"25 Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.
27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself." ~2 Nephi 2:25, 27
Such a stellar job had been done of teaching these two verses that I had never paid much attention to what lay between them on the page: verse 26.
"26 And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given."When I read that, I did a triple-take. Did that just say what I think it said?
I read it again.
"And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day . . ."
"23 For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do." 2 Nephi 25:23Until the baptism of fire, I had understood the underlined words to mean we had to work our behinds off during our lives, and then, after it was all over and we left this life, THEN Jesus saved us, because we still weren't good enough. (Remember King Benjamin's "less than the dust of the earth"? Yeah. That.)
All my life, I had ignored verse 20:
"20 And now, my brethren, I have spoken plainly that ye cannot err. And as the Lord God liveth that brought Israel up out of the land of Egypt, and gave unto Moses power that he should heal the nations after they had been bitten by the poisonous serpents, if they would cast their eyes unto the serpent which he did raise up before them, and also gave him power that he should smite the rock and the water should come forth; yea, behold I say unto you, that as these things are true, and as the Lord God liveth, there is none other name given under heaven save it be this Jesus Christ, of which I have spoken, whereby man can be saved." 2 Nephi 25:20This verse speaks in a context of grace. The story of the brass serpent is such a powerful example of this . . . they only had to believe enough to look! And the water springing from the rock: Moses only had to ask. And even then, when he messed up and hit the rock instead of speaking to it, the Lord still gave His people the water they needed.
Key elements of 2 Nephi 25:26 have different meaning for me now. Here they are:
This doesn't mean that if we try really, REALLY hard, we'll be brought back into the presence of the Father & the Son. It means we already have been brought back into the presence of Ahman and Jehovah. Their presence is all around us. Always. 24/7/365. Never a minute that we're not literally swimming in their presence. We're just deaf & blind to it, utterly unaware because we haven't been taught it's there . . . or even that it's possible to be in God's presence.
I'm reminded of a phrase from the 80's movie "Better Off Dead" that I watched on TV in the 90's, (since I was only nine when it came out), when Lane & Charles are at the top of the insane ski run. Lane is psyching himself up to take off down the mountain, and crazy Charles is freaking out about the snow that's everywhere, all around him, throat tight with excitement and nearly guy-screaming:
We're all in that very same situation, surrounded by the presence of God . . . and we wander around, wondering when we'll ever get to experience these things we've heard so much about, possibly even shushing those who, in their excitement, are trying to tell us about it. We have so many barriers in our minds, so many "I'll be worthy when's" that we don't open our hearts & minds to what's available to us right now.
There are different levels of the presence of God, from spiritual awareness, to hearing, feeling or seeing in the Spirit, and then on to hearing, seeing and feeling in the flesh. But no matter which of these different ways you experience being in the presence of God, you're in the presence of God! Isn't that awesome? Amazing? Wonderful?
As our hearts become more open and willing to accept Him, to submit to Him, we can experience the presence of God more fully. For some, like King Lamoni's father, Paul, and many others, it's nearly immediate. For some, it takes more time as we figure out how to soften our hearts and leave behind the unbelief and unforgiveness, the fear and anger that shuts Him out. (More on unbelief/fear and unforgiveness/anger later.)
2) Knowledge from Fall + Jesus' Atoning Sacrifice = free forever
Knowing good from evil* is where humankind was up until Jesus won. When He claimed the victory and was seated in heavenly places upon His Father's throne, He then claimed the right to forgive everyone.
Jesus loves everyone, unconditionally. He forgives everyone, totally. The only unknown quantity here is who will turn to Him and totally let go of what they're holding in their hearts so they can receive what He has to offer. Receiving a remission of your sins is instant. The Baptism of Fire and the Holy Spirit comes and burns it all away. You really do receive not only a remission of your sins and become a new creature born from the ashes, but can receive visions and feel as though you're surrounded by warmth. Some feel surrounded by fire, but not burned, or even uncomfortable.
*(We come to know good from evil as we make wrong choices and mess up. how else do you actually know what wrong is, until you've done it? You can know about wrongdoing, as Adam & Eve did after being told by God to not eat the fruit of that tree, beause they would die. But they didn't know what all that really meant, didn't know what the sorrow or consequences really were until they experienced them.)
3) We will NOT be acted upon until "the great and last day" of judgement.
Up until Jesus' Victory, God was required by justice and according to the law to strike people down. A whole lot of them, if the Old Testament is any example. But since the battle was finished and Christ was seated on His Father's throne, the mercy of God has held sway. Mercy is what sustains us in our current state, what allows us to have access to the Love of Jesus Christ despite our uncleanness before Him.
We are not saved by grace after we've done everything. We are saved by grace, despite all we can do.
What are we waiting for?
(We'll talk about that next . . . )