Monday, December 27, 2010

Gospel Doctrine New Testament Lesson 1 - “That Ye Might Believe That Jesus Is the Christ” Isaiah 61:1-3; John 1

Gospel Doctrine New Testament Lesson 1 - “That Ye Might Believe That Jesus Is the Christ”
Isaiah 61:1-3; John 1

The Christ

The English word “Christ” comes from the Greek Χριστός (Khristós), and means “the Anointed One”. It is equivalent to the Hebrew word מָשִׁיחַ (Messiah). According to the Old Testament scholar, Margaret Barker, the Messiah is the “Angel of the Lord’s Presence”, or the angel that stands in Elohim’s presence as his chief messenger. Early Christians equated Jesus with the Messiah and the Great Angel who would deliver Israel.

In Luke 3, Jesus’ first discourse occurred in the synagogue. He was at least 30 years old, as that was the age when a man became a rabbi/religious leader, and was allowed to speak in the synagogue. The normal pattern was to stand, read a passage of scripture, sit, and then explain it to the people:

“16And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.
“17And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,
“18The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
19To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
“20And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.
“21And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.
“22And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph’s son?” (Luke 3:16-22, see Isaiah 61:1-3).

Isaiah 61 was a key prophecy regarding the coming Messiah. Yet, for those in Nazareth who knew him, this was blasphemous. The Messiah would not be born of someone like Joseph, whom they knew. Many others at this time had proclaimed to be the Messiah, promising to free Judah from the Roman captivity. However, as we study the New Testament, we shall see that only Jesus offered a different promise. In his mortal ministry, he would not offer physical liberation from Roman captors, but spiritual liberation through faith and repentance in the atonement.

To preach the “gospel to the poor” meant preaching “good news” to them. He would heal the sad of heart, and would preach spiritual deliverance to those captive to Satan’s power. While he would literally heal the blind, he would heal even more who were spiritually blind so that they could again see with new eyes. They would be freed from the chains of death and hell, healed from the bruises brought on by sin and the struggles of this life.

The Gospels

The gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) as we now have them were written decades after Christ’s death. Most scholars believe Matthew and Luke were written based upon the writings of the earliest written gospel, Mark, and perhaps from another source named Q (Quelle, German for source). John was written in the 2nd century after the Book of Revelation. Some scholars do not believe these were written by the original apostles (Matthew and John) and missionaries (Mark and Luke). It may be that they were later written by followers of those leaders, who learned from their teachings about Christ. This was a very common thing done anciently, where the disciple would write a book and name their teacher as author. Whether the books were indeed written by the original Church leaders or not, the key is that these books are inspired.

In the Beginning was the Word
John 1

“1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2The same was in the beginning with God.
3All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
4In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
5And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”

In a look at the Greek, we find that these verses actually describe Jesus and God as separate Gods. Russell McGregor and Kerry Shirts did a great article which explains:

“How does Jehovah appear in the Greek New Testament? As Kyrios. This gets translated as "Lord" in English.
How does Elohim appear in the Greek New Testament? As Theos - especially Ho Theos [The God]. This, of course, gets translated as "God" in English.
Of course, the same words appear in many places in the New Testament that are not merely quotes from the Old. And you will find that Lord usually refers to Jesus - especially after his resurrection - while God usually refers to the Father....
[In Isaiah] the Lord announces that he is the one and only Savior (see Isaiah 43:3, 11; 45:15). And when the angel appeared to the shepherds in he field outside Bethlehem, he said to them, "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11).
Now we may never really know what the angel's words were in the original Aramaic, but it seems reasonable that it would be something like, "a Savior, who is the anointed Jehovah."
But don't just take Luke's word for it. In John 1:1-2 we read, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God." ... [T]he first and third "God" in this passage comes from Greek Ho Theos - the God - while the second occurrence was simply Theos. So this could be rendered, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with The God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with The God." (Russell C. McGregor and Kerry A. Shirts, "Letters to an Anti-Mormon," FARMS Review of Books, Vol. 11, No. 1, 1999, p. 139).

So, we see that there is a distinction between The God Elohim, and his Son Jesus. Both are God, but are separate beings.

Godhead vs Trinity

The religious argument between one united Godhead of three distinct beings versus one God of one substance but three separate persons, has raged on for almost 2000 years. One of the earliest Christian teachers and defenders was Origen. Origen taught that the Father and Son were two separate beings, but both are Gods. He explained that Christ is a subordinate God to the Father, such as John 1:1 seems to tell us. This was the main belief for early Christianity regarding the Godhead until the times of Athanasius, Arius, and Eusebius of Caesarea. Over the first few centuries of the Christian era, Greek ideas trickled into the Christian church, including the idea that there is only one God, who is made of a perfect substance, while all other things are made of other impure substance. Arius belonged to the Eastern Church and taught that Father and Son were separate beings, and since there is only one God, Jesus was not God, but Lord. Athanasius, eager to defend the godhood of Christ, developed a different concept we now call the Trinity. It states that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are one God, made up of three separate persons, but of one substance. The term “consubstantiation” or “homoousias” (of one substance) became key to his teaching. Followers of Athanasius sought to have Arius deposed as bishop, creating a huge rift in the Christian Church. To try and repair the damage to the Church and unity of his kingdom, Roman Emperor Constantine brought 318 bishops together in the first major ecumenical council at Nice in 325 AD.

Eusebius of Caesarea is known as a key bishop of the time, as well as the best chronicler of early Christian history. Eusebius was an ardent student of the Bible scholar Pamphilus and devout follower of Origen. In the battles between Arius and Athanasius, Eusebius sought the middle ground, agreeing that Father and Son were separate beings, yet also stating that Christ was also God. When the Council of Nice ended, the Arians were temporarily routed by the Athanasians. The Trinitarian creed, also known as the Athanasius Creed, was set in place. However, for the next century there would be continued battles over this teaching, wherein the Arians almost succeeded in establishing their own belief.

Eusebius agreed with certain tenets of the creed, such as Christ is eternal and uncreated. However, he drew the line at the term “consubstantiation” as it is not in the scriptures, and he insisted the gospel of Christ should be established on Biblical writings, and not on non-scriptural creeds. Today, while the majority of traditional Christianity follows the teachings of Athanasius on the Trinity, the Jehovah’s Witnesses tend towards an Arian view of God and Christ. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) holds a similar belief to the Origen/Eusebius belief that Father and Son are members of the Godhead, with Christ subordinate to the Father. As we can see from the Greek translation of John 1:1, this seems to be the correct interpretation. Christ IS God who is with THE God of all, Heavenly Father.

When was Christ born?

December 25th is the traditional celebration for Christ’s birth. This date came about centuries after Jesus’ death, when early Christians sought to celebrate the date.

For about a century, Latter-day Saints have believed that Christ’s birth was actually April 6, 1 BC, based upon a reading of D&C 20:1 by Elder James Talmage in his book, Jesus the Christ. We have since found that verse one was not part of the original revelation, but was a header put in the revelation by the scribe. Also, more recent General Authorities statements and research clearly show that Jesus must have been born around 5 BC.

Why? For one thing, Herod the Great, who spoke with the wise men and ordered the death of infants in Bethlehem, died in spring of 4 BC. Jesus could not have been born in 1 BC and still have Herod in the story. This and several other clues within the Bible and Book of Mormon suggests that Christ was probably born around December 5 BC. So December 25th could actually be the right date!


Wikipedia on Christ:

“Letters to an Anti-Mormon”, McGregor and Shirts:

Eusebius of Caesarea:

Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History:

When was Jesus Born? Michael De Groote in Deseret News:

Thursday, December 23, 2010

OT Gospel Doctrine Lesson #48 - Zechariah Malachi

OT Gospel Doctrine Lesson #48 -
Zechariah Malachi


Judah fell to the Babylonians around 586 BC. Many were carried into Babylon. Jeremiah and Ezekiel were the prophets of the early exile. Cyrus the Great, king of Persia, took over the empire in 539 BC. While the Babylonians sought to intimidate its subjects, the Persians sought to please them, so they would be willing subjects of the kingdom. Cyrus returned the Jews to Jerusalem. His successor, Darius, divided his empire into divisions ruled by governors. Zerubbabel was made governor over Judah (Yehud). Haggai and Zechariah were the chief prophets in Judah during this period (about 520 BC).

A focus of both Darius and the prophets was the rebuilding of the temple. For Darius, it helped to consolidate his strength in the Persian Empire. For the Jews, it was a Godsend.
Zechariah was the son of Berechiah and a descendant of the chief high priest, Iddo. Zechariah means “God remembers.” Berechiah means “God will bless.” Iddo means “At the appointed time.” Together, their names suggest: At the appointed time, God remembers and will bless them.”

The Key Concepts of the Old Testament

With Zechariah and Malachi, we complete the year study of the Old Testament. It continues with a pattern seen frequently in the official lessons and in my blog: a pattern of Creation, Fall and Restoration.

Since the Creation of the earth, the Fall of Adam, and the future promise of the earth’s paradisiacal restoration to an Edenic state, we see in the Bible and other scriptures a pattern of creation, fall, and restoration. Adam was created in the Garden of Eden, fell from it, and was restored to Yahweh/Jehovah’s presence at Adam-Ondi-Ahman (D&C 107).
The Gospel was preached by Enoch and Noah. The righteous who believed them were translated and restored to God’s presence in the City of Enoch, while the wicked experienced the Fall of the Great Flood.

Yahweh created Israel, his people of promise, by making a special covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Over time they fell from favor and were enslaved by Egypt. God sought a new creation for Israel by rescuing them via Moses. Moses desired to restore Israel to God’s presence at Mt Sinai (D&C 84), but when Israel refused to enter into Yahweh’s presence, they were given a lesser restoration and promise. Instead of all of Israel serving God in His presence, only a select few of Israel would do so: prophets and priests. The Tabernacle, and later the temples in Jerusalem, Elephantium and in Samaria, would be holy places where the people could approach near the throne of God, located in the Holy of Holies of the temples. The Jerusalem temple’s ark of the covenant held the national treasures of Israel: the Ten Commandments, Aaron’s budding stick, manna, and other miraculous and sacred objects of God’s power. The ark was part of the Mercy Seat, seated between the two cherubim in the Holy of Holies, where God judged his people. When they were righteous, he restored them to blessings. When they rebelled, he allowed them to fall from His presence, and lose the protection of being the Promised people.

While the kingdoms of Israel and Judah were carried off, and the tribes of Israel still lost to mankind, the Lord promised to restore them. Judah would return from captivity and the temple rebuilt (known as the Second Temple). Yet in 70 AD, Judah would be destroyed again, this time by the Romans. They would live in exile for almost 2000 years, with the hope that someday Yahweh would restore them to their land, and allow them to build the third temple in Jerusalem.

With the earth fallen from God’s presence, Isaiah, Zechariah, Malachi and other prophets foresaw the day when Yahweh would return in power and glory, Restoring not only Israel, but the whole earth, back into God’s presence.

Zechariah’s Teachings and Prophecies of the Temple and Messiah

Zechariah’s teachings and prophesies of the future focus on the priesthood and temple. While Judah has a governor, greater emphasis and power is given to the chief high priest, Joshua. Joshua, as chief high priest, was directly involved in the building of the 2nd temple and the services occurring within it. For Zechariah, Joshua is viewed as a symbol of the future Messiah, who would save Israel in the long run. Joshua restored the priestly blessings of the temple to Israel, and the Messiah would restore Israel back into God’s presence in his celestial temple.

Interestingly, the name Jesus is the Greek form of Jehoshua, or Joshua. Zechariah may have been speaking regarding the great chief priest of his day, but his prophesy foreshadows the Messiah, who also would be named Yeshua. Joshua is told to remove his dirty clothes and replace them with clean and holy garments. This is a common theme for priests and prophets who are cleansed prior to entering into God’s presence. Moses removed his sandals on holy ground; Aaron and his sons were clothed in priestly temple robes; in early Jewish-Christian texts, Enoch, Isaiah and others put on celestial clothing prior to performing service at God’s throne. Joshua’s clothing change symbolized his inner cleansing and that of Judah, as the temple was readied for service.

In Wikipedia’s comments regarding the Book of Zechariah, we read:

“The purpose of this book is not strictly historical but theological and pastoral. The main emphasis is that God is at work and plans to live again with His people in Jerusalem. He will save them from their enemies and cleanse them from sin.
“Zechariah's concern for purity is apparent in the temple, priesthood and all areas of life as the prophecy gradually eliminates the influence of the governor in favour of the high priest, and the sanctuary becomes ever more clearly the centre of messianic fulfillment. The prominence of prophecy is quite apparent in Zechariah, but it is also true that Zechariah (along with Haggai) allows prophecy to yield to the priesthood; this is particularly apparent in comparing Zechariah to "Third Isaiah" (chapters 55–66 of the Book of Isaiah), whose author was active sometime after the first return from exile.
“Most Christian commentators read the series of predictions in chapters 7 to 14 as Messianic prophecies, either directly or indirectly.These chapters helped the writers of the Gospels understand Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection, which they quoted as they wrote of Jesus’ final days. Much of the Book of Revelation, which narrates the denouement of history, is also colored by images in Zechariah.”

Jim Faulconer notes that the first 6 chapters may be a chiasmus, which allows the earliest portions to help explain the later, more obscure prophesies. It also demonstrates that the priesthood and temple are in the center of Zechariah’s prophesy. We learn that the priesthood represents God’s power and the temple represents God’s knowledge, secrets, and presence.

In chapter 6, Zechariah makes crowns, one of which is placed upon Joshua’s head. Zechariah sees that the Branch will also receive a crown, rebuild the temple, serving and blessing the people, even as Joshua will do for his people.

According to, we find that:

“Some of the things we know about the Branch:
(1) The Branch will be a man. (Isa 4:2; Jer 23:3-5; 33:14-26)
(2) The Branch will be from Israel. (Micah 5:2; Isa 53:2)
(3) The Branch will build the temple. (Eze 40-43; Hag 2)”

The Branch is the Messiah, even Jesus Christ. And there is a double fulfillment we can understand about the Branch. In his first coming as a mortal, Jesus was a man from Israel. The temple Jesus built in mortality was that of his resurrected body. The Lord told the Jews that the temple would be destroyed and then rebuilt in three days, meaning his physical body. We know that in his 2nd Coming in glory, Jesus will come as a man, reclaiming his position as King and High Priest over Israel, and he will turn the earth into a paradisiacal temple. The temple in Jerusalem, as well as others, will be built across the world to perform service to God throughout the millennial era.

That Zechariah was so closely connected to the 2nd Temple’s beginnings, establishing Joshua as the chief priest of the temple and as a Messianic symbol, extends to his visions of the latter-days. In conjunction with Daniel and John’s Revelation, we see the day would come when the Gentile nations would attack Jerusalem. The prophet warns the Jews of his day to escape Babylon (2:6-7) in the north. This prophecy applies today for those who engaged in modern Babylon. Babylon was a nation that mistreated and abused Israel, forcing others to engage in its industry and belief system (think on how Daniel and his friends were forced to worship the gods and king of Babylon). Zechariah’s Judah was protected by King Darius of Persia. Darius means “Lord”, and so the latter-day Israel is called to flee Babylon to modern Israel, where the Lord can be their protector.

Prophesying of the mortal Messiah, Zechariah saw that the staff of Beauty, even Jesus, would be “cut asunder” and sold for 30 pieces of silver. This was the price for purchasing a slave, and it was the 30 pieces that Judas Iscariot would cast to on the Potter’s Field (Zech 11:10-13). Zechariah foresaw the world laying siege to the holy city (12:1-2). It will be in that day that the Lord will send His grace upon them, even the Messiah to deliver them. At that time, they will see the one whom they pierced and weep. They shall weep for joy that they have been delivered, and weep for sorrow for the Christ whom they slew 2000 years before (12:8-11, 13:6).


Malachi means “my messenger.” He was the last prophet of the Old Testament and probably lived around 420 BC. The Jews had rebuilt the temple only a century before, but already were falling into apostasy and rebellion. They were not grateful that God watched over them, allowing Jacob to prosper, even while the nations of Esau (Jacob’s brother) remained in ruin. Children and servants honor parents and masters, yet Judah refused to honor God, profaning the temple worship with their greed and pride.

They refused to care for the poor, orphans, widows and needy. They no longer paid their tithes, thus “robbing” God of what was due him. They dealt treacherously with each other, forgetting the covenants made with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses.

The prophet foresaw the coming of forerunner to Christ, prior to his sudden appearance in the temple (Mal 3:1). All Christians will recognize the forerunner as John the Baptist, preparing the way for the Messiah’s coming in mortality. A second fulfillment of this prophecy occurred in 1836 after the Kirtland Temple was dedicated (D&C 110). In this event, Joseph Smith was the forerunner, preparing the way of the Lord by building a temple. Jesus suddenly came to this temple to restore priesthood power and keys as a preparation for His Second Coming.

On his Second Coming in glory, the only ones who would “abide the day of His coming” are those who have gone through the refiner’s fire. Intense heat was used anciently, as well as today, to remove impurities from precious metals, such as gold and silver. The residue was the dross, good for nothing, and thrown away. Only those who are purified will abide the 2nd Coming. All others will be as the dross, unable to withstand the purification process (3:2-3). The priesthood will be the first to be refined (vs 4), for they cannot serve God and prepare a sacrifice worthy of God if they are filthy.

Malachi lists those who will be judged by God and found wanting: sorcerers (false priesthood and magic), adulterers (sexual sin), false swearers (false witnesses and liars), oppressors of the poor and widows, and those who do not fear (respect and reverence) God (3:5).

In accusing Israel of not paying tithes and offerings, the Lord was showing them a concept they refused to see. Such payments had nothing to do with economics or ability to pay. Instead, it was an issue of faith. In paying tithes and offerings to God in faith, one opened up the windows of heaven to pour out blessings, which could include economic blessings. These moneys paid to maintain the temple, to help the poor, widows and orphans, and to bring about God’s great work. Neglecting these offerings meant man refused to be a partner with God in caring for the poor, and in moving his great works forward. Yet the proud thought that the wicked were blessed with wealth and all things needed, while the righteous never could get ahead. They did not understand that their material wealth was a fleeting thing that would end (ch 3).

It is in chapter four that God explains what will happen in the long run to the proud, the wealthy, and the other wicked who do not serve Him. While the righteous will go through a refiner’s fire that will purify them into God’s useful tools, the wicked and proud will burn as stubble. Stubble is what is left over in the field after the harvest, when the grain and hay has been cut and collected. After the harvest, the stubble was burnt to help prepare the land for the next growing season. A good burning would not only burn up the remains one could see above the ground, but would even burn up the roots of the stubble, leaving the ground ready for plowing and planting.

For the righteous, the Son of Righteousness will come with “healing in his wings.” He will heal those who have suffered for God’s name. He will heal the sick, wounded, widow, orphan, poor. He will heal those who have patiently waited on his name, offering righteous sacrifices and offerings in his name.

Finally, Malachi saw that prior to the Messiah’s 2nd Coming, Elijah the Prophet must return to prepare the way, turning the hearts of fathers and children to one another, otherwise there would be no one to save at the Lord’s return. This occurred when the Lord suddenly appeared at the Kirtland Temple in 1836, during the Jewish festival of Passover (D&C 110). Elijah gave to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery the sealing powers. These priesthood powers allowed families to be sealed eternally, and to receive the greatest blessings of the temple. As I’ve noted before, the temple is the holy space on earth, where man prepares to see God’s face. We are sealed to God in the holy temples, and prepare and practice in those temples to be in the Lord’s presence and see his face. This return of Elijah is such an important prophecy that many Jews still reserve an empty seat at their dinner table for the Prophet during their Passover meal. What they do not know is that Elijah did return at Passover, preparing the way for the Lord’s Second Coming.


And with that Second Coming, of which both Zechariah and Malachi spoke of, will come the final restoration. As I stated, the Old Testament is a recurring story of Creation, Fall and Restoration. At the Second Coming, Israel will be restored to its true promise. All the righteous will be restored to God’s presence. The Messiah will come with healing in his wings, restoring us to a perfect joy and happiness. And the temple is the holy place where we prepare for that great day when we will see Christ face to face, and wash his feet with our tears for redeeming us.


Book of Zechariah – Wikipedia

Jim Faulconer’s Lesson 48 comments on Zechariah’s chiasmus on Zechariah

New Advent - Zechariah

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson #47, “Let Us Rise Up and Build” Ezra 1-8, Nehemiah 1-8

Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson #47, “Let Us Rise Up and Build”
Ezra 1-8, Nehemiah 1-8


The nation of Israel was carried off into captivity by the Assyrians in 702 BC. The nation of Judah followed in a series of invasions, first by the Assyrians (who reduced Judah’s land mass to an area just around Jerusalem) and completed by the Babylonians around 586 BC.

According to tradition, many in the nation of Israel gathered while in captivity and performed a second Exodus to the north, where they have not been heard from since. Those who remained in Assyria were generally absorbed into their new community, and eventually lost their Israelite identity. Meanwhile, Jeremiah had prophesied that Judah would remain in captivity for 70 years and then return.

Isaiah also prophesied regarding Judah, saying they would remain captive until the future king Cyrus would restore them to their lands (Isa 44-45). Scholars disagree as to when this portion of Isaiah was written. Many claim that it was written not by the original Isaiah, but by a later follower of Isaiah, in the period during which Cyrus of Persia was, indeed, king. This second, or Deutero-Isaiah supposedly used current events to establish prophesies added to Isaiah (First Isaiah or Proto-Isaiah). However, several studies show that the evidence for a 2 Isaiah is not as compelling as some would think.

My good friend (now deceased), Marc Schindler explained that the name “Cyrus” probably wasn’t the original term used, but was replaced by Jews in Cyrus’ day in order to encourage him to restore them to their lands:

“If you accept the Book of Mormon as true, there is no Deutero-Isaiah "problem." However, I feel that the Book of Mormon cannot only withstand the challenge, but the issue can actually be used to illuminate the nature of Isaiah and shed light on why this is such a profound book. When the Deutero-Isaiah theory first became current, there was a lot of emphasis on the difference in vocabulary and word patterns between the various parts of Isaiah. However, as McKenzie points out above, this is no longer an issue. (Besides the study he refers to, there have been word pattern studies done by computer analysis of the Hebrew text at BYU that show no significant differences between the various parts of Isaiah.)
There are two issues: the insertion of Cyrus's name, and the totally different historical context of the latter part of Isaiah. As McKenzie points out, it's not enough of a defence simply to say, "well, you know those 'higher critics,' they don't accept prophecy anyway-they just can't swallow the reality of prophecy," but the issue is that that's not the way God works. There are plenty of examples of specific prophecy in the Old Testament (i.e., Isaiah 7:8, where Isaiah prophesies that within 65 years Ephraim will be destroyed-note that this is in "Proto-Isaiah" and its authorship is not questioned), but prophecies have to make sense to the people to whom they are addressed, and as McKenzie says, the name "Cyrus" and the concept of the Persian Empire wouldn't have made sense to Isaiah's contemporaries. Furthermore, it is the nature of apocalyptic scripture to lay things out in a vision which is symbolic in nature (cf. Daniel's vision of the idol with clay feet, and John's symbolism of angels and beasts)....
when the Jews returned from exile in Babylon, they read what Isaiah wrote, and because there were references to Babylon, assumed that he was talking about events in their day. While this might technically have been correct, they missed the point that Isaiah's prophecies were primarily concerned with the latter days. In editing the book as they passed it down, they substituted the name "Cyrus," which by that point did make sense to them, as he was an historical figure, for what was there originally. We don't know, of course, what "Cyrus" might have replaced, but from the context it appears as if it was a messianic type meant to refer to the 2nd coming of Christ.”

So, Jewish leaders show king Cyrus of Persia a copy of the Jewish scriptures (possibly translated into Persian), where a name for the future messiah was replaced with the king’s name. A spiritual last days event of the Messiah saving Israel from spiritual Babylon becomes King Cyrus saving the Jews by restoring them to their ancestral homeland.

Construction of the Temple

About 50,000 Jews returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the city, but mostly to rebuild the temple. The people of Samaria offered eagerly to help. Samaria included the former lands and capitol city of the kings of the nation of Israel before being carried off by Assyria. While many Israelites remained in the land, there were also many people from other areas of the Assyrian nation that were transplanted into the location. This was done to destroy the original tribal nationalism that was inherent in any conquered people. If they were not living in and beholden to the land of their ancestors, they would eventually be absorbed into the new cultures.

The Samaritans were a mixed race, part Israelite and part everything else the Assyrians could replace them with. Because they were not “pure blooded” Israelites, the Jews in Jerusalem rejected their offer of assistance, intent in building the temple and city on their own.

Later, after Alexander the Great conquered the area, the Samaritans would ask for and be granted the right to build their own temple at Shechem. Their temple was run by Levitical priests who had a falling out with those in Jerusalem, and had settled in Samaria a few years before.

The Samaritans were incensed, to be rejected by the Jews. While many Samaritans were not literal descendants of Israel, many were at least partially descended from it. Those immigrants into the land had taken Jehovah as their God, for he was the god of the land. Their worship was different than the worship of the Jews. It was the version developed or at least influenced by apostate Israel prior to their destruction. Family lines could not be corroborated. The Samaritans were rejected, and the Jews would still hate and distrust them centuries later. However, Jesus would acknowledge that the Samaritans were indeed members of Israel, but tell a Samaritan woman, “ye worship ye know not what” (John 4:22).

The Samaritans would begin attacking the Jews and sabotaging their efforts to build the temple. Finally, the Jews gave up the endeavor. It would be another fifty years before Nehemiah would be sent to be the governor of Judah. He was king Artaxerxes’ right hand man, and asked the king permission to build a wall of protection around the temple. Given permission to build the wall, Nehemiah went with the intention to not only build the wall, but to build the temple. The prophets Haggai and Zechariah would insist that the temple needed to be rebuilt, or the Jews would never be a people of Jehovah.

Governor Nehemiah and his scribe Ezra guided the building of the temple, and of the city wall. In these we see an important concept. The city wall meant protection from Judah’s physical enemies. The temple symbolized protection from the spiritual dangers in the world. Both were needed, and both needed to be constructed at the same time.

Modern walls of protection

Later, among the first actions by modern prophets in establishing a new place of gathering would be to begin preparations for a temple. Joseph Smith built a temple in Kirtland, Ohio. Once the Saints moved to Missouri, plans were immediately established for a temple in Independence. After being chased from Jackson County, Missouri, the Mormons set up further north. One of their first acts there was to plan a temple in Far West. Again, chased from Missouri, a temple in Nauvoo became one of the first efforts among the saints. Nauvoo was successfully built because the saints had time to also establish “walls” of fortification, including their own militia. Finally, in the first week Brigham Young was in the Great Salt Lake Basin, he set a marker for the future temple.

Today, we have about 150 temples in operation or under construction worldwide. The effort to bring the walls of spiritual protection closer to the Saints is an enormous, but important, task in these last days. Brigham Young foresaw the day when hundreds of temples would be upon the earth:

"To accomplish this work there will have to be not only one temple, but thousands of them, and thousands and tens of thousands of men and women will go into those temples and officiate for people who have lived as far back as the Lord shall reveal.: -- Brigham Young, June 22, 1856 Journal of Discourses, 3:372

"I want to see the temple built in a manner that it will endure through the Millennium. This is not the only temple we shall build. There will be hundreds of them built and dedicated to the Lord. This temple will be known as the first temple built in the mountains by the Latter-day Saints. And when the Millennium is over, and all the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, down to the last of their posterity, who come within the reach of the clemency of the gospel, have been redeemed in hundreds of temples through the administration of their children as proxies for them, I want that temple still to stand as a proud monument of the faith, perseverance and industry of the Saints of God in the mountains in the nineteenth century."
--Brigham Young, October 6, 1863, Journal of Discourses, 10:254

In 1990, few would have imagined the day for one hundred active temples was only ten years away. And the focus from ancient times among God’s people was that their salvation depended upon access to a temple.

But why?

Anciently, God spoke with man face to face in sacred places. The first place was in the Garden of Eden, where the Lord spoke with Adam. After being cast out of the Garden, Adam was out of God’s presence for years. He then could only discourse with angels (Moses 54-8). Only near the end of his life, was Adam brought back into God’s presence at Adam-Ondi-Ahman. There, three years before his death, Adam gathered his righteous children around him. Christ appeared and blessed Adam, as his children praised him, calling him Michael the archangel (D&C 107:53-57).

This is what sacred space is all about. At Mount Sinai, Moses tried to bring the Israelites back into the presence of God, but they refused and were left with the Levitical priesthood, which contains the ministering of angels (D&C 84:18-27). Today’s temples are sacred space established so faithful saints can prepare to see the face of God and live.

No wonder it was so important to the survival of the Jews anciently. The temple was needed so individuals could approach God’s sacred space and commune with him. The ancient temple was not just for animal sacrifice. Samuel’s mother prayed there for a son, and received her petition. John the Baptist’s father was serving in the temple when Gabriel the archangel told him he was to have a son. Even the Jerusalem temple, based upon the Aaronic/Levitical Priesthood, opened the windows of heaven so people could receive revelation.

Today, righteous people can receive revelation in the temples. Many attend when they have struggles weighing on their minds and receive inspired answers in what to do. Many see angels and other wonders in the temples of God. And those who are prepared can see Christ and become a living witness of his resurrection.

Yet today, many of our temples are under-utilized. We are so busy with life and distractions, as was ancient Israel when it was destroyed, that we don’t have time. Or so we say. It is time we stop putting off the temple, as did the original Jews who returned to Jerusalem, and start building the sacred space within our own hearts by attending more often. That is one of the main ways we prepare ourselves to see Christ. What could be more important than that?


Marc Shindler’s explanation of Deutero-Isaiah:


Samaritan temple:



Thursday, December 02, 2010

Old Testament Gospel Doctrine lesson #46 Daniel 2

Old Testament Gospel Doctrine lesson #46
Daniel 2


Nebuchadnezzar (also spelled, Nebuchadrezzar, meaning “may Nebo protect the crown”) was one of the greatest kings of Babylon. He and his forebears expanded the Babylonian kingdom into Egypt. In marrying a princess of Mesopotamia, he realized she missed the fruitful hills in the flat desert lands of Babylon. He built her what is now known as one of the ten ancient wonders of the world, the Hanging Gardens. He literally built a mountain in the city of Babel, with waterfalls and gardens hanging everywhere, as a reminder of her home.

Nebuchadnezzar sought to be as great a king as the legendary Nimrod. In previous lessons discussing Nimrod, we see that he reigned from Babylon to Egypt, and was one of Abraham’s key enemies in the ancient stories. According to ancient tradition, Nimrod obtained the garment of Adam through his fathers, when Ham stole the garment from Noah. He used the garment to become rich and powerful. Animals would recognize the garment of Adam and innocently approach him, making him one of the mightiest hunters in the world. Joel foresaw the future armies of Gog and Magog in terms that also describe Nimrod:

“A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth. The land is as the Garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness. Yea, and nothing shall escape them” (Joel 2:3).

Nebuchadnezzar sought to be as powerful and great as Nimrod. Another project he initiated, but never completed was to rebuild the Tower of Babel upon its original foundation that Nimrod set in place about one millennium before. Nebuchadnezzar wanted to be not only the greatest king, but a god. While it does not specify, many scholars believe that the golden image Nebuchadnezzar set up and required all to worship (see Daniel 3), was his own image. He sought to make himself a god, but ended up finding out that Jehovah, the God of the exiled Jews, was more powerful than he and his furnace ever could be. Later in Daniel, we’ll see how this intense desire to make himself a god led to Nebuchadnezzar’s downfall.

Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream
Daniel 2

In his second year as king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar had an intense dream that seemed to have no meaning. He called for all of the counselors in the kingdom. These included the magicians (diviners), the astrologers (conjurer or necromancer), the sorcerers (those who practice witchcraft), and the Chaldeans (the wise men). The king demanded to know the interpretation of the dream, but insisted that he could not even remember the dream, so they would not only have to interpret the dream, but also tell him what the dream was.

Several times the counselors begged the king tell the dream to them, but he insisted he no longer remembered it. He tested them, and they knew it. They came ready to interpret the dream according to whatever their imaginations could create. Yet, they knew that if they pretended to know the actual dream, he would tell them they were wrong, and they would be punished by death for their trickery and falsehoods. As far as they were concerned, “there is not a man on earth that can shew the king’s matter” (Dan 2:10), and so no previous ruler or king had ever asked such an impossible task of his counselors in the past. Nebuchadnezzar was being unreasonable to them. Yet Nebuchadnezzar knew the dream was important enough to demand the correct answer.

Upon hearing the problem and that all the counselors were to be put to death, Daniel spoke up and asked to see the king. The Hebrew God could reveal both the dream and its interpretation through the prophet.

The king saw in vision a great warrior statue. Its head was made of gold, with lower parts made of silver, brass, iron, and a mixture of iron and clay. Then Nebuchadnezzar saw a stone cut out without hands, which went forth growing until it became a great mountain, destroying the image in its path.
“36 This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king.
37Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory.
38And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold.
39And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth.
40And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things: and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise.
41And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters’ clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay.
42And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken.
43And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay.
44And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.”

Daniel explained that the statue was of successive world powers. Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon was the portion of gold, the best one could hope for. According to historic tradition, the following nations followed: Silver = Persia, Brass = Greece, Iron = Rome, and finally the feet of iron and clay represented the nations of the last days.

These final nations, some strong as iron, others weak as clay, combined to form a conglomeration of allies and powers that occasionally held together, but often fell apart. We see such occurring in the ever changing powers and alliances of England, France, Spain, Germany, Russia, the United States, and others. At times each has been strong as iron, while they also have been weak as clay.

It is in such an environment that the stone is cut out without men’s hands. It is a supernatural stone, representing a hardness that is greater than gold, silver, brass or iron. While it will begin small, the stone grows, becoming more powerful until it becomes a mountain that completely overshadows the image or nations of the world. They cannot fight against it, as they break in attacking the stone. This stone is the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ, brought forth AFTER the rein of the Romans – so it is not the mortal ministry of Christ and his apostles that the stone references. It comes later, much later, when the world is not united under one national rule, and when the clay in its feet makes it dangerous, unpredictable and chaotic.

This is the preparation for the Second Coming of Christ, when the gospel in its fullness is restored through God’s power, and not by the political or philosophical ways of man. Kingdoms rise and fall, but only the kingdom of God will go forever; replacing all the world’s kingdoms when Christ comes again in power and glory.