Tuesday, June 28, 2011

New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 27: “He is not here, for He is risen” Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20-21

New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 27: “He is not here, for He is risen”
Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20-21

The lesson in the manual focuses upon the witnesses of Christ’s resurrection, but only lightly touch on the action of the resurrection or the events surrounding that singular event. We will try and touch a little deeper on some of the events concerning the resurrection.

Ancient Jewish days started at sundown, not at midnight as we now practice it. Jesus was crucified on Friday, but the next official Jewish day and the holy day of Passover would begin at dusk (about 6pm) on Friday. Jewish law forbade executions to occur on Passover, and so the death of Jesus and the two thieves had to be expedited. The Roman soldiers crushed the legs of the two thieves, causing intense pain and the weight of the body to be no more supported on the legs, but only on the arms, causing suffocation to occur.

But Jesus had already died. To ensure he was dead, a soldier pierced his side with a spear, stabbing directly into his heart. On dying, the fluids in the heart and blood stream begin to separate, and so both blood and water burst from the wound. It was necessary for Jesus to die without having his legs broken. The Paschal lamb was required to be perfect, without blemish and no broken bones.

The wealthy Joseph of Arimathea requested his body and quickly prepared the body to be laid in his own stately tomb. Jesus was not buried a full three days, but only parts of the first and third day. Truly we see:

“7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
“8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
“9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth” (Isaiah 53).

Three Days Dead and Alive

While his body slept, his spirit had things to accomplish. In LDS teaching, President Joseph Fielding Smith (nephew of Joseph Smith) received a vision (D&C 128) in regards to what Jesus did during his three days:

“6 I opened the Bible and read the third and fourth chapters of the first epistle of Peter, and as I read I was greatly impressed, more than I had ever been before, with the following passages:
7 “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:
8 “By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;
9 “Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.” (1 Peter 3:18–20.)
10 “For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.” (1 Peter 4:6.)

In the vision, he saw the Spirit World, a place in between earth and heaven, wherein the spirits of men and women await the Resurrection and prepare for the Final Judgment. The Spirit World is divided into two sections: Spirit Paradise and Spirit Prison/hell. The believing thief next to Christ was told he would be with Jesus that very day in Paradise. The disbelieving and mocking thief, on the other hand, would find himself suffering for his sins in hell.

Jesus’ purpose, according the Bible verses read by President Smith were to show that Jesus preached the gospel to the dead, including those who died at the Great Flood. President Smith pondered on how Jesus could preach the gospel to millions of the dead within such a short amount of time. As he pondered this, a vision of the Spirit World opened up to him. He first saw the righteous and the state of happiness and joy they were in. Then he saw those in Spirit Prison, and how Jesus was able to preach to them.
18 While this vast multitude waited and conversed, rejoicing in the hour of their deliverance from the chains of death, the Son of God appeared, declaring liberty to the captives who had been faithful;
19 And there he preached to them the everlasting gospel, the doctrine of the resurrection and the redemption of mankind from the fall, and from individual sins on conditions of repentance.
20 But unto the wicked he did not go, and among the ungodly and the unrepentant who had defiled themselves while in the flesh, his voice was not raised;
21 Neither did the rebellious who rejected the testimonies and the warnings of the ancient prophets behold his presence, nor look upon his face.
22 Where these were, darkness reigned, but among the righteous there was peace;
29 And as I wondered, my eyes were opened, and my understanding quickened, and I perceived that the Lord went not in person among the wicked and the disobedient who had rejected the truth, to teach them;
30 But behold, from among the righteous, he organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness, even to all the spirits of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead.
31 And the chosen messengers went forth to declare the acceptable day of the Lord and proclaim liberty to the captives who were bound, even unto all who would repent of their sins and receive the gospel.

So the Lord preached to the repentant and righteous in Paradise, while the wicked remained in hell or Spirit Prison until they learned the gospel from missionaries sent from Paradise and repented of their sins.

Gospel of Nicodemus

Interestingly, an early Christian book also talks of the Spirit World where Christ went. The Gospel of Nicodemus begins with several people arising from the grave and entering into the towns. Two of these were the dead sons of the high priest Simeon. The Sanhedrin questioned these two and asked what occurred with them.

They were in prison, when their father Simeon came to them and told them to glorify Jesus, for he held Jesus when the Lord was but a babe, and Simeon an old man, and prophesied what would occur to the child and the world would be blessed.

Then they saw John the Baptist, Adam, Seth, and all the patriarchs and prophets. Each of these testified to the two young men concerning Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In other words, the full gospel of Christ was preached to those who had not received it.

There is then a discussion between Satan and the angel over Hell. Satan told Hell to prepare to receive Jesus, as he had just slain the Lord.

“Hell answered and said: Thou hast told me that it is he that hath taken away dead men from me. For there be many which while they lived on the earth have taken dead men from me, yet not by their own power but by prayer to God, and their almighty God hath taken them from me. Who is this Jesus which by his own word without prayer hath drawn dead men from me? Perchance it is he which by the word of his command did restore to life Lazarus which was four days dead and stank and was corrupt, whom I held here dead. Satan the prince of death answered and said: It is that same Jesus. When Hell heard that he said unto him: I adjure thee by thy strength and mine own that thou bring him not unto me. For at that time I, when I heard the command of his word, did quake and was overwhelmed with fear, and all my ministries with me were troubled. Neither could we keep Lazarus, but he like an eagle shaking himself leaped forth with all agility and swiftness, and departed from us, and the earth also which held the dead body of Lazarus straightway gave him up alive. Wherefore now I know that that man which was able to do these things is a God strong in command and mighty in manhood, and that he is the saviour of mankind. And if thou bring him unto me he will set free all that are here shut up in the hard prison and bound in the chains of their sins that cannot be broken, and will bring them unto the life of his god head for ever.”

Jesus enters and breaks down the doors of hell, releasing the righteous. Jesus embraced the righteous.

“And the Lord stretching forth his hand, said: Come unto me, all ye my saints which bear mine image and my likeness. Ye that by the tree and the devil and death were condemned, behold now the devil and death condemned by the tree. And forthwith all the saints were gathered in one under the hand of the Lord. And the Lord holding the right hand of Adam, said unto him: Peace be unto thee with all thy children that are my righteous ones.“

Isaiah, Habbakuk, David, and many other prophets quoted their inspired prophecies of Jesus, as the saints all knelt and pledged their hearts to their true King.

“But the Lord holding the hand of Adam delivered him unto Michael the archangel, and all the saints followed Michael the archangel, and he brought them all into the glory and beauty (grace) of paradise.“

So the righteous were taken to paradise, a place of rest and peace. Meanwhile the wicked remained in Spirit Prison/hell. In LDS teaching, they would also be taught the gospel, even as the sons of Simeon were taught. Those who repented and believed would also be brought into paradise, where they could be at rest and await their glorious resurrection at the 2nd Coming.

The final witness of Christ in the Gospel of Nicodemus then came forth.

“And as Enoch and Elias (Elijah) spake thus with the saints, behold there came another man of vile habit, bearing upon his shoulders the sign of the cross; whom when they beheld, all the saints said unto him: Who art thou? for thine appearance is as of a robber; and wherefore is it that thou bearest a sign upon thy shoulders? And he answered them and said: Ye have rightly said: for I was a robber, doing all manner of evil upon the earth. And the Jews crucified me with Jesus, and I beheld the wonders in the creation which came to pass through the cross of Jesus when he was crucified, and I believed that he was the maker of all creatures and the almighty king, and I besought him, saying: Remember me, Lord, when thou comest into thy kingdom. And forthwith he received my prayer, and said unto me: Verily I say unto thee, this day shalt thou be with me in paradise: and he gave me the sign of the cross, saying: Bear this and go unto paradise, and if the angel that keepeth paradise suffer thee not to enter in, show him the sign of the cross; and thou shalt say unto him: Jesus Christ the Son of God who now is crucified hath sent me. And when I had so done, I spake all these things unto the angel that keepeth paradise; and when he heard this of me, forthwith he opened the door and brought me in and set me at the right hand of paradise, saying: Lo now, tarry a little, and Adam the father of all mankind will enter in with all his children that are holy and righteous, after the triumph and glory of the ascending up of Christ the Lord that is crucified. When they heard all these words of the robber, all the holy patriarchs and prophets said with one voice: Blessed be the Lord Almighty, the Father of eternal good things, the Father of mercies, thou that hast given such grace unto thy sinners and hast brought them again into the beauty of paradise and into thy good pastures: for this is the most holy life of the spirit. Amen, Amen.”

So, even those who have led wicked lives can be saved from hell, if they but repent and believe on Christ (see Alma 36 for more).

Women witnesses

In the gospels, it is important to note that Jesus did not first appear to Peter and the other apostles, but to the women. Why would he go to them first?

First, it seems they expressed a greater faith at the time. While Peter denied Christ and the others fled, the women remained at the cross, and then carefully wrapped his body in the tomb. They were the first to his tomb that Sunday morning. It seems only natural that when Jesus was upon the cross he would ensure his mother would be cared for, and so he would also appear to those faithful women first.

Another possible reason comes to us from the Gospel of Philip:

“There were three who always walked with the Lord: Mary, his mother, and her sister, and Magdalene, the one who was called his companion. His sister and his mother and his companion were each a Mary....
“Mary Magdalene. [...] (Jesus?) loved her more than all the disciples, and used to kiss her often on her mouth. The rest of the disciples [...]. They said to him "Why do you love her more than all of us?" The Savior answered and said to them,"Why do I not love you like her?“

It is possible that Jesus had a special relationship with his mother Mary, his aunt, and Mary Magdalene, his companion. This would be another way of suggesting that Jesus may have been married to Mary Magdalene. If that is the case, then it would make sense for him to first appear to his wife, and those women who raised him from a child.

Witnesses of the Resurrection

The lesson discusses many of the witnesses of the resurrected Christ: the women, the apostles, etc. For the world, this is a limited set which is a weak witness of the arisen Lord. Yet, there are additional witnesses.

The Book of Mormon includes witnesses beginning with Lehi (1 Nephi 1) through the final words of the prophet Moroni. This includes the visit of the resurrected Christ to the Nephites (3 Nephi 11-28).

Lastly, there are living prophets and witnesses of Christ:

"19 And while we meditated upon these things, the Lord touched the eyes of our understandings and they were opened, and the glory of the Lord shone round about.
"20 And we beheld the glory of the Son, on the right hand of the Father, and received of his fulness;
"21 And saw the holy angels, and them who are sanctified before his throne, worshiping God, and the Lamb, who worship him forever and ever.
"22 And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!
"23 For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—
"24 That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God" (D&C 76).

Joseph Smith and many latter day prophets have seen and spoken with the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ. Today we have 15 living prophets and apostles who are called to be witnesses to all the world of His resurrection. Their testimony of Christ is now available to read as a proclamation.

Our Own Witness of the Resurrection

As I’ve shown in the lessons for both the New and Old Testament, it is for each of us to not only read about others who have become witnesses of God, but to conduct our own spiritual journey until we have our own theophany: to see Christ in his glory.

It is a pattern that is set in the Bible and Book of Mormon. God appeared to Adam in the Garden. Noah walked with God. Abraham saw the Lord Jehovah. Jacob saw God on his throne at the top of the holy ladder/staircase he saw in vision. Moses spoke to God face to face. Isaiah saw God on his throne in the midst of the seraphim. Ezekiel saw God on a mobile throne that could reach the Jews in Babylon. After the resurrection, Stephen will see Jesus standing on the right hand of God, in the continued pattern of the theophany that God established with Adam and has continued down to our time with modern prophets.

What, then, are we doing to prepare for our own theophany? Have we begun the process of faith in Christ, repentance, receiving ordinances and the Holy Ghost? Has the Holy Ghost witnessed of Christ to us personally? Are we growing spiritually, so that one day the Lord himself will witness of his own resurrection to us?

Today is the best day to begin our spiritual quest to find Christ.


Gospel of Nicodemus: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/gospelnicodemus.html

Gospel of Philip: http://www.gnosis.org/naghamm/gop.html

Apostles Proclamation on the Living Christ: http://lds.org/library/display/0,4945,90-1-10-1,00.html

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Lesson 26: “To This End Was I Born”, Matt 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, John 18

Lesson 26: “To This End Was I Born”,
Matt 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, John 18

The lesson discusses the betrayal, trial and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Each event is a tragic comedy of errors as the ensuing events represent not only Jesus being betrayed, but all things good.

First, as Jesus prayed in Gethsemane in one of his most difficult times, he asked his disciples to pray with him. Yet they slept.

Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss, which is a key symbol of love, devotion and trust.

Trial by the Sanhedrin, the Jewish high court, was supposed to be done in the day time, as a public event. The importance of a fair trial was set in stone as part and parcel of the law set down by Moses. The accused was not to be mocked nor hit, nor was the high priest to rent or rip his clothing. No one asked Jesus if there were any witnesses for him. False witnesses were supposed to be rigorously questioned to ensure their charges were not drummed up.

Jesus, the literal Son of God, was found guilty of blasphemy. Since the Jews were not allowed by the Romans to pass the death sentence, they sent him to Pontius Pilate. In bringing Jesus to the Roman procurator, they changed the charge from blasphemy (not against Roman law) to treason. Yet Jesus had not been tried originally for treason.

Pilate ruled an unruly people. In normal times they were difficult to control with his small Roman contingency. This occurred in the middle of Passover, when perhaps a million or more people were in Jerusalem. His troops were already overwhelmed trying to keep the peace.

In questioning Jesus, he finds that Jesus is not seeking to topple Caesar, but calls himself the king of an other worldly realm: not a treasonous offense. To prevent the Jewish mobs from erupting, he chooses to send Jesus to his neighbor, King Herod Antipas.

Herod was not only Jewish, but also reigned over Galilee, where Jesus was from. Previously, Herod was responsible for John the Baptist’s death, even though Herod feared and believed John’s prophetic call. He had heard much concerning Jesus and his miracles, and now hoped to see a miracle performed. Rather than finding a bold and outspoken prophet like John, Herod found Jesus to be quiet, timid, and less than inspiring. Herod mocked him and returned him back to Pilate for trial.

Pilate tried to convince the mobs to release Jesus. Traditionally, the Roman procurator would release one prisoner to the people on Passover. He offered a choice between Jesus and Barabbas. Barabbas was on trial for treason. As a member of the Zealot sect, he sought to violently overthrow the Roman occupation using murder and mayhem as his weapons. It is possible he was viewed as a militant messiah, as many Jews believed the coming Messiah would free them from Roman bondage. Meanwhile, Jesus was the Prince of Peace, the true Messiah. Instead of leading uprisings and rebellions with murder, he healed the sick and preached love and repentance.

The name Barabbas can be read as Bar Abba, or Son of Father (God). So, Pilate offered the Jews a choice between the Son of God and the literal Son of God. The Jewish mobs chose the imitation Savior.

Jesus was led away to be brutally whipped, mocked and tortured by the Roman soldiers, prior to crucifixion. The soldiers beat him, placed a crown of skin-piercing thorns on Jesus’ head, and placed a purple robe of royalty upon him. They mockingly bowed before him, then slapped him many times. Little did they know that the day would come when every knee would bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Lord.

In being crucified, the perfectly harmless and innocent Son of God was given the capitol punishment reserved for the most wicked and evil. Crucifixion was not the only form of death given by the Romans. It was the most severe and public, so as to show the people what happened to those who committed heinous crimes.

While soldiers selfishly divided his clothes at his nailed feet, he focused his attentions elsewhere: “Mother, behold thy son”, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” The two thieves on either side of Jesus seemed to magnify the disparity between good and evil occurring on that fateful day. One thief mocking him and demanding to be saved, not understanding that Jesus was virtually saving him as he cursed. The other thief recognizing his own sins and that through faith he would be saved. Even as with the young Alma, this thief had experienced hell, but through repentance and faith would escape torment and hell, being saved in Jesus Christ (Alma 36).

Finally, after hours of pain, thirst and suffering, Jesus would meet his most difficult moment. Throughout his ministry, Jesus had God’s strength and power with him. God pronounced his Son at Jesus’ baptism, and again on the Mount of Transfiguration. Even while praying in agony at Gethsemane, God sent Jesus an angel to strengthen him. While Jesus was always there for his apostles, and is always there for us, he would not be given the same in return.

His apostles having deserted him and his mother sent away, only the disbelieving Romans and the apostate Jews remained to watch him on the cross. Still, God remained with him up to the last moments.

But now, he would be absolutely alone. “Father, why hast thou forsaken me?” A necessary step in bringing to pass the atonement was for Jesus to face the pains and sins of this world all alone, and without the spiritual guidance or strength of Heavenly Father. God fully withdrew his presence.

No longer protected by his Father’s love and strength, the utter most depths of hell roared up to meet Jesus. But for a few moments he needed to endure this. To rise above all, he first had to descend below all things. In order to save any of us from the blackest of eternal nights, he first had to go there. Alone.
Moments of agony passed. He endured and triumphed. Reaching the climax of his mission, he simply said, “Father, it is finished. Thy will be done.”

And he died.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 25: “Not My Will, But Thine, Be Done” Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22

New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 25: “Not My Will, But Thine, Be Done”
Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22


We now go to the place where the Lord began his atoning sacrifice, Gethsemane. Why did he go to Gethsemane to pray? He was in the city of Jerusalem, with a million people in attendance for Passover. The place should have been crowded, perhaps with individuals camping out on the hillsides. Gethsemane was a garden, or better said, an olive tree orchard. In the orchard is found at least one olive press. Gethsemane means “olive press”. This press is within a cave located in the middle of the orchard. Outside of harvest time it would have been used, especially during the major festivals, as a place for travelers to stay. It is quite likely that Christ entered the cave, asked his disciples to remain nearby while he prayed privately inside. This poetically ties Jesus’ birth in a cave/manger to his atoning sacrifice in cave/Gethsemane and ultimately to the cave where his body laid interred until his resurrection.

The Beginning of the Atonement

For Catholics and some other Christians, Jesus’ great work was done solely on the cross. However, Latter-day Saints believe that Jesus’ atonement began in Gethsemane and culminated on the cross (to be discussed next lesson). Jesus had to overcome both physical and spiritual death. The physical death of the cross would be trumped by resurrection. The spiritual death, or mankind cast out from God’s presence, would be healed by Jesus’ atoning sacrifice that began in Gethsemane and continues to this day for each of us.

In Gethsemane, we know that “he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people” (Alma 7:11)

Or, as Nephi explained,
“And he cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken unto his voice; for behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam” (2 Nephi 9:21).

Of the connection between Adam and Christ, the apostle Paul noted, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). We will not only all resurrect, but we will all be made spiritually alive in Christ, brought back into the presence of God, upon the condition of faith and repentance.

We understand little of the spiritual atonement. We know that it was a dreadful experience, even for Jesus.

“41 And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed,
42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.
43 And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.
44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22).

He had begun the process of taking upon himself all the sins of the world. So spiritually painful was this that it caused the blood vessels around his sweat glands to dilate and burst. Then, as he sweat, it mixed with the blood, coming out of his pores in drops.

As noted, we do not really know how the spiritual atonement works. There are various theories available, some are indirectly noted by modern apostles of the Church. The theories include, Ransom, Substitution, Satisfaction, Punitive theories of atonement (see below for links).

LDS Christians have also provided other theories of atonement. My two favorites are Jacob Morgan’s Divine Infusion Theory (again, see below), and Blake Ostler’s Compassion Theory.

In Ostler’s theory, Christ is not punished nor ransomed directly for our sins. Instead, we have fallen from God’s presence and there is no way we can return by ourselves. When we exhibit faith and truly repent of our sins, the Savior embraces us in his love and forgiveness. As he accepts us into his compassionate embrace, we are filled with His love, compassion, and light. Yet, while he embraces us, Jesus takes into himself our pains and sorrows brought on not only by our sins, but by the hardships of life. In Gethsemane, he felt the pains and sorrows of all those who to that point had sinned or sorrowed, but then sought deliverance from God. Today, he continues feeling momentary pain as he embraces us in his love, engulfing our hurts within that love. So, in this theory, the atonement is ongoing. Every time a person reaches to Christ because of spiritual or physical pain, the person is healed through the atoning and loving embrace of our compassionate God and Savior.

As we ponder just how much pain each of us suffers, whether from sin, fear, mental anguish, or physical pain, we can truly “stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me.”

Odds and Ends

In an interesting twist in the story in Mark 14:51-52, a young man in a linen cloth is caught by the Roman guards. The young man is able to slip away naked. Why add such an odd story?

Some scholars believe Mark was speaking of himself. It is possible that he was literally asleep when these events occurred. However, for LDS members, it is also possible that the cave was being used by the Christian-Jewish sect to perform temple ordinances. The cave may have been used as a makeshift temporary location to perform ordinances, such as initiatory and endowments.

In the initiatory, the person is washed and anointed with water and oil, as a symbolic cleansing prior to receiving the other ordinances of the temple. It could be possible that the young man was receiving this ordinance when the soldiers showed up.

This concept is strengthened by the controversial Secret Book of Mark. Scholar Morton Smith claimed to have found an old letter attached to the back of a medieval book. The letter was supposedly from Clement of Alexandria, who described a portion of a Secret Book of Mark, wherein a young man (Mark?) receives a secret ordinance at night from Jesus, while wearing nothing but a linen cloth.

There is lots of scholarly controversy surrounding this letter. Some claim Morton Smith created it to fool the scholarly community. Others think it might be a medieval forgery. Still there are some who think it to be authentic.


The olive press cave of Gethsemane: https://www.bib-arch.org/online-exclusives/easter-03.asp

also: http://members.bib-arch.org/publication.asp?PubID=BSBA&Volume=21&Issue=4&ArticleID=14

Sweating blood, or hematohidrosis: http://www.christiananswers.net/q-eden/edn-t018.html

Ransom theory of atonement: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atonement_%28Ransom_view%29

Satisfaction theory of atonement: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satisfaction_theory_of_atonement

Substitutionary theory of atonement: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Substitutionary_atonement

Punitive theory of atonement: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penal_substitution

Jacob Morgan’s Divine Infusion theory of atonement: http://joelsmonastery.blogspot.com/2006/08/jacob-morgans-divine-infusion-theory.html

Secret Book of Mark: http://joelsmonastery.blogspot.com/2009/10/clement-of-alexandria-and-secret-book.html

Thursday, June 09, 2011

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

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

The Comforter

John 16

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

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

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

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

This is Eternal Life
John 17

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

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

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

The Perfect Relationship

Bible.org’s Exegetical Commentary explains what “Eternal Life” and “know” mean in regards to Jesus and God:

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


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

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

As we read from Bible.org:

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

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

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

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


John 17 Exegetical Commentary: http://bible.org/seriespage/exegetical-commentary-john-17

First/Second Comforter, LDS Bible (KJV) Dictionary: http://lds.org/scriptures/bd/comforter.p1?lang=eng&letter=c

Metatron/Enoch - Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metatron

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

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

3 Enoch: http://www.scribd.com/doc/2024701/Hebrew-book-of-3-Enoch

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Lesson 23: “Love One Another, As I Have Loved You”, Luke 22, John 13-15

Lesson 23: “Love One Another, As I Have Loved You”, Luke 22, John 13-15

Passover and Divine Supper

Jesus’ week in Jerusalem now comes near its close. The Passover feast was prepared and eaten on Thursday evening. This symbolized the preparations the children of Israel made before leaving Egypt’s flesh pots and following Moses into the wilderness towards the Promised Land.

During the Passover week, Jesus spent most days teaching in the temple, often in the women’s court, where both men and women could hear him preach repentance. He has preached forcefully against the Pharisees, Sadduccees and the scribes of the temple. He has openly declared himself to be the Messiah, the Angel of the Lord’s Presence, and explained his Messiah-ship in a way they considered blasphemous: he was the literal Son of God, a divine being from the Presence of the Father, worthy of worship himself.

With the Passover feast, Jesus created a new feast and what it represented. The Passover feast included the Paschal lamb, a lamb without blemish that was sacrificed and eaten in preparation for leaving Egypt. Its blood was spattered on the lintels to ensure the angel of death passed over those in the household.

Jesus now stepped in as the Paschal Lamb. The bread and wine represented his flesh and blood. His disciples were to partake and drink of Him, so that the angel of death would pass over them, as well. They were to depart spiritually from among the wicked, and allow God to guide them to the spiritual Promised Land.

“29 And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me;
“30 That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22).

The Promised Land promised them was the kingdom of heaven, where they would eat at Christ’s table in the royal household, and be rulers over Israel. Israel under Moses could never have imagined such a promise! They complained over the hardships they temporarily bore, wishing to return to Egypt. But had they focused forward with faith in God, they would have also received such promises as did the apostles.

Washing of Feet

The washing of feet was a very important lesson Jesus sought to teach his apostles. He was soon to die, and needed them to understand their true role. While most kings and self-declared Messiahs were worshiped, honored, and cared for; Jesus taught that he who shall be greatest in the kingdom of heaven is the servant of all.

In the Middle East, the body parts closest to the dirt are the worst. To wash one’s feet was to display utmost humility. It meant the servant was lower than the dust upon the other person’s feet. Jesus sought to show such service, so that his disciples would also serve in like manner after he was gone.

Interestingly, Simon Peter not only desired his feet to be washed, but his entire hands and head, as well. We do not see that Jesus rejected the request. The ritual of washing feet, hands and head is still a part of the temple ceremony. It symbolizes becoming clean from the wickedness in the world. Now was a moment when the apostles needed to be cleansed, for the world as they knew it was about to crash down upon them.


Wikipedia on Initiatory: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washing_and_anointing