As we look into what is known as Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, we can see a type of His second coming. All the Gospels record this event, which adds to its significance.
Though the great day, on which the festival was to be inaugurated, was yet four days ahead, the city was thronged with pilgrim crowds; and among these much questioning had arisen as to whether Jesus would venture to appear publicly in Jerusalem during the feast. (1)
Just recently, Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead and “the common people were interested in every act and movement of the Master; and word of His departure from Bethany sped ahead of Him.“ (2) There are four groups of people involved in this event from which we can draw important parallels on the levels of preparation for His coming.
Group One — The Preparers
The first group includes the apostles, prophets and disciples. They are the ones that prepare the way for His ride and entry into Jerusalem.
Leaving Bethany, Jesus and his disciples walked the short distance to the town of Bethphage, which means house of figs, and Christ had used the fig tree as an analogy of His second coming. (3) Jesus instructed two disciples, saying, “Go into the village… and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her; loose them, and bring them unto me” (Matt. 21:2). The two disciples were most likely Peter and John. (4) “And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them, and brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon” (Matt. 21:6-7).
Zechariah prophesied of this event. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass” (Zech. 9:9).
The foal was an animal of peace. Had Jesus ridden in on a horse, the Romans would have taken this event as a threat to their authority. They most likely regarded this event with another harmless celebration of the Jews. However, “It was no meaningless pageantry; but the actual advent of the King into His royal city, and His entry into the temple, the house of the King of kings. “
He came riding on an ass, in token of peace, acclaimed by the Hosanna shouts of the multitudes… the ass has been designated in literature as the ancient symbol of Jewish royalty…” (5)
Yet, at the glorious second coming, the book of Revelation says that he will be riding upon a white horse followed by the “armies of heaven” — also upon white horses (Rev. 19:11-14).
The Apostles and disciples of Jesus Christ today are the ones selected to prepare the way for Christ’s second coming. Under divine inspiration, Joseph Smith declared the second coming of Christ and the need to prepare in several sections of the Doctrine and Covenants [see Sections 33:10, 34:6, 39:20, 45:9, 65:1,3, 88:74].
Several of our apostles have urged the need to prepare. For example, in the May 2004 Ensign, there was an article by Dallin H. Oaks entitled, “Preparation for the Second Coming”. Some excerpts include:
We need to make both temporal and spiritual preparation for the events prophesied at the time of the Second Coming. And the preparation most likely to be neglected is the one less visible and more difficult — the spiritual… We are living in the prophesied time “when peace shall be taken from the earth” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:35) when “all things shall be in commotion” and “men’s hearts shall fail them” (D&C 88:91). There are many temporal causes of commotion, including wars and natural disasters, but an even greater cause of current “commotion” is spiritual… I testify of Jesus Christ. I testify that He shall come, as He has promised. And I pray that we will be prepared to meet Him.
Those who are called to preach the Gospel also help to prepare the way. “Wherefore, go forth, crying with a loud voice, saying: The kingdom of heaven is at hand… Go forth baptizing with water, preparing the way before my face for the time of my coming” (D. & C. 39:19-20). Faithful members who help others come unto Christ are also included in this first group.
Group Two — The Prepared
The second group of people are those who were prepared to meet Jesus as he rode to Jerusalem. When it became known early on Sunday morning that during the day He would enter the Holy City, the excitement was very great. “The news would be spread by some of the numerous Jews who had visited Bethany on the previous evening, after the sunset had closed the Sabbath, and thus enabled them to exceed the limits of the Sabbath day’s journey. Thus it was that a very great multitude was prepared to receive and welcome the Deliverer.” (6)
This group was divided into two streams of people — those who were at Bethphage and accompanied Him to Jerusalem, and those who came forth from Jerusalem to meet Him. Frederick Farrar wrote, “Jesus mounted the unused foal,“ (7) while probably some of His disciples led it by the bridle. And no sooner had He started than the multitude spread out their upper garments to tapestry His path, and kept tearing or cutting down the boughs of olive, and fig, and walnut, to scatter them before Him. Then, in a burst of enthusiasm, the disciples broke into the shout, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Hosanna in the highest!” (8)
This group could be likened to those who come with Christ at the second coming. “…behold, I will come; and they shall see me in the clouds of heaven, clothed with power and great glory; with all the holy angels…” (D&C 45:44). These angels would include those righteous who were resurrected after Christ’s resurrection and those who will be resurrected at His coming. Paul said, “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first” [1 Thessalonians 4:16].
But now the people in the valley of Kedron, and about the walls of Jerusalem… had caught sight of the approaching company, and heard the echo of the glad shouts, and knew what the commotion meant. At that time palms were numerous in the neighborhood of Jerusalem… and tearing down their green and graceful branches, the people streamed up the road to meet the approaching Prophet. And when the two streams of people met — those who had accompanied Him from Bethany, and those who had come to meet Him from Jerusalem — they left Him riding in the midst, and some preceding, some following Him, shouting “Hosannas” and waving branches, advanced to the gate of Jerusalem. (9)
In the inspired millennial Hymn, “The Spirit of God,” (10) the chorus says that we, as Latter-day Saints, will sing and shout Hosanna to God and the Lamb at His coming!
The people that went to greet him from Jerusalem could be likened to those on the earth that are prepared to meet Him. Paul continued, “Then we, which are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). “Wherefore, be faithful, praying always, having your lamps trimmed and burning, and oil with you, that you may be ready at the coming of the Bridegroom” (D&C 33:17).
As Christ came around the shoulder of the Mount of Olives, the city of Jerusalem came into view. Jerusalem was an impressive sight during that time and was regarded as one of the “wonders of the world.“ (11) But instead of awe, Jesus wept aloud and broke into a passion of lamentation.
If thou hadst known even thou, at least in this thy days the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation” (Luke 19:42-44).
After the terrible destructions among the Nephites and Lamanites, prior to his appearance, Jesus likewise lamented, “How oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathered her chickens and ye would not!” (3 Nephi 10 5). In Doctrine and Covenants 43:24, we read the same words, addressed to the nations of the world, in regards to His second coming. In verse 25, He continues, “How oft have I called upon you by the mouth of my servants… by the voice of tempests, and by the voice of earthquakes… and by the voice of mercy all the day long… and would have saved you with an everlasting salvation, but ye would not!”
Group Three — The Clueless
The third group were those in the city who wondered what all the commotion was about. “And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this?” (Matt. 21:10) There will be people at His second coming who have not been taught of Him and do not understand His law. The Lord says that after He appears to the Jews, “And then shall the heathen nations be redeemed, and they that knew no law shall have part in the first resurrection; and it shall be tolerable for them” (D&C 45:54).
This group of people could also represent those who have heard of Jesus Christ, but have not received Him as their Savior nor repented of their sins and are not prepared for His coming. “These are they who are honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men. Who received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it” (D&C 76:75, 74). Yet, it will be more tolerable for them in the Day of Judgment than it will be for those in group four. (see Alma 9:15)
Group Four — The Thieves
The account in Mark says that “Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve” (Mark. 11:11) Most biblical scholars agree that it was the following day that Jesus, after cursing the fig tree in Bethphage that produced no figs, went into the Temple and “began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought; saying unto them, It is written, my house is the house of prayer; yet ye have made it a den of thieves” (Luke 19:45-46).
The “thieves” are the fourth group of people. Jeremiah defined this group in chapter 7:8-11, “Behold, ye trust in lying words, that cannot profit. Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not; and come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say We are delivered to do all these abominations? [in other words, as thieves hide in caves and think they are safe, so the people of Judah falsely trusted in the temple to protect them in spite of their sins (NIV Bible footnote, p. 1151)]. Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, even I have seen it, saith the Lord”. Certainly the world we live in is full of thievery.
In Doctrine and Covenants 42:28 we read, “Thou knowest my laws concerning these things are given in my scriptures; he that sinneth and repenteth not shall be cast out”. Sin is like a thief. It can rob others not only of material goods, but of trust, truth, chastity, self-esteem, and of life itself. The Lord said, “He that stealeth and will not repent shall be cast out… he that lieth and will not repent shall be cast out… he that committeth adultery and repenteth not, shall be cast out” (D&C 42: 20, 21, 24).
James E. Talmadge explains the cursing of the fig tree:
The leafy, fruitless tree was a symbol of Judaism, which loudly proclaimed itself as the only true religion of the age and condescendingly invited all the world to come and partake of its rich ripe fruit; when in truth it was but an unnatural growth of leaves, with no fruit of the season, not even an edible bulb held over from earlier years, for such as it had of former fruitage was dried to worthlessness and made repulsive in its worm-eaten decay. The religion of Israel had degenerated into an artificial religionism, which is pretentious show and empty profession outclassed the abominations of heathendom… the fig tree was a favorite type in rabbinical representation of the Jewish race. (12)
The Lord warns,
Behold, vengeance cometh speedily upon the inhabitants of the earth, a day of wrath, a day of burning, a day of desolation, of weeping, of mourning, and of lamentation; and as a whirlwind it shall come upon all the face of the earth… And upon my house [the Temple] shall it begin, and from my house shall it go forth, saith the Lord; first among those among you who have professed to know my name and have not known me, and have blasphemed against me in the midst of my house” (D&C 112:24-26, brackets added).
We could liken this group to those who profess to be Christian, yet their lives do not indicate that they truly have placed Him first in their thoughts and actions. Christian nations who have, as a whole, denied Christ through one form of idolatry or another and through wickedness, will be the first ones He cleanses. “For they have strayed from mine ordinances, and have broken mine everlasting covenant; they seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world…” (D&C 1:15-16) As members of the Church, we need to be watchful in our lives and not think that all is well in Zion, “For of him unto whom much is given much is required; and he who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation” (D&C 82:3).
The Lord said, “He that feareth me shall be looking forth for the great day of the Lord to come, even for the signs of the coming of the Son of Man… he that watches not for me shall be cut off” (D&C 45:39, 44). Again He warns, “Prepare ye, prepare ye for that which is to come, for the Lord is nigh… and the arm for the Lord shall be revealed; and the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people” (D&C 1:12, 14).
We, as Latter-day Saints, need to prepare ourselves for the great day of the Lord and be ready to greet Him, as those early Saints who greeted Him as He rode into Jerusalem.
1. Talmadge, James, Jesus the Christ, pg. 478.
3. I find it interesting that He starts from the “house of figs” and uses the analogy of a fig tree putting forth its leaves as a type of His second coming [see D & C 45:37-39]. Also one of the signs of his coming is that the stars shall “cast themselves down as a fig that falleth from off a fig-tree” [D & C 88:87]. It was the next day that Christ cursed the fig tree in Bethphage that didn’t produce figs.
4. See Farrar, Frederic, The Life of Christ, pg. 499
5. Talmadge, James, Jesus the Christ, pg. 480.
6. Farrar, Frederic, The Life of Christ, pg. 498
7. Unused animals were regarded as especially suitable for religious purposes — see Numbers 19:2, Deut. 21:3, 1st Samuel 6:7.
8. Farrar, Frederic, The Life of Christ, pg. 500
9. IBID, pg. 503
10. LDS Hymnbook, pg. 2 When our Temples are dedicated, instead of waving palm branches, we wave white handkerchiefs as we give the Hosanna shout to welcome Christ to His House.
11. Farrar, Frederic, The Life of Christ, pg. 501
12. Talmadge, James E., Jesus the Christ, p. 490