THE GREAT WORLD OF THE SPIRITS OF THE DEAD
The best resources for finding documents that contain pristine teachings and doctrines of the [primitive] Christian Church, are those that were prepared and recorded, at and after, Christ began his Ministry, through to about AD 300. This included most of the time when the great religious teachers, and the Church Fathers, or Apostolic Fathers, flourished among which were “Clement and Origen,” (Chambers pp. 299-1004)” The Passion consisted not only of the crucifixion but of the whole course of agony from …Gethsemane to the moment of resurrection.” (Russell p. 119) With a three day interruption when Christ initiated his missionary work in the Spirit world. His spirit body showing none of the effects of the convulsions of the mortal body nailed to wood in Jerusalem. John said: “The hour is coming when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God…. the hour is coming, in which all that are in the grave shall hear his voice.” (John 5:25-29) He came and they heard.
“Clement was one of the first theologians to integrate Christ’s descent into Hades as part of the act of redemption…so speaks of Clement’s theory as a “theology of deification” and in fact the verb….to be made divine (lit to make god) is actually used in Proverbs. 11:4 and elsewhere… The Passion was dramatic, crucial, and necessary…one stage…in a long series of events leading to the final triumph of God.” (Russell p. 117-119)
“Hints of the descent appear in the New Testament, but its meaning was left ill defined. The belief had … become the most widespread and popular exclamation of what Christ was doing between his crucifixion on Friday Afternoon and his resurrection on Sunday…In those crucial days he somehow faced death down …the Devil …often associated with death as a chief enemy…The Passion … the crucifixion… was part of the redemptive act.” (Russell p. 118-119)
“Though Christ’s descent into hell was an important part of the idea of redemption, no consensus existed in the first centuries as to what exactly he did in the underworld.” (Russell p. 119) Clarification would not come until the revelation of October 3, 1918 to President Joseph F. Smith, in Salt Lake City, Utah in the form of Section 138 of the Doctrine and Covenants, with the recovery and publication and analysis of the writings of the early Church Fathers after the death of Joseph Smith in 1844.
“For Christ hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God…by which he went and preached unto the spirits in prison ...to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh…As I pondered…I saw the hosts of the dead both small and great…..gathered together in one place an innumerable company of the spirits of the just, who had been faithful in the their testimony of Jesus while they lived,… who had offered sacri- fice in the similitude of the great sacrifice of the Son of god and had suffered tribulation in their redeemer’s name…firm in the hope of a glorious resurrection, through the grace of God the Father and his Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ….they were filled with joy…because the day of their deliverance was at hand….assembled awaiting the advent of the Son of God into the spirit world…to declare their redemption from the bands of death…their sleeping dust was to be restored into its perfect frame, bone to his bone. And the sinews and the flesh upon them, the spirit and the body to be united never again to be divided, that that they might receive a fullness of joy. While…[they] …waited and conversed…the Son of God appeared, declaring liberty to the cap- ives who had been faithful…. He preached to them the everlasting gospel, the doctrine of the resurrection and the redemption of mankind from the fall, and from individual sins on conditions of repentance.” (D&C 138:7-19)
SALVATION FOR ALL
“The descent into hell became a vehicle for a theology that embraced 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. 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 redemption could be felt by all.” (Russell p. 119) “What was the hell Christ visited?” (Russell p. 120) Without authority and ordinances what could be done?
The Hebrews had two words for hell: Sheol, (Hades), and Gehenna. Hades was a place of purgation and Gehenna was a place of everlasting torment. These names are of places considered be final destinations after death and resurrection. The Mormons refer to the place where Christ went as the World of Spirits; or Paradise, for those who were obedient, just, or innocent, such as children, but after mortality and before resurrection. Everybody else went in Spirit Prison, which has its own geography. Christ went to Paradise. You could move out of Spirit Prison into Paradise through vicarious ordinances, such as baptism, temple ordinances and sealings. Today more than 160 temples are doing these vicarious ordinances daily and souls are moving from Spirit Prison into Paradise for further instruction, and to await resurrection, by the millions every year. Through revelation the Mormons know exactly what has to be done. And all of the temples do it every day.
CHRIST IN PRADISE
“His ministry to the spirit world lasted only three days…his accomplishments in the world of spirits were far reaching. During this short period of time he made salvation available to all as provided by God’s plan.” (Howick p. 159) “But unto the wicked he did not go, and among the ungodly and the unrepentant who had defiled themselves who 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…among the righteous there was peace… The saints rejoiced in their redemption, and acknowledged the Son of God as their Redeemer and Deliverer from death and the chains of hell... their countenances shone, and the radiance from the presence of the Lord rested upon them and they sang praises…. the Savior spent about three years in his ministry among the Jews … to teach them the everlasting gospel and call them unto repentance; … not withstanding his mighty works…and proclamations of the truth … in great power and authority …few harkened to his voice…his ministry among those who were dead was limited to the brief time intervening between the crucifixion and his resurrection…. I wondered at the words of Peter…[who] said …the Son of God preached unto the spirits in prison…and how it was … possible to preach to those spirits …in so short a time…my eyes were opened …my understanding quickened, and I perceived that the Lord went not in person among the wicked, and the disobedient …who had rejected the truth, to teach them…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….Chosen messengers went forth to declare….and proclaim liberty to the captives …who would repent …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.… So, it was made known among the dead, both small and great, the unrighteous as well as the faithful, that redemption had been wrought through the sacrifice of the Son of God upon the cross. Thus it was made known that our Redeemer spent his time during his sojourn in the world of spirits, instructing and preparing the faithful spirits …. that they might carry the message of redemption to all the dead, unto whom he could not go personally because of their rebellion and transgression, that they through the ministration of his servants might also hear his word.” (D&C 138:20-37)
“The central point of discussion in Clement’s time was the questions of whom Christ favored with his preaching in hell, and who he released. Three general answers were possible: he preached to the people of Covenant-that is, the Old Testament patriarchs and all devout Hebrews; he preached to all the righteous dead both pagans and Jews; he preached to all the dead including sinners, [other church fathers]; Origen, Irenaeus, and Hippolytus, assumed that he preached only to the righteous Hebrews who had longed for the Messiah. Marcion…said that Christ descended to save all who believed in the true God…Clement, with his wide sympathy…opted for the salvation for all of the just Hebrews and gentiles alike.” (Russell pp. 120-123) Origen and others were led to “develop the idea of apocatastasis, the ultimate return of all beings including Satan, to the God from which they sprang.” (Russell p. 123) Apocatastasis got few supporters. Lucifer did not have job security, he had no future, no tenure, he and his minions would be banished in outer darkness forever.
WHO DID CHRIST ACTUALL SEE
So who did Christ see when he made his descent into the World of Spirits? “Among the great and the mighty who were assembled in the vast congregation of the righteous were father Adam the Ancient of Days and …glorious Mother Eve with many of her faithful daughters. Abel, the first martyr …and his brother Seth, Noah. Shem… [Melchizedek], (D&C 138:41) the great high priest. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses; and Isaiah, who declared …. that the Redeemer…. anointed to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that were bound. Ezekiel, Daniel, Elias….and Malachi. Elijah…to plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to their fathers…the great work to be done in the temples …for the redemption of [all] the dead …the sealing of the children to their parents… all of these and many more…even the prophets of the Nephites mingled in the vast assembly…These the lord taught and gave them power to come forth after his resurrection from the dead….to be crowned with immortality and eternal life….the Prophet Joseph Smith and other choice spirits to take part in the laying the foundations of the great latter-day work…including building of the temples and the performance of ordinances therein (D&C 138::58) for the redemption of [all] the dead…the great and noble ones [were] chosen in the beginning to be rulers in the Church of God…I beheld that the faithful elders of this dispensation when they departed from mortal life continue their labors in the preaching of the gospel of repentance and redemption through the sacrifice of the Only Begotten son of god who are in darkness….the dead who repent will be redeemed….Thus was the vision of the dead revealed to me…and I bear record… that this record is true.” (Joseph F. Smith, D&C138:38-60; 1 Peter 3:18-20; 4:5-6) He saw all the righteous dead from Adam down to his time.
“Where do we go when we die and what do we do?” These were questions answered by the Prophet Joseph as he established the Work for the Dead, details were, ”in seven funeral sermons in Nauvoo in 1842-1844.” (MIllet p. 345) The Odes of Solomon, an ancient document, “Argues that together the Incarnation and descent of Christ defeated the forces of evil.” (Russell p. 124) Christ’s Resurrection is the resurrection of all. “The Lord’s work goes on in this life, in the world of spirits, and in the kingdoms of glory where men go after their resurrection.” (Millet p. 348) All born a mortal will hear the Gospel.
CHAMBERS, W., Chambers Biographical Dictionary, W.R. Chambers, Edenburgh, 1986
HOWICK, E. Keith, The Mission of Jesus the Messiah, Bookcraft, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1990
MILLET, Robert L., Precept Upon Precept, Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City, Utah, 2016
RUSSELL, Jeffrey B., Satan. The Early Christian Tradition, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1981