Thursday, June 09, 2011

New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 24: “This Is Life Eternal” John 16-17

New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 24: “This Is Life Eternal”
John 16-17

The Comforter

John 16

Jesus again prophesied of his death. Though the prediction caused his disciples to sorrow, it was necessary for a few reasons. First, their hearts had to be prepared for the tragedy. Second, Christ had to go in order to fulfill his mission and prepare a place in heaven for the repentant. Finally, if Christ did not leave, they could not have the Holy Ghost as a Comforter for them.

Neglected by many Christians is the concept that the Holy Ghost is sent to us as a guide and a comfort through the trials of life. Even more is the concept of the Holy Ghost as the third member of the Godhead, with the responsibility of testifying of the Father and the Son to all mankind.

As noted in previous lessons, Christ explained to the Pharisees that there were three witnesses of his Messianic call: himself, John the Baptist, and the Father (as demonstrated by the miraculous power given Christ by God). For the disciples, they would also be given three witnesses, the first leading them to the next.

The First Comforter is the Holy Ghost. His responsibilities include testifying of the Father and the Son and of the truths of the gospel. He can guide us into “all truth”, and speaks the things He hears from the Father and the Son. More importantly, his responsibility is to prepare us to receive the Second Comforter, Jesus Christ. So, John 16 explains how the Holy Ghost works with us, and prepares us for the higher teachings found in the next chapter.

This is Eternal Life
John 17

We learn in verse 3 that Eternal Life means “knowing” God and Christ. We gain this information after learning about the Holy Ghost, or First Comforter. He is the first and key step in the pathway to knowing God and Christ.

The Holy Ghost prepares us to enter into the presence of the Second Comforter, even the presence of Christ. It is then Jesus who prepares and leads us into the presence of the Father.

Chapter 17 of John contains Christ’s Intercessory Prayer, where he pleads for his disciples. They are not of the world, but still are weak and tend towards sin. Jesus asks that they may be one, even as he and the Father are one. For those who believe in the Trinity, this causes them to have to explain the term “unity of persons” differently for humans than for the Trinity itself. The belief is that the Father and Son are two persons, but one God and substance. Jesus does not mean that his disciples shall also become persons and also one being and substance. Instead, he is teaching that they shall be united in thought, desire, love, compassion, faith, hope, charity, and purpose. Just as the Holy Ghost speaks only those things which he hears from the other members of the Godhead, so the disciples shall speak and act as one. Yet they are physically separate persons. For LDS, the Godhead also consists of physically separate persons, who are yet “one” in all the important things. So, when Jesus states that he is in the disciples, even as God is in him, we understand that it is not a metaphysical joining, but a joining of hearts, desires, and minds. It is the perfect relationship.

The Perfect Relationship’s Exegetical Commentary explains what “Eternal Life” and “know” mean in regards to Jesus and God:

The Evangelist here defines “eternal life” for the readers. It is not just unending life in the sense of prolonged duration. Rather it is a quality of life, with its qualitativeness derived from a relationship with God. Having eternal life is here defined as being in relationship with the Father, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom the Father sent. Cristov" is not characteristically attached to Jesus’ name in the Fourth Gospel; it occurs elsewhere primarily as a title and is used with Jesus’ name only in 1:17. But that is connected to its use here: the statement here in 17:3 enables us to correlate the statement made in 1:18 of the Prologue, that Jesus has fully revealed what God is like, with Jesus’ statement in 10:10 that he has come that people might have life, and have it abundantly. These two purposes are really one, according to 17:3, because (abundant) eternal life is defined as knowing (being in relationship with) the Father and the Son. The only way to gain this eternal life, that is, to obtain this knowledge of the Father, is through the Son (cf. 14:6). Although some have pointed to the use of ginwvskw here as evidence of Gnostic influence in the Gospel, there is a crucial difference: for John this knowledge is not intellectual, but relational. It involves being in relationship.


The relationship that Jesus has with the Father extends to us. We are invited to join them in this intense and loving experience by first learning to be one with each other, and so then learning to be one with the Godhead. In following Christ, we take upon ourselves his name at baptism and promise in the Sacrament of bread and water to “always remember him” and again take his name upon us. Through repentance, atonement, faith, obedience and ordinance, we become holy. We enter a relationship with Christ, guided by the Holy Ghost.

The Holy Ghost will eventually lead us into the Divine Presence or “Shekinah” of God, even Jesus Christ. The Savior then leads us into the Presence of the Father.

As we read from

Now Jesus turns his attention to the disciples. He begins by asserting that he manifested the Father’s name to them. The mention of the Father’s name will occur again in chapter 17 in verses 11, 12, and 26, but it is not often mentioned elsewhere in the Fourth Gospel (only in 5:43, 10:25, 12:28). What are we to make of this? In one sense the name represents the person (cf. 1:12) and thus Jesus in saying that he has made known the Father’s name is saying that he has fully revealed who God is and what he is like (cf. 1:18 and 14:9). But there is probably another meaning as well in the Fourth Gospel: Jesus himself is identified with God repeatedly (10:30, 14:11, etc.) and nowhere is this more apparent than in Jesus’ absolute uses of the phrase ejgwv eijmi without a predicate (8:24, 8:28, 8:58, and 13:19). The name of the Father which Jesus has made known to men is thus the Divine Name revealed to Moses in Exodus 3:14.

We receive the name of Christ in baptism. We receive the Divine Name from Christ prior to entering into God’s presence. This is the teaching of the Theophany - entering into the Presence of the Divine God.

In ancient texts, we find that Paul went to the “third heaven” (2 Corinthians 12:1-4), and in the Apocalypse of Paul was guided by the Holy Ghost from one level of heaven to the next, until he was in the Divine Presence. In the Ascension of Isaiah, the prophet also rose through the levels of heavens, until he was in the presence of the Godhead. The Prophet Enoch was given the title Metatron the Archangel, was placed upon God’s throne and worshiped as a member of the Divine Family.

Ezekiel, John the Revelator, Lehi, Jacob, and many other Bible and Book of Mormon prophets also experienced this divine theophany - entering into God’s presence and being one with God. Here, in Jesus’ culminating teachings of his mortal ministry, he shows the apostles and us the purpose of his life and ministry. Jesus would prove worthy of entering into Father’s presence and receiving a fullness of His glory. Jesus would also be the gatekeeper by whom we must pass in order to enter into God’s presence, where we also may enter into the Divine Relationship with the Godhead, receive a fullness of God’s glory and Eternal Life.


John 17 Exegetical Commentary:

First/Second Comforter, LDS Bible (KJV) Dictionary:

Metatron/Enoch - Wikipedia:

Apocalypse of Paul:

Ascension of Isaiah:

3 Enoch:

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