Keeping Our Estates

In the Epistle of Jude, the author provides several examples of groups of people who suffered as a result of distancing themselves from God. One of those examples is heavenly rather than earthly:

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 1:6

To keep something (tereo in Greek) is to watch over or guard it, to maintain it. The word which the King James translators rendered as “first estate” (arche) can mean either the beginning (first in time) or a position of authority (first in rank). The concept seems to be that these angels were given an initial set of responsibilities—a first assignment—and they failed to follow through. They abandoned their posts. Therefore, God cannot trust them with those responsibilities any more.

Joseph Smith used the same phrase in his translation of the book of Abraham. This earth is a proving ground, he said, to see who will obey God’s commandments.

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

Then Abraham makes reference to Lucifer, who was angry that Jesus was chosen to be our Savior. He “kept not his first estate; and, at that day, many followed after him” (Abraham 3:28).

God gives us assignments and responsibilities so that we can gain His trust. When we demonstrate that we will faithfully carry out a small responsibility, He can reasonably give us additional assignments.

Alma taught this concept to the people in the city of Ammonihah. Priests were foreordained, he said: chosen before they were born “according to the foreknowledge of God.” But the actual assignment only comes after they have proven themselves:

In the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith, are called with a holy calling.

Alma 13:3

Today, I will be faithful in keeping my estates, in fulfilling the responsibilities I have been given. I will remember that God will give me future opportunities to serve if I am faithful in fulfilling the responsibilities I have already been given.

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