The First and the Last

kenneth cope - FaceToFace-cover

The popular motion picture “Star Wars” had a powerful sequel titled, “The Empire Strikes Back.” Near the beginning of the movie, Luke Skywalker has been out exploring the ice planet Hoth’s surface and by early evening hasn’t returned to the protective shelter of the base. Meanwhile, the outside temperature is dropping quickly. Luke’s friend, Han Solo, feels anxious for him at the door of the shelter and will not rest until Luke has come in safely. So, Han goes out into the freezing, deadly cold to find Luke, at the risk of his own life. Now, I wish to liken this image to our beloved Savior. He won’t rest until the last one’s in. By His suffering and dying for our sins, and His rising again, Jesus has seized the keys of death and hell. He also holds the keys to the gate of heaven. Many jokes have been made about Saint Peter standing at the pearly gates, but the scriptures point us in a different direction. Jesus is called “the keeper of the gate” and “he employeth no servant there” (2 Nephi 9: 41). He waits to let us in.

Jesus has called himself “the first and the last.” (See Revelation 22: 13.) Now this has many possible connotations, but, for my purposes here, I’d like to look at “the first and the last” as follows:

Jesus is like the one in charge of an activity: He’s the first one there to make sure everything’s in order and prepared for those who come; then, when the event is over, He’s the last one to go home, staying to make sure everything’s cleaned up, put away and back in order.

He’s like the last one out of a burning building, or the captain of a sinking ship, making sure everyone else is safe first. As a great Christian writer likened it—the world is the ship, and while most of the world thinks they’re sailing off into the sunset, Jesus knows that the ship is sinking.—Now, Jesus, being the captain, will stay on board to try to save every last one possible of saving…“so long as time shall last, or the earth shall stand, or there shall be one man upon the face thereof to be saved” (Moroni 7:36).

Jesus is the first—the one most worthy to be at the front of the line for reward, and yet, He came to earth and made Himself the last or lowest of all…of no reputation—as another translation of Isaiah 53: 2 says: “he had no distinguished appearance, that we should notice him.”—He walked among men, meek and lowly, doing everything His Father asked of Him with zeal and singleness of purpose. He, alone, is worthy of inheriting all His Father has to give. And yet, He desires that we might share His reward. “Therefore” says the Father, “will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong” (Mosiah 14: 12). We, the Father’s prodigal children have gone and wasted our inheritance on unrighteous living. So all that the Father has belongs to the Son who stayed close to Him and was faithful. However, this Son doesn’t want to keep that inheritance to Himself. He intends on dividing it with all of those prodigals who will repent of their sins and return to their Father humble and ready to be servants.

All of this reminds me of a beautiful story I heard some years ago. A certain woman’s oldest son came into this life with an extremely strong body, and yet his mind was handicapped. In his teenage years, this boy participated in the Special Olympics and was projected to win the running events due to his amazing strength and speed. During one of the races, he began with such quickness, that he soon left the rest of the field far behind him. Then, suddenly, he realized that he was running by himself. He was alone. Stopping, he turned himself around to see where everyone else was. Visually locating them, he smiled, and then raced back to the other runners. He began to encourage them in their running, and continued to do so until the last of them was across the finish line. Then he crossed the line himself.

Our Savior has said: “I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” (Joshua 1: 5).

At a General Conference of the Church in April of 1853, Elder Parley P. Pratt said of the Prophet Joseph Smith, “Did Joseph, in the spirit world, think of any thing else, yesterday, but the doings of his brethren on the earth?…if I were to judge from the acquaintance I had with him in his life….The spirit of his calling will never suffer him to rest, while Satan, sin, death, or darkness, possesses a foot of ground on this earth. While the spirit world contains the spirit of one of his friends, or the grave holds captive one of their bodies, he will never rest, or slacken his labors” (Journal of Discourses, 1: 15).

And if such could be said of Joseph Smith, how much more could be said of our dear Savior? Yes, when it comes to our rescue, He will never rest or slacken His labors!

Over the course of our marriage, I have told my wife, Kathy, quite often that I love her. And she has often very quickly replied: I love you MORE. I, then, have immediately followed it with: I love YOU more. She would then insist that she loves me more. It’s kind of this playful, competitive thing. She has done this so much that you’d think I would have begun to expect it. But I never have. It has always caught me off guard, perhaps because I don’t for a minute really believe it. I’m certain that she couldn’t love me more than I love her. However, when likening this to Jesus, I think of the words that John the Beloved wrote, speaking of Christ: We love him, because he first loved us (1 John 4: 19). I guess at those times when I feel love so powerfully for the Savior and say to Him in my heart: “I love thee Lord, Jesus,” He could very rightfully say: “I love you more.” After all, He proved it by the life He lived, and by the death He died. And yet He would never say it to be one up on me, or to hold it over my head. He would only be speaking the truth. That’s why I feel motivated to continually increase my love for Him and do everything I can to bring Him greater joy—to help Him have more of His Father’s repentant prodigal children to share His inheritance with.

Hear the voice of the greatest of all, who trembled because of pain and bled at every pore and suffered both body and spirit for you and for me:

I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father” (D&C 110: 4).

Listen to Him who is pleading for us before our Father saying:

Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified; Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life” (D&C 45: 3-5).

4 Responses to The First and the Last

  1. Joseph Marrow

    I quote someone: God loves us so much! For instance, there are only two things that our bodies have to do to stay alive in This mortal life…two things which, if we do not do, we will die. And yet, God has made both of them so enjoyable for us…Eating and sleeping!

    Guess who I quoted :-)

  2. Kenneth – i am sure you don’t remember me…you were quite young when we both lived in Houston. My house was on Beechnut just across the street from the Maplewood building…..Lots of young members came and swam in our swimming pool…my husband loved that. I, of course, can’t remember all — so don’t know if you ever did…I hope so ;) Sounds like you have a wonderful, happy life.That is great. Just wondering – do you make records…..are they for sale?

    • Hi Leona! You are so sweet!! I have such fond memories of those younger days in Houston with all the great Saints I knew and loved there. So great to reconnect with you. :)
      You are so kind to ask about my music…I do not sell music from this site, but there are links on here that take anyone interested to other websites that do make the music available. For instance:
      I hope that helps.
      Wishing you great joy, Leona! :)

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