Modern Commentary Related to Chapter XV
RESURRECTION, ITS TIMES AND DEGREES—FIRST, SECOND AND THIRD HEAVENS, OR THE TELESTIAL, TERRESTRIAL AND CELESTIAL KINGDOMS.
The grave and death and hell no more retain
Their lawful captives. Earth yields its slain.
The raging ocean, from its lowly bed,
At Michael’s call, delivers up its dead.
Then comes the judgment, and the final doom
Of man—his destiny beyond the tomb.
There are three general resurrections revealed to man on the earth; one of these is past, and the other two are future.
The first general resurrection took place in connexion with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This included the Saints and Prophets of both hemispheres, from Adam down to John the Baptist; or, in other words, all those who died in Christ before his resurrection.
The second will take place in a few years from the present time, and will be immediately succeeded by the coming of Jesus Christ, in power and great glory, with all his Saints and Angels. This resurrection will include the Former and Latter-day Saints—all those who have received the Gospel since the former resurrection.
The third and last resurrection will take place more than a thousand years afterwards, and will embrace all the human family not included in the former resurrections or translations.
After man is raised from the dead he will be judged according to his works, and will receive the reward, and be consigned to the sphere, exactly corresponding to his former deeds, and the preparations or qualifications which he possesses.
In the former resurrection, those raised left the earth and ascended, or, were transplanted far on high, with the risen Jesus, to the glorified mansions of his Father, or to some planetary system already redeemed and glorified. The reasons for thus leaving the earth are obvious. Our planet was still in its rudimental state, and therefore subject to the rule of sin and death. It was necessary that it should continue thus, until the full time of redemption should arrive; it was, therefore, entirely unfitted for the residence of immortal man.
But in the resurrection which now approaches, and in connexion with the glorious coming of Jesus Christ, the earth will undergo a change in its physical features, climate, soil, productions; and in its political, moral, and spiritual government.
Its mountains will be levelled, its valleys exalted, its swamps and sickly places will be drained and become healthy, while its burning deserts, and its frigid polar regions, will be redeemed and become temperate and fruitful.
Kingcraft and priestcraft, tyranny, oppression and idolatry will be at an end, darkness and ignorance will pass away, war will cease, and the rule of sin, and sorrow, and death will give place to the reign of peace, and truth, and righteousness.
For this reason, and to fulfil certain promises made to the Fathers, the Former and Latter-day Saints included in the two resurrections, and all those translated, will then receive an inheritance on the earth, and will build upon and improve the same for a thousand years.
The heathen nations, also, will then be redeemed, and will be exalted to the privilege of serving the Saints of the Most High. They will be the ploughmen, the vine-dressers, the gardeners, builders, etc. But the Saints will be the owners of the soil, the proprietors of all real estate, and other precious things; and the kings, governors, and judges of the earth.
As the children of man multiply in those peaceful times, a careful and wise system of agriculture will be rapidly developed, and extended over the face of the whole earth; its entire surface will at length become like the garden of Eden, the trees of life being cultivated, and their fruits enjoyed.
Science, and the useful and ornamental arts, will also be greatly extended and cultivated. The fine toned instrument of many strings, the melodious organs of the human voice, will then be tuned to poetry and sentiments equally pure and refined, and will pour forth melodies and strains of holy joy, calculated to purify and melt every heart in love, and fill every soul with mutual sympathy and extasy of heavenly union.
Geographical knowledge, history, astronomy, mathematics and navigation, will be greatly extended and matured. Railroads and telegraphic lines of communication, will be universally extended, and the powers of steam, or other means of locomotion brought to the highest state of perfection.
Thus all nations will be associated in one great brotherhood. A universal Theocracy will cement the whole body politic. One king will rule. One holy city will compose the capitol. One temple will be the centre of worship. In short, there will be one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, and one Spirit.
One equable, just and useful commercial interest, founded on the necessity and convenience of mutual exchange of products, will also form another important bond of union.
Mineralogy will also be greatly improved, and its knowledge extended. Its hidden treasures will be developed, and gold, silver and the most precious and beautiful stones will be the building materials in most common use, and will compose the utensils and furniture of the habitations of man.
The earth and man thus restored and exalted, will not yet be perfect in the celestial sense of the word, but will be considered, in the light of eternity, as occupying an intermediate and still progressive position amid the varieties of nature.
The flesh, bones, sinews, nerves—all the organs—all the particles of the celestial body, must be quickened, filled, surrounded with that divine and holy element, which is purer, more intelligent, more refined and active, fuller of light and life, than any other substance in the universe.
Every organ must be restored, and adapted to its natural and perfect use in the celestial body.
The Greek Philosopher’s immortal mind,
Again with flesh and bone and nerve combined;
Immortal brain and heart—immortal whole,
Will make, as at the first, a living soul.
Man, thus adapted to all the enjoyments of life and love, will possess the means of gratifying his organs of sight, hearing, taste, &c., and will possess, improve and enjoy the riches of the eternal elements. The palace, the city, the garden, the vineyard, the fruits of the earth, the gold, the silver, the precious stones, the servants, the chariots, horses and horsemen are for his use; also thrones and dominions, principalities and powers, might, majesty, and an eternal increase of riches, honours, immortality and eternal life are his. He is, in a subordinate sense, a god; or, in other words, one of the sons of God. All things are his, and he is Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.
Such is the great Millennium.
And such is celestial man, in his progress towards perfection.
Besides the peculiar glory of the celestial, there are in the resurrection and final reward of man, many subordinate spheres, many degrees of reward adapted to an almost infinite variety of circumstances, conditions, degrees of improvement, knowledge, accountability and conduct.
The final state of man, though varying in almost infinite gradations and rewards, adapted to his qualifications and deserts, and meted out in the scale of exact justice and mercy, may be conceived or expressed under three grand heads, or principal spheres, viz.—
First. The Telestial, or least heaven, typified by the stars of the firmament.
Secondly. The Terrestrial, or intermediate heaven, typified by the moon.
Thirdly. The Celestial, or third heaven, of which the sun of the firmament is typical.
The qualifications which fit and prepare intelligences, for these different spheres or rewards, are an all important consideration, and well worthy of the sincere attention of all people.
These several kingdoms or degrees, and their comparative happiness, and what characters are candidates for each degree, are revealed in a most concise, clear, lucid and beautiful manner, in one of the visions of our great Prophet and founder. We will therefore complete this chapter by the insertion of said
“Hear, O ye heavens, and give ear, O earth, and rejoice, ye inhabitants thereof, for the Lord is God, and beside him there is no Saviour: great is His wisdom, marvellous are His ways, and the extent of His doings none can find out; His purposes fail not, neither are there any who can stay His hand; from eternity to eternity He is the same, and His years never fail.
“For thus saith the Lord, I, the Lord, am merciful and gracious unto those who fear me, and delight to honour those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end. Great shall be their reward and eternal shall be their glory; and to them will I reveal all mysteries, yea, all the hidden mysteries of my kingdom from days of old, and for ages to come will I make known unto them the good pleasure of my will concerning all things pertaining to my kingdom; yea, even the wonders of eternity shall they know, and things to come will I show them, even the things of many generations; and their wisdom shall be great, and their understanding reach to heaven: and before them the wisdom of the wise shall perish, and the understanding of the prudent shall come to naught, for by my Spirit will I enlighten them, and by my power will I make known unto them the secrets of my will; yea, even those things which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor yet entered into the heart of man.
“We, Joseph Smith, jun., and Sidney Rigdon, being in the Spirit on the sixteenth of February, in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and thirty-two, by the power of the Spirit our eyes were opened and our understandings were enlightened, so as to see and understand the things of God—even those things which were from the beginning, before the world was, which were ordained of the Father, through His only begotten Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, even from the beginning, of whom we bear record, and the record which we bear is the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who is the Son, whom we saw and with whom we conversed in the heavenly vision; for while we were doing the work of translation, which the Lord had appointed unto us, we came to the twenty-ninth verse of the fifth chapter of John, which was given unto us as follows. Speaking of the resurrection of the dead, concerning those who shall hear the voice of the Son of man, and shall come forth; they who have done good in the resurrection of the just, and they who have done evil in the resurrection of the unjust. Now this caused us to marvel, for it was given unto us of the Spirit; and while we meditated upon these things, the Lord touched the eyes of our understandings and they were opened, and the glory of the Lord shone round about; and we beheld the glory of the Son, on the right hand of the Father, and received of his fulness; and saw the holy angels, and they who are sanctified before His throne, worshipping God and the Lamb, who worship Him for ever and ever. And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony last of all, which we give of him, that he lives; for we saw him, even on the right hand of God, and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the only begotten of the Father—that by him and through him, and of him the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God. And this we saw also, and bear record, that an angel of God who was in authority in the presence of God, who rebelled against the only begotten Son, whom the Father loved, and who was in the bosom of the Father, was thrust down from the presence of God and the Son, and was called Perdition, for the heavens wept over him—he was Lucifer, a son of the morning. And we beheld, and lo, he is fallen! is fallen! even a son of the morning. And while we were yet in the Spirit, the Lord commanded us that we should write the vision, for we beheld Satan, that old serpent—even the devil, who rebelled against God, and sought to take the kingdom of our God, and His Christ, wherefore he maketh war with the Saints of God, and encompasses them round about. 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. And this is the Gospel, the glad tidings which the voice out of the heavens bore record unto us, that he came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness; that through him all might be saved whom the Father had put into his power and made by him, who glorifies the Father, and saves all the works of his hands, except those sons of perdition, who deny the Son after the Father has revealed him; 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: nevertheless I, the Lord, show it by vision unto many, but straightway shut it up again; wherefore the end, the width, the height, the depth, and the misery thereof, they understand not, neither any man except them who are ordained unto this condemnation. And we heard the voice, saying, Write the vision, for lo! this is the end of the vision of the sufferings of the ungodly!
“And again we bear record, for we saw and heard, and this is the testimony of the Gospel of Christ, concerning them who 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 first born. 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 Melchisedek, 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 for ever 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 first born. 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.
“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 first-born, 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, 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 honourable 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 obtained not the crown over the kingdom of our God. And now this is the end of the vision which we saw of the terrestrial, that the Lord commanded us to write while we were yet in the Spirit.
“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 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; and the terrestrial through the ministration of the celestial; and also the telestial receive it of the administering of angels who are appointed to minister for them, or who are appointed to be ministering spirits for them, for they shall be heirs of salvation. And thus we saw in the heavenly vision, the glory of the telestial, which surpasses all understanding, and no man knows it except him to whom God has revealed it. And thus we saw the glory of the terrestrial, which excels in all things the glory of the telestial, even in glory, and in power, and in might, and in dominion. And thus we saw the glory of the celestial which excels in all things—where God, even the Father, reigns upon His throne for ever and ever; before whose throne all things bow in humble reverence and give Him glory for ever and ever. They who dwell in His presence are the Church of the first-born, and they see as they are seen, and know as they are known, having received of His fulness and of His grace; and He makes them equal in power, and in might, and in dominion. And the glory of the celestial is one, even as the glory of the sun is one. And the glory of the terrestrial is one, even as the glory of the moon is one. And the glory of the telestial is one, even as the glory of the stars is one, for as one star differs from another star in glory, even so differs one from another in glory in the telestial world; for these are they who are of Paul, and of Apollos, and of Cephas. These are they who say they are some of one and some of another—some of Christ, and some of John, and some of Moses, and some of Elias, and some of Esaias, and some of Isaiah, and some of Enoch; but received not the Gospel, neither the testimony of Jesus, neither the Prophets, neither the Everlasting Covenant. Last of all, these all are they who will not be gathered with the Saints, to be caught up unto the Church of the firstborn, and received into the cloud. These are they who are liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie. These are they who suffer the wrath of God on the earth. These are they who suffer the vengeance of eternal fire. These are they who are cast down to hell and suffer the wrath of Almighty God, until the fulness of times when Christ shall have subdued all enemies under his feet, and shall have perfected his work, when he shall deliver up the Kingdom, and present it unto the Father spotless, saying—I have overcome and have trodden the wine-press alone, even the wine-press of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God. Then shall he be crowned with the crown of His glory, to sit on the throne of his power to reign for ever and ever. But behold, and lo, we saw the glory and the inhabitants of the telestial world, that they were as innumerable as the stars in the firmament of heaven, or as the sand upon the sea shore, and heard the voice of the Lord saying—these all shall bow the knee, and every tongue shall confess to him who sits upon the throne for ever and ever; for they shall be judged according to their works, and every man shall receive according to his own works, his own dominion, in the mansions which are prepared, and they shall be servants of the Most High, but where God and Christ dwell they cannot come, worlds without end. This is the end of the vision which we saw, which we were commanded to write while we were yet in the Spirit.
“But great and marvellous are the works of the Lord, and the mysteries of His kingdom which He showed unto us, which surpasses all understanding in glory, and in might, and in dominion, which He commanded us we should not write while we were yet in the Spirit, and are not lawful for man to utter; neither is man capable to make them known, for they are only to be seen and understood by the power of the Holy Spirit, which God bestows on those who love Him, and purify themselves before Him; to whom He grants this privilege of seeing and knowing for themselves; that through the power and manifestation of the Spirit, while in the flesh, they may be able to bear His presence in the world of glory. And to God and the Lamb be glory, and honour, and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”