Monday, July 28, 2008

We can do Superhuman Things With the Right Motivation and Belief

I find it interesting reading the Book of Mormon and its claim that a small force, correctly motivated, can beat a far superior force. Armies are aware of this and always present that their army is either unbeatable or doing the right thing, before sending them off to war. The story of the 2,000 stripling warriors (Alma chapter 56) is a classic case.

I have heard cases where a woman has picked up one side of a truck to get her child out, in extreme circumstances. I had a similar experience where a friend of mine lifted the front of a car and dragged another friend out from under it.

I can tell of two amazing personal experiences with this. I was working with some electricians in wiring a 13 story building that was in the process of being built. I was very keen on gaining an apprenticeship with them, so was eager to impress. We had 3 rolls of wire which were on wooden reels that were about 4 1/2 to 5 feet (1 1/2 metres) tall. 3 of us tried to guide them, to some degree, as they were rolled off the truck. We couldn't control the rolling speed, only some attempt at direction. The electrician I was working with that day told me to bring one over to where we were working. There were fragments of brick all over the place and a risen doorway to bring it across. I mentioned this, and that it would be impossible for me to roll it to where we were. I was thinking that with relief as I didn't feel I could roll it anyway with its weight. He said that I would have to pick it up and carry it. I said, how can I lift that?" He pointed to a steel pole and said put it between two of them and carry them over. His matter of fact way of saying it, and my strong desire to please, made me go and do it. Now this solid through steel pole was at least 1 1/4 inches (3 1/2 cm) thick.

By the time I had carried those two reels to him the pole was very bent. I have no idea how heavy that weight was, but I'm no muscle builder, and I had just turned 16-years-old. He also told me to strip a foot (1/3 metre) of wire, which with the wire we were using at the time was well beyond the impossible, yet I also did that for the same reasons.

So the 2 reasons why I could do these impossible actions was the right motivation and the belief that the electrician engendered in making me feel such abilities were typical and expected. Though I found out the next day that wasn't true.

That therefore leads to the question of just how much are we really capable of? It also starts to show the power of faith. The true ability we can rise to is to do that work which our Father in heaven does.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Does the Bible Teach Only Two Levels of Reward - Heaven or Hell?

As LDS we have D&C 76 explaining the varying rewards that await us after judgement. But for those who don't have this information there has been a very basic (and extremely unfair) concept of rewards.

The Bible and the other books within the Standard Works point to two general states in judgement. We have what we term a "Heaven" and a "Hell". That makes judgement sound very simple. But the Bible says quite a lot more on the subject that challenges this simple outlook.

Coupled with this we have a final judgement. Yet we also have talk of being ALREADY judged when we die. So what is the point of a final judgement, if we are already in heaven or hell?

When I was about 12-years-old (having been brought up a Protestant/Catholic) I was faced with the question of my standing before God. My best friend was a very dedicated Catholic. I questioned on whether I might end up not good enough or having not repented at the right time to go to heaven, and thus end up in hell. I then thought on my friend and questioned the justice if he made it in and I didn't. I then questioned the justice of it if it were the other way around. While my minister assured me of eternal life, as I came to Church and believed in Christ, my feelings weren't quite satisfied at leaving my eternal future to his opinion. Particularly as ministers (including him) couldn't speak on behalf of God to answer other obvious questions I had been asking at that point of my life. Nor did his answer comply with what the Bible said in regard this (I knew the Bible spoke of people not getting in due to lack of works - clothing the naked etc, and that not everyone saying, "Lord," would go to heaven, as he was proposing).

The thoughts that my mind went to was the justice of the whole 2 outcomes idea. How can every person on earth be either considered evil or righteous? And while some may argue that those who accept the atonement of Christ are going to heaven and those who don't are going to hell, the Scriptures don't support this simplistic idea as all there is to it. Nor does sense. Are we to believe that if Adolf Hitler accepted the atonement of Christ yet continued to murder that he would go to heaven, and someone who had lived a good life is going to hell because they were a muslim? And talk of repentance with change poses the question of how much change qualifies a person? Yet all this also poses the questions, is this the righteous judge that God presented himself to be to Abraham? Is this the loving father that Christ presented?

Having said only a small fragment of how unfair such judgement would be, I would like to turn to what the Scriptures say (with particular emphasis on the Bible) in regard the matter, as that is the point of the post.

In Luke chapter 16 Christ gives the parable of Lazareth and the rich man. Verses 22 and 23 explain that upon death Lazareth went to a nice state and that the rich man was in torment. So this demonstrates an immediate separation of states of reward upon death.

When the thief on the cross gave his testimony of who Christ was, Luke records the following response,

"And Jesus said to him, Surely I say to you, To day you will be with me in paradise." Luke 23:24

Yet Christ states that eventually (by the end) all the dead will hear his voice and rise. Then he says,

"And will come forth; they that have done good, to the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, to the resurrection of damnation." Jn 5:29

This suggests a change of circumstance from that previously had.

Also note John's statement in regard the end,

"And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to wheir works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death." Rev 20:12-14

So not only does death deliver up the dead, but hell also. This reaffirms that some have been in a hell state already. THEN those who have been in a hell state are judged along with those who have been in a paradise state. What difference could there possibly be in judgement? Weren't they already assigned to hell or heaven? And aren't we told that the wicked will be in hell without ceasing? So why has it ceased for a resurrection and judgement? We have a statement that the previous hell (along with death) is swallowed up by the second death. So they can't return to that hell anyway. It has ceased to exist.

Plainly the final judgement has a different criteria of judgement from the initial states we exist in upon death, else it would be a pointless judgement. Yet the unrepentant have suffered for their sins, while the truly repentant have been saved from that suffering by Christ's atonement, and been in a paradise state instead.

So what do we know about this first hell state where sins are paid for?

"And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and didn't prepared himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that didn't know, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For to whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more." Luke 12:47-48

So we find here that the amount of punishment given in this hell state is relevant to how much we knew it was wrong to do something evil. Now while this would also pertain to the second death, it would obviously pertain to the first hell state, where people are punished for their sins.

Christ came (among other things) to save us from our sins. But what does this being saved mean?

"And you he has quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins...Even when we were dead in sins, has quickened us together with Christ (by grace you are saved;)" Eph 2:1+5

So those who truly repent are quickened by the spirit already. They are saved from the state they were in NOW. This isn't speaking of some future event. It is speaking of something that frees us now and will continue to be the case ever after, because we have given up "trespasses and sins".

We see further evidence that our sins being forgiven gives people an immediate release from the hell state we would otherwise be in, in Luke. Jesus heals a man of the palsy.

"And when he saw their faith, he said to him, Man, your sins are forgiven you....And immediately he rose up before them, and took up what he was laying on, and departed to his own house, glorifying God." Luke 5:20+25

So Christ is presenting that, in this man's case, his sins being forgiven made him well there and then: He was freed from the hell state that had held him. Therefore Christ came to save us from a present state.

In regard being saved from this hell state Paul says,

"For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Not of works, least any man should boast." Eph 2:8-9

No works this man healed of the palsy could do would clean his conscience of his past sins. It can only be by Christ suffering instead in the atonement that could free the conscience, as we open up in true repentance while looking to Christ in faith.

But does this being saved from our conscience's bad feelings put us up with Heavenly Father after the final judgement, while all others go to be with Satan?

Final Judgement

"For with what judgement you judge, you shall be judged: and with what measure you mete out, it shall be measured to you again." Matt 7:2

How does this fit with the idea above that it is only through faith in Christ?

This again points out this concept of people receiving different rewards from each other. "..with what judgement you judge..." No two people judge exactly the same. Therefore no two would receive exactly the same measure back. Our reward is totally relevant to each individual action, whether they be good or evil, in the type of person we are by that time. No comment of favourable judgement only by repentance or acceptance of Christ - though, of course, that is a necessary step in disposing of the old person and making continual growth and positive changes.

"Then shall the king say to those on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was an hungred and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in." Matt 25:34-35

Here works are clearly stated to be relevant to whether you get into the kingdom of heaven. How does this also relate to the statement that works have no relevance to salvation? Plainly, being saved from the hell state isn't the same as getting into the kingdom.

"Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven."Matt 7:21

Again we have comment that personal righteousness (works) is required to get into the kingdom of heaven. Just calling Jesus "Lord" won't get you there. Nor will just be being saved from the hell state by grace.

Note what Matt 7 goes on to say in verses 22-23,

"Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity."

So even those who have done many mighty miracles IN JESUS'S NAME still won't get into the kingdom of heaven if they are still sinning - regardless of their acceptance of Christ.

Let's look at the following quotes that can give the indication of only 2 rewards,

"And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, ... Then shall the King say unto them ... Come,... inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." Matt 25:33-34

"Then shall he say also unto them of the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." Matt 25:41

While this sounds like only two rewards, it isn't. It is merely stating that there is a dividing of the totally wicked and the totally righteous. This is speaking of Christ's second coming. And in spite of this stating that the righteous will ALL go to the kingdom of heaven and the wicked ALL being cast off with the devil, some people go on living during the next 1,000 years. So, obviously, many present at that time won't fit into these 2 catagories.

In fact concerning how many will actually get into the kingdom of heaven Christ stated,

"Because thin is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads to life, and few there be that find it." Matt 7:14

This word "few" means "puny" in Greek (Strong's Concordance). If we are to believe that all professing Christ are to get into that kinddom then we would have "puny" billions. Puny would indicate to me very few indeed.

The Scriptures show further that knowledge makes a difference to reward,

"For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them." 2 Pet 2:20-21

This demonstrates at least 3 states of people relative to rewards - those who never knew, those who knew and accepted and those who knew and rejected.

Also note,

"I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot: I would that you were cold or hot. So then because you are luke-warm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue you out of my mouth." Rev 3:15-16

Are we to believe that the reward of those wrongdoers that God wouldn't "spue" out of his mouth is the same as those he would? Obviously it would be better, whatever we want to claim it to be.

Amidst all this the question arises as to where then everyone else goes that isn't totally righteous or totally wicked? And the Bible says almost nothing on this subject in the way of giving each a title. But as God is a righteous judge, we can be assured that judgement is fair. Also some of the Scriptures quoted have demonstrated that judgement will be totally fair.

"I knew a man in Christ above forteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannnot tell: God knows;) who was caught away, as such, to the third heaven." 2 Cor 12:2

Third Heaven? How does that fit with only 2 states?

And then we have the parable of the talents. Note how it goes.

Matt 25:14-15 "For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered to them his goods. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability, and straight away took his journey."

The story unfolds that the one with 5 talents put them to work and ended up with 10 talents. The one with only 2 talents intially, ended up having 4. But the one having only 1 did nothing with what he had, and so only had 1 talent when the master arrived back and wanted a counting.

The one that had done nothing with his talent was cast out into outer darkness (verse 30).

Now both the one with 10 talents and the one with 4 talents are praised and promised much. Yet note what the master said to do with the talent that was taken from the man with only one,

"Take therefore the talent from him, and give it to him which has ten talents. For to every one that has shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but from him that has not shall be taken away even that which he has. Matt 25:28-29

So in spite of the equal promises given to both (the one with 10 and the one with 4) the one with 10 ends up with 11 talents and the other still only 4 talents. Christ has presented that the more you are faithful with, the more you will end up with.

In conclusion:-
1. Not all receive the same amount of punishment, but some are beaten with more punishment than others.
2. We have found that God isn't equally opposed to all those who don't follow Christ (the ignorant are more tollerated).
3. We have found that Christ's atonement, not our works, saves us from sins NOW.
4. Yet we have found that works are required to get into the kingdom of heaven, however.
5. We have found that there are 2 judgements that aren't the same.
6. We have found that the first hell state doesn't go without EVER ceasing, but just doesn't stop at the time we suffer for our sins (if we haven't accepted the atonement).
7. We have found that outer darkness (the second death) goes without ceasing.
8. We have found that judgement and rewards will be different for all.
9. We have found that there are 3 general states of heaven.

Monday, July 07, 2008

The Book of Mormon and the Bible - the Relationship

I was brought up with the Bible, but had to adjust to the concept of additional scripture in the Book of Mormon. An obvious difference I noticed was the form of writing: The King James scholars write differently from Joseph Smith. But this difference is just superficial. Looking for what is the same and what is different in the people and their doctrine is the important thing, along with the value of its teachings to us.

The BoM (Book of Mormon) people prior to Christ had a doctrine somewhat closer to the gospel in many ways than those in the OT (Old Testament). Yet it should also be remembered that although the OT was generally written toward a more spiritually backward people, it still contained the gospel principles for those who searched with the Spirit. The things Christ taught he could back up from the OT and other scriptures they had. The Pharisees knew this and couldn't argue it.

The part where the Bible comes to the fore is in the NT (New Testament) where it contains more books written after Christ, and by more authors. This gives greater understanding of gospel thinking in application. Additionally it has more of the teachings of Christ, details of the atonement in the garden, his death on the cross and the resurrection.

Yet the BoM has many invaluable lessons not stated so well or at all in the OT and NT. Not only that but the BoM demonstrates a greater average closeness to the Spirit consistently. In the NT Matthew has a great closeness to the Spirit. James and Peter also have this. And John feels an enormous love. Yet the OT is mostly very flat from this perspective. Isaiah shines forth and perhaps Jeremiah.

The BoM also has an advantage in not having so many of Christ's teachings, in that it makes his main message more obvious, thus not confusing the issue of what the fullness of the gospel actually is.

In spite of the lesser Spirit within it, I feel the value of the OT is generally ignored. God gave all the laws within the Law of Moses for a reason. Coming to understand those reasons brings us closer to understanding God and his way of working. It also helps us understand the gospel more completely, how to live it and how to advise others on principles of life.

Although Christ touches upon it in the NT, the BoM goes into greater depth about problems with lawyers and the legal system generally. It also goes into greater depth in regard political corruption. In that line there is also the demonstration of Mafia type problems.

Yet the NT gives a greater demonstration of the problems associated with Law of Moses type judgements. We see this with the Pharisees condemnation of Christ's actions. And his condemnation of their inability to judge people where their situations fall outside of the situations that God knew would USUALLY be the case, when he made the rules (eg. "But if ye had known what this meaneth, 'I would have mercy, and not sacrifice,' ye would not have condemned the guiltless" Matt 12:7).

Without the history of the OT, the NT and BoM would be hard to follow in parts. Mormon allowed for the existence of this historical information when he compiled the BoM (Eth 1:3-4).