“Is the book of Revelation the remainder of the vision Nephi recorded in 1 Nephi?” Ensign, June 1987, 25–26
Dean L. Marriott, instructor, Salt Lake Institute of Religion adjacent to the University of Utah. In 1 Nephi 14:25, an angel told Nephi, “The things which thou shalt see hereafter thou shalt not write; for the Lord God hath ordained the apostle of the Lamb of God that he should write them.”
Two verses later, Nephi identifies that Apostle: “I, Nephi, heard and bear record, that the name of the apostle of the Lamb was John.”
Although some Church writers and scholars have suggested that the book of Revelation may be the vision John was to write, the matter is not entirely clear. It is clear, though, that the visions Nephi and John received were similar, for both prophets were shown the earth’s history until the end of time.
Perhaps part of the difference between the two records lies in the fact that Nephi and John shared with us only certain portions of their revelations, according to the directions of God. Nephi said, “I, Nephi, am forbidden that I should write the remainder of the things which I saw and heard.” (1 Ne. 14:28.) Similarly, John was told to “seal up those things … , and write them not.” (Rev. 10:4.)
This means that the events Nephi wrote about may not be the same events John wrote about. The remainder of the sealed portion, which matches the revelation of all things that the Lord has given to prophets like Enoch, the brother of Jared, Moses, Lehi, and Joseph Smith, will come forth at some later date: “Others … hath he shown all things, and they have written them; and they are sealed up to come forth in their purity, … in the own due time of the Lord, unto the house of Israel.” (1 Ne. 14:26.)
There are other differences in the records, too. Although Nephi and John had similar visions, they used different writing styles to present them, and John went into much more detail than Nephi. Their written messages were also meant for different audiences and emphasize different themes and events.
Still, given these differences, there is much in the two records that is similar. Nephi’s vision is in two parts. The first part centers on the tree of life and deals with Nephi’s family and the journey to eternal life. He is shown the dream his father had. (See 1 Ne. 8, 11.) The second part covers future events, pertaining primarily to the New World.
In chapters 11–12, [1 Ne. 11–12] Nephi envisions the Savior’s divine birth, life, and ministry and the call of the Twelve. He then prophesies of the vast number of Lehi’s descendants in the promised land, the empires that would exist, their contentions, wars, righteousness, and wickedness, and the calamities among his people. He tells of the future visit of the Lord to his people and the establishment of the Church after Christ’s visit.
Chapters 13 and 14 [1 Ne. 13–14] describe the discovery of America by Gentiles, who have only part of the truth and possess a Bible that has lost some plain and precious truths. Nephi sees the restoration of the gospel and the emergence of two kingdoms—the church of the Lamb and the great and abominable church (also called the mother of abominations and whore of all the earth).
John’s vision is also in two parts. The first part deals with the fate of his fellow Saints in the Old World. (See Rev. 1–3.) John warns the Saints in the seven churches (actually units of the church of the Lamb) against yielding to apostasy. The Lord promises them various blessings, including eternal life, if they are faithful. (See Rev. 2:7, 10, 17, 27.) Although John does not specifically say so, the wording of chapter 2 suggests that John also may have seen the tree of life portion of Nephi’s vision.
The second part of John’s record is primarily of future events, especially events dealing with the people of the Old World. John first sees heaven and the victorious Lamb. Then he sees the apostasy, restoration, and gathering of God’s people and describes the judgments upon the wicked in the last days. (See Rev. 4–16.)
Like Nephi, John describes the mother of abominations, the whore of all the earth, who is arrayed in costly apparel, slays the Saints of God, and is destroyed by the evil she causes. (See 1 Ne. 13:4–9; 1 Ne. 14:9–17; Rev. 17–18.) John continues with prophecies of the second coming of Christ, the new Jerusalem (with a new river of water and tree of life), the Millennium, and the final judgment. (See Rev. 19–22.)
Part of the difficulty of understanding the prophecies in Revelation lies in the imagery and symbolism of John’s language: “Modern readers find … the book abounds in symbolism of a type that we do not use and to which we no longer possess the key.” (The New Bible Dictionary, ed. J. D. Douglas, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1962, p. 1093.)
Without divine interpretation of the symbolism, the book of Revelation is often confusing. This was also true of Lehi’s vision of the tree of life, which after Nephi’s interpretive revelation became very clear. And as with Lehi’s vision, John’s vision becomes much clearer when we turn to modern revelation for help.
The Doctrine and Covenants provides the interpretation of many of John’s symbols. It tells us that the “sea of glass” before the throne of God “is the earth, in its sanctified, immortal, and eternal state” and that the four beasts surrounding the throne of God represent glorified animals “in the enjoyment of their eternal felicity.” (Rev. 4:6; D&C 77:1–3.) Section 130:9 of the Doctrine and Covenants further tells us that the sea of glass “will be a Urim and Thummim to the inhabitants.” [D&C 130:9] The next two verses interpret the white stone (Rev. 2:17) as an individual Urim and Thummim.
The seven seals of the book that only the Lamb was worthy to open are interpreted as being the seven thousand years of earth’s history from the Garden of Eden through the Millennium. (See Rev. 5–6; D&C 77:9.) Other symbols, such as the identity of the 144,000 of all the tribes of Israel, the four angels, the little book eaten by John, and the two witnesses killed in Jerusalem, are all interpreted in Doctrine and Covenants section 77.
Doctrine and Covenants 88:92–112 [D&C 88:92–112] explains the seven angels with trumpets who will herald the coming of the Lord and usher in the Millennium. (Rev. 8–10.) Doctrine and Covenants 45:65–71 [D&C 45:65–71] and Moses 7:62–64 also give further information about the new Jerusalem mentioned in Revelation 21–22:5. [Rev. 21–22:5]
Joseph Smith also made about seventy-five inspired refinements to Revelation in the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. For example, the seven “angels” of the seven churches are rendered “servants of the seven churches” (JST, Rev. 1:20), indicating that mortal servants of the Lord rather than angelic beings presided over those early Church branches. Many of the Joseph Smith Translation changes are found in the footnotes and appendix of the Latter-day Saint edition of the Bible.
The most extensively revised chapter was Revelation 12, [Rev. 12] with every verse but one receiving some change. From the Joseph Smith Translation we learn that the woman with child is the church of God, crowned with twelve stars (instead of seven), and that the dragon is the devil and will not prevail against the Church, even though the woman would withdraw into the wilderness for 1260 years (instead of days).
Nephi also clarifies much of the symbolism in Revelation. He tells us that the tree of life and the water of life are both the love of God. (Rev. 2:7; Rev. 22:1–2; 1 Ne. 11:21–22, 25.) He defines the rod of iron, with which the Lamb shall rule, as the word of God. (Rev. 2:27; Rev. 12:5; 1 Ne. 11:25.)
Both Nephi and John saw the mother of abominations, whom John also calls Babylon and whom Nephi also calls the great and abominable church. Nephi’s account is clearer than John’s, though John’s is more vivid, and a comparison of the two gives us a greater understanding of this personification of evil.
Both John and Nephi were shown the history of the earth by angels. Both were commanded to write part—but not all—of what they had seen. Both records together give us a sweeping vision of the battle in the Old and the New Worlds between God and Satan, between the disciples of the Lamb and the disciples of the devil. Most important, both prophesy of the great and glorious triumph of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.