1 Nephi 11

1 Nephi 11: Nephi’s Vision of the Tree of Life

                Nephi , believing on the words of his father Lehi desired to see for himself the things which is father was able to behold he prayed to the Lord and; “…was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord… into an exceedingly high mountain, which I [Nehpi] never had before seen, and upon which I never had before set my foot.” (1 Nephi 11:1) Nephi is then asked by an angel of the Lord if he truly believed on the words of his father, and Nephi responded that he believed all the words. Because Nephi believed the words (had faith without seeing) he was then granted the ability to see what his father had seen in visions and dreams.

The Angel then shouts for Joy that Nephi believed, and told him to LOOK. Nephi looked and asked the Angel to give him an interpretation of the Tree which his father Lehi had seen. Nephi is then left by the Angel to see a vision;

“…it came to pass that I looked and beheld the great city of Jerusalem, and also other cities. And I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white.” (1 Nephi 11:13) The heavens then open and the angel comes down and asks Nephi; “…what beholdest thou?” (1 Nephi 11:14) Nephi responds; “…A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins.” (1 Nephi 11:15) The Angel then asks; “…Knowest thou the condescension of God?” (1 Nephi 11:16)

What is the Condescension of God?

Condescension: the act of descending to a lower and less dignified state; of waiving the privileges of one’s rank and status; of bestowing honors and favors upon one of lesser stature or status.

The Angel asks Nephi if he understood what the condescension of God was, to which Nephi responded; “…I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.” (1 Nepi 11:17)

The Angel explains that the virgin he had seen is; “…the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh…. [the Angel then carries Nephi into another vision and commands him to look] …I [Nephi]  looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms. And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father!” (1 Nephi 11:18;20-21)

So what is the Condescension of God? Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained it better than I could;

“When we think of him, we think of the most noble and exalted being there is. Then we read this question, “Knowest thou the condescension of God?” and discover that somehow it is associated with his love for us, his children, his spirit children who are now dwelling as mortals here on earth. We discover in our text that he shall be the Father of a Son born “after the manner of the flesh”; that is, he condescends, in his infinite wisdom, to be the Father of a holy being who shall be born into mortality…

So when we think of Christ’s condescension in this matter, we must think of the glory and dominion and exaltation that he possessed. We read in the revelations that he was ‘like unto God’ (Abraham  3:24). We read the language of the Father where he says, ‘worlds without number have I created; … and by the Son I created them, which is mine only Begotten’ (Moses 1:33). We discover that Christ was like the Father; that he was co-creator, that he had the might and power and dominion and omnipotence of the Father and that he acted under his direction in the regulating and the creating of the universe.

We read the words which an angel spake to King Benjamin, in which the angel described him as “the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity,” and then said that he would come down and tabernacle in a body of clay and minister among men; that he would be the Son of God and that Mary would be his mother (see Mosiah 3:5, 8).

Here we have a glorious thing. Here we have exalted, noble beings on a plane and status so far above our present circumstance that we have no way of comprehending their dominion and glory, and we have one of them, God our Eternal Father, through the condescension and infinite love and mercy that he has for us, stepping down from his noble status and becoming the Father of a Son after the manner of the flesh. We have that Son being born, that Son who was his firstborn in the spirit, who had like power and omnipotence with the Father. We have each of them performing a work that there is no way for us to understand as far as magnitude and glory and importance is concerned.” (Bruce R. McConkie – Behold the Condescension of God; December 1984)

Nephi, after seeing the virgin and the Lamb of God being born explains to the Angel that the Tree is; “…the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things.” (1 Nephi 11:22) The Angel confirms that this is true and proceeds to show Nephi more visions of the Lamb of God and his ministry upon the earth. Nephi is commanded to look, and he looks; “….I [Nephi] beheld the Lamb of God going forth among the children of men. And I beheld multitudes of people who were sick, and who were afflicted with all manner of diseases, and with devils and unclean spirits; and the angel spake and showed all these things unto me. And they were healed by the power of the Lamb of God; and the devils and the unclean spirits were cast out.” (1 Nephi 11:31)

Nephi is commanded again to look, and he beholds the Lamb of God being judged before the world, lifted upon the cross and slain for the sins of the world. Nephi is then shown the vision of the Tree of Life, which his father Lehi had seen. In the vision, there was a great and spacious building which Nephi declared; “….was the pride of the world; and it fell, and the fall thereof was exceedingly great. And the angel of the Lord spake unto me again, saying: Thus shall be the destruction of all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, that shall fight against the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” (1 Nephi 11:36)

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Revelation 11

Revelation 11: The 7th Angel

                John explains that in the last days the Lord will send two prophets; “And I will give power [authority] unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days…” (Revelation 11:3) John explains that these two missionaries will not be harmed during those days and that it will also not rain during this time. It is interesting to note that a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints said; “No doubt they will be members of the Council of the Twelve or the First Presidency of the Church” – Elder Bruce R. McConkie  (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:509).

However, after they have had ample time to deliver their testimony, the beast will come out from the bottomless pit and will strike them dead; “…their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city… three days and an half…” (Revelation 11:8-9) After those three days, however, “…the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud…And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and a tenth part of the city fell…” (Revelation 11:11-13)

The Seventh Angel sounded; “…and there were great voices in haven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and he shall reign forever and ever…” (Revelation 11:15) Paul describes the situation by telling us that the 24 elders who sat before God, fell to the ground and worshiped God.

1 Thessalonians 5

1 Thessalonians 5: The Last Days…

 

Paul writes to the Thessalonians and tells them that they do not need reminders to know that they themselves “…know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.” (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3) Paul exhorts them to be mindful of the day of the Lord, and reminds them that they “…are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of the darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.” (1 Thessalonians 5:5-6) He urges those in the Last Days to not only be sober, but to put “…on the breastplate of faith and love; and… an helmet, the hope of salvation.” (1 Thessalonians 5:8)

He urges the members of the Church of Jesus Christ to edify one another and to work for the sake of love. He asks that peace be among the followers of Christ and to support the weak and be “…patient toward all men.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14)

 

Paul begins to end his letter with some wisdom;

“Rejoice evermore.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16)

                                In other words; be happy always.

                “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

                                In other words; Pray ALWAYS! Day and Night!

                “In everything give thanks…” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

                                In other words; be humble and realize ALL of your blessings.

                “Quench [do not suppress] not the Spirit.” (1 Thessalonians 5:19)

In other words; Do not do anything that would offend the Spirit. Follow the commandments so you can always have the guidance of the Holy Ghost.

“Despise not prophesyings.” (1 Thessalonians 5:20)

In other words; We need to listen to prophecy and revelation, even if we don’t 100% agree.

                “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21)

In other words; We need to be knowledgable and know what is TRUE and FALSE. Those things that are good, we should hold on to!

                “Abstain from the appearance of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:22)

In other words; Just because you aren’t breaking the commandments of God, doing something that even appears to be bad should not be done.

Finally Paul asks all the members of the Church to “…pray for us.” (1 Thessalonians 5:25) This is a reminder that we should pray for all the divinely appointed leaders of Christ’s Church.

 

Ephesians 4

Ephesians 4: Organization of the Church of Jesus Christ

Paul opens this letter by explaining that there is “…one body, and one Spirit…” (Ephesians 4:4), which means that there is one purpose behind all of God’s works. Paul goes on to further exclaim that there is “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” (Ephesians 4:5)

                What is Paul saying here? He is saying that there is only one God, One Savior [Jesus Christ], and one baptism… which also means there can only be one Authority. Paul explains that there is “One God and Father of all… unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:6-7) So we learn that there can only be one Lord, one faith and one baptism… so the question arises; Why are there so many religions? Different Faiths? Different Baptisms?

Paul goes on to explain the organization of Christ’s Church: “…he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be not more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may group up into him all the things, which is the head, even Christ:” (Ephesians 4:11-15)

From these five verses we learn a lot about how Jesus Christ’s Church must be set up; it must have an organized body to administer His Church on the earth, including: Apostles, Prophets, Pastors and Teachers. Those who hold those positions are CALLED to them, and do not receive money for being in them. These people called to the work and given the authority from Jesus Christ himself can guide the church and receive revelation for the Saints [members] in the church, that they might edifying the body [the members] of Christ. The reason for God calling Prophets and Apostles is simple, so that we can be guided by men called of Christ and not just those men who ‘lie in wait to deceive’. This is the reason there are so many religions, churches and faiths… because it is profitable. Over thousands of years since the death of Jesus Christ there have been evil men who distort doctrines and confuse the masses. Because of this we have so many religions today… when in reality there can only be one.

Paul explains that one day, when everyone is united and everyone believes on Jesus Christ, that there will be no reason for this same organization because Christ will reign as King. Paul urges the Saints to “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth… let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you… by ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving… even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:29, 31-32)

Ephesians 1

Ephesians 1: Saints Foreordained/Restoration of the Gospel

                Paul writes a letter to the Ephesians, he starts by explaining that he is an Apostle of the Lord and explains that we are all God’s children, for God “…hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, what we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestined us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ… In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins…” (Ephesians 1:4-5, 7) We learn from Paul that we are not only children of God, but that Jesus Christ will adopt us and through His atoning sacrifice in the Garden of Gethsemane and His Crucifixion, we can be forgiven of our sins.

Paul goes on to explain that God will make known “…the mystery of his will…” (Ephesians 1:7) Essentially Paul is telling us that ONE DAY we will have answers to the questions of our soul, like: Where did we come from? Why are we here and where are we going after death? Paul explains that in the ‘dispensation of the fulness of times’ we will come to this knowledge;

“…the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him.” (Ephesians 1:10)

What is the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times?

                First, what is a ‘Dispensation’? Dispensations are periods of time in which the gospel of Jesus Christ is administered by Holy Prophets, who are ordained by God. Through these Prophets, God can speak to His children and administer the affairs of His kingdom on Earth. Dispensations begin with the calling of a prophet, by God. Dispensations end, when the people reject the prophets and kill them.

The Dispensation of the Fulness of Times began in 1820, when Joseph Smith had the First Vision. During this time God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ spoke to Joseph Smith and called him to be a prophet. Through Joseph Smith, the Church of Jesus Christ was restored back to the earth. In modern day scripture we read; “It is necessary in the ushering in of the dispensation of the fulness of times, which dispensation is now beginning to usher in, that a whole and complete and perfect union, and welding together of dispensations, and keys, and powers, and glories should take place, and be revealed from the days of Adam even to the present time” (Doctrine and Covenants 128:18).

                So we learn that through Joseph Smith, the Father and the Son ushered in the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times, where all dispensations from Adam to Present are linked together to prepare for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

Paul ends his letter to the Saints in Ephesus, and prays that God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ given them the “…spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him; The eyes of your understanding being  enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.” (Ephesians 1:17-18) Paul was urging them to open their minds and hearts to being filled with knowledge and enlightenment over the doctrines of Jesus Christ. Today, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints asks the same thing, for people to open their hearts and understand that the Church, Jesus Christ personally established when He was on the earth… is now Restored with modern day Prophets and Apostles.

Acts 19

Acts 19: The Gift of the Holy Ghost

                While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul passed through the upper coasts of Epheus where he found certain Disciples of Christ who had not yet received the Holy Ghost;

“He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as head whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto the, Unto what then where ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came upon them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.” (Acts 19:2-6)

                When Paul had asked them if they had received the Holy Ghost, they knew nothing of it. These people thought they had received a valid baptism with the proper authority. However, Paul, an Apostle of the Lord told them that they had been baptized without the actual Authority. So when the people heard and understood this, they were RE-BAPTIZED, because a baptism without the proper Authority is just getting wet, and serves no purpose. Paul then gave them the power and gift of the Holy Ghost, by the laying on of hands, by the proper Authority. Thus, it is important to have proper Authority to get a proper baptism. This Authority was lost some time after Paul was an Apostle, but has been restored in these Latter-days.

While in Ephesus Paul has a mixed response, but performs miraculous healings. The seven sons of Sceva, Jewish exorcists, try to exorcise by the name of the Lord Jesus. However, the evil spirits do not recognize them or their proper Authority and are beaten by the evil spirits. Many in Ephesus renounce occult objects. Demetrius, a maker of idols, opposes Paul because his business has suffered. A riot starts, which is finally calmed by a city clerk.

Acts 15

Acts 15: Circumcision; Yes or No?

                Certain men came down from Judea to teach that; “…Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.” (Acts 15:1) Paul and Barnabas disagreed with the men and suggested they go to Jerusalem to speak with the other Apostles regarding the matter. Even though many in the church believed it was not necessary to be circumcised, a great number of Pharisees that had joined the church believed in the Law of Moses. The Apostles council in Jerusalem and after some time they decide and letters are sent to the churches of Antioch, Syria and Cilicia, saying that circumcision is not necessary. However, the letter goes on to explain that only abstinence from idolatry, blood, things strangled and sexual immorality is necessary. Judas [surnamed Barnabas] and Silas [Chief men among the brethren] serve as missionaries in Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. Paul and Barnabas make plans to visit all the churches they have established, but they quarrel about whether to take John Mark with them, so in the end, Barnabas and John Mark go to Cyprus, while Paul takes Silas with him to Syria and Cilicia. They went throughout the land “…confirming the churches.” (Acts 15:41)