Is Mormonism Christian?


An Examination of Selected Mormon Doctrines and Historical Claims When Viewed in the Light of the Bible

The following analysis is the partial result of several years of careful study of Mormon doctrines and historical claims and how they stand up when compared to God’s Holy Word, the Bible.  As true believing Christians and former Mormons*, we have been afforded a unique vantage point from which to undertake such a study.

The purpose of this study is to share the fruits of our labors with those of the Mormon faith as an act of loving concern.  It is our hope that whoever receives this study will read it, will ponder the things presented in it, and will search out the Bible to see whether those things are true or not.  Because we do not claim to have done a perfect job (as we are only Christians growing in grace), it is not so important whether anyone agrees with what we have written here as it is that they search out, and find, God’s truth in the Bible.  It is our fervent prayer that God will ultimately bring all those who read this study to His truth, according to His perfect will.  If anyone takes offense at these words, please accept our apologies in advance.  May God richly bless you.

  Introduction

As is common to all faiths that profess a belief in Jesus Christ as Savior, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS church) claims to have derived its doctrines from the Bible. However, the LDS church is among those faiths that have developed doctrines based on a wider authority than that which is found in the Bible alone and in its entirety.  Much of LDS doctrine is also based on what the LDS church claims to be additional revelation from God, apart from the Bible, and furthermore it claims that God continues to add to His Word in our day (through a living “Prophet, Seer, and Revelator,” who, by its definition, is also the President of the LDS church).

Because of this clear difference in what constitutes the doctrinal authority, conflicts can, and do, arise between the espoused doctrines of the LDS church and the doctrines that are found in the Bible.  In order to deal with such conflicts, the LDS church either claims that the Bible (the Authorized King James Version) was just incorrectly translated, or, more boldly, just asserts that it (the LDS church) alone has been given (by God) the Divine authority to interpret any and all Holy Scripture.

In our quest for truth, we have found that, on a number of issues, these doctrinal differences can be vast.  Somewhat surprisingly, we have also found that there are many people, both LDS members and non-members alike, who remain unaware of these differences.  Because we, by the grace of God through the hearing of His Word, (Romans 10:17, “So then faith [cometh] by hearing, and hearing by the word of God“) have been shown that:

1)      the Bible alone and in its entirety circumscribes the whole Word of God, and

2)      that it is therefore the sole source of Divine Truth (Salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ, see John 14:6), and that

3)      it alone must form the basis for all theological doctrine, and

4)      whether God has given or has not given that truth to an individual… ultimately determines the eternal destiny of that person: either heaven or hell.

We are therefore compelled to share and proclaim that truth to all men, for God Himself commands it!

In Ezekiel 3:13-19, we read,

Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me.  When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked [man] shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.  Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.”  (See also Mark 16:15).

In what follows, we discuss just a few of the areas where we have found LDS doctrines and historical claims to be in serious conflict with the Bible, and in so doing we elaborate on what the Bible teaches on those subjects because it is our desire to bring the reader to truth that man’s greatest need is salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ.  John 8:32, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”  (And Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life!)

                    An Examination of Some Mormon* Doctrines and Historical Claims

                                               When Viewed in the Light of the Bible

                                                               Table of Contents

Baptisms for the Dead………………………………………………………………………………………

Genealogies……………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Spirit Prison…………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Celestial Marriage…………………………………………………………………………………………….

Wedding Garments…………………………………………………………………………………………..

Aprons of Fig Leaves (Temple Garments?)……………………………………………………………

Salvation by Grace (Plus Works?)……………………………………………………………………..

Resurrection and Exaltation versus Salvation………………………………………………………….

Water Baptism…………………………………………………………………………………………………

Baptism by Immersion Only ?………………………………………………………………………………

Joseph Smith’s Death……………………………………………………………………………………..

Modern Day Prophets…………………………………………………………………………………….

Prophets of God……………………………………………………………………………………………..

Negating God’s Holy Word………………………………………………………………………………..

In the Name of Jesus Christ………………………………………………………………………………

New Jerusalem (in Missouri?)……………………………………………………………………..

The Holy Temple of God, Where Is It Now?………………………………………………………

Is There an Eternal Hell?……………………………………………………………………………………

The Key to Understanding God’s Word…………………………………………………………….

Conclusion………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

*The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, hereinafter referred to as the LDS church.

Baptisms for the Dead

One of the more unique (quintessential?) doctrines of the LDS church involves baptisms for the dead.  Before we can address this issue, however, we must first understand how the Bible defines the word “dead.”  The Bible makes it clear that the fleshly body is in bondage to sin and death and the unsaved (though they be physically alive) are considered by God to be dead, both in body and in spirit!  In Ephesians 2:1 (repeated again in Ephesians 2:5), we read of the believer’s state before becoming saved as, “and you, hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins,”  Also in Matt. 8:22 Jesus called the unsaved who were yet physically alive as dead.  “Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.”

When the unsaved physically die, their bodies and spirits go to the grave, a place of silence (Psalms 115:17, “The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence.” see also 1 Sam 2:9 and Psalms 94:17), to be raised up at the last day to be judged according to their works.  No matter how “good” those works may have been in their own eyes, those persons will be found lacking, and therefore guilty, and will have to spend an eternity in hell (where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” Matthew 25:30 and Luke 13:28).

For the children of God (the true believing Christians), however, even though they have attained everlasting life in their soul existence (their spirit essence), their physical bodies are still under the curse of death.  When the children of God are baptized, they baptize their physical, fleshly bodies as a sign of obedience that is only a response to the baptism already performed on their hearts by God.  It is also a sign of faith that on the last day, Judgment Day, their physical, earthly bodies (the dead) will be raised, and in a “twinkling,” will become glorified spiritual bodies to which their spirit essence will be united.  This is why it says in 1 Cor. 15:29, “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?” and in 1 Cor. 15:51-53 it says, “Behold, I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.  In a moment, in a twinkling of an eye, at the last trump (Judgment Day): for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.  For this corruptible (fleshly body) must put on incorruption (glorified body) and this mortal (dead) must put on immortality (life).

You see, for the true believing Christian, “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (in spirit).” (see 2 Cor. 5:8), but on the last day, the believer (in spirit) will be reunited with his resurrected and then glorified body.

Baptisms were never intended for the deceased in the grave; for them there is no hope if they were not saved before their death (Heb 9:27). (See spirit prison section below.)  The baptism Paul had in view in 1 Cor 15:29 refers to the water baptism of the fleshly corruptible bodies (the dead) that the believers inhabit during this earthly sojourn as a sign of faith that they will be raised unto life in Heaven with Jesus Christ.

Genealogies

It has also been argued that the doctrine of “baptisms for the dead” is supported by Malachi 4:6, whereby the hearts of the fathers are being turned to the children, and the hearts of the children are being turned to the fathers.  Again, we must compare scripture with scripture (1 Cor 2:13) to see what God really has in mind.

In Malachi 1:6, we see that, “a son honoreth his father and a servant his master: if then I (God) be a father, where is mine honor?”

God was chastising His people of Israel, particularly the priests, as pointed out later in the same verse.  Malachi 4:5 (the beginning of the last paragraph of Malachi that includes 4:6) shows that, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD; And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”

In Luke 1:13-17, we see that this should correctly be understood to mean that the children of Israel (the children of God) would be led back to God (the fathers) by John the Baptist as a prophet of God.

It reads, “But the angel said unto him, fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard: thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.  Thou shalt have great joy and gladness and many shall rejoice at his birth.  For he (John the Baptist) shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and he shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.  And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.  And he (John the Baptist) shall go before him (Jesus Christ) in the spirit and power of Elias (Greek for Elijah), to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

We see then, that the prophesy of Malachi 4:6 was already fulfilled during the life of John the Baptist, not in our day by the Mormons doing genealogies and baptisms for the deceased who are in the grave!  Jesus Himself confirmed this, because when speaking of John the Baptist in Matthew 11:14+15, Jesus said, “And if ye will receive [it], this is Elias, which was for to come. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”!  To further underscore that this is the only way to interpret Malachi 4:5+6, we read in Matthew 17:10-13, “And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come?  And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things.  But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed.  Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them.  Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.”

The disciples of Jesus “understood” that Malachai 4:5+6 had been fulfilled by John the Baptist.  They “received it.”  They “had ears to hear.”  If anyone can’t accept this, then he is exactly like those who had John the Baptist thrown into prison and beheaded, and worse, also had Jesus Christ crucified, because “they knew him not.”  Such a person would be doing what he pleased (listed) with the word of God and would be rejecting the true Jesus of the Bible.

Looking back again at Malachai 4:6, we also know that while, historically, “fathers” in the Bible refer to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (i.e. see Deut 29:13, and 30:20) we also know that they are allegorical representatives of God Himself.  Even the plural form, fathers, is consistent with this idea (i.e., God in three persons, as in “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness:,” from Genesis 1:26).  The “children” on the other hand (the disobedient in the land of Israel, the children of God), would be turned to the wisdom of the just (their hearts turned to God) and that this would be done so that God would prepare a people for Himself (through salvation through Jesus Christ, as John the Baptist preached).  Also note that in Titus 3:3 we read, “for we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived,… But after that the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared.

When God warns of “smiting the earth with a curse,” from Malachi 4:6, He was teaching that if He did not prepare a people for Himself through the redemptive action of Jesus Christ (as the Lamb of God) which was required for the salvation of His people, then His justice would demand that the whole earth would remain under the curse of God, doomed to destruction on that great and dreadful day (Judgment Day), and none would be saved.

Remember that John the Baptist’s primary message was, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” as he declared when he saw Jesus Christ coming (see John 1:29 and 1:36).

As for the practice of doing genealogies, the Bible declares in I Timothy 1:4, “Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.” (i.e. Read the Bible for edification, and don’t do genealogies.)  Also in Titus 3:9, “But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions and strivings about the law: for they are unprofitable and vain.”

  Spirit Prison

             Reference is often made to 1 Pet. 3:18-20 and 1 Pet. 4:6 regarding the so-called

“spirit prison.”  These verses are generally misinterpreted as they are not viewed in the context of the whole rest of the Bible.  When taken out of that context, they can easily be interpreted as saying (as the LDS Church says it does), that Jesus, after he was crucified, went into a “spirit prison” to preach the gospel of salvation.  Unfortunately, this interpretation is not at all in conformity with the whole rest of the Bible.

First of all, what does the Bible teach us about a “spirit prison.”  The term “spirit prison” does not exist in the Bible, but the Bible does discuss “spirits in prison” as it says in 1 Pet.3:19.  What God has in view does not refer to something that takes place after death, but rather the current state of all human beings who are physically alive, their subjection to God’s judgment for their sins, and their desperate need for salvation through Jesus Christ.  To see that this is the correct interpretation, we can begin by looking at Psalms 142:7, a prayer of supplication, in which David beseeches God to, “Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name:”.  In Isaiah 42:6+7, we read how it was prophesied that Jesus Christ (as Savior) would be “a light of the Gentiles; to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.” (See also Psalm 146:7&8)

In Luke 4:18 Jesus quotes from Isaiah 61:1,2 and said “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of the sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.”

In this verse we see the reference to the captives (prisoners) and in both Psalm 68:18 and Ephesians 4:8 that, “He (Jesus Christ) ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave good gifts to men.”  His resurrection and ascension fulfilled and assured the promises to the elect of God that they would be freed from the bondage to sin and death.  The unsaved of the world, though they are alive physically, are dead in their sins, and are slaves (prisoners) to Satan.  They are also spiritually blind.  If they remain in that condition when they physically die, they are doomed to an eternity in hell.  This is why it is so important for the true Gospel to be preached to all the world, and why we read in 2 Cor. 5:11, “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men;”

To more clearly understand that God frequently uses such allegorical (parabolic) language throughout the Bible, the following is offered as a simple example: in the Old Testament, Moses was a type or figure (allegory or parable) of Jesus Christ who would lead His people (the chosen ones) out of the land of bondage, Egypt (a picture of man’s bondage to sin) into the promised land (which was a type or figure of Heaven).  Pharaoh was a type or figure of Satan to whom the people of God were formerly bondservants or prisoners (i.e. Egypt is often referred to as the land of “captivity”).  Pharaoh was swallowed up by the “sea”, which is also a frequent spiritual reference to hell in the Bible.  (For further discussion of this point, see the last section of this paper.)

Getting back to 1 Pet. 3:18-20; what is in view here is that Noah, being a prophet of God, spoke by the Holy Ghost to the wicked (unsaved) in his day, who were the “spirits in prison,” who were sometimes disobedient (and remained that way) because they refused to heed God’s call through Noah.  God was “long-suffering,” as it took quite awhile to build the ark, but only a few; that is, Noah and his family, were saved.  The “spirits in prison” had their chance to heed the call of salvation while they were yet physically alive in Noah’s day.  We know that Noah had the Holy Ghost (or Spirit of God, or the Spirit of Christ) just as the other prophets of old did.  In Acts 28:23-28, we see that Paul preached a sermon and, “testified the Kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning to evening.”

In case you think that Noah could not have preached the “Gospel of Salvation through Jesus Christ” in Noah’s day; in 1 Pet 1:10-12 we read, “of which salvation (salvation of souls) the prophets who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it was testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.

As for those people in Noah’s day, that died in their sins, they heard the Gospel of salvation and they rejected it.  There is no second chance after physical death.  In Hebrews 9:27 we read, “It is appointed unto men once to die, and then the judgement.“!  There is no half-way house, no purgatory, no reprieves, no pardons, no bailouts!

 Celestial Marriage

This brings us to another difference in the gospel of salvation as taught in the Bible as opposed to that espoused by the LDS Church: the concept that some marriages can continue in Heaven.  God clearly teaches (for God repeats it 3 times in the Bible to underscore it) that in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in Heaven.”  See Matt. 22:30, read especially the whole context in Luke 20:27-38, and Mark 12:25.  It is claimed by the LDS Church that these three times repeated statements can be circumvented by “celestial marriages” conducted in this life in the LDS Temples.  This claim has served primarily to “tickle the ears of men” who want to believe that it is true, in spite of what the Bible has to say about it.

The Bible does state, however, that there will be something like a marriage in Heaven, in that it declares that Jesus Christ will be the Bridegroom, and the true Church (which is made up of the body of true believing Christians, the elect of God, the true saints) will be the Bride.  Jesus, in a parable, declared in Matt.22:2, “The kingdom of Heaven is like unto a certain king (Heavenly Father), which made a marriage for his son (Jesus Christ).”  This particular marriage-like relationship is reiterated best in Isaiah 62:5, but see also Matt. 9:15 and 25:1-10, Jer. 3:11, Rev. 18:23, and John 3:2

Wedding Garments

It is interesting to note that in the parable, Jesus talks of guests without their “wedding garments” (Matt 22:12) and when the king saw a guest without the wedding garment, he ordered that the guest be bound hand and foot, taken away and cast into outer darkness: where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth (which is a picture of an eternity in hell).  The wedding garments spoken of in the parable do not refer to cotton underwear made by fleshly hands, but rather to the garments of salvation and the robes of Christ’s righteousness (see Isaiah 61:10) with which God clothes the believers to cover their sins so they can enter into the kingdom of Heaven and stand in the presence of God.  Those who would like to enter Heaven “on their own terms” by their own merits, trusting in their own “good works,” rather than solely on the grace of God, will not have their sins covered (Ephesians 2:4+5, 2:8+9).  Their own righteousness (good works) are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).  They will be cast out, into hell, come Judgment Day! (see also Matt.7:21-23)

Aprons of Fig Leaves (Temple Garments?)

It is interesting to note that in Genesis 2:17, God warned Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…”for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shall surely die.”  When Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the tree, they did not physically die for hundreds of years, but from God’s vantage point they were dead in their sin immediately-they were spiritually dead.  It is also interesting that immediately they knew they were naked in their sin and attempted to cover their nakedness with aprons of fig leaves ( Genesis 3:7).  That action was totally unacceptable in God’s sight (they remained naked), so He made a coat of skins by which He covered their nakedness (obviously blood also had to be shed*).  This covering of their nakedness (by God) was a picture of God’s salvation plan for His chosen people, whereby He would clothe them with the robes of Christ’s righteousness.  Jesus Christ, as the “Lamb of God,” was sacrificed so that their sins could be covered.  His blood had to be shed as the only possible perfect and acceptable atonement for sin.  It was solely the work of God, not of man, that was acceptable to cover them.  This should be a clear warning to anyone who believes that salvation is in anyway dependent on the works of man.  In attempting to earn their salvation by their “good works,” they will be found totally lacking (naked) on Judgment Day as though they were wearing aprons of fig leaves.

Salvation by Grace (Plus Works?)

The Bible makes it clear that works, no matter how “good,” do not have any role in a man’s salvation.  In Eph.2:4+5, “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,  Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)” and 2:8+9, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”  The general response to this by those who want to believe in a “grace plus works gospel” is to quote from James chapter 2 where we read the following in verse 20, “But will thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” and in verses 24 and 25, “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”  While these statements are certainly true because they are found in the Bible, they must be understood (in the context of the entire Bible) to mean that if a person is truly saved (alive in the spirit, which is purely the act of God), then good works must be in evidence flowing from him, otherwise he obviously cannot have been saved (he is spiritually dead).  That this is the correct understanding can be more clearly seen when we look at the often quoted verse (but always out of context) from Philippians 2:13, where we read at the end of the verse, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”  As this quote stands alone, it clearly would have to be understood as meaning that the believer is involved in his own salvation.  However, when we read the very next verse (which is seldom if ever quoted together with the previous line), we find, “For it is God which worketh in you to will and to do of his good pleasure.”  It is God, alone, to whom all the credit belongs for any good in our lives.  It is not at all of ourselves!  In and of ourselves there is no redeeming quality or righteousness.  Whatever good we do has been made possible first by God’s action of doing a good work in us.

Ot her references that illustrate the futility of mankind’s efforts to play a role in their own salvation can be found in Isaiah 64:6, Romans 3:10, James 2:10, and Mat.5:48.

_______

*In Hebrews 9:22, we read, “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without the shedding of blood is no remission (of sins).”  Note also how in Genesis 22:8, we read, “And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself (God Himself) a lamb (as Jesus Christ) for a burnt offering,“.  Only Jesus, as the Lamb of God, can be the acceptable sacrifice to God for sin.  He also had to burn in Hell as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of those (the chosen ones, the elect) whom He came to seek and to save.

Resurrection and Exaltation versus Salvation

It hs been claimed by some in the LDS Church that “immortality”, which they have defined as the binding together of body and spirit to an eternal existence at the resurrection, is by grace alone; while “exaltation” (a word that is not found once in the Bible) is the result of the works of man in the form of “Temple ordinances” such as baptisms for the dead, etc.  Such terms, as defined here, have no Biblical validation.  “Salvation” is by grace alone, not “immortality,” as we read in Ephesians 2:8+9, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.”  The Bible indicates that an eternal existence awaits the saved and the unsaved alike with the resurrection of their dead bodies come Judgement Day.  Jesus said in John 5:28+29, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”  Using the above definition of immortality (as meaning the resurrection of the dead to an eternal existence), we are forced to conclude that the resurrection to damnation should be considered a “gift.”

Salvation, (the resurrection unto life), not damnation, is the gift of God!  Salvation also means much more than just an eternal existence, it is an eternal existence in Heaven where we will be forever in the presence of God and see Him face-to-face.  All those who are given salvation are spoken of in Romans 8:17 as being “joint-heirs with Christ.”  Salvation is given only to the elect of God; not because they earned it through doing good works, but because they are chosen by God to salvation and viewed as having done good by having been given faith in Jesus Christ, alone, as their Savior.  He did all the work, and He completed it at the cross.  Those who are saved can’t even take credit for their faith, because, as we read in Hebrews 12:2, Jesus is the “author and finisher of our faith.”! (see also Phil 3:9)

Water Baptism

When many people see the word “baptism” in the Bible, they immediately think of water baptism.  As a result, they often equate water baptism to a trigger that activates or insures their salvation.  However, water baptism is only a sign, not the substance of salvation.  We can see how this must be so when we look to the Old Testament (in Genesis 17:1-14) to find that just as circumcision was a “token” (sign) by which God established His everlasting covenant of salvation with Abraham and his seed (represented physically by national Israel until Christ’s crucifixion and spiritually forever by all true believing Christians) by the works of the law (which, because it demands that the law be kept perfectly, only led to condemnation and therefore exposed everyone’s desperate need of a redeemer/savior and which also prophetically pointed to the necessary “cutting off” of the Lord Jesus Christ which was fulfilled in His bloody sacrifice at the cross).  Water baptism is a sign of the new (and also everlasting) covenant of grace with the spiritual Israel which points to the cleansing action of the Holy Spirit that takes place in the heart of every believer (and which openly began in earnest at Pentecost in 33 A.D., but which also reached back to at least Abel) which would never have been possible if Jesus had not perfectly fulfilled the demands of the old covenant.  Water baptism can never be the means of salvation, just as circumcision was never the means of salvation in Old Testament times.  This point is also clearly pointed out in Galatians 5:1-4.

For those that doubt that this is so, it is useful to remember that although both brothers, Ishmael and Isaac, were circumcised by their father Abraham, only Isaac was saved.  Likewise, although both of Isaac’s sons, Jacob and Esau, were circumcised, only Jacob was saved.  Even more significant, we find in Romans 9, verses 10-13, that even while Jacob and Esau were still in the womb, God had already decided to save only Jacob, and not Esau, although both subsequently received the outward sign of circumcision.  God explains how this can be so in Deuteronomy 30, verse 6, where we see that the outward sign, the work of man, had no substance in relation to salvation, but rather it is only the inward work of God according to His sovereign choice (Rom 9:18), the circumcision of the heart, that could only bring salvation.  So too, we can see that water baptism is only an outward sign, which, by God’s grace alone, is a reflection of the substantive baptism, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, which takes place within the heart of the one who is being saved. That baptism, the only one that can save, is the action of God alone, not of man!

The linkage of circumcision with baptism is not our doing, but God’s!  In Colossians 2:8-14 we read, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.  For in him (Jesus Christ) dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.  And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.  And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances (the law) that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to the cross;”.

We can also see that in the light of this linkage, water baptisms are to be administered to  adult confessing believers in Christ, and to their children also as a sign (just as circumcision was a sign in Old Testament times) as evidence of the hope of the believers in the resurrection unto life in Jesus Christ for their physical, sin cursed, fleshly bodies (the dead).

By comparing water baptism and physical circumcision as “works,” and seeing how they do not have the power to save, we can more clearly understand the Biblical teaching that salvation is by grace alone, not of works.  Not only was this clearly stated in Ephesians 2:8+9, but other passages, such as those found throughout Romans chapter 4, particularly verses 9-11, reiterate that point.  In Galatians chapter 2, verse 16, we also read, “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”  Later in verse 21 we read, “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law (works), then Christ is dead in vain.”  Galatians chapter 3 really underscores this point.  Please read that chapter, or, at least verses 1-3.

Finally, when in Acts 2:38 we read, “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”, the baptism in view could not be water baptism.  Such outward washing can never provide forgiveness of sins.  The baptism referred to in that verse, and others that refer to the need to be baptized (see particularly Mark 16:16), can only be focusing on baptism of the Holy Spirit.  Again, it can only be referring to the action of God, as He permanently washes away the sins of the one who He has chosen to come to faith in Jesus (which also brings about the indwelling (gift) of the Holy Spirit), that is “Salvation.”  Also, please remember the “thief on the cross” was saved and yet he was never baptized with water.

Baptism by Immersion Only ?

Baptism by immersion is said by many denominations to be the only valid and acceptable method of baptism in the eyes of God.  While baptism by immersion is certainly an acceptable method, it is by no means the only method as we can see if we take the time to search out God’s word in the Bible.

The words baptize and baptism (from “baptizo” in the original Greek, meaning ceremonial ablutions or washings) are only found in the New Testament.  The purpose being to represent the washing away of sins.  When we look back in the Old Testament, we see a clear connection to such a washing; and God never uses the word “immersion,” but He frequently does use the word “sprinkle.”

1.     In Ezekiel 36:25-28, we read:

“Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean:

            from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. 

            A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you:

            and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you

an heart of flesh.  And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk

            in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgements, and do them.”

2.     In Numbers 8:5-7, we read:

“And the LORD spake unto Moses saying, Take the Levites from among the children of Israel, and cleanse them.  And thus shall thou do unto them, to cleanse them: Sprinkle water of purifying upon them, and let them shave their  flesh, and let them wash their clothes, and so make themselves clean.”

3.     In the New Testament, in Hebrews 10:22, we read:

Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure  water.”

In all three of these cases, we can see that washing, cleansing, and purification (from sins) are directly linked by God to an act of “sprinkling” clean water (Jesus’s blood), much as the blood of the peace offering bullock was sprinkled on the people of Israel by Moses as a sign of the covenant between God and His people in Ex. 24:8.

                                                            Joseph Smith’s Death

             Regarding the death of Joseph Smith, the LDS records show that he not only had a gun in the Carthage Jail, but he shot and killed some of those in the mob that stormed the jail.  It is recorded in the official History of the Church, Introduction Vol. 6., p.XLI, that he fired at least two shots and, “brought his man down every time.”  John Taylor, Third president of the LDS Church (who was a witness to the event), testified that, “he had been informed that two of the wounded men had died of their wounds,” History of the Church, Vol. 7,pp 102-103.

In review of the facts of the event, it should be clear to anyone that in dying with a gun in his hand, Joseph Smith not only invalidated his prior claim that he was, “going to the slaughter like a lamb” (a vain attempt to compare himself to Jesus Christ), but that he also invalidated his claim to ever having been a Prophet of God.  In response to these findings, it has been said, “certainly a man has a right to defend himself.”

This may or may not be true for a man, but it is definitely not true for a “Prophet of God!” (or any believer in Jesus Christ).  At no time was it ever the example of a Prophet of God to trust in the arm of the flesh to protect himself (to save his own physical life).  Let’s see what the Bible has to say on this issue.

In Psalms 44:6 we read that, “For I will not trust in my sword and bow, neither shall my sword save me, But thou (God) hast saved us from our enemies,…”  In the New Testament we read that when the High Priest’s servants came to take Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter, who had a sword, cut off the ear of one of them (Malchus).  Jesus rebuked Peter and warned that, “all they that take up the sword shall perish with the sword” (Matt.26:52).  In John 18:11, we also read that Jesus was prepared to go to the slaughter like a lamb when he also told Peter, “put up thy sword into the sheath, the cup my father has given me, shall I not drink it?”  When Jesus was taken, he did not even open his mouth to defend himself against his accusers and those who sought to kill him.  He was truly the “Lamb of God” (See Isaiah 53:7 and 1 Pet. 2:23).  When Stephen, another Prophet of God, was taken out to be stoned, he did nothing to defend or protect himself (Acts 8:58-60).  These examples illustrate that indeed Joseph Smith was a man only, nothing more.  He acted as an unbeliever, who, rather than trusting his fate to God’s sovereign will and protection, chose instead the “arm of the flesh.”  Jeremiah, (17:5-6) who was a true Prophet of God said:

Thus saith the LORD; cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD.  For he shall be like heath in the desert and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited.”

It is also interesting to note that Joseph Smith’s last words are said to be, “Oh Lord my God,” which, although they appear to be the prayer of a man about to face death, also constitute the beginning of the Masonic “signal of distress,” according to the Mormon writer, E. Cecil McGavin, (Mormonism and Masonry, p.17 and in The Life of Heber C. Kimball, p. 26.).  Joseph Smith was a Mason, and because a large proportion of the mob consisted of Masons; it is entirely consistent with his use of a gun (by which he attempted to save his physical life) that he would have also placed “his trust in man,” through an appeal to his fellow Masons, to save his life.  In Matthew 7:21 we read, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”

                                                     Modern Day Prophets

Having examined Joseph Smith’s death we can see, therefore, that not only was his claim to being a prophet invalidated, but so too are all of his “prophesies” and “revelations.”  Just as significantly, we are forced to conclude that so too are the prophesies and revelations invalidated of anyone who claims to have inherited Joseph Smith’s office as “Prophet, Seer, and Revelator.”

That office, which is often described in terms which are normally ascribed to Prophets of God before the Bible was completed, was recently held in the LDS church by Spencer W.  Kimball.  While claiming to have such uniquely divine perceptive powers, it is not surprising that when put to a critical test during his tenure, Spencer W. Kimball failed to detect forgery, fraud, and a related impending double murder, when the man responsible for those crimes was in Spencer Kimball’s immediate presence.  A photograph on page 3 of the Church Section of the Deseret News, May 3, 1980, clearly shows Spencer Kimball closely examining (with a magnifying glass!) what was later proven in court to be a forged document (while the subsequently convicted forger and murderer was at his right hand), and accepting the document from the forger on behalf of the LDS Church’s Historical Department.  “Roughly $20,000” worth of items from the LDS Church Archives were subsequently given to the forger in exchange for that forged document.

Before the Bible was completed, Peter (from whom the LDS Church claims its office of Prophet, Seer, and Revelator was received) was confronted with a similar case of deceitfulness.  In Acts Chapter 5, verses 1-11, we read how Annanias and his wife, Sapphira, attempted to defraud God in their day by withholding a portion of their tithe, and how the evil that was in their hearts was immediately revealed to Peter by God.

As for whether or not there are prophets in our day; yes, indeed, there are prophets (but not as the LDS Church teaches, because the Word of God cannot be added to, as it was completed with the completion of the Bible; see Rev.22:18).  As every true believing Christian quotes from the Word of God as found in the Bible, alone, he is serving in the role of a prophet of God.  The Word of God, as found in the Bible, proceeds out of the mouth of God as a two edged sword (see Rev. 19:21) to both save, and to cut away in judgment.  In Isaiah 55:11, we read, “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”  The true believers, as servants (Amos 3:7) and ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20) of Christ, bring His light into the darkened world.  They are His chosen vessels to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit to preach the Word of God, as it is found in the Bible alone.  Once the Word of God is declared, the Holy Spirit works in the hearts of men to save God’s elect.  Those who hear the true, unadulterated Word of God and reject it, or who aren’t satisfied with it (and who want to follow a different or additional gospel) will be cut down and cast into the “Lake of Fire” (Rev. 20:15) come Judgment Day!

                                                                 Prophets of God

There are several religious groups which claim to be under the authority of living prophets of God.  Many of these groups say that they believe in the Bible as the Word of God, but are willing to accept the idea that additions can continue to be made to God’s Word in our day through new Divine revelation.  Such a position is in direct opposition with that held by those claiming to be true believing followers of Jesus Christ (as their Lord and Savior) who totally reject that any gospel other than that circumscribed by the Bible (alone, and in its entirety) is the true Word of God.

The Book of Mormon (in 2 Nephi 29:3-6), when referring to such believers, says:   “A Bible!  A Bible!  We have got a Bible, there cannot be any more Bible.

But thus saith the Lord God: O fools, they shall have a Bible;… Thou fool, that shall say: a Bible, we have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible…,”

In calling such believers “fools,” these verses actually mock the Word of God; but this should not be surprising because, as we have already shown, Joseph Smith, the man who “revealed” those words was a false prophet, as proven by the last act of his life.

In Mark 13:22-23, Jesus warned that in the last days, “For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders to seduce, if it were possible even the elect.  But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things.”  In Matt. 7:15 we read where Jesus also warned, “Beware of false prophets which come to you in sheep’s clothing (giving the outward appearance of being associated with Jesus Christ, the “Lamb of God”), but inwardly they are ravening wolves”.  In 2 Corinthians 11:13-14 we read, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ.  And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.”  Finally we read in Galatians 1:8-9, “but though we, or an angel from heaven, preach unto you any other gospel than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.  As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”

In 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12, we are further warned about those “…whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.  And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

In Jeremiah 23:16-32, God also warns of false prophets and their lies.  In verse 25, we read, “I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed”.  In verse 28, we read, “the prophet that hath a dream,  let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word (Jesus Christ, see John 1:1), let him speak (declare) my word (Jesus Christ) faithfully (as revealed by the Holy Spirit in the Bible only).  What is the chaff (the unsaved, false prophets, who are doomed to be burned in the fires of hell after the separation from the wheat on the threshing floor of Judgement Day) to the wheat (the saved, true prophets, who will be gathered into the harvest home of God in Heaven to be with Jesus Christ for all eternity)? saith the LORD“.

Please also read, Deuteronomy 13:1-3, where God reveals how He uses false prophets to “prove” or test His people to see if they will remain faithful.

                                                        Negating God’s Holy Word

It has also been publicly claimed by at least one LDS Church spokesman* (and never refuted by the LDS church) that, “Moses was translated, not buried, because he did not die.”  The Bible, however, clearly states that Moses did in fact die, it even states it two times to underscore the fact. In Deuteronomy 34:5-8 we read, “So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD.  And he buried him in the land of Moab, over against Bethpeor: but no man knowest his sepulchre unto this day.  And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.  And the children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days: so the days of weeping and mourning were ended.”  The language used here is almost exactly the same as when Aaron died, as we read in Numbers 20:28+29, “…and Aaron died there in the top of the mount: and Moses and Eleazar came down from the mount.  And when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, they mourned for Aaron thirty days,…”.  This conclusion is confirmed by Deut.32, verses 48 through 52.

The oldest available Hebrew texts read this way, so there is no way to say these verses were incorrectly translated.  It would seem that the argument being given is that those verses were incorrectly written or incorrectly transcribed, which is considerably beyond the LDS doctrinal claim that the only errors in the King James Bible are those having to do with translation.  It would seem, therefore that the LDS Church has taken extreme, unjustified, liberty with God’s Holy Word, the Bible.  The LDS Church has, in effect, taken away from the Word of God, a very serious matter!

_____

*Theodore A. Tuttle at a BYU Devotional on 7 September 1980.

The reason for the question of whether or not Moses actually died probably arose because Moses appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration with Elijah (who did not die, but was translated).  Rather than trusting the Bible as God’s Word, the doubters seem to have placed their trust in their own wisdom and understanding.  However, back in the Bible, in Jude verse 9, we get an indication of where the solution to the apparent contradiction probably rests.  There we read, “Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.”  Evidently God had resurrected Moses’ dead body prior to Jesus’s death and resurrection so that Moses could appear on the Mount of Transfiguration with Elijah, to represent the law and the prophets witnessing and testifying to Christ’s forthcoming crucifixion.

The capriciousness with which the LDS Church treats God’s Holy Word in the Bible is most clearly brought out in its treatment of The Song of Solomon, which is a beautiful portrait (of the love between Jesus Christ, as the bridegroom, and His bride, the Church), that God painted using allegorical language in a parable, written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit through His servant, Solomon.  Many people are not aware that the LDS Church does not even recognize this book of the Bible to be the inspired Holy Word of God.  According to the LDS Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Student Manual (Religion 302, copyright 1981),p.5, “The Song of Solomon, which the Prophet Joseph Smith said was not to be considered inspired writing, is only one of many songs written by Solomon.”

                                                       In the Name of Jesus Christ

Among the many claims of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons) it has been said that one of the evidences that the LDS Church is uniquely qualified and commissioned as the only “true Christian church” is because it is the only church to include “Jesus Christ” within its name.  Nowhere in the Bible can we find any evidence to suggest that we should place any trust in persons or institutions because of their use of the name of Jesus Christ.  In fact, the Bible suggests just the opposite!  In Matt. 7:21-23, Jesus warns:

“Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter

                        into the kingdom of heaven: Many will say to me in that day,

                        Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name?  and in thy

                        name done many wonderful works?  And then will I profess unto

                        them, I never knew you: depart from me ye that work iniquity.”

             There are many churches in the world today that claim to be bringing their gospel in the name of Jesus Christ, but if they don’t know Him as Lord God and the perfect savior, they are preaching another Jesus.  In 2 Cor. 11:3-4, the Bible says:

“But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve

                through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from

                the simplicity that is Christ.  For if he that cometh preacheth

                another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another

                spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have

not accepted, ye might well bear with him (share the same end?).”

                                                 The New Jerusalem (in Missouri?)

There are many who have been taught that when Jesus comes back on the clouds of glory that He will establish a new Jerusalem; a literal, physical city, at a location somewhere on this earth.  Some people believe that it will be at the location of the old Jerusalem, while others, particularly those in the LDS church, believe that it will be located in the United States, and, more specifically, in Independence, Missouri.  Let’s see what the Bible has to say regarding this issue.

With regard to the possibility that this earth will even exist beyond Jesus’s second coming (Judgement Day), In 2 Peter 3:7, we read, “But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgement and perdition of ungodly men.”  Further on in verse 10, we read, “But the day of the LORD will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”  God reiterates this point in verse 12 and finally in verse 13 we read, “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”

In Revelation 21:1, it reads, “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.”

Regarding the new Jerusalem, however, in the very next verse we read, “and I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”  Later, at the end of verse 9, one of the seven angels told John, ” Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.”  And in verse 10, “and he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain and shewed me that great city, holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.”  We can readily see that the city, the new Jerusalem is not some literal, physical, city, but rather the kingdom of God encompassing the body of all true believing Christians, the true eternal Church, which God looks upon as the bride of Christ!

To see that the new Jerusalem is a spiritual representation of the kingdom of God that is made up of the body of believers, we just have to turn to Revelation 3:12, where we read, “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall no more go out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the spirit saith unto the churches.”  This truth is also evident in Galatians 4, verses 25 and 26 which contrasts the earthly Jerusalem and her children (the Jews of national Israel), described as being in bondage (to the works of the law), with the heavenly spiritual “Jerusalem which is above is free (through the grace of God), which is the mother of us all (all true believing Christians).”

Additional support is found in Hebrews 12:22-23 , where we read, “But ye are come unto Mount Si-on and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,”.

As to the timing of the fulfillment of the coming of the new Jerusalem we are told in Matthew 24:29-31, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.  And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”

       The Holy Temple of God, Where is it Now?

This brings us to another problem.  There are those in various religions today who claim to have access to a literal, physical, earthly holy temple of God.  As was indicated above, the holy temple of God is a spiritual structure made up of true believing Christians (described as pillars in the temple) coincident with the new Jerusalem in heaven.  This is entirely consistent with what we read in 1 Peter 2:5-8, where God equates the true believers to “lively stones” that are part of the spiritual temple of God of which Jesus Christ is the “Chief Cornerstone.”  “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.  Wherefore also it is contained in scripture, (Found in Isaiah 28:16 and Psalm 118:22) behold I lay in Si-on a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.  Unto you therefore which believe he (The Lord Jesus Christ) is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.” (See also Isaiah 8:14, Matthew 21:42, Mark 12:10, Luke 20:17, Acts 4:11, and Romans 9:53)

So that there can be absolutely no doubt that the holy temple of God could never, ever, again be defined by physical stones and mortar (whether in Jerusalem; Salt Lake City, Utah; Independence, Missouri; or anywhere else for that matter), we read in Ephesians 2:19-22, “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God: And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone: In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”

Finally, in 2 Corinthians 6:16, we read, “…Ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said (see Ezekiel 37:26&27), I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

To more clearly understand why there could never again be any need for an earthly, physical temple of God following the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross, we have only to search the scriptures to review what happened at the precise moment of His death.  We read in Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38, and Luke 23:45 that, at that very moment, the veil of the temple was rent in twain (torn in two) from top to bottom.  The result was that the “Holiest of all,” (see Hebrews 9:3) the tabernacle altar of God (where only the high priest, alone, could venture once a year to make an atoning sacrifice of blood on the Day of Atonement) which had heretofore always been hidden from outside view by the veil, had now been fully exposed by God to show that the sign or figure that the “Holiest of all” of the temple represented had been perfectly fulfilled in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ; as He was both the sacrificial Lamb of God and the High Priest that offered the perfect atoning blood sacrifice.  God was showing that the function of the earthly temple had come to an end! (Read all of Hebrews chapter 9 to see that this is so).   Although the Jewish high priest (Caiaphas) no doubt rushed in to repair the torn veil so that he, and the other Jewish high priests that followed him, could continue the yearly atonement sacrificial rite until the physical temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D., the priestly action would have been pure vanity and rebellion against God.  They could not have had any effect or substance so far as God’s plan of salvation was concerned.  In fact, (according to Isaiah 66:1-4) they would have only been an abomination in God’s sight (because by carrying out those rites, the Jews were continuing to deny that Jesus Christ had come to fulfill the law of sacrifice, which had all along been the sole focal point of the blood sacrifices that were carried out in the temple before Christ died).  This is the most likely reason why God finally allowed the physical temple in Jerusalem to be destroyed for the third (and last) time, and why he scattered the Jews (until our day).  Additionally, because God also subsequently allowed the Islamic Dome of the Rock to be built on the temple site in Jerusalem, the Jews have been prevented from rebuilding the temple ever again (despite the fact that the Jews have had political sovereignty over Jerusalem since 1967).

   Is There an Eternal Hell?

There are many so-called “Christian” denominations that claim that the Bible is the Word of God, yet they totally ignore all that the Bible declares regarding Judgment Day and the associated punishment from God that will be meted out to everyone of the unsaved of the world on that “great and very terrible day of the LORD” (see Joel 2:11).  It has become most unpopular to talk of God’s wrath and punishment for sin, eternal damnation, or the fires of an eternal hell.  Are these just euphemisms, or are they and integral part of God’s magnificent salvation plan?

In order for someone to claim that he is “saved,” or that Jesus Christ is their “Savior,” he must have a clear idea of what he has been saved from.  If he claims that he is escaping the just penalty for his sins, he is correct, for the Bible clearly teaches that “the wages of sin is death.” (see Romans 6:23)  However, the Bible doesn’t stop there, because it talks of the “second death” which is the just end that awaits all sinners who remain unsaved; those whose names are not written in the “book of life.”  In Revelation 20:14-15 and 21:8 we read that the second death means to be cast into “the lake which burns with fire and brimstone.” In reference to this same fire, Jesus declared three times that the unsaved would “go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” (see Mark 9:43-48)  In Matthew 3:12, John the Baptist declared that Jesus would “throughly purge his (threshing) floor, and gather his wheat (the believers) into the garner (harvest house); but he will burn up the chaff (the unsaved of the world) with unquenchable fire.”  We also know from Revelation 14:11, that “the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night.” 

The Bible specifically mentions hell 54 times, but it is clearly alluded to many more times in other words.  As Jesus taught in Matthew 15:14, “when the blind (false prophets and false teachers with their false gospels) lead the blind (the unsaved), they both fall into the ditch” From Psalms 7:15, a ditch is equated to a pit, and from Isaiah 14:15, we know that a pit is equated to hell reserved for Satan and all his dominion (see also Psalm 143:7 and Psalm 9:17).  This was determined by comparing scripture with scripture.  The Bible is its own interpreter or dictionary.  The interpretation is therefore God’s alone and not man’s (i.e. not of our private interpretation).  Other times God refers to hell as outer darkness as in Matthew 26:30, where Jesus in a parable declared, “And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  Finally, in Matthew 10:28,  Jesus warned: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him (God) which is able to destroy both body and soul in hell.

It should also be remembered that Jesus not only gave his life as “a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28), but He had to endure the wrath of God on behalf of all who would believe on Him because God’s justice demands that the penalty for the sins of the believers had to be paid in order to make their salvation possible.  Jesus not only died for those whom He came to seek and to save, but He had to endure the equivalent of an eternity in hell for them (something which is humanly incomprehensible).

Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men;” 2 Corinthians 5:11.

                                     The Key to Understanding God’s Word, the Bible

In 2 Peter 1:20&21, we are told, “Knowing this first, that no prophesy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.  For the prophesy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of old spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”  In order to understand the word of God, the Holy Spirit must first enlighten us.  We must be given the spiritual eyes to see and the spiritual ears to hear.  We must have been given the wisdom of God, by God.  This will come when we are truly seeking Him (because He first sought us, see John 6:44) and fear (have reverential awe of) Him.  We are told in Psalms 111:10 that, “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom:”, and in Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of Knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”  The more we study God’s word, the Bible, the more our faith grows and the spiritually wiser we become.  In Romans 10:17, we learn that, “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (With such study, it can also be found that the Bible has been precisely crafted by God, by His Holy Spirit, into one cohesive, consistent whole, from beginning to end.)

In Psalm 78:1&2, God calls upon all believers to, “Give ear O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth.  I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings* of old:” (yet immediately thereafter only an historical account is provided!)  In Proverbs 1:5&6, we read, “A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels: To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings.

In Proverbs 25:2 we also read, “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings (the believers) is to search out a matter.

In 1 Corinthians 2 (the whole chapter) we learn more of the secrets to understanding God’s Holy word, the Bible:

a) in verse 5, “that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in  the power of God.”

b) in verse 7+8, “but we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the  hidden wisdom, which God ordained from before the world unto our glory, which none of   the princes of this world know:

c) in verse 10, “But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit  searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.”

d) in verse 13, “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth: comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

            e) in verse 14, “But the natural man (everyone in the unsaved state) receiveth not  the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know  them, because they are spiritually discerned.

________

* From the Hebrew, “chiydah,” (also used as dark sentences or speech) meaning hard question or riddle, and is synonymous with the word “proverb” or “parable”.

The Bible requires spiritual insight to understand it, a faculty given by God as part of salvation.  Since Proverbs 1:20-23 and 1 Corinthians 1:30 describe Jesus Christ as wisdom, then verse 7 is really saying, “We speak Jesus Christ in a mystery.”  This is a repetition of 1:18, which says that those who are perishing (the unsaved) do not understand Christ as the Savior they need.  Those who are saved know who He is, for they see Him in the Bible (John 5:39).  They can see how God pre-figured Jesus and salvation through Him alone in all the Old Testament historical accounts.  Such examples can be found when we look at the lives of Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Boaz, David, Mordecai, Nehemiah, Jonah, etc.  However, for the rest (the non-elect unsaved who are spiritually blind), such wisdom is “hidden,” because God hides the truth of the Gospel of Salvation through Jesus Christ from them (God leaves them in their blindness!).

Remember, the Bible makes it clear that Jesus spoke in “parables.”  In Matt. 13:34 we read that:

All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables;  and without a parable spake he not unto them:  That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.

Jesus explained to His disciples why He spoke in parables to the multitudes.  In Mark 4:11+12, we read:

And he said unto them, Unto you (the elect) it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without (the non-elect), all these things are done in parables:  That seeing they may see and not perceive; and hearing they may hear and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.”

It can even be said that effectively the entire Bible was written as a “parable,” in that only if God has given the reader “ears to hear” and “eyes to see” (Proverbs 20:12, “The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the LORD hath made even both of them), can the Bible truly be understood and applied to his heart, otherwise the Word remains hidden to that individual.  It is the only way to “hear” Him (see Matt. 17:5).  Because this is so, we can also see how it is possible to “see” the Lord Jesus Christ (He is both the Word and Wisdom) on each and every page, whether it be in the New, or Old, Testament.

The conclusion of the matter is, only if (by the grace of God, alone) we have the Holy Spirit indwelling in our hearts (because we are called and chosen by God) can our spiritual eyes and ears be opened to the hidden truths of God (in concurrence with our gaining a desire to be obedient to them!).  Because these truths are of God, they must be spiritually (not carnally/humanly) discerned.  In Romans 7:14 we read, “For we know that the law (the whole word of God, the Bible) is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.”  Therefore, only while being guided by the Holy Spirit, can we humbly search and compare scripture with scripture (comparing spiritual things with spiritual things), within the context of the whole Bible, to begin to unlock the spiritual secrets that God has hidden within His word, the Bible.

APPENDIX:   Who or What is the Bible Really Talking About?

Many people who follow false gospels claim that certain verses in the Bible specifically refer to their leaders, either past or present.  For example, the LDS church claims that Isaiah, Chapter 29, is describing Joseph Smith and the “marvelous work and a wonder” that he would do (in establishing the LDS [Mormon] church).  The LDS church also claims that Isaiah 29:10-12 is referring to a transaction in the early 1800’s in which a man named Martin Harris traveled to New York City to show some written characters that were claimed to have been copied from the Book of Mormon’s “golden plates” to a Professor Charles Anthon.  According to the account, Professor Anthon later asked Martin Harris to show him the originals.  Martin Harris is said to have then told Professor Anthon that part of the “plates” were “sealed,” and that he was forbidden to bring them.  The Professor is then said to have replied, “I cannot read a sealed book.”  The LDS church says that Professor Anthon is the “learned one” referred to in Isaiah 29:11 and Joseph Smith is the one that is “not learned” referred to in Isaiah 29:12 (and who, despite that handicap, was able to “translate” the “sealed” book [the Book of Mormon]).  Is this claim valid?  Is this possible?  Let’s see what the Bible has to say.

                                                            Biblical Ground-Rules

Before we begin to come to any truth regarding the Bible, we need to know God’s rules concerning its interpretation.  In II Peter 1:20&21 and 2:1&2 we read, “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.  For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake [as they were] moved by the Holy Ghost.  But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.  And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.

These verses are saying that if anyone gives forth an interpretation out of their own intellect or from the carnal minds of others that have taught them, they are false teachers and the truth is not in them.  But how are we to know which is out of a man’s mind as opposed to what God is really saying?  God gives us the means in the Bible.

In I Corinthians 2:13 we read, “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.”  And we know from II Samuel 23:2, “The spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word [was] in my tongue.”  Clearly the word of God, the Bible, is spiritual, as it was written under the direction of the Holy Spirit.  So if we want to learn the true meaning of any verse then we need to compare scripture with scripture (spiritual things with spiritual things).  Also in I John 2:27 we read, “But the anointing (of the Holy Spirit) which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.

We also learn that if anyone is a true prophet (one who is declaring God’s word faithfully), then certain criteria must also be met.  All true Believers, the true prophets, must have the testimony of Jesus Christ, and no one else.  That is why we read in Revelation 19:10, ” And I fell at his feet to worship him.  And he said unto me, See [thou do it] not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”  We can see, the Bible is the word of God, and Jesus Christ is both God and the Word made flesh (See John 1:1 and John 1:14).  Revelation 19:13 reiterates this point, “And he (Jesus Christ) [was] clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his (Jesus’s) name is called The Word of God.”

In John 5:39, we read where Jesus was reviling the Jews and said, “Search the scriptures (only the Old Testament in that day); for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me (Jesus Christ).  Also in Hebrews 10:7 where God explains Psalms 40:7 as saying that the book (the Bible) is talking about Jesus Christ, “Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me, [Jesus Christ]) to do thy will, O God.”  Remember also in Luke 24:27 where Jesus, after His resurrection, was walking on the road to Emmaus with the two who did not recognize Him?   There we read, “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.”   Later on, in verse 31, we read, “And their eyes were opened, and they knew him;

                                                                Isaiah, Chapter 29

With these rules in mind, let’s look at Isaiah 29:10-12.  There we read, Isaiah 29:10, “For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered.  And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which [men] deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it [is] sealed:  And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned.

We can see that Isaiah 29 is primarily a testimony by God against the prophets, seers, and rulers (the Priests and Pharisees, the “learned ones”) who claim to understand the word of God, the Bible, but who really have no understanding at all.  To them this “book” is “sealed,” even though they are “learned” men.  They are false prophets and the Light of Christ is not in them.  They do not have the Holy Spirit to guide them to the truth that leads to eternal life.  They are “spiritually blind” and therefore dead in their sins.

As  for the “not learned” one, there is no implication that he can do any better.  All he can say, and rightly so, is that “I am not learned.”  That is all that is said.  There is nothing said about any interpretation or translation of the “sealed” book (which in any case is the Bible, and not the Book of Mormon).  Moreover, regarding the “not learned,” the Bible has only unpleasant words to say.  If we turn to II Peter 3:16, for example, we’ll find that regarding the understanding of scripture by such a one, “As also in all [his] (Paul’s) epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as [they do] also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.”

So who then can understand this sealed book, the Bible?  The Believers can.  We know this from Isaiah 8:13-16, “Sanctify the LORD of hosts (Jesus Christ) himself; and [let] him [be] your fear, and [let] him [be] your dread.  And he (Jesus Christ) shall be for a sanctuary (to the Believers); but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem (those who claim to have fellowship with God, but really do not).  And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken.  Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples (the true Believers).”  Also in Isaiah 8:20, “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, [it is] because [there is] no light in them.”  (Matthew 6:23, “But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great [is] that darkness!“)

Now getting back to Isaiah, chapter 29; if we go to the next two verses, verses 13&14, we read, “Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near [me] with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:  Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, [even] a marvelous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise [men] shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent [men] shall be hid.”  To understand this passage we don’t go to men, we go to God through His Word the Bible.  In Matthew 15:7-9 (and Mark7:6-9), we read where Jesus was rebuking the Pharisees and scribes (the learned ones, the prophets, rulers, seers of that day whom God had blinded referred to in Isaiah 29:10&11) and God records for us, “[Ye] hypocrites, well did Esaias (Isaiah in Greek) prophesy of you (not a 19th century professor), saying,  This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with [their] lips; but their heart is far from me.  But in vain they do worship me, teaching [for] doctrines the commandments of men.”  Jesus also said in Matthew 23:27, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead [men’s] bones, and of all uncleanness.”

                                                 A Marvelous Work and a Wonder?

As for the “marvelous work and a wonder,” God is declaring that inspite of the fact that so many “learned” men of Israel (who intellectually knew what the Bible says) are so blind to any understanding of what it is really talking about, God would save a remnant of all humankind (both Jews and Gentiles*) for Himself.  We are told this in the concluding section of chapter 29, beginning with verses 18 and 19, where God capsulizes the essence of salvation, “And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book (the “sealed” book, the Bible), and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness.  The meek also shall increase [their] joy in the LORD, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel (the Lord Jesus Christ).”

______

*God refers to the Gentiles in Isaiah 29:17 as Lebanon (not Israel) which will become a fruitful field.

God tells us that He would effectuate His salvation program first, marvelously, by the redemptive action of the Lord Jesus Christ (as the Passover Lamb at the cross) and then, wonderously, by “the opening of the blind eyes” (spiritually speaking) through the pouring out of His Holy Spirit beginning at Pentecost.  For proof that this is the only correct interpretation, we must first turn to Isaiah 42:6&7 where we read, “I the LORD have called thee (Jesus Christ, as the servant) in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, [and] them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.”  Then in Luke 2:30-32, we read that the devout man Simeon, upon seeing the child Jesus in the temple at Jerusalem, declared to God under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;  A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

Finally, in Acts 13:38-41, we read that (after Pentecost) while Paul and Barnabas were preaching the gospel of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ in Antioch in a Jewish synagogue, they said, “Be it known unto you therefore, men [and] brethren, that through this man (Jesus Christ) is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins:  And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.  Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets;  Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.”  Because many of the Jews did not believe, they were rebuked by God as we read in verses 46-48, “Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you (the Jews): but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.  For so hath the Lord commanded us, [saying], I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.  And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.”  This is true meaning of a “marvelous work and a wonder”.

                                                                     Conclusion

In conclusion, we can see that the “sealed book” referred to in Isaiah, chapter 29, is the Word of God, the Bible, not the Book of Mormon.  We can see that the “learned one” is anyone who claims to have Biblical authority in his doctrinal pronouncements, but who is really preaching a false gospel because God has blinded him to the truth concerning salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ.  If God has given you the “eyes to see”, it should be clear by now that it could have absolutely nothing to do with some professor in New York City in the early 1800’s.  As for the “marvelous work and a wonder”: it is God’s magnificent salvation program for all mankind, wrought by God the Father through Jesus Christ His Son and the Holy Spirit, planned from before the foundations of the world. (not by a man from upstate New York 150 years ago).  We have only used God’s Word, the Bible, as the sole authority on which to base this interpretation…not the pronouncement of a false prophet. (who, in this case, was appropriately also said, by his own followers, to be “not learned” by reputation)

                                           The “Many Books” of Ecclesiastes 12:12

It has been claimed by some who believe in false gospels, particularly those whose gospel is based on additions to God’s Word (the Bible), that those additions (like the book of Mormon) are among the “many books” referred to in Ecclesiastes 12:12.  Let’s see if that is what the Bible is really talking about.

In Ecclesiastes 12:12 we read, “And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books [there is] no end; and much study [is] a weariness of the flesh.”

What is God saying here?  Is He saying that He is going to send us more truth and wisdom in many more books in addition to the Bible such as, for example, “the Book of Mormon”?  If He is, why does He indicate that by study or reading those many books is “a weariness of the flesh.”  Isn’t the Word of God supposed to be a refreshment for thirsty souls and a rest for the weary?  That is exactly what we read in Isaiah 28:12, “To whom he said, This (referring to His Word) [is] the rest [wherewith] ye may cause the weary to rest; and this [is] the refreshing: yet they would not hear.,” and also in Acts 3:19, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;”.  We can see then that the “many books” have absolutely nothing to do with God’s Word.

So, therefore, if the Mormons claim that the “many books” referred to in Ecclesiastes 12:12 include the Book of Mormon, they are correct.  This is because God tells us that man-made books are many and the study of them are “a weariness of the flesh,” because they are all vanity.  Because they are not part of God’s Word, they profit the reader nothing (regarding eternal salvation).  We can know this is true, because in the very next verse we read, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this [is] the whole [duty] of man.

And God’s commandments aren’t just the Ten Commandments, they are all of God’s word as found in the Bible alone, and in its entirety.  As we read at the end of the Bible, in Revelation 22:18, “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:”  Because if we add to that revealed book, we would be adding to the whole Bible, which contains all of God’s revealed word to mankind.  If we add new revelation in addition to the Bible, we are adding to the book of The Revelation.  If we fear God, we must be obedient to anything and everything that we read in His word, the Bible (alone and in its entirety!).  We cannot look to other books, because they are a truly “a weariness of the flesh!”  They offer no hope of salvation, only the Judgment of God.

POSTSCRIPT:  After having shared this paper with individuals of other faiths, we have found that there is one major “stumblingstone” to its acceptance.  Although many faiths, including the LDS church, claim to believe the Bible is the “Word of God;” when confronted with conflicts between Biblicly-based doctrine and that of their church, they dismiss the Bible as untrustworthy (due to claimed errors in its translation) and defer to the declarations of their church leaders as their final authority.  In so doing, they have built their house upon the moveable and changeable “earth!” (sinking sand) See Luke 6:46-49 and Matt.7:24-27. 

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