Monday, December 28, 2009
John sees the New Jerusalem, which is the City of Enoch, come down from Heaven and be established on earth. He compares it to jewels and other precious things in his attempt to describe it. One thing that is impressive is the size of the city. Each side is 1400 miles long, or the distance from Salt Lake to Minneapolis, and is 1400 miles high. The Savior will govern the city and visit it from time to time. The earth will be changed from a telestial state to a terrestial one. Parley P. Pratt said we can expect this world to be material with trees, rivers, vegetation, animals, temples, and food (I like that one), as well families who will eat, drink, play, and worship with. We will enjoy neighborhoods, cities and towns.
God the Father and his Son occupy the eternal throne and their love proceeds from it to the people. All of the posterity of Adam and Eve will partake of the fruit of the tree of life and enjoy wonderful promised blessings that are so worth working for. John says that God himself shall be with them and be their God. He will “wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
John’s writings, including Revelation, all have the underlying theme of love, the need for us to love each other and the love that Father and Son have for us. This is sometimes lost to some because of the actions of family and church members. But John teaches that while the love of people can fall short, God’s love never falters or fails.
Verses 18 and 19 are sometimes used by other religions to prove that there can be no additional scripture added to the Bible. They use the words “If any man shall add unto these things” and “if any man shall take away from the words of the book.” But in each of the verses it says “the prophecies of this book,” meaning the Book of Revelation. If it had meant the Bible, we would have to do away with the John’s gospel and 1st, 2nd and 3rd John which were written after Revelation. The Lord says the same thing in Deuteronomy 4:2. If what it says in Deuteronomy applied to more than just that book, all scripture after it would have to be done away with.
The Book of Revelation is both perplexing and wonderful. While some verses in the Book of Revelation are difficult to understand and some we do not know the meaning of, it still has much that can be understood and contains things that are not found anywhere else in scripture. A careful reading will reveal much that will increase our faith and understanding as well as our hope for many wonderful things that are yet to come. All other prophets who were given a vision of these things were commanded not to write about what they had seen. But the Lord gave specific instructions to John to share his vision with the saints. John’s challenge was to put into words the things that he saw. The difficulty is in describing heavenly things for which there are no earthly words.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
The righteous are called to come out of Babylon. None of those who stay can be saved because they would not change their life so they could be saved. Babylon represents the perversion of all that is good. Lust is substituted for joy, passion for happiness, security is sought in materialism. The attitude is "He that dies with the most toys, wins" is the rule. Babylon could easily be substituted for Las Vegas, New York, or other cities where the pursuit of wealth and pleasure are perverted and the people grow rich while the poor suffer through no fault of their own.
The second coming of Christ is described here and in other parts of scripture as as marriage feast. I like the symbolism because marriage requires commitment, fidelity or being true to each other, and being long suffering. The fine white linen of the feast is symbolic of the purity of the saints. As it says in Isaiah, "put on thy beautiful garments, O daughter of Zion; and strengthen they stakes and enlarge thy borders forever."
Verse 10 says that "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." Moses once wished "that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them" meaning he wished that all of them had a testimony of the Savior. The essence of a prophet is his testimony of the Savior and his desire to bear testimony his atonement.
In Jerusalem, the Savior rode into the city on a donkey symbolizing humility and peace as well as royalty. At his second coming, he is portrayed as riding a white conquering horse. Unlike many pictures which show him wearing a white robe, he will be robed in red symbolizing the blood he shed in his atonement. The scriptures say "I have trodden the winepress alone." The pressure of the atonement caused him to bleed at every pore just as the juice is squeezed from the grapes in a wine vat. Now he comes to bring vengeance and death to billions of people who are wicked and deserve the justice of God.
Satan and his followers will be bound for a thousand years. What will make him bound and powerless is the righteousness of the people. The faithful saints will be resurrected at the beginning of the Millennium during which they will continue their work to help in the redemption of all people. At the end of the Millennium will be the great and last battle of Gog and Magog. Satan will have been loosed for a brief time to tempt those who have been born and lived during the thousand years. Then Michael will once again lead the forces of good and defeat Satan for the final time. In the end, Satan and his followers are "cast into a lake of fire and brimstone." Brimstone is sulphur, a yellow-green and highly combustible substance found commonly along the shores of the dead sea. It is used to make matches and gun powder. When lit, it turns into a liquid and burns at a high temperature while producing a sharp and suffocating smoke. In those days, probably no worse fate could be imagined than someone being thrown into a lake burning with brimstone.
At the end of the Millennium will be a final judgment where all will be judged according to their works.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
In chapter 16, the previously mentioned seven plagues are poured out upon the earth upon the wicked which the verses say they are worthy of. Another translation is they get what they deserve. Evil spirits gather together to work great miracles and the place where they gather is Armageddon, which in Hebrew is Har Megiddo or the mound of Megiddo. Megiddo was a fortress city at the western end of the Jezreel Valley between Galilee and Samaria. Many ancient battles were fought there and its name is attached to the great last battle of this world. Today, Megiddo is a large mound that is being excavated by archeologists.
The seven plagues to be poured on the wicked are:
1. A grievous sore
2. Sea of blood
3. Rivers and fountains changed to blood
4. Scorching heat
5. Darkness and pain
6. Unclean spirits unleashed
7. Earthquake and hail
A last great earthquake (five are mentioned in the scriptures) will occur that will be the greatest the earth has seen. It will be so large that the tectonic plates of the earth will shift to the degree that the continents will come back together and unite as one land mass as they originally were. This is when islands and mountains will be no longer be as they were.
John was shown the great whore of the earth, represented by a woman, which is the devil’s church or kingdom, or the combined forces of evil. 1 Nephi describes the kingdom of the devil as “all churches which are built up to get gain, and all those who are built up to get power over the flesh, and those who are built up to become popular in the eyes of the world, and those who seek the lusts of the flesh, and the things of the world, and to do all manner of iniquity.” (1 Nephi 22:22-23) The woman is wearing scarlet and purple, a color that represented royalty but also identified things that are evil and sinful. A scarlet robe was placed on the Savior when the Roman soldiers mocked him.
Monday, December 21, 2009
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Friday, December 18, 2009
A second "woe" is announced and this is the slaying of two prophets in the streets of Jerusalem. The Holy City is to be overrun by the gentiles for 42 months or 1260 days which are representative of the apostasy. This number may be symbolic or literal. The prophets are given great powers that are similar to the powers that were given to Moses and Elijah. The ministry of the prophets lasts for 42 months and then they are slain and their bodies are left in the streets for three and a half days. The three and a half months and three and a half days are half of the number seven which represents perfection. Maybe this means there mission was cut short. With the death of the prophets, the people celebrate that they are no longer tormented by the prophets. But when the propehets are resurrected on the spot and seen by the people ascending into heaven, they are filled with fear. Great fear comes upon them and then a third "woe" begins with an earthquake that destroys much of the city. Verse 15 has the words Handel used in the Hallelujah Chorus of the Messiah, "And he shall reign for ever and ever." John learns that Christ's government will replace all governments on earth.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
There are a series of woes that must happen first and because of them, the Lord's second coming is delayed. So we are at the beginning of the seventh period, but many things must occur before the second coming. One of the signs is silence in heaven for a half-hour. Reckoning by the Lord's time of a day equals a thousand years, this could be 21 days. We don't know what this signifies. But in the Book of Mormon, there was silence for many hours after the destruction that followed the Lord's crucifixion. Seven trumpets signal the pouring out of judgments or woes. There will be an earthquake of major proportions and it appears there will be a worldwide devastating war. I personally think that the fires refer to nuclear war.
The description of the war includes the last battle called Armageddon where an innumerable host of armies and weapons will appear. They are symbolized as locusts that will devour the earth for five months. Five months is the actual lifespan of a locust. The destructive forces are lead by Satan and the wicked, one third of the world's population, will be destroyed. Like the Book of Mormon, in spite of all that is happening, the wicked still will not change and repent. The righteous, those marked in the head, will be saved. I relate this to the temple ordinances. Some wonder if some of the descriptions given by John are attempts to describe modern weapons and things such as missiles, jets, etc., that would be incomprehensible to him.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
The first seal represents the time of Adam and Enoch. It is symbolized by a white horse representing the triumph of righteousness over evil. It is in that time that Enoch and the people reached a level of righteousness that enabled them to walk with God and their whole city was taken up to heaven.
The second thousand years is the time of Noah and the flood destroying nearly all life. It is symbolized by a red horse of death.
The third thousand years is the time of Abraham. It is the time that Israel were slaves to Egypt until they were able to flee Egypt. It is a time of many famines and is symbolized by a black horse of famine.
The fourth represents the time of the great empires such as the Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman. It is when the ten tribes of Israel were scattered and is symbolized by a pale horse of death.
The fifth thousand years is the time of the Savior's life, crucifixion and resurrection, and the destruction of Jerusalem. John sees his brethren, the apostles, who were martyred because of their testimonies of the Savior.
With the sixth thousand years, the restoration of the gospel occurs in preparation for the second coming. The signs of the second coming are seen such as a great earthquake and other catastrophic events that will occur.
The seventh thousand years represents the millennium where all of the righteous are gathered and the earth is able to rest. The 144,000 are servants who have their calling and election made sure (sealed by God in their foreheads). All of the other righteous are clothed in white robes and carry palms that represent their triumph over the world and John sees them standing before God and this throne. The last verses of this chapter describe these people overcome all things through their righteousness. "These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the lamb." These wonderful promises are given to them, "They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them into living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes."
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Chapter 4 begins John's vision of the history of the earth. Chapters 4 and 5 are the introduction. It is in these chapters that symbolism becomes difficult and strange. It reminds me of how the temple ordinances seem different and strange the first times we go. But gradually, we learn and understand something each time we go and the symbols become more meaningful and sacred. These chapters show that in creating the earth, God knew the end from the beginning He created all things and organized the earth's existence placing everything and everyone upon it at appropriate times. While he knew what each person would do, he did not interfere with their agency. In this chapter, 24 elders are mentioned and these are leaders of the seven churches. The earth is seen as a sanctified sea of glass and celestial animals surround the throne of the Savior.
John sees that the earth will receive salvation, not by a lion but by a lamb. Only John referred to the Savior as the lamb of God. John sees the Savior symbolically as a lamb with 12 horns and 12 eyes. The horns are symbolic of his omnipotence and the eyes are symbolic of his omniscience and he learns that only Christ could make an infinite atonement. Incense is symbolically seen as the prayers of the saints rising to heaven and he sees that kings and priests will rule on a celestialized earth. A book is shown to John that is sealed with seven seals, each seal representing a thousand years of the earth's history. John weeps because no one is found worthy to open the book to initiate the Lord's plan to open earth life and then redeem the people who will populate it. There is rejoicing in heaven when the Savior is shown to be the one worthy to do that. John also sees millions of saved beasts from millions of earths.
Monday, December 14, 2009
In contrast, the blessings promised to the righteous of the three cities are nearly all temple related. They will be clothed in white raiment and will walk with the Lord in white. Their names will never be blotted out of the Book of Life and the Savior will confess them before the Father. They will be from temptation. They will become a pillar in the temple. The pillar represents stability and safety. Philadelphia was subject to severe earthquakes and had suffered a devastating one as recently as 17 A.D. The promise of strength and stability would have been meaningful to them. The righteous will be called in the name of God and given a new name. Their eyes will be anointed so that they see.
Finally, the Lord says that he is continually calling to us. He is at the door knocking, asking us to open our hearts and lives to him. If we do, he will come in and be with us and he will eat with us at our tables. He will invite us to come to his throne and sit down with him.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
It's amazing to me how much the warnings then are similar to what the prophets teach today. In the times of Roman rule, the people were commanded to worship Caesar and call him savior. Immorality wasn't just condoned but was a part of religious worship, it was a major part of their entertainment, and marriage and the family were disintegrating. Homosexuality was not only condoned but glorified. The "great" teachers preached rationalization and intellectualism that mocked Christian beliefs. In another one hundred years, the Roman empire, the greatest empire the world had ever seen, would collapse. I think it is naive to not see the parallels between history and our society today, and not realize that we are headed down the same path and will experience the same results. We have our own false prophets and teachers, many of whom are our government leaders. If we are wise, we will stand back and see things are they really are. We can't be like the Nicolaitans and have one foot in religion and one foot in the world.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
The Book of Revelation was written by John while he was banished to the island of Patmos, an island that is 6 by 10 miles in size and about 60 miles southwest of Ephesus. It was used a prison. One account written about 100 A.D. says that John was lowered into boiling oil but came out unharmed so since he couldn't be killed he was banished. The book is full of symbols so that only those who had the Spirit would be able to understand what John was saying. It also jumps back and forth from one time frame to another making it hard to follow. The Book of Revelation is the vision given to John. It is a vision of the "big picture" similar to those given to other prophets. The difference is, those prophets were commanded to seal it up and not speak of it. John protects it by using symbols that are hard for those not in the Spirit to understand.
John hears the voice of Christ and turns and sees him. There are seven candle sticks and these are the seven churches this is being written to. They are symbolized as candle sticks because from these seven churches the light of the gospel is to be taken. Also with the Savior is a two-edged sword. One edge is to cut the wicked to their very core, the other edge is to pierce the hearts of the righteous with the truth by the power of the Spirit. The number seven is used 54 times in Revelation. It represents completeness. In this chapter seven angels (also called stars) are mentioned. Joseph Smith substituted the word servants for angels meaning servants or leaders of the seven churches.
Another important change in the JST occurs in verse 7 where it is describing the second coming the Savior. Rather than all people shall wail at his coming, the JST says that all of the wicked will wail, especially those who crucified him. I believe that this isn't just referring to those who crucified the Savior at the time he was on the earth, but those who crucify him anew, as it's described in the scriptures, through their denial of him and persecution of those who do believe.
Friday, December 11, 2009
John refers to himself as "the elder" and in 2 John he is writing to an "elect lady." This could be the church, but more likely is a woman, possibly a member of his family, maybe even his wife. Joseph Smith referred to Emma as an "elect lady." Gaius, who John addresses 3 John to, is a very common name for a Roman man. He was probably a local leader. John writes briefly to both of these people saying he will speak more when he sees them in person. The message of both epistles is to love others and to not follow those who would deceive and deny the reality of Christ, who he was and what he did. Like Korihor and others in the Book of Mormon, these people deny living prophets, revelation, and ecclesiastical authority. They twist the scriptures to their own purposes promoting doubt and skepticism. Usually they do this for power and material gain.
Jude was another half-brother of Jesus. His actual name is Judas, but is called to Jude to differentiate him from Judas Iscariot. We do not know what his calling in the church was, but what he teaches is a strong witness to the doctrines of the restored gospel. Jude first confirms the apostasy that is taking place and being caused by wicked men who have entered into the leadership of the church. In verse 6, he refers to the premortal life and what happened to those who chose to follow Satan there and their eventual fate of being consigned to outer darkness. Jude speaks of how Satan contended with Michael, the archangel over the body of Moses. Jude appears to be quoting from an apocryphal work called "The Assumption of Moses" where Satan contends that he being lord of the material world, has the right of seeing after Moses' body. Michael overrules Satan and charges him with tempting Eve in the garden. Jude also talks about the second coming of Christ in terms different than what is found in the Bible. He also points out that the danger to the church comes more from within than without.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Verse 2 tells us that we can become like God. We cannot see that potential right now. But when the day of resurrection comes and we are in his presence, we will see him in his resurrected glory and see that we are resurrected in the same manner he is with all of the divine potential that children of God have to become like their heavenly parents.
Verse 4 gives a succinct definition of sin. It is the transgression of law. I think it helps to look at the laws of God in the same manner we look at other laws such as the law of gravity or other physical laws that govern the universe. We can use those laws to better our lives, or we can transgress them to our detriment. The laws of God are no different. We can use them to better our lives or we can transgress them which will bring negative consequences. The consequences are that we stunt our ability to grow and mature into what we were created to be. In a sense we are like plants who control their own growth. We can nourish the plant with nutrients and sunlight or neglect to feed it and stunt its growth so that it never reaches it full stature and blooms in it's full glory.
The JST makes an important correction in verses 6-9. Rather than saying that people who have been born again "cannot sin," Joseph Smith used "continue in sin" which makes much more sense. Verse 11 is always the message of John. You can see why he was called the beloved.
1 John 4
This is one of my favorite chapters and one of the most beautiful in all of scripture. It explains the relationship between loving each other and loving God. To highlight what he says:
God is love and if we love others, God can dwell in us and the way we know if He dwells in us is through the Holy Ghost.
If we do not love, we cannot know Him. And in loving God, we come to realize how much He loved us to begin with.
Love is of God; through our love we are born of God, and if we love God and are born of Him, we can know Him.
The greatest manifestation of His love for us was His sending his Son.
"There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear. And as it says in the beginning of Chapter 5, if we love him, it is natural for us to want to keep the commandments.
1 John 5
The words "and these three are one" were not in the original Greek manuscripts but added later by the translators. The Father, Son and Holy Ghost are one in purpose, but are distinctly separate members of the Godhead.
Water, blood and the Spirit are the three elements of our physical birth into our families of this world, and they are the three elements of our spiritual birth into God's family. With our physical birth, it is necessary to have the water of the womb, the issue of blood, and our spirits entering our bodies at some point prior. With our spiritual birth, we come forth in the same manner, out of the waters of baptism, the blood of Christ cleanses us from sin, and the Spirit confirms and ratifies the act.
John tells us he has written what he has so we can believe and know the Savior, that there is eternal life, that God hears us and will answer our prayers. Then he closes this epistle by saying he knows that "the Son of God is come, and hath given us understanding, and that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his son Jesus Christ."
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
John is the apostle that Jesus had a special love for. His gospel is one of the most popular gospels and these three epistles show him to be kind, tender and loving. More than any other gospel author, John talks of love and light. In this chapter he bears witness of the Father and the Son. Of the resurrected Savior he says we heard him, , we saw him with our own eyes, and felt him with our hands. There is no doubt in what he says.
There is an interesting relationship between light and sin in this chapter. If we walk in the light there will be no darkness in us. We will see clearly. And one of the things we will see clearly is that we are not without sin. "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." But the great promise to each one of us is, if we walk in the light, the Savior's blood cleanses us from our sin. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Not from some our sin, but all.
1 John 2
Since all of us sin, John wants us to know two or three important things. "If any man sin and repent, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." We can know he is the Savior, John says, if we keep his commandments. Plus, "whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected." This is one of the great reasons he says in verses 15-17 that we not love the lustful ways of the world. "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." In verse 2, he tells us for whose sins he suffered. He didn't suffer for only a few, only for the elect, but for the whole world. If he suffered for the sins of every person, that tells me he wants to save every person. So to enact a plan of salvation for just a few doesn't make sense. If suffered for all, he loves all, and provides a way for all to eventually have the opportunity to be saved.
In this epistle, John is writing to all ages. He speaks to those who are parents, to those who are young adults, and to children. He is writing in reaction to gnostics who have left the church and are teaching apostate doctrines. Gnostics believe that anything to do with the body is sin and everything to do with the spirit is righteousness. To speak of a resurrected, glorified body goes against everything spiritual so they deny Christ because of his resurrection. I find that similar to many of the Christian teachings today to deny the resurrected body of Christ which Paul says he will never lay down again. The physical resurrection is one of the great gifts of the atonement and the promise of our bodily resurrection is throughout scripture. John teaches that they do not need to be confused about these teachings because they have an unction, or anointing, which teaches them all things. Some interpret this to be the Holy Ghost. Others teach it is the anointing given in the temple. I tend to think it is the Holy Ghost.
Monday, December 7, 2009
Peter warns the saints in our day to not let those who scoff about the second coming cause doubts in their minds. The second coming is imminent, but it will happen according to the Lord's time. He warns that these people are ignorant of the scriptures. They do not understand that by not knowing of what the scriptures actually say, they twist them to their own destruction. The wicked would have great reason to fear regarding the second coming if they knew the truth concerning it. The righteous have no need to fear if they are prepared. But of one thing we should have no doubt. There will be a second coming and never have the signs given in the scriptures been more exact than in our day.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
I think this chapter is one of the great chapters of the New Testament. Joseph Smith often quoted this chapter. In verses 13-14, Peter writes that he knows he will die soon and knows he is going to be crucified like the Savior was. Eventually, he will say he is unworthy to be crucified like the Savior and will ask to be crucified upside down. The three chapters in this epistle are most likely the last words he ever wrote to the saints. Knowing this, he obviously these words to be important for us.
Peter says that all things needed for this life and the way we should live it have been given to us by God's divine power. We have been given great and precious promises, he says, that will enable us to be partakers of God's divine nature and to escape all of the corruption of the world that comes from lust. If we diligently seek to add to virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and charity to our faith. I personally think these are put in a step by step order because it is logical that we first must obtain faith, and then the demonstration of our faith is a virtuous life. Then we are in a place where we can receive divine knowledge, and so on. If we obtain these traits in our life, he promises we will not be unprofitable or lacking in our knowledge of the Savior. If we fail to follow this path, he says we're like a blind person with no vision for our life or its future. But if we pursue that path, our calling and election will be made sure (this is the Savior's guarantee of exaltation which is given through the second endowment), and we will never fail. Those are great promises.
Peter bears testimony of his own divine knowledge and how he obtained it. He bears testimony that he heard the voice of the Father say "This is my beloved Son" on the Mount of Transfiguration, that he hasn't been following fables but was an eye witness to the Savior's resurrection. He bears witness that he has a sure knowledge of the prophecies and that if we heed these things, it will be like a light shining in a dark place and eventually the day star will arise in our hearts. The words "day star" are full of symbolism. They can mean the Savior. They can represent the light of knowledge of his divinity that can arise in our hearts.
Peter then tells us that underlying his knowledge is the principle that no prophecy, no scripture, is of private interpretation, but must come from those who are holy men of God who speak as they are moved by the Holy Ghost. The word "private" is interpreted from the Greek word "idios" which means "his own." In other words, no scripture or prophecy of the scripture can be put into one's own interpretation. Only those who have been called and ordained in the same manner that Peter was can do this. It is, as Peter says, the apostles and prophets, holy men, who have the "more sure word of prophecy."
2 Peter 2
Peter then warns of false prophets and teachers among the people. He delivers a scathing condemnation of those who teach falsely, especially those who teach and promote that freedom really comes by not being bound by commandments of righteousness and by uninhibited self expression through sexual sins. These people, he says, feast on others, have eyes full of adultery, and cannot cease from their own sins. He says they are wells without water; they entice with their swelling words and lusts for sex, but the liberty they promise is false because they are prisoners of their own sin and corruption. These are members of the church who aving once been faithful, now their fate is worse than had they not known of the Lord and the gospel. They are like the dog who turns and eats his own vomit, and the pig, who having been washed, returns to wallow in the mud. The dog and the pig are symbolic of those who are cleansed of all that is spiritually sick in them, but having been cleansed, they return to the very thing they once desired to be cleansed of.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Peter gives similar counsel to Paul's about the relationship of wives and husbands. Peter also counsels women who are married to men who are inactive to be patient and through their example they may be able to win them over. Verses 18-20 are difficult for other churches to explain, but with the restored gospel these verses are very logical and easy to understand. The Savior, after his death, went and preached to the spirits in prison, specifically those who had been disobedient in Noah's time. There are other writings such as those of Hermas, whose brother was a bishop in Rome that talk about preaching to those who have died. Hermas' writings say that after the death of the apostles, they went and preached to those who had fallen asleep before them.
1 Peter 4
Verse 6, which is related to 3:18-20), tells why the gospel is preached to the dead, "so they might be judged according to men in the flesh (be judged for their works while alive), but live according to God in the spirit." This makes it plain that there is yet hope after this life. A loving Heavenly Father understands that there are circumstances that make it virtually impossible for some to come to know how they can return to him. It is a loving and merciful God who will seek the salvation of all his children. His mercy and love are infinite, not limited. He will not suffer his children to be lost to Satan until he has done everything possible to save them.
Verses 12-19 remind us of how dangerous it was to be a Christian at this time. Like Paul, Peter urges the saints to not be fearful of the things they are going to suffer. There was a devastating fire that burned about a third of Rome. Nero blamed the Christians for the fire and began an intense wave of persecution and terror on the Saints. At the same time, the church is going into apostasy and Peter is urging them to not embrace ungodliness. He says an interesting thing, that God's judgement will begin with the House of Israel first, and then it will be upon the ungodly. Then he asks a sobering question, "If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?" Or, as he says in the previous verse, "if it first begins at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
1 Peter 5
Peter must be a fairly old man at this time. If he was an established fisherman when he first followed Christ, he could easily be in his fifties, sixties or even older, especially for average age of death for their time. One thing interesting in this chapter is how he describes Satan and his efforts. The devil, he says, is like a roaring lion, walking about seeking whoever he can devour. I have never felt there is any reason to fear Satan. But we should have a healthy respect for how strong his efforts are. He knows that eventually he can not win. But how he does win is in the number of people he can separate and estrange f
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Peter wrote this epistle from Rome around 65 A.D. While the New Testament does not call him a president of the church, Acts and the other epistles of the church make it clear that he the presiding leader of the church. Joseph Smith said that "Peter penned the most sublime language of any of the apostles."
With the resources of the restored gospel, the writings of Peter (and the other apostles) give the scriptures a far greater depth and breadth than what was previously understood. We get a greater view of the plan of salvation. We see how far reaching the mercy of Christ is, how the atonement wasn't just infinite in the direction of the future, but moved infinitely into the past to save souls who lived prior to the atonement. Terms such as "elect," "salvation," and "foreordained" are clearer and provide us with a better understanding of our relationship to the Father, his Son and the Holy Ghost.
In chapter 1, Peter explains how the natural course of the life of a saint takes us through afflictions and sufferings that will eventually lead to far greater glories if we endure them in the right way. And the right way is to be obedient, to "gird up our loins" (which to us means "roll up your sleeves and get to work"), and to be holy since our Father and the Savior are holy. Peter says that the trials of our faith are more precious than gold. The sufferings, temptations, and trials of this life are like grass that withers and dies, but the word of the Lord, his promises, and his salvation will endure forever. And unlike the things of this world, we can count on his word. The illusion to grass would have been meaningful to those in the middle east. In Israel, the grasses of spring come forth green and thick. But when the east wind comes, they dry, wither and die, sometimes this can happen the very next day.
1 Peter 2
The imagery in this chapter is beautiful. The use of stones would have been particularly meaningful to the saints. Everything was built of stone. So to say that Christ is the cornerstone is to say he is the stone that gives strength to the whole building. The focus of of all other stones in the building is pointed towards him. Like a well place stone, it can be a support or stumbling block when someone tries to kick against it.
Peter tells the members they are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, and a peculiar people. The Hebrew and Greek translations for peculiar are similar and mean "valued property" or "special treasure."
Verses 21-25 are particularly beautiful. They point to how Christ was sinless, how he bore his sufferings with dignity. I think of how dignified he was when he was in the presence of Pilate.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
There are three James in New Testament that were leaders in the church. James, the brother of John was a member of the 1st Presidency and was stoned by the Sanhedrin around 44 A.D. Another apostle named James is sometimes referred to as James the less. And the third James, who wrote this epistle, was the oldest of the brothers of Jesus. He was not a believer of Christ when the Savior was alive and even taunted him. But when the Savior appeared to James following his resurrection, he converted and Paul later calls him one of the pillars of the church. This epistle is one of the general epistles of the Bible because is is meant for all of the church, not just specific members in a specific city like Paul's letters were.
Verse 5 has to be one of the most important verses in scripture. Certainly those that make promises of the Savior and his atonement are of utmost importance, but I can think of no other verse that has had a greater affect on the salvation of man than this one. Because of the chain of events started by this one verse, millions and billions of people can now have a correct understanding of the nature of God and their relationship to him, they can receive the saving ordinances and the promises of exaltation, and they can have a correct understanding of the atonement and the great blessings associated with it.
Other verses I think important are verses 9-11 that tell us that riches and position will pass away just like grass withers in the summer sun. In an old movie, one man says, "You have sought for glory all of your life, the only thing important to me is money." To which the other man replied, "The difference is, my glory will continue with me." Verses 12-14 that tell us if we resist temptation, we are blessed and we will receive a crown of glory. God does not and will not tempt us with evil. Satan and evil aspects of the world will, but God will not. He tries us, but he doesn't tempt us. Verse 22 should be known by everyone in the church. It is not enough to hear and know, but we must act on what we believe and know to be true. Verse 28 reminds us that pure religion is to keep ourselves clean and care for those around us, especially the orphans and widows.
This chapter clearly shows that to profess Christ is not enough. Belief must be partnered with works if a person is to be saved and exalted. Faith without works is dead. Faith is made perfect through works. Our works not only exemplify our faith, but they justify us in the presence of the Lord. You can not have faith without works.
Chapter 3 is all about controlling our tongues and living a life of integrity. James uses examples that would have been meaningful to the people of his day. A great forest fire can be started by the smallest spark and an uncontrollable series of events can be started by the smallest amount of words. With integrity, he says we cannot say one thing and live another. A spring doesn't put forth sweet and bitter waters at the same time. It is what it is. And what we say, does not change who we are. Someone once said there are two kinds of sinners in the church: those who repent and then speak, and those who speak but never repent.
At some point, we learn that we have to choose between the world's way and God's way. James teaches that to be a friend of the world, especially the evil aspects of the world, is to be an enemy to God. He promises us that if we resist Satan, he will flee from us. On the other hand, if we draw close to God, he will draw close to us. As James points out, life is like a vapor of steam in the air. It appears and then it's vanishes quickly. So it is with the ways of the world. What we think is important one day is soon forgotten and when we leave this life, it will be meaningless. The question is, what are we becoming in the meantime? If we following those things that are meaningful and lasting, the unimportant things will not influence us to the point that our lives become misdirected and unfulfilled. So James teaches that "to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. But, if we know the good and do it, we'll be richly blessed.
Two things stand out among others to me as I read this chapter. One is: "The effectual fervant prayer of a righteous man availeth much." How often I take my prayers too lightly and fail to realize how powerful an influence they can be for good. There is something about the power of prayer that we do not understand. I don't really know how electricity does what it does. But I know we can harness its power for our own blessing. I'm not sure how prayer works, but I know it does and too often I fail to harness its power which is far greater than something like electricity.