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Life after Death

Biblical Framework

The Partial Judgment
Because the Final Judgment does not take place until after the resurrection, which occurs at the second coming of Christ, a partial judgment takes place first. The results of this partial judgment determine where spirits of the dead reside as they await the resurrection, the second coming, and the Final Judgment.

Spirits of the dead wait for their resurrection before the Final Judgment, and some are punished (2 Peter 2:9 and Luke 12:47-48). Man’s body was formed from the dust of ground (Genesis 2:7) and will return to the dust of the ground after death (Genesis 3:19), but his spirit lives on (Ecclesiastes 12:7).

The Spirit World
After physical death, the spirit of a man or woman remains in the same character in which it left the earth (Revelation 22:11-12). When Saul sought the help of a sorceress, it was revealed through a visitation by Samuel that those who have passed into the spirit world are in adult form and dwell (as spirits) upon the earth (1 Samuel 28:13-15).

Paradise in the Spirit World
Jesus Christ and Paul called the most glorious level of the spirit world “paradise” (Luke 23:43 and 2 Corinthians 12:3-4), a place of rest for those who have died in the Lord (Daniel 12:13, Isaiah 57:2 and Revelation 14:13).

Spirit Prison in the Spirit World
Isaiah and Peter called the more perilous level of the spirit world a “prison,” where both punishments for the wicked and preaching to the open-hearted take place (Isaiah 24:21-22 and 1 Peter 3:19-20).

Jesus prophesied of the opening of the spirit prison (John 5:25) where the dead would hear the gospel and by proxy have the opportunity to be redeemed in Christ (1 Peter 4:6). Jesus revealed that there is a great gulf between those in paradise and those in spirit prison (Luke 16:19-26).

Peter spoke of the temporary “hell” that exists in the spirit prison where souls are left only for a time and have the opportunity for life in the eternities (Acts 2:25-31). Such souls in this hell will be delivered up at the Final Judgment (Revelation 20:13-14).

The Second Coming
Job was given a vision of the second coming in which the redeemer, Jesus Christ, “[stood] at the latter day upon the earth” (Job 19:25). Isaiah was given a similar vision and prophesied of the peace that would exist during the second coming of the Savior (Isaiah 2:4 and Isaiah 11:6-9).

Jesus described his second coming as a glorious event (Matthew 25:31). John wrote that a thousand years would pass between the second coming and the final conflict (Revelation 20:2-4 and Revelation 20:7). Isaiah and Ezekiel describe the earth as becoming like the Garden of Eden during this thousand-year period (Isaiah 51:3 and Ezekiel 36:35).

Jesus prophesied of his resurrection to his disciples. He told them that he would die a physical death, that in three days he would take on a new life, and because of this, all mankind would live (John 14:18-19). Interestingly, the New Testament describes other people being resurrected in and around the holy city directly after Christ’s resurrection (Matthew 27:52-53), and Paul later wrote how man’s resurrection was made possible by Christ’s resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:13-14, 1 Corinthians 15:21-22 and 1 Corinthians 15:54-55).

There will be a first resurrection at the commencement of the millennium (the second coming). There will be a second resurrection immediately before the Final Judgment. The first a resurrection will be of “everlasting life,” the second will be of “everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2, John 5:29 and Revelation 20:5-6).

Final conflict
After the millennium and before the Final Judgment there will be a final conflict as Satan is loosed (Revelation 20:2-3, 7-8). Despite the uprising Satan will be defeated (Revelation 20:9-10).

The Final Judgment
In the Final Judgment, men and women will be judged upon their works (Revelation 20-12-13, 1 Corinthians 3:14 and Matthew 16:27), their words (Matthew 12:36–37), the thoughts and feelings within their hearts (Romans 2:15-16, 2 Corinthians 3:1–3 and Romans 10:9), and whether or not they diligently sought after the Lord Jesus Christ (Hebrews 11:6).

The Final Judgment will be presided over by Jesus Christ (John 5:22), who will appoint his apostles and others to render righteous judgments upon the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28 and Luke 22:29-30)—that is, all of mankind.

Finally, the earth will be completely renewed (Revelation 21:1). There will be three kingdoms (2 Corinthians 12:2). The highest kingdom is likened to the sun, being the brightest of all of the kingdoms (celestial). The second highest kingdom is likened to the moon, being the second brightest of the kingdoms (terrestrial). The lowest kingdom is likened to the stars being the least bright among the heavenly bodies. (1 Corinthians 15:40-42.)

Heavenly Beings
Those worthy of heaven will shine like celestial bodies (Daniel 12:3), and they will occupy many “mansions” in heaven (John 14:2). It will be those, even a few, who will journey the narrow path (Matthew 7:14) to take their place as the greatest (in the greatest place, the celestial space) in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:4). Jesus said there will be some who will become “as the angels which are in heaven” (Mark 12:25).

Becoming exalted, or exaltation, comes to those who keep the Lord’s way (Psalm 37:34). Jesus taught that those who humble themselves will be exalted (Luke 14:11 and Matthew 23:12). The apostle Peter reiterated this in his first epistle (1 Peter 5:6).

Perfection is not attainable in mortality or any time soon thereafter, but it is a journey taken by the children of God in Christ (Hebrews 6:1). The Lord calls all men on the journey to perfection. He told Abraham, “be thou perfect” (Genesis 17:1). This same call was issued by Jesus to all his disciples: He told them to be meek and pure in heart as part of the process of perfection (Matthew 5:5, 8, 48). Paul urged the Colossians to put on charity as part of the course towards perfection (Colossians 3:14). Paul urged good works on the journey of perfection (2 Timothy 3:17). James encouraged patience as part of the eternal road to the perfecting of one’s spirit (James 1:4).

Godliness, or to be godly, is attainable by all of the children of men who act in righteousness (Psalm 32:6 and 2 Peter 1:6-7). Although godliness is a mystery to the human intellect (1 Timothy 3:16), when attained by the righteous it will lead to the strength to be delivered from temptation (2 Peter 2:9). It will also lead to persecution (2 Timothy 3:12).

A crown is reserved for a king or those who will reign in some method or fashion. Peter prophesied that at the second coming of Christ, there will be some who will “receive a crown of glory” that will last forever (1 Peter 5:4). James gave a similar promise to those who endure to the end and love the Savior—they will receive a “crown of life” (James 1:12). Paul said there will be a “crown of righteousness” for all of the faithful in Christ (2 Timothy 4:7-8). Those who earn these crowns from the Lord will reign forever and ever (Revelation 22:5) and be made rulers “over many things” (Matthew 25:20-23).

Becoming Christlike
Being “like Christ,” or like a god, was introduced early in the Old Testament. The Lord God said of Adam, “The man is become as one of us” (Genesis 3:22). Speaking of Jesus, John taught that “we shall be like him” when he appears (1 John 3:2). Paul taught that we can be with him (Christ) “in glory” (Colossians 3:2-4 and 2 Thessalonians 2:14).

Paul wrote to the Galatians that man is a son of God, “an heir of God through Christ” (Galatians 4:6-7), adding to the Romans and Timothy that to be glorified with Christ will require suffering on the part of the individual being glorified (Romans 8:16-18 and 2 Timothy 2:11-12). In the book of Revelation, the Lord proclaims that those who overcome will be granted the privilege to sit with him on his throne (Revelation 3:21).

Gods and Sons of Gods
While the Bible is clear that there is one God the Father, one God the Son, and one Holy Ghost, it tells of other “gods” on earth or in heaven (1 Corinthians 8:5-6) and says the sons of God (plural) are many in the kingdom of heaven (Job 1:6 and 2:1).

Outer Darkness
The one-third of the host of heaven that joined Satan in rebellion against God kept not their first estate (rejected their premortal existence with the Father) and were cast to the earth. They, with Satan, will be condemned to everlasting darkness after the Final Judgment (Jude 6). These sons of perdition are lost (John 17:12), along with those who turn away to crucify Christ a second time (Hebrews 6:6) and commit blasphemy against the Holy Ghost (Matthew 12:31-32).

Mormon Doctrinal Clarification

Entry into the Afterlife
As mortality is a distinguishable extension of premortal existence, so the afterlife is a distinguishable extension of mortality. Eternity is not divisible, yet distinguishable states and places do exist and changes do occur within and between these states. The state, place, and change that appears at the conclusion of mortality is called the afterlife. There is no space between life and afterlife. To die is simply to walk from one room (mortality) into the next (afterlife).

Certain work can only be accomplished in mortality. Other work can only be accomplished in the afterlife. If a person is alive, then his or her work in mortality is not finished. When the work is finished, the portal of death will appear and the work of the afterlife will commence.

Human beings do not travel from life to death. They travel from life to life, from one form of work to another, from one state of being to another. Death is merely the connecting doorway.

Events and Places
It is understood through revelation that the afterlife includes the following events and places. Names are assigned to these events and places largely by convention. Definitions follow.

  • Partial Judgment

  • Spirit World

  • Paradise

  • Spirit Prison

  • Temporary Hell

  • First Resurrection

  • Second Coming of Christ (Millennium)

  • Second Resurrection

  • Final Conflict

  • Final Judgment and Assignment

  • Celestial Kingdom

  • Terrestrial Kingdom

  • Telestial Kingdom

  • Outer Darkness (Eternal Hell)

The Partial Judgment
Each person who dies before the second coming of Christ takes on the form of a spirit and goes through a partial judgment. The spirit of each person is then assigned to a temporary place in the spirit world (see “Spirit World” following): either a place in paradise or a place in spirit prison. Assignments are made according to the person’s faith and works in mortality. In one of these two places, all the dead await their resurrection (re-unification of their spirits with their perfected bodies).

The Spirit World
Paradise is the term used to denote the higher place in the spirit world. Paradise is not heaven. Heaven is a permanent state outside the spirit world; paradise is a temporary state within the spirit world.
Spirit prison is the term used to denote the lower place in the spirit world. Spirit prison is not hell. Hell is a permanent state outside the spirit world; spirit prison is a temporary state within the spirit world. In a locked-off place within spirit prison is temporary hell. The spirits in temporary hell are separated from all other spirits in spirit prison.

All the spirits in paradise and the spirits in spirit prison who are not confined to temporary hell learn and work to prepare for the first resurrection. The first resurrection will occur at the moment of the second coming of Christ. The spirits in temporary hell must suffer and await the second resurrection. The second resurrection will occur at the end of the millennium.

The spirits of the dead retain attitudes, thought patterns, desires, and appetites similar to those they had on earth: it could be said that the mortal personality is continued in spiritual form in the afterlife. For example, if a person dies with a certain attitude about righteousness or wickedness, their spirit will have a similar attitude in the afterlife. Spiritual refinement is still possible however. The spirit world occupies the same “space” spiritually that the earth occupies physically. Satan and his minions also occupy this spiritual space on earth.

The Second Coming and the First Resurrection
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that the second coming of Christ will usher in a period known as the millennium. Taken from the Latin word mille (a thousand) and annum (year), the millennial reign of Christ will be on earth converted to a terrestrial degree of glory, and there will be one thousand years of peace, joy, and love.

With the second coming of Christ, the spirits in paradise will be resurrected (the first resurrection) and will live and work throughout the millennium. In the “morning” of the first resurrection will come up those assigned celestial bodies. In the “afternoon” of the first resurrection will come up those assigned terrestrial bodies.

These resurrected men and women will be righteous people who in mortality lived lives worthy of this opportunity or were able to find conversion in the spirit world.

These resurrected beings and mortal members of the Christ’s church will do missionary and temple work throughout the millennium. Missionary work will include teaching Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation to those on earth who have not received this teaching or did not fully understand it. Temple work will include ordinances of salvation and exaltation, including baptisms, endowments, marriages, and sealings.

There will be no suffering, disease, or fear of death during the millennium. Satan will be bound: He will be unable to use his evil powers of persuasion or to do any harm whatsoever. There will be universal peace. All livings things will live together without violence. Mortal and immortal beings will mingle and work in harmony. The entire earth will be in a state of terrestrial glory.

The Second Resurrection
The second resurrection will come at the end of the millennium, about 1,000 years after the first resurrection. The second resurrection is sometimes called the resurrection of the damned, since this resurrection includes spirits out of Spirit Prison and the sons of perdition. These are they who made a free and fully informed choice to refuse Christ, to refuse repentance, and to refuse participation in Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation. The most vile and wicked will come forth in this resurrection, including the worst of these, the sons of perdition.

The Final Conflict
After the second resurrection, Satan and his host will be loosed for the final conflict. This conflict will engulf the entire earth. Satan will gather his armies, and Michael the Archangel will gather his. They will engage in one final battle for the souls of men. Some will choose Satan, others will choose the Lord.

The Final Judgment
The Final Judgment will occur at the conclusion of the final conflict, and Satan and his followers will be cast out of the earth and consigned forever to the outer darkness. The three kingdoms of heaven—telestial, terrestrial, and celestial— will be established, and the earth will be advanced from a terrestrial state to a celestial state. The loyal spirit children of God will be consigned to one of the three kingdoms of heaven, telestial, terrestrial, or celestial.

The Final Judgment is the last in a succession of judgments that began in premortal life and continued through mortal life and life in the spirit world.

The works of mankind are written in the books referred to in Revelation 20:12. However, the Apostle Paul taught about being judged out of different records, those written in the hearts of men. These records written in heart will be made known during the Final Judgment and also used to render the final verdict upon all beings.

Men and women will be judged not only by Christ , but by those to whom Christ delegates the power and authority to judge. God the Father will not judge anyone directly, but will delegate that power and authority to Christ.

Based on the Final Judgment, all men and women will inherit a place in the kingdom for which they are prepared: the celestial kingdom (the highest degree of glory), the terrestrial kingdom (the second degree), or the telestial kingdom (the lowest degree) (Gospel Principles [Salt Lake City: Intellectual Reserve, 2009], 271).

The Latter-day Saint doctrine of heaven is founded on several key scriptures in the Bible and modern revelation. The Bible gives little detail on the particulars of heaven. Modern revelation gives more detail.
For example, biblical scriptures introduce and outline the existence of three levels of heaven, while the revelations given in the Doctrine and Covenants describe in detail the various glories in heaven.

Jesus spoke of “many mansions” in heaven and of “preparing” a place in the house of his father for all of his followers. In concert with these preparations, men and women in mortality prepare themselves for the heavenly kingdom into which they choose to enter. Their works and faith in Christ, exercised in the choices they make on earth, will decide which kingdom (place or state) they are prepared to live in following the Final Judgment. The pervasive doctrine of moral agency (free will) is evident in this process as in all others. Heaven is a choice leading to a just reward.

The Celestial Kingdom
The celestial kingdom is the highest level of heaven (the “third heaven” spoken of by Paul). This is the kingdom Paul described as being the “glory of the sun,” in which Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father will dwell. The happiness of those who will enter the celestial kingdom and the beauty and glory of the surroundings are unimaginable.

Those who will enter the celestial kingdom are those who love and have chosen to obey Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father. These individuals will have repented of their sins, committed their lives to Jesus Christ as their savior, entered the waters of baptism, received the gift of the Holy Ghost, and exercised faith sufficient to triumph over the world through the mediating Atonement of Jesus Christ.

Individuals who choose and then are blessed to dwell in the celestial kingdom will eventually become like Jesus and Heavenly Father. They will eventually receive by inheritance all that Heavenly Father has and is. Jesus alluded to this great blessing in the parable of the talents when he said, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew 25:23).

The Terrestrial Kingdom
The terrestrial kingdom is the second highest level of heaven. This is the kingdom Paul described as being the “glory of the moon.” Jesus will dwell here on a frequent basis. Those who will enter into the terrestrial kingdom are those who rejected the gospel of Jesus Christ on earth but received it in the spirit world. Although not close to the happiness of those who will dwell in the celestial kingdom, the happiness of the terrestrial kingdom will match the happiness that beings assigned there will be prepared and willing to receive. As in all things, agency is paramount.

The Telestial Kingdom
The telestial kingdom is the lowest level of heaven. This is the kingdom Paul described as being the “glory of the stars,” in which the influence of the Holy Ghost will reside and angels will minister. Those who will enter into the telestial kingdom are those who made a free and fully informed choice on earth and in the spirit world to reject Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation and the Atonement of Jesus Christ but whose rejection and evil deeds and intentions do not warrant consignment to the outer darkness. Although not close to the happiness of those who will dwell in the celestial or terrestrial kingdom, the happiness of the telestial kingdom will match the happiness that beings assigned there will be prepared and willing to receive. Again, agency is paramount. There will be many who will be consigned to the telestial kingdom following the Final Judgment.

Outer Darkness
Outer darkness is a term used synonymously with hell—not the temporary hell of the spirit world, but the permanent hell in which the devil and his loyal followers are confined for all eternity. Perdition is a term denoting Satan or eternal hell. The sons of perdition are those who received the Holy Ghost and knew God but later denied both; those who in mortality chose without reservation to rebel against God and follow Satan; and those premortal spirits who joined with Satan in rebelling against God in the premortal existence. The sons of perdition will dwell in outer darkness have no hope of forgiveness. They are eternally separated from God. They are made fully aware of this separation and this awareness causes them great suffering.

See chapter20 in The Biblical Roots of Mormonism for a more comprehensive explanation, scriptural references and commentary on the Afterlife

See the following word SeriesTM papers for summaries:

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