When God's People Strayed


Jesus' Prophetic Description of the Church in the Latter Day

Recall the point from the previous lesson, Mormon's Warning, that the Latter Day church, our church, was called the Church of the Gentiles. The writers of the Book of Mormon, themselves being direct descendants from the House of Israel, knew that the church would be restored in the last days first among Gentiles (i.e. us), then also restored among the original descendants of the House of Israel (Jews, Joseph, etc).

The topics of these lessons revealing how God's people have strayed from him through time, culminate in Jesus description of an event among the Gentiles of the last days.

Yes, unfortunately, one more straying, one more group of people to turn their back on God and the true teachings of Jesus. This time, the very church established among the Gentiles.

While Jesus doesn't delve into the details of what causes them to stray, he makes a greater point. He explains that when the Gentiles sin against and reject the gospel that was established among them, it will mark the time when He will take the gospel from them and establish it again among the original House of Israel. This is a powerful revelation. Only by this event will the prophecies be fulfilled marking the return of the Gospel to Israel.

Important Point

Realize that the term Gentiles, as it is used here, describes two groups of people that we can clearly differentiate in our day, although two thousand years ago, the differentiations may not have been apparent.

Jesus refers to the 'Unbelieving' of the Gentiles--these would be people of the land, perhaps Christians of various faiths, who live here and do both good and bad works. He also speaks to the 'Believing' of the Gentiles--these would be those who are part of the covenant church among the Gentiles. This diffentiation is important. Too many of our church have read Jesus' words in 3 Nephi, assuming they were all words condemning the 'outsiders' of the American Gentile community. Some of his words are. But clearly, some of His words speak directly about the church established among the Gentiles, which is those of us 'on the inside.'

What Does Jesus Say about the Church Among the Gentiles?

What does Jesus say, and where does he share it? Turn to 3 Nephi chapter 7.

Jesus is speaking to the people of the ancient Americas in person, telling them of their future, and the future of others who would inhabit their land some day. Jesus explains that they were the 'other sheep' he had which were not of the fold in Jerusalem, that would also hear his voice. He also explains that the Gentiles would not be visited by Him in person, but only by the Holy Ghost, but that other remnants of Israel would also receive his personal visits.

After this, Jesus begins to explain the role of the Gentiles, and specifically, the Gentile Church (that is us, those who believe we are part of the greater restoration movement). He says this: the writings of the Nephites will be brought forth through the Gentile church in the future.

7:28 That these sayings which ye shall write, shall be kept, and shall be manifested unto the Gentiles, that through the fullness of the Gentiles, the remnant of their seed who shall be scattered forth upon the face of the earth, because of their unbelief, may be brought in, or may be brought to a knowledge of me, their Redeemer.

Now realize something in the verse above. Which Gentiles must they be? Would the Gentiles outside of the restoration be the ones to take the words of the Nephites to the scattered tribes? No, obviously not. It would be those within the church with this task. But that is the point to understand. He is calling those of the church 'Gentiles.' We need to clearly understand that he is calling us, the church of the latter day 'Gentiles' for what he says next.

Jesus wants to gather His covenant people together, not just the Gentile church of the last days, but all the tribes to whom he has covenanted.

7:29 And then will I gather them in from the four quarters of the earth; and then will I fulfill the covenant which the Father hath made unto all the people of the house of Israel.

He says the Gentile people (Christians in general) in our day, will be blessed for believing in him and that he would specifically work among them to re-establish his truth (i.e. his church to proclaim the truth) through bringing the words of the Nephites (Book of Mormon) to them.

7:30 And blessed are the Gentiles, because of their belief in me, in and of the Holy Ghost, which witness unto them of me and of the Father.

7:31 Behold, because of their belief in me, saith the Father, and because of the unbelief of you, O house of Israel, in the latter day shall the truth come unto the Gentiles, that the fullness of these things shall be made known unto them.

Then Jesus pronounces a warning because of iniquity to fall among the Gentiles in general--they would destroy and scatter the ancient covenant inhabitants of this land.

7:32 But wo, saith the Father, unto the unbelieving of the Gentiles, for notwithstanding they have come forth upon the face of this land, and have scattered my people, who are of the house of Israel; and my people who are of the house of Israel, have been cast out from among them, and have been trodden under feet by them;

7:33 And because of the mercies of the Father unto the Gentiles, and also the judgments of the Father upon my people, who are of the house of Israel, verily, verily, I say unto you, that after all this, and I have caused my people who are of the house of Israel, to be smitten, and to be afflicted, and to be slain, and to be cast out from among them, and to become hated by them, and to become a hiss and a byword among them.

 

But now, the focus shifts to the Gentiles of the church. How do we know? Because of the three letter word contained in the next verse: "sin." Sin is defined as willful rebellion against God. Willful means one does something by choice. In other words, in order to sin against something, you have to have it first, then choose to transgress against it, with perfect knowledge that what one does is wrong. In other words, for Gentiles to 'sin against the gospel' do not they first need to have the gospel? Of course, the answer is yes. On the other hand, could Gentiles who never had the restored gospel (other christians for instance) truly sin against something they never had? The answer is no.

Therefore, to which group of Gentiles does the next verse condemn? Those outside the restored church, or those within?

7:34 And thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you, At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fullness of my gospel, and shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations;

7:35 And if they shall do all these things, and shall reject the fullness of my gospel, behold, saith the Father, I will bring the fullness of my gospel from among them;

7:36 And then will I remember my covenant which I have made unto my people, O house of Israel, and I will bring my gospel unto them;

7:37 And I will shew unto thee, O house of Israel, that the Gentiles shall not have power over you, but I will remember my covenant unto you, O house of Israel, and ye shall come unto the knowledge of the fullness of my gospel.

 

The four verses above are some of the most important prophecy for the latter day. Jesus is marking a milestone event in the last days, specifically the time at which the Gentile church that had the then gospel rejects it, as being the defining moment when the Gospel shall return to the covenant people. This is huge.

First, it tells us that the church, the Gentile church of the last days, will stray. The specifics of how they stray can be left up to the imagination, and believe it or not, are not that important. It is important to read on, however. The Gentiles have room to repent. And in the following verses, we find that many do. THEY OF THE CHURCH WHO HAVE SINNED ARE NOT REJECTED BY GOD FOREVER AS SOME WOULD PREFER TO BELIEVE. While the sins may be grievous, all the church's sins throughout the ages were too. The point is we still have a loving God, who reaches out to us with outstretched arms, hoping we will choose repentance so His blessings may be ours. He wants only good things for us.

Jesus explains that the church of the Gentiles, despite their failings, still has room for repentance. But a consequence may be paid if they do not repent--the ancient covenant people will exert power over the Gentiles and cut them down, according to the words of Jesus:

7:38 But if the Gentiles will repent, and return unto me, saith the Father, behold, they shall be numbered among my people, O house of Israel;

7:39 And I will not suffer my people, who are of the house of Israel, to go through among them, and tread them down, saith the Father.

7:40 But if they will not turn unto me, and hearken unto my voice, I will suffer them, yea, I will suffer my people, O house of Israel, that they shall go through among them, and shall tread them down,

7:41 And they shall be as salt that hath lost its savor, which is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of my people, O house of Israel.

 

3 Nephi Chapter 7 concludes with a taste of the forte and power that will be exhibited when the Lord moves to restore his ancient covenant people to the truth after the Gentile sin. It will be big. It will be huge. And all the world will know it:

7:45 The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of God.


Conclusion

Jesus clearly teaches that the word will be fulfilled:

The last shall be first, the first shall be last. (1 Nephi 3:200, Jacob 3:127, Ether 6:13) This is a metaphorical way of explaining that his word would originate with the House of Israel, go to the Gentiles, then be restored among the Gentiles, then return to Israel.

The straying of the Gentile church of the last days marks the sign by which the gospel will return to Israel.

The final restoring of the word to Israel will be in power that the whole world shall see.

There are some big reasons why it is important to see that the church has strayed through time: First, so we don't get big heads. That always led to downfalls. But second, so that we don't lose hope in the last days. The failings of the church morally can only be attributed to the signs of the time. The Lord God has always been in control. If we read his words closely, we find it has all been prophesied of before and that we have nothing to fear.

God's plan has always been to restore His people. While it seems to take thousands of years for this to occur, His promises are sure. Read the final lesson in this series, The Blessing Fulfilled, to learn how and when that happens.

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