John 17:22—“And this is Life Eternal”

John 17:22—“And this is Life Eternal, that They Might Know Thee the Only True God, and Jesus Christ, Whom Thou hast Sent”

1 These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:
2 As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.
3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent (John 17:1-3).

The Savior himself explained that verse to the Prophet Joseph:

21 Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye abide my law ye cannot attain to this glory.
22 For strait is the gate, and narrow the way that leadeth unto the exaltation and continuation of the lives, and few there be that find it, because ye receive me not in the world neither do ye know me.
23 But if ye receive me in the world, then shall ye know me, and shall receive your exaltation; that where I am ye shall be also.
24 This is eternal lives—to know the only wise and true God, and Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent. I am he. Receive ye, therefore, my law (D&C 132: 21-24).

“To know God” does not mean the same as “to know about God.” Whether Jesus was speaking in Greek or Hebrew the word he would have used means the same: to know intimately and the intimacy has a strong covenantal connotation.{1} For example, we encountered that same word in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus said:

21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (Matthew 7:21-23).

One way to understand that is that Jesus said, “You and I have never entered into a covenant, so why are you here?”
The mood and the message of the Savior’s magnificent prayer is established with some of his first words, “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” This is an assertion of the perpetuation of past, present, and future relationships. This great prayer in John 17 is a study on the theme of eternal relationships. In that prayer, Jesus affirms his relationship with his Father and theirs with the apostles and with those who will believe in the apostles’ words.

The stated object of his prayer is to preserve the eternal love that created those relationships before this world and to project them into the future eternities. Jesus prayed:

19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.
20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;
21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me (John 17:19-23).

I think the best way to understand the relationship that Jesus is looking forward to is to examine the characteristics of those persons in the celestial kingdom as described in Doctrine and Covenants section 76.

The importance of that is easy to grasp when we understand the revelation on the three degrees of glory as a definition of their societal relationships. The greatest differences between the three degrees of glory as described in that revelation as the quality of their togetherness—or lack thereof.

Little is said about those in the terrestrial world except that they are “honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men,” and “are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus. Their associations with each other are probably as congenial and amicable as it was in this world.

Those in the telestial kingdom are a sorry lot. Their “glory is that of the lesser, even as the glory of the stars differs from that of the glory of the moon in the firmament.” “These are they who are thrust down to hell.” “These are they who are liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie.” They appear to be as single and separate as the stars, sharing nothing. They are resurrected, so they cannot murder each other and the property arrangements probably preclude theft and fraud.

They go through eternity filled with hate, not really able to hurt each other so they are limited to whatever satisfaction they get by telling lies that may stir even more discontent.
The “glory” of the celestial kingdom is both a product of and a definition of their unity and mutual love, hesed. This is a united society where peace is the perpetual and universal state. There is no place in that part of the revelation where anyone (not even the Father or his Son) is defined as a single unit, but all are described with characteristics that are common to each of the others.

50 And again we bear record—for we saw and heard, and this is the testimony of the gospel of Christ concerning them who shall come forth in the resurrection of the just—
51 They are they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial, being buried in the water in his name, and this according to the commandment which he has given—
52 That by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power;
53 And who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true.
54 They are they who are the church of the Firstborn.
55 They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things—
56 They are they who are priests and kings, who have received of his fulness, and of his glory;
57 And are priests of the Most High, after the order of Melchizedek, which was after the order of Enoch, which was after the order of the Only Begotten Son.
58 Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God—
59 Wherefore, all things are theirs, whether life or death, or things present, or things to come, all are theirs and they are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.
60 And they shall overcome all things.
61 Wherefore, let no man glory in man, but rather let him glory in God, who shall subdue all enemies under his feet.
62 These shall dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever.
63 These are they whom he shall bring with him, when he shall come in the clouds of heaven to reign on the earth over his people.
64 These are they who shall have part in the first resurrection.
65 These are they who shall come forth in the resurrection of the just.
66 These are they who are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly place, the holiest of all.
67 These are they who have come to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of Enoch, and of the Firstborn.
68 These are they whose names are written in heaven, where God and Christ are the judge of all.
69 These are they who are just men made perfect through Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, who wrought out this perfect atonement through the shedding of his own blood.
70 These are they whose bodies are celestial, whose glory is that of the sun, even the glory of God, the highest of all, whose glory the sun of the firmament is written of as being typical. (D&C 76:50-70)

Jesus’s prayer was projecting into the celestial society which is not so much about separate relationships as it is about multiple friendships that are intertwined into a single, cultural whole. The Savior’s prayer continues by further clarifying their mutual love, still linking their present with their eternal past.

4 I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.
5 And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.
6 I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word (John 17:4-6).

The “glory which I had with thee before the world was” is also about multiple individual friendships. We have two short looks into that premortal society. One is through Nephi’s description of his father’s sode experience.

8 And being thus overcome with the Spirit, he was carried away in a vision, even that he saw the heavens open, and he thought he saw God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God (1 Nephi 1:8).

Lehi saw the members of the Council in Heaven who were not actually singing, but were “in the attitude of singing and praising their God.” What he recognized was their unspoken, but ever pervasive joy and love.

The other one was is Enoch’s personal description of his own sode experience.

1 On the tenth heaven, which is called Aravoth, I saw the appearance of the Lord’s face, like iron made to glow in fire, and brought out, emitting sparks, and it burns.
2 Thus in a moment of eternity I saw the Lord’s face, but the Lord’s face is ineffable, marvelous and very awful, and very, very terrible.
3 And who am I to tell of the Lord’s unspeakable being, and of his very wonderful face? And I cannot tell the quantity of his many instructions, and various voices, the Lord’s throne is very great and not made with hands, nor the quantity of those standing round him, troops of cherubim and seraphim, nor their incessant singing, nor his immutable beauty, and who shall tell of the ineffable greatness of his glory.{2}

Enoch says one cannot tell “the quantity of those standing round him, troops of cherubim and seraphim, nor their incessant singing.” Their “incessant singing” would sound like chaos unless, like Lehi, what he was describing was an attitude of shared incessant joy.

What they have described to us is the expression of a large community. It could not be summarized better than by the Savior’s words, “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us;” or by these concluding words of the revelation to the Prophet Joseph:

116 Neither is man capable to make them known, for they are only to be seen and understood by the power of the Holy Spirit, which God bestows on those who love him, and purify themselves before him;
117 To whom he grants this privilege of seeing and knowing for themselves;
118 That through the power and manifestation of the Spirit, while in the flesh, they may be able to bear his presence in the world of glory.
119 And to God and the Lamb be glory, and honor, and dominion forever and ever. Amen (D&C 76:116-19).

Even though the “seeing and knowing” are gifts to individuals, they are also an induction into a very privileged community.

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ENDNOTES

{1} Yada (Hebrew) Strong # 3045, and ginosko (Greek) # 1097.

{2} The Secrets of Enoch in Charles, R. H., ed. The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1976), Chapter 22:1-3
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