We continue our comments on the manuscript sent to us by a Mormon called Stephen.(*) Click here to see the other articles in this series. You can also go to the Mormonism page to find all the articles that are in this refutation of Stephen’s document.
Now that we have substantially covered the doctrine of premortal existence, let us move on to the subject of post-mortal existence.
Have you read anywhere in Stephen’s document any biblical proof of any premortal existence of any human?… I have not…
The Savior Himself taught us the principle of an afterlife when He gave us the parable of Lazarus the Beggar and the Rich Man. As we read this story, keep in mind, even if the parable had been fictional, the Lord would have never used a false doctrine to make His point, no matter whom the listener may have been. He said, “There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried away 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. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham (who was also apparently dead by this time) said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.” (Luke 16:19-26) Not only do we see good and evil persons still conscious and reasoning while their bodies lay in the grave, we also see a difference between a place called “hell” (a term already discussed in this chapter) and a place affectionately called “Abraham’s bosom.”
We have seen that that place is not called Hell in the original text, but Hades.
Let us see what the Savior called this place where the dead await the Resurrection.
Responding to the penitent thief on the cross next to Him, the Savior said, “Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43) So, where is this “paradise” to which Jesus referred? Is it the Kingdom of God, or some other place?
The Kingdom of God is not a place, although wherever this Kingdom is that place also is called the Kingdom of God. Jesus told His disciples: “go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:60) Was He asking His disciples to proclaim a place?… No, He was proclaiming the REIGN (Kingdom) of God. Jesus said this to the Pharisees: “And having been asked by the Pharisees, When is the kingdom of God coming? he answered them and said, The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor shall they say, Lo here, or, Lo there; for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” (Luke 17:20-21) If this were about a place, then I wonder what they meant by this place coming… And of course, Stephen cannot understand how the Kingdom of God was already in the midst of them…
We have previously seen where Paradise is: it is the third Heaven, the place of God’s Presence of authority.
Was this a “deathbed” repentance on the part of the thief, which guaranteed his place in Heaven?
Repentance does not guarantee any place in Heaven. It is Christ’s work and promise that guaranteed for that thief his place in Heaven.
In a footnote to this verse in the first edition of the two-volume New Jerusalem Bible, a collaboration between Catholic and Protestant scholars, the term Paradise in this verse refers to a place where the dead await the Resurrection, not Heaven itself.
Footnotes are written by humans, and not by God.
When I first read this footnote while I stood inside the Vatican bookstore in 1981, I was at once shocked, amazed, and encouraged to see the influence of the not-so-scholarly Joseph Smith who was the only minister of religion prior to this admission who understood Paradise in this verse was not God’s abode in Heaven, but a temporary place for the spirits of the dead. Let us follow the sequence of events from the Crucifixion.
Joseph Smith was a false prophet, as we have seen.
Soon after or, judging by His haste, immediately after His Resurrection, Jesus appeared outside the tomb to Mary Magdalene. She reached out to Him. He responded, “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended unto my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.” (John 20:17) The Savior expressed urgency to report to His Father and not be detained.
To report to His Father?? What a poor god Stephen has! a god who doesn’t know what Jesus did…
We know that at that time Jesus had not yet ascended to Heaven in His risen body; we know that He ascended to Heaven after 40 days: “until that day in which, having by the Holy Spirit charged the apostles whom he had chosen, he was taken up; to whom also he presented himself living, after he had suffered, with many proofs; being seen by them during forty days, and speaking of the things which concern the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:2-3)
So Jesus stayed on earth for forty days after His resurrection. But as it seems, Mary Magdalene was very emotional at that moment, and was approaching Him in a way that shows that she wanted to keep Him here for always. Jesus is God, and He knew her heart, so He gave her this message: that the next thing that would happen was that He would ascend to the Father and will not stay with them, but later He will come in the same way He went up, and it is then that He will stay with them forever.
This is the simple thing said in this passage, but of course cultists cannot understand such things in the light of Scripture, because they don’t really believe God’s Word. As you see, Stephen just dismissed the fact that the Bible says Jesus ascended to Heaven after forty days, and he invented an ascension of his own, and in the process he also made the Father an ignorant old man who needed a report from Jesus to know what happened…
He told her He had not yet been to His Father.
No, He told her that He had not yet ASCENDED to the Father; an ascension was coming, and He would not stay with her and with them for always.
So, He was in a place He called “paradise” to the thief on the cross, and yet He had not been to see His Father.
Yes, on that same day of the crucifixion, Jesus died and went to Paradise where the thief also went. But He didn’t go there in the body, because He had not risen yet. After His resurrection, He went there and entered the Holy of Holies once for all in the body after 40 days.
I wonder where the Bible says that Jesus had not seen His Father yet, especially that He told Nicodemus that He was ALWAYS in Heaven: “And no one has gone up into heaven, save he who came down out of heaven, the Son of man who is in heaven.” (John 3:13)
That must mean this paradise was not God’s Kingdom.
Whose kingdom is it, Stephen? The kingdom of darkness?…
So, where did Jesus and the thief go?
To Paradise, i.e. to the third Heaven.
“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. . . . For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.” (1 Pet. 3:18-20; 4:6)
Stephen, do you think if you repeat an error many times then it will become truth?… We have already studied all this, and you’re repeating things again and again. Let me repeat the truth then:
Stephen is quoting from an inexact translation, and he has linked two different contexts to each other, although those two contexts talk about two different things. Let’s quote this from a more exact translation:
The first context: “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water.” (1 Peter 3:18-20)
In this passage, the topic is about the proclamation of victory that Jesus did in Hades to all the disobedient who were lost. The Lord proclaimed His victory over the power of darkness that those people followed. This doesn’t mean that they were preached the Gospel so that they may repent. We have seen how the rich man, in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, had no hope of Salvation after death.
The second context: “For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you; but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God.” (1 Peter 4:3-6)
As you see, this context is different from the context of 1 Peter 3:18-20. In this context, it is the Gospel that HAS BEEN preached to those who are now dead. The context does not say that the Gospel is NOW preached to the dead, but that it HAS BEEN preached. Indeed, the Gospel was preached in the Old Testament. Thus, although Moses for example was judged in the flesh as man and could not enter the land of promise, that did not mean that he will not enter Heaven (he will surely live in the spirit, spiritually). Peter made it clear that the unrighteous will give account to God and will be judged. And after Peter explained that God will judge the living and the dead, a question may be asked: “But what about those who lived before Christ and are now dead?? Do you mean, Peter, that they will be lost although they never heard about Jesus?” So Peter answers this question by saying that even those who are now dead have heard the Gospel preached to them, because the Gospel is not something new. Paul also explained that the Gospel is not something new: “But the righteousness of faith speaks thus: Do not say in thine heart, Who shall ascend to the heavens? that is, to bring Christ down; or, Who shall descend into the abyss? that is, to bring up Christ from among [the] dead. But what says it? The word is near thee, in thy mouth and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach” (Romans 10:6-8) In this passage, Paul quoted from the Law to talk about the word of faith, i.e. the Gospel. So the Gospel was preached even in the Law of Moses. Even Abraham had heard the Gospel: “The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU.”” (Galatians 3:8) The Gospel is that all nations are blessed in Abraham’s seed, i.e. Christ, and that Gospel was preached to Abraham and to all people in all times. The Gospel was even preached to Adam and Eve as soon as they fell in sin: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; he shall crush thy head, and thou shalt crush his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)
As you see, Stephen quoted two different contexts that talk about two different topics, and he still insists on not listening to my advice that he should study God’s Word IN CONTEXT, and he should not add his human superstitions to the Bible.
We have already discussed the reason Christ went to the spirit world.
Yes, and we have seen how silly and non-biblical your explanation was.
Again, this would explain how the thief, having been repentant, would have had the benefit of going to the better part of the spirit world—Paradise, but not to the Kingdom of Heaven.
As if Paradise were not in the Kingdom of God but in the kingdom of darkness… Stephen has no idea what he is talking about…
The disobedient, those who mocked Noah and his God, were still given opportunity, as these verses attest, to hear and accept the Gospel after they were drowned, even though they did not take advantage of Noah’s call to repentance before the Flood.
We have seen how this is wrong. Jesus went to make proclamation of His victory over the powers of darkness, as we have seen. The text does not say that He went to preach the Gospel so that they may repent. They were already in prison! When Christ died, He went to Hades. That’s BEFORE His resurrection. His body was for three days in the tomb, while in spirit He went to Hades and made proclamation of His victory over sin and death. All the righteous dead rejoiced for the victory, while the unrighteous who were being tormented in the flames kept weeping and gnashing their teeth! They had refused the Gospel when it was preached to them in their lifetime!
What a merciful God who gives opportunity to those who boldly rejected Him!
He had given them opportunity during their lifetime. If God gives them opportunities during the whole eternity, they will not repent, because without God’s Grace and without faith no one can truly repent. By the way, this argument from endless opportunities for the Mercy of God is just a contradiction of the truth that there will be a final judgment: indeed, if God’s Mercy means that He always gives opportunities for people to repent even after death, then a final judgment that decides the final destiny of sinners contradicts this wrong definition of Mercy. How can God make a final judgment if He is the god of endless opportunities? Thus Stephen’s definition of God’s Mercy contradicts the final Judgment. If God is Stephen’s god of endless opportunities, then He should keep giving sinners endless opportunities throughout eternity, and He should not make a final judgment of the living and the dead. But the Bible clearly says that there is a final judgment and that this does not contradict God’s Mercy, because God’s Mercy is in Christ alone, and Christ is received by faith alone, and faith is impossible after death. So once you’re dead, your eternal destiny is decided, as we have seen.
In spite of our natural rebellious nature, as Isaiah assured, the Lord’s hand is stretched out still. (See Isaiah 9.)
Yes, the Lord wants all to be saved by faith in Christ. Once you’re dead, the time of Salvation is over: “for he says, I have listened to thee in an accepted time, and I have helped thee in a day of salvation: behold, now [is the] well-accepted time; behold, now [the] day of salvation“ (2 Corinthians 6:2).
The gulf separating Hell from Abraham’s Bosom in the Parable of Lazarus the Beggar and the Rich Man was bridged by the Savior Himself.
First, that’s not Hell, but Hades. Second, the parable of Jesus is true for all times, and not only for people who died before His victory on the cross. Jesus is the Way to the Father for those who LIVE and believe in Him, and not for those who have already died. NOW is the acceptable time; after you die, it will be too late. If Stephen’s doctrine in this point is right, then his proclamation is meaningless, because in that case no one needs to be a Mormon in order to be saved, as all will have a second chance after death anyway…
We learn through modern revelation, though Jesus did not personally attend the ministry on the Prison side, He sent his messengers from Paradise to Prison. (See D&C 138.)
Yes, the revelation of Satan says this so that people may think they have another chance and thus go to Hell forever. But we prefer to believe what the Bible says.
ECs assert the passage in Luke shows there was no way to bridge this gulf, as Abraham said, “between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.” Though it does say these segregated spirits could not pass from one area to another, it did not say there could never be such a link.
It DOES say there could never be such a link, because there is no way to be saved without faith, and we know that after death faith will cease, as we will walk by sight after death: “for we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7) For now, in this life, we walk by faith and NOT by sight; after death, we will see God and we will see what there is after death, and there is no way to believe after that. The dead cannot be saved, because there is no faith after death.
I assert, the power of God can overcome many barriers. Abraham was not capable of bridging the gap, but God is.
Would God bridge that gap and thus contradict His Righteousness? If anyone is saved after death, then God is not Righteous, because there is no faith after death, as we have seen. And without faith in Christ God will be unrighteous if He justifies the sinner: “for [the] shewing forth of his righteousness in the present time, so that he should be just, and justify him that is of [the] faith of Jesus.” (Romans 3:6) Imagine a big murderer who goes to Hades and is tortured in those flames of Hell, and thus SEES (sight, and not faith) what the result of his sins is and what there is after death. Such a person, even if he repents, i.e. regrets what he did, he will not repent with the repentance which is to Salvation, because there is no faith then to give him that true kind of repentance that leads to Salvation (see 2 Corinthians 7:10). After death, there is no way to have a true repentance, because there is no faith then. The only way to be righteous now is by FAITH in Christ. After death, you can only regret forever your refusal of Christ’s holy blood.
When the Savior challenged a young rich man to forsake all and follow Him, the man walked away, “sorrowful: for he had great possessions.” When the Lord compared the rich entering the Kingdom of God to a camel going through the eye of a needle, His disciples asked, “Who then can be saved?” He responded, “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” (See Matt. 19:16-26.)
Yes, God is able to save a rich man by making him deny himself and give up all his possessions and follow Christ. But without faith in Christ no one can be saved.
God sets conditions; God can change them.
Yes, Mormons believe in a changing and moody god, while the Bible tells us about the God who does not change, and who has proclaimed promises that do not contradict His Nature, and He is faithful to His promises and never changes them. The Bible tells us about an UNchanging God, unlike the Mormon god: “For I Jehovah change not” (Malachi 3:6) False gods change their rules all the time: just like the god of Mormons, the god of Islam also says that he changes his rules as he wishes. False gods are moody, while the real God keeps His promises faithfully, and He doesn’t change His Word all the time. There is no way to be saved without faith in Christ, and that’s final; God will not change His mind on this, otherwise He’s not Righteous AND Merciful at the same time. We have seen the details about this before.
As I stated in the Introduction, policy changes; doctrine does not.
God does not change. No human has ever been saved without faith in Christ.
If you assert the gulf could never be bridged, you deny the power of God.
That’s like saying: “If you assert that God cannot sin, you deny the power of God”… Well, I assert that God does not want to bridge that gap, because He would be unrighteous if He did.
Another question has arisen during my discussions with ECs about the passage in First Peter. Was Peter referring just to the dead before the Flood or was it to all those who had died before the ministry of Christ?
We have seen that there are TWO passages in Peter, and each talks about a DIFFERENT topic.
The Apostle Paul and the Savior Himself answer this question in the following paragraphs.
“If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister.” (Col. 1:23) If the Gospel had been preached to every creature under Heaven by Paul’s ministry, then he must have been referring to all who had died without ever having heard of Jesus Christ, let alone of His Gospel from His ministers.
We have seen how the Gospel was preached to all people, even before Christ was born. You can read this in the previous articles and in my explanation of the passages of Peter that you quoted. I don’t need to repeat all that.
Is this not a more reasonable view of God’s Mercy and Justice than the common Christian view of Psalms 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork,” that everyone has therefore had a chance in mortality to know the Gospel of Jesus Christ for having ever looked up in the sky?
No, your view is not more reasonable than the biblical truth. For more info, read our article: What about those who have never heard about Jesus?
Is this a just doctrine? As Paul would say, God forbid.
Paul would never say that the biblical doctrine is unjust.
And Peter taught the just way for all to know of Christ, to “live according to God in the spirit.”
“For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Cor. 15:21,22)
Yes, all those who are IN CHRIST shall be made alive. It seems that Stephen didn’t read “in Christ” in this verse… How does one become in Christ? By faith. The dead do not and cannot have faith, because they walk by sight and not by faith.
Paul taught all will live.
No, Paul taught all will live IN CHRIST, i.e. by faith, just as he had said in Romans 1: “for righteousness of God is revealed therein, on the principle of faith, to faith: according as it is written, But the just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:17)
Stephen boasts of not understanding such passages of the Scripture… Paul would tell him: “Your boasting is not good.” (1 Corinthians 5:6)
Does this mean all men will be saved in the Kingdom of God?
What does it mean to be saved “in” the Kingdom of God?…
“Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his (the Savior’s) voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” (John 5:28,29) The Savior Himself told this to the Jews after He identified Himself as the “Son of man.” Jesus predicted He would—as Peter reiterated in his first epistle—speak to all the dead and all would be resurrected, judged, and sent either to “life” or to “damnation.”
No, Jesus was talking about the Judgment Day: He said that all who are in the grave will hear the voice of the Son and thus will rise to eternal life or to eternal judgment in Hell. It is Jesus who will call ALL the dead out of their tombs to stand for judgment. Jesus was not talking about what Peter talked about. Two different contexts; two different topics. Jesus was talking about bodily resurrection and not about preaching to dead spirits. As usual, Stephen confuses the contexts…
As we learned in the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man, “hell” is not the grave. It is that part of the spirit world where the unrepentant and or uninformed dead await—as Peter taught—Instruction.
No, we have seen that Hell is not even mentioned in that parable, but the talk is about Hades. And we have seen that the dead had already heard the Gospel, and the unrighteous were there because they refused it in their lifetime. The dead were not waiting there, but were already tormented in the flames or happy with God, according as they were righteous or unrighteous. They are waiting for the resurrection of their bodies to enter Hell or eternal life IN THEIR RISEN BODIES. When the hour comes, the Lord will call them all out of their graves.
Of course, they will later receive Resurrection and Judgment. And Christ’s soul was not left in “hell,” as He was resurrected on the third day.
Not Hell, but Hades…
Grace be with you!
Disciple of Jesus Christ