Wednesday, April 27, 2011

New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 18: “He Was Lost, and Is Found” Luke 15, 17

New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 18: “He Was Lost, and Is Found”
Luke 15, 17


Finding that which is Lost
Luke 15




Sheep
Jesus found himself again in controversy.

“1 Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.
2 And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.”

For the Pharisees and scribes, it was not lawful to sit and eat with the unrighteous. As noted in the Connections blog (see link below) they had a form of shunning that was extremely severe. While in an Amish shunning, the shunned could still eat in the same room with the family (only at a different table), in 1st century Palestine, one could not associate in any manner with sinners. And for many Jews, there were no greater sinner than the publicans (tax collectors). Tax collectors would contract with the Romans to collect taxes from the people, adding a surcharge for their own services. Often, this additional surcharge was extreme (or at least seemed so from the perspective of the tax payer), and so were considered sinners for getting gain as usury (interest) from other Jews.

Jesus expressed his belief in the parable of the 99 and 1 lost sheep. If a shepherd has lost a sheep, he will secure the 99 in the sheepfold (corral), then go out and look for the lost one, until he has found it. The ancient loving link between shepherd and sheep was strong. The sheep recognized their shepherd’s voice and would follow it. If a sheep was missing, the shepherd would know it and seek for it, as if his own child were lost. In reality, sheep wander off as they graze in the mountain pastures. They become easy prey to predators. For a shepherd watching 100 sheep, it would not be hard to have one sheep wander away. However, the rescue is what is important.

According to the early church historian, Eusebius, after returning from being banished and exiled, the apostle John converted and prepared a young man in the gospel. As John prepared to leave for other cities, he charged the local bishop with care of the lad. At first, the bishop taught and cared for him, soon baptizing the young man. Once baptized, the bishop thought the youth would be strong enough to continue in the faith on his own. But he fell in with other youths who took him along in their night time activities, including robbery. Finally pressed into joining their gang, the young man quickly rose through the ranks to be the leader of the robbers. A few years later, the aged John returned to the city and immediately asked the bishop about the youth. The bishop sighed and admitted the child was lost. John instantly left the safety of the town and entered into the dangerous foot hills in search of the lad. The apostle was nabbed by the robbers and brought to the youth, who recognized John and in feeling regret and remorse, tried to flee. But the apostle gathered his energy and caught up with the young man, returning him to the fold once again.

As with Jesus’ shepherd, John went into danger to recover the lamb that had wandered astray. He stood among the wicked, those who should have been shunned, in order to rescue a precious soul. In the parable of the lost sheep, when the shepherd returned he called his friends and they celebrated. We will see this attitude frequently in these parables of the lost. The Lord stated that there would be greater joy in heaven for the lost sheep who repents, than for the 99 who were already saved.

Silver Piece

Jesus did not end with that story, but gave another parable of a lost silver piece. The woman had ten silver pieces, supposedly her entire wealth. So in this instance, she lost 1/10 of her wealth. Unlike sheep, money does not walk away by itself. Inanimate objects get lost because they are carelessly misplaced.

The woman lights a candle to aid her in the search. Obviously, for someone whose wealth consists of only 10 silver pieces, a candle would be an expensive item used only on rare occasions. In today’s (April 2011) high silver prices, if the pieces weighed one ounce each, would only add up to $450. Most Americans today owe more than 20 times that amount on their credit cards.

The woman sweeps the house. The floor is made of dirt, and perhaps an occasional wind can leave the floor with a thick layer of dirt. Sweeping allowed her to stir the dirt up enough to possibly find the coin. she seeks “diligently until she find it”. She does not rest until it is found, as it represents a huge chunk of her wealth. On finding it, she also calls her friends over to rejoice with her. Again, the Lord says that there will be great joy in heaven over one who repents.

The Prodigal Son



There is a great series of blogs on the Prodigal Son being done now (April 2011) at the Connections blog. Check it out below.

A wealthy man had two sons. The day would come when he would divide the inheritance between the two. According to Jewish custom, the older son would receive a double portion (in this case, ⅔) of the property. This would normally occur when the father was old and no longer able to work the farm himself. However, out of rebellion, the younger son demanded his inheritance early. This was a shocking thing to do under the Mosaic Law. First, it showed huge disrespect for the father - possibly a crime punishable by stoning. Second, it risked the inheritance. Mosaic Law required that inherited lands remain in the hands of the family from generation to generation. To sell the lands, particularly to a Gentile, was a sin against all of Israel. It didn’t take long for the son to sell the property, after which he departed into a foreign country. He had been shunned by the Jewish community for his actions.

The lad quickly spent his wealth in “riotous living.” You can always find friends when you are willing to foot the bill. But when the money was gone, the friends disappeared. Suddenly, the reality of life was forced upon the young man. No one offered to help him out in his time of trial. No one offered to feed him, as he had fed them. They abandoned him. He was forced to work as a pig farmer’s helping hand. For a Jew, working with pigs was a major sin, as they were unclean. Worse, to eat the slop given to pigs meant you were lower than unclean. You truly were the dregs of the world.

Finally tired of the tragic life he lived, he came to his senses. He remembered the life he once had in his father’s home. Even the workers had a much better living than he did.

"18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants."

He was in the beginning stages of repentance. He turned away from his Father and the faith of his Father. He was unclean, and hoped as a servant to rise above his current circumstance.

“20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.”

His Father saw him come while he was still a long ways off. Father had been looking for him continuously for years. He never stopped. He always had the hope that his son would return. When he returned, a huge celebration occurred, because the Prodigal Son came home.

In discussing the symbolism of the parable of the Prodigal Son, some things are rather easy to understand. The Father is God. His land is the inheritance he wishes to give to all of us, if we will just choose and follow Him. However, some choose their own path, a path that leads to rebellion. Turning his back on righteousness, the person is shunned, kicked out of the presence of God and family. He quickly moves to the land of the Gentiles, an unclean land whose king is Satan, where they encourage him to sin and waste his life in riotous living. Spiritually empty and starving both in body and spirit, the person is left with the inheritance that Satan provides: the husks that the pigs will not eat. He is literally in hell. And if the Prodigal Son remains in this condition, he will remain in Outer Darkness, with no inheritance whatsoever to speak of. Only in humbling himself and confessing his sins in true repentance, is he able to escape the lands of hell and return to the Promised Land of inheritance.

The Father sees the humbled and repentant child and welcomes him home. There is no deep questioning at this time regarding what he has done with his inheritance. That may come later. Now comes the celebration. As the older and obedient son sulks over the celebration over the lost sheep, the Father reminds him that the inheritance that remains is his. The repentant son has lost his huge inheritance, but still will inherit. How much he ends up inheriting depends on the future. Will he act like a true son, as a servant, or rebel once again? Only when it is the proper time for the Father to divide his inheritance with his children, will they know what is theirs.

In the heavens there are three main degrees or levels of heaven (D&C 76, 1 Corinthians 12:1-4). From these, there are probably many minor levels within. We are all saved from death and hell when we believe and repent of our sins. Then, according to our diligence and faith, we will inherit a kingdom that fits who we have become. If we have been valiant and constant throughout, we will inherit all that the Father has (even as the righteous son). For those who are noble, but not valiant, there is a wonderful reward of glory. And for those who were wicked and only repented when compelled by circumstance to be humble, there is a lesser glory, but still wonderful nonetheless. This is how God loves each of us. I’ve discussed more in detail His grace and love in another blog noted below.

The Ten Lepers
Luke 17

Leprosy is a hideous disease, now treatable and rare in most nations. In Jesus’ day, it was one of the key events that made a person unclean. Unlike touching a dead person or doing something that made a person unclean, leprosy was usually a life sentence. Lepers did not live in regular Jewish cities, but in leper colonies, away from the rest of society. They were unclean personified. Not even family could approach them, for fear they too would contract the disease.

Leprosy causes necrosis or death of the skin and organs. Small sores or wounds on the hands, feet, ears or nose can quickly cause gangrene and the limbs must be removed to preserve life. Lepers were often disfigured by the scaly skin it left behind, as well as from the loss of limbs and facial parts.

Jewish law required Jesus to not approach the lepers. Yet he spoke with them and sent them to the priest, the official responsible for determining if leprosy really had healed, so the person could again be pronounced clean. Along the way, all were healed. Nine went to be pronounced clean, while only one returned to thank the Lord.

The nine received their earthly reward. They did not seek the higher and heavenly reward that heals us from spiritual leprosy. After returning to Christ and receiving forgiveness of his sins, the one man was clean both physically and spiritually.

While we may have to await the resurrection to have our physical disabilities healed, we can be healed spiritually now and every day of our lives by calling upon God the Father in the name of Christ, asking Him to heal us. Admit that you are unworthy to be called his son, and then allow him to take you into his embrace and fit you with a ring containing the family crest. We can be healed through Christ. He can rescue us from an earthly and eternal hell, if we will but stop our rebellion, forgive those who have neglected or hurt us, and allow ourselves to be found.

And when we are found, what great rejoicing there will be in heaven!

Bibliography

Jim F’s Lesson 18 at Feast Upon the Word Blog: http://feastuponthewordblog.org/2011/04/26/nt-lesson-18-jf-luke-15-17/

Connections on the Prodigal Son (several part blog): http://donna-connections.blogspot.com/2011/04/pursuing-father-part-1.html

Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, Chapter 23 on John rescuing the youth: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/250103.htm

Amazing Grace: How God saves us through Christ: http://joelsmonastery.blogspot.com/2011/04/amazing-grace-how-christs-atonement.html

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Amazing Grace - How Christ's Atonement Saves All Mankind

Amazing Grace

By Gerald A. Smith

For the last several months I’ve been studying the concept of grace and atonement. During this time, I’ve also had some interesting discussions regarding it with both LDS and other Christians. Having been really impressed on how grace impacts every moment of our lives and is perhaps the most important concept in Christianity, I felt moved to discuss it here on my blog.

I will briefly explain some of the beliefs of grace given by other Christians, and then explain how grace has been revealed to the prophet Joseph Smith, evidence of the Restoration and its importance for the salvation of mankind. This being Easter Sunday, April 24, 2011, this is my Easter gift to everyone: a better understanding of Christ’s grace in our lives.
The concept of Jesus atonement has brought discussion and disagreement for centuries. The different views on it vary from a very limited grace that focuses on our personal works for salvation, to a universal salvation to all mankind, regardless of what they believe or do in regards to Christ.

Early in Christianity, a concept of grace was developed that attempted to unite faith, works and sacraments or ordinances together, all required for salvation. So important was baptism in the early Christian Church that Saint Augustine proclaimed that without it, little infants would burn in hell for eternity. To try and avoid such a tragic conclusion, the Catholic Church adopted the concept of Limbo, a beautiful place outside of heaven for such infants and others that did not merit hell due to evil works. However, even with this, Pope Benedict XVI recently discarded the concept of Limbo as not being doctrinal. So they again seek guidance as to how grace operates in the lives of infants and those who never had the chance to hear the name of Jesus Christ proclaimed.

John Calvin also struggled with grace. With requirements for works, disagreements over free will and predestination, and other major concerns, he issued the TULIP* doctrine which severely limited Christ’s atonement to just a few, with the remaining being sent to hell regardless of whether they ever had a chance to hear the word of God or not.

For some, “cheap grace” or simply acknowledging Christ is enough to be saved, regardless of whether one keeps the commandments, repents, or does anything holy. For some, “once saved, always saved” suggests that to believe in Christ today means that even if I reject him later in life, I’m still saved.

Clearly, we can see the world struggled and still struggles with the concept of grace.

Grace from a Restored Gospel Viewpoint

“16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3).

Unlike those who believe in a limited atonement, or that infants cannot be saved without baptism, or that our ancestors who never had a chance to hear the name of Jesus Christ would forever burn in hell, the Restored Gospel declares that Christ came to save all mankind, from every time and place, from children to the ancients, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and even atheists, from physical and spiritual death.

For members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have doctrines that express the importance of grace, how faith and works figure in together, and how all mankind may be saved by Christ’s atonement. Such concepts are given through modern revelation, allowing Mormons to understand things that the Bible does not explain, or does not explain very well.
The LDS concept of grace is simple, yet contains a completeness often missing in other concepts of grace. We believe that “as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).

Because of the fall of Adam, both physical and spiritual death came upon mankind. We will all die physically. Spiritually we are dead, because we are not in the presence of God, who gives fullness to life, or eternal life, for those in His presence. Christ opened the door where all will resurrect from the dead, saving them from physical death, and almost all will be saved from spiritual death through the atonement and grace of Christ.

The Resurrection

Latter-day Saints, or Mormons, believe that all mankind will be resurrected. In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Amulek explained:

“40 And he shall come into the world to redeem his people; and he shall take upon him the transgressions of those who believe on his name; and these are they that shall have eternal life, and salvation cometh to none else.
41 Therefore the wicked remain as though there had been no redemption made, except it be the loosing of the bands of death; for behold, the day cometh that all shall rise from the dead and stand before God, and be judged according to their works.
42 Now, there is a death which is called a temporal death; and the death of Christ shall loose the bands of this temporal death, that all shall be raised from this temporal death.
43The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time; and we shall be brought to stand before God, knowing even as we know now, and have a bright recollection of all our guilt.
44 Now, this restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous; and even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost; but everything shall be restored to its perfect frame, as it is now, or in the body, and shall be brought and be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God, to be judged according to their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil.
45 Now, behold, I have spoken unto you concerning the death of the mortal body, and also concerning the resurrection of the mortal body. I say unto you that this mortal body is raised to an immortal body, that is from death, even from the first death unto life, that they can die no more; their spirits uniting with their bodies, never to be divided; thus the whole becoming spiritual and immortal, that they can no more see corruption” (Alma 11).

All will be resurrected, regardless of what they do on earth. They will never experience physical pain, grow old, or have the struggles and temptations we now have in the flesh. This is the redemption of mankind from physical death.

Levels of Heaven

As with ancient Jews and Christians, LDS believe there is more than one level of heaven. Paul knew a man who “went to the third heaven” (2 Corinthians 12:1-4). This concept is supported by many early Jewish and Christian writings, such as the Ascension of Isaiah, and the Apocalypse of Paul, where the prophet and the apostle tell of their experiences ascending the various levels of heaven and into God’s presence.

The prophet Joseph Smith was taught that there are three main levels of heaven, with minor levels within at least the top heaven. These three main heavens are called the Celestial, Terrestrial and the Telestial. Through the atonement of Christ, all but the sons of perdition (those who become the complete enemies of Christ and seek gain through murdering innocents) will gain a kingdom of heaven. Of all people born on earth, we know for certain of only one son of perdition: Cain. Perhaps there are others, but we do not know who they are.

The greatest heaven (Celestial) offers the fullness of God’s glory and blessings. It is for those who are valiant in the testimony of Christ, receive the ordinances, and serve God with all their heart, mind and soul. The Terrestrial Kingdom offers many of the blessings of God and much of his glory. It is designed for those who have testimonies of Christ, but were not valiant. These are the noble people of the earth.

The lowest kingdom of heaven, the Telestial, is reserved for those who barely escape perdition. These are the hard hearted and hard headed who finally repent when compelled. This will include those who have murdered, committed adultery, lied, stolen, and done other very evil things, but who have not chosen to be the complete enemy of Christ, denying the Holy Ghost, and glorying in their evil. Such will suffer for their sins (see below) until they repent fully of their sins. At that time, they will be rescued from hell by Christ’s atonement, and will inherit the lowest kingdom of glory. Such is the love of God for his children that even this kingdom reserved for the likes of Hitler, mass murderers and others, will be more wondrous than any place upon the earth (D&C 76).


Salvation for the Wicked

As mentioned above, the Telestial Kingdom is reserved for those who barely escape perdition, or Outer Darkness. In the teachings of the Restored Gospel, we learn that upon dying, our bodies go to the tomb. Our spirits will enter into the Spirit World. A portion of the Spirit World is reserved for the righteous, a place of rest in Abraham’s bosom (see the parable of Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31). For the wicked, however, there is a gulf that separates them from the righteous. The wicked reside in this Spirit World hell until they repent fully of their sins, turning to Christ for salvation and redemption.

In the Book of Mormon, we read an event akin to this. The prophet Alma describes to his own son his wickedness and rebellion as a youth. Alma went about seeking to destroy the Church, leading people astray. One day, an angel appeared to him and told him to repent or be destroyed. This event so overwhelmed Alma that he collapsed into a coma. Indeed, some believe he had a near death experience. Alma explains:

“10 And it came to pass that I fell to the earth; and it was for the space of three days and three nights that I could not open my mouth, neither had I the use of my limbs.
11 And the angel spake more things unto me, which were heard by my brethren, but I did not hear them; for when I heard the words—If thou wilt be destroyed of thyself, seek no more to destroy the church of God—I was struck with such great fear and amazement lest perhaps I should be destroyed, that I fell to the earth and I did hear no more.
12 But I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins.
13 Yea, I did remember all my sins and iniquities, for which I was tormented with the pains of hell; yea, I saw that I had rebelled against my God, and that I had not kept his holy commandments.
14 Yea, and I had murdered many of his children, or rather led them away unto destruction; yea, and in fine so great had been my iniquities, that the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror.
15 Oh, thought I, that I could be banished and become extinct both soul and body, that I might not be brought to stand in the presence of my God, to be judged of my deeds.
16 And now, for three days and for three nights was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul.
17 And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world.
18 Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.
19 And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.
20 And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!
21 Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy.
22 Yea, methought I saw, even as our father Lehi saw, God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels, in the attitude of singing and praising their God; yea, and my soul did long to be there.
23 But behold, my limbs did receive their strength again, and I stood upon my feet, and did manifest unto the people that I had been born of God.
24 Yea, and from that time even until now, I have labored without ceasing, that I might bring souls unto repentance; that I might bring them to taste of the exceeding joy of which I did taste; that they might also be born of God, and be filled with the Holy Ghost” (Book of Mormon, Alma 36).

Here we see that Alma, as with all the wicked, suffered immensely for sins not repented of. For Alma this only took three days for him to humble himself and repent. Others could likely take much longer: years or thousands of years. Still, once they are ready to repent, they are delivered immediately from hell and brought into the Paradise side of the Spirit World, where they are filled with as much joy as they once felt pain.

For salvation, all that is required is to believe and repent. Christ then rescues us from hell. So, physical resurrection comes to all, and spiritual redemption comes to almost all mankind. Jesus’ grace and salvation are near universal. In the end, only those who forever refuse his atonement, who insist on being his eternal enemy, will be sons of perdition. Given the pains of hell, most of the wicked will choose repentance and salvation than to continue in such intense sufferings. They will be compelled by the pains of their own sins to seek Christ’s rescue.
But it must be on the condition of an honest repentance.

Jesus explained to Joseph Smith:

"10 For, behold, the mystery of godliness, how great is it! For, behold, I am endless, and the punishment which is given from my hand is endless punishment, for Endless is my name. Wherefore—
11 Eternal punishment is God’s punishment.
12 Endless punishment is God’s punishment.
13 Wherefore, I command you to repent, and keep the commandments which you have received by the hand of my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., in my name;
14 And it is by my almighty power that you have received them;
15 Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.
16 For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;
17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;
18 Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—
19 Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.
20 Wherefore, I command you again to repent, lest I humble you with my almighty power; and that you confess your sins, lest you suffer these punishments of which I have spoken, of which in the smallest, yea, even in the least degree you have tasted at the time I withdrew my Spirit.
21 And I command you that you preach naught but repentance..." (D&C 19).

Even as Alma suffered for his sins, so will all mankind who will not humble themselves enough to repent. Truly, it is easier to repent now than later. Now, we can humble ourselves and repent, Christ forgiving all our sins. In the Spirit World, we will be compelled by our own pains to repent, and will suffer until we are humbled enough to do so. Yet, in this, Christ seeks to save us from Outer Darkness, an eternity without the glory or blessings of God.

Faith and Works

So how do faith and works fit in this? Through basic faith in Christ and repentance, we are saved from death and hell.

Still, we mentioned above that there are several heavens of glory. The level of heaven we obtain depends on what kind of person we become. If we become holy, one who always seeks the will of God, then we will receive his highest glories and blessings in the Celestial Kingdom. If we are good people, but not truly valiant, then we will receive glory in the Terrestrial Kingdom. And those who were wicked and just barely rescued by Christ will receive glory in the Telestial Kingdom. Those in the lower kingdoms will enjoy the blessings of God, but are not ready to receive all of God’s blessings.

"21 And they who are not sanctified through the law which I have given unto you, even the law of Christ, must inherit another kingdom, even that of a terrestrial kingdom, or that of a telestial kingdom.
22 For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory.
23 And he who cannot abide the law of a terrestrial kingdom cannot abide a terrestrial glory.
24 And he who cannot abide the law of a telestial kingdom cannot abide a telestial glory; therefore he is not meet for a kingdom of glory. Therefore he must abide a kingdom which is not a kingdom of glory” (D&C 88).

Those in lesser glories will be happy in those kingdoms of heaven, because that is who they are. It is the amount of Christ’s gift of salvation they want. The Telestial would not feel happy nor comfortable dwelling in the full presence and glory of God, but are happy with a portion of his glory (Mormon 9:4).

"29 Ye who are quickened by a portion of the celestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.
30 And they who are quickened by a portion of the terrestrial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.
31 And also they who are quickened by a portion of the telestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.
32 And they who remain shall also be quickened; nevertheless, they shall return again to their own place, to enjoy that which they are willing to receive, because they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received.
33 For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift” (D&C 88).

Each will receive the kingdom they are willing and able to receive. Even those in Outer Darkness go there, because they refuse the gift of Christ’s grace and atonement. Those in the lower heavens receive all the blessings and glory they are capable of receiving with joy, unable to experience greater glory without feeling pain and sorrow, because they did not become holy enough to enjoy greater glories of God.

Grace

For many Christians, grace is an all or nothing event. Either you receive Christ’s grace, or you don’t. In Calvinism, either you receive the irresistible grace of the elect, or you are damned to hell. There is no other choice.

For others, as mentioned, it is a cheap grace, where any and all can be saved by basic faith without works. Yet, it does not reach out to those in other religions or periods of time, who have never had a chance to hear of Jesus and his gospel.

In LDS teaching, grace is something we gain a little at a time. All it takes is just a little grace to be saved from hell. As mentioned above, there are levels of heaven. The greater the grace we have, the greater blessings and glory we receive.

The Lord showed to Joseph Smith ancient doctrine taught by the apostle John regarding Jesus’ mortal life:

"11 And I, John, bear record that I beheld his glory, as the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, even the Spirit of truth, which came and dwelt in the flesh, and dwelt among us.
12 And I, John, saw that he received not of the fulness at the first, but received grace for grace;
13 And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness;
14 And thus he was called the Son of God, because he received not of the fulness at the first” (D&C 93).

We are then taught that even as Christ went from grace to grace, or one level of holiness to the next, we must also. And as we become holy to a certain level, we receive greater grace from God, until we receive a fullness of that grace.

Free Will and Agency of Man

Through all of this, the atonement of Christ gives us freedom of choice. We can choose righteousness or wickedness. We can choose to listen or ignore, obey or disobey, do works of good or evil. Agency is important, because without it, any judgment of God upon us would be unfair. How could God cast people into hell fire, if they never were taught about Jesus Christ? How could God reject little children, after Jesus said, “of such is the kingdom of heaven”? (Matthew 19:14).

In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Mormon explained to his son, Moroni, that little children are saved in Christ’s atonement. They are unable to choose good from evil, and so are innocent. Christ automatically saves those who are innocent, until they arrive at the age of accountability (or maturity), where they begin to make decisions based on understanding of good and evil. (Moroni 8).

And in the LDS revelation entitled the Book of Moses, the prophet Enoch taught the people that original sin had no eternal effect on the people, because Christ would pay the price for it (Pearl of Great Price, Book of Moses 6:54).

So important is atonement for our agency and free will that the Nephite prophet Jacob explained that without the atonement, we would be trapped forever without resurrection and redemption. In such a state, we would only have one choice: to be subject to the devil forever.

The Infinite Atonement

"7 Wherefore, it must needs be an infinite atonement—save it should be an infinite atonement this corruption could not put on incorruption. Wherefore, the first judgment which came upon man must needs have remained to an endless duration. And if so, this flesh must have laid down to rot and to crumble to its mother earth, to rise no more.
8 O the wisdom of God, his mercy and grace! For behold, if the flesh should rise no more our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the Eternal God, and became the devil, to rise no more.
9 And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself; yea, to that being who beguiled our first parents, who transformeth himself nigh unto an angel of light, and stirreth up the children of men unto secret combinations of murder and all manner of secret works of darkness.
10 O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell, which I call the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit.
11 And because of the way of deliverance of our God, the Holy One of Israel, this death, of which I have spoken, which is the temporal, shall deliver up its dead; which death is the grave.
12 And this death of which I have spoken, which is the spiritual death, shall deliver up its dead; which spiritual death is hell; wherefore, death and hell must deliver up their dead, and hell must deliver up its captive spirits, and the grave must deliver up its captive bodies, and the bodies and the spirits of men will be restored one to the other; and it is by the power of the resurrection of the Holy One of Israel.
13 O how great the plan of our God! For on the other hand, the paradise of God must deliver up the spirits of the righteous, and the grave deliver up the body of the righteous; and the spirit and the body is restored to itself again, and all men become incorruptible, and immortal, and they are living souls, having a perfect knowledge like unto us in the flesh, save it be that our knowledge shall be perfect.
14 Wherefore, we shall have a perfect knowledge of all our guilt, and our uncleanness, and our nakedness; and the righteous shall have a perfect knowledge of their enjoyment, and their righteousness, being clothed with purity, yea, even with the robe of righteousness.
15 And it shall come to pass that when all men shall have passed from this first death unto life, insomuch as they have become immortal, they must appear before the judgment-seat of the Holy One of Israel; and then cometh the judgment, and then must they be judged according to the holy judgment of God.
16 And assuredly, as the Lord liveth, for the Lord God hath spoken it, and it is his eternal word, which cannot pass away, that they who are righteous shall be righteous still, and they who are filthy shall be filthy still; wherefore, they who are filthy are the devil and his angels; and they shall go away into everlasting fire, prepared for them; and their torment is as a lake of fire and brimstone, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever and has no end.
17 O the greatness and the justice of our God! For he executeth all his words, and they have gone forth out of his mouth, and his law must be fulfilled.
18 But, behold, the righteous, the saints of the Holy One of Israel, they who have believed in the Holy One of Israel, they who have endured the crosses of the world, and despised the shame of it, they shall inherit the kingdom of God, which was prepared for them from the foundation of the world, and their joy shall be full forever” (2 Nephi 9).

Conclusion

Thanks to the Infinite Atonement of Christ, we are free from physical and spiritual death. We will all resurrect. We all have the choice of following Christ, rather than being subject to Satan. Almost all of us will be rescued from hell and Outer Darkness. Each of us will receive the kingdom of glory we are ready to receive, based on our obedience and becoming Christ-like.
Jesus truly is the Savior, the Messiah of the world. We do not have to struggle over what grace is or isn’t. We can believe in a God who truly loves the world enough to send Christ to save all mankind. And we can have faith that Christ can and will save us.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* TULIP (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calvinism)
1. Total depravity: man’s complete inability to be holy, due to the Fall of Adam.
2. Unconditional election: God’s choice from the beginning of eternity for those to be saved by Him is not based upon any virtue, merit or faith in those people. It is solely based on God’s mercy.
3. Limited atonement: this teaches that only the sins of those already elected by God are washed away in Christ. God could have elected all mankind and saved them through Christ, but chose instead to save just a few.
4. Irresistible grace: those who are the elect are transformed by God, so that they have no choice but to obey God and be redeemed through Christ.
5. Perseverance of the Saints: also known as the preservation of the saints, means that all those elected by God will continue in faith until the end, regardless of what the world does.


Bibliography
Calvin’s TULIP: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calvinism

Ascension of Isaiah: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/ascension.html

Apocalypse of Paul: http://www.gnosis.org/naghamm/ascp.html

Friday, April 22, 2011

New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 17: “What Shall I Do That I May Inherit Eternal Life?” Mark 10, 12, Luke 12, 14, 16

New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 17: “What Shall I Do That I May Inherit Eternal Life?”
Mark 10, 12, Luke 12, 14, 16


--- Due to very busy work and church schedules, and the fact that you guys don’t pay me well enough to retire on my blogging, this lesson will sadly be shorter than normal. Hopefully I’ll get things back up to speed within a couple weeks. ---

The Foolish Rich Man
Mark 10:17-31


One day as Jesus taught, a young rich man asked him what was necessary to obtain eternal life. In asking this, the young man had called Jesus, “Good Master.” Jesus asked him why he called him “good” when no one is good except for God.

In this moment, Jesus showed the separateness of the Father and himself. While pure, Jesus still was not perfected and glorified. He had not yet completed his own mortal experience. His mission was not complete, and he was not yet resurrected. He was not yet ready to be called “good” or complete. In this same sense, the mortal Jesus encouraged his disciples to be “perfect even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Later, the resurrected Jesus would tell the Nephites to be perfect as both God and he are perfect (Matthew 12:48). In other words, Jesus was holy, but had not obtained a fullness of divinity yet.

The young man was not asking about basic salvation. Jesus’ atonement covers all mankind that will turn towards the Savior. He was asking about eternal life, or exaltation in the highest level of heaven. Basic salvation does not require works, except for faith and repentance. But to receive the fullness of God’s blessings requires us to become holy, even as Christ is holy. This means keeping the commandments, and then some.

In answering the young man, he first asked him if he kept the 10 commandments of Moses. These were the basics necessary for worthiness. When the young man admitted he had kept these since his youth, the Lord “loved him”. He appreciated the good this young man had done through his life in his search to be holy.

“21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

“22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.”

The law of Moses is a good law that leads us to better things. But it is not the greater law of Christ’s gospel. In the Lord’s law, we must be willing to give up all things and follow him for any and all reasons.

The Lord may not ask us to give up all our riches. Instead, he will ask each of us what thing is of greatest worth to us, and ask us to give it away and follow him. What thing in our life is the one thing that will keep us out of heaven, simply because we love it more than following Christ? Today, people have addictions to wealth, alcohol, drugs, television, video games, sex, eating, pride, anger, and a very long list of other things.

We each must look inside ourselves and determine what one thing it is that we must be willing to give up, and then give it up. It isn’t an easy thing to do. If it were, then it would not be the ultimate sacrifice to the Lord. Jesus would also have to do the same thing. In Gethsemane and on the cross, he would have to give up the one thing: his own will and desire. He would desire not to pass through the pains of the world. Nonetheless, he wanted to do God’s will, not his own. And in swallowing up his own desires in God’s, he became the One to follow to eternal life, exaltation.

Bibliography

LDS New Testament teacher’s manual for lesson 17: http://lds.org/manual/new-testament-gospel-doctrine-teachers-manual/lesson-17-what-shall-i-do-that-i-may-inherit-eternal-life?lang=eng

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

New Testament Lesson 16: “I Was Blind, Now I See” John 9-10

New Testament Lesson 16: “I Was Blind, Now I See”
John 9-10

Light and Darkness
John 9





Not long after the Feast of Tabernacles and probably before the Feast of Dedication, Jesus walked in Jerusalem with his disciples. As they walked, they noticed a man begging in the streets who had been blind from birth. His disciples asked whose fault it was that the man was blind: the man or his parents. Jewish tradition suggested that those born with defects were obviously cursed of God for some reason.

For Latter-day Saints, this suggests an understanding of the premortal existence. How else could the man have sinned at or before birth to merit such condemnation from God? And if it was the parents’ sins that caused the curse, why did it fall upon the child and not on them?

Jesus explained that many are born with disabilities so that God’s work and power could be shown forth. In this instance, Jesus was able to heal the man, showing God’s mercy and power, as well as demonstrating that Jesus had the power of his Father. In other instances, such physical challenges allow individuals to rise above them and do marvelous things in their lives. While not born with disabilities, Helen Keller became blind and deaf at the age of 19 months of either scarlet fever or meningitis. For most children in her situation they normally were put away where no one would see them. But through the hard work of Anne Sullivan and Helen’s own efforts, she learned sign language and to speak. She was the first blind-deaf person to receive a college degree. She became an author and a sought-after speaker.

Neither the man nor his parents had sinned. Such things happen so that great miracles may occur to help people believe in God. Jesus used a pagan magic healing method to heal the man. Using clay and spittle to create a paste, he placed it on his eyes. He then sent the man to the pool of Siloam to wash his eyes, whereupon he received his eyesight. The pool of Siloam is where the priests obtained water for use as a holy libation or sacrifice during the Feast of Tabernacles, which ended just days before. The water was considered sacred and blessed. Jesus compared himself to the living waters during the feast. Symbolically, the man was healed by the living waters of Christ, who is the true water libation.

As he healed the man, Jesus explained:
“4 I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
“5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Again, Jesus referred back to the events of the Feast of Tabernacles, where giant menorah (candelabra) were placed on the temple walls, seen throughout the city. Throughout the 8 day festival, the priests would perform dances with torches every night. In the darkness of night, the torches, the menorah, and Jesus shone for the world to see. But did they comprehend that light? (see John 1:4-5 for the answer).

The man went about praising his healer. The Pharisees brought him in for questioning. How dare he praise Jesus for healing him! They brought in his parents to verify the event. Terrified that they would be excommunicated (literally cast out or exiled from Jerusalem), they answered that it was their son, but that he was old enough to answer for himself. The Pharisees explained that Jesus was a devil and healed by that evil power, especially since it was done on the Sabbath. However, the man insisted that Jesus was a prophet of God:

“32 [the man said] Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind.
“33 If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.
“34 They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out.”

So the traditions of the Pharisees won out. No one was allowed to heal on the Sabbath unless it was by the power of the devil. People born blind were born in sin, and therefore were liars. They insisted on their theological ties to Moses were greater than the miracles Jesus performed. The man was cast out. Later, upon meeting Jesus, the man would learn that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, and would worship him.

“39 And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.
“40 And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also?
“41 Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.”

The Pharisees did not realize they were showing themselves as the darkness, represented by blindness and ignorance. However, they were neither blind nor ignorant, but chose the darkness purposely. They chose the torches of the dancing priests over him whose temple and festival truly belonged.

The Good Shepherd
John 10


In John 9:39-41, Jesus gave a segue into his next discussion. There are those who are shepherds, and those who are hirelings. Anciently, shepherds took their flocks out by day and pastured them together in a corral at night. One shepherd would watch over the sheep fold or corral, while the others slept. In the morning, the shepherds would come again to the corral and call out. Their sheep would recognize the voice of their particular shepherd, who showed fondness and kindness to the flock. They would willingly follow him anywhere.

However, some of the religious leaders of the Jews were more like hirelings. They did the job as long as it paid well, and there were no major obstacles. If a bear or lion came to attack the flock, while a shepherd would defend the sheep with his life, the hireling would run off and leave the defenseless sheep to fend for themselves. Many Jewish leaders were glad to lead the people, and collect their alms and offerings, until it was no longer convenient, or worth the money and risk. They spent their time focusing on protecting the Jews from good works on the Sabbath, rather than protect them from the enemies of God or pointing them to the living waters, the refreshing meadows, the true light, the Living Christ.

Other religious leaders were like those who sought access to the corral at night, but not by the main entrance. The corral was guarded, and only true shepherds were given access to the sheep from the entrance. Others would have to climb the back side of the fence to steal away sheep. Some tried to gain converts to their version of the Jewish faith by force, such as what happened to the blind man in John 9. If he wouldn’t quickly agree with the Pharisees, they would threaten him and his parents with excommunication and other dangers.

But the True Shepherd is heard by his flock when he calls them in the morning to take them to the meadows of grass for grazing. He calls and they come. They recognize his voice. They will not follow other shepherds or anyone else. Those who truly embrace Jesus are his sheep. Some sheep are totally dedicated to his voice and will follow him wherever he will lead them. Other sheep are not as dedicated, and will occasionally follow the voice of another shepherd. These are believers that should follow Jesus completely, but instead waver and are not dedicated to the true shepherd. Some find that they are instead following a Pharisee or Satan, disguised as a shepherd. But if they will listen to the voice, they can and will recognize Him.

Jesus explains that he will lay down his life for his sheep. He foresaw his destiny. His sheep needed rescue from death and hell, and only the true shepherd could do so. In the atonement and resurrection, Jesus broke the chains of death and hell for those who will listen to the shepherd’s voice, repent of their sins, and follow him.

Jesus, the Son of God

Around the winter equinox, the Jews celebrated the Feast of Dedication. This celebrated the rededication of the temple in the times of the Maccabees (165 BC), who rescued Israel and the temple from desecration by Antiochus Epiphanius. This gentile ruler sought to destroy the Jewish religion, burning pigs on the temple altars, and setting up a statue of Zeus inside the temple. To reconsecrate and cleanse the temple became an important festival.

Jesus again stood in the temple and was asked about his sermon concerning the sheep, and whether he truly was the Messiah. He told them they had seen signs enough and were told enough that they should believe. Yet they did not. They were angered when he explained, “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30), meaning that they were united in all things. This also meant that Jesus placed himself on the same level as God. The Jews began again to grab stones to throw at him, but he quickly explained scripture to them:

“34 Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?
“35 If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;
“36 Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?
“37 If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not.
“38 But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.
“39 Therefore they sought again to take him: but he escaped out of their hand,”

He explained that the Jews were the children of God and were heirs of God. They were supposed to become gods under Heavenly Father. This was a difficult concept for Jews who had changed the rites of Solomon’s temple, rejecting the concepts of ministering angels, the Tree of Life, and other liturgy believed before the days of King Josiah.

But Jesus’ miracles and teachings testified that he truly was the Messiah, the son of God. He sought to guide his sheep to become what they were truly meant to be: Christ-like and the true children of God. Sadly, many of the sheep were led astray by those teaching other doctrines that lower mankind’s prospects on the marvelous things God has in store for us, if we just listen to the Shepherd’s voice.


Bibliography

Helen Keller - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helen_Keller

Feast of Tabernacles in Lesson 15 - water libation, menorah and torches: http://joelsmonastery.blogspot.com/2011/04/new-testament-gospel-doctrine-lesson-15.html

Commentary on John 10: http://bible.org/seriespage/exegetical-commentary-john-9

Feast of Dedication: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dedication#Feast_of_Dedication

Josiah’s Reforms to the Temple:
http://joelsmonastery.blogspot.com/2010/08/ot-gospel-doctrine-lesson-30-come-to.html

http://joelsmonastery.blogspot.com/2010/04/lesson-17-beware-lest-thou-forget.html

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 15 “I Am the Light of the World” John 7-8

New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 15 “I Am the Light of the World”
John 7-8

Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles




The Jewish new year begins in the spring. Seven months after the new year (usually in September or October), there are three great festivals: The Feast of Trumpets, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot.

Yom Kippur is a very solemn festival, focusing on the Day of Atonement. It is a time of fasting and prayer. The high priest would enter the Holy of Holies, sanctifying it and then the entire people of Israel. Two goats would be brought forth. The first would be sacrificed, while the second would have all the sins of Israel laid upon it, then led off into the wilderness. There is a lot of Messianic symbolism connected with the Day of Atonement, as the Messiah would come to atone for Israel - being the sacrificial goat, as well as the one receiving all the sins of the world and then carrying them alone into the wilderness.

Contrasted to Yom Kippur was Sukkot, or Feast of Tabernacles. This was an eight day festival celebrating the harvest. People would build tabernacles, tents or booths of reeds, branches, etc. They would eat their meals and often sleep in these booths during the event, as a reminder of the tents that Israel lived in for 40 years in the wilderness with Moses. As a harvest festival, it is sometimes called the Feast of In-gathering.

It is the last of the three pilgrimage festivals of the year, where Israel would travel to gather to the temple. During the festival, a bundle of plants called the Four Species (palm, citron, willow and myrtle branches) are bound and waved for two events. First, they are waved to all six directions (north, south, east, west, up, down) and said with a blessing to show that God is all around us. During Hallel, the Four Species is also used, waved to bless as people walk in circuits. Anciently, they would walk in circuits to and around the holy temple, waving the fronds and praying “Hosha na” (please save us).

All of this goes back to Moses at Sinai. According to tradition, Moses spent 40 days on the Mount receiving the law of God until the original Day of Atonement. Upon descending during the first Sukkot, Moses began to build the original Tabernacle of God, which would travel with Israel through the desert for 40 years, and then settle in the promised land. So important was this period that Solomon would later dedicate the Jerusalem temple during Sukkot.

During Sukkot, a water libation brought from the pool of Siloam in a gold vessel was poured out at the ancient temple as a sacrifice to God. As the water was poured, the people would pray: "Save now, I pray, O LORD; O LORD, I pray, send now prosperity."

Four towering menorahs (candelabras) were lit at night, where the priests would stand on the temple walls giving a light show with torches for all those below to view, while the Levites would play instruments.

It is believed that this festival will continue into the Messiah’s reign during the Millennium, with people gathering to the temple to celebrate the In-gathering harvest of souls, as well as the return of the Messiah in power. Many Jews believe the coming of the Messiah will be during Sukkot.

A portion of the festival period is Rosh Hoshana, or the Festival of the Trumpets. This is a festival that celebrates the coming of the Messiah in glory to rescue Israel. In it, trumpets are sounded to announce the harvest period. It is believed that Israel will be gathered during these high holidays.

Interestingly, Joseph received the gold plates from Moroni on Rosh Hoshanah. For LDS, this was a key symbol of the latter day in-gathering of both spiritual and physical Israel.

So, Jesus entered into Jerusalem during the high holy days of Israel to celebrate the festivals prepared anciently to prepare for his Messiah-ship.

My Time is not yet come

Jesus’ brothers did not yet believe he was the Messiah. They mocked him, goading him into going up to the feast in Jerusalem, encouraging him to perform his miracles there, so that they would believe him. Instead, Jesus explained to them that the Jews would not believe his miracles, because they hate him.

Why did the Jews hate Jesus? For various reasons. First, many Jews were looking for a political Messiah who would force Rome to leave. Since Christ was not willing to be that type of Messiah, many rejected him. Second, his teachings caused a power play among other Jewish sects, especially among the leaders of the Sadduccees and Pharisees. They were concerned that this start up would gain great power and the people would leave their sects for Jesus. In his trip to Jerusalem, Jesus will give them more reasons to hate him and seek his death.

Jesus arrived in the middle of the feast, after everyone else had built their booths. He taught at the temple, probably in the outer court. The Jews were amazed that an unschooled man from Nazareth could know so much about the scriptures.

“16 Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.
“17 If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.
“18 He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.
“19 Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me?
“20 The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee?
“21 Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel” (John 7).

The people thought Jesus must be crazy or paranoid to think there were people out to kill him. Jesus then explained that because he was known to have healed people on the Sabbath, some wanted to kill him. For Moses, it was okay to circumcise babies on the Sabbath, but Jesus was being plotted against for healing on the Sabbath.

The people listening then realized that the leaders sought to kill Jesus. Some asked, “But, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ?” (v21). They claimed they knew where he was from (Nazareth), but the prophesy of the Messiah was that none would know where he was from. Given that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, a fact his audience did not know, this prophesy the people quoted was fulfilled.

In verse 28, we read, “Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught....” Often, we think of Jesus as a stoic, quiet speaker. Yet he cried, most likely meaning he shouted out in a strained voice against those speaking against him.

“28...Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not.
“29 But I know him: for I am from him, and he hath sent me.
“30 Then they sought to take him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come.
“31 And many of the people believed on him, and said, When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done?”

Jesus proclaimed himself as the Messiah. He established that his enemies, those who ran the temple, did not know God. Because they rejected Jesus, and sought to kill the Christ, they did not know God. While many wanted him dead, they did not lay hands on him at that point, probably because many believed on him and they did not wish to grab him in public, turning him into a martyr during the festival.

The Living Waters

On the last day of the festival, Jesus encouraged all to come to him, for he was the living waters. Part of Sukkot was the pouring of the waters from the pool of Siloam as a holy libation and sacrifice. Jesus compared himself to this water:

"37 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.
"38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
" 39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)
"40 Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet.
" 41 Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee?”

Some thought he was the prophet Elias, who would prepare the way for the Messiah. Others did think he was the Messiah himself. However, contention arose as people argued over the location where the Messiah should come from. Even officers sent by the Pharisees to arrest Jesus were confused and returned to the court without him.

In this council, the Pharisees and other leaders argued concerning Jesus. When Nicodemus attempted to establish that Jesus had not been found guilty of anything, they turned on him asking if he was a confederate. For no prophets ever came out of Galilee!

Returning to the Temple
John 8




Jesus rested at the Mount of Olives. On the mount, at the place called Gethsemane is a cave where an olive oil press was located. Often during periods when the harvest season was over and the festivals were going, travellers would stay in such locations overnight. During the festivals, no work was allowed, so the olive press would not have been working during this time frame.

Returning to the temple on the following day, he again taught the people. The scribes and Pharisees brought forth a woman caught in adultery to him. The law of Moses demanded the woman be stoned to death. Had Jesus agreed and called upon them to stone her, they could have said he was not compassionate as the Messiah was supposed to be. Yet, in showing compassion, he would have ignored the Law of Moses.

Ignoring them briefly as he scribbled in the dirt, he finally arose and said, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (vs 7). Then he began scribbling in the dirt again. Soon, the accusers left. The Savior finally looked up and seeing no one around them, he asked the woman,

“Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
“She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (vs 10-11).

Missing in this event is the man who committed adultery with the woman. How could she have been caught in adultery, if there were also no man caught? Each of the accusers was convicted by his own conscience, and quietly left the temple grounds, because they knew that they had each been involved in similar sins. They were not clean. They should not have been in the temple. Even more, they were not willing to admit to their own actions, which would have lead to their being stoned also.

The Light of the World

The Festivals were over, yet many of the exciting events lingered in the minds of those still worshiping in the temple. The priests had given giant light shows that lasted the entire night. These shows included giant menorah lit and viewable from all parts of the city. The priests danced on the walls at night, holding torches, to entertain the people during the festival.

It was in this context that Jesus then proclaimed, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).

The Jewish leaders instantly questioned him. A man who proclaimed something by himself was obviously speaking falsely. Yet Jesus could show he had witnesses.

First, his actions compared to those actions of the Jewish leaders. They had wrongly judged the woman (after the flesh), where he had not judged anyone. He knew his true roots, but they did not.

And God the Father bore witness of Christ. However, when Jesus stated that his Father bore witness of him, the Jews first thought it was an earthly parent, not a celestial one. As they then understood that Jesus spoke concerning God, they again wanted to kill him, but did not dare lay hands on him.
While his teachings confused those with hardened hearts, yet many still believed on his words.

“"31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;
"32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

The Great I Am

But those who rejected him would die in their sins. They thought themselves to be the children of Abraham, and so free. But Jesus explained that they were servants of sin, and as servants, under eternal bondage except they repent and exercise faith in the Messiah.

A discussion ensues on who is the real Father of the Jews. First they claimed Abraham. But Jesus said they should follow God. Then they claimed God as their Father. Again Jesus told them that in their sins, they were the children of the devil. Had they been God’s true children, they would have accepted and embraced Jesus as their Savior. Instead, they were filled with hatred and murderous intentions - the same as the devil has always had.

Jesus told them that if they believed on him, they would never taste of death, but live forever. Amazed, they asked if he were greater than Abraham, who had died.
“56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.
“57 Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?
“58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.
“59 Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.”

Abraham saw in revelation that Jesus would come to save all mankind. He rejoiced in the day. Abraham knew the great king of Salem, Melchizedek. He paid tithes to the king. Melchizedek literally means “King of Righteousness.” That Melchizedek was a symbol of the future priest/king Messiah was clear. When the Jews asked how Abraham could have known about Jesus, the Savior explained that he was the Messiah.

If we change the comma around, we could read verse 58 as saying, “Before Abraham, was I AM.” “I AM” is the literal translation of the name-title Jehovah/Yahweh. He is the Being that Exists. It was I AM that sought out Abraham to begin the nation of Israel, striking a covenant with him that promised him seed as massive as the stars in the heavens.

Jesus was proclaiming that not only was he the Messiah, but that he was also Yahweh, the God of Israel under his Father Elohim.

There no longer was any fence sitting. Either people must accept Jesus as the Lord God and Messiah, or reject him for blasphemy. In this, the Jews sought to kill him, but Jesus was able to slip out among the crowd to safety.

Today we each must determine whether we give God lip service, as did the Pharisees and Sadduccees, or not. Will we put up a pretence, changing the laws of God to where they fit our own standard, or not? Are we ready to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah, the Lord Jehovah over all the earth? And are we willing to repent of our sins: our false accusations, or our accusing others while we retain the greater sin, our outward signs of religion while inwardly we rot from sin? Will we pick up stones to kill the Lord and his prophets when they speak things that are not easy to hear? Will we care enough to pick a side?

Or will we embrace him?

Bibliography

Feast of Tabernacles:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sukkot
http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Holidays/Fall_Holidays/Sukkot/sukkot.html
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14425a.htm


Rosh Hashanah, Moroni and Joseph Smith: http://lds.org/ensign/2000/01/the-golden-plates-and-the-feast-of-trumpets?lang=eng

The Covenant between Abraham and Yahweh/Jehovah:
http://joelsmonastery.blogspot.com/2010/02/lesson-7-abrahamic-covenant.html