Truth is not only
violated by falsehood;
it may be equally
outraged by silence.
Joseph Smith’s use of biblical terms is misleading, as his doctrines bear little, if any, resemblance to what the Bible teaches. As Robert Millet, the well known Mormon apologist and former Dean of Religious Education at Brigham Young University, puts it:
“… the Bible is not the source of our doctrine or our authority, nor is much to be gained through trying to “prove” the truthfulness of the restored gospel from the Bible.” (Getting at the Truth: Responding to Difficult Questions about LDS Beliefs, Kindle version, by Robert L. Millet.)
Although Smith changed the meanings of all the biblical terms that he used, this article is concerned with only two of them, eternal and everlasting (life). The King James Interlinear Bible reveals that they were both translated from the same Greek word. Consequently they have the same Strong’s reference number and the same meaning. (Dictionaries also give them the same meaning.) And the KJV uses them interchangeably:
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:14-16, KJV)
However, Smith needed different qualities of afterlife for the two types of salvation he had in mind (both unbiblical). So he took the liberty of using the biblical terms everlasting and eternal, changing their meanings so that they fitted in with his doctrines. The following was the end result:
Universal or general salvation is by grace, and it provides for resurrection (which Smith calls everlasting life). But it does not provide for forgiveness of sins. And as the late LDS Apostle Bruce McConkie explains on page 669 of Mormon Doctrine, it is actually damnation. So it is difficult to justify Smith’s calling it salvation.
Individual or conditional salvation allows for eternal life (which in Mormonism means that they will be Gods and will reproduce their seed eternally c/f Doctrine and Covenants 132:19-20.) Consequently, in order to qualify for eternal life they have to be married in a LDS temple for time and eternity (c/f The LDS Version of Eternal Life).
But eternal life refers to life in the spiritual realm of God’s Kingdom, not endless reproduction of the seed of men. And the purpose of salvation is to rescue us from both the consequences and the power of sin in our lives. In order to understand these things correctly, we will briefly touch on who God is, who man is, and why he needs salvation:
Mormonism teaches that at one stage God was an ordinary mortal man who lived on a planet similar to earth. He earned His right to godhood through obedience to the same laws and ordinances that exist in Mormonism today. Accordingly, Mormon men can do likewise. Their law of eternal progression allows for countless Gods in the universe (c/f (Mormonism’s Doctrine of Eternal Progression).
On the other hand the Bible reveals that there has always been and always will be, only one eternal, unchanging, and self-existing God (James 1:17, Psalm 90:2; 36:9, Isaiah 43:10). He is Spirit (John 4:24), and His presence fills the heavens and the earth (2 Chronicles 2:6, Jeremiah 23:24, Proverbs 15:3). Although we cannot see Him as He is, nothing is hidden from His sight. (However, prior to the incarnation He occasionally communicted in a visible form, described as the Angel of the Lord, in what scholars call a theophany.)
Mankind only came into being when God created the first couple in His own moral and intellectual likeness (see the end of Genesis 1). He wanted them to enjoy fellowship with Him, represent Him on earth and display His glory. But they disobeyed His command not to partake of the fruit of the tree of good and evil. Their sin severed the spiritual link between themselves and God, and brought about what the Bible calls spiritual death.
Whereas Mormonism teaches that the fall was a blessing that enabled mankind to progress eternally, the Bible looks upon it as a tragedy that corrupted and ruined us:
“For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth
good and sinneth not.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20, KJV)
“Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?” (Proverbs 20:9, KJV)
“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, KJV)
Because of the taint of sin (c/f Understanding the Fall), none of us has the ability to remedy our plight. But, motivated by love and mercy, God devised a way to set us free from the eternal consequences of the fall … at His own, terrible cost.
“God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them …” (2 Corinthians 5:19, KJV)
Christ, who was in the form of God (John 1:1, Philippians 2:6-8, John 17:4-5) took on flesh so that He could represent mankind. Born an Israelite, He lived under the Old Covenant of law. (The New Covenant was only ratified by His shed blood on the cross.) Because He had no sin of His own, He was able to offer Himself as our substitute and suffer the judgment due to us, in our place. For this reason the Bible tells us clearly and repeatedly that if we put our faith in Him (and His sacrificial death) we will be be forgiven our sins and granted eternal life
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the
wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up: That
whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have
eternal life.” (John 3:14, 15, KJV)
“In whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:14, KJV)
“Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. Those by the wayside are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.” (Luke 8:11-12, KJV)
Biblical salvation includes forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with God, spiritual regeneration, eternal life, justification, sanctification and restoration. It comes as a package: You either have them all or you have none of them. The moment you trust in Christ He baptizes you in His Spirit, thereby providing you with eternal, spiritual life, and placing you into His mystical body, the church (1 Corinthians 12:13) . And from then on He abides in you moment by moment, through His indwelling Spirit.
“I [John the Baptist] indeed baptize you with water
unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier
than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall
baptize you with the Holy Ghost [same Greek word as for
Holy Spirit], and with fire.” (Matthew 3:11, KJV)
“He that believeth on Me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)” (John 7:38-39, KJV) [Note that Spirit and Ghost are used interchangeably, as the have the same meaning (c/f The LDS’s Holy Spirit and Holy Ghost).
“And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.’ (John 10:28, KJV)
Salvation reverses the effects of the fall, and in the resurrection we will be fully restored to the condition of mankind before the fall.
“For by one offering He hath perfected for ever them
that are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:14, KJV)
“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 …” (Hebrews 12:23, KJV)
When we put our trust in Christ, amongst other things God sanctifies us (i.e. sets us apart for Himself). After that our sanctification channels itself into a life-long process whereby, by His grace, we work at surrendering to His will in every sphere of our lives. But neither the depth or otherwise of our sanctification, nor our repentance, nor anything else, affects the fact that we are saved, as God’s requirement for salvation is that we trust in Christ to save us.
“… For I know whom I have believed, and am
persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have
committed unto Him against that day.” (2 Timothy,
As a witness to our salvation, we undergo water baptism. But this doesn’t add anything to our salvation either. We are baptized as a public declaration that we have (already) trusted in Christ (c/f Understanding Biblical Symbolism). Self-effort, works, church membership, participation in ceremonies and obedience to laws and ordinances, do not have the power to save. If we could have been saved by any of these things, we wouldn’t have needed a Saviour. (Although they don’t save us, good works provide an outward, visible evidence of our salvation.)
Just as the fall was the result of only one act, so Christ’s bearing the consequences of our sins as our substitute on the cross at Calvary, was also a one-off act. It covered all the sins, past, present and future, of whosoever trusts in Him for salvation (apart from any works or merit of their own):
“And every priest standeth daily ministering and
offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never
take away sins: But this man (Christ), after He had offered
one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the
right hand of God.” (Hebrews 10:11-12, KJV)
“And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses.” (Colossians 2:13, KJV)
“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.” (Ephesians 2:8-9, KJV)
“And by Him, all that believe are justified from all things from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.” (Acts 13:39, KJV)
(Note by Editor: Hebrews 9:15 and Romans 3:25-26 mention forgiveness of past sins. In both cases they are referring to the past sins of Israelites who had lived before the cross but who had believed in, and were looking forward to the coming of the promised Messiah. God honoured their faith, and has forgiven their sins (which, due to their deaths being prior to the cross, were all in the past). I mention this because Mormonism claims that only our past sins are forgiven, and that we have to earn the right to forgiveness of every sin we commit after baptism. But as you will have realized, that is not what the Bible teaches.)
Mere acceptance that Christ died for the sins of the world is not saving faith. Saving faith means that “I trust fully in Christ, in who He is and all that He represents, including His sacrificial, substitutionary death on the cross, where He paid the price for all my own, personal sins, past, present and future, to God’s absolute satisfaction.”
Belief in, faith in, and trusting in Him are one and the same thing.
“This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.” (John 6:29, KJV)
Eternal life is not only central to salvation; it is the whole purpose of salvation. God sent Christ to deal with the sin question so that we could become reconciled to Him, and once again learn to know Him, through Christ.
“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3, KJV).
Apart from Christ and the Bible, there is no source of knowledge of the true God. As the prophet Isaiah says in 55:8-9, His thoughts and ways are higher than ours. So is everything else about Him. But He has revealed to us as much of Himself to us as we are able to understand, firstly through His prophets in the Old Testament, and lastly through the Lord Jesus Christ (c/f Hebrews 1:1).
For instance, the sinless Jesus Christ hanging in agony on a cross with whip marks all over his body, His face mutilated and swollen from having chunks of His beard ripped out by the roots, a crown of thorns pressing into his brow and blood and spit trickling down His face; gives us a graphic picture of God’s amazing love for fallen, sinful man. And it shames and humbles us to the extent that we begin to see ourselves for what we are and God for whom He is.
“God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto
himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them
…” (2 Corinthians 5:19, KJV)
“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6, KJV)
“I and my Father are one.” (John 10:30, KJV)
“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” John 14:6,KJV)
Being confronted by His great love for me (He proved that on the cross), literally turned my life around. And the more I study the Bible, the more I realize how absolutely good He is. So much so that I cannot help but worship Him. And it makes me want to be where He is, because I know that will be a safe place to be, where I will feel fully accepted, wanted and loved. Not because I deserve it, but because of who He is.
Knowing I can trust Him utterly means that I am free to bare myself to him. So I tell Him my innermost longings, my deepest secrets, my fears and my doubts. I also share with Him how much I want to be like Him … and how often I slip up and fall. In turn He encourages (and convicts me too), and leads me back to the right path again. Like the Psalmist says, He is my Shepherd (c/f Psalm 23, John 10:11). But He is more than that. Unworthy as I am, He is my friend. And we have fellowship together. And my cup runneth over.
“ … In Thy presence is fulness of joy …” (Psalm 16:11, KJV)
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