Tuesday, May 24, 2011

New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 22: “Inherit the Kingdom Prepared for You” Matthew 25

New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 22: “Inherit the Kingdom Prepared for You”
Matthew 25

What is heaven like, and how does one make it in? Jesus shares a few parables to explain these.

The Parable of the Ten Virgins

In a June 2007 Ensign article by Elder Lynn G. Robbins of the Seventy, we are encouraged to think of the Parable of the Ten Virgins as connected to the temple. Elder Robbins remarked, “When speaking of His Second Coming, the Lord has said, ‘I will suddenly come to my temple’ (D&C 36:8; see also D&C 42:36; 133:2; Malachi 3:1; 3 Nephi 24:1). Because He will come to His temple, we would be wise to prepare to meet Him by being temple worthy.”

There is much we may consider in light of the modern temple experience and the Parable of the Ten Virgins:

1. The Virgins are good people. They are, after all, virgins. The question is, will they remain steadfast in their purity until they are called forth? Or will they allow their purity dim before they arrive at the marriage feast?
2. The temple is the House of the Lord. It is where we prepare to see the Face of God and be in His Presence (Shekinah). To become part of the Groom’s family (i.e., his bride) means you have full access to Him, his presence, and the blessings of his riches.
3. The temple is a place for marriage, particularly eternal marriage, but also where we bind ourselves to God through sacred oaths and covenants of obedience and faithfulness.
4. To enter the temple, one must be worthy. While we do not have to be virgins, we must be chaste and holy. Our light must shine and not be distinguished. We must endure to the end and not falter or let our lights dim prior to our appearance before the Lord.
5. There is a “keeper of the gate” in both the parable and in the temple. This person ensures only those properly prepared may enter. Brigham Young taught that "Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the House of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, being enabled to give them the key words, the signs and tokens, pertaining to the Holy Priesthood, and gain your eternal exaltation in spite of earth and hell." (Journal of Discourses 2:31). This “keeper of the gate” is well attested to in ancient Jewish and Christian writings (see Apocalypse of Paul).
6. The lamps of oil were used as part of the procession. They lit the way to the actual wedding, and were a necessary part of the procession. To have one’s light go out while going to the wedding was an insult to the groom and his family. In modern terms, we have to provide righteous desires and acts to establish our character and worthiness to be a member of the wedding party.

In choosing to be a wise Virgin, we prepare for the wedding of the Bridegroom and to enter into His Presence. As with the Virgins, there should be no other thing more important than to prepare and wait for him to call for us.

Parable of the Talents

Bryce Anderson notes not only Elder Robbins’ connections regarding the Ten Virgins, but also in his second blog post on Matthew 25, a relationship between the Parable of the Talents and the temple.

He explains that Christ is the man who has traveled far from home (heaven), leaving his treasures and business in the hands of his servants. God “endowed” each of us with certain talents or gifts, and charged us to do something useful and productive with those gifts. Whether we think of these talents in terms of money, artistic abilities, or spiritual endowments of knowledge and power, it is the same.

Anderson notes regarding the person with five talents: “The first disciple was true and faithful to the talents that he had been given of the Lord, and upon giving them back to the Lord was allowed into the Lord’s presence, the celestial kingdom, to be made a ruler, a king and a priest.”

In considering the Parable of the Talents, we may consider it in another way. God gives to Latter-day Saints callings and responsibilities. Not everyone will be an apostle, stake president or bishop. Each is given a responsibility, however. Whether it is a large task, where 5 talents is given to be an apostle, or a smaller task as nursery leader requiring two talents, it is the same to God. When both individuals performed faithfully and did their best, both were promised great rewards in the kingdom of God. This is practiced in the temple. Righteous members enter the House of the Lord dressed in their best, whether it is a $500 dress from Neiman-Marcus, or the best one can find at Goodwill. All enter and change into simple white clothing that makes all of us equal before God. All receive identical ordinances. All receive the blessing of entering into the celestial room, representing the Presence (Shekinah) of the Lord. All are promised eternal lives and exaltation.

It doesn’t matter to God how many talents each of us receives, but what we do with what we have. And in being faithful, we will receive of His fullness.

For the last servant, God did not attempt to overburden him. He gave him just one small responsibility or talent to develop. But the servant rejected the call to serve and develop that talent. As with the foolish virgins, he allowed his light to go out. He intentionally buried the gifts of God, so that he would not have to work and produce and become holy. There are many members of the Church that promise and covenant to keep commandments, serve, and obey. Yet there are few who actually follow through. Only a small percentage of members enter into the temple and receive all its promises. The only reason why so few enter, is that most bury their spiritual gifts. People do not wish to pay tithes, live the Word of Wisdom, obey the law of chastity.

In rejecting and not developing the talents and covenants given them, they have shut the door on their exaltation. When the gifts are so fully rejected that we bury them completely away where we do not have to deal with them at all, the person has become an enemy to Christ, and is not worthy of his kingdom. There is only one place for a son of perdition, who has despised the spiritual gifts and promises made to him. Even if he had partially worked with the talent given him, he would have been worthy of some reward in the heavens. But he not only ignored the talent, he intentionally buried it, called the Lord a hard man (blaming the Lord and setting up an adversarial relationship).

In the temple, we learn that we may develop a loving and eternal relationship with God. However, we also learn that some choose to be an adversary instead. Such are sent away, not allowed into the wedding chamber, nor rewarded with greater blessings of the Lord.


Jesus taught that heaven is a great feast, where we are made rulers over many things. However, to enter into the feast, one must be prepared. We must take the lamp we are given and fill it with oil, with enough to spare, so that it does not go out. We must not bury the lamp or talents, but do the best we can to develop and grow. Our light must shine before the world as a witness to the Bridegroom, so that others may see our good works and glorify in God as well (Matt 5:14-16). As with the wise Virgins, we are to invite others to the wedding, encouraging them to go out and obtain their own oil and good works, so that when the Lord does come, we will all be ready to enter into His Presence.


Elder Lynn G. Robbins, “Oil in Our Lamps”, Ensign, June 2007

Bryce Hammond’s Temple Study blog, “Temple Imagery in the Parables of Matthew 25”:
Part One: http://www.templestudy.com/2008/03/06/temple-imagery-in-the-parables-of-matthew-25-part-1/
Part Two:

Apocalypse of Paul (gatekeeper in the heavens):

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 21: “What Is the Sign of Thy Coming?” Matthew 24, JST Matt 1, D&C 45, 87, 88

New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 21: “What Is the Sign of Thy Coming?”
Matthew 24, JST Matt 1, D&C 45

Death and Return of Christ

Jesus was speaking more and more of his impending death. The apostles could sense the tension created by such a teaching. Yet they would have to deal with it. He spoke openly of the destruction of Jerusalem and of his own death. To this end, the disciples privately asked him regarding the end of the world and Jesus’ return.

Jesus did not know when his return would be (Matt 24:36). Only God the Father knows this. For Jesus, it could very well have been in that same generation, and so he tells the apostles that some in that generation may still be alive when these things occur:

“Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (Matt 24:34).

For some, this shows Jesus made a mistake in his prophesy. That may be true, however there are other possible reasons for his statement. First, we are looking at statements written down decades after the death of Jesus, which may not be fully accurate. However, I do believe that this is an accurate statement of Jesus, which leads to a second possibility: that Jesus’ prophesy has a double conclusion, one in his time, and then again in the latter days. For Jesus and other prophets, the people of their day did live in a “last days”, whether it would be the very final “last days” before Jesus’ Second Coming OR a day in which judgment and destruction would come upon the people. For all people, their final judgment IS imminent at death, if not before.

The Last Days of Jerusalem and of the World

He first warned the disciples not to be deceived. Many would come claiming to be the Christ, but the true Savior would come with power and glory. It would be in a time when there would be “wars and rumors of wars” and natural disasters of all types. We are told not to be troubled by these things. Why?

Because these are only the “beginning of sorrows.” Yes, it gets worse.

Then the world will turn against the church of Christ. It will provide its own prophets of salvation to show the path out of the destructions going on around everywhere. However, we must note that just because there will be false Christs and prophets, does not mean they are all false. For the true Christ will come, and assuredly he will prepare the way of his coming through true prophets.

“The love of many will wax cold.” True love, the love of Christ, is replaced by a cheap substitute, lust. People no longer stay married, developing the kind of love and trust that carries a couple through both thick and thin. Instead, physical attraction causes an intense feeling, but it isn’t actually love. Chemical reactions replace choice whenever Lust kills off true Love.

Abomination of Desolation

In Matthew 24:16, the Lord warns them to watch for the “Abomination of Desolation” prophesied by Daniel. His disciples are to flee to the mountains when they see it come to pass. He told them, “stand in the holy place” (v. 15).

For Jerusalem, the Abomination of Desolation began with the war against Rome (66 AD). As Rome’s imperial power pushed Jews further and further away from their own roots, radical elements sprang up. Many of these belonged to the Jewish sect called the Zealots (named after Simon Zealotes). These Jews pushed the Romans out of Jerusalem, forcing the Roman general Titus to lay siege to the city for 1 ½ years.

Titus was ingenious in his siege. He allowed over one million Jewish pilgrims to enter Jerusalem for Passover, only to refuse letting them out again. Those who sought to sneak away had their throats cut by the leaders of the Zealots. Food and water became scarce. By the time the Romans successfully took the entire city, Josephus claims that over one million Jews died from starvation, disease, or the sword.

Inside the city, the rich were as bad off as the poor. Mobs of robbers roamed the streets, looking for food and bounty. Josephus tells us:

“The madness of the seditious did also increase together with their famine, and both those miseries were every day inflamed more and more; for there was no corn which any where appeared publicly, but the robbers came running into, and searched men's private houses; and then, if they found any, they tormented them, because they had denied they had any; and if they found none, they tormented them worse, because they supposed they had more carefully concealed it. The indication they made use of whether they had any or not was taken from the bodies of these miserable wretches; which, if they were in good case, they supposed they were in no want at all of food; but if they were wasted away, they walked off without searching any further; nor did they think it proper to kill such as these, because they saw they would very soon die of themselves for want of food. Many there were indeed who sold what they had for one measure; it was of wheat, if they were of the richer sort; but of barley, if they were poorer. When these had so done, they shut themselves up in the inmost rooms of their houses, and ate the corn they had gotten; some did it without grinding it, by reason of the extremity of the want they were in, and others baked bread of it, according as necessity and fear dictated to them: a table was no where laid for a distinct meal, but they snatched the bread out of the fire, half-baked, and ate it very hastily....children pulled the very morsels that their fathers were eating out of their very mouths, and what was still more to be pitied, so did the mothers do as to their infants; and when those that were most dear were perishing under their hands, they were not ashamed to take from them the very last drops that might preserve their lives: and while they ate after this manner, yet were they not concealed in so doing; but the seditious every where came upon them immediately, and snatched away from them what they had gotten from others; for when they saw any house shut up, this was to them a signal that the people within had gotten some food; whereupon they broke open the doors, and ran in, and took pieces of what they were eating almost up out of their very throats, and this by force: the old men, who held their food fast, were beaten; and if the women hid what they had within their hands, their hair was torn for so doing; nor was there any commiseration shown either to the aged or to the infants, but they lifted up children from the ground as they hung upon the morsels they had gotten, and shook them down upon the floor. “ (Josephus Flavius, War of the Jews, , Book 5,Ch 10).

Even worse things happened in the city, however. The mobs drove many of the people to suicide, murder, and cannibalism. Josephus tells of a wealthy woman named Mary, who was plundered, raped, and pillaged so often by the mobs that she turned to insane actions:

“She then attempted a most unnatural thing; and snatching up her son, who was a child sucking at her breast, she said, "O thou miserable infant! for whom shall I preserve thee in this war, this famine, and this sedition? As to the war with the Romans, if they preserve our lives, we must be slaves. This famine also will destroy us, even before that slavery comes upon us. Yet are these seditious rogues more terrible than both the other. Come on; be thou my food, and be thou a fury to these seditious varlets, and a by-word to the world, which is all that is now wanting to complete the calamities of us Jews." As soon as she had said this, she slew her son, and then roasted him, and eat the one half of him, and kept the other half by her concealed. Upon this the seditious came in presently, and smelling the horrid scent of this food, they threatened her that they would cut her throat immediately if she did not show them what food she had gotten ready. She replied that she had saved a very fine portion of it for them, and withal uncovered what was left of her son. Hereupon they were seized with a horror and amazement of mind, and stood astonished at the sight, when she said to them, "This is mine own son, and what hath been done was mine own doing! Come, eat of this food; for I have eaten of it myself! Do not you pretend to be either more tender than a woman, or more compassionate than a mother; but if you be so scrupulous, and do abominate this my sacrifice, as I have eaten the one half, let the rest be reserved for me also." After which those men went out trembling, being never so much aftrighted at any thing as they were at this, and with some difficulty they left the rest of that meat to the mother. Upon which the whole city was full of this horrid action immediately; and while every body laid this miserable case before their own eyes, they trembled, as if this unheard of action had been done by themselves. So those that were thus distressed by the famine were very desirous to die, and those already dead were esteemed happy, because they had not lived long enough either to hear or to see such miseries” (Flavius Josephus, War of the Jews, Book 6, Chapter 3).

When Titus finally did take the city, a fire was started that went out of control. It was not his intention to destroy the temple, but to convert it for use by the Roman gods. But the fire spread throughout King Herod’s temple complex, bringing it to destruction.

So we see just what the Abomination of Desolation was all about. The story is that the Christian Jews foresaw the destruction of Jerusalem and did flee into the wilderness and mountains, escaping the terror and horror of the Abomination of Desolation of 70 AD.

Indeed, the Savior told them, “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand)” (Matt 24:15). For the disciples, this meant fleeing to the mountains for safety. Interestingly, when Titus made his final assault on Jerusalem, many Jews fled to the temple, believing it was a holy place which would save them. However, the temple had long ago been desecrated and rejected by the Lord. There would be no sanctuary in Jerusalem anymore, at least not until the end times.

Modern Prophesy of the End Times
D&C 45, 87, 88, 133

Joseph Smith’s revelations contain additional information regarding the destructions and trials of the last days, preparing us for the Second Coming of Christ.

“89 For after your testimony cometh the testimony of earthquakes, that shall cause groanings in the midst of her, and men shall fall upon the ground and shall not be able to stand.
90 And also cometh the testimony of the voice of thunderings, and the voice of lightnings, and the voice of tempests, and the voice of the waves of the sea heaving themselves beyond their bounds.
91 And all things shall be in commotion; and surely, men’s hearts shall fail them; for fear shall come upon all people” (D&C 88).

In the last days, the world will be divided into following Christ and the Anti-Christ. In LDS parlance, we call it Zion and Babylon. These will be religious/political ideologies that are very different from on another. In the last days, the world (Babylon) will establish itself in many places with great power. Yet, regardless of its attempts at control, will actually cause much chaos in many places.

Even America will go through a period of chaos and mobs. In such a time, righteous people of many faiths will gather together to form Zion. Zion is any place where righteous people of Christ gather. For Latter-day Saints, we religiously set up such locations throughout the world, and call them “stakes”. These are gathering places for times of destruction, war, and chaos. There will be a center stake or city to Zion. It is to such places that the righteous will flee for refuge in the last days:

“66 And it shall be called the New Jerusalem, a land of peace, a city of refuge, a place of safety for the saints of the Most High God;
67 And the glory of the Lord shall be there, and the terror of the Lord also shall be there, insomuch that the wicked will not come unto it, and it shall be called Zion.
68 And it shall come to pass among the wicked, that every man that will not take his sword against his neighbor must needs flee unto Zion for safety.
69 And there shall be gathered unto it out of every nation under heaven; and it shall be the only people that shall not be at war one with another.
70 And it shall be said among the wicked: Let us not go up to battle against Zion, for the inhabitants of Zion are terrible; wherefore we cannot stand.
71 And it shall come to pass that the righteous shall be gathered out from among all nations, and shall come to Zion, singing with songs of everlasting joy” (D&C 45:66-71).

We are frequently told in the Bible and other LDS scripture to “stand in holy places, and be not moved” (D&C 87:8). Such places for our day may be in our homes, if we keep them sacred. But they are also the stakes of Zion, and in holy temples established in the midst of those stakes.

Christ’s prophecy of the last days happened in the days of his disciples, but will also happen in our day. When the Abomination of Desolation flows over the earth, we must stand in holy places.


Siege of Jerusalem (wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Jerusalem_(70)

Flavius Josephus, War of the Jews Book 5, Ch 10:

Flavius Josephus, War of the Jews, Book 6, Chapter 3

Doctrine and Covenants 45

Doctrine and Covenants 87, the Prophecy on War

Doctrine and Covenants 88, the Olive Leaf

For my personal understanding of D&C 87 as a prophecy leading up to the last days, go here:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 20: “Woe unto You, … Hypocrites” John 12, Matthew 21-23

New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 20: “Woe unto You, … Hypocrites”
John 12, Matthew 21-23

The Return of the King
Matthew 21

With this lesson, we begin the final week of the Lord’s mortal life and ministry. He has gained followers throughout Israel over the preceding three years, but he has also gained many enemies. His critique of the Sadduccees and Pharisees has increased with each visit to Jerusalem, especially at the previous Festival of Tabernacles and Festival of Dedication.

It is Springtime, and the animals are birthing in the fields. It is the time of Passover, when Israel solemnly remembers the Ten Miracles of Moses in Egypt, culminating in the sacrifice of the unblemished lamb, sprinkling its blood on the doorposts so that the Destroyer will pass over that household, and eating its flesh as a symbol of salvation.

Jesus stays in Bethany at night during much of the festival. It is a small town near Jerusalem. Recently, this blog discussed the miracle of raising Lazarus from the grave, as paralleled by the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. Such notoriety from such miracles have preceded Jesus into Jerusalem. The leaders of the Jews fear him and his power.

And now the Messiah enters triumphantly into the city of David. He rides while his followers wave palm fronds and lay their cloaks out for him to ride upon. The laying out of cloaks was a sign of submission, while the palm fronds represented victory. First century Jewish coins had a palm leaf symbol with the phrase “redemption of Zion” on them, signifying that the Jews sought a Messiah who would save them from Rome’s oppression. Jesus’ riding on the ass’ foal fulfilled a prophecy of Zechariah (Zech 9:9). Jesus chose a donkey to ride upon. Horses were used for war. Donkeys were a symbol of peace. The colt especially was a harmless and peaceful animal, just as Christ was come to be the Prince of Peace and not the violent warrior many Jews wished for.

The people shouted out, “Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest” (Matt 21:9). Hosanna means “save now” or “save us”. So the people were asking Christ to save them. As Son of David, they recognized him as their king. King David successfully defeated the enemies of Israel, and they expected Jesus to do the same.

The shout comes from Psalms 118:

10 All nations compassed me about: but in the name of the Lord will I destroy them.
11They compassed me about; yea, they compassed me about: but in the name of the Lord I will destroy them.
12 They compassed me about like bees; they are quenched as the fire of thorns: for in the name of the Lord I will destroy them.
13 Thou hast thrust sore at me that I might fall: but the Lord helped me.
14 The Lord is my strength and song, and is become my salvation.
15 The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tabernacles of the righteous: the right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly.
16 The right hand of the Lord is exalted: the right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly.
17 I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.
18 The Lord hath chastened me sore: but he hath not given me over unto death.
19 Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the Lord:
20 This gate of the Lord, into which the righteous shall enter.
21 I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation.
22 The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.
23 This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.
24 This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.
25 Save now, I beseech thee, O Lord: O Lord, I beseech thee, send now prosperity.
26 Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord: we have blessed you out of the house of the Lord.
27 God is the Lord, which hath shewed us light: bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar.
28 Thou art my God, and I will praise thee: thou art my God, I will exalt thee.
29 O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.

We will see that Jesus will quote a portion of this later to the Jewish leaders, telling them he is the stone which the builders (they) had rejected. For now, the people are begging him to “Save now” (Hosanna) and to send prosperity (in the highest). Yet the people do not fully understand the Messianic meaning of the Psalm. For them, the sacrifice would be the destruction of Rome. However, Jesus knows, even as he enters triumphantly into the City of David, he is the sacrifice bound with cords to the altar of the temple.

This triumphant entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday will be very different than his exit out the gate on Friday. Instead of riding, he will be carrying his own cross. Instead of shouting “Hosanna!”, the people will shout “crucify him!” Instead of being Son of David and King of Israel, he will be a traitor, blasphemer and a criminal worthy of the worst death imaginable. Instead of being surrounded by believers, he will have thieves to each side. Instead of reviving the dead Lazarus on the Saturday before, he will die.

The Fig Tree

Unlike many other types of fruit tree, the fig first puts out its fruit and then come the leaves. When Jesus was “afar off” he saw the tree full of leaves. He anticipated a meal after traveling back to Jerusalem, but was disappointed to see the tree had no fruit. In its own way, the tree deceived him, and so he cursed it for not fulfilling its calling to bear fruit and multiply.

The fig tree symbolizes the Jewish leaders of his day. From a distance, they looked like true leaders of God’s Church. But upon closer inspection, one could see they bore no real fruit. They were deceivers that encouraged people to come to them for spiritual nourishment, only to leave them wanting. Later, Jesus would condemn the Pharisees as hypocrites. They made their disciples worse than they themselves were. These were people seeking God at God’s holy temple, but were left spiritually twisted and depraved.

Jesus cursed the tree to never more have fruit, but to wither and die. For the Pharisees, he sought them to never more have disciples to destroy. He wished them to wither away and die, as well. Symbolic of this is Jesus’ first act in going to Jerusalem: cleansing the temple.

The temple represented the House of the Lord, the most sacred spot on earth. From a distance it looked magnificent and astounding. It was a wonder to behold. But it was desecrated by money changers, turned from a holy place to a market place. Jesus described the Pharisees and the current Jewish religions as a white sepulchre (Matthew 23:27-28). From the outside they looked magnificent and inspiring. But inside, one only found dried, bleached bones. Starvation and death awaited those who depended upon the deceptive fig tree or upon the Pharisees.

Answering the Hypocrites
Matthew 22

Jesus’ answers became more biting towards the Pharisees and Sadduccees. He was forcing people to get off the fence and choose who they would follow: the traditions of men, or the Messiah.

The Parable of the Wedding of the King’s Son describes a huge event. For his friends and servants to ignore his invitation was to shun him. He was humiliated by the other prominent men of the kingdom when they even mocked and murdered those sent out with the invitations. These are actions worthy of war.

The Jews had often slain the prophets, who were sent to invite all mankind to believe in Christ. The King would destroy those who rejected the invitation to come. Instead, the King would then invite the poor and humble in circumstance to the wedding. This showed that the Jewish leaders and much of the people would be rejected as God’s covenant people. It also looks forward to the day when the gospel would go outside of the kingdom of Israel and into the “highways” to bring in Gentiles and whomever else was willing to come.

One guest had not dressed for the wedding. Upon arriving at such a wedding, it was expected for the guests to stop long enough to change into wedding garments. Often these were provided, so they only had to change. For one invited to break with such an important issue meant the person was showing huge disrespect for the wedding party. The person showed up for the food, but not to honor the King nor his Son. Such dishonor required quick action. When asked why he did not change, the man “remained speechless”, meaning he did not have a good reason for breaking protocol. He intentionally went in without changing, not caring to show respect.

That the scripture says he is bound and cast into Outer Darkness, suggests even more. Those who merit Outer Darkness are like Satan, they seek to destroy God’s plan and overthrow God. The man who did not change into the wedding garment, sought heaven on his own terms. As Lucifer seeking to overthrow God’s throne (Isaiah 14) would be cast out of his grave, or the Pharisees attempting to steal the religion from Jesus, this is an issue of outright rebellion.

Resurrection and Marriage

Later, the Sadduccees would attempt to trick Christ. They did not believe in resurrection, yet still posed to him a question regarding resurrection. A woman married a man, who died. In the Mosaic law, she was then to marry a relative of the man in order to raise seed to him. Yet, she sequentially married his brothers with all dying. Finally she died, meaning there was no seed. They asked which man she would be left with in the resurrection.

Jesus’ answer does not say there is no marriage whatsoever in heaven. It says there is no marriage in heaven for this woman and her husbands:

29 Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.
30 For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.
31 But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying,
32 I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.

Jesus was telling them that there IS a resurrection. The woman and her husbands would not be married in heaven, because they were not worthy of such a blessing. Why? Because since Sadduccees, who did not believe in resurrection nor in Christ, were asking the question, they would not have eternal marriage, either. Such would be angels in heaven, having rejected the most important parts of the gospel. Rather than being the “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17), they would be “angels of God in heaven.”

This is an example of levels of glory in heaven. Jesus noted that the woman and men would still receive place in God’s heaven. However, they will not receive his highest glory, reserved for those who accept the fullness of Christ’s gospel.

The Two Great Commandments

According to the Jewish scholar Maimonides, In the Mosaic Law there are 613 Mitzvot or commandments. These include the Ten Commandments, but also a myriad of laws regarding the Jewish health code, temple, and Sabbath observance. This included good laws, but also many we would consider strange or excessive today.
A lawyer of the sect of Pharisees asked Jesus, “what is the greatest commandment?” Pharisees were very strict followers of the law. Not only did they have the 613 laws from the Bible, but had added a series of laws and requirements of their own as a wall or barrier to keep people from breaking the laws of the Torah (books of Moses). These included many Sabbath laws that prevented men from helping others in trouble on the Sabbath - a key reason the Pharisees condemned Jesus for healing on the Sabbath.

For the Savior, there was an easy answer:
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matt 22:37-39).

The Law and the Prophets were the 613 laws given in the Mosaic Law, plus the additional teachings of all the prophets since Moses. The Mosaic Law commanded a person to love his neighbor (other Israelites), but it was okay to hate their enemies. Now Christ brought the law into a new perspective. They were to love all mankind.

What Think Ye of Christ?

Jesus then posed a difficult question to the Jewish leaders:

41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them,
42 Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David.
43 He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying,
44 The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool?
45 If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?
46 And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.

They believed the Christ or Messiah would be the literal Son of David, and as such would come as a mortal king to destroy the enemies of Israel, which in their time were the Romans.

Jesus teaches them that the coming Messiah would not just be the Son of David, but would actually be Yahweh/Jehovah, the Lord. The Messiah would be the literal Son of God, and not just an archangel sent to earth to fight Israel’s battles. Old Testament Scholar Margaret Barker notes that the ancient Jews understood that Yahweh was their Messiah. The Jews lost this understanding before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. Jesus was restoring this understanding, something the early Christians definitely understood and embraced.

After all his miracles (including raising Lazarus just a couple days before), his remarkable entrance into Jerusalem, and his ability to stymie the best lawyers and scholars of the Jews, they would no more ask him questions in public.

Don’t be a Pharisee
Matthew 23

Jesus warned his disciples to follow the teachings of the Mosaic Law when taught by the Pharisees, but not to follow their example. The Pharisees followed the letter of the law, but not the spirit. Their actions betrayed their insincerity.

The Law of Moses required the wearing of phylacteries, little boxes with scripture hung from the forehead and wrist. While the Pharisees did this, they wore very large ones, to stand out. For them, it was a sign of righteousness to have a bigger phylactery than the next person. The inner vessel did not matter.

On the edge of their Talit or prayer shawl, Jews wore a knotted fringe on the shawl, called tzit-tzit. In Numbers 15:37-41, the Lord commanded Israel to wear such a fringe to remind them to keep the commandments. For the Pharisees, however, the fringe was not used to remind them of their duties, but as an outward display to others that they were holy. In their attempt to show holiness, they allowed pride and narcissism to corrupt them. The temple was also corrupted in the same way. It was the symbol of God’s presence, but instead was a place for the Jewish leaders to make a large profit off those people traveling from afar to Passover. At Passover, they would be expected to spend local currency, and so money changers would extract huge gains through corrupt exchange rates. Then travelers would have to purchase animals for sacrifice. Again, they would be forced to spend large sums to buy sacrificial animals to offer up to God.

Just as with the fig tree, the focus was on the pretty leaves that could be seen from a distance, rather than the fruit. But upon close inspection, the tree, the temple and the Pharisees were all barren of fruit.

13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.
14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.
15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.
16 Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor!
17 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold?

The Pharisees had exchanged the important things of the spirit for things of the flesh. Widows seeking salvation would spend everything they had to buy animals to sacrifice at the temple, enriching the Pharisees and scribes of the temple. For the Pharisees, the length of the prayer was more important than the intent behind the prayer. They sought out converts, which they would then corrupt by their true methods. If the Pharisee could be corruptible, the convert could go several steps beyond in enriching himself and his Pharisaic leaders. Gold was more important than the temple’s real purpose. They were taking the symbol of heaven and casting it down to hell. They would soon take the Son of God and desecrate him, as well.

Today the same call goes out. Are we Pharisees or true followers of Christ? Do we give lip service to God, while enriching ourselves upon the backs of the widows and orphans? Do we show ourselves to better Christians by having a larger cross, bigger Bible, or dropping more into the offering plate in a manner where everyone else sees it? Do we build ourselves up by tearing down the publicans and sinners of our day?

In our daily lives, do we embrace the Christ, laying palm branches and our cloaks down before him? Or are we waiting in the shadows for the time to betray him? Each of us must answer for ourselves if we have truly accepted and received Jesus the Messiah as our personal Lord and Savior. And then we must answer if we truly are following him, or as the fig tree are only wearing the leaves of our deception?


Palm Sunday (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palm_Sunday

Alfred Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/edersheim/lifetimes.toc.html

Ibid, the Fig Tree

The 613 Mitzvot: http://www.jewfaq.org/613.htm

Margaret Barker on Jesus as Messiah:




Margaret Barker’s Book, The Great Angel, a Study of Israel’s Second God:
Amazon.com Margaret Barker's Great Angel

Talit and tzit-tzit: http://www.religionfacts.com/judaism/things/tallit.htm

Thursday, May 05, 2011

New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 19: “Thy Faith Hath Saved Thee” Luke 18-19, John 11

New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 19: “Thy Faith Hath Saved Thee”
Luke 18-19, John 11

God Hears our Petitions
Luke 18

The Unjust Judge and the Widow

The theme of this chapter, as relating to the lesson are regarding prayer and offering petition to God. Jesus has just discussed concepts regarding his Second Coming (Luke 17:20-37). He explains that there will be destruction for those who do not follow him with their whole heart. “Remember Lot’s wife” is a warning to those who would look back to their old existence, rather than keep their face focused forward on following the Savior. The last days would be like in the times of Noah, where some would claim to be the Savior in various locations, but we should not believe it, for Christ will come in glory. In the days of Noah, Enoch’s city was translated or raptured from the earth. As the Flood neared, the last of the righteous either died of old age, or were carried up to the heavenly city of Enoch. God prepared a refuge for the righteous (either in Enoch’s city or in the ark). However, everyone else lived each day as the last: eating, drinking and marrying in a form the seemed righteous, but was only a shadowy apostate version of Christ’s form of righteousness. These were left behind for destruction in the Flood. And in the last days, destruction awaits those who do not await the Lord.

It is in this instance that we compare the unjust judge to the wicked in the days of destruction. He is comparable to the wicked in the days of Noah, the last days before the 2nd Coming, or the days of Christ prior to Jerusalem’s destruction in 70AD. The judge spent his time eating, drinking and marrying in his apostate way that focused him away from God and towards material pleasures.

He was basically a circuit court judge, traveling from town to town, and only seeing those cases on his agenda. It usually required bribes to be placed on the docket. The widow had two strikes against her: she was a woman, and she had no money for a bribe. She doesn’t want any advantage in her case, she just wants to be heard and to receive proper justice.

Yet, even in his wickedness, he could not stand to listen constantly to the whining demands of the widow. He insisted that he cared not for the things of man or God, since he was a self-made man with no time for fools or deity. He denied the two great commandments: love God and man. Yet, he would grant her request just to get her out of his hair.

Jesus explained that God is righteous and just, and therefore eager to fulfill our righteous prayers in his time and way. He does not ignore the prayers and pleas of the widow, nor anyone else. Given this is tied to the 2nd Coming of Christ, we learn that we must not give up hope and faith, for God will deliver us from our enemies, giving us justice, at the last day (if not before).

The Pharisee and the Publican

Publicans are tax collectors. When the Romans desired taxes to be collected, they would contract out the work to publicans. The publican would add a fee on top of the tax for his work. Many publicans added stiff fees and penalties, some contrary to the Law of Moses. Publicans were often viewed as traitors to Judaism, the Law of Moses, and were despised by Jews in general.

Pharisees were among the main religious leaders of Jesus’ day. They closely followed the teachings of Moses. So strict was their interpretation of the Law, they built a wall of rules around the Torah (writings of Moses) to protect them from anyone looking for loop holes. Pharisaic laws prevented tying certain knots on the Sabbath, as well as anyone healing on that day. Jesus compared the two men.

Who is more righteous: the Pharisee who publicly prides himself in prayer of how he pays his tithes and offerings and does so many other wonderful things for the world to see? Or the publican, who quietly finds a corner of the room, and beats himself on the chest repenting for how wicked he has been?

“14 I tell you, this man (the publican) went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”

The Blind Man

Not long afterward, along the road to Jericho, a blind man heard the noise of a crowd. When he asked what was happening, someone told him that Jesus was passing by. Here was the man’s chance to receive his sight. He began to cry out for the Lord to have mercy on him and heal him. Some tried to shush him, but as with the widow’s cries to the unjust judge, he only became louder. When Jesus heard his cries, he immediately went to the rescue. Asking what he could do for the man, the man begged for his sight and then received it.

“42 And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee.”

Interestingly, we find that it is faith that saves. Had the man not believed in Jesus, he would not have received his eyesight. And without faith, we cannot be saved from hell through Christ’s atonement. Faith leads to repentance, and repentance is the necessary step towards this rescue. Then, the man’s life from here on out would determine what level of glory in salvation he would receive from Jesus. Celestial works receive celestial glory. Telestial works receive a telestial glory (D&C 76, 88).

Luke 19

In Jericho, Zacchæus was the chief publican “and he was rich” (v 2). Obviously a very wealthy and powerful person, yet also greatly despised by most, he sought out Jesus. Being short of stature, he climbed a tree to spot the Lord. Jesus looked up at him and called him to prepare his table, for the Lord would stay with him that evening. Imagine, Jesus staying with a publican! This was a disgraceful thing for any good Jew to do. Wicked people were considered unclean, and publicans were among the most unclean. Yet Jesus had already told the Jews that he was the father of the Prodigal Son, ready to run to the unclean and shunned man as he sought to return to his people and father. Now Jesus would show that he meant what he said, by staying and eating with a man who seemed to be living a wicked life: consorting with Romans and pagans, collecting ill gotten gains from the Jews, and making himself rich off the backs of others.

"7 And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.
8 And Zacchæus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.
9 And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.
10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost."

Scratching the surface and getting to know the man, we see that in reality, he was not the greedy and evil sinner that most people believed of publicans. In truth, he donated 50% of his wealth to the poor, far greater than any tithe of 10%, which the Pharisees might have paid. And when accused of wrongdoing, he went beyond the restitution requirements of the Law of Moses. Instead of paying twice as much, he restored four times as much.

Again, Jesus explains as he did in the parable of the lost sheep and the Prodigal Son, that he has come to rescue the lost.

The Rich man and Lazarus
John 11 (see also Luke 16)

Jesus had once given a parable regarding a man named Lazarus (see Luke 16). In this story, both Lazarus and the rich man he worked for die. Lazarus goes to the bosom of Abraham, what Latter-day Saints would call Paradise in the Spirit World (the place we await resurrection). The rich man went to the other section of the Spirit World: Prison or hell, to await the resurrection. There he suffered. Lazarus could not pass over the gulf that divided them to assist him. That gulf had not yet been broached by Jesus’ atonement. Only after the atonement was completed could the rich man ever hope to repent and perhaps receive a level of salvation in the long run. Until then, he would have to suffer until his sins were fully paid for.

The rich man asked if Lazarus could return to mortality and warn his brothers. Abraham told the rich man that they had the writings of the prophets, and if they did not believe the prophets, they would not believe Lazarus, even though he were raised from the dead.

This parable becomes an actual account for us. In this instance, Lazarus was dead 4 days. It was Jewish belief that the spirit of the dead remained with the body for three days, and could only be restored during that time. By the time Jesus showed up, it seemed impossible that he could restore life to Lazarus. This is why Mary and Martha both stated that had he come earlier, he could have saved their brother.

But Jesus showed he was more powerful than the former prophets who had raised the dead. Elijah and Elisha raised the dead, but within three days. No one had raised the dead after that time. No one until Jesus. As he had shown in previous miracles, he was not only as powerful as dead prophets or pagan gods in healing, he was more powerful than they all.

Of course, with the raising of Lazarus, the parable and the actual event come together to condemn the Jews. Just as Abraham told the rich man, if Lazarus were to come back to life, his brethren would not believe. Instead of seeing such a great miracle and repenting, the Jews became even angrier. They sought to kill both Jesus and Lazarus. They were worse than the rich man, because they saw an amazing miracle and sought to destroy the evidence (the healer and the healed). The Jewish leaders would also one day die and reawaken in the fiery furnaces of hell. And their only hope of rescue would be from the one they rejected and would slay.


Unjust Judge and widow: http://bible.org/seriespage/unjust-judge-and-persistent-widow

Unjust Judge and widow: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_Unjust_Judge