Life after Death
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
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
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).
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
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.)
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”
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
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).
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
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.
Second Coming of Christ
Final Judgment and
Outer Darkness (Eternal
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 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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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 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: