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Jacob Testifies of Christ
1 And now, behold, my brethren, as I said unto you that I would prophesy, behold, this is my prophecy—that the things which this prophet Zenos spake, concerning the house of Israel, in the which he likened them unto a tame olive tree, must surely come to pass.
2 And the day that he shall set his hand again the second time to recover his people, is the day, yea, even the last time, that the servants of the Lord shall go forth in his power, to nourish and prune his vineyard; and after that the end soon cometh.
3 And how blessed are they who have labored diligently in his vineyard; and how cursed are they who shall be cast out into their own place! And the world shall be burned with fire.
Jacob allows most of the allegory to stand without any explanation. The clear references to the Nephites and the Lamanites are not pointed out. They must have been obvious, or perhaps had been taught in previous sermons. At this time, Jacob focuses on the very end of the allegory, the last days. He first testifies that the allegory is a prophecy, and that it is true.
The second time that the Lord will attempt to recover his people is during the ending of the purpose of the world. That event is so far in the Nephite future that the events are collapsed in time so that the gathering appears to be immediately prior to the pruning and when the earth would burn as fire. This directly references Jacob 5:77, which is the last verse before the end of that chapter, and the last thing Jacob would have quoted in the sermon.
However, Jacob also declares that those who are the servants to assist in the vineyard are blessed. Again, this refers to the ending of the allegory, Jacob 5:75.
Of all of the elements discussed in the allegory, Jacob’s message focuses on the final gathering and the destruction of the wicked. That appears to be the essential message for his current audience. In the previously recorded sermon, he chastised the people for beginning to stray from the gospel. In this sermon, it appears that he returns to the same theme, but without specifics. The message is still that the Nephites are beginning to follow paths that would lead to their destruction.
4 And how merciful is our God unto us, for he remembereth the house of Israel, both roots and branches; and he stretches forth his hands unto them all the day long; and they are a stiffnecked and a gainsaying people; but as many as will not harden their hearts shall be saved in the kingdom of God.
5 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I beseech of you in words of soberness that ye would repent, and come with full purpose of heart, and cleave unto God as he cleaveth unto you. And while his arm of mercy is extended towards you in the light of the day, harden not your hearts.
6 Yea, today, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts; for why will ye die?
Jacob’s message isn’t that the destruction will come, although that is what will occur at the end of the purpose of the earth. The message is one of repentance to avoid a more present possibility of destruction. Throughout the allegory the Lord of the vineyard cares for his olive trees, even when they have had problems, even when some fruit was corrupt. That message of the overarching concern Yahweh has for his people extends to the Nephites and allows them the possibility of repentance.
Repentance is the message. Therefore, Jacob declares: “I beseech of you in words of soberness that ye would repent, and come with full purpose of heart, and cleave unto God as he cleaveth unto you.” That Lord who cared for the vineyard, cares for his people.
Most poignantly, Jacob asks: “today, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts; for why will ye die?” The call to repentance is immediate, and the promise of the land is that they will prosper only upon righteousness. The result of unrighteousness is destruction. The question “why will ye die?” has two meanings. In the most obvious, it refers to a physical death that would be the result of the destruction of the unrighteous. However, it is also a spiritual death that is the direct result of turning away from God.
7 For behold, after ye have been nourished by the good word of God all the day long, will ye bring forth evil fruit, that ye must be hewn down and cast into the fire?
8 Behold, will ye reject these words? Will ye reject the words of the prophets; and will ye reject all the words which have been spoken concerning Christ, after so many have spoken concerning him; and deny the good word of Christ, and the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, and quench the Holy Spirit, and make a mock of the great plan of redemption, which hath been laid for you?
Verse 7 highlights the implied message in the previous verses. Yahweh has nourished his people, just as the Lord of the vineyard nourished his trees. The choice remains with the people to accept and live the gospel, which is to bear good fruit, or to turn from it and bear evil fruit. There are only two choices in the end. We choose God, or we choose the opposite of God. At the final day, there is no middle ground provided in the allegory.
Jacob continues his admonition to follow the gospel, according to the words of the prophets. Very specifically, he asks: “will ye reject all the words which have been spoken concerning Christ, after so many have spoken concerning him?” The Nephite preaching is an expansion on the law of Moses, emphasizing the coming atoning mission of the Messiah. While not explicit here, in the next chapter dealing with Sherem, the division between the law of Moses without an understanding of the coming of the atoning Messiah will be contrasted with the Nephite emphasis on that message. It is possible that there is a subtle reference here to the nature of the Nephite incipient apostasy. They may see themselves keeping the law of Moses but rejecting the teachings about the coming atoning Messiah.
9 Know ye not that if ye will do these things, that the power of the redemption and the resurrection, which is in Christ, will bring you to stand with shame and awful guilt before the bar of God?
10 And according to the power of justice, for justice cannot be denied, ye must go away into that lake of fire and brimstone, whose flames are unquenchable, and whose smoke ascendeth up forever and ever, which lake of fire and brimstone is endless torment.
11 O then, my beloved brethren, repent ye, and enter in at the strait gate, and continue in the way which is narrow, until ye shall obtain eternal life.
12 O be wise; what can I say more?
13 Finally, I bid you farewell, until I shall meet you before the pleasing bar of God, which bar striketh the wicked with awful dread and fear. Amen.
The coming atonement is the foundation of the ability to repent. It is the “power of the redemption and the resurrection.” Thus, Jacob’s emphasis is on this particular belief. The Nephites are not being encouraged to live the law of Moses better, but to accept the teaching of this atoning Messiah who is to come. That is the unique Nephite message.
The final verse has the feel of a termination. Jacob says: “I bid you farewell, until I shall meet you before the pleasing bar of God.” We know that Jacob will continue to live in the same place, but this farewell until the time when they meet before God suggests that he is leaving a position of authority and, therefore, leaves this as a final statement that will stand to possibly condemn them at the bar of God. It is possible that Jacob is being removed from any position of authority by those against whom he has preached. In the previous sermon, those were the more wealthy, and perhaps, therefore, the more socially powerful. The allegory’s separation of the wicked and the righteous might have been seen as being acted out in Jacob’s city.
The phrase “pleasing bar of God” is somewhat unusual, and Royal Skousen has suggested that it might have been intended to be the “pleading bar of God,” as a more logical legal reference for the translator.
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