hand is lengthened out all the day long is an allusion to the oft-repeated phrase in Isaiah that Yahweh’s arm is stretched out still.
Although this ends our chapter 28, it was not the end of a chapter in the 1830 edition. The original chapter includes our chapters 28, 29, and 30. The shift to Yahweh as the speaker will continue at the beginning of chapter 29.
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