The last or sixth major point of Jacob’s sermon deals with why the Atonement must be taught. The pleading of Jacob for his brethren to hearken to his words and not consider them as hard doctrine (v. 40), reminds us of Nephi’s earlier response to Laman and Lemuel: he “had spoken hard things against the wicked, according to the truth; and the righteous have I justified” (1 Nephi 16:2). Jacob’s declaration that “the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there: and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived” (v. 41). This is an important and significant doctrine but needs some explanation. Earlier, Nephi had been told by an angel, as he was shown a vision of the future Nephites, that “the twelve apostles of the Lamb … shall judge the twelve tribes of Israel,” and the “twelve ministers whom thou beholdest [the Nephite twelve] shall judge [Nephi’s] seed” (1 Nephi 12:9–10). This may sound contradictory, but the quorums of twelve spoken of here are special witnesses of Christ and will stand as witnesses to these groups they are designated to work with. They will testify of Christ both in word and in writing. The people will be accountable for what these brethren testified, and will be held accountable for their teachings at the judgment bar. However, Christ is the one who actually makes the final decision at the gate of judgment. The Father “hath committed all judgment unto the Son” (John 5:22). The final destiny of all who come to that gate, which is all of us, is beautifully stated in verses forty-two and forty-three. Those upon whom he pronounced the wo’s (vv. 27–38) will not obtain “the happiness which is prepared for the saints” (v. 43). We need to appreciate and understand that there will be a perfect balance between justice and mercy when we are judged.
The shaking of Jacob’s garments is an illustration of his magnifying his calling that he later speaks of more succinctly in the temple. He was taking the responsibility, “answering the sins of the people upon our own heads if we did not teach them the word of God with all diligence” (Jacob 1:19). He had told his people the truth, he was rid of their blood, leaving them accountable for their sins (v. 44). The prophet Ezekiel taught the same concept:
17 Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me.
18 When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.
19 Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.
20 Again, When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumblingblock before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand.
21 Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou hast delivered thy soul. [Ezekiel 3:17–21]
Jacob pleads with his brethren to repent and come unto Christ, “the rock of [their] salvation” (v. 45). He urges them to come to the reality of the judgment bar and to prepare their souls for that time (vv. 46–47). As their teacher, he would like to teach them of holiness, but because of their sins it was “expedient to teach [them] the consequences of sin” (v. 48). Jacob is a good example to us of how we ought to function in our church callings and priesthood responsibilities. He showed concern for his people and magnified his priesthood.