The scriptures teach that each person will stand before God and give an accounting to him of his or her life upon this earth. Let us see what happens after the judgment. Jesus taught that in Heaven there are many places where we may go.
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (John 14:1-3)
It is both fair and just that there are many mansions after the judgment, because we are all different. We have made different decisions with our agency, and we have had different amounts of righteousness and wickedness in our lives.
Paul spoke of a vision in which he was caught up to the “third heaven”. Although he did not clearly explain what he meant by the “third heaven”, his statement is significant because it fits in with the Savior’s statement of “many mansions”.
I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. (2 Corinthians 12:2)
In chapter 15 of 1 Corinthians, Paul taught about the resurrection and gave a strong implication that there are differences in the mansions of the Father’s house. In verse 35, he asked the question, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? He then proceeded to explain that mortal bodies die but God will give bodies as it pleases Him. Paul introduced two metaphors to explain the differences in resurrected bodies. The first metaphor concerns differences between the flesh of humans and animals.
All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. (1 Corinthians 15:39)
The second metaphor concerns differences in the brightness of celestial bodies.
There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.
There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. (1 Corinthians 15:40-41)
After giving these metaphors to illustrate the principle of “differences”, he states there will be differences in the resurrection.
So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: (1 Corinthians 15:42)
That is, just as there are different types of flesh on this earth, and just as celestial bodies have different amounts of light, so will we come forth in the resurrection with different bodies. All resurrected bodies will be perfect, but they will vary in glory as the sun varies from the moon and the moon varies from the stars and the stars vary from each other in light. This is a strong implication that there are different mansions in the Father’s house that correspond to the different resurrected bodies. The mansions will vary in glory, happiness, and beauty.
Through latter-day revelation in a vision given to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, the Lord described the mansions in the Father’s house. This vision is recorded in Section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants. From this revelation, we learn there are four basic places in the life to come. Three of them are places of glory, and the fourth place is one without glory. In the revelation to Joseph and Sidney, the Lord named the three places of glory by using Paul’s metaphor of heavenly bodies.
First, we have the mansion with the greatest glory, known as the Celestial Kingdom.
And again we bear record–for we saw and heard, and this is the testimony of the gospel of Christ concerning them who shall come forth in the resurrection of the just–
They are they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial, being buried in the water in his name, and this according to the commandment which he has given–
That by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power;
And who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true.
They are they who are the church of the Firstborn.
They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things–
They are they who are priests and kings, who have received of his fulness, and of his glory;
And are priests of the Most High, after the order of Melchizedek, which was after the order of Enoch, which was after the order of the Only Begotten Son.
Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God–
Wherefore, all things are theirs, whether life or death, or things present, or things to come, all are theirs and they are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.
And they shall overcome all things.
Wherefore, let no man glory in man, but rather let him glory in God, who shall subdue all enemies under his feet.
These shall dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever.
These are they whom he shall bring with him, when he shall come in the clouds of heaven to reign on the earth over his people.
These are they who shall have part in the first resurrection.
These are they who shall come forth in the resurrection of the just.
These are they who are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly place, the holiest of all.
These are they who have come to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of Enoch, and of the Firstborn.
These are they whose names are written in heaven, where God and Christ are the judge of all.
These are they who are just men made perfect through Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, who wrought out this perfect atonement through the shedding of his own blood.
These are they whose bodies are celestial, whose glory is that of the sun, even the glory of God, the highest of all, whose glory the sun of the firmament is written of as being typical. (D&C 76:50-70)
Let us summarize the conditions in the Celestial kingdom.
- These are they who accept Christ and are baptized by proper authority.
- These are they who overcome all things by faith and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise. This reference in verse 53 to “sealing” does not refer to the ceremonies in the temples. The sealing by the Holy Spirit of promise comes individually to persons as they receive their judgment by God, and it may happen in this life or in the life to come.
- These are they who are given all things by the Father.
- These are they who have overcome all things by being valiant in keeping the commandments of God and in becoming Christ-like in their lives.
- These are they who shall dwell eternally in the presence of both God the Eternal Father and Jesus Christ.
- These are they who come forth in the first resurrection of the just.
The second kingdom of glory is called the Terrestrial Kingdom.
And again, we saw the terrestrial world, and behold and lo, these are they who are of the terrestrial, whose glory differs from that of the church of the Firstborn who have received the fulness of the Father, even as that of the moon differs from the sun in the firmament.
Behold, these are they who died without law;
And also they who are the spirits of men kept in prison, whom the Son visited, and preached the gospel unto them, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh;
Who received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it.
These are they who are honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men.
These are they who receive of his glory, but not of his fulness.
These are they who receive of the presence of the Son, but not of the fulness of the Father.
Wherefore, they are bodies terrestrial, and not bodies celestial, and differ in glory as the moon differs from the sun.
These are they who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus; wherefore, they obtain not the crown over the kingdom of our God.
And the terrestrial [shall be ministered to] through the ministration of the celestial. (D&C 76:71-79, 87)
We can summarize the nature of the Terrestrial Kingdom as follows.
- These are they who but who hear of him in the Spirit world and accept him as their Savior. Although individuals in this group will accept their proxy baptisms as performed in the Lord’s temples and receive a Celestial glory, as a group they will not.
- These are they who are sincere Christians but are deceived by wicked people and do not accept the message of the Restoration and be baptized into the LDS church, even though they will have the opportunity.
- These are they who were baptized into the LDS church while living in mortality but who were not valiant in serving God and keeping his commandments, but who still believed in Christ and lived his moral law
- These are they who shall dwell eternally in the presence of Jesus Christ but not with the Father.
- These are they who shall receive acts of service from those in the Celestial kingdom.
Concerning the third kingdom of glory, the Telestial Kingdom, the Lord said the following.
And again, we saw the glory of the telestial, which glory is that of the lesser, even as the glory of the stars differs from that of the glory of the moon in the firmament.
These are they who received not the gospel of Christ, neither the testimony of Jesus.
These are they who deny not the Holy Spirit.
These are they who are thrust down to hell.
These are they who shall not be redeemed from the devil until the last resurrection, until the Lord, even Christ the Lamb, shall have finished his work.
These are they who receive not of his fulness in the eternal world, but of the Holy Spirit through the ministration of the terrestrial; (D&C 76:81-86)
As a summary of the Telestial Kingdom, we have the following.
- These are they who do not accept Christ, either in this life or in the spirit world.
- These are they who are the wicked people of the world but who do not sin against the Holy Ghost.
- These are they who come forth in the second resurrection at the end of the Millennium.
- These are they who dwell eternally in the presence of the Holy Ghost but not with either the Father or the Son. They will be ministered to by those in the Terrestrial kingdom.
In the vision given to Joseph and Sidney, the Lord also spoke of a kingdom without glory.
And we saw a vision of the sufferings of those with whom he made war and overcame, for thus came the voice of the Lord unto us:
Thus saith the Lord concerning all those who know my power, and have been made partakers thereof, and suffered themselves through the power of the devil to be overcome, and to deny the truth and defy my power–
They are they who are the sons of perdition, of whom I say that it had been better for them never to have been born;
For they are vessels of wrath, doomed to suffer the wrath of God, with the devil and his angels in eternity;
Concerning whom I have said there is no forgiveness in this world nor in the world to come–
Having denied the Holy Spirit after having received it, and having denied the Only Begotten Son of the Father, having crucified him unto themselves and put him to an open shame.
These are they who shall go away into the lake of fire and brimstone, with the devil and his angels–
And the only ones on whom the second death shall have any power;
Yea, verily, the only ones who shall not be redeemed in the due time of the Lord, after the sufferings of his wrath.
For all the rest shall be brought forth by the resurrection of the dead, through the triumph and the glory of the Lamb, who was slain, who was in the bosom of the Father before the worlds were made.
Wherefore, he saves all except them–they shall go away into everlasting punishment, which is endless punishment, which is eternal punishment, to reign with the devil and his angels in eternity, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched, which is their torment —
And the end thereof, neither the place thereof, nor their torment, no man knows;
Neither was it revealed, neither is, neither will be revealed unto man, except to them who are made partakers thereof; (D&C 76:30-39,44-46)
This place is referred to in the scriptures as “outer darkness”. Let us summarize the conditions in that place.
- These are they who are sons of perdition. These people have accepted Satan as their God, and they have become adopted by him.
- These people will never be forgiven of their sins.
- These people are the only ones who suffer “the second death”, that is they will be eternally separated from God.
- These people are the only ones who are not redeemed by the Atonement of Christ.
The Lord has not revealed details of this kingdom and will not do so; you will have to go there if you want to know more about it.
The scriptures speak of a hell after death. Now that we understand there is a temporary waiting place before the judgment, and four basic places where we may go after the judgment, let us study the scriptures that speak of Hell to see how it fits into this picture. The scriptures refer metaphorically to Hell as a place of fire. Because many people do not understand that the references to fire are a metaphor, there is confusion about the nature of Hell.
If we look at the Hebrew and Greek context of the Biblical verses that speak of Hell, we can understand what the inspired authors were trying to say. In the Old Testament, every reference to ‘hell’ is the Hebrew word sheôwl which means hades, the world of the dead or the grave. There is nothing in the use of sheôwl to imply eternal burnings in literal fire. In the New Testament, there are three Greek words translated as ‘hell’. Haides means the place of departed souls or the grave. Geenna refers to a valley near Jerusalem in which refuse was burned, and this valley is the source of the metaphor about fire. Tartaroo refers to the deepest abyss of Hades or to an incarceration in eternal punishment. Thus, we see that Biblical references to Hell refer to the grave or to the world of the dead in which the spirits will receive God’s punishment.
In his great sermon on the Day of Pentecost, Peter referred to Psalm 16 in which David expressed faith his soul would not be left in Hell.
Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope:
Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. (Acts 2:26-27)
David had faith that Hell was temporary. Because the Biblical context of the word ‘hell’ refers to death and the grave, we realize David was right. Hell is not a permanent state, because Jesus Christ overcame death and Hell. Through his atonement, Jesus not only redeemed those who have faith on him, but he also redeemed the wicked ones who are in Hell! Please be aware this does not imply those who are redeemed from Hell will receive the same blessings as those who had faith and obedience to him. We have already discussed that there are many mansions in the Father’s house and that we will be rewarded according to our lives. John learned in his glorious vision that Jesus had the keys of Hell and death, thus allowing him to perform the resurrection and to free and redeem the spirits from both Hell and the grave.
I am he that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. (Revelation 1:18)
John later saw the dead being freed from Hell.
And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. (Revelation 20:12-13)
Hell delivered up its dead in the resurrection and judgment of God! In other words, Hell is the “spirit prison” in which those who have transgressed the commandments of God await their resurrection, and while doing so suffer the guilt and remorse of their sins. It is a place of repentance for the spirits confined there. At the completion of the Millennium, as John saw, they will come forth in the second resurrection. They will have been freed from “prison” by the Savior’s Atonement, and they will receive their places in the Telestial kingdom of God.
Several scriptures in the Bible speak of Hell as a fire. For example, consider the following.
And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: (Mark 9:43)
The Greek word translated ‘hell’ in that verse is Geenna, and it refers to refuse that was always burning near the city. Jesus is using a metaphor to refer to the conditions of the wicked people after death. Just as the refuse is burning day by day, so will the guilt and remorse of the wicked go on day by day and never be quenched until the spirits are freed from Hell by the Savior’s atonement. The Nephite prophet Jacob understood that references to Hell were metaphoric, and he taught this to his people.
And assuredly, as the Lord liveth, for the Lord God hath spoken it, and it is his eternal word, which cannot pass away, that they who are righteous shall be righteous still [in the judgment of God], and they who are filthy shall be filthy still; wherefore, they who are filthy are the devil and his angels; and they shall go away into everlasting fire, prepared for them; and their torment is as a lake of fire and brimstone, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever and has no end. (2 Nephi 9:16, emphasis added)
When the scriptures refer to words and phrases like “everlasting”, “eternal”, “forever and ever” in describing Hell, people usually interpret that to mean that Hell lasts forever. However, the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith that such words are nouns and are names of God.
For, behold, the mystery of godliness, how great is it! For, behold, I am endless, and the punishment which is given from my hand is endless punishment, for Endless in my name. Wherefore–
Eternal punishment is God’s punishment.
Endless punishment is God’s punishment. (D&C 19:10-12)
Because “Eternal” is a name for God, eternal punishment is God’s punishment, whether it lasts an hour, a day, a week, or in the case of the spirits in Hell until after the Millennium.
Peter spoke of a Hell that was permanent; this is the only use of the Greek word Tartaroo which refers to the deepest abyss of Hades, or an incarceration in eternal punishment.
For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; (2 Peter 2:4)
These “angels” are the spirits that followed Lucifer in the war in heaven. They, and those mortals who become sons of perdition, are to receive as their eternal reward the Hell of Tartaroo. This Hell is the ‘outer darkness’ in which there is no forgiveness.