Sunday, December 08, 2019

Come Follow Me: Revelation 1-11

Background

The “Apocalypse of John”, or “Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ” is believed to have been written approximately 93 AD on the Isle of Patmos, small island in the Aegean Sea.  While scholars agree that John wrote the book, they disagree on which John wrote it.  Many scholars today believe that there were three Johns, one who wrote the Gospel, one the Epistles, and John of Patmos writing the Revelation.

Many early scholars believed the apostle John wrote the Apocalypse, but by the time of St Jerome (ca 400 AD) he relegated the book to “second class”.  He doubted the apostle had written it, and almost rejected it when putting together the books we now know as the Bible. He was concerned with its apocalyptic nature, as being outside what he considered to be the norm for authoritative books. Only its popularity among the members of the western Church caused him to add it to the Bible, in order to have his list become the authoritative list of scripture.

The term “Apocalypse” had a different meaning than most understand it now.  While modern readers often think of great destruction and the end of the world when they read the word, “apocalypse” actually means an unveiling or revealing of God and his secrets.  John’s Revelation is the only major apocalypse in the New Testament, however it fits in well with many others found among the Jews and Christians of the time period.  Jude does quote from the apocalyptic 1st Enoch (see below) as a shorter example of apocalypse in the New Testament.

John’s Apocalypse - a Temple Endowment

Many Christians focus on the the Revelation’s teachings on the end times, the destruction of the world, and attempt to determine just when Armageddon will occur.  In doing so, they miss the more important concept taught in the Revelation: it is an ancient endowment.

The ancient endowment, as well as the modern LDS endowment, is a symbolic revelation of man’s return into the presence of God.  For Latter-day Saints, the endowment consists of instruction regarding the Creation, the Fall of Adam (and mankind), our struggle with mortality outside of God’s presence, and our final return to God’s presence through the atonement of Christ.

Other ancient texts, such as Enoch, the Ascension of Isaiah, the Apocalypse of Paul, and Lehi’s Apocalypse in the Book of Mormon also bring out the theme of returning to the presence of God from a fallen world.  We can see that there are similarities in these Ascension texts.

Kings and Priests

John is told that the revelation is directed primarily to the seven churches in Asia: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardos, Philadelphia and Laodicea.  The Lord tells the saints in those cities,

“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,
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, KJV).

Other Bible translations differ on the reading here in verse 6, often stating that Christ made us “a kingdom of priests unto God, his Father”.  Both translations are found in ancient manuscripts.

Interestingly, the KJV translation suggests interesting relationships between man and God.  Through his atoning blood, Jesus has made us “kings and priests” to God and God’s father.  Whether this should be interpreted as Jesus and his Father, or God the Father and a father of God himself, I’ll leave up to the reader.  Potentially, any such reading is valid and perhaps should be considered in light of the early Christian view that Jesus and God were separate beings, and that there were other divine beings as well.

That mankind may become “kings and priests” and not just a “kingdom of priests” as other translations state, is inherent in the book’s concept that others will receive thrones and reign with God.

To Him that Overcometh...

The Lord gives to John a series of promises and warnings to the seven churches.  The warnings range from wealth, to sexual sin, to apostates, to being lukewarm in testimony.

The promises are very familiar to temple-going Latter-day Saints, and were understood by ancient Christians seeking to return to the presence of God.

“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” (Rev 2:7).

The Tree of Life is a powerful symbol of the ancient and modern temple.  Prior to the destruction of Solomon’s Temple, it had a Tree growing within it, symbolizing Life, fertility, and Wisdom.  According to Nephi in his Vision, the Tree of Life symbolized the Mother of God, who bore the precious fruit of Jesus Christ (1 Nephi 11:9-25).   OT scholar and Methodist minister, Margaret Barker, noted that such a vision of the Mother of God being represented by the Tree of Life fits perfectly in with the motif in Solomon’s Temple.

Adam was forbidden to partake of the fruit of the Tree of Life, because his transgression caused a separation between him and God.  For him to eat its fruit while under condemnation would have brought about an instant judgment, and he would have stayed forever out of God’s presence. With the atonement of Christ, we now are invited to partake of the fruit, once we show faith and repent of our sins.  Christ’s blood justifies us, so we are guiltless and ready to partake of the fruit of the Tree of Life both symbolically today and someday in a literal sense.

“...be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.
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” (Rev 2:10-11).

As mentioned before, if we are faithful, Christ will make us “kings and priests”, where we will receive a crown.  Crown signifies a coronation and enthronement as a king or prince.  Those that overcome in this instance are those unharmed by the second death.  When we exercise faith and repent, again Christ makes us guiltless of any sins.  We are no longer under the condemnation. We are no longer under Satan’s grasp and power.  We shall be found in the Book of Life, even though we may still be judged for our works from the other books presented (Rev 20:12-15).  These other books will determine the reward we gain in heaven.

“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 2:17).

For most Christians, this passage means little or nothing.  Through Joseph Smith, however, much has been revealed regarding the white stone and its significance. In Doctrine and Covenants 130, we first read about the Urim and Thummim (Hebrew: Lights and Perfections).  It was an ancient device of divination used the the chief priest of the temple.  Through it, the priest received revelation from God.  In LDS history, various forms of Urim and Thummim have been described, including God’s heaven and a stone.

“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.
Then the white stone mentioned in Revelation 2:17, will become a Urim and Thummim to each individual who receives one, whereby things pertaining to a higher order of kingdoms will be made known;
And a white stone is given to each of those who come into the celestial kingdom, whereon is a new name written, which no man knoweth save he that receiveth it. The new name is the key word” (D&C 130:8-11).

This earth, once it is changed for the Lord’s coming in glory, will be like a Urim and Thummim that teaches us about the lower things in the universe.  Each holy person will receive a personal Urim and Thummim, a white stone, through which all things may be revealed.  The new name is a “key word” for accessing the information in the white stone.  The Book of Mormon also tells us that whoever looks into the Urim and Thummim must be careful on what he looks for, so he does not look for things he shouldn’t and perish (Mosiah 8:13-20).  Also known as “Interpreters” for their ability to translate ancient documents, we are told that the Urim and Thummim can also reveal the darkest secrets of evil men and bring them to light (Alma 37:23-25).

Given all this detailed description, it seems that in the 1830s, Joseph Smith described and used in his receiving many revelations, the first Celestial-Internet-connected miniature computer.  The new or key word is what we today would call a password.  Just as with the Internet today, we need to be cautious of what we look for, so we do not see evil things that can destroy us, or cause us to perish spiritually.

“And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:
And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.
And I will give him the morning star.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Rev 2:26-29).

Such individuals, again, will be rulers and kings.  They will have power over the nations, even as Enoch of old had power over the enemies of Zion (Moses 7).  In the ascension story in 3 Enoch, the prophet is given the title of Metatron the archangel. He is clothed in white, and placed upon the throne of God, where the angels and other divine beings worship him! While he is still subservient to God, God shares his throne with him.  Jesus shall also share his power with each of us.  The “morning star” (Venus) is a symbol for both Messiah and Satan in ancient Jewish writing.  We shall have power over Satan, and power given us by Christ, even as Christ “received of my Father.”

“Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.
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.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Rev 3:4-6).

Here we see that the righteous will be dressed in white clothing. In the Ascension of isaiah, the book of Enoch, and in the LDS endowment, we also see that the righteous are clothed in white. In the ascension texts (which Revelation is one), the initiate goes through the levels of heaven to the highest, wherein he receives a new garment, clothing of white. For John, one way to view the openings of the seals is to see different views of not only the future, but of entering new realms of heaven and earth, ending in the final triumph of the righteous and their return to the presence of God in white raiment (see Rev 4:4).

“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.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Rev 3:12-13).

Here we see a direct connection to the temple of the Lord.  Solomon’s temple had two 27 foot tall bronze pillars at its entrance, named Boaz and Jachin (2 Chron 3:17).  Boaz means “might” or “splendor” and Jachin means “established”. So together, they represent the concept that in God’s might, he will establish himself.  Here we are given the name of God and his holy city as our own. We become family members, or fellow citizens with the saints of God (Ephesians 2:19).

The pillars also symbolize the point wherein man must prepare to enter into God’s presence. John will see such an entrance in his vision, as a “door was opened in heaven” (Rev 4:1), where he hears the voice from inside, calling for him to enter.  In the Apocalypse of Paul, as he travels upward through the levels of heaven, he is stopped by a sentinel or gatekeeper (where the entrance pillars would be), who demands answers from him. Paul’s guide, the Holy Ghost as a child, tells him to share the token he has, on which the sentinel then allows him to pass. It may be that some portions of the ancient temple were guarded by tokens, including a new name or password that allowed entrance.

God also has a new name. One can say that God’s old name was Jehovah, and is now Jesus Christ.  In covenants, many Christians (including LDS) take upon ourselves the name of Christ through baptism and the holy supper.

“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.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Rev 3:21-22).

Here we find the final promise of the temple and of the ascension texts. The initiate receives a fullness of God’s blessings through Christ.  The individual who has overcome all things through Christ, will now sit down with Christ on a throne.  Paul explains this in many ways:

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God” (Phil 2:5-6, note the KJV is different than other Bible versions, but also seems clearer in its meaning)

“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Romans 8:16-17).

John’s Vision of the Throne, the book, etc.

In Revelation 4, as mentioned previously, “a door was opened in heaven” and John is called (probably by the sentinel) to enter in.  Once inside, he stood before the throne of God. He has returned into the presence of the Lord.

Surrounding the Lord’s throne are 24 other thrones, where other divine beings sit in judgment.  Here we find that John recognizes that God is not the only divine being, but is the only one we worship.  He’ll will learn this again later in his book, as an angel representing Christ shows him marvelous things. John prostrates himself before the angel to worship him, but is rebuked.

“And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev 19:10).  

Here we find that John thought the divine being was worthy of worship.  The angel, however, noted that we only worship God in Christ, as he is a fellow servant. This also suggests to us that angels and men are related.

These 24 divine beings wear the white raiment spoken of, sit on thrones, yet still prostrate themselves to the one God.  Having such an experience of seeing God on his throne is called a theophany.

John’s experience is similar to those of Isaiah (Ascension of isaiah) and of Lehi (Book of Mormon). All three see God on his throne. Each will be given a book.  John will swallow his book and learn of his future mission, while the others will read the books given them, and will prophesy.  John will see many things regarding Christ, both his mortal and future roles.  Isaiah and Lehi, who preceded Jesus, would see the Lord descend from heaven.  In the Vision of the Tree of Life, both Lehi and his son, Nephi, would see the life of the mortal Christ.  Isaiah would also foresaw Christ’s birth:

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isa 9:6).

John would foresee the Second Coming of Christ in glory, wherein the righteous on earth will be brought back into the presence of God.  More on this in the next and final New Testament lesson.

Conclusion

Herein is the true power and importance of John’s revelation. While the views of the end of times may be interesting to speculate about, the key is John reveals to us about the ascension to God’s presence.

Bibliography

  Some Other Apocalypses among the Jews and early Christians
Ascension of Isaiah: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/ascension.html
Apocalypse of Paul: http://www.gnosis.org/naghamm/ascp.html
Apocalypse of Peter: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/apocalypsepeter-mrjames.html
1st Book of Enoch: http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/boe/
2nd or Secret Book of Enoch: http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/fbe/index.htm#section_002
3d Book of Enoch: http://www.scribd.com/doc/2024701/Hebrew-book-of-3-Enoch
Lehi’s Apocalypse in the Book of Mormon: 1 Nephi 1:4-15 (compare with Ascension of Isaiah)

Michael Heiser (Academic Editor, Logos Bible Software) interview, regarding the name Elohim and many Gods: http://www.dburnett.com/?p=1322

Nicolaism: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicolaism

Margaret Barker, 2005 Joseph Smith Symposium at Library of Congress (session 2):http://oneclimbs.com/2016/03/30/margaret-barker-transcript-from-the-worlds-of-joseph-smith-conference/


Sunday, December 01, 2019

Come Follow Me: 1-3 John; Jude




The Epistles of John

The Epistles of John are believed to have been written around 100-110 AD by John the Apostle.

Fighting the Heretic Gnostics

In this time period of early Christianity, the church was fighting various factions that taught different teachings regarding Christ.  Perhaps one of the most challenging groups of heretics would be the Gnostics.  The term Gnostic comes from the word “gnosis” which means a hidden knowledge or secret.  There were several different groups of Gnostics, each with varying beliefs. However, most had some concepts in common.  First, they believed they held secret knowledge from the apostles or through revelation that extended the gospel to another level.  Many would attend regular Christian meetings, but then also have their own meetings, where they believed the higher knowledge was taught.  For a time, some versions of Gnosticism dominated certain areas of the Christian world, and even threatened to overtake what is called the “proto-Orthodox” Christian Church.

       Heresy #1, good Jehovah and bad Elohim

1 John begins by telling us, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1:5).  Many of the Gnostics believed that the Garden of Eden story was about a god that created mankind in order to mess with them.  This god, Elohim, did not want to bless mankind, but to toy with them.  Meanwhile, the god Yahweh/Jehovah sought to save the people from the cruelty of the god Elohim.

John was teaching that God Elohim was and is a God of light, and not an evil god. The apostle then explained that we are to follow God and Jesus in the light. The Gnostic concept is that man was sinless, because it was God that caused the Fall, not man. However, we read, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1:8).  Gnostics blamed sin on Elohim, and hoped for salvation through Yahweh.  Yet, John teaches that we are responsible for our own separation from God, through our own sins.

Early Christians saw that Jesus was the Messiah, or the mortal Yahweh. He is the Son of God and the Angel of God’s Presence (Shekinah).  There was no battle going on between Elohim (God the Father) and Yahweh (God the Son).  John emphasizes this concept:


“Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: [but] he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also” (2:22-23).

Connected to the concept of “God is Light” is that we must also seek the light, and reject the darkness.  This includes the concept that hatred equals darkness.  

“He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes” (2:9-11).


    Heresy #2 - Christ as Spirit, Jesus as Man

Among the key heretic issues taught by many Gnostic sects  was a belief in the docetic (dual) nature of Jesus:
1. They believed that the man Jesus and the God Christ were separate individuals.  When Jesus was baptized, the God Christ entered into him (the dove descending), and God the Father spoke saying, “Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee....I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son” (Hebrews 1:5).  They did not think that Jesus the man was born the Son of God, but was begotten at baptism through a spiritual rebirth, when the God Christ entered into Jesus and became a part of him through mortality.

2. Christ did not suffer, Only Jesus did.  The Christ did the miracles and taught the people. But the man Jesus went through the suffering.  Upon the cross, “... about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt 27:46, Psalms 22:1).  In other words, prior to the suffering, the God Christ left Jesus to suffer and die alone.

3. The man Jesus was rewarded for his sacrifice by being the first to resurrect.  The God Christ, however, continued as a Spirit, never having been born , suffered, nor died as a mortal.

On this topic, John warns us about the danger of such a heresy:

“Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world” (4:2-3).

As we can see from the Gnostic belief of a separate Jesus and Christ, they did not believe that Christ came in the flesh.  Here, John intentionally uses the full name Jesus Christ, to show that Jesus the man and Christ the god are both the same being.  Jesus is god and man, Christ is god and man. Jesus = Christ.

And this is a sign of an anti-Christ (not necessarily THE Anti-Christ of the last days), which was in the Christian world in 100AD.  The Gnostics believed Christ continued as a spirit, never suffering nor truly interacting with mankind directly, but indirectly through Jesus the man.  For the Gnostics, Christ never resurrected in the flesh, and never will have a resurrected body.

Today, we can partially judge a Christian Church by determining whether it believe Jesus came in the flesh (mortality), died on the cross, and resurrected.  Resurrection means he forever retains his physical body, just as he retains his spirit.  Resurrected Jesus is God.

  Modern heresy of the Athanasius creed

The current concept of the Trinity came about through two councils: the Council of Nicea and the Council of Chalcedon, both done in the 4th century AD.  Prior to this time, many Christians believed that Christ came in the flesh and resurrected.  They believed that God the Father and God the Son were two separate beings.  For example, the early Christian defender Origen taught that Jesus was a God subordinate to the Father.    

However, from the end of the second century to the fourth century AD, more and more Christian leaders embraced Hellenistic (Greek) philosophy and embedded several such concepts into Christian belief.  Among these was the concept that there is only one God and he is of a pure substance (Spirit) that is completely different than any other substance.  Bishop Athanasius pushed for a new creed or belief that would designate the Father, Son and Holy Ghost as only one Spirit with three persons.  Other bishops, such as Arius and the historian Eusebius disagreed, but lost when Constantine (not yet baptized as a Christian) accepted Athanasius’ creed and established it as the Nicene Creed.  Constantine sent  many “heretic” Christians, who did not accept the Trinity, to the copper mines, which essentially was a death sentence.

It would still take over a century for the Nicene Creed to become Christian doctrine, as it almost lost out again in the 4th century.  Still, the Nicene Creed left many questions.  How could Christ be spirit and still have a physical body?  At the end of the 4th Century, the Council of Chalcedon began and determined the duality of Christ.  Today, most Christian religions embrace the two creeds as doctrine, even though the Bible is rather silent on such issues.
In fact, early Christans intentionally changed First John to reflect the Trinity in it.  1 John 5:7-8 tells us:

“For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.”

This clearly sounds like evidence of the Trinity creed. However, scholars now call this the “Comma Johanneum”, or Johannine Comma or Clause.  The portion that was the later addition is: “in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth”.

Without the clause, the verse originally stated, “For there are three that bear record, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.”

The clause does not appear in any texts prior to the ninth century AD.  Such an effort to intentionally change the feel and thought of First John goes entirely against his teaching in the epistle!  He stated that Christ resurrected and had a body, while also being the Son of God.  Historically, the comment was added in a later Bible version called the Textus Receptus, which was used in all Bible translations from 1522 onward until the past century.  Yes, it is even in the King James Bible, which is one reason why LDS believe the Bible to be correct and the word of God  insofar as it is translated correctly (Article of Faith 8).

Jesus taught that “God is a Spirit” (John 4:24), which is often used as evidence of the Trinity.  However, here John teaches that “God is love” (1 John 4:8).  God as spirit and love show attributes of God, not a specific statement that God is only one thing.  God can be a spirit, love, resurrected being with a physical body, and many other things.  To define him only as a spirit is to delimit him and our understanding of whom he really is.

What we do know, John teaches us:

“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he (God) is pure”  (1 John 3:2-3).







Background on Jude

Scholars differ on which Jude is the author of this epistle: whether it is the apostle Jude, the brother of Jesus, or if they are the same individual.  All agree that Judas Iscariot is not the author of the epistle.  

The epistle was controversial in the early days of Christianity.  All early Christian leaders believed in its authenticity, but argued over whether to include it in the canon of scripture, because of controversial concepts contained within it, including its quoting or referencing of non-canonical writings.  Origen discusses the early controversy over the epistle of Jude by some church leaders, though he personally accepted it.  The controversy continued into the 4th century, as noted by Eusebius of Caesarea in his Ecclesiastical History.

The epistle was not directed towards any particular Christian congregation, but was written to be distributed throughout all the churches of Christ.  Jude’s few verses are very similar to that found in 2 Peter (mostly chapter 2).  Scholars believe that either there was a previous source both used, or that one was the source for the other.

Keeping your First Estate

Jude begins his epistle discussing the importance of contending for the faith, and fighting against apostates who seek to turn believers from following Christ and his gospel.


“ 5 I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.
6 And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.
7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude).

Israel in Egypt is compared with the premortal existence.  From Egypt, Israel was offered a fresh start, a freedom, as they moved to the Promised Land.  Yet, many fought with Moses, thinking they knew better. In doing so, they were destroyed.

So it was in the premortal existence.  We were spirit children of God in the prior life.  Yet, as only spirits, we were limited to our growth, agency, and free will.  To move forward, we required a fresh start in mortality, with the expectation that we would believe in Christ and follow God through his appointed prophets.  

In Abraham 3, we read about this premortal experience:

“ 22 Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;
23 And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.
24 And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell;
25 And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;
26 And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.
27 And the Lord said: Whom shall I send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me. And another answered and said: Here am I, send me. And the Lord said: I will send the first.
28 And the second was angry, and kept not his first estate; and, at that day, many followed after him” (Book of Abraham 3).

Here we see that some chose to rebel, rather than follow the plan God set forth. Lucifer and many others rejected their first estate, or the experiences of the premortal life.  Instead of coming down to gain a body and have a chance at choosing eternal life through Christ, they rejected everything and were cast down from heaven, becoming Satan and his demons.  As Jude notes, these are they who rejected their first estate and are to be enchained in Outer Darkness in the final day of judgment.

So will it be for those who indulge in fornications and sexual pleasures that do not fall under the mandate of God.  Sodom and Gomorrah is noted as a place that was destroyed for its sinfulness.  Professor Harold Bloom wrote that Sodom and Gomorrah were not destroyed for its sinful sexual behaviors (including homosexual and heterosexual acts), but for the inhabitants not being hospitable.  In other words, God put up with their sinful natures until they attempted to impose that lifestyle upon others (such as on Lot and his angelic visitors).

Jude warns us that such sinful nature is the cause for destruction for a people.

Body of Moses

One of the two very controversial portions of the Epistle of Jude is the story regarding Moses’ body.

“9 Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.”

Here, the greatest of the angels, Michael, contends with Satan for the body of Moses. Origen noted that this was a part of an ancient Jewish text entitled the “Assumption of Moses” (also known as the Testament of Moses), believed by modern scholars to have been written in the 1st century AD.  The Assumption of Moses that is now available no longer contains this story, but is believed by many to have been at the end in the original. This is part of the controversy that arises with Jude’s epistle.  He is actually quoting from a non-canonical source!

The concept comes forth that rather than dying, Moses is to ascend to heaven, even as Enoch or Elijah did.  In Jude, Michael must fight for Moses that he may ascend in a translated or raptured state, rather than die.

Enoch’s Prophecy

“14 And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints,
15 To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”

Again, Jude quotes from another non-canonical source.  This time, it is from one of the various surviving books of Enoch.  The writings of Enoch were well accepted by many Jews and Christians from the 2nd century BC and until St Jerome rejected it for his compilation of the Bible.  Enoch is quoted or referenced dozens of times in the New Testament, with Jude as the most well known.

Fragments of Enoch writings are found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, suggesting that the ancient Essenes accepted Enoch as scripture. Interestingly, the fragments within the Dead Sea Scrolls are only one of two places wherein we find a person named Mahujah/Mahijah who questions Enoch.  The other known writing of Enoch that has this encounter is found in Joseph Smith’s translation of the Book of Moses (Moses 6:40)!

Jude’s connection between Moses and Enoch is an important one. Both are called of God to be an important prophet in their days.  Both have a heavenly vision and then are sent back to earth with the commandments and teachings of God.  Both foresaw the coming of the Lord in glory and power among men.  In LDS belief, Enoch prepared his city of Zion to be lifted to heaven, while Moses tried to bring the children of Israel into the presence of God at Sinai, and then into the Promised Land.  Enoch saved his people from the evil that occurred before the Flood, while Moses saved his people from the evils in Egypt.

There is another place, besides Jude, where both prophets are discussed and offered as symbols of the coming Lord Jesus Christ.  Joseph Smith received a revelation while studying the Bible regarding the Creation, the Fall of Man, and the times of Enoch before the Flood.  All of this Joseph received through the eyes of the prophet Moses.

As with Enoch, Joseph Smith also proclaimed that the Lord would return for his Second Coming in great power and glory.  Our job is to keep the commandments, be chaste, virtuous, and righteous in following Christ. In doing so, the day may come when the archangel Michael may contend with the devil over us, that we may gain our second estate and receive a crown of glory.












Bibliography

Nag Hammadi Library (Primarily Gnostic writings found at Nag Hammadi, Egypt):
http://www.gnosis.org/naghamm/nhl.html

First Peter - wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Epistle_of_John

“Condemned to the Mines, Copper Production and Christian Persecution”, Biblical Archaeological Review, Nov/Dec 2011, pg 30:  http://www.bib-arch.org/bar/article.asp?PubID=BSBA&Volume=37&Issue=6&ArticleID=2

Comma Johanneum - wikepedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comma_Johanneum

Epistle of Jude - wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epistle_of_Jude

Epistle of Jude - Catholic Encyclopedia: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08542b.htm

Epistle of Jude - Early Christian Writings: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/jude.html

Inhospitality of Sodom - http://joelsmonastery.blogspot.com/2010/02/lds-gospel-doctrine-class-old-testament_15.html

Lack of Hospitality by Sodom - Book of J, Harold Bloom, pp 299-301: http://www.amazon.com/Book-J-Harold-Bloom/dp/0802141919/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1320158037&sr=8-1

Assumption of Moses - wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assumption_of_Moses

Assumption of Moses (AKA Testament of Moses): http://www.piney.com/Testament-Moses.html

Book of Enoch (as quoted by Jude): http://www.piney.com/ApocEnoch1.html

Mahijah/Mahujah: http://joelsmonastery.blogspot.com/2010/01/gospel-doctrine-old-testament-lesson-5.html

Book of Moses: http://lds.org/scriptures/pgp/moses?lang=eng