Coming up in the next few weeks in LDS Sunday School classes, we will be discussing the Book of Revelation. As a new member back in December 1975, I recall hearing many messages regarding the Last Days, using the apostle John’s Revelation to figure out the tragedies and events of the Last Days.
Sadly, one way in which we miss out on what is found in Apocalypse is by looking at what it says on the surface, without using one of the best tools given us via the Restoration of the Gospel.
In 1 Nephi 8-15, we read of Lehi and Nephi’s Vision of the Tree of Life. Near the end of Nephi’s version, we find that he not only sees the Tree, the Life of Christ, and the destruction of his own people, but he sees the Revelation that John received that we find at the end of the New Testament.
While Nephi states he cannot write the things that John and he saw, we find that the Revelation of John is tied closely to Nephi’s Vision of the Tree of Life.
Both visions discuss the darkness of the world (Lehi travels in it for hours), the pride of the world, the Great and Abominable Church, the Tree of Life, witness of Christ, are guided by angels, see great destructions, etc. Both see/hold a book (John swallows his) that is important to their mission and the future. There are many other similarities that I will not go into here.
The Vision of the Tree of Life is a form of endowment, where the initiate is led from the darkness of the world, to the light and joy of the Tree of Life, which is in the presence of God. John’s Apocalypse is perhaps best understood as an endowment, as well. Consider the following verses in the Book of Revelation, which has temple concepts tied to them:
5 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,
6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. (Rev 1:5-6)
7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God. 7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God….
11 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death…
17 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it. (Rev 2:7, 11, 17 )
5 He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels…
12 Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.,,
21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. (Rev 3:5, 12, 21)
In chapter 4, John has a Theophany (vision of God). John tells us:
1 After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.
2 And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.
3 And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.
4 And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold. (Rev 4:1-4)
Compare this vision to the vision Lehi had in 1 Nephi chapter one:
8 And being thus overcome with the Spirit, he was carried away in a vision, even that he saw the heavens open, and he thought he saw God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God. (1 Nephi 1:8)
As Lehi and Nephi see the mists of darkness, the great and spacious building that represented John’s Babylon, the destruction of Babylon and the wicked, etc, we find John’s details of the seven seals ties in nicely with the events seen by Nephi. In the end, John sees the New Jerusalem, and the Tree of Life as a key feature of the city:
1 And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.
2 In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. (Rev 22:1-2)
For Lehi and Nephi, the Tree of Life is THE key feature of their vision. We learn that it represents the Love of God, shed forth upon the children of men through the condescension of Christ and his Father.
In reading John’s Revelation with this new lens, we are able to truly appreciate gift God has given us through his apostle, understood through Nephi’s eyes.
–for more on the Book of Revelation, please read my Sunday School lesson blog posts on the two lessons here: