This week in the Book of Mormon, we’ll look at Mosiah 23 to 29. One of the important concepts that we see in this week’s reading is eternal life. In chapter 26, the Lord speaks to Alma and promises Alma eternal life at v26. Furthermore, the Book of Mormon establishes the connection with Alma being a high priest v7 with him receiving the promise of eternal life. So this week we’ll define eternal life and then integrate it in with our theme of threes. For those unfamiliar with the theme of threes, the Bible sets out a thematic pattern of placing related concepts in a sequence of threes. This pattern of threes establishes the type of relationship that one can have with God.
Eternal as a Noun
The word eternal can be used as either a noun or an adjective. When it is used as an adjective it describes an endless duration. When it is used as a noun, it represents another name for God or The Eternal. We saw in Abinadi’s teaching on the resurrection that he connected the concept of resurrection with an eternal father; and, since Yeshua/Jesus was the author of endless life - the resurrection - he can be referred to as an eternal father. Hence, eternal life is God's life and the kind of life that He lives.
Another concept that we can connect to eternal life is knowing God. That concept is set out at John 17:3.
And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
The idea of knowing another person in the scriptures is a very close and intimate relationship. To truly know and understand someone is to walk in their shoes, do what they have done. So when Yeshua said to follow Him it was a command to become like Him and not in a figurative way. Indeed, He is petitioning us to do what he does and reach the full stature of Him. So in other words, if we want to receive eternal life, the kind of life God lives, we need to become like the Messiah/Christ.
The Process of Transformation
When we look at the process of becoming like the Messiah, the scriptures lay out a three segment sequence or a theme of threes of redemption, sanctification and exaltation. So that process can be summarized.
Eternal Life and the Theme of Threes
The theme of threes can also be applied to the concept of life in eternity. That sequence is set out in the third chapter of John. When referring to life in eternity, Yeshua sets out three types in verses 14 to 17.
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. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
We can see from this scripture that life in eternity can be described as being – Saved, Everlasting and Eternal. So our theme of threes for life in eternity can be summarized.
Some have taken John 3:14-17 and equated these three terms, but they each have their own distinct meaning. The term Everlasting Life represents that type of life living in the presence of the Son and Eternal Life represents that type of life living in the presence of the Father.
The Theme of Threes
We can now include this set of threes with the other sets of threes to expand our understanding of the three general types of relationships one can have with God and what is required to obtain those relationships. Moreover, these relationships build on one another going from left to right.