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The Everlasting and Eternal God

Every now and then I come across a comment, an article or a discussion about the Eternal nature of God and what it means. This subject has always been very thought-provoking to me so I’d like to put down some thoughts on the matter.

Some who question Church doctrine quote Moroni 7:22 and Mosiah 3:5 which read:

Moroni 7:22 – For Behold, God knowing all things, being from everlasting to everlasting…

Mosiah 3:5 – …who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity…

These scriptures are brought up and compared to an excerpt from Joseph Smith’s “King Follet Sermon” where Joseph states:

We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see. These are incomprehensible ideas to some, but they are simple. It is the first principle of the gospel to know for a certainty the character of God, and to know that we may converse with Him as one man converses with another, and that He was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ Himself did; and I will show it from the Bible.

It is claimed that Joseph’s ideas about God changed after the printing of the Book of Mormon and that he slowly evolved the faith to teach things different that originally “revealed”. I think this is a valid argument that deserves investigation so I will contribute some of my thoughts on this topic to the discussion.

Whenever topics like this come up, I think it is important to establish some solid premises before moving on.

I think a good place to start is by examining the background of the words that we find in the scriptures to see if they actually mean what we think they mean. Believe it or not, the meaning of a word can change dramatically over time, even to end up meaning the complete opposite of what it was originally intended to mean.

What do you think the words “eternal”, “everlasting” or “forever” mean? Think about it for a moment before reading the actual definitions of the words that are provided below from a modern dictionary.

Everlasting
1. Lasting forever or for a very long time

Eternal
1. Infinite or unending time.
2. A state to which time has no application; timelessness

Forever
1. For all future time; for always.
2. A very long time (used hyperbolically)

Did the definitions of some of these words surprise you or were they pretty much what you expected?

At this point it is time to move on to the next step: discovering the original words and contexts behind what we read in our English translations of Hebrew and Greek scripture.

Eternal, Everlasting and For Ever and Ever in the Bible

The Book of Mormon states that Hebrew was the language spoken and understood by the people. This makes the Hebrew text of the Bible a good source to look to for understanding of some of these words. I think the Greek New Testament can be helpful too, because we can examine the Greek for insight into how these concepts were understood around the time of Christ.

Let’s take a look at the word “eternal” first.

Eternal

Deuteronomy 33:27 – …the eternal God is thy refuge.

The word “eternal” here is the Hebrew word “qedem” which means:

Qedem

  1. east, antiquity, front, that which is before, aforetime
    1. front, from the front or east, in front, mount of the East
    2. ancient time, aforetime, ancient, from of old, earliest time
    3. anciently, of old (adverb)
    4. beginning
    5. east adv
  2. eastward, to or toward the East

Here is some more insight into the word qedem:

In the ancient Hebrew words that are used to described distance and direction are also used to describe time. The Hebrew word for east is qedem and literally means “the direction of the rising sun”. We use north as our major orientation such as in maps which are always oriented to the north. While we use the north as our major direction the Hebrews used the east and all directions are oriented to this direction. For example one of the words for south is teyman from the root yaman meaning “to the right”.

The word qedem is also the word for the past. In the ancient Hebrew mind the past is in front of you while the future is behind you, the opposite way we think of the past and future. The Hebrew word olam means in the far distance. When looking off in the far distance it is difficult to make out any details and what is beyond that horizon cannot be seen. This concept is the olam. The word olam is also used for time for the distant past or the distant future as a time that is difficult to know or perceive.

This word is frequently translated as eternity or forever but in the English language it is misunderstood to mean a continual span of time that never ends. In the Hebrew mind it is simply what is at or beyond the horizon, a very distant time. A common phrase in the Hebrew is “l’olam va’ed” and is usually translated as “forever and ever” but in the Hebrew it means “to the distant horizon and again” meaning “a very distant time and even further” and is used to express the idea of a very ancient or future time. – Jeff A. Benner [LINK]

Interestingly we find that the word eternal meant something completely different than what it means to us today. We cannot force our modern interpretations of words onto those of the past, we need to try as much as possible to understand these teachings in the context that they were intended.

The word “eternity” appears only once in the entire Bible and is found in Isaiah 57:15 where he states:

“For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”

The word “eternity” here comes from the word ‘ad:

from ‘`adah’ (5710); properly, a (peremptory) terminus, i.e. (by implication) duration, in the sense of advance or perpetuity (substantially as a noun, either with or without a preposition):–eternity, ever(- lasting, -more), old, perpetually, + world without end.

So in the Isaiah verse it is saying that God inhabits eternity which, in this case, IS understood to mean a duration of continuous existence, but note that this verse is speaking about the place where God resides and is not speaking about Him or His nature.

Everlasting

Here is a verse in Psalms were we find the exact same language as found in Moroni 7:22:

Psalms 41:13
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting.

The word translated “everlasting” here in this verse is from the word ‘owlam which means:

or lolam {o-lawm’}; from ‘`alam’ (5956); properly, concealed, i.e. the vanishing point; generally, time out of mind (past or future), i.e. (practically) eternity; frequentatively, adverbial (especially with prepositional prefix) always:–alway(-s), ancient (time), any more, continuance, eternal, (for, (n-))ever(-lasting, -more, of old), lasting, long (time), (of) old (time), perpetual, at any time, (beginning of the) world (+ without end). Compare ‘netsach’ (5331), ‘`ad’ (5703).

The word ‘owlam is from a word alam which means to: “to veil from sight; conceal”.

There are four age-related words in Hebrew; aion, aionios, owlam and ad. These words in other places have been translated correctly to mean “age, ages, age-old or ancient, etc” but the translators of many versions of the Bible, KJV included, have instead used other words like “eternal” or “forever” to describe these concepts.

So “everlasting” as it reads in this example means an age outside of time (our time), that is veiled from the perspective of our mortal sphere of existence on this earth. Reread Psalms 41:13 again in this context and think about what it might really mean.

For Ever and Ever

Interestingly the word “forever” is actually not found anywhere in the Bible, it’s actually read separately as: “for ever”.

Galatians 1:4-5 reads:

Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

The word “ever” is from the Greek word aiwn (aion) which means:

properly, an age; by extension, perpetuity (also past); by implication, the world; specially (Jewish) a Messianic period (present or future):–age, course, eternal, (for) ever(-more), (n-)ever, (beginning of the , while the) world (began, without end). Compare cronoV – chronos

The word aion means simply “an age” and is used in several different contexts in the New Testament to describe the age of the world, a lifetime, or as indicated in the definition, a Messianic period of the present or future. Here we have the concept of an “age” appearing again. An “age” is indicative of a whole duration of a person, place, thing, etc. So the repetition of “for ever and ever” seems to indicate the idea of “age after age” which could be understood as a way to represent the idea of endless time, age after age, continuing perpetually.

This isn’t describing any kind of origin of things but, rather, the perpetuity of things. It says nothing of how something came to be, only that it will continue without end. It is a truth that God will always be God, both now and forever; this is not disputed.

Joseph Smith’s statement

Heading back to Joseph’s statement: “We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see.”

It appears that Joseph is seeking to clear up confusion on what would have been a modern interpretation of something that the Bible simply does not say when you look at the meaning of the words. But here we do have something new that has never quite been preached before in this way and he even states that “These are incomprehensible ideas to some, but they are simple.”

Joseph then states that God “was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ Himself did; and I will show it from the Bible.” and he goes on to make his points. This is a topic that might need to be covered in a separate article, but for now, you can read the sermon in it’s entirety below:

The King Follet Sermon Part 1

The King Follet Sermon: Part 2

The sermon is particularly fascinating because it covers some very interesting, and to some, controversial points:

  1. If men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves.
  2. The designs of God in relation to the human race, and why He interferes with the affairs of man
  3. God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man
  4. How God came to be God
  5. The mind or the intelligence which man possesses is co-equal [co-eternal] with God himself.
  6. Death is only the temporary separation of the spirit from the body
  7. Intelligence is eternal and exists upon a self-existent principle.
  8. God dwells in eternity, and does not view things as we do (Re-read this statement in light of what has just been presented on the topic of eternity. Here we have Joseph speaking in the proper context of the meaning of the word by stating that God dwells IN eternity; this is consistent with the Hebrew understanding of the concept. Isaiah said that God “inhabiteth eternity”)
  9. And much more (I suggest a full reading of the document)

When reflecting on these teachings it can be easy to think “This doctrine makes God too much like man” and that is one way to look at it. Initially, I think it is a very disturbing thought to some that God was once like us, on an earth like this and somehow became what he is now. This leads you down the road of considering “what kind of person was he?”, “was he like me?”, “was he better or was he worse?” or “how could I worship a being that was once in the same fallen state as I”?

I’ve often though about how difficult approaching truth can be. Sometimes we perceive certain truths as blasphemous or horrible when we first encounter them. Think of when you first learned that there was no Santa Claus or when you actually learned where babies really come from. Personally, I was shocked and horrified when I learned the truth about the birds and the bees; I could not believe that my parents could do such a thing! But now that I am grown and have married and participated in the process, I understand the beauty and sacredness of it.

But what about this topic? Is it truth or just a blasphemous idea? Why would we ever worship such a being that is so like us? Well, let’s flip that around a little and examine it from a different angle.

Genesis states that man was created in the image of God, or that he was made after the same pattern of God. Why did God create us to be like him? Why not create just a planet full of animals that would live in harmony that he could come a visit for a pleasant getaway from time to time? Why did he place that tree in the garden and allow Lucifer to tempt man? After Adam and Eve partook of the fruit, why did God say “Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil…”

Why does he teach us his law and command us to be perfect as he is? Why is it that he was given a Savior to enable him to actually achieve perfection and inherit a throne in his kingdom? Consider how C.S. Lewis put man’s process of perfection:

The command Be ye perfect is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. He said (in the Bible) that we were ‘gods’ and He is going to make good His words. If we let Him—for we can prevent Him, if we choose—He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, a dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful, but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what He said. – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

It is amazing and awe-inspiring to me that Christ lived a perfectly sinless life upon this earth. It is also equally impressive to me that through his atonement, he can make of us beings that are equal to him in perfection and glory, so in the end, is there really any difference if, to paraphrase Jesus, we are all one as he and the Father are one?

If God, through Christ can make each one of us as perfect as he and we all enjoy the same glory, we would never again look down upon ourselves, so why would we ever look down upon a being that stands just as perfect as we will one day? We worship and praise him because of who and what he is; our God and our Father. In the end, he will always be our father and we will always be his children, but not less than him, ONE with him as Jesus said (John 17).

This is the miracle of it all, that the fallen can become the exalted and that the exalted can raise the fallen in a process that continues eternally. This knowledge gives me an immense respect and sense of wonder for the miracle of forgiveness and the true power of the atonement. God is not just able to save a man, he is able to take man and make him into a being such as himself. But all things considered, “there is none other God but one. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.” (1 Corinthians 8:4-6)

One other point; LDS theology is unique in that we have a belief in a pre-mortal state of existence for mankind. We believe that this pre-mortal state involved us living in the presences of God with a tabernacle of spirit, still matter, only more fine and pure than our current condition. But it goes back even further than this, we also believe that before we were born into a tabernacle of spirit that we existed in the form of an “intelligence”.

Doctrine & Covenants section 93 is probably the best resource for learning about intelligences. Not much is known about the nature of intelligences except for a few key points:

  1. Intelligences cannot be created or made, they have always existed (So, in this sense, God has always existed – and so have we. It is just that we are each partakers of this process that leads to exhaltation)
  2. The elements have also always existed and serve as a tabernacle
  3. Spirit and element inseparably connected receive a fullness of joy (hence the resurrection)
  4. Intelligence has agency and can make choices

LDS theology when properly understood does not lessen God, it exalts man, which is the very design that God has outlined in the holy scriptures. Even when reading the Bible it is plain to see that God gives us his law, calls us his children, promises us an inheritance, mansions in his kingdom and he “hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father…” Christ commanded us to be perfect even (or equal to) as God the Father; through Christ we can be perfect even as God the Father. As incredible or impossible or unbelievable as this sounds, this is what we are a part of and it’s all right there in the Bible plain as day; Jesus’ purpose was to make us one with himself and the Father through his atonement.

A deeper understanding and implication for these things may not be for us to understand in this current sphere. We may have to wait until we see what is on God’s side of the veil to understand it all. So for now we trust in the final admonition of Moroni to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God. And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot. (Moroni 10:32,33)

Conclusion

In each of these instances, the words eternal, everlasting and forever, have different meanings in scripture than they do in our modern understanding. Joseph Smith’s challenge to the idea that “that God was God from all eternity” seems to be an attempt to correct an erroneous modern theological concept about God and his nature.

The words eternity, everlasting and forever seem to be explaining God’s life as it relates to being outside of the time of this world. Thus, anything “eternal” is that which exists outside of this world, both pre and post it’s current state of existence.

Another way of saying it is:

Time is not part of eternity. Eternity is not part of time. In time there is no eternity in eternity there is no time. Time is related to creation and time is relative to the physical world. [LINK]

1 John 5:11 says:

And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal (aionios) life, and this life is in his Son.

The word used here is “aionios”. “In general, the word depicts that of which the horizon is not in view . . .” (The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament p.16) So God has given us life that is outside of the view of the horizon, or in other words, life as He has it.

If eternal means forever, without beginning or end as we understand it in our modern usage, then how can we as mortals obtain “eternal” life? The answer becomes clear as you ponder on the true meaning of what “eternal” means.

I think there are some major misunderstandings in what many think the Bible says on the matter of eternity, etc. More study and research on this topic and also Joseph Smith’s teachings on the matter reveal that what he taught may not jive with what many religions today believe about the nature of God, but are also not contradictory with what the scriptures state about Him.

Other resources

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Titles for the Third Member of the Godhead

You can tell a lot about someone by their titles. We all carry many titles that say volumes about who we are. Some of the titles I carry are: Husband, Father, Son, Brother, Cousin, Friend, Home Teacher, Elder, Designer, Developer, Artist, the list can go on and on. Think of how many titles you have; you might be surprised.

Below is a fairly comprehensive list. Some might be missing and others might not belong, but here they are nonetheless for you to observe and ponder upon. Some of the titles really make you think.

  • The Mind of God (Lecture 5, Lectures on Faith)
  • The Holy Ghost (Luke 1:15)
  • The Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13)
  • The Holy Spirit of God (Ephesians 4:30)
  • The Spirit (1 Nephi 11:11)
  • The Spirit of the Father (Matthew 10:20)
  • The Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:14)
  • The Spirit of the Lord (Luke 14:18)
  • The Spirit of Christ (1 Peter 1:11)
  • The Spirit of Jesus Christ (Philemon 1:19)
  • The Spirit of Truth (John 14:17)
  • The Spirit of Counsel (Isaiah 11:2)
  • The Spirit of Faith (2 Corinthians 4:13)
  • The Spirit of Glory (1 Peter 4:14)
  • The Spirit of Grace (Hebrews 10:29)
  • The Spirit of Holiness (Romans 1:4)
  • The Spirit of Judgment (Isaiah 4:4)
  • The Spirit of Knowledge (Isaiah 11:2)
  • The Spirit of Life (Romans 8:2)
  • The Spirit of Love (2 Timothy 1:7)
  • The Spirit of Might (Isaiah 11:2)
  • The Holy Spirit of Promise (Ephesians 1:13)
  • The Spirit of Prophecy (Revelation 19:10)
  • The Spirit of Revelation (Ephesians 1:17)
  • The Spirit of Grace (Zechariah 12:10)
  • The Spirit of Supplication (Zechariah 12:10)
  • The Spirit of Understanding (Isaiah 11:2)
  • The Spirit of Wisdom. (Ephesians 1:17)
  • The Spirit of Burning (Isaiah 4:4)
  • The Spirit of Adoption (Romans 8:15)
  • The Good Spirit (Nehemiah 9:20)
  • The Breath of the Almighty. (Job 33:4)
  • The Eternal Spirit (Hebrews 9:14)
  • Power of the Highest. (Luke 1:35)
  • The Comforter (John 14:26)
  • The Record of Heaven (Moses 6:61)
  • The Peaceable Things of Immortal Glory (Moses 6:61)
  • The Truth of All Things (Moses 6:61)
  • That Which Quickeneth all Things (Moses 6:61)
  • That Which Maketh Alive all Things (Moses 6:61)
  • That Which Knoweth all Things (Moses 6:61)
  • That Which Hath All Power According to Wisdom, Mercy, Truth, Justice and Judgment (Moses 6:61)

If I had to pick only one as my favorite, I would have to go with “the Mind of God” :)
——-
Updated: August 30, 2010

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A Look At The Doctrine of The Trinity

For the most part, mainstream Christianity views the Godhead from the perspective of the Nicene Creed (323 A.D.) which only looked at the ‘oneness’ of the Father and the Son, and the Athanasian Creed (which originated around 500 A.D.) which was the first creed to vocalize equality of the persons of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost into a ‘Trinity”. It is still a hotly contested issue to this day. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints claims it’s view of the Godhead from the eyewitness accounts of modern apostles and prophets.

Both views of God were brought to us by men. The Trinitarian view has evolved through time out of councils, debates and defined in creeds, the LDS view is claimed to have come from revelation. That said, let’s take a look and see what the scriptures have to say on the matter.

“The Book of Mormon teaches the doctrine of the Trinity better than the Bible.”

Believe it or not, while serving as a full-time missionary, this was a statement made by a woman that we were having a discussion with. She shared a few scriptures from the Book of Mormon that she though were some of the most beautiful Trinitarian scriptures. She asked us why we didn’t believe the doctrine of the Trinity if that is what our own book taught. Good question.

I took a minute to think about that since I had never been asked or even thought of that question before. After a moment, I mentioned how before the Book of Mormon was written, Joseph Smith had already claimed to see the Father AND the Son and that they were two separate beings. I suggested that it was possible that those who wrote the Bible and the Book of Mormon probably had a deeper understanding of what the word “one” means.

I also suggested the thought that it would be kind of a waste of time for Joseph Smith to write this incredible book of fantasy capable of “fooling” so many people while not making a very clear statement of the true nature of the Godhead. I mean, how hard would it have been to have Christ speaking to the Nephites saying, “And I and my Father are independent and distinct beings but one in purpose and love”? It could have just been that Joseph forgot to put that line in there, right? But what about the many scriptures in the Book of Mormon that seem to indicate a Trinitarian view instead of what Joseph Smith claimed to know years before when he had never even heard of the Book of Mormon. I think you could say that either he made a serious blunder, or there is more to the word and the idea of ‘oneness’ than we realize; these prophets know what they mean when they say “one”. Is it possible the error lies with us and our modern understanding?

Book of Mormon “Trinity” scriptures

Mosiah 15
1 And now Abinadi said unto them: I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people.
2 And because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the Son—
3 The Father, because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son—
4 And they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth.
5 And thus the flesh becoming subject to the Spirit, or the Son to the Father, being one God, suffereth temptation, and yieldeth not to the temptation, but suffereth himself to be mocked, and scourged, and cast out, and disowned by his people.

2 Nephi 31
21 And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen.

Alma 11
26 And Zeezrom said unto him: Thou sayest there is a true and living God?
27 And Amulek said: Yea, there is a true and living God.
28 Now Zeezrom said: Is there more than one God?
29 And he answered, No.
44 Now, this restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous; and even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost; but every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame, as it is now, or in the body, and shall be brought and be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God, to be judged according to their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil.

3 Nephi 11
27 And after this manner shall ye baptize in my name; for behold, verily I say unto you, that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one; and I am in the Father, and the Father in me, and the Father and I are one.
36 And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one.

3 Nephi 20
35 The Father hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of the Father; and the Father and I are one.

3 Nephi 28
10 And for this cause ye shall have fulness of joy; and ye shall sit down in the kingdom of my Father; yea, your joy shall be full, even as the Father hath given me fulness of joy; and ye shall be even as I am, and I am even as the Father; and the Father and I are one;

Mormon 7
7 And he hath brought to pass the redemption of the world, whereby he that is found guiltless before him at the judgment day hath it given unto him to dwell in the presence of God in his kingdom, to sing ceaseless praises with the choirs above, unto the Father, and unto the Son, and unto the Holy Ghost, which are one God, in a state of happiness which hath no end.

Testimony of the Three Witnesses in the front of the Book of Mormon
…And we know that if we are faithful in Christ, we shall rid our garments of the blood of all men, and be found spotless before the judgment-seat of Christ, and shall dwell with him eternally in the heavens. And the honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God. Amen.


So the nature of the Godhead appears to be pretty conclusive from the Mormon’s own scripture, or is it? We have ancient texts of the New Testament, not the originals, but most that are close enough to the right time frame to where we can assume they are close to the original text. We can translate those and examine the Greek for understanding, but we do not have the original text of the Book of Mormon, so it is impossible to explore the meanings of the text from that angle. Another problem may be that there are understandings that lie outside of the words themselves that may have been lost.

So we are left to explore what was said about the Godhead elsewhere, to attempt to understand the ideas of the ancient disciples, how they used the word “one” in other contexts, to examine eyewitness accounts of the Father and the Son in the rare instances where they are mentioned together, to look at how the apostles referred to them and to finally examine the words of Christ himself and what he says about his relationship to the Father. It is also important to read these verses in reference to when they were said, specifically, before or after Christ’s resurrection.

There is information here that can be studied for years and the current compilation is by no means exhaustive.

New Testament scriptures commonly used to support the doctrine of the Trinity

John 1 (This verse doesn’t appear that clear on the surface, but it was one of the verses translated in the JST)
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

1 John 10 (An understanding of this verse can be gleaned from reading all of John 17)
30 I and my Father are one. (“my” should be rendered “the”)

1 John 5 (It is understood that this verse was not in the original Biblical text, but was most likely added later by Biblical Translators.)
7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

First, note 1 John 5:7. As given in the text of the King James Bible, this verse reads, “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” On the surface, this verse seems to clearly teach the Trinity. However, there is one problem with that: this verse was never in any of the inspired Greek manuscripts. That it originated as a monkish insertion into the Latin text is almost universally admitted by Bible scholars! The Interpreter’s One Volume Commentary on the Bible, published by Abingdon Press, explains that during the fourth century controversies about the doctrine of the Trinity the text was expanded—first in Spain around 380ad, and then taken up in the Vulgate, the official Roman Catholic version written in Latin (p. 939). Bullinger’s Companion Bible explains in its footnote on the text of 1 John 5:7, “The words are not found in any Gr. MS. [Greek manuscripts] before the sixteenth century. They were first seen in the margin of some Latin copies. Thence they have crept into the text.” The New Bible Commentary: Revised simply states in its comment on that text that “the words are clearly a gloss and are rightly excluded by RSV even from its margins” (p. 1269). Clearly the early Trinitarian teachers of the Catholic Church were at such a loss to find any Biblical substantiation for their teaching that they resorted to simply adding words to the text!
~ From: Is God Really a Trinity? By John H. Ogwyn

John 14 (Interpreting verse 9 literally becomes problematic when you get to verse 20)
9 Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?
10 Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.
11 Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake.
20 At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.


In my opinion, the verses above are not clear enough to give us insight into the nature of the Godhead. Many of the scriptures that will be listed below seem to overwhelmingly side with the idea that the Father and the Son are separate and distinct. However, it is easy to see how both Trinitarians and non-Trinitarians can see their side plainly in the text and this is by no means a new problem.

When Constantine was in power and assembled the Council of Nicaea to reach a consensus on the doctrines of the church the views on the Godhead were very divided. Up for debate was the doctrine that Christ was even the literal son of God or not! All 1800 Bishops of the church were invited but only about 220 – 318 actually showed up.

For about two months, the two sides argued and debated, with each appealing to Scripture to justify their respective positions. According to many accounts, debate became so heated that at one point, Arius was slapped in the face by Nicholas of Myra, who would later be canonized and became better known as “Santa Claus”. via Wikipedia

I find it interesting that Protestants and Evangelicals still hold to an interpretation of the Godhead that was initiated at a Catholic council and then further modified later. However, if the Catholics nailed the interpretation right, then there’s no problem for Protestants and I think that’s the stance currently taken.

The fact that there was this much confusion and that it took 200 years after this to decide where the Holy Ghost fit in seems to indicate that knowledge of the Godhead by these early Christians was not understood as firmly it seemed to be understood by the Apostles as they wrote of it in scripture. If these men of the past were divided, using texts similar to what we have today, then it stands to reason that it would still be a topic of debate.

The fact that an issue that should be one of the easiest to define – the nature of the Godhead – is so confusing, is just one more reason why the Latter-day Saints stress that a restoration was needed. It is interesting that of all the doctrines of the Gospel, the nature of the Godhead was the first to be revealed to Joseph Smith, for his very first experience with God involved him speaking with both the Father and the Son face to face much like the experience of Stephen in the New Testament:

“And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” Acts 7:56

How the word ‘One’ is used in the New Testament

The scriptures speak quite a bit about becoming “one”. In terms of husband and wife becoming “one flesh”, the members of the Church being “one body” and Christ and his followers being “one”, those things are generally understood as being merely symbolic. When it comes to The Father and the Son, on the other hand, even though the same language and the same words are being used, it is interpreted as being literal. How can you tell when one is literal and one is symbolic?

Here are some examples of the word “one” being used in the New Testament:

Mark 10
7 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife;
8 And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh.

John 17
11 And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
21 That they all may be one; as thou, father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

Acts 4
32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.

Acts 17
26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;

Romans 12
5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.

1 Corinthians 8
6 But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

1 Corinthians 12
13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

Galatians 3
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1
7 Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;

Philippians 2
2 Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be like minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.

1 Timothy 2
5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;

Hebrews 2
11 For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren,

1 Peter 3
8 Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:

Eyewitness accounts of a separate Father and Son

Matthew 3
16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

Matthew 5
5 While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.

John 12
28 Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.
29 The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him.

Acts 7
55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,
56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.

Father and Son mentioned distinctly

Mark 1
1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;

John 1
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 The same was in the beginning with God.

Romans 1
7 To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.

1 Corinthians 1
3 Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
4 I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;
9 God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

2 Corinthians 1
2 Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;

Galatians 1
1 Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)
3 Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ,
4 Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:

Ephesians 1
1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus:
2 Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:

Philippians 1
2 Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Colossians 1
1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timotheus our brother,
2 To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,

Thessalonians 1
1 Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;
9 For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;
10 And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.

Thessalonians 2
1 Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
2 Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
12 That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Timothy 1
2 Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.

Timothy 2
2 To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

Titus 1
4 To Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Philemon 1
3 Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 1
1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;
5 For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?
13 But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?

James 1
1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.

1 Peter 1
2 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

2 Peter 1
1 Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:
2 Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,

1 John 1
3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

1 John 2
1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:

2 John 1
3 Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.
9 Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.

Jude 1
1 Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called:
4 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Revelation 3
21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.

Jesus Christ’s comments about his Father

Matthew 24
36 But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.

Matthew 6
9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

Matthew 11
27 All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.

Matthew 16
17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 20
23 And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.

Matthew 21
37 But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son.
38 But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance.

Matthew 23
9 And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.
8 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.
9 And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.
10 Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.

John 5
17 But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.
18 Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.
19 Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.
20 For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel.
21 For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.
22 For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son:
23 That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.
26 For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself;
36 But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.
37 And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.

John 8
19 Then said they unto him, Where is thy Father? Jesus answered, Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also.
28 Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.
38 I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.
49 Jesus answered, I have not a devil; but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me.
54 Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God:

John 10
17 Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.
18 No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.
29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.
30 I and my Father are one.
32 Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me?
37 If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not.

John 14
7 If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.
8 Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.
9 Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?
10 Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.
11 Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake.
12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.
20 At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.
21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.
28 Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I ago unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I.

John 15
1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.
23 He that hateth me hateth my Father also.
24 If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father.

John 20
17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

Revelation 2
27 And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.

Revelation 3
21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.

Conclusion

Some might ask the question, “If the Father and Son were separate entities, then why did Christ say that they are ‘one’?” I might respond with a few other questions, “Why did Christ also say that we are ‘one’ with him and the Father as they are ‘one’? And if they are ‘one’ in the most basic sense, then why were Christ and the Father referred to separately almost every single time in the New Testament by the apostles and Jesus Christ himself?”

First it is important to understand that in the Bible we have a pre-resurrection Jesus Christ and a post-resurrection Jesus Christ. I would suggest a closer study as to how he is addressed in relation to the Father during these periods. Note that before the resurrection, we have Christ on earth and a voice from heaven three times: the baptism of Christ, the mount of Transfiguration and another time glorifying the name of Christ. There were witnesses on all three occasions and then we have Christ praying to God the Father in John 17.

After the resurrection however, you would think that Christ, the Father and the Holy Spirit are back to being one “substance”, yet at the very first appearance of Jesus Christ after his resurrection, among his first words are: “…Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.”

He is still speaking of his Father as if he is a separate individual, he even refers to him as his God. “Fine”, you might say, “But once he ascended, then they all three were one permanently”. The only problem is that you later have Stephen seeing Jesus sitting on the right hand of God and then you have the many epistles of Paul, Peter, James, John and Jude all referring to: “God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord“.

Why would these men not say instead “Jesus Christ our Father, Lord and God”, why would they state such things as “truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3)? Now possibly we are reading them in error and they they understood the Godhead to be a Trinity and that we are just not enlightened enough to read these verses properly; maybe we’re just seeing the surface and missing the deeper meaning.

However, we must go back to that time of debate and confusion when opinions on the matter were vehemently disagreed on; when the final conclusion was not made by revelation, by “thus saith the Lord,” but by popular vote. How is it that God’s representatives on earth did not even know anything concerning his nature? If we are left to examine the scriptures it would seem that the evidence weighs overwhelmingly on the side of the Father and the Son being two distinct individuals that are one, in a manner of holiness that we don’t quite comprehend and that we can become one with them.

The amazing testimony of Joseph Smith and the many other apostles that followed him, sets the matter in stone for Latter-day Saints, just as the Council of Nicaea and the Athanasian Creed that followed 200 years later defines the nature of the Godhead for those of other faith traditions.

But whatever we believe, we can come to an agreement that there is a God in heaven, the Father, and that his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, walked this earth, atoned for the sins of all mankind, was resurrected and ascended into Heaven to sit down in glory on the right hand of God. This is what the scriptures testify and the fundamental principles of what Latter-day Saints believe.

‘The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it‘ ( Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 121).

Updates:

Updated: September 22, 2010

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