There is not much about Heaven in the Bible. We know it’s a wonderful place. The apostle Stephen’s vision showed God on His throne and Jesus at His right hand (Acts 7:55). Paul spoke of being caught up to the third heaven, and though he also spoke of Celestial, Terrestrial, and Telestial glory, most of Christendom does not know what he is referring to (1 Corinthians 15:40-42). Visions have shown angels singing praises to God, and Ezekiel saw heavenly beasts he could not identify. The apostles of ancient times told us we could become co-heirs with Christ, and Christians everywhere see Heaven as being with God, and “hell” as being without Him.
We, God’s children, are now blessed to have more information about the afterlife, and this has been received through modern prophets of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often inadvertently called the Mormon Church.
The Spirit World
When Christ hung on the cross at Calvary, he was placed between two thieves, one of whom mocked Him, and the other who bid Christ to plead for him before the Father. Christ said to the faithful one, “To day shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). The Lord and Savior was referring to a part of the “spirit world,” the place where we go after we die to await resurrection and judgment. The spirit world is divided into two parts, one called spirit paradise, and the other, spirit prison—there is a division between the righteous and the wicked. This division was a gulf, until the Savior visited spirit paradise and organized the righteous to preach the Good News to the wicked in spirit prison, offering them the opportunity to repent and traverse the gulf to paradise.
Mormon prophet Joseph F. Smith, the nephew of Prophet Joseph Smith, experienced a vision of the spirit world. At the time, he was pondering certain verses in the Bible, including 1 Peter 3:18–20, and 1 Peter 4:6, which say that Christ preached to the spirits in prison.
As I pondered over these things which are written, the eyes of my understanding were opened, and the Spirit of the Lord rested upon me, and I saw the hosts of the dead, both small and great (Doctrine and Covenants 138:11).
Prophet Smith saw multitudes of the righteous, who were rejoicing over the atonement of Christ and their opportunity to be resurrected. Jesus ministered and preached unto them, but he did not go to the wicked who dwelt in spirit prison:
But unto the wicked he did not go, and among the ungodly and the unrepentant who had defiled themselves while in the flesh, his voice was not raised; Neither did the rebellious who rejected the testimonies and the warnings of the ancient prophets behold his presence, nor look upon his face. Where these were, darkness reigned, but among the righteous there was peace (vs 20-22);
Instead (during the short space of time between Christ’s death and His resurrection), Jesus organized the righteous to preach in spirit prison and urge those who abide there to take this last chance to repent.
But behold, from among the righteous, he organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness, even to all the spirits of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead.
And the chosen messengers went forth to declare the acceptable day of the Lord and proclaim liberty to the captives who were bound, even unto all who would repent of their sins and receive the gospel. Thus was the gospel preached to those who had died in their sins, without a knowledge of the truth, or in transgression, having rejected the prophets.
These were taught faith in God, repentance from sin, vicarious baptism for the remission of sins, the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, And all other principles of the gospel that were necessary for them to know in order to qualify themselves that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit (vs 30-34).
Joseph F. Smith saw that these “missionaries” included the great ancient prophets of the Old Testament and other notable faithful early Saints. This is ultimately and eternally fair to those billions who have lived on the earth without hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ, or who were blinded by tradition or culture and would not receive the gospel during their mortal lives. God is no respecter of persons; He loves each and every one of His children, and makes sure that all have an opportunity to accept or reject His Son.
Joseph Smith, the first prophet of the restoration of the gospel in preparation for the Second Coming, saw that the non-rebellious enjoy a great reunion in the spirit world with those loved ones who have already passed on. It is a place of rest and learning.
The Kingdoms of Heaven
In another remarkable vision, after seeing God on His throne and the Savior at His right hand, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon saw the kingdoms of heaven and learned what they are like and who will inherit those kingdoms. Before their vision of the kingdoms of glory, they briefly saw “outer darkness,” into which the devil, his followers, and the “sons of perdition” are cast after judgment. These are they who have received a perfect knowledge that Jesus is the Christ (as prophets do) and thereafter have denied Him, thus putting Him to open shame. No others will inherit Outer Darkness.
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 (Doctrine and Covenants 76:36-39).
This is the most inclusive Christian view of salvation in existence, the most forgiving, and the only one that is true. As it says in the Book of Mormon, “salvation is free” (2 Nephi 2:4). Even those who reject the Christ will inherit a kingdom of glory, after suffering for their own sins.
Joseph and Sidney saw the Celestial Kingdom, whose glory is compared to the sun, and saw that those who were valiant followers of Christ will inherit this kingdom.
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 (vs 55-59).
Those who inherit celestial glory will minister to those who inherit Terrestrial glory, whose brilliance is compared to that of the moon. Joseph and Sidney saw who would inherit this kingdom. They are those who rejected Christ on earth but accepted Him in the Spirit World; they are the honorable men and women of the earth who were blinded by the craftiness of men; they are those who were not valiant in their testimonies of Christ.
Joseph and Sidney then saw the Telestial kingdom, with glory compared to the stars, but which they said is so glorious that it surpasses all description. Those who will inherit this third kingdom of glory are those who come forth in the last resurrection (after the millennial reign of Christ). Having refused to lay hold upon the atonement, they must suffer in the spirit world for their own sins. This suffering, also called “Hell,” is temporary. Sometimes it is called “eternal,” because Eternal is a name of God. These are ministered to by those who have inherited the Terrestrial kingdom. They are “liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie” (v 103). These can never enter the presence of God.
Other knowledge of the afterlife has been revealed to modern Mormon prophets. First is that little children are innocent, and because they are covered by the atonement of Christ, which atoned for original sin, they are taken into God’s presence if they die. Second, is that the mourning parents, if they are valiant in their testimony of Christ, will have the opportunity to raise them up in Heaven to maturity. Many other things are revealed in Mormon scripture and in Mormon temples. Mormons invite all to come and partake of this revealed knowledge. (See Book of Mormon Online.)
As a convert to Mormonism, this added knowledge has changed my life. My parents have passed, and they left somewhat of a mess back here on earth. I know where they are, and through some very personal spiritual experiences, I have been able to observe as they work on fixing things. Because of their efforts from the afterlife, the Lord has deigned to heal me of many hurtful events from my youth. I have high hopes for our broken family, as our endeavor to heal through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ spans both mortality and immortality.
Gale is a former fibro and CMP sufferer. She hopes this information will help other sufferers on their journey to good health.