He is the Firstfruits unto God

Lehi teaches his son, Jacob, about the power of Christ to bring about the resurrection for all mankind and salvation for those who believe in Him:

“…The Holy Messiah…layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise. Wherefore, he is the firstfruits unto God, inasmuch as he shall make intercession for all the children of men; and they that believe in him shall be saved.” (2 Nephi 2:8-9)

Questions:

-Does the word “Spirit” in this passage have any reference to the Holy Ghost or God the Father’s spiritual strength? Or, is it only a reference to the power of Christ’s individual spirit?

-Do the members of the Godhead do anything without mutual support and approbation for one another?

-Has any spirit, besides Christ, had the power to resurrect his or her earthly body after death? How did Christ’s resurrection ensure that all of God’s children will be resurrected?

-What does it mean to believe in Christ?

-Is it sufficient only to believe? Or, it is more meaningful and pleasing to God if a person is valiant in his or her testimony of Christ?

-Is there a difference between salvation and exaltation?

He Suffereth the Pains of All Men, Women, and Children

Jacob testifies that Christ descended below all in His suffering and death so He could then lift all toward Him through the Resurrection and be a perfect judge at the Day of Judgment.

“O how great the holiness of our God! For he knoweth all things and there is not anything save he knows it. And he cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken unto his voice; for behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam. And he suffereth this that the resurrection might pass upon all men, that all might stand before him at the great and judgment day.” (2 Nephi 9:20-22)

Questions:

-How do you feel about this testimony from Jacob that Christ knows your pain and has actually felt your pain?

-What does it say about the depth of God’s love that He was willing to suffer so deeply to bring about the Resurrection for all mankind and be as merciful a judge as possible.

-How can a person hearken to the voice of God? Is God’s voice found in the scriptures? Is God’s voice found in the promptings of the Holy Ghost? Can God’s voice be heard from the mouths of those who have received authority to speak in His name?

Teachings of Latter-day Prophets, Seers, and Revelators:

“Christ’s agony in the garden is unfathomable by the finite mind, both as to intensity and cause. … He struggled and groaned under a burden such as no other being who has lived on earth might even conceive as possible. It was not physical pain, nor mental anguish alone, that caused Him to suffer such torture as to produce an extrusion of blood from every pore; but a spiritual agony of soul such as only God was capable of experiencing. No other man, however great his powers of physical or mental endurance, could have suffered so” (James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, 3rd ed. [1916], 613).

“By His Atonement and Resurrection, Jesus Christ has overcome all aspects of the Fall. Physical death will be temporary, and even spiritual death has an end, in that all come back into the presence of God, at least temporarily, to be judged” (D. Todd Christofferson, “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2014, 112).

They Must be Judged According to the Holy Judgment of God

Jacob recounts how the Resurrection occurs prior to the Final Judgment and how these two events solidify each soul’s status in relation to God for eternity.

“…When all men shall have passed from this first death unto life, insomuch as they have become immortal, they must appear before the judgment-seat of the Holy One of Israel; and then cometh the judgment, and then must they be judged according to the holy judgment of God. And assuredly, as the Lord liveth, for the Lord God hath spoken it, and it is his eternal word, which cannot pass away, that they who are righteous shall be righteous still, and they who are filthy shall be filthy still; wherefore, they who are filthy are the devil and his angels; and they shall go away into everlasting fire, prepared for them; and their torment is as a lake of fire and brimstone, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever and has no end. O the greatness and the justice of our God! For he executeth all his words, and they have gone forth out of his mouth, and his law must be fulfilled.” (2 Nephi 9:15-17)

Questions:

-How generous and loving will Christ be as our Eternal Judge? How willing will He be to extend mercy in whatever ways He can based on the choices we made in relation to God’s law? Could those who never had a chance to receive God’s law during their time in mortality be judged by that law?

-How fortunate will we be to have Christ both as our Judge and our Mediator? (See quote by Jeffrey Holland below.)

-Do “the devil and his angels” that Jacob refers to in the passage above include not only those spirits who followed Satan in the premortal life but also those who, after initially following God’s plan by coming to earth to receive a mortal body, then stubbornly reject the mercy He has extended to them—even after receiving a sure witness from the Holy Ghost of what Christ has done for them in appeasing the law of eternal justice (see sons of Perdition)? Will everyone else—those who are not rebellious and receive Christ’s mercy as they come to understand it—receive at least some Degree of Glory?

-Why will those who are eternally filthy experience torment that is like a “lake of fire and brimstone?”

-Is the Final Judgment also a “Final Chance” to receive Christ’s mercy before all who reject Him are sent away eternally? How important is it to seek Christ’s mercy through repentance now rather than denying the power of His grace until the Final Judgment?

Teachings of Latter-day Prophets, Seers, and Revelators:

“As ‘Wonderful Counselor,’ he will be our mediator, our intercessor, defending our cause in the courts of heaven. …

“Of course, as noted by Isaiah, Christ is not only a mediator but also a judge [see Mosiah 3:10; Moroni 10:34; Moses 6:57]. It is in that role of judge that we may find even greater meaning in Abinadi’s repeated expression that ‘God himself’ will come down to redeem his people [Mosiah 13:28; see also Mosiah 13:34; 15:1; Alma 42:15]. It is as if the judge in that great courtroom in heaven, unwilling to ask anyone but himself to bear the burdens of the guilty people standing in the dock, takes off his judicial robes and comes down to earth to bear their stripes personally. Christ as merciful judge is as beautiful and wonderful a concept as that of Christ as counselor, mediator, and advocate.” (Jeffrey R. Holland, Christ and the New Covenant, 80–81)

O How Great the Plan of Our God!

Jacob continues to teach about the power of Christ’s Atonement. Even the terrible grip on those who experience the combination of physical death (the grave) and spiritual death (hell) will be loosened by Christ’s power of resurrection

O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell, which I call the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit. And because of the way of deliverance of our God, the Holy One of Israel, this death, of which I have spoken, which is the temporal, shall deliver up its dead; which death is the grave. And this death of which I have spoken, which is the spiritual death shall deliver up its dead; which spiritual death is hell; wherefore death and hell must deliver up their dead, and hell must deliver up its captive spirits, and the grave must deliver up its captive bodies, and the bodies and the spirits of men will be restored one to the other; and it is by the power of the resurrection of the Holy One of Israel.” (2 Nephi 9:10-12)

…And those who have experienced physical death in the hope of Christ, who have overcome spiritual death through the power of His righteousness, will rise from the grave with immeasurable joy.

“O how great the plan of our God! For on the other hand, the paradise of God must deliver up the spirits of the righteous, and the grave deliver up the body of the righteous; and the spirit and the body is restored to itself again, and all men become incorruptible, and immortal, and they are living souls, having a perfect knowledge like unto us in the flesh, save it be that our knowledge shall be perfect. Wherefore, we shall have a perfect knowledge of all our guilt, and our uncleanness, and our nakedness; and the righteous shall have a perfect knowledge of their enjoyment, and their righteousness, being clothed with purity, yea even with the robe of righteousness.” (2 Nephi 9:13-14)

Questions:

-Why does Jacob refer to the combination of the death of the body and the death of the spirit as being monstrous?

-What is the paradise of God that Jacob is referring to when describing what the righteous will experience prior to the Resurrection?

-Can anyone be clothed with purity and wear the robe of righteousness except through the power of Jesus Christ’s Atonement?

-Is anyone truly alive without their physical body? How much more alive will we be when blessed with an incorruptible and immortal body? How much more will we be alive to who we are spiritually?

Teachings of Latter-day Prophets, Seers, and Revelators:

“Thanks be to God for the wonder and the majesty of His eternal plan. Thank and glorify His Beloved Son, who, with indescribable suffering, gave His life on Calvary’s cross to pay the debt of mortal sin. He it was who, through His atoning sacrifice, broke the bonds of death and with godly power rose triumphant from the tomb. He is our Redeemer, the Redeemer of all mankind. He is the Savior of the world. He is the Son of God, the Author of our salvation” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Victory over Death,” Ensign, May 1985, 51).

“Just as a man does not really desire food until he is hungry, so he does not desire the salvation of Christ until he knows why he needs Christ.

“No one adequately and properly knows why he needs Christ until he understands and accepts the doctrine of the Fall and its effect upon all mankind. And no other book in the world explains this vital doctrine nearly as well as the Book of Mormon” (Ezra Taft Benson, “The Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants,” Ensign, May 1987, 85).

“The Apostle Peter referred to the fact that God the Father, in His abundant mercy, ‘hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead’ (1 Pet. 1:3; see also 1 Thes. 4:13–18).

“The ‘lively hope’ we are given by the resurrection is our conviction that death is not the conclusion of our identity but merely a necessary step in the destined transition from mortality to immortality. This hope changes the whole perspective of mortal life. …

“The assurance of resurrection gives us the strength and perspective to endure the mortal challenges faced by each of us and by those we love, such things as the physical, mental, or emotional deficiencies we bring with us at birth or acquire during mortal life. Because of the resurrection, we know that these mortal deficiencies are only temporary!

“The assurance of resurrection also gives us a powerful incentive to keep the commandments of God during our mortal lives. …

“Our sure knowledge of a resurrection to immortality also gives us the courage to face our own death—even a death that we might call premature. …

“The assurance of immortality also helps us bear the mortal separations involved in the death of our loved ones. … We should all praise God for the assured resurrection that makes our mortal separations temporary and gives us the hope and strength to carry on” (Dallin H. Oaks, “Resurrection,” Ensign, May 2000, 15–16).

It Must Needs Be an Infinite Atonement

Jacob teaches his people (at around 559-545 B.C. in the Americas) about the Resurrection being an answer to the Fall.

“…Our flesh must waste away and die; nevertheless, in our bodies we shall see God. Yea, I know that…in the body he shall show himself unto those at Jerusalem, from whence we came; for it is expedient that it should be among them; for it behooveth the great Creator that he suffereth himself to become subject unto man in the flesh, and die for all men, that all men might become subject unto him. For as death hath passed upon all men, to fulfil the merciful plan of the great Creator, there must needs be a power of resurrection, and the resurrection must needs come unto man be reason of the fall; and the fall came by reason of transgression; and because man became fallen they were cut off from the presence of the Lord.” (2 Nephi 9:5-6)

“Wherefore, it must needs be an infinite atonement—save it should be an infinite atonement this corruption could not put on incorruption. Wherefore the first judgment which came upon man must needs have remained to an endless duration. And if so, this flesh must have laid down to rot and crumble to its mother earth to rise no more. O the wisdom of God, his mercy and grace! For behold, if the flesh should rise no more our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the Eternal God, and became the devil, to rise no more. And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself…” (2 Nephi 9:7-9)

Questions:

-What does Jacob mean when he says that Jesus Christ’s Atonement had to be infinite? (for an excellent exploration of this topic read The Infinite Atonement by Tad R. Callister)

-How is being Resurrected with a physical immortal body part of saving our souls from the powers of hell?

-Would remaining as spirits for the eternities after death allow us to reach our full potential as God’s children? In this scenario, could we achieve the same power of spiritual and physical perfection that our Father and Jesus Christ currently have?

-Will the resurrection to a perfected body permanently seal off further spiritual influence from those who will spend eternity without bodies (i.e. Satan and those who followed him in the pre-mortal world)?

-What does it mean to be a subject of Jesus Christ?

Teachings of Latter-day Prophets, Seers, and Revelators:

“I wish to speak about the greatest event in all history. That singular event was the incomparable Atonement of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. This was the most transcendent act that has ever taken place” (James E. Faust, “The Atonement: Our Greatest Hope,” Ensign, Nov. 2001, 18).

“If our separation from God and our physical death were permanent, moral agency would mean nothing. Yes, we would be free to make choices, but what would be the point? The end result would always be the same no matter what our actions: death with no hope of resurrection and no hope of heaven. As good or as bad as we might choose to be, we would all end up ‘angels to a devil’ [2 Nephi 9:9]” (D. Todd Christofferson, “Moral Agency,” Ensign, June 2009, 50).

“His Atonement is infinite—without an end. [See 2 Nephi 9:7; 25:16; Alma 34:10, 12, 14.] It was also infinite in that all humankind would be saved from never-ending death. It was infinite in terms of His immense suffering. It was infinite in time, putting an end to the preceding prototype of animal sacrifice. It was infinite in scope—it was to be done once for all. [See Hebrews 10:10.] And the mercy of the Atonement extends not only to an infinite number of people, but also to an infinite number of worlds created by Him. [See D&C 76:24; Moses 1:33.] It was infinite beyond any human scale of measurement or mortal comprehension.

“Jesus was the only one who could offer such an infinite atonement, since He was born of a mortal mother and an immortal Father. Because of that unique birthright, Jesus was an infinite Being” (Russell M. Nelson, “The Atonement,” Ensign, Nov. 1996, 35).

“According to eternal law, that atonement required a personal sacrifice by an immortal being not subject to death. Yet He must die and take up His own body again. The Savior was the only one who could accomplish this. From His mother He inherited power to die. From His Father He obtained power over death” (Russell M. Nelson, “Constancy amid Change,” Ensign, Nov. 1993, 34).

“Just as death would doom us and render our agency meaningless but for the redemption of Christ, even so, without His grace, our sins and bad choices would leave us forever lost. There would be no way of fully recovering from our mistakes, and being unclean, we could never live again in the presence of [God].

“… We need a Savior, a Mediator who can overcome the effects of our sins and errors so that they are not necessarily fatal. It is because of the Atonement of Christ that we can recover from bad choices and be justified under the law as if we had not sinned” (D. Todd Christofferson, “Moral Agency,” Ensign, June 2009, 50).

All Men Come unto God to be Judged of Him

While teaching his son, Jacob, Lehi addresses an important connection between the Atonement and the Final Judgment.

“…Because of the [Holy Messiah’s] intercession for all, all men come unto God; wherefore, they stand in the presence of him, to be judged of him according to the truth and holiness which is in him.”

-How much more meaningful is a belief in a Day of Judgment if it is coupled with the concept that we lived with God before our mortal lives and, in that premortal realm, agreed to come to earth to be tested?

-Would it be possible for anyone to return to God’s presence without Christ’s intercession?

He is the Firstfruits unto God

Lehi teaches his son, Jacob, about the power of Christ to bring about the resurrection for all mankind and salvation for those who believe in Him:

“…The Holy Messiah…layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise. Wherefore, he is the firstfruits unto God, inasmuch as he shall make intercession for all the children of men; and they that believe in him shall be saved.” (2 Nephi 2:8-9)

Questions:

-Does the word “Spirit” in this passage have any reference to the Holy Ghost or God the Father’s spiritual strength? Or, is it only a reference to the power of Christ’s individual spirit?

-Do the members of the Godhead do anything without mutual support and approbation for one another?

-Has any spirit, besides Christ, had the power to resurrect his or her earthly body after death? How did Christ’s resurrection ensure that all of God’s children will be resurrected?

-What does it mean to believe in Christ?

-Is it sufficient only to believe? Or, it is more meaningful and pleasing to God if a person is valiant in his or her testimony of Christ?

-Is there a difference between salvation and exaltation?