CLICK HERE to read 2 Nephi 9.
This chapter closes out Jacob’s famous “covenant speech” (verse 1). He tells the Nephites that the reason he gave the speech is so that everyone will know that the Lord established these covenants from the beginning, always teaching the people through prophets. He says that if we make and keep covenants, and heed the words of the prophets, we will make it home again – home being our return to the presence of our Heavenly Father. This is the Plan of Happiness.
He says that he wanted to teach these things to the people because he knows the people have searched and searched for truth, and that people want to know what will happen in the end times. We know that our bodies will die, but they will also be resurrected because the Savior has given the gift of immortality to all and “in our bodies we shall see God” (verse 4). So this has been the plan all along: that to fulfill the merciful plan of the great Creator, there must needs be a power of resurrection, and the resurrection must needs come unto man by 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” (verse 6).
So because of the transgression in the Garden of Eden, we all fell… and that falling is away from His presence. We are separated from Him.
To be reunited with Him again, we need His “infinite atonement” (verse 7), the at-one-ment, to make us at-one with Him again.
Part of the atonement is the gift of immortality to all. Jacob points out that if there were no resurrection, and our bodies just wasted away to nothing, then our spirits would be left abandoned, and we would be no different than the spirits who fell with Lucifer and never obtained bodies.
It goes back to Isaiah 14:12-15 and Revelation 12:7-9, where we learn that Lucifer, or Satan, was literally a spirit son of God, he was at one time “an angel” in authority in the presence of God; however, he rebelled in the premortal life, at which time he persuaded a third of the spirit children of the Father to rebel with him, in opposition to the plan of salvation championed by Jehovah (Jesus Christ). “Thus came the devil and his angels” (D&C 29:37). They were cast out of heaven, and were denied the experience of mortal bodies and earth life (Isa. 14:12–15; Rev. 14:4–9; 2 Ne. 2:17; 9:8; D&C 29:36–38; 76:25–26; 93:25; Moses 4:1–4; Abr. 3:27–28). (Bible Dictionary).
In contrast, the other 2/3rds of the Spirits – the ones who were not cast out – that was us.
This was the War in Heaven.
Heavenly Father had a plan for us all to come to earth, and develop real love for Him by choosing to love Him. This ability to choose is called agency. But because we would not be able to do this perfectly, we needed the atonement. We needed someone to pay the price, and it was our eldest brother – Jehovah (Christ) – who volunteered.
But His volunteering was not just to pay that price, but to do it Heavenly Father’s way, for Heavenly Father’s glory.
Lucifer, on the other hand, wanted to force everyone to love Heavenly Father, and then keep the glory for himself since everyone would make it back. This was not Heavenly Father’s way.
So we fought to defend Jehovah’s way, and Lucifer was kicked out.
Part of those consequences was that Lucifer – and those that followed him – was that they did not get to come to Earth to be born in bodies and to “gain earthly experience” (Family Proclamation) because they had already rejected Heavenly Father’s plan and Jehovah’s offering to be the sacrifice for us. Because they rejected the sacrifice, they did not get the opportunity to live on earth and get bodies. This means they missed out on our preparation for coming to earth, including the assigning of the “bounds of time and place”, the premortal covenants, and the ordinances that established those covenants. They missed out on all the training that prepared us to come to earth to receive our bodies and learn to make good choices.
So, back to Jacob’s speech, if there was no resurrection, then after our bodies decayed then our spirits would be as body-less as Lucifer and his spirits.
A resurrection of our bodies, and the reuniting of our bodies and spirits into one being, has always been a part of the plan.
Our whole being must be perfected – made whole, completed – to re-enter the presence of our Heavenly Father.
Without the resurrection, we would be trapped away from Him!
“O how great the good 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” (verse 10).
And so Heavenly Father always had the resurrection of our bodies as part of the plan, and the Savior conquered death to provide us with this immortality that had been promised from the beginning.
This was always part of the plan!
“O how great the plan of our God!” (verse 13).
This is the great plan of our God: that “the spirit and the body will be restored to itself again… incorruptible and immortal” (verse 13).
We will be living souls! Not just alive, but this is present progressive: we will be in the process of continuing to be doing the work of living.
And in this way, we will be as we are now – except that, as we continue to progress, “our knowledge shall be perfect” (verse 13).
This doesn’t just mean we will be perfect, as in brilliant and smart and know everything.
It means perfect, as in whole, as in complete. We will understand… not everything, like know-it-alls, but everything about us and our relationship with God.
We will “have a perfect knowledge of all our guilt, and our uncleanness, and our nakedness” (verse 14). We will understand our sin, our transgression, what we have done, and what we have failed to do. We will understand how very far we have “fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We will understand – participate in, even – our judgment, and we will agree with that judgment. We will know we deserve it.
Excepting God is not only a just God.
He is also a merciful God.
And so there is also the mercy of His great atoning sacrifice, which does pay the price we owe.
But He is also a gracious God. So that not only does He pay our debt, but He also gives us more as well. As we give our sins and transgressions and failures to Him in the Great Exchange, the burden (curse) of our coming short of the glory (presence) of God is cut off (Isaiah 22:23, 25). In exchange for giving up all that, He gives us HIS righteousness. We are not righteous; we are not good. We cannot do it without Him. But His righteousness will save us. This will be our joy, and this we will also perfectly understand.
“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” (verse 14).
Using what we learned in the previous chapter, we could re-read this from Hebrew using the tsedeq from Isaiah, and it would read as this poem:
and the righteous
(the Melchizedek priesthood-ers)
shall have perfect knowledge
(will be taught the priesthood knowledge)
of their enjoyment
(state of enter-into-joy-ment = celestialness)
and their righteousness
(their Melchizedek priesthood-ness)
being clothed with purity
(even according to the laws of the covenant)
yea, even with the robe of righteousness
(yes, even with the robes of the Melchizedek Priesthood)
And this, Jacob says, is what is required to pass the judgment-seat.
He says, “And it shall come to pass that 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” (verse 15).
The judgment seat comes from the Old Testament, all the way back to Moses. Before that, too, but Moses and his tabernacle in the wilderness is where it is famous. The ark of the covenant had upon it two angels, and between them was a “seat”. This was the judgment seat, or mercy seat, or kapporeth – literally the seat of atonement. It is here that Moses met with God and communed with Him.
On the Jewish calendar, on the Day of Atonement, the sins of the people were symbolically placed on the scapegoat who was then sent out of camp. This “took away” the sins of the people. It’s where we get the word “scapegoat” the way we use it today. But taking away the sins was not enough. There also had to be a sacrifice, and the blood from that sacrifice was sprinkled onto the judgment seat, or mercy seat.
This was a type of Christ, foreshadowing what He would do for us.
The kapporeth (seat of atonement, judgment-seat, mercy-seat) in Greek is hilasterion.
“All Greek nouns which end in -erion mean the place where something is done. Dikasterion means the place where dike, justice is done, and therefore a law court. Thusiasterion means the place where thusia, sacrifice is done, and therefore the altar. Therefore hilasterion can certainly mean the place where hilasmos, expiation, is done and made. Because of that, both in the Old and New Testament, hilasterion has a regular and a technical meaning. It always means the lid of gold above the ark which was known as the mercy-seat. In Exodus 25:17 it is laid down of the furnishings of the tabernacle: ‘Thou shalt make a mercy-seat ( hilasterion ) of pure gold.’ In only one other place in the New Testament is the word used, in Hebrews 9:5 , and there the writer speaks of the cherubim who overshadow the mercy-seat. The word is used in that sense more than twenty times in the Greek Old Testament. . . .
“If then we take hilasterion to mean the mercy-seat, and, if we call Jesus our hilasterion in that sense, it will mean, so to speak, that Jesus is the place where man and God meet, and that specially He is the place where man’s sin meets with the atoning love of God.” (Barclay, The Mind of St. Paul, pp. 87–88.)
This ultimate at-one-ness is required for us to enter the presence of our Heavenly Father.
Think flaming sword guarding the Tree of Life.
Think Aaronic priesthood boys guardian the doors at sacrament.
Think cherubim guardian the mercy seat on the ark of the covenant.
So, Jacob is telling us, that we must be clothed in the robes of righteousness – tsedeq (Melchizedek) – to pass by these angels guarding the way.
In Exodus, we learn that anyone with the priesthood would always be clothed in priesthood clothes.
That did not, however, give them permission to enter the Holy of Holies.
Only the High Priest could enter, he could only enter when wearing the robe of the word of God, as the bearer of divine testimony, upon which the covenant fellowship with the Lord was founded (OTSM).
To enter His presence, we must be dressed in the tsedeq robes – which is to be declared righteous by Him (His testimony!) and this must be evidenced by our righteousness (our testimony, through words and behavior!) of making and keeping covenants.
“O the greatness of the mercy of our God, the Holy One of Israel! For he delivereth his saints…” (verse 19).
And so then, to close his covenant speech, Jacob shows how all of this must come about through the principles and ordinances of the Gospel.
“And he commandeth all men that they must repent, and be baptized in his name, having perfect faith in the Holy One of Israel” (verse 23).
But having a commandment requires a law, and having a law requires a punishment. Having a punishment gives meaning to the atonement by which we are delivered (verse 25).
But such a gift brings with it a warning!
“Wo unto him that has the law (covenant!) given, yea, that has all the commandments of God” (verse 27) and wastes the days of this life!
Then is one of my favorite chastize-ment verses:
“O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish. But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.” (verses 28-29).
Similar warnings go out to the rich who do not help the poor and make life harder for the “meek” (verse 30).
Also, warnings to those who refuse to hear what the Lord says or see what He shows them.
Then, warnings for those who do not keep their covenants, break their covenants, do not live up to their covenants, or put worldly things before their covenants.
Jacob urges the people to hearken (hear and do, not just listen only) the word of the Lord. As if maybe he remembers his older brothers murmuring against his brother Nephi or his father Lehi, Jacob says “Do not say that I have spoken hard things against you…” (verse 40). This reminds us of when Nephi says the truth is only hard to those who don’t want it; the commandments are hard only to those who do not know the Lord from which those laws come.
“O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate…” (verse 40).
His paths are righteous… this is the tsedeq robes of covenant and testimony that are required to pass by the angels at the mercy seat, which really is the Savior Himself, who did give the great atoning sacrifice which we need to get back home. We can only get there through Him.
“And whoso knocketh, to him will he open…” (verse 42).
It is by keeping covenants that we return home to His presence.
But we cannot keep covenants without first making them.
This, Jacob says, is what I am sent here to tell you. “Remember my words” (verse 44).
Then, like the later saying of “I wash may hands of it”, he basically says, “Listen. I taught you all I can teach you. You know better now. It’s not my problem; it’s your problem. I am choosing for me. You have to choose for you. My responsibility was testifying to you, was telling you the truth. I have now done that, so the ball is in your corner. It’s your responsibility now.”
“I am rid of your blood”, he says (verse 44).
But still, he continues to invite. He compares this to our need to “shake off the chains” of the adversary, who wants to drag us down with him.
Instead, he says, “come unto that God who is the rock of your salvation” (verse 45).
So it’s time to get ready. Now is the time to prepare to meet God.
“Prepare your souls for that glorious day when justice shall be administered unto the righteous, even the day of judgment, that ye may not shrink with awful fear; that ye may not remember your awful guilt in perfectness, and be constrained to exclaim: Holy, holy are thy judgments, O Lord God Almighty—but I know my guilt; I transgressed thy law, and my transgressions are mine; and the devil hath obtained me, that I am a prey to his awful misery. (verse 46)
“But behold, my brethren, is it expedient that I should awake you to an awful reality of these things? Would I harrow up your souls if your minds were pure? Would I be plain unto you according to the plainness of the truth if ye were freed from sin? (verse 47)
“Behold, if ye were holy I would speak unto you of holiness; but as ye are not holy, and ye look upon me as a teacher, it must needs be expedient that I teach you the consequences of sin. (verse 48)
“Behold, my soul abhorreth sin, and my heart delighteth in righteousness; and I will priase the holy name of my God. (verse 49).
These, he says, are the great covenants of the Lord (verse 53).
In this way, he says, covenants demonstrate His grace and mercy, while providing, protecting us.
And there are promises He makes. So many promises.