DC 77 Introduction
"The 15 questions and answers in this section offer wonderful insights and can be considered a key to the book of Revelation. Some of the great truths we learn from section 77 include: animals will be saved in God's kingdom; this earth will have a temporal existence of 7,000 years; the 144,000 men John saw are high priests who will minister salvation to all nations in the last days; the Second Coming will not occur until after the beginning of the seventh 1,000-year period and the completion of the events in Revelation 9; the Apostle John will participate as an 'Elias' in the gathering of the tribes of Israel; and before the Second Coming the Jews will gather in Jerusalem, rebuild the city, and be blessed by the ministry of two prophets." (Jonn D. Claybaugh, "As Flaming Fire and a Ministering Angel," Ensign, Oct. 1999, 59)
Gerald N. Lund
In this section, fifteen questions about the Apocalypse are asked and answered. Some may wish that there had been many more questions answered, but the fifteen we have are sufficient for an understanding of the book. Indeed, these fifteen questions that make up section 77 serve as a key to the book of Revelation. As Hyrum M. Smith and Janne M. Sjodahl pointed out:
"This Revelation is not a complete interpretation of the book. It is a key. ... As Champolion, by the key furnished in the brief test on the Rosetta stone, was able to open the secrets of Egyptian hieroglyphics, so the Bible student should be able to read the Apocalypse with a better understanding of it, by the aid of this key." (Doctrine and Covenants Commentary, rev. ed., Cambridge, Massachusetts: University Press, 1951, p. 478.), ("Seeing the Book of Revelation As a Book of Revelation," Ensign, Dec. 1987, 49)
Can you find in all Christianity a preacher who understands the book of Revelation? The Jehovah Witnesses love to preach from the book, but what do they understand? Ministers, far and wide, concoct endless theories but to what end?
What do the latter-day saints understand of the book? Without Joseph Smith, we understand nothing either. With his invaluable help, the mysteries are demystified, the symbolism is clarified, and the message is intensified. While certain events and symbols still remain unclear, the vast majority of the revelation can be understood if studied by the spirit of revelation and prophecy.
Ironically, that which is so mysterious to us was easy for the Prophet to understand, "The book of Revelation is one of the plainest books God ever caused to be written," he declared. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 290) Perhaps if you have seen visions of heaven on a regular basis, then the book is plain as day. Perhaps if your mind is enlightened daily by the spirit of revelation and prophecy, then the book is easy as pie. Perhaps if you're Joseph Smith and have seen visions of eternity roll before your mind "like an overflowing surge" (Teachings, 296), then the concepts are simple. For the rest of us, it is a struggle, but we can be reassured that we do not need to understand all of the revelation.
Whenever God gives a vision of an image, or beast, of figure of any kind, He always holds Himself responsible to give a revelation or interpretation of the meaning thereof, otherwise we are not responsible or accountable for our belief in it. Don't be afraid of being damned for not knowing the meaning of a vision or figure, if God has not given a revelation or interpretation of the subject." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 291)
DC 77 Why a Question and Answer Format?
Who is asking the questions? Who is giving the answers? Perhaps some have wondered if a curious saint posed these questions to the Prophet and he gave the answers. However, the historical context is that the Prophet is "translating" the New Testament. Therefore, we can correctly assume that Joseph is asking the Lord for the interpretation of different elements of the Book of Revelation. The questions come from Joseph and the answers come from the Lord. This explains why only a few questions are asked. By the spirit of prophecy, Joseph Smith already understood most of the revelation. He only needed help with a few key concepts. Certainly, there would be many more questions if someone less inspired were inquiring. How many questions would there be if you were to do the asking?
It would seem that the few questions asked are the few portions of the Revelation that the Prophet did not already understand. He would later say, "the book of Revelation is one of the plainest books God ever caused to be written." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 290) Indeed, for him, this statement is completely correct. For the rest of us, the revelation can only be made plain-or at least understandable-only by the many helps we get from the scriptures and latter-day revelation.
DC 77:1 What is the sea of glass?
The earth in its celestial state will be a Urim and Thummim not only before the throne of God but for all those who dwell thereon.
Angels... reside in the presence of God, on a globe like a sea of glass and fire, where all things for their glory are manifest, past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord.
The place where God resides is a great Urim and Thummim.
This earth, in its sanctified and immortal state, will be made like unto crystal and will be a Urim and Thummim to the inhabitants who dwell thereon, whereby all things pertaining to an inferior kingdom, or all kingdoms of a lower order, will be manifest to those who dwell on it; and this earth will be Christ's. (D&C 130:6-9)
DC 77:1 the earth, in its sanctified, immortal, and eternal state
John sees Elohim on his throne (Rev. 7:10), in the midst of which are 24 elders, and round about the throne are four beasts (Rev. 4:1-6). Before the throne is a sea of glass, which we are told represents the earth in its celestialized, eternal state. From this, we can clearly see that John is seeing a future event, for the angel said to him, "Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter." (Rev. 4:1) Joseph Smith said, "John saw that only which was lying in futurity and which was shortly to come to pass." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 289)
DC 77:2 the four beasts...are figurative expressions, used...in describing heaven
What John saw and speaks of were things which he saw in heaven; those which Daniel saw were on and pertaining to the earth...
Daniel did not see an actual bear or a lion, but the images or figures of those beasts. The translation should have been rendered "image" instead of "beast," in every instance where beasts are mentioned by the prophets. But John saw the actual beast in heaven, showing to John that beasts did actually exist there, and not to represent figures of things on the earth. When the prophets speak of seeing beasts in their visions, they mean that they saw the images, they being types to represent certain things. At the same time they received the interpretation as to what those images or types were designed to represent...
The grand secret was to show John what there was in heaven. John learned that God glorified Himself by saving all that His hands had made, whether beasts, fowls, fishes or men; and He will glorify Himself with them.
Says one, "I cannot believe in the salvation of beasts." Any man who would tell you that this could not be, would tell you that the revelations are not true. John heard the words of the beasts giving glory to God, and understood them. God who made the beasts could understand every language spoken by them. The four beasts were four of the most noble animals that had filled the measure of their creation, and had been saved from other worlds, because they were perfect: they were like angels in their sphere. We are not told where they came from, and I do not know; but they were seen and heard by John praising and glorifying God. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected and arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976], 290-292.)
DC 77:2 that which is temporal in the likeness of that which is spiritual; the spirit of man in the likeness of his person
Harold B. Lee
Now, what does a spirit look like? Well, the Lord has given through the Prophet Joseph Smith an inspired answer, and you will find this in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 77, verse 2... All right, now, you see me here as a mature physical man. There is a part of me that you can't see with your physical eyes-that spiritual part of me that looks out through my eyes and gives me power of movement, and gives me a measure of intellect and intelligence. If you could see my spirit, according to this definition, you would see me in the exact counterpart of my physical body which you are looking at here. "The spirit of man in the likeness of his person," meaning his physical body, "as also the spirit of the beast, and every other creature which God has created." (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, edited by Clyde J. Williams [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], 28.)
DC 77:2 as also the spirit of the beast, and every other creature which God has created
Joseph Fielding Smith
The fish, the fowl, the beasts of the field, lived before they were placed naturally in this earth, and so did the plants that are upon the face of the earth. The spirits that possess the bodies of the animals are in the similitude of their bodies. In other words, the bodies of animals conform to the spirits which possess them, and which existed before they were placed on the earth. (Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols., edited by Bruce R. McConkie [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954-1956], 1: 63.)
Joseph Fielding Smith
Here we are informed that God created the beasts as well as man, creeping things, the fowls of the air and placed in each a spirit in the exact likeness of its body, or more properly, created every creature in the likeness of its spirit. Therefore they are living entities entitled to the mercies of Jesus Christ and to receive the resurrection. Then again, the Lord revealed that every creature shall receive a resurrection:
And again, verily, verily, I say unto you that when the thousand years are ended [Millennium,] and men again begin to deny their God, then will I spare the earth but for a little season;
And the end shall come, and the heaven and the earth shall be consumed and pass away, and there shall be a new heaven and a new earth.
For all old things shall pass away, and all things shall become new, even the heaven and the earth, and all the fulness thereof, both men and beasts, the fowls of the air, and the fishes of the sea;
And not one hair, neither mote, shall be lost, for it is the workmanship of mine hand. (D&C 29:22-25)
So we learn that all things were created by our Eternal Father, and there is nothing which has life that he did not create; moreover every thing shall live again receiving the benefit of the resurrection. (Man, His Origin and Destiny [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], 278 - 279.)
"Always keep in view," Brigham Young exhorts us, "that the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms-the earth and its fulness-will all, except the children of man, abide their creation-the law by which they were made, and will receive their exaltation." We are all going to move together into the eternities, and even now look forward to "heaven, the paradise of God, the happiness of man, and of beast, and of creeping things, and of the fowls of the air; that which is spiritual being in the likeness of that which is temporal ... the spirit of man in the likeness of his person, and also the spirit of beast, and every other creature which God has created." (D&C 77:2.) What an admonition to proceed with reverence and care! It is only because the Latter-day Saints are ignorant of these things, according to President Young, that God has not already cursed them for their brutal and callous treatment of God's other creatures. ("Man's Dominion," New Era, Oct. 1972, 27)
DC 77:3 four individual beasts...represent the glory of the classes of beings in their destined order
Paul understood that in the resurrection, there would be different classes of beings to be resurrected. He said, "All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds." (1 Cor. 15:39) The same principle is here taught by John. He sees four individual beasts each representing their class of beings. The lion, the eagle, etc. are the most noble and glorious of their class of beings and are therefore representative.
|Description of Beast (Rev. 4:7)||Representative class (D&C 77:3)|
The first beast was like a lion
Beasts, primarily mammals
The second beast [was] like a calf
The third beast had a face as a man
The fourth beast was like a flying eagle
Fowls of the air
Immediately, we see the incongruity of a calf being used to represent creeping things. The term calf usually refers to a young cow. Occasionally, it may refer to the young of other animals but not to any class of animals which creep upon the ground. Probably, it is a mistranslation. More consistent would be the most powerful and noble of all reptiles and snakes.
Joseph Fielding Smith
We are to understand that there will be beasts of various kinds, after the resurrection, in each of the kingdoms, telestial, terrestrial and celestial. It would be a very strange thing for any of the kingdoms to be devoid of animal and plant life. These kingdoms will be very beautiful in their immortal state. Even the telestial will surpass the comprehension of mortal man. (Church History and Modern Revelation, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1946-1949], 2: 68.)
DC 77:4 Their eyes are a representation of light and knowledge...their wings are a representation of power, to move, to act
To understand the symbolism of these unusual eyes and wings is a great blessing. For centuries, artists have displayed angels with wings. From the Prophet, we learn that those wings are symbolic, not literal. They represent a power to move which is beyond our mortal abilities.
The brightness and glory of the next [world] is inexpressible. It is not encumbered so that when we advance in years we have to be stubbing along and be careful lest we fall down. We see our youth, even, frequently stubbing their toes and falling down. But yonder, how different! They move with ease and like lightning. If we want to visit Jerusalem, or this, that, or the other place-and I presume we will be permitted if we desire-there we are, looking at its streets. If we want to behold Jerusalem as it was in the days of the Savior; or if we want to see the Garden of Eden as it was when created, there we are, and we see it as it existed spiritually, for it was created first spiritually and then temporally, and spiritually it still remains. And when there we may behold the earth as at the dawn of creation, or we may visit any city we please that exists upon its surface. If we wish to understand how they are living here on these western islands, or in China, we are there; in fact, we are like the light of the morning... God has revealed some little things, with regard to his movements and power, and the operation and motion of the lightning furnish a fine illustration of the ability of the Almighty. (Discourses of Brigham Young, selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], 380.)
DC 77:5 these elders...were then in the paradise of God
Bruce R. McConkie
John is seeing what is to be in the future; he is seeing certain elders in celestial splendor who at that time were in their disembodied state in paradise awaiting the day of their resurrection and the receipt of eternal life. In principle it is the same as when Joseph Smith, on January 21, 1836, saw his father and mother-who were then still living in mortality-in the celestial kingdom of heaven. (Teachings, p. 107.)
It is worthy of note that these exalted persons who are sitting with God on his throne are elders: not seventies, not high priests, not patriarchs, not apostles, but elders-than which there is no more important priesthood in God's earthly kingdom. Indeed, every elder who magnifies his calling as an elder has the immutable promise of the Father, guaranteed by his personal oath, that he shall gain all that the Father hath, which is eternal life, which is godhood, which is to sit with him on his throne. (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 3: 466.)
DC 77:6 the book...contains the revealed will, mysteries, and the works of God
Orson F. Whitney
Concerning "the book which John saw," the Prophet says in effect that it represents the real history of the world-what the eye of God has seen, what the recording angel has written. (Gospel Themes [Salt Lake City: n.p., 1914], 92.)
DC 77:6 the seven thousand years of its continuance, or its temporal existence
Gerald N. Lund
It is commonly accepted by most scholars that there were approximately 4,000 years from Adam to Christ, and of course, just under 2,000 years have passed since. The scholars disagree on exactly how many years the earth has undergone since the Fall of Adam, however, so it cannot be said that the Millennium will occur in the year 2,000 A.D. (as some enthusiastic interpreters of the scriptures would like to conclude). But the scriptures and the prophets make it clear that this is the "last day" before the Millennium, using Peter's definition that a day with the Lord is as a thousand of our years. Not only is it the last day but we are now in the final stages of that day, according to the Lord. "For the field is white already to harvest; and it is the eleventh hour, and the last time that I shall call laborers into my vineyard." The Lord indicates in several different places in the Doctrine and Covenants that this is the last time he will call missionaries to the work. This is why Orson F. Whitney called it "the Saturday Evening of Time." (The Coming of the Lord [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1971], 21 - 22.)
DC 77:7 the first seal contains the things of the first thousand years...and so on until the seventh
Of all the keys given in this revelation, this is the most important of them all. From this clue, we can organize the entire revelation into a logical framework. From this key, we understand that John's vision deals primarily with events to occur in the end of the sixth seal and the beginning of the seventh. Christianity's inability to interpret the revelation stems primarily from misunderstanding the significance of these seven seals.
"It doesn't take a lot of study of the book of Revelation to come to the conclusion that the imagery of chapter 5 is pivotal to the whole structure of the book. John saw in the right hand of the Father a book (most likely a scroll) which was sealed with seven seals (see 5:1). He also saw that no one in heaven or earth was able or worthy to open the book, except for the Savior (vv. 2-14). Since the rest of the vision describes what John sees as each of the seven seals is opened by the Lamb, an understanding of the sealed book is critical to our whole understanding of the book of Revelation.
"And here it is that the Prophet Joseph Smith made his greatest contribution to our ability to unveil the veiled, to reveal the revelation. He answered two significant questions: What is the meaning of the book and what is the meaning of the seals? Certainly more than any other single thing, his answers to those questions (see D&C 77:6-7) become the key to gaining access to the 'house' of Revelation." (Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate, Jr., eds., Joseph Smith Translation: The Restoration of Plain and Precious Things [Provo: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1985], 262.)
DC 77:8 they are four angels... who have the everlasting gospel
John sees four angels holding standing on the four corners of the earth holding back the wind from destroying the earth and the sea (Rev. 7:1-2). These angels are subservient to the angel mentioned in the Rev. 7:2 who holds the keys of this power. Of these angels, the scriptures have elsewhere declared, "Behold, verily I say unto you, the angels are crying unto the Lord day and night, who are ready and waiting to be sent forth to reap down the fields" (D&C 86:5).
The angels of God are waiting to fulfill the great commandment given forty-five years ago, to go forth and reap down the earth because of the wickedness of men. How do you think eternity feels today? Why there is more wickedness, a thousand times over, in the United States now, than when that revelation was given. The whole earth is ripe in iniquity; and these inspired men, these Elders of Israel, have been commanded of the Almighty to go forth and warn the world, that their garments may be clear of the blood of all men.
I tell you that God will not disappoint Zion or Babylon, the heavens or the earth, in regard to the judgment which he has promised in these last days, but every one of them will have its fulfillment upon the heads of the children of men; and when they are fully ripened in iniquity the nations of the earth will be swept away as with the besom of destruction. (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 18: 128.)
DC 77:9 Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads
The four angels under the direction of Elias have been given a specific priesthood assignment. They have the power to send the wicked to hell, and they have power to seal the saints up unto eternal life through the priesthood. Before they can send the wicked "down to the regions of darkness," the righteous must first be sealed up. A priesthood leader who has had his calling and election made sure has been sealed up unto eternal life. This is the significance of being sealed "in their foreheads." Elder McConkie wrote, "Since these sealing blessings are conferred by the laying on of hands of those who hold the keys of this power, it follows that John's description of placing a seal in the forehead is not just apocalyptic imagery but a literal description of what takes place." (Mormon Doctrine, 2d ed. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966], 683.) A specified number of these brethren must be sealed up unto eternal life prior to the Second Coming.
Four destroying angels holding power over the four quarters of the earth until the servants of God are sealed in their foreheads, which signifies sealing the blessing upon their heads, meaning the everlasting covenant, thereby making their calling and election sure. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected and arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976], 321.)
Bruce R. McConkie
Some of this sealing has already occurred-a few of Ephraim and a sprinkling of Manasseh have been sealed up unto eternal life; but the great day of fulfillment, where all Israel is concerned, lies ahead. And again, be it noted, there is more to the labors of Elias of the Restoration than the works of one angel only. (The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1982], 105.)
DC 77:9 this is Elias which was to come ...and restore all things
The doctrine of Elias can be quite confusing. The Bible Dictionary states: "the word Elias has many applications and has been placed upon many persons as a title pertaining to both preparatory and restorative functions." The prototypical preparatory Elias was John the Baptist, but there are many Eliases. Similarly, the prototypical restorative Elias is the one referred to in this verse, but there are many others. The Lord said this Elias was a prophet, "to whom I have committed the keys of bringing to pass the restoration of all things spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began." (D&C 27:6) Who then is this Elias who was to "come to gather together the tribes of Israel and restore all things"?
Bruce R. Mcconkie stated, "the Elias who was to restore all things is the angel Gabriel who was known in mortality as Noah." (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3: 492.) President Joseph Fielding Smith taught, "This is the same Elias who held the keys of the dispensation of Abraham and who came to the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, April 3, 1836, in the Kirtland Temple and restored the keys of Abraham's dispensation." (Answers to Gospel Questions, 3:139-40).
The Priesthood was first given to Adam...Then to Noah, who is Gabriel: he stands next in authority to Adam in the Priesthood; he was called of God to this office, and was the father of all living in this day, and to him was given the dominion. These men held keys first on earth, and then in heaven. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 157)
DC 77:11 those who are sealed are high priests, ordained unto the holy order of God
Gerald N. Lund
President Joseph Fielding Smith spoke of these high priests and the privilege it would be to be included in that group.
This certainly is a great honor to be one of the 144 thousand who are specially called by the power of "the angels to whom is given power over the nations of the earth" to bring souls unto Christ. John the Apostle, had the great desire to bring souls to Christ. The Three Nephite Disciples likewise sought this great honor and it was granted to them. It is one of the noblest desires that a man can have. It will be a wonderful blessing to those who are called in this great group.
It is difficult to say when the actual calling of these men will take place. Some prophets have spoken as though it would be after the return of the ten tribes. But whether it would happen before, after, or during the Council of Adam-ondi-Ahman is not clear. Joseph Smith once indicated to some holders of the priesthood that the selection for that group of high priest-missionaries had already commenced even then.
I attended prayer-meeting with the quorum in the assembly room, and made some remarks respecting the hundred and forty-four thousand mentioned by John the Revelator, showing that the selection of persons to form that number had already commenced.
(Gerald N. Lund, The Coming of the Lord [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1971], 174.)
DC 77:11 they are...ordained out of every nation... to bring as many as will come to the church of the Firstborn
The ten tribes will have to come forth and come to this land, to be crowned with glory in the midst of Zion by the hands of the servants of God, even the Children of Ephraim; and twelve thousand High Priests will be [selected] from each of these ten tribes, as well as from the scattered tribes, and sealed in their foreheads, and will be ordained and receive power to gather out of all nations, kindreds, tongues and people as many as will come unto the general assemblage of the Church of the Firstborn. Will not that be a great work? Imagine one hundred and forty-four thousand High Priests going forth among the nations, and gathering out as many as will come to the Church of the Firstborn. All that will be done, probably, in the morning of the seventh thousand years. The work is of great magnitude, Latter-day Saints, and we are living almost upon the eve of it. Six thousand years have nearly gone by, the world is getting aged, and Satan has accomplished almost all that the Lord intends that he shall accomplish, before the day of rest. With a work of such magnitude before them, the Latter-day Saints should be wide awake, and should not have their minds engaged in those fooleries in which many indulge at the present time. (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 16: 326.)
I think, many times, that we, as Elders of Israel and as Latter-day Saints, come far short of realizing our position before the Lord. The work required at our hands is great and mighty; it is the work of Almighty God. We are held responsible for presenting the Gospel of Christ to all the nations of the earth, to warn the Gentiles, to prepare for the return of the lost ten tribes of Israel, and for carrying the Gospel to the whole tribes of Israel. We are held responsible for all this, and for building Temples to the Most High, wherein we can enter and attend to ordinances for the salvation of our dead. (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 18: 114 - 115.)
DC 77:12 the sounding of the trumpets of the seven angels
Joseph Fielding Smith
The vision to John of the opening of the seven seals is extremely interesting when we get this understanding. This vision is recorded in the Book of Revelation in chapters five to ten, and is confirmed in the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 88, verses 92 to 114. Each angel shall sound his trumpet and reveal the acts of men during each of the six thousand years, or six days of the temporal existence of the earth, and the seventh angel, who is Michael, will gather his armies and the devil will gather his armies, "And then will come the battle of the great God; and the devil and his armies shall be cast away into their own place, that they shall not have power over the saints any more at all."
Here is a very interesting statement by the Prophet Joseph Smith which has a bearing on this important subject:
". . . the Lord shall be King over the whole earth," and "Jerusalem his throne." "The law shall go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem."
This is the only thing that can bring about the "restitution of all things spoken of by all the holy prophets since the world was" ". . . the dispensation of the fulness of times, when God shall gather together all things in one." Other attempts to promote universal peace and happiness in the human family have proved abortive; every effort has failed; every plan and design has fallen to the ground; it needs the wisdom of God, the intelligence of God, and the power of God to accomplish this. The world has had a fair trial for six thousand years; the Lord will try the seventh thousand himself. (Man, His Origin and Destiny [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], 465 - 466.)
Neither of these trumpets have sounded yet, but they shortly will; and this gives us a little clue to the period and age of our world. We know that six thousand years have not yet elapsed since the creation, but we know that they have very nearly expired. (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 15: 263.)
DC 77:13 They are to be accomplished after the opening of the seventh seal, before the coming of Christ
This gives a clue to the time when the seven angels will sound. They will not sound their trumpets in the evening of the sixth thousand years, but when the six thousand years shall have passed away from the creation, and the morning of the seventh has commenced, then these great events will happen. Jesus does not come immediately at the commencement of the seventh thousand years, but as there was a work in the beginning which he performed on the seventh day, such as planting the garden and placing men therein, so there will be a certain work to be performed in the beginning of the seventh thousand years, namely, the resurrection and redemption of man, including the heathen nations and those people in prison who have died without the law and have been punished for their sins. When the Lord has caused these seven angels to sound their trumps, he will bring about all these purposes which he has ordained, and which must be accomplished in that morning. Before Jesus appears in the clouds of heaven they are to sound to prepare the way of the Lord before his coming. (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 15: 339.)
DC 77:14 the little book...was a mission...to gather the tribes of Israel
Perhaps it seems strange to eat a book. The imagery is symbolic of accepting an assignment from the Lord. Ezekiel was also asked to eat a book. His mission was the same as John's, "when I looked, behold... and, lo, a roll of a book was therein; And he spread it before me; and... said... eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel. So I opened my mouth, and he caused me to eat that roll." (Ezek. 2:3-3:2) The roll is both bitter and sweet-sweet because so many souls will be saved by his ministry among the house of Israel-and bitter because many others would reject the gospel of Christ and suffer the judgments of God.
What was John's mission? It was to gather the twelve tribes of Israel. This began with his mortal ministry and continued with his appearance to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery to restore the Melchizedek Priesthood. Furthermore, he has worked as a translated being among the lost ten tribes-preparing them for the Second Coming of Christ. His mission has been to restore the priesthood to the earth and to restore the House of Israel according to the great promises made to their fathers.
The spirit of the Lord fell upon Joseph in an unusual manner. And prophesied that John the Revelator was then (June 1831) among the ten tribes of Israel who had been led away by Salmanasar King of [Assyria], to prepare them for their return, from their long dispersion, to again possess the land of their fathers. (The Book of John Whitmer, typescript, [Provo: BYU Archives and Manuscripts], chap. 7)
DC 77:14 behold, this is Elias, who, as it is written, must come and restore all things
The term Elias has many meanings (see commentary for verse 9). In this context, it is a title referring to many prophets who collectively will bring about the restoration of all things. This "restoration" involves more than "The Restoration" of the gospel to Joseph Smith. It involves the restoration or restitution of all things that have ever been on the earth (Acts 3:21). The restorational Eliases include but are not limited to the following: Noah, Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith, and John the Revelator.
Here we are told that John the Revelator is that Elias who "must come and restore all things" but he is not the only restorational Elias. John received his mission from a great and mighty angel who "was clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head" (Rev. 10:1). Revelation 10 and D&C 88:110-112 teach us that the angel mentioned is Michael, or Adam. This reminds of his great stature as a priesthood holder in God's kingdom. He is giving John the Revelator a mission under the umbrella of the doctrine of Elias, to prophesy before many nations as part of the restoration of Israel. This means the Elias spoken of in D&C 77:9 is different than the Elias spoken of in D&C 77:14. In verse 9, John saw an angel ascending from the east. Obviously that could not be John. Verse 14, on the other hand refers to an assignment specifically given to John to be a part of the restoration of all things.
DC 77:15 They are two prophets that are to be raised up to the Jewish nation
The two witnesses... are to prophesy three and a half years, and their field of labor will be Jerusalem, after it shall have been rebuilt by the Jews. By means of their prophecies and the power of God attending them, the nations who are gathered against Jerusalem will be kept at bay, these Prophets will hold them in check by their faith and power. By and by these nations overcome the two witnesses and, having finished their mission, they are slain, and their bodies will lie three days and a half in the streets of the city. Then a great earthquake will take place, and these two witnesses will be caught up into heaven. (David B. Galbraith, D. Kelly Ogden, and Andrew C. Skinner, Jerusalem: The Eternal City [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1996], 532.)