The main goal of this lesson is to help us have an intensified or more enlightened appreciation of our need for the atonement of Christ. The verses discussed in these chapters is Jacob’s farewell address to his people. He has spent his life in their service, and is now giving them the most important information he can share with them. He finishes this address by shaking their sins from his own soul as a testimony to God that he has done all in his power to teach the people the right way during his time as their teacher. It really shows how much he cared for his people.
Reading Assignment: 2 Nephi 9 – 10.
Additional reading: Isaiah 49–52. You may want to compare Isaiah 49:22–26 with 2 Nephi 6:6–7, 16–18;Isaiah 50 with 2 Nephi 7; Isaiah 51 with 2 Nephi 8:1–23; and Isaiah 52:1–2 with 2 Nephi 8:24–25.
Purpose of the scriptures
Jacob has been reading to his people the writings of Isaiah. He then explains to them why he has spent his time with them reading out of Isaiah, it is because he wants them to rejoice in the blessings God will bestow on their children (2 Nephi 9:3). In verse two he pointed out to them that the Lord has foretold the future blessings to his covenant people from the beginning, all the way down to the present day. One prophet after another has restated the promises made to covenant Israel.
Jacob used the words of Isaiah, but the words of any prophet gives the same message. The message hasn’t changed since the days of Adam. The Lord has told us through his prophets that his people would rebel against him, be scattered, smitten, hated, and live in exile, but that because of his promises to his faithful servants, the day would come that Israel would be gathered back in. They would once again receive the blessings of the gospel message, and they would come to know what their true heritage is, and receive the blessings of eternal life through the covenant process.
This is a universal message found throughout the scriptures. References to the scattering and the gathering of Israel are found in all books of scripture. This process is always tied to the atonement of Christ. Without the atonement, the scattering and gathering would have no point or purpose. One of the purposes of the scriptures is to teach us that without the atonement, nothing we do has any real or lasting purpose. The atonement of Christ gives meaning to our very existence, and especially to our presence in mortality.
Walking through the Atonement
I will comment on verses 6 – 15. I will leave it up to you to open your scriptures to read the verses as you read this commentary on them.
Verse 6: The reason we have death in this life is to fulfill the merciful plan of our creator. Death is necessary so we can be resurrected. That is the end goal of mortality, to receive a glorified eternal body. Only one problem, transgression brought about the fall, which brought about death, and created a condition where all of us were cut off from the presence of the Lord forever, unless something happened to interfere with this condition.
Verse 7: Without an infinite atonement, a payment for our sins that would satisfy the demands of God’s justice for all eternity, we would remain cut off from His presence forever. We would all die in mortality and stay dead forever.
Verse 8: If our spirits were to stay cut off from God our fate would have been to become subject to Satan for eternity, as Satan rules the disembodied spirits.
Verse 9: Because we would have remained as spirits, we would all eventually become like Satan, to be miserable for eternity.
Verse 10: But God has prepared a way for us to escape both kinds of death. Physical death is the separation of the spirit from our mortal body. Spiritual death is our separation from the presence of God. Adam and Eve were spiritually alive when they lived in the presence of God and Christ. But when they partook of the forbidden fruit and fell, they were cut off from the presence of God, in other words, they were cast out from his presence, never again to be allowed back into his sight because of their transgression. Their fall from His grace also brought with it mortality, which included mortal death. God prepared a way to save his children from both these forms of death.
Verse 11: Because of Christ, who is the “way of deliverance” God has provided a way for the physical grave to yield or give back its dead.
Verse 12: The spiritual death will also have to give back its dead, or in other words, all those who have been separated from God. The suffering of those who are spiritually cut off from God is hell. So even hell will have to give up its captives. Because of Christ those who are physically dead will be restored to their bodies, and those who are separated from God will be restored to the presence of God. This is all made possible through the power of the resurrection of Christ.
Verse 13: Not only will hell have to deliver up its captive spirits, but the paradise of God will also deliver up its inhabitants. All will become immortal and incorruptible (meaning we will never grow old and die again). We will all have a perfect recollection of everything that has happened to us. The veil will be lifted and our memories perfectly restored from the very beginning. Therefore our knowledge will be perfect or whole again.
Verse 14: Having a perfect or complete recollection of all that has happened to us in the past means that we will have a bright recollection of either our guilt for the sins we have committed, or we will have a perfect enjoyment of our obedience to the commandments of God. Nothing will be forgotten nor hidden. We will either be seen in our naked or exposed state of rebellion against God, or we will be “clothed” with a robe of righteousness, which covers our sins through Christ’s atonement.
Verse 15: Because of Christ’s sacrifice for all the children of God, all will have to answer to him at the judgment bar to declare themselves and be held accountable for their behavior and attitudes while in mortality. Christ will be our judge and will decide our destiny for the rest of eternity. The eternal nature of Christ’s payment to God on our behalf made the resurrection possible and earned him the right to have the decision over the disposition of our souls.
Scope of the Atonement
Without the atonement of Christ we would be eternally lost to our Father in Heaven. Without the atonement we would be slaves to Satan. Because of the atonement we will all be resurrected and receive a glorified body. The amount of the glory we receive will depend on our behavior in mortality, but all of us will be glorified because of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. Those who make covenants with God and keep those covenants will receive an “eternal weight of glory” and will become gods themselves.
Those who reject Christ’s atoning sacrifice still owe their resurrection to Him. Because of him even those who reject him out of hand will receive a glorified body in the telestial kingdom. There is no one who passes through mortality who does not owe a great debt of gratitude to our Savior.
For those who died before they became accountable for sin, Christ’s payment saves them in the celestial kingdom. For those who lived their mortal lives without his laws, but would have accepted his gospel with their whole souls, his atonement saves them. Those who lived by the laws they had, even though they didn’t include the gospel of Christ, they will still be given a degree of glory for having lived according to the laws they had. There is no one who will be untouched or not blessed by the reach of the atonement.
The central act of the plan of happiness given us by our Father in Heaven is the atoning sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. There is nothing more important or far reaching in its scope to the entire plan than this one moment in mortal time when the Son of God paid for our sins. Without this payment mortality becomes a sham and a hoax perpetrated on all mankind. With this payment mortality acquires a divine purpose and a noble reason for existing. We become children of promise. The possibility of progression to godhood becomes possible because of the atoning sacrifice.
As we draw near to the Easter season in March of this year, we would do well to contemplate the reason we have to be joyful over the resurrection of our Savior. Without the atonement the resurrection would not be possible. Because of the atonement we are all guaranteed a resurrected body of glory for the rest of eternity. Now we just need to decide how much glory we want to work toward, a little or a lot.
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