(Continued from Part 1)
This concept of a pattern is important. The Mosaic Law, the ancient tabernacle, and Solomon’s temple were visible manifestations of patterns that would make it possible for holy knowledge to be passed down through the centuries. For example, the Passover ritual, revealed by God to Moses contains patterns that are symbolic of the atonement and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who was the Lamb of God.
In ancient times, when God’s people heeded the warnings and instructions of the prophets, they were protected and blessed. When the people turned away from the prophets and followed their own paths into idolatry, they fell into misfortune and destruction. The Israelites were ultimately conquered and scattered because they rejected Jeremiah and the teachings of the prophets. They remained in an apostate condition, without prophets for nearly four centuries until John the Baptist appeared in their midst.
With the opening of the floodgates of revelation, God sent heavenly messengers to Zacharias in the temple to announce the birth of John the Baptist, to Mary the mother of Jesus, and to Joseph the carpenter.
Prophets are usually rejected by religious leaders of their day
When John began his mission, the established orthodoxy (the Scribes and Pharisees) challenged him. They had gone for centuries without prophets among them. They were naturally suspicious. Although they constituted the “official” authority of Judaism, they rejected a true prophet of God.
John, as a true prophet, possessed gifts of revelation and moreover, he possessed authority. This is an important part of the prophetic mantle. Why did Jesus go to John to be baptized? Because he had authority from God to perform the ordinance. John held the Aaronic Priesthood. This is an important characteristic of a prophet. Prophets are invested with God’s authority.
When Jesus came, he also exercised authority above and beyond John’s. This authority, the Melchizedek Priesthood, Jesus bestowed upon the Twelve Apostles. He sent them forth with this authority to preach, baptize, heal the sick, and cast out demons. (Mark 3:14)
The word apostle means “one who is sent.” It implies a commission of authority. The apostles were prophets who were witnesses of Jesus Christ’s resurrection. Peter was set apart by Christ himself to lead this group of witnesses. He was shown deference by the other apostles and he took the lead in councils they held as a group.
It is apparent that this body of twelve witnesses was to remain in perpetuity. The death of Judas Iscariot left a vacancy in their number. The apostles fasted and prayed and cast lots, choosing Matthias to join their number. The qualification for the position was simple: he had to be a witness of the resurrection. (Acts 1:22)
Rejection of God’s prophets caused a great apostasy
Like it had been in ancient days before, when the people followed the teachings of living prophets and apostles, they were blessed with unity, joy, and Divine protection. Nevertheless, as was always the case, wolves came into the flock, sparing none. (Acts 20:29) Disunity and contention began to consume the church as it faced intellectual sophistry and physical persecution. Eventually apostasy consumed the entire church:
“NOW we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first…” (2 Thessalonians 1:3)
“As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine…” (1 Timothy 1:3)
“NOW the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron…” (1 Timothy 4:3-4)
“I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.” (3 John 1:9-10)
“Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.” (Revelation 3:2)
The members of the primitive Christian Church were persecuted, driven and slain. The apostles were martyred one by one, but they had been rejected by the Church as well as the world. Corrupt bishops made power plays for dominance and control. Scholars and philosophers twisted the simple teachings of the plan of salvation into incomprehensible creeds. Plain and precious truths were discarded or mangled beyond recognition.
In the Dark Ages that followed, the Bible became the property of the clergy. Any layman possessing scriptures could face a death sentence. Military Crusades were launched, the deadly Inquisition killed and tortured accused “heretics” and Jews. Earthly kings laid their false claims on Divine authority and founded national churches. Those churches fragmented into the hundreds of Christian denominations we know today.
Believers today are divided because they reject God’s prophets
Today’s Christendom teaches that there are no longer any prophets and that revelation from God to man has ceased. This teaching is unscriptural. The only time when God will not speak to man is when mankind rejects His servants. How can we know that it is God’s intent to have apostles and prophets on earth, even in modern times? The answer lies in Ephesians 4:11-14.
“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive…”
Ask yourself these questions:
-Have we come to a unity of faith?
-Have we come to a knowledge of the Son of God?
-Have we become “perfect” unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ?
-Are we tossed by every wind of doctrine, fraud, and crafty deceptions today?
Obviously, Christianity is divided. Some accept the Pope, others reject him. We argue over the nature of baptism, an essential saving ordinance. We argue over doctrine and interpretations of scripture. Do we know Christ? Some Christians say he is God, others say he was just a great moral teacher. Does he live today or is the resurrection a metaphor? Have we personally obtained holiness as he did?
Are our churches assailed by false teachings urging the acceptance of gay marriage, homosexual priests and pastors? Aren’t there feminist translations of the Bible that changes the sex of God the Father to a female and calls Jesus the “Child of God” instead of the Only Begotten Son?
Then the answer to the question, according to Ephesians is an emphatic NO! We have not achieved those objectives. Thus, we are supposed to have current, living prophets and apostles to lead us through these perilous conditions.
As I asked earlier, if our time is to be as Noah’s, where is the prophet to lead us to an ark of safety and refuge from the secular storms and doctrinal cyclones? It is part of God’s pattern since the beginning.
God calls prophets in our day
In 1820, God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to the young Joseph Smith and called him as a messenger. Like Noah, Moses, and Daniel before, Joseph Smith saw God, spoke with God, received revelation, and received Divine authority.
Like the Pharisees and John the Baptist of old, the modern orthodoxy of Christian denominations challenges a living prophet. He doesn’t fit their perceptions of what a prophet should be. He doesn’t fit the mold. He has no theological credentials from a seminary or letters after his name. They reject him as the ancient Pharisees rejected John the Baptist. They seek proof despite Jesus’ teachings that a wicked and adulterous generation seeks for signs.
Yet there is proof of Joseph Smith’s prophetic mission. It is the Book of Mormon. I encourage you to read it and ask God if that book could have been written by a young farm boy living on the American frontier in the 1820s. It is our testimony that the book is of God. If not, the burden is upon you to say what else might be its source. If you read it humbly, sincerely with the intent of finding truth, you’ll feel the power and Spirit of God. You’ll know the book is true.
Since the time of Joseph Smith, there has been an unbroken chain of apostles and prophets who hold the same keys of authority that Jesus gave his apostles in ancient times. They are prophets, seers, and revelators. They possess the same gifts and powers as the apostles did anciently. God has not brought us through history only to abandon us to confusion and disorder in the years before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
God’s house is a house of order. You will find it in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As always, I invite you to investigate and prayerfully consider the teachings of the Church to gain a testimony for yourself. You can learn more from the official web site of the Church at www.lds.org.