Thursday, December 11, 2008

Pre-Mortal Existence

Rob Lundberg posted a video on Godtube and Youtube which discusses several disagreements he has with doctrine from the Church of Jesus Christ. I am happy with Rob that he confesses that there is considerable debate and another side to all the points he makes. And while he only gives his side of the story, it gives me the opportunity to talk about the other side.

The Church of Jesus Christ interprets the Bible to teach about a pre-mortal existence. That is, the LDS Church interprets the Bible to teach that the spirit within man is immortal and existed with God before it was put into the body. Rob gives appropriate attention to Jer. 1: 5 because here God is talking to Jeremiah and making reference to the time before Jeremiah was born.

Jer 1:5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

According to this, God knew, sanctified, and ordained Jeremiah as a prophet before he was formed or conceived in his mothers womb. What does God mean “I knew thee?” Does that mean God knew Jeremiah as one person knows another person? Or does "knowing" mean that God only conceived Jeremiah's life and mission in his mind before he was born? This is an important distinction because this verse and our understanding of the word "know" relates to what Eternal Life is and what it means to "know God." Is our hope in Eternal Life only to finally mentally conceive the Trinity doctrine and how 3 persons can be 1 being? Or does Eternal Life mean that we will be enabled to know and love God the Father as one person knows and loves another.

John 17: 3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

LDS understand this verse to teach that the spirit is immortal and Jeremiah's spirit which God placed in the body existed before Jeremiah was conceived or “formed in the belly.” And that God both knew Jeremiah in a literal sense as well as a figurative sense.

We also know that the Bible teaches that Jesus Christ existed before he came to Earth. So, members of the Church of Jesus Christ believe that the immortal spirits of man also existed before coming to Earth. And in reference to Jer 1:5, just as God says he ordained Jeremiah as a prophet before coming to Earth, Jesus is said to have been anointed in the pre-mortal realms as the Savior and Redeemer. Jesus Christ is called by John, "the lamb slain from the foundation of the world." Jeremiah and many others were similarly called and ordained before coming to Earth. The title "Messiah" means "the anointed one."

The Bible teaches about the pre-mortal existence in a different way. There is a period of innocence of Adam and Eve while they lived in the Garden of Eden before the Fall. Here in this state of innocence, they walked and communed with God. Similarly, LDS understand this period to be representative of the pre-mortal and innocent state of the soul before coming to Earth. In this pre-mortal state our spirits existed with God. That we lived with God before coming to Earth is important because if man was to return to God as spirits in the same state we were before, then what was gained by coming to Earth and accepting Christ here and passing the test? Therefore, the understanding of Eternal Life to LDS members is much more than just returning to God's presence.

The Apostle John in the Book of Revelations talks about the War in Heaven that Michael the Archangel fought against the dragon. Isaiah tells us that the dragon was Lucifer who was cast out of heaven for rebellion with the angels that followed him. LDS understand that we were all a part of that war. And everyone here on Earth who was born in mortality choose God and fought on the side of Michael.

Jude 1: 6 And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.

Jude, the bother of James who was the brother of Jesus talks about those angels who chose Satan as not having kept their "first-estate." That means that everyone else who has been born and received a body has kept their "first-estate." John the Revelator talks about how we overcame Satan in the pre-existence.

Rev. 12: 11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

According to John, those of us who chose Christ were victorious over Satan by the power of Christs' atonement, and by the word of our testimony or faith in Christ, and by the sacrifice and consecration of our whole soul, mind, and will to God. This is how we can overcome Satan here as the War in Heaven continues on Earth. This is also a great example of how the power of Christ's atonement worked even before the atonement was complete. At the moment Christ was chosen and accepted as the Savior, the atonement was as good as done. Therefore we could exercize faith in it and be blessed from it as if it has already happened. And this is how prophet like Enoch and Elijah were taken up to heaven without tasting death.

John 9: 2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?

John 9:2 is another Bible scripture that suggests a pre-mortal existence. Here the disciples of Christ ask Jesus who is responsible for a blind man being born blind. They asked Him who sinned, the man or the parents. If you think about it, for the man to have sinned before being born would require his spirit to have existed before birth. So, while Christ taught them that illness is not always a consequence of sin, this verse suggests the disciples understood the spirit within the body was immortal and has no beginning just as it will have no end.

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