Saturday, June 29, 2019

Come Follow Me - The Resurrection - Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20–21

Come Follow Me - Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20–21


“...there is a space between death and the resurrection of the body, and a state of the soul in happiness or in misery until the time which is appointed of God that the dead shall come forth, and be reunited, both soul and body, and be brought to stand before God, and be judged according to their works.
Yea, this bringeth about the restoration of those things of which has been spoken by the mouths of the prophets.
The soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul; yea, and every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea, even a hair of the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame” (.Alma 40:21-23)

With the Fall of Adam, all people physically die. With the Fall, we are all driven out of God's presence. Only the Infinite Sacrifice, Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ could reverse this tragedy. As the world began in chaos, only to be organized by the power of Christ, so the Fall brought chaos back into the world. Only the greatest sacrificial offering could restore order from the chaos of death and hell.
Resurrection, the reuniting of body and soul, leads to the final Judgment, where we are judged on our works.  This determines the Restoration of all things, not just restoring the body, but also the soul.  This restoration also is a restoring of eternal relationships, with God and family.  

In believing and repenting, we are restored back into God’s presence, even if at a distance as Alma experienced in his conversion (Alma 36).  This is where Justification comes in, where we are washed clean in the blood of Christ.  We are guiltless, sinless, without spot.  We are able to enter into the kingdom of God, or in modern LDS terminology, the kingdoms of God. We are returned to the presence of the Godhead.

In the judgment, however, we are also judged according to our works.  Our seeking to be holy is part of the sanctification process, sealed by the Holy Ghost.  This determines the level of reward we receive in the heavens.

For those who never believe in Christ and refuse to repent, they are given a kingdom without glory or light.  They have chosen to be vessels of wrath, eternal enemies of God and Christ.  They will return to Outer Darkness,

“But behold, an awful death cometh upon the wicked; for they die as to things pertaining to things of righteousness; for they are unclean, and no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of God; but they are cast out, and consigned to partake of the fruits of their labors or their works, which have been evil; and they drink the dregs of a bitter cup” (Alma 40:26).

Only those who refuse to ever repent are unclean.  They are left with what they have become - evil.  There is only the dregs of a bitter cup for them to drink, because they have forever refused to accept the cup of Christ’s blood.

The Disciples

For the disciples, with many Jews of the time, resurrection was something they believed in. However, the general belief was that all righteous would rise at the last day, at the same time. In other words, they did believe Jesus would resurrect some day, just not three days later on the first day of the week!

Why didn't the apostles believe the women, when they returned with the angelic news that "he is risen?" Because the end had not happened and people still were mortals, not ready for a resurrection. No wonder Mary Magdalene and the disciples on the road to Emmaus did not recognize Jesus at first. He wasn't expected to come back to life so suddenly.

You will notice that there are differences in the gospels regarding the resurrection story. Different women gather around the tomb. In one scene, an angel sitting on the rolled stone speaks to them. In another, two angels speak with them from within the tomb. In John, the angel only appears to Mary Magdalene, after the others have left, and only moments before Jesus appears to her. 

In the synoptic gospels, the disciples are told to go to Galilee, where they'll see the Savior. In John, they see him in Jerusalem, and celebrate in the temple because of their joy of the resurrection.

The gospels were written decades after the resurrection. Obviously memories of events changed over time, allowing for the differences. We often see differences in the histories that occur anciently and even more modern. Just as the First Vision stories differ somewhat, the key points remain. The key point is they (the disciples and Joseph Smith) saw the resurrected Jesus Christ.

From Fishers to Shepherds
An interesting event occurs with Peter and several of the Eleven in John 21. According to John, the disciples saw Jesus twice in Jerusalem, and spent several days rejoicing in the temple. Several then go to Galilee. Why? Well, the resurrection has happened, Jesus lives, and the disciples have already offered sacrifice, probably a Thanksgiving Offering. There was nothing left to do, but return back to their previous profession: fishing.

In fishing all night, they caught nothing. In the early morning, Jesus appeared on shore and called to them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. Upon doing this, their nets quickly filled up. John recognized the Savior from this action. Why? Because at the beginning of Jesus' mission, he performed the exact same miracle.

As Jesus fed the apostles, he turned to Peter and asked him three times, if he loved him. Peter answered yes, all three times. This clearly ties into the three times Peter denied Jesus, now ensuring Peter is all in.

Jesus' response to Peter's love? Feed my sheep. Feed my lambs.  Peter was not to return to being a fisherman. Nor was he to be a fisher of men, as Jesus called them at the beginning of his ministry. Now, Peter and his fellow apostles would be shepherds, even as Christ is the Great Shepherd. They wouldn't just catch people, baptize them and go on their way. Instead, they would care for them, nurture them, and protect them from harm. Such is the difference between a fisher of men and a shepherd of lambs.

Justification and Sanctification
Plan of Restoration

Alma explains more regarding the restoration, which includes the resurrection.  All mankind will resurrect, because that is part of the plan of God.  

“the plan of restoration is requisite with the justice of God; for it is requisite that all things should be restored to their proper order” (Alma 41:2).

God’s justice could not come to pass without the restoration of all things.  This connects to the ancient belief that in the Creation, God brought forth order out of chaos.  Physical and spiritual death have disrupted the order in the universe. The law of entropy requires that all things lose energy and eventually fall into a state of chaos.  This is the natural order of the universe, but does not square with the God’s justice.  God is just, and his plan is one of restoring all things to a place of order. Resurrection deals with the physical death of all things, bringing order to the chaos of entropy.  The atonement brings order forth from spiritual death’s chaos.

Yet, some will refuse the order and justice of God.  Instead, they will insist upon the natural order to come upon them, and will dwell in chaos and entropy, with no chance for eternal progression or growth, no happiness because there is only the misery of chaos.

“The one raised to happiness according to his desires of happiness, or good according to his desires of good; and the other to evil according to his desires of evil; for as he has desired to do evil all the day long even so shall he have his reward of evil when the night cometh.
And so it is on the other hand. If he hath repented of his sins, and desired righteousness until the end of his days, even so he shall be rewarded unto righteousness
These are they that are redeemed of the Lord; yea, these are they that are taken out, that are delivered from that endless night of darkness; and thus they stand or fall; for behold, they are their own judges, whether to do good or do evil” (vv 5-7).

Justice requires all things to be restored to a proper order, happiness to happiness, misery to misery.  Light to light and darkness to darkness.  Justification means Christ’s atonement makes us sinless, and worthy to enter into the kingdom of God.  It is where our desires are centered.  If we desire to be rescued, we will be through faith on Christ. Those who go to Spirit Prison, the “endless night of darkness” and choose to repent, will be rescued according to their desire and belief.

“And it is requisite with the justice of God that men should be judged according to their works; and if their works were good in this life, and the desires of their hearts were good, that they should also, at the last day, be restored unto that which is good.
And if their works are evil they shall be restored unto them for evil. Therefore, all things shall be restored to their proper order, every thing to its natural frame” (vv 3-4).

Sanctification through the purifying power of the Holy Ghost makes us holy enough to dwell in a higher level of God’s kingdom.  For this, we are judged by our works, which are an outward image of what we are inside.  We must not only desire righteous and holy things, but we must become righteous  and be holy in order for our works to show us as being holy.

“Therefore, my son, see that you are merciful unto your brethren; deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually; and if ye do all these things then shall ye receive your reward; yea, ye shall have mercy restored unto you again; ye shall have justice restored unto you again; ye shall have a righteous judgment restored unto you again; and ye shall have good rewarded unto you again.
For that which ye do send out shall return unto you again, and be restored; therefore, the word restoration more fully condemneth the sinner, and justifieth him not at all” (vv 14-15).

Our works will be restored to us, whether good or evil.  If we wish to receive mercy, then we need to first be merciful.  That which we sow, we shall reap, for such is the law of the harvest and restoration.

 Previous thoughts from my blog 

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 ancient 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.

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