One question that has concerned mankind through the ages is, “Where did we come from before birth?” Let us discuss this question, because it will help us pursue our quest for Eternal Life.
We Existed Before Birth
Jesus and his disciples saw a man who had been born blind. The disciples asked if the man was blind due to his own sins or due to his parent’s sins.
And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? (John 9:1-2)
Jesus explained neither the man nor his parents had sinned, but the man was born blind that the works of God should be made manifest in him (John 9:3), that is, so Jesus could heal him. The account in John gives no reason for us to believe the disciples were insincere or incorrect in asking if the man had sinned prior to his birth. Likewise, Jesus said nothing to indicate it was impossible for the man to have sinned prior to birth. These verses thus imply the man could have sinned prior to birth, that is, he had a pre-earth existence of some type and had the capacity to sin in that existence.
To pursue this idea of a pre-earth existence, (referred to as pre-existence), let us read from the book of Jeremiah.
The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, of the priests that were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin.
Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. (Jeremiah 1:1,4-5)
In those verses the Lord is telling Jeremiah that prior to his birth, he was known by the Lord. Some people say this scripture is a reference to the omniscience of God, for God does know everything and everyone. However, if we look carefully at that verse, we realize God is talking about something more than just his omniscience. The key words in verse 5 are ordained and prophet. God not only knew Jeremiah prior to his birth but he ordained him a prophet. The Hebrew word translated ordained is nâthan which means to give or bestow. The verses tell us God knew Jeremiah and gave him the office of prophet before he was born, indicating Jeremiah lived prior to his birth and received a calling from God.
Father of Our Spirits
To help us understand the nature of this pre-earth life, let us read from the book of Numbers.
And they fell upon their faces, and said, O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and wilt thou be wroth with all the congregation? (Numbers 16:22)
Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation. (Numbers 27:16)
These verses tell us God is the God of the spirits of all persons. The question to be answered, then, is what is meant by God of the spirits? Jesus answered that question when he taught us about prayer during his Sermon on the Mount.
After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. (Matthew 6:9)
According to Jesus, God is our Father! Paul clarified this concept while at Athens. He noticed the Greeks had altars to various gods, including one to the UNKNOWN GOD. Paul took advantage of those altars to teach them about the true God.
Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. (Acts 17:29)
Because we are the offspring of God, we should not expect God to be made of metal or stone. That is, since we are real and alive, we should expect God to be real and alive, because he is our Father! Now we understand what is meant by “God of the spirits” of all living persons. God is literally the father of our spirits. This was taught by Paul when he said the following.
Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of our Spirits and live? (Hebrews 12:9)
Paul is comparing our relationships with our mortal fathers to our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Just as we are obedient to our earthly fathers, we should be obedient to our Heavenly Father.
In his conversation with Job, God revealed that we, as his spirit offspring, witnessed the creation of the earth and rejoiced at the marvelous work of God.
Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said
Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?
Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.
Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.
Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?
Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof;
When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? (Job 38:1-7)
God spoke poetically of his spirit children as “morning stars” and said we sang and shouted for joy as the earth was created.
Now that we understand that God is literally our Father, other scriptures which may have seemed to be references to God as a creator are understood to have deeper meanings of God as our literal Father.
We are the children of the LORD your God: ye shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead. (Deuteronomy 14:1)
I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. (Psalms 82:6)
Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein: (Isaiah 42:5)
Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. (Ecclesiastes 12:7)
The burden of the word of the LORD for Israel, saith the LORD, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him. (Zechariah 12:1)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: (Ephesians 1:3-4, emphasis added)
Others Were Forordained
In addition to Jeremiah, other prophets were forordained prior to their births. The Lord revealed this to Joseph Smith through a vision that had been given to the prophet Abraham, a vision of his spirit children.
Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;
And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said; These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou are one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born. (Abraham 3:22-23)
God Organized Our World
We discussed earlier in this chapter that we as God’s spirit children sang for joy as we watched our Heavenly Father create this earth. Some people say that God created the earth from nothing, while others say that he organized the earth from existing materials. Let us clarify this question by studying the context of the words that denote the creation of the earth. The following variations of the word creation are used in the Bible: create, created, createth, Creator, and creation. Let us look at the Hebrew and Greek meanings to those words to determine the context in which the words are used. The following table gives the words and their Hebrew and Greek meanings:
|NT||created||ktizo||to fabricate, to found, to make|
|NT||creation||ktisis||[act of] building|
Notice that, in all cases, the context is one of building or fabricating, implying that building materials were used.
Through modern revelation to Joseph Smith, the Lord confirmed that he did organize the universe and that the elements from which the universe was made are eternal.
And then the Lord said: Let us go down. And they went down at the beginning, and they, that is the Gods, organized and formed the heavens and the earth. (Abraham 4:1, emphasis added)
For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy; (D & C 93:33, emphasis added)
The words organized and formed imply that elements were used in the creation of the earth. Because these elements are eternal, they would have been available for use in the creation of our world.
Jesus the First-born
In writing to the Colossians, Paul gave us information about the relationship between the Father and Jesus Christ, a relationship that existed in the pre-earth life that we are discussing. In speaking of Jesus, Paul said
Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature. (Colossians 1:15)
Jesus is the firstborn! Other scriptures also teach Jesus is the firstborn.
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:29)
Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth. (Psalms 89:27)
To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, (Hebrews 12:23)
Until now, the full meaning of these references to Jesus being the firstborn has not been clear. However, we now have enough background in our study so we can understand what the scriptures are teaching about Christ. We have discussed verses that teach that God is the father of our spirits. Jesus taught that his Father in Heaven is our Father in Heaven. In understanding this, we realize that Jesus himself is a spirit child of God, and we realize that the verses quoted above are teaching that Jesus is the firstborn of all of the spirit children.
Even though he is the firstborn, Jesus has a second relationship with God that is much deeper and more important than his being a spirit child of God. In addition to being the first born of our Father’s spirit children, he is the only mortal child of Heavenly Father.
No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. (John 1:18)
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. (John 3:16)
In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. (1 John 4:9)
Jesus is the only begotten Son of God in the flesh, and as such he became the Christ.
Since we are all spirit offspring of God, we are spirit brothers and sisters of each other. Thus, our use in the Church of Brother and Sister to refer to each other are literal references. Since Jesus is the firstborn spirit, he is our elder brother in terms of our Father’s heavenly family. In making this observation, however, we must be careful that we do not attempt to bring Jesus down to our level or raise ourselves to his level. Jesus is a member of the Godhead and is God. We love him as our Savior, and we thank him for his suffering and sacrifice in our behalf.
The Bible refers to a particular event that occurred in our pre-earth life, but it does not give much information about it, and as a result, a lot of confusion exists about it. That event is referred to as a war in heaven. Let us study the scriptures that discuss that war.
First, from the great apocalypse of John.
And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.
And she being with child cried, traveling in birth, and pained to be delivered.
And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.
And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth; and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.
And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.
And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days. (Revelation 12:1-6)
In this part of Revelation, John is describing the conflict between Satan and the church of God. John refers to Satan metaphorically as the great dragon. He refers to the church as a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars (the Apostles). The Devil is waging spiritual and physical war against the church. In order to show that this struggle between good and evil is an eternal one, John refers to an incident that occurred in Heaven before the world was created.
And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels.
And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world; he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. (Revelation 12:7-9)
We realize this war was a struggle between Jesus Christ and Satan, because John said Satan was overcome by two things: the Atonement of Christ which would be completed in the meridian of time, and the testimonies of the faithful spirits who fought with Jesus in the war.
And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ; for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. (Revelation 12:10-11)
There are a few other references to the war in heaven scattered throughout the Bible. John spoke of this disobedience by Satan.
He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:8)
Isaiah referred to Satan by the name Lucifer, and he said Lucifer rebelled against God because he wanted to take the glory of God unto himself.
Now art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.
Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. (Isaiah 14:12-15)
The Seventy special missionaries that Jesus called to the ministry returned from their travels and marveled that they had cast out devils in the name of Christ. While talking with them, Jesus referred to the pre-earth life and Satan being cast from Heaven. He did this so the Seventy would realize Satan has been subject to the name of Christ and the power of God ever since he was cast from Heaven.
And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.
And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.
Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. (Luke 10:17-19)
Spirits Followed Lucifer
The verses from the book of Revelation that describe the war in heaven also tell that Lucifer persuaded one-third of Heavenly Father’s spirit children to fight with him against Christ.
And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth; and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. (Revelation 12:4)
After the war, these spirits were cast to earth with Lucifer and are allowed to tempt us to disobey God.
Jude referred to Satan’s losing the war in Heaven as not keeping his first estate.
And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. (Jude 6)
An estate is a phase or condition of life. Our existence as spirits prior to our mortal birth was our first estate, our first condition of personal growth. In keeping with the language of Jude, we could call this mortal life our second estate. While in Heaven with our Father, we learned from him and grew in progression. He gave us agency while we were spirits, and we used our agency to choose to follow either Jesus or Lucifer. Those who followed Lucifer kept not their first estate and lost their opportunity to take up mortal bodies. In speaking to Abraham, the Lord referred to both our first and second estates.
And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever. (Abraham 3:26)
Lucifer is Satan
We have been discussing Lucifer’s rebellion in the pre-earth life. Let us digress a moment and discuss Lucifer himself. We do not know much about his pre-earth life, but his name Lucifer gives us a hint of his stature prior to the war. The Bible contains only one reference to the name Lucifer, Isaiah’s reference to Lucifer’s losing the war in Heaven.
How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! [how] art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! (Isaiah 14:12)
Isaiah referred to him as a “son of the morning”, implying significance of some kind. The Hebrew word translated Lucifer in that verse is hêylêl and means sense of brightness or morning star. Further, the Bible Dictionary defines the word lucifer as light bearer or bringer of dawn or the shining one (Bible Dictionary, p. 726). These references to light imply that Lucifer had significant stature in heaven.
Lucifer is also one of God’s spirit children. He too is our spirit brother and a spirit brother to Jesus. In making this observation, we must be careful to not lower ourselves down to his level or attempt to bring him up to our level. He is Satan, the Devil. We do not worship him, nor respect him. We flee from him and follow Christ.
Some people say, “Wait a minute. Jesus and Lucifer can not be spirit brothers, because Jesus created all things, including the Devil”. Let us look at the scripture they quote.
For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: (Colossians 1:16)
To begin with, the phrase “all things” can not mean all things in the absolute sense, because Jesus did not create himself. In addition, Jesus did not create sin and evil. Thus, he could not have created the devil. God the Father did, however, create Lucifer as his spirit child, a child who was not evil, who was not the devil. Lucifer then created Satan, for by using his agency to rebel against God, he became Satan. When Paul spoke of Jesus creating all things, he spoke of all things in heaven and in earth, referring to the spirit children in heaven, and things like the stars, planets, galaxies, earths, etc. In addition Paul referred to thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers, indicating Jesus created social structures and political systems and placed man within them. He gave man the freedom to use those systems righteously or unrighteously.
Some people wonder how Lucifer and one-third of the “stars of heaven” could rebel in Heaven against God. Is not God perfect? Did he not create Heaven and “the stars of heaven”? Are they not thus perfect? The answer to this seeming paradox lies in the principle of agency. Yes, God is perfect! Yes, he created Heaven and the “stars of heaven” (his spirit offspring). No, his spirit offspring are not perfect, because God gave them agency, the right to make their own choices and be accountable. Satan and his followers chose to fight against God. In so doing, they became wicked and were cast from Heaven, for sin can not remain in the presence of God.
Jesus Chosen to be the Messiah
Earlier, we read from a vision given to Abraham about prophets being forordained before they were born. That vision explained Satan’s rebellion against God.
And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell;
And the Lord said: Whom shall I send [to be the Messiah]? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me. And another answered and said: Here am I, send me. And the Lord said: I will send the first.
And the second was angry, and kept not his first estate; and, at that day, many followed after him. (Abraham 3:24,27-28)
That account describes two important events. First, Jesus was chosen to be the Messiah. Second, Lucifer wanted to be the Messiah but was not selected, and he rebelled and instigated the war in Heaven. Both events were key events in our pre-earth life.
Satan Wanted to Destroy Agency
God revealed additional details to Moses about the choice of a Messiah and the resulting war in heaven. That information was re-revealed to Joseph Smith.
And I, the Lord God, spake unto Moses, saying: That Satan, whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten [Satan had appeared to Moses who then commanded him to leave], is the same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying–Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.
But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me–Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.
Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down;
And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice. (Moses 4:1-4)
Notice that God said Lucifer sought to destroy the agency of man. The root cause of the war in Heaven was that Satan wanted to take our freedom of choice from us. His claim was that all spirits would be redeemed because they would be forced to live the Gospel. In addition, Satan wanted the glory and honor of God. On the other hand, Jesus wanted us to make our own choices about living the Father’s plan, and he wanted to give the glory and honor to the Father. We should be grateful that Jesus was chosen to be the Messiah, because if Lucifer had been chosen, we would be living in a world-wide concentration camp of the worst kind.
Earlier in this chapter, we discussed that Lucifer’s name implies he had stature of some kind in Heaven. This implication is born out by the fact that he was in a position to volunteer to be the Messiah.