Abraham 3 is one of the most precious revelations ever given because it opens the veil on who we are and why we are here. It also explains the role of Jesus Christ and our relationship to him.
The chapter is one of the great "apocalyptic" revelations given to certain prophets in history. An apocalyptic revelation is by definition "an opening of the veil" (from Greek apokalypsis) that uncovers the Lord's plan for his children. Prophets who receive apocalyptic revelations see the end from the beginning. They see the universe that God has created. They see the grand family council in heaven that opened the way for our exaltation in the celestial kingdom. They see the central role of the Savior. In short, an apocalyptic revelation is instruction in the purposes of life. We can each experience something like it in the temple.
Like Abraham, other prophets have recorded apocalyptic visions, including Enoch, Moses, Daniel, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Paul, and John, whose book of Revelation is known in most languages as "the Apocalypse."1 (Intriguingly, many other "apocalypses" are found in apocryphal sources, such as the Apocalypses of Adam, Noah, Peter, Paul, and Mark. An ancient and little-known Apocalypse of Abraham bears interesting resemblances to the Book of Abraham.2) To Joseph Smith came the apocalyptic revelation in D&C 76. D&C 138 might also be termed an apocalyptic revelation given to President Joseph F. Smith.
Abraham's apocalyptic revelation begins with a vision of the stars. He saw "that they were very great, and that one of them was nearest unto the throne of God; and there were many great ones which were near unto it." Abraham then learns that "these are the governing ones; and the name of the great one is Kolob, because it is near unto me, for I am the Lord thy God: I have set this one to govern all those which belong to the same order as that upon which thou standest."3
Scholars suggest that the word kolob might be related to ancient Semitic words for "heart, center, or middle."4 In Hebrew, qereb ("midst") might be the same word, as liquid consonants such as L and R often change places in that language.5 The word qereb appears frequently in the Old Testament, as in Psalms 46:5, which states that "God is in the midst" of the temple of Jerusalem. The star nearest to the throne of God is "in the midst" of the stars, the center or heart of creation. "I dwell in the midst of them all," the Lord tells Abraham.6
Why does the Lord show Abraham this vast vision of the stars? To teach a significant truth about Christ and about ourselves. "Now, if there be two things, one above the other, and the moon be above the earth, then it may be that a planet or a star may exist above it. . . . Howbeit that he made the greater star; as, also, if there be two spirits, and one shall be more intelligent than the other. . . . there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God. I am more intelligent than they all."7
Just as some stars are greater than others, so some spirits are more intelligent than others. Some stars are closer to Kolob; in the same way, some spirits are closer to God than others. We are all at different points in our eternal progression.
"Kolob is the greatest of all . . . because it is nearest unto me."8 Likewise, the greatest of all the spirits, the one who is closest to the Father, is the one "like unto God."9 This is our Savior Jesus Christ.
BYU religion Professor Andrew Skinner offers an interesting commentary on this point:
"Abraham learned that just as one planet or star is greater than another until one comes to Kolob-the great governing one (see Abr. 3:9)-so, too, one spirit is greater than another until one comes to Jesus Christ-the great governing one (see Abr. 3:19, 24).
"A careful comparison of the characteristics of Kolob with the characteristics of Jesus Christ demonstrates that Kolob was, and is, a profound symbol of the Savior.
We offer a few examples. Just as Kolob is 'the great one' (Abr. 3:3), so Jesus Christ is 'the Great I AM' (D&C 29:1). Just as Kolob is 'the first creation' (Facsimile 2, fig. 1), so Jesus Christ is the first creation-'the firstborn' (D&C 93:21) of our Father's most important creations, his children. Just as Kolob is the source of light for other stars and planets (see Facsimile 2, fig. 5), Jesus Christ is the source of light for the immensity of space, including the sun, moon, stars, and earth (D&C 88:5-13). 10
By the same token, the Lord compares his spirit children to the stars. At the creation of the earth, "the morning stars sang together," or in other words, "the sons of God shouted for joy."11 In the night time, the Lord showed Abraham the stars and said, "I will multiply thee, and thy seed after thee, like unto these."12
Like the stars in their relationship to Kolob, some spirits are nearer to God than others. Abraham saw in vision that in the beginning "there were many of the noble and great ones. And God saw that these souls 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 art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born."13
The same is true of us. Each of us was chosen. Each spirit who comes into this world is a candidate for exaltation and can, through a demonstration of faithfulness, inherit the blessings promised to Abraham. Each of us can become a "ruler"-a king or queen enjoying "thrones and kingdoms . . exaltation and glory in all things."14 This is possible because we were among those who "kept their first estate."
When the Lord convened the great family council in heaven, he announced his plan: "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 we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them; and they who keep their first estate shall be added upon."15
Thus we learn the reason for our life on earth. It is twofold. We who kept our first estate are "added upon" with the endowment of a physical body, without which we cannot progress. Secondly, we are to be "proven herewith," that is, tried and tested through the medium of mortality to see if we can abide a celestial law.
"The first estate" was our standing in the presence of God in the pre-mortal world. In the New Testament, "first estate" is the English translation of the Greek word arche, which means "principality, authority, kingdom." Of course, not all the spirits chose to keep their first estate, for an alternative plan was proposed which they found more to their liking.
The Father explained to Moses: "Satan . . . 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.