Note: These two articles are two chapters from the authorís book One Lord, One Faith.

 

 

THE SPIRIT WORLD

and

ALL WILL HAVE A CHANCE TO HEAR THE GOSPEL IN THE SPIRIT WORLD

 

POINT:

 

The Savior's ancient church taught that after death we go to live in the spirit world, where we shall remain until we are resurrected.The ancient Hebrews also believed in an abode for departed spirits.This doctrine is evidenced in a number of places in the Bible.

 

SELECTED BIBLE PASSAGES:

 

Luke 16:22‑23: "And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom."

 

1 Peter 3:18‑20: The gospel taught to the spirits in the prison part of the spirit world.

 

1 Peter 4:6: The gospel is taught to the dead so that they will be judged "according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit."

 

DISCUSSION:

 

The LDS doctrine that after death we go as spirits to the spirit world is irrefutably supported in early Christian writings.This was a standard, accepted teaching in the early church, and it is repeatedly mentioned and discussed in the writings of the church fathers (Roberts and Donaldson 1:403; 3:231, 234‑235; 4:448; 5:221‑222; 7:217‑218; Fox 435, 438, 412; Sparks 246; see also next chapter).Didymus the Blind, along with other church fathers, taught that even the Savior went to the spirit world for three days and three nights while his body lay in the tomb prior to his resurrection (Quasten 3:95).

 

In the early church, the spirit world had several names.Basically, the ancient saints taught that the spirit world was divided into two parts or regions, one for the righteous and one for the unrighteous.The spirit world as a whole was called by many names, such as "paradise," "hell," "the pit," and "prison" (Russell 117‑121; Roberts and Donaldson 5:221 n 6).To the godly the spirit world is a form of "paradise," but to the unrighteous it is undoubtedly like a "prison" in many respects.Another name for the spirit world was "Abraham's bosom," which was derived from Luke 16:22‑23 (Roberts and Donaldson 5:221‑222).

 

The ancient Hebrews also believed in a spirit world (Millet and J.F. McConkie 1986:159‑160).In fact, in the Old Testament the Hebrew word sheol refers to "the underworld where departed spirits go" (Fishbane in Achtemeier 1985:940).A passage from an ancient copy of the book of Jeremiah known to the church father Justin Martyr spoke of Yahweh visiting Israelites in the spirit world "to preach unto them his own salvation" (Roberts and Donaldson 1:235).

 

We Will Never Cease to Exist

 

Through modern revelation members of the Lord's true church know that we will never cease to exist.Not a single person who has ever lived will vanish out of existence.††† After we are resurrected, we will be judged.If we merit eternal punishment, then that is what we will receive.However, no one will cease to exist.

††

The early Christians taught the same thing.What about the "second death" spoken of in scripture?The ancient saints taught that even the "second death" would not terminate a person's existence (Roberts and Donaldson 1:411; 4:208; 7:61‑62, 77, 195, 207, 454; cf. Roberts and Donaldson 1:401, 501, 556, 560; 5:464‑465; 7:195).In fact, the belief that the soul was not eternal was common among pagans (MacMullen 70, 78).

 

SUGGESTED READING:

 

1.Richard Lloyd Anderson, Understanding Paul (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1983), pp. 214, 406‑407.

 

2.Hugh Nibley, Mormonism and Early Christianity (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company and F.A.R.M.S., 1987), pp. 115‑121.

 

 

ALL WILL HAVE A CHANCE TO HEAR THE GOSPEL IN THE SPIRIT WORLD

 

 

POINT:

 

The earliest Christians taught that the gospel was preached in the spirit world, and that those who died without hearing the gospel in this life would have that opportunity in the spirit realm.

 

SELECTED BIBLE PASSAGES:

 

John 5:25: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live."

 

1 Peter 3:18‑20: "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water."

 

1 Peter 4:6: The gospel is taught to the dead so that they will be judged "according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit."

 

DISCUSSION:

 

I shall never forget an exchange I had on my mission with a member of a large Protestant church regarding the fate of those who die without hearing the gospel.I explained to the gentleman the LDS belief that all who die without hearing the good news will hear it in the spirit world, at which time they will be able to accept or reject it.I then asked him what he thought would happen to people who died without hearing the gospel."They're damned!" he said.In my discussions with members of various Protestant faiths, I have found this belief to be surprisingly widespread.I am grateful that the Lord's restored church rejects this view.It would be manifestly unfair to condemn people for rejecting a gospel they never heard or understood.The Savior's ancient church likewise knew and taught that those who leave this world without hearing the gospel will receive that opportunity in the spirit world.

 

The esteemed ancient Christian theologian Origen spoke of the Savior's ministry in the spirit world:

††

But whether he [Celsus, a pagan critic] likes it or not, we assert that not only while Jesus was in the body did he win over not a few persons merely . . . but also, that when he became a soul, without the covering of a body, he dwelt among those souls which were without bodily covering, converting such of them as were willing to himself. . . . (Roberts and Donaldson 4:448)

††

The Savior's visit to the spirit world came to be known as his "descent into hell" (or into "Hades").In speaking of this event and how it was viewed in the early church, Jeffrey Burton Russell has said the following:

††


For the most part . . . the descent into hell became a vehicle for a theology that embraced both justice and mercy.Since God had delayed the Incarnation for centuries after original sin, millions of human beings might have been deprived of an opportunity of salvation solely because they happened to have lived and died before Christ came.The idea of such an injustice was scandalous, and the Christian community sought a way to extend salvation to both the living and the dead. (118‑119)

††

Russell then summarizes the early Christian answer to this potential injustice:

††

If the act of salvation included the descent, and if during the descent Christ preached to those who had died previously, then the effects of salvation could be felt by all. (119)

††

According to the early Christian fathers, Christ was not the only one who taught the gospel in the spirit world.A number of ancient Christian fathers and texts state that the apostles and others also proclaimed the good news in the spirit realm (R. Anderson 214; Seaich 1983:66; Millet and J.F. McConkie 1986:160‑165).Some ancient Christian sources say that Jesus did not personally visit the wicked but assigned the apostles to teach them (Ostler 32‑33).

 

The ancient Hebrews also seem to have known about the preaching of the gospel in the spirit world.As was mentioned earlier, an ancient copy of the book of Jeremiah spoke of Yahweh visiting Israelites in the spirit world "to preach unto them his own salvation" (Roberts and Donaldson 1:235).

 


SUGGESTED READING:

 

†† 1.Richard Lloyd Anderson, Understanding Paul (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1983), pp. 214, 406‑407.

 

†† 2.Edward T. Jones, "A Comparative Study of Ascension Motifs in World Religions," in Spencer J. Palmer, editor, Deity and Death (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University, Religious Studies Center, 1978), pp. 89‑99.

 

†† 3.Robert Millet and Joseph Fielding McConkie, The Life Beyond (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, Inc., 1986), pp. 155‑165.

 

†† 4.Hugh Nibley, Mormonism and Early Christianity (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company and F.A.R.M.S., 1987), pp. 115‑121.

 

-------------------------------------------

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:Michael T. Griffith holds a Masterís degree in Theology from The Catholic Distance University, a Graduate Certificate in Ancient and Classical History from American Military University, a Bachelorís degree in Liberal Arts from Excelsior College, and two Associate in Applied Science degrees from the Community College of the Air Force.He also holds an Advanced Certificate of Civil War Studies and a Certificate of Civil War Studies from Carroll College.He is a graduate in Arabic and Hebrew of the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, and of the U.S. Air Force Technical Training School, San Angelo, Texas.In addition, he has completed an Advanced Hebrew program at Haifa University in Israel.He is the author of five books on Mormonism and ancient texts, including How Firm A Foundation, A Ready Reply, and One Lord, One Faith.

 

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